Board Game Geek
- ● HeroScape to Return...AgainHasbro studio Avalon Hill announced HeroScape: Age of Annihilation, a new standalone game that would be fully integrable with previous HeroScape titles that were released from 2004 to 2010.
The caveat on this announcement: This title would be crowdfunded to ensure that enough people wanted this game to make it worth Hasbro's time, and when the crowdfunding campaign on Hasbro Pulse ended on November 15, 2022, only 4,300 people had backed the project, just over half of the 8,000 backers that Hasbro required to meet its funding goal.
In response, Hasbro said that it would shelve the design and move on to other things: "As we said during the campaign if this project doesn't meet its goal, we won't be able to produce Age of Annihilation. That has not changed."
However, just because Hasbro won't produce more HeroScape, that doesn't mean that no one can.
Renegade Game Studios — which already has licenses to release the Hasbro-owned titles Acquire, Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, Robo Rally, and Squad Leader — has now announced a license with Hasbro to bring HeroScape back to market. Here's an excerpt from the press release about this deal:Read more »Now, the organizations have come together to usher in the long-awaited return of Heroscape for the hobby, mass, and specialty markets. Renegade will also partner with Hasbro Pulse to make Heroscape available to as wide an audience as possible.
Fans will get to experience classic elements of the game they love with all-new content, alongside the introduction of terrain packs, faction boxes, and more. Going forward, Renegade hopes to introduce new models in a variety of configurations and price points for both new and hardcore Heroscape players.
"Heroscape brought a lot of people into hobby gaming and to this day there is a robust and passionate community; we look forward to growing that community and continuing to offer new and exciting models for gamers to enjoy," said Scott Gaeta, President and Publisher of Renegade Game Studios. "Additionally, we will be partnering with hobby stores to give Heroscape and its community of players the best home possible where they can make new friends and engage in exciting battles across Valhalla!"
Additionally, Renegade will provide online community and organized play support, including a future World Championship. Hobby stores can look forward to organized play and point of purchase support at launch.
"Fans have been clamoring for a revival of Heroscape, and we've heard you. That's why we are tremendously excited to bring back and expand the beloved brand with the Renegade team, who are big fans themselves," says Bradley Bowman, Licensing Director of Global Toys & Sporting Goods at Hasbro. "We're celebrating this return alongside our fans, and look forward to offering existing players more ways to enjoy the game and introducing a whole new generation to Heroscape and its endless imaginative potential."
Heroscapers can sign up for a Heroscape Newsletter from Renegade to stay informed of the latest developments and news!
- ● BGG.Spring Report III: Lacuna, Inside Job, The Number, Dual Gauge, and SHŌBU
Game announcements are so plentiful that I find it hard to focus on what I've seen and played before new games fill my every view — although sometimes the two experiences, the new game and me playing something, coincide, as with...
• Lacuna is a two-player game from designer Mark Gerrits and publisher CMYK that will be released on July 6, 2023, with a pre-order being available from the publisher, and it falls into the rare category of a perfect information, two-player abstract strategy game that could find itself a mainstream success, depending on marketing and availability, of course — but I'm getting ahead of myself.
To set up the game, lay out the cloth mat, then sprinkle the 49 wooden tokens — seven each in seven colors — from the storage tube onto the mat like salt on mashed potatoes. (The tube has a plastic top with a small opening to ensure that the tokens don't come out all at once.)
Your goal in Lacuna is to win four colors; to win a color, you need to collect at least four tokens of that color. The first player collects a wooden token of their choice from the mat, then takes the first turn. On a turn, place of your metal pawns anywhere on the line between two tokens of the same color, then collect those two tokens. This line must be unobstructed by other tokens or player pawns.
Players keep taking turns until they've placed all six of their pawns. At that point the first player has collected 13 tokens and the second player 12, so no one could have won the game, although someone might have won a color or two.
For each remaining token on the board, you award it to the player whose pawn is closest to it. Here's an overhead view of a game at that point:
For the most part, you can easily tell who has claimed which tokens. The light blue in the upper left goes to the gold player, for example, while the light blue at the far left goes to silver. When you're not sure, use the included ruler to determine which pawn is closest to a token. After all the tokens have been claimed, one of the players will have won four colors and therefore won the game.
Lacuna is beautifully simple in its design, and the publisher has matched that beauty in its presentation of the game. The cloth mat, the heavy metal pawns, the wooden tokens with their unique shapes and patterns, the salt shaker storage container — all of it is satisfying to hold, touch, and use, and that satisfaction helps mask the difficulty of playing well, which is why I think people who don't normally enjoy perfect information, abstract strategy games would still find it pleasing to play.
Every turn is two-fold. When you place a pawn, you claim two tokens, which helps move you toward victory, and you call dibs on other tokens around you, but those tokens can be snatched away by an opponent's placement. When you look at the image below, you'll see all sorts of possibilities for what you can claim now, but what might you get later?
One rules clarification: If you place a pawn between two pairs of tokens simultaneously, you claim only one pair, so you can't place between two purple and two deep blue on the left and claim both pairs at once — but you can place at that intersection anyway, claim one of the pairs, and block the opponent from claiming the other pair.
That said, this layout has a rich cluster of blue and purple, so you can't block everything. In fact, silver pretty much has a lock on a blue token on the right, so silver might want to place on the line between the two blue on the left because then they're pretty much locking in the blue on the far left, which will win them blue.
However, they've then used two pawns to win one color, which is probably not a winning strategy. What else are those two pawns going to be able to claim? Will they participate in other ways? That's not clear because both of you have more pawns to place — and the image two above shows that those dark blue tokens have been claimed before the final distribution.
The gameplay is beautifully clear, and you're pulled in multiple directions thanks to the web of possibilities. The clearest conflict: Should you use two pawns to claim four tokens of the same color and remove all doubt of who won it, or do you use only one pawn, claim two, and somehow fence off two more beyond a doubt? Is that a sure thing? Not necessarily because as tokens are removed, other tokens become targets when previously they were blocked from being claimed.
I've played Lacuna three times, twice on a review copy and once with James Nathan, who is a scout for CMYK and who was playing the game at BGG.CON 2022, and I'm entranced. Intriguingly, the victory condition — four or more tokens of four or more colors — is also a victory condition in Tintas, a wonderful game that I covered in 2016, but Tintas bears the traditional austere look of an abstract strategy game while Lacuna looks lighter and more joyous...despite requiring exactly as much thought as Tintas!
Inside Job from Tanner Simmons and KOSMOS.
In this 3-5 player trick-taking game, each player gets a secret role card, with all but one player being an agent and that one player being the insider, who is trying to thwart the agents from completing missions. Each player gets a hand of cards from a standard 52-card deck.
At the beginning of a trick, the starting player looks at two mission cards, discards one face down, then reveals the other. Each mission shows a trump color for that trick along with a task to be completed, e.g., all cards played must be between 7 and 13, or the second card played must win the trick. The starting player leads a card from their hand that other players must follow, if possible — except for the insider, who can play what they like. If the mission succeeds because players did what was written on the card, then you place the mission in a "success" pile; otherwise, discard it. Whoever played the highest card wins an "intel token", which looks like a briefcase, then starts the next round by drawing two mission cards.
If the agents succeed at a certain number of missions, which varies by player count, they win immediately, and if the insider ever collects enough intel tokens, they win immediately — and if both happen simultaneously, the insider wins. If neither side wins by the final trick, everyone votes for who they think the insider is, winning only if the insider has more fingers pointing at them than anyone else has.
We played twice...but not really since some of the rules were not taught:
— We just flipped missions from the top of the deck, so the starting player had no say in the course of the round beyond their choice of lead card.
— We talked about our cards in hand, saying things like "Don't lead green", when you're not supposed to talk about cards in hand, only cards already played.
— We didn't wager intel tokens, a move in which you can place a previously won intel token on a played card to make it part of the trump suit; whoever wins this trick collects all wagered intel tokens, in addition to winning one for the trick itself.
So I don't know what to think at this point. I hope to play again, worrying a bit that the initial mission choice might take longer than I like, but it can't possibly slow the game down as much as the between trick activity in American Psycho: A Killer Game.
The Number is from Hisashi Hayashi and Repos Production, this being a licensed version of Hayashi's self-published Suzie-Q.
Each turn, each player secretly writes a three-digit number on their board, then they reveal their boards and arrange them from low to high. If any digit in the highest number is included in a lower number, that player's board is removed and they score 0 points for this turn. Keep evaluating boards until you have a highest board with no digits repeated by others. Each player still in the round scores points equal to the value of the first digit in their number, and the player with the highest number receives a bonus — then they cross out all the digits in their number on their scoring board and can't use these digits again for the rest of the round.
After five turns, with everyone doubling the value of their winning highest digit in the fifth turn, you tally your points — which includes 1 point for each crossed-off digit — then start a new round with all digits being available for everyone. After two rounds of five turns, whoever has the highest combined score wins.
The Number is weird in that you have an obvious opening move of 999. If no one else writes a 9, you score 9 points and the round bonus, then only one digit is off limits for you in the remainder of the round. If someone else writes a 9 in their number, they bump you out, but now they likely can't use 9 again while you still can...so will anyone else write a 9 since it prevents them from writing 999 at some point?
Thus, you're all guessing who might write what when, with the open knowledge of which digits people can't write. If two people write the same number, they score or are eliminated together...but if we both have 9s open late in the round, I might write 799 in the hope of eliminating you and being the high number, and you might in turn write 777 to take me out. I need more plays to even know what I think about this game...
Dual Gauge from Amabel Holland of Hollandspiele and set up the Honshu side of the Dual Gauge: Honshu & Wisconsin Maps expansion.
Dual Gauge is somewhat 18xx-light, with players initially holding an auction for a share in each rail company in the game, then playing in alternating operating rounds and stock rounds until the game ends, something that triggers due to running out of trains, track, spaces for stations on the map, shares available for purchase, or other things specific to a map.
The title refers to the dual types of track available for purchase: narrow and standard. Narrow track is cheaper to build, but you can run a train on it from only one station to the next, whereas a train on standard track can travel to two stations on a line.
Whoever holds the most shares in a company controls the actions of that company: laying track, placing stations, buying trains, running routes, then either paying out the earnings for that round or withholding that money in the company's treasury. Your long-term goal is to end up with the most money, which is earned by (1) owning shares in companies that increase in value and (2) collecting payouts.
It was the first play for at least two of the four of us, so possibly we played stupidly, but in the middle of the game it felt like many of us were spinning our wheels, running the same routes each turn and not advancing our company's network in meaningful ways. If you don't build track, then the company must withhold money earned on routes and its stock price falls based on the number of shares issued or converted into stations, so we often built track to nowhere because we couldn't see what to do productively. I suppose at times you want to tank a company's share price, but we couldn't see why.
Bottom line: Dual Gauge seems like the type of game where playing once is akin to not playing at all. Only at game's end can you assess where and when people made smart choices and whether you should have made other moves, then you apply all of that info to your next playing. If you don't play again, then you're left only with the feeling that you played horribly.
SHŌBU, a 2019 release from designers Jamie Sajdak and Manolis Vranas and publisher Smirk & Laughter Games. Ken loves abstract strategy games and seemed unconvinced by the look of the game, but caved and bought it.
Here's the starting position:
A turn consists of two steps: passive, then active. First, move a stone of your color on one of the boards close to you. Move in a straight line orthogonally or diagonally as far as you want, stopping at the edge of the board or another piece.
Second, move a stone of your color on either board of the color opposite of which you first moved on, duplicating the move you made initially, e.g., if you moved forward two spaces on the dark board, you must move forward two spaces on either light board. In this action, you can push one stone of the opponent's, ideally pushing them off the board. If you can't make this active move, then go back and make a different passive move.
If you push all of the opponent's stones from one board, you win.
Ken and I played twice, with the starting player winning both times, which made Ken worry about a starting player advantage, then we played twice more, with each of us starting one of the games, and I beat Ken both times. Theory — rejected!
SHŌBU sort of feels like four games in one thanks to the multiple boards, but everything is linked in complicated ways. In the image above, the white stone on the upper left board is pretty much useless. As a passive move, Ken can move it toward him 1-3 spaces or diagonally or horizontally one space, with none of those moves allowing the white stone in the lower right — a stone I am about to push off the board for the win — to move to safety.
But to give that stone on the dark board more freedom of movement, Ken would have to first move a stone on the light board close to him, and his options there are also limited.
How we got to that position took a long time, and it's hard to reconstruct exactly how things went wrong. In a way, you can think of the boards closest to you as programming boards. You want to keep your options on those boards as open as possible, which is why the opponent wants to attack you there — except that sometimes removing a stone is a good thing since it gives you more room in which to move.
In any case, I made a good call, and Ken will take it back to Japan to introduce it to others at his abstract game club.
• While in Dallas for BGG.Spring, I got to visit Common Ground Games, which has an impressive selection of new games for sale, not to mention dice and other geeky stuff, along with tables for events.
Common Ground Games has a giant preschool-style stack of Frosthaven by the front door, perhaps as a lure for thieves who think that they can grab a copy and scoot out the door as they will instead be dragged to the floor by its weight, their fingers pinned under the box, giving the employees plenty of time to call the police.
It also has a $250 giant squishable frog that I passed on buying with regret, not because I want a giant squishable frog, but because I robbed my wife of the joy of telling everyone in her family that I spent $250 on a giant squishable frog. She would have liked that.
Every so often I do something completely out of character, sometimes without really knowing why and sometimes intentionally. Whenever she learns of such things and acts shocked, I get to say, "You don't know the real me!" Married life...
The BGG media team also visited Velvet Taco, where I stared hypnotically at a painting of Marie Antoinette. Seriously, I couldn't not look at this painting. (Here's more work from artist Laura Shull.)
• I'll close with words of thanks to Ken Shoda. To start, Ken offered to pick up games for me at Tokyo Game Market in late 2019 that I would pay him for the next time I saw him, probably at Game Market the following May.
But Ken held on to those games, then held on to even more games when he was clearing out stock of various nestorgames titles in April 2021 when Game Market first re-opened.
Ken stuffed all of those games in his bag and delivered them to me at BGG.Spring, where I met him with a big stack of bills.
Beyond that, Ken's taste in games line up perfectly with mine: card games of all sorts, perfect information abstract strategy games, and pretty much anything from Reiner Knizia. In short: cards, combinatorics, and Knizia.
We've played many games together over the years, and however much I think I know about games, Ken's knowledge of Knizia titles is encyclopedic. What's more, he recalls particular games in a way that I often now struggle to do. While looking around the charity flea market, Ken picked up a copy of Reiner Knizia's game Motto and told me I should get it: "Don't you remember? We played it several times at a temple on one of your trips to Japan, and you told me you don't have it."
The game didn't look familiar to me, so I looked it up on BGG to find a 5.5 rating on a title from Polish publisher Granna that never made a splash on the market and that likely disappeared on clearance shortly therefter.
And I also found that I had played it three times in May 2016. Then I looked at the pictures on my phone, and there we were, playing Motto at the Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.
How could I not buy this game?
Many thanks once again, Ken, for the wonderful time playing games with you at BGG.Spring, and ideally we'll see one another again at SPIEL '23!
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- Upper Deck Is Suing Ravensburger and a Game Designer over Disney LorcanaUpper Deck, which is located in Carlsbad, California, is filing suit against Ravensburger and a former Upper Deck game designer "for stealing and copying Upper Deck's original game which Ravensburger repackaged and marketed as Lorcana".
From the press release announcing this action:"We invested significant time and resources to develop a new and novel trading card game. Our current leadership values the importance of protecting intellectual property of both Upper Deck and its licensors," said Upper Deck President Jason Masherah.
"We want gamers and fans to continue enjoying and having access to unique, innovative and immersive trading card games," added Masherah. "We encourage competition in the industry, but also strongly believe in playing by the rules to ensure the gaming community benefits from the different creative choices by each manufacturer."
Upper Deck plans to file suit in San Diego against the game designer for "breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud" and against Ravensburger for "unfair business practices".
The designer isn't named, but of the two designers of Disney Lorcana, as best as I can tell Steve Warner has not worked with Upper Deck, whereas Ryan Miller has three designs published by Upper Deck: Dread Draw and Pack of Lies in 2017, and Aliens: Bug Hunt in 2020.
Regarding the "new and novel trading card game" mention in the press release, a representative for Upper Deck tells me, "We are referring to a design developed internally that we are still working on and intend to release."
Read more »
- Francophone Smurfs to Smurf a Smurf-based Smurfy Smurf in 2024Maestro Media has signed a licensing deal with IMPS/LAFIG, the world license holders for The Smurfs, to release a tabletop game based in their cool blue world in 2024 to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the comic's debut from cartoonist Peyo. (Technically the Smurfs debuted in 1958, but they were secondary characters in Peyo's strip Johan et Pirlouit. The Smurfs debuted in standalone stories in 1959.)
That game is currently titled The Smurfs: Hidden Village, and it comes from designers Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Rivière — yes, the same team responsible for Dead Cells: The Rogue-Lite Board Game, so a crossover is sure to be in the works, yes?
The Smurfs: Hidden Village is a 1-5 player game for ages 7+, and it's a co-operative design, which seems appropriate. Here's a short description:Players are Smurfs who are tasked with rebuilding the mushroom village from scratch following the evil sorcerer Gargamel's latest scheme. To succeed, you need to work together as a team, collecting resources, building inventions, and locating missing Smurfs to help rebuild mushroom houses. Each Smurf has a unique set of skills that you must use strategically to outsmart Gargamel and his cat Azrael.
And an excerpt from the press release announcing this game:Read more »"The Smurfs are one of the most recognizable characters in the world with a long history of licensed products, iconic TV shows, films and more," said Javon Frazier, Founder and CEO of Maestro Media. "To be able to work on a project, especially one as beloved as The Smurfs, and bring a new gaming experience to fruition, is an absolute delight. We cannot wait to work directly with the beloved brand's millions of fans all over the world, incorporating their ideas and feedback, to create a one-of-a-kind experience the community will love."
With a history of creating multiple record-breaking campaigns and surpassing over $15 million with previous crowdfunding projects, Maestro Media has become a leader in the tabletop crowdfunding community, and is set to design and execute a fun and interactive campaign that will engage and delight the The Smurfs community worldwide.
- VideoWhat Do Game Publishers Owe Us When They Release a New Edition?Gloomhaven's announced second edition, which initially would have no upgrade kit from first to second edition and which will now have a limited upgrade kit solely for the game's characters, I started thinking about the different types of second editions that hit the market and whether publishers should have an obligation to buyers of earlier editions when they release something new.
The short answer: No. While it's nice for publishers to make such things available, I don't think publishers should feel required to do so, even when they published earlier editions of the game.
If a different publisher is releasing the new edition, then I would never expect them to make such material available. After all, what are the chances you're going to match cardstock and card size perfectly, match the colors of the wooden bits, and so on? Such upgrade kits seem like a minefield of potential future complaints when you could instead point to your new edition and say, "If you want to ensure consistency, go with this package that has been designed as a whole from beginning to end."
I understand that upgrade kits along these lines can be good for customer morale, but I think it's more of a nicety than an obligation. If a publisher doesn't offer one, I understand why due to the headaches involved in production, shipping, sales, and inventory management. I figure that when I'm buying a game, I get what I get, and that's that, with no future promises. If, for example, a book publisher released a new edition of a title with a new afterword from the author, I wouldn't expect the publisher to make that afterword available in other formats. Buy the book or don't — my call.
Maybe the question to ask, as I do in the video, is to wonder at what point you feel a publisher doesn't have an obligation to create an upgrade kit or make new material available to owners of an earlier edition. From your perspective, when are they off the hook? (I depict The Quest for El Dorado in this post because it's a unique situation, with the designer going beyond what the original publisher did because he had created much more material than the original publisher wanted to release and he wanted all of the material presented in a larger format.)
The video talks about four types of new editions and how they differ in terms of customer expectations, then expands upon my belief that your contract with the publisher consists only of the current game release.
Youtube Video Read more »
- Gen Con 2023 Preview Now LiveGen Con 2023 Preview is now live, listing dozens of new games that will be sold or demoed at that convention.
Publishers, you have until July 28, 2023 to submit info to this preview, and Stephen Cordell and I will keep updating it as time allows to account for last-minute surprises, which can be both good — an embargoed game is revealed! — and bad — our container got stopped at customs!
BGG will once again be running a Hot Games Room at the Hyatt in the Regency Ballroom during Gen Con 2023, with the HGR open from 10:00 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. All games will then be shipped to Dallas so that they can appear in the BGG Library for BGG.CON 2023 in November.
GeekUp bits and other items from the BGG Store will be sold by Meeple Source (booth #2909) at Gen Con 2023. I don't know which items will be available as Beth Heile will make that determination closer to the event.
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- BGG.Spring Report II: Kards with Ken — Perfect Numbers, ReCURRRing, Robotrick, and Bag of Chipsmy first report from BGG.Spring 2023 with several games that I did enjoy, starting with Perfect Numbers, a card game from Lars Jansen and Jolly Dutch Productions that I've heard no one talk about since its release at SPIEL '22, where my friend Ken Shoda talked it up.
By chance, Ken was at BGG.Spring, and Perfect Numbers was one of four card games that he had brought with him from Japan, so apparently he thought highly of it! We played once with three players, then again with two, and I can understand why he likes it so much.
The deck consists of cards numbered 2-7 in five colors, along with one joker of each value and special action cards. Start a round by dealing a row of three cards, two rows of two cards, and a row of one card. The first player drafts a row, then everyone else does in turn, with players getting more than one row in a game with two or three players...something you don't necessarily want!
When you take cards, if you get cards of a color you already have, you must add them to your existing rows, starting with the low numbers first. If the number you add matches the number of cards in your personal row — the perfect number! — you may score that row, with each card being worth 1 point. If the number is larger than the number of cards, you just add; if it's smaller, you must discard cards from that row equal to the number, so placing a green 3 on my pile above would force me to discard everything but the green 2.
If you get a color you don't have, you can start a row with it, but you can have at most four rows. If all your rows are occupied, you can ditch a color to start a new row or give away that new color to another player who already has this color — and if you would place the perfect number on their row, you score those points instead of them! Similarly, if you place a low number, they have to discard cards, but you score them!
So Perfect Numbers is a "take that", set-collection card game in which you have to consider (almost) every choice you make to determine whether an opponent can hurt you later with the card you leave behind, especially in the two-player game when you each take two rows. We discarded way more cards in our 2p game!
I'm glossing over a few elements above, such as you scoring additional cards from the deck if your perfect number is 5-7, which gives you an incentive not to score a perfect number of 2-4. Ideally you can count cards to know what's not left in the deck, but I don't think that's essential.
ReCURRRing, a shedding card game from Saien that I covered in writing and in video in 2017. ReCURRRing is, to a degree, SCOUT three years prior to SCOUT, and it's a shame that ReCURRRing has never been licensed outside of Japan.
The game lasts three rounds, and your goal is to score the most points. The deck is modified based on player count (3-5), with the five-player game having one 1, two 2s, etc. up to nine 9s and either ten or fifteen Rs, with R being higher than a 9.
Deal the deck, then whoever has the 1 starts by leading any single card. The next player can pass and exit the round, or play a single better card — with lower values being better — or any pair; if they beat the initial play, they take that card into their hand...and that's where things get tricky.
If the lead player plays a 6 and you're next, do you want that 6? If you play a 5 to beat the 6, but you have no 6s, then you've worsened your hand (exchanging a better card for a worse one), but you're still in the round. If you do have 6s, then you now have a larger group of 6s...which is not always a good thing because you can overplay someone by at most one card. If I need to beat a pair of 4s, I can play a pair of 2s or 3s or any three-of-a-kind, whether Rs or better, but I can't play four 6s. I would have to break up the 6s, stranding one of them.
And if you pass, then you're out of the round and can't change your hand, whereas other players might be overplaying and molding their hand into larger groups.
Cards exit the game only after all players but one have passed. The person who played those cards places them face up on the table before them, then leads any single card to start the new round. When someone empties their hand, they place the cards they beat face down in front of themselves, and if their cards hold, they place those cards in front of themselves; otherwise, the player who last plays scores their cards.
At round's end, every card in front of you is worth 1 point, except for Rs, which are worth 0 points — unless you were the first to empty your hand, in which case Rs are also worth 1 point each.
Like SCOUT and to some degree Abluxxen, ReCURRRing is all about crafting your hand into something better than what you started, ideally earning points through smart plays. If possible, you want to track who is picking up which cards so that you know who can play over you and when to strike with a large set since you (sort of) worsen your hand with every play that doesn't hold. The Rs are numerous, but they're worthless unless you go out first, so their power is somewhat balanced, although a large R set can let you grab a slightly less large non-R set, which you can perhaps score later.
You can tell from the wear on the box how much Ken loves ReCURRRing. Perhaps some day it will be widely available outside of Japan for others to discover...
Robotrick, a three-player-only trick-taking game from designer Domi (ドミッチ) and publisher The Game Gallery Works.
Every trick-taking game needs a twist, and Robotrick's twist is two-fold: A robot is the fourth player in the game. It sits between two players, is dealt a face-up hand of twelve cards just like the people, and plays cards according to a randomly dealt directive, such as these:
The robot leads the first trick, so if it were controlled by the directive in the upper left, it would play its highest card, with ties being broken in favor of the short suit, with card color being the second tie-breaker: A > B > C > D. If on a later trick you lead blue, the robot will follow with its lowest blue; lacking blue, it will play its lowest card from its longest suit.
The second twist comes from the scoring. If the robot wins the trick, each player keeps their card face down as negative points, with cards being worth 1-15 points. (The deck is a standard four-color deck from 1-13. One card is revealed as trump, and three cards remain hidden out of play.) If you win a trick, you keep the robot's card as positive points — except that any card you win after the third is flipped face down as negative points.
So you want to win tricks, but not too much, and you don't want opponents to win tricks, but if they're not and you're not, then the robot is, which will hurt you.
I did horribly, playing the wrong card (which I found out only later), winning the wrong tricks, and messing up in thinking about what the robot will play next, although since the robot has to follow suit, sometimes you're thinking that the robot will lead X, but by the time it does lead, its rules now force it to play Y. After only one game's experience, I'm still clueless about how to play well, even when it comes to passing two cards before the round starts, as demonstrated in the image below:
Anyway, I'm glad to have played, and Ken gave me the copy to take home, so I'll get to try again on two new unsuspecting players.
Bag of Chips, a game from Mathieu Aubert, Théo Rivière, and Mixlore, I knew it was an ideal choice: small, card-based, and not available in Japan. (Whoops, that last detail was incorrect. See image at right.)
Each round in Bag of Chips, you start with a hand of six cards, draw five colored chips from the bag, discard two cards, draw four more chips, discard another card, draw three chips, then allocate your cards, with two of them scoring you positive points if their condition is met and the third scoring you negative points. To end the round, draw a chip, then draw one last chip, then see what you score. The two highest scorers win tokens, and whoever first collects four tokens wins the game.
The game has a great press-your-luck element, with you weighing the odds of which cards might score based on the chips revealed — 14 total out of 25 in the bag — while knowing that one of those cards could count against you. Maybe you have the card that's worth 180 points if six onion chips are drawn. With early onions, you'll probably want to hold it — but you might also want to hold it if no onions come out since it wouldn't cost you any points as a negative card if the condition isn't met.
I covered Bag of Chips in detail in 2021, and the game remains a winner.
Read more »
- BGG.Spring Report I: Visiting the Charity Sale, Playing Spiel des Jahres, and Being the Boss
To start, each year at BGG.Spring we have a charity sale with proceeds going to Café Momentum, an organization that has locations in Dallas, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. An overview:Café Momentum is a nationally-recognized non-profit restaurant and training program that provides a paid internship for justice-involved youth. The internship includes 12-months of curriculum programming.
The interns work their way through all areas of the restaurant, learning legal employment, social skills, and life skills. Case management works to round out the ecosystem of support including financial education, parenting classes, educational assistance, and career exploration.
Case managers help the interns work through issues such as anger management, trauma recovery, fatherlessness, and abandonment. After the 12 months of curriculum, successful interns are able to graduate from the program and are placed in a job with one of our community partners. These young people, who the juvenile justice system has referred to as "throw-aways" are now employed, tax-paying, wholly contributing members of society.
Horus Heresy from 2010? $10! Coimbra from 2018? $10!
BGG owner Scott Alden also usually sells a few items from his personal collection, with these being priced individually. This year included Full Metal Planète for $100, Allerley Spielerey for $150 (bought by my friend and fellow Knizia addict Ken Shoda), and Catena for $40, bought by yours truly. In fact, you might recognize a theme among some of my acquisitions from BGG.Spring...
Anyway, the sale runs for two hours on Saturday, then two hours on Sunday, with prices dropping until everything goes. Here's the sale just before opening, then freshly underway:
The sale raised $7,801 for Café Momentum, and Tracey Hull, Director of Development, told us that will cover the cost of DART bus passes for all program participants in Dallas, which will make it easier for them to get to the program, but also anywhere else they want or need to go in Dallas. (Hull said that 90% of the jobs in Dallas are on the north side of the city, while 60% of the residents live on the south side — which means they need the ability to travel to find more and better job opportunities.)
three 2023 Spiel des Jahres candidates. I've already played and covered Kasper Lapp's Fun Facts from Repos Production in December 2022, but I gave it another go with folks who hadn't played...and the result was the same as before.
In each of the game's eight rounds, you're presented with a question that has a numerical answer (e.g., "From 0 to 100, how much do you like horror movies?"), then you're challenged to place those answers in order from low to high without seeing what people wrote.
In our game, a couple of questions gave you something interesting to answer that could become a topic of conversation; a larger number of questions were uninteresting; and one question ("How many intimate relationships have you had that lasted longer than a year?") drew an immediate "Nope!" from one of the players — and that reaction, even without an answer, made everyone uncomfortable, which is not what you want from a party game (unless that's the goal of the game, of course). From this question and others, I think the game is aimed at a European audience that would (in general) be more comfortable sharing such details of their life, but even so a lot of the questions fell flat, giving us no incentive to play again.
Next Station: London from Matthew Dunstan and Blue Orange Games is a flip-and-write game, part of the *-and-write genre that largely exploded into being following the success of 2018's Ganz schön clever.
In the game, each player has grid of stations on their board, as well as one of four different colored markers. Someone flips the top card of the deck, and you draw a straight line from the station that matches your marker to a station showing the symbol on the revealed card. Sometimes you can connect to any station you want, and occasionally you can branch the line. Once five pink cards have been revealed, you score that line — number of sectors entered multiplied by largest number of stations in a single sector, plus twice the number of times you've crossed the river — then shuffle the deck, get a marker you haven't yet used, and start a new round.
After four rounds, you score bonuses for stations that have been reached by two or more lines as well as the number of starred stations you've reached.
As with many *-and-write games, Next Station: London is effectively a solitaire game. Our only interaction as players in the same game is to see how one another is scoring after a round, then...what? Make riskier moves for a bigger payout? Not really. You're all getting the same cards in the same order. I imagine that you can plan better when deciding which station to add to a line, but in many cases I had only one option — although perhaps that was due to earlier poor planning.
I never felt like I was doing something clever — only incrementally gaining points bit by bit, then seeing who stacked them up better. The game had no arc, no rising tension, but felt flat from beginning to end. Keep in mind that I've played only once, but I'm indifferent as to whether I play again.
The game includes two expansions: one that provides scoring objectives that all players can achieve, and the other gives a special power to each marker, such as using a flipped card twice or branching an extra time. Those powers would give you a little more to do, being one element that's unique to you (at least for the current round).
Dorfromantik: The Board Game, a design by Michael Palm, Lukas Zach, and Pegasus Spiele that adopts the Dorfromantik video game for tabletop play.
The game consists of hexagonal task tiles and landscape tiles, along with task tokens valued 4, 5, and 6 and boxes of stuff that you will unlock over the course of many playings. To start, a player draws three task tiles one at a time, placing them into the tableau. Rivers and railroads must abut matching tiles, but a village or forest or wheat field can be cut off by something else — and often you want to do that because each time you reveal a task tile, you draw a task token of the matching type and place it on that tile.
A forest task gets a forest token, for example, and to complete that task, that forest needs to be as many tiles as the number on the token. If this happens, place the token aside for points, then draw a new task tile next turn. As long as you have three task tiles in play, you draw a landscape tile on your turn, and if you need to draw a landscape and can't, the game ends — which means your challenge is to complete as many tasks as possible so that (1) you score more points and (2) you keep bringing more tiles into play, which probably helps you complete even more tasks.
At game's end, you add up all the completed task tiles, score 1 point per tile for your longest river and longest railroad, and score 1 point per tile for closed areas that contain a flag. (Think cities in Carcassonne, which score as soon as they're surrounded by walls.)
I played with my BGG News compatriot Candice Harris and a couple of other people, and we all wondered why we would want to play again. Dorfromantik: The Board Game is co-operative, but you have no hidden information or personal goal or unique powers, so the design is really a solitaire game with the actions divvied up among however many people are at the table. You can advise one another on where best to play a tile, but unless I have the tile deck memorized — and three landscape tiles are removed at random each game — your choices are probably just as good as mine, so why am I at this table?
As with Next Station: London, Dorfromantik: The Board Game felt like it had no arc. I guess the idea is that the task tiles sort of have a lottery feel, and you ideally flip one over, place it where you can immediately score it, then flip another task tile, thereby racking up points quickly — but we didn't actually feel that during play.
At game's end, you sum the points, then mark a certain number of spaces to advance up a branching path, unlocking boxes of new content when reach certain locations or achieve specific point totals. As you add new tiles, your scores will (probably) go higher, allowing you to hit new targets.
BGG owner Scott Alden really likes Dorfromantik: The Board Game and invited me to play again, sure that we had done something wrong in my first game. We had not.
I've never been a video game player, and I think Dorfromantik: The Board Game has more appeal to someone with that background, such as Scott, who worked in video game development before starting BGG. In this game and in many other games that can be played solitaire, you're challenged to hit a certain score to level up, unlock new powers, then take on bigger challenges — and I have no interest in that. I almost never play solitaire games, and when I do, I rediscover why I almost never play solitaire games.
For a co-operative game, I want us all bringing something unique to the table, perhaps thanks to hidden info or player powers, so that together we can do something that wouldn't be possible on our own.
as was the case with Cascadia in 2022, I usually dig the other two, but not this year.
To end on a positive note, let's talk about a game I played that I love — and no, not Mind Up! because I've already covered that game. Let's instead talk about Big Boss, Wolfgang Kramer's 1994 take on Acquire that Funko Games is reprinting in a somewhat modified form in 2023.
Your goal in the game is to end up with more money than anyone else. Collectively you're establishing and growing businesses on a linear track numbered 1-72. Each time you start or add to a business, you earn money equal to the current share price, money that you often immediately plow into buying 1-2 shares of active companies on the board. If you have enough money, you can place a tower in the company HQ that counts as three shares of that company's stock.
When a block is placed that connects two companies, the larger one consumes the smaller one. Anyone owning shares in the smaller company is paid out, then the value of that company is added to the larger one.
Thus, the two ways you earn money are (1) adding to a company and (2) having the value of your shares increase. Everyone starts with ten cards in hand from a deck that contains numbers 1-72, and you can buy more cards during play, whether face up from the market or face down from the deck.
As people play cards and buy shares, you get a sense of who expects which businesses to grow and where — although sometimes you can see this more explicitly thanks to the purchase of face-up cards. (This is a change from the original game in which all purchased cards came from the top of the deck, although you can play that way if you wish.) Sometimes you're dealt a card or two that lies between two businesses, giving you a lever in deciding which one will survive — or whether a merger will never take place should you own shares in the smaller company. Your own share purchases will hint at what you're hoping to do, so ideally you can time a tower purchase or merger at just the right time to profit best.
But even if you don't own shares in a giant business, you can make up to $50 million just by placing a block in it, and since the share price can never rise over $50 million, you can sometimes make out better than those who do own shares.
I played Big Boss twice at BGG.Spring 2023 and loved it both times. I've played the original game ten times, and this new version is much the same, while being a little more forgiving in various ways. I plan to post a more detailed overview later, but in short I love how the game requires you to read others, make plans, gamble on the future, and react to changing fortunes. Everyone matters in determining the flow of the game and your actions shape what happens to everyone else, a trait I value in games. Read more »
- Designer Diary: AutobahnNestore Mangone and I attended a playtesting event in Verona, and there we started tinkering with the idea of designing a game together. After the event, Nestore came to visit me in Milano, where we spent a few days brainstorming game ideas.
One of the first ideas that Nestore threw at me was to make a game about building the Autobahn, that is, Germany's highway system. It would be almost like a train game, but with highways instead of railways.
We also joked about the fact that there are way more games by German designers set in Italy than games by Italian designers set in Germany, so we should try to balance the scales a bit.
We started by setting design goals: We wanted to design a slightly heavier game than our previous ones, with some aspects of hand management and with an unusual scoring system. We didn't want to make a "point salad" game in which every action rewards you with some amount of victory points; we wanted instead for players to be more deliberate at how they would score points.
One aspect of this theme that interested me was that, unlike in most train games where individual players own parts of the network, the Autobahn is public infrastructure and there would be no player ownership of the roads as they are built. This means that once a piece of road is built, we don't need to keep track of which player built it.
This gives us the opportunity to use colors in a different way; we could have each highway be its own color, distinct from the player colors. Players would be able to build roads in any color. The game mechanisms should push players to work on different colors simultaneously, making it harder to focus on one highway at a time.
We looked at a current map of the Autobahn network and how it evolved over time from the end of World War II to the present day. The network was very interesting, with one main road going north-south being the only surviving Autobahn at the end of the war, and several other roads branching out from it and going west or east.
More importantly, the unification of Germany in 1990 would make the map open up halfway through the game, with only the west side of the roads being built during the first half of the game and the east side becoming available in the second half.
To simplify the map, we kept only the cities that were at the intersection of two or more highways. We also had to merge some shorter routes to keep the number of colors manageable.
Initially, we decided to use eight colors, six of which were available from the start of the game, while the other two would enter play as the game progressed.
At the time, the game was divided into five periods of fifteen years each. Players would gain a purple card (for the connecting highways) at some point between the second and the third period, and they would all gain a brown card (to use in eastern Germany) at the start of the fourth period.
When we signed the design with Alley Cat Games, one of their requirements was to make the game more accessible by simplifying a few things and possibly shortening the length to two hours.
Initially we went for a double-sided board, with an introductory map on one side that would play over three periods, while keeping the "full game" on the other side.
Eventually we managed to streamline the game and make a single map that was somewhere between the two. We also moved some things out of the base game and into modular expansions, e.g., "Wine Delivery", which had been in the original game for a long time.
It took some time and several iterations before nailing down the card play.
Initially we had a card for each city on the map in the color of the roads passing through those cities, and we had mostly a hand management system in which each turn, players would discard a number of different color cards in order to perform actions next to those cities, after which they would draw back an equal number of cards from a pool, with the cards they discarded entering the pool for the next player. This had various problems, but we kept it as a scaffolding until we nailed down a few other aspects of the game.
The type of actions you could do with a card also evolved over time.
Initially we had a more convoluted system in which players had concrete-mixing trucks moving around the map, along with a number of workers on their team that determined how many pieces of road they could build in a given turn.
With a card action, you could take up a road piece of the given color (different color roads cost different amounts of money), lay down a road piece on the map next to your concrete mixer, hire new workers, and move your truck. Soon after we also added service stations as a side gig.
Eventually, we simplified the road-building business by removing the concrete mixer and construction workers. At this point, the actual city on the card didn't matter. Also, we didn't have vehicles moving on the roads anymore, so we introduced trucks that would pick up goods in some cities and deliver them to neighboring countries.
Once we had defined the five main action types in the game, we changed the card play to what it is now, where you start with a hand of six different color cards and you play a card on an action slot in order to perform that action in the card color. We then added limits to how many cards you can play in a given slot, we defined how and when you would recall your cards into your hand, and we introduced ways to improve your cards or even gain new cards during the course of play.
Driving on the Autobahn
Early in the design process we decided that as we build the Autobahn, it would be fun if we could also drive on it — which basically meant that we needed some kind of pick-up-and-delivery mechanism.
We then had each neighboring country require a trade route with a source of these goods. Players would use a truck piece, moving it from a depot to a neighboring country in order to establish a trade route. In order to keep the current card play consistent, we decided to place a depot on the intersections of the black road with the colored roads. By playing a card matching either of the two roads intersecting at the depot, you would load the matching goods to your truck.
It took a long time to find the right way to handle the truck movement, though. If we needed to play a card just to move a truck, trucks would move too slowly and also the whole game would slow down because those cards would not be used to build more roads. Moving automatically every turn, on the other hand, would have been not so interesting either.
The really clever idea was to move your truck only after playing a card matching the road where the truck is currently located, so the movement is a side effect, regardless of which action you used that card for. This adds a whole new layer of planning to the game; once you have a truck on the road, you want to play your cards in the optimal sequence in order to reach your destination quickly, and make sure to move your truck so that it always ends its turn on a road whose color card you still hold in your hand.
Another aspect that required quite a few iterations was how to reward a delivery. Initially we just had some bonus tiles to place during set-up on each country, tiles that provided a one-time bonus to the first player to deliver the specified goods to that country.
This created some good tension, and players would race to gain those tiles. The second player, though, would have to find a new destination for their goods, which was often frustrating as maybe no other connected countries wanted their goods at the time.
Moreover, the bonus should somehow be commensurate with the distance driven. For example, delivering some goods from Hamburg to Switzerland should be more rewarding than delivering the same goods to Denmark.
Another problem was that we had different sets of delivery tiles; each set had six tiles, two for each good type, each with a one-time bonus (proportional to the distance from the closest depot of that good). We would randomly place a couple of tokens per country during set-up and add another random tile or two at the end of each period.
Moreover, the delivery boards now push different players in different directions since they are more interested in connecting the countries that reward them with the better bonuses.
In the earlier iterations, we had a way to also import goods into Germany, e.g., wine from France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Each player, at the start of the game, got a card telling them to deliver wine from one of these countries to one of the cities in East Germany. This provided another incentive for players to connect different eastern cities to the network.
Once we conflated the "intro" and "full" games into a midway point, we moved this out of the game and into the "wine expansion".
Among the initial design goals, we thought about some non-conventional ways of scoring. We didn't want to make a "point salad" game, and we also didn't want to simply have a "most money wins" approach, so we thought of something different. Given the setting, we tried an approach in which as you build a piece of highway, you gain a seat at the administration table for that highway, and over time your employees get promoted to more prestigious tables, climbing their way up the ladder of the organization. At the end of the game, the final score would be determined only by the value of the seats obtained by each player.
Getting the right scoring mechanism, though, was quite difficult. At first we had a layered system of tables in which each table would have a certain number of seats and a fixed victory point value per seat. For example, seats at the bottom table would be worth 1VP each, seats at the table above it would be worth 2VP each, and so on.
Each table would have fewer seats than the table below, and the top table would be the desk of the ministry of transportation, with just one seat. When a player managed to promote one of their employees to that table, the game would end.
When an employee was pushed out of one of the color tables, they would move to the bottom table. If that table were full, then they would push another employee to the table above, and so on, eventually causing a long chain of promotions. This was problematic in various ways, and often the chain of promotions triggered by the building of a road section felt both random and very consequential.
I built a quick prototype right away, I kept refining it for a few weeks, and in January 2020 I managed to bring it to a nationwide playtesting meeting in Parma where I met again with Nestore and managed to play a few rounds of the game with some other Italian designers. It was still very early and there were lots of problems, but at least the game showed some promise.
I had one more live playtest in Milan in mid-February, then the pandemic hit, and soon enough the whole country was in lockdown.
Shortly after we started working with Tabletop Simulator. It took some time to learn the ins-and-outs, but eventually TTS became our primary platform for playtests. Nestore and I would meet online on an almost daily basis, playtesting and discussing changes.
We participated in a number of virtual playtesting events and we met new players online willing to help us test the game. A lot of people, at the time, were locked at home 24/7 for a few months, and in that period it was pretty easy to find playtesters at every time of the day. It was not unusual to have a playtest with a group in the morning, make some quick changes to the prototype in the afternoon, then playtest again with a different group in the evening that same day.
By the middle of 2020, the game had gone through hundreds of tests and a lot of changes. It was as if a development time of a couple of years was compressed into a mere six months.
We kept testing and tweaking the game for about another year, with some major changes in the first half of 2021 when Covid restrictions began to ease up and we started doing live playtesting again.
Until that time we were playing two cards at a time each turn, but in live playtests that ended up creating too much downtime. The first live playtest of a full game took forever, so we quickly agreed on changing to playing only one card per turn. This was a big improvement and also introduced more tension on what you could do and improved a few dynamics on the game.
We also added some limitations on how many bonuses could trigger within a single turn: only one delivery bonus at the start of the turn and one bonus token during the main action. This further reduced the downtime due to long chaining of bonuses. It also meant that any bonus obtained by completing a delivery would not be usable until the following turn.
Alley Cat Games
The game we had at the time was probably a bit on the heavier side; with a larger map, eight color roads and five periods, it lasted between two and three hours.
Nevertheless, Alley Cat was keen on making the game, and we signed the contract before the end of summer 2020, aiming for a Kickstarter sometime around the end of 2021 / start of 2022, with delivery by SPIEL '22.
We kept working on the game for over a year, with some major changes in gameplay until summer 2021. Among the main changes, we reduced the number of cards to play per turn from two to one, we finalized the scoring by introducing the four different departments, and we moved some features out of the original game into the three mini-expansions.
In October 2021, I was in Essen for SPIEL with the Alley Cat team where we demoed the prototype to lots of people.
Shortly after Javier González Cava began working on the artwork for the game, illustrating a gorgeous board with a few easter eggs here and there (including the Messe building where the SPIEL takes place in Essen).
After a successful Kickstarter campaign ending in May 2022, Alley Cat Games managed to get the game printed just in time for SPIEL in October, where I was happy to demo the game and sign several hundred copies to backers that had chosen to pick up the game there.
With all of the other copies on their way to backers, the game finally hit the shelves in retail in May 2023.
We had a lot of fun working on this game, and I still enjoy every time I play it. We hope you will enjoy it as well!
Fabio Lopiano Read more »
- Gloomhaven: Second Edition Is Coming in 2024Cephalofair Games announced Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, with the goal of designing it "to be cross-compatible with all of our previous board game releases". The press release included an April 2023 launch date on BackerKit for the RPG and a line of miniatures for use with all Cephalofair products, a launch date that has slid to June 20, 2023.
But on top of the RPG and miniatures, Cephalofair Games' BackerKit crowdfunding project will also include Gloomhaven: Second Edition, a revised and updated version of Isaac Childres' 2017 blockbuster Gloomhaven.
Cephalofair notes that the world, story, and gameplay remain the same in this edition of the game, but it will feature "rebalanced and redesigned mercenary classes, items, and scenarios, as well as brand new artwork, newly written narrative and events, updated miniatures, a new faction-based reputation system, and more".
The project leads on this new edition are Drew Penn and Dennis Vögele, with the latter saying this in a press release from Cephalofair: "Drew and I have spent the last six years reading the community's feedback on all of the Gloomhaven games, so we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve with this project. We hope you enjoy playing Gloomhaven: Second Edition as much as we enjoyed working on it."
All of the components, tiles, encounters, and whatnot in Gloomhaven: Second Edition will be compatible with Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, as will the first edition of the game, so if you get a second copy of the game, you can play through it again to discover what's new, then use all the bits in the RPG. Of course, you might have no room in your home to play anything at that point, what with Frosthaven occupying half the bed and all, but I'm sure you'll make do.
Cephalofair Games plans to produce Gloomhaven: Second Edition in early 2024 for release later that year. Given the extent of the changes across numerous components, an upgrade kit for Gloomhaven will not be sold separately.
Read more »
- Capture the Flag Anew in Challengers! 2Challengers! was nominated for the 2023 Kennerspiel des Jahres, publishers 1 More Time Games and Z-Man Games have announced a standalone sequel that has clearly been in the works for far more than a week.
Challengers! 2 from designers Johannes Krenner and Markus Slawitscheck features the same basic game play as Challengers!. Players start with a fixed team in a "capture the flag" competition, then play a game that lasts seven rounds, drafting new members onto their team each round, ditching any team members they feel no longer fit, then compete to keep hold of the flag before your team runs out or you have no room on the bench for defeated team members.
Challengers! 2 includes seven sets of cards, such as beach club, rainbow, and game designer, and you use only five sets in a game, shuffling these cards together to form A, B, and C decks, with C containing the most powerful cards.
You can play Challengers! 2 on its own, or you can pick sets from Challengers! and the new release to create more combinations. You can also use both sets to create a tournament game that allows for up to sixteen players.
Challengers! 2 also includes a 16-card "Trainers" expansion that gives each player a unique power. Some give you bonuses when defending, some when you're on the offensive, and others can extend your bench or even let you rearrange your deck.
The publishers plan to debut Challengers! 2 at SPIEL '23 in October. Read more »
- Dress for Battle in Conquest Princess, Scale Giants in Leviathan Wilds, and Get Stacked for a Party in the BackCarson City: Big Box from Xavier Georges and Quined Games is being republished, with this edition including new solo rules and a fancy-shmancy insert. (Gamefound link)
• Let's jump genres from cowboys to pirates with SlackJack, a game from Thomas Robert Beatman, Joel Colombo, Travis Magrum, Ian Moss, Jim Schoch, and Jellybean Games in which players try to convince the captain to make them part of the treasure-search team. Each player has a hidden role, including a scofflaw who will make off with all the gold should they part of the captain's team — assuming that team even gets the gold as that will be awarded to one side or another depending on the strength of each team. (Kickstarter link)
Pavlov's House: The Battle of Stalingrad, Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WWII, and Lanzerath Ridge: Battle of the Bulge is a trio of solitaire games from David Thompson and Dan Verssen Games that are not new, but I suppose a Gamefound campaign will bring them to the attention of new players.
All three titles are part of Thompson and DVG's "Valiant Defense" series, which also includes 2021's Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms.
• Conquest Princess: Fashion Is Power is a co-operative game from Peter Yang, Seppy Yoon, and Fight in a Box in which you are a member of the Temporal Intergalactic Armed Response Agency (TIARA) who dresses for battle, then faces off against "the worst classic space problems: Invaders from Space, Giant Mecha-Monsters, and the dreaded Fashion Tyrant Mu-gahgah". (GF link)
Loam from Cardboard Revolution, you are a plant that wants to build healthy soils. Writes designer Max Helmberger, who is also a soil ecologist and biology lecturer at Boston University, "You have a lot more power and agency over your environment than humans often give you credit for. Use chemical inputs to sculpt the soil's weird and wonderful biodiversity to assemble vibrant ecological communities." (GF link)
• 9th Circle seems like a radical departure from R&R Games' usual fare, with this design from Rebecca Bleau and Nicholas Cravotta putting you in the role of a demon lord who uses minions to gain control of various parts of the eighth circle so that you can use those powers to gain favor with Malacoda, that is, a bad ending. (KS link)
Leviathan Wilds from Justin Kemppainen and Moon Crab Games challenges 1-4 players to scale gigantic creatures that are depicted on a two-fold spread in a spiral-bound notebook to remove the crystals that bind them.
Each player has a unique deck of multi-use cards, and they also represent your ability to hold on to the leviathan; run out of cards and you fall to a rest point, which resets your deck. The bound leviathans resist your efforts to free them with a deck of effect cards that gain strength over the course of play. (KS link)
• In Asteroid Dice from Camden Games, players play cards to compete for the giant squishy die of their choice, then roll them on the table — or smash them against already rolled dice — to try to get the high number. (KS link)
• We'll close with a non-game project from BGG's own Chad Krizan and his wife Caylyn, who run the company Puzzle Bomb and are currently running a Kickstarter campaign for a trilogy of all-wood jigsaw puzzles titled "Party in the Back".
All three puzzles have multiple layers to them, with many different thematic images in the parts of the puzzle that will be buried once it's fully assembled. The images below give a taste of what these puzzles are like, with the KS campaign featuring animated GIFs that feature all the levels...should you wish to have them spoiled in advance.
Read more »
- Cross the United States in Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the WestDays of Wonder teased a Ticket to Ride legacy game, it's now officially announced Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West, a game for 2-5 players from Alan R. Moon, Rob Daviau, and Matt Leacock.
Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:In Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West, players embark on twelve journeys across North America as 19th century pioneers. The campaign begins on the East Coast, with players working their way to the West from one adventure to the next, meeting challenges along the way. As in Ticket to Ride, completing your tickets will remain your primary goal, but you will need to develop other skills if you hope to overcome the unexpected events and your resourceful rivals. Game after game, route after route, you will continuously fill your vault with earnings. As the story progresses, you will open frontier boxes that unlock new rules, content, and many more surprises.
In the Legacy style, Legends of the West is a unique experience molded by player choices. Each player has their own role to play, allowing them to change the way the story unfolds around them. Combined with evolving mechanisms that change as the game progresses, players will have a new experience every time they gather around the board.
At the end of the twelve games in this legacy campaign, you will have transformed your game into a unique copy that you can continue playing for a lifetime.
For hints of what's inside the box, the components list includes 13 frontier game boards, 7 event cards, 6 newspaper cards, 77 postcards, a story deck, and a conductor's toolbox.
Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West will be demonstrated at Gen Con 2023 in August and released in fourteen language editions on November 3, 2023, bearing a US$120 MSRP.
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- Designer Diary: Undaunted: Battle of Britain, or Taking the Fight to the SkiesUndaunted: Battle of Britain is a standalone game in the Undaunted series, adapting the core gameplay of the previous games to recreate the dynamic dogfighting of aerial combat.
In Undaunted: Battle of Britain, you lead RAF or Luftwaffe aircraft and battle over the skies of Britain in the most famous aerial battle in history. In the game you experience dogfights and bombing runs, with British ships trying desperately to escape the Luftwaffe, anti-aircraft guns aiding the RAF fighters, and much more.
This is the story of how Undaunted: Battle of Britain came to be...
The origin for Undaunted: Battle of Britain can be traced to April 2021 when Trevor Benjamin and I were finalizing the details of Undaunted: Stalingrad with publisher Osprey Games. As we were putting the finishing touches on Stalingrad, we began discussing what the next game in the series would be. Nestled within a long email about Stalingrad was this sentence that Trevor and I had sent to Osprey:...or would you prefer to go with something totally crazy with a scale/scope change, like re-working the soldiers as planes and creating a Battle of Britain type game where you command a squadron of aircraft?
Filip Hartelius was the lead developer at Osprey at the time and replied to the email later that day, saying:For future games, on account that Normandy, North Africa, and Stalingrad will exist, I would love to do something a bit different, so Battle of Britain seems like a great fit.
And so, Undaunted: Battle of Britain was born — or at least conceptualized! Osprey wanted it as a 2023 release, timed for either UK Games Expo (June) or Gen Con (August). Working on Osprey's typical timelines meant that Trevor and I needed to complete the core gameplay concepts by June 2021, complete 80% of the design by December 2021, and hand over everything by March 2022.
The timeline meant that Trevor and I would have just under a year to complete the design for the game. While a year might seem like plenty of time, we were also juggling quite a few other projects, our day jobs, and family life, so we got started right away.
We immediately started to compile research material. We hadn't actually settled on the scale of the game yet, and our research would help us make that decision. Who were the players in this game? Did they control entire squadrons? And if so, what did each counter on the board represent? Each card?
We identified a TON of Osprey books that would help us out with the research stage. (One of the obvious benefits of making a military-themed game with Osprey is its massive catalog of military history books.) Osprey sent them over right away and Trevor and I pored over them, trying to identify the right time period, regional focus, and scale for our game.
Over the next couple of weeks, Trevor and I met often, comparing our research and notes, chatting about what we felt would make for the most engaging game, while also leveraging the core Undaunted system. We knew the game had to feel like Undaunted, but we were also willing to push the system to the extreme.
Ultimately, for scale, we decided that each player would command about four to six aircraft in each scenario. The counters on the board would represent the aircraft, while the cards would represent the crew of the aircraft. This kept Undaunted at the personal scale, which felt right.
Although the game is titled Undaunted: Battle of Britain, its scope is technically a bit broader. It begins in May 1940 during the Battle of France and the evacuation of Dunkirk. It includes "nuisance raids" in which the Luftwaffe conducted small-scale attacks across the English Channel as early as June, and then of course the actual Battle of Britain, which began in late June. The final scenario in the game covers the Blitz, in which the Luftwaffe changed tactics and began the strategic bombing of cities.
In May, just a couple months after starting our work on Battle of Britain, Trevor and I reached out to Filip and Anthony Howgego at Osprey and let them know we were ready to show them the first prototype of the game.
This is an excerpt from that email:Gents, we're ready to show you the core gameplay concept we've developed for Undaunted: Battle of Britain. The concept is that the players play elements of the RAF and Luftwaffe from Dunkirk through the Blitz. Each unit = 1 plane, so players are controlling about six aircraft each in a typical scenario. We've included a couple screenshots from the most recent test (RAF fighters trying to stop BF 110C's bombing key targets, while they are defended by BF 109E/Fs).
And here is one of those referenced screenshots, using prototype components in Tabletop Simulator:
Filip, Anthony, Trevor, and I met at the end of May, when we walked them through our prototype. Filip and Anthony liked the direction we were headed, so Trevor and I immediately went back to the design, began sketching out the general concepts for all the scenarios, and finalized our choices on which aircraft would be included in the game.
So What's Different about Battle of Britain?
While Undaunted: Battle of Britain uses the same core gameplay concepts and play patterns as the rest of the Undaunted series, it is also the most different and unique of the family.
First, there is the obvious difference of the transition from offset squares to hexes for the board. Topographically the two are essentially identical. However, Undaunted: Battle of Britain uses facing for the aircraft (that is, it matters what direction the aircraft counters are rotated), and that facing is easier to track with hexes. Similarly, unlike in other Undaunted titles, the aircraft in Undaunted: Battle of Britain can attack only in certain directions, which again, is easier to track with hexes.
Second (and this is closely related to the point above), planned movement is much more of a critical element of the game in Undaunted: Battle of Britain. Each plane has a Move rating, ranging from one to three spaces, that shows how far it can move in a single action. Accompanying that movement rating is a Maneuver rating. The Maneuver rating determines how many times you can rotate the plane counter during each action. For example, if you have a Spitfire that can Move 3 and Maneuver 3, you could move it up to three spaces and rotate it three times, all in one action. Each rotation must be broken up by movement of at least one space. Now compare that Move and Maneuver of the Spitfire to something like a Luftwaffe bomber that has a Move and Maneuver rating of 1.
But despite the superiority of the RAF fighters over the Luftwaffe bombers, the RAF will also have to deal with German fighters — and of course, both sides have to deal with obstacles such as barrage balloons and environmental conditions such as clouds. One last note about movement and maneuvering in Undaunted: Battle of Britain: If you attack your opponent from the rear, you gain a significant bonus to the attack – something that should be exploited at all costs!
Third, in Undaunted: Battle of Britain we've moved away from the idea of scouting. In the other games in the series, when a scout moves to a new terrain tile, you place a scout token on the board and gain a Fog of War card, which represents the strain on command and control within the unit as the scout expands the area covered by your unit. That concept doesn't really apply in aerial combat.
Instead, we've introduced the idea of maintaining communications between aircraft. Each set of two fighters in the game are organized as a section. Those two fighters have a Section Comms card, which operates similarly to a Squad Leader card from Undaunted: Normandy and Stalingrad. You can use the Section Comms card to support the two fighters in the section (by adding new cards from those fighters, allowing them to take extra actions, etc). However, if you use the Section Comms card and the fighters are more than two spaces apart, you have to add a Discord card to your deck. Discord cards work just like Fog of War – that is, they are essentially a dead card in your deck. In this way, the game allows you to take important support actions with the Section Comms card if you want, but if the two fighters in a section are operating independently, you have to pay the price for the lack of cohesion.
In the end, playing Undaunted: Battle of Britain works similarly to other Undaunted titles, but it feels very different.
Trevor and I completed our work on Undaunted: Battle of Britain at the end of August 2021, putting us well ahead of Osprey's request to have the complete game design to them by March 2022. Trevor and I met with Osprey in early September to walk them through the design, to provide an overview of the scenarios and all the critical gameplay elements we added, things that were different from the core Undaunted system, etc. (As an aside, during that same meeting, we brainstormed future titles in the Undaunted series — but that's secret for now!)
At that point, we turned the design over to Filip and Anthony at Osprey. They put the game through its paces through the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022. Occasionally they would reach out about specific design intent, strategies, and clarifying questions for various scenarios, but other than minor tweaking, from a gameplay perspective nothing significantly changed between the design Trevor and I delivered and the final game. However, as always, the game benefited immensely from Osprey's amazing attention to detail when it comes to delivering an amazing, top quality final product.
Undaunted: Battle of Britain is gorgeously illustrated by the amazing Roland MacDonald. I say this for each Undaunted game in the series, but I really do believe that Undaunted: Battle of Britain is the most beautiful game in the series. It would have been very easy to lose the personal touch that the previous Undaunted titles have had in the shift to an aerial combat game, but the decision to keep the cards focused on the crew, and Roland's gorgeous art, really helped keep the game feel personal.
Here's a comparison of what we used for our playtesting and Roland's final work:
When Undaunted: Battle of Britain is released on June 13, 2023 — with a pre-release taking place at UK Games Expo on June 2-4 — it will mark the end of an over two-year process to make the game a reality. From the very first email where Trevor and I pitched the idea of "something totally crazy" to the published version of the game that includes Roland's evocative art, the creative process for Undaunted: Battle of Britain has been fresh and exciting for all of us. I think I can safely speak for Trevor, Roland, Filip, Anthony, and everyone at Osprey when I say that we truly hope that folks enjoy playing Undaunted: Battle of Britain as much as we enjoyed making it.
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- Game Overview: Mind Up!, or My Hit from BGG.Spring 2023
In that spirit, I thought I'd talk about my hit of the show for BGG.Spring 2023, which ran May 26-29. That game is Mind Up!, a card game from Maxime Rambourg and Catch Up Games that I played eight times on a review copy with all player counts from three to six. I wrote about Mind Up! in February 2023, noting that it has "a simple premise and lots of interactivity", while adding "Sounds like a recipe for what I want to see on the table!" — and that expectation was resoundingly met.
For reference, let's look at a six-player game that's one turn into a round:
To win, you want points. Over the course of a round, you collect seven cards. My first collected card above is pink; if I get more pink, those cards will go in the same pile, and if I collect a new color, it gets placed in the next column over. At the end of a round, each card is worth points based on where it's placed — in this case, 3-4-1-5-2 points per card — with bonuses and minuses affecting the sum.
On a turn, you all play a card from your hand simultaneously, then you arrange those cards in order from low to high underneath the cards already on the table, then you collect the card above the card you played. The played cards become the targets for the next turn. After six turns, you place the last card in your hand into your collection. Score those cards, then pick them up because those seven cards form your hand for the next round! After three rounds, whoever has the most points wins.
Everything about this design clicks for me:
• You can explain the game in a couple of minutes.
• You interact with others directly by competing for items in a common pool.
• You generally know what others want — if they have green on the 5 card, they want more green! — giving everyone clarity about other players' goals...which informs your own decision.
• You feel the impact of having more or fewer players at the table, so player count is meaningful rather than merely being an indication of how many components are in the box.
• Your action matters twice, determining which card you collect now while creating a target for next time, whether one to avoid or pursue.
• You start in a fog that disperses over the course of play; no new cards enter the game, so while initially you know only that the deck contains cards numbered 1-60, after the first round you've seen all the cards, you know which colors are plentiful and which are short, and (in theory) you know all the numbers in play. (**Correction below)
• You don't really know all the numbers unless your memory is far better than mine, so you're forced to act from intuition rather than calculating the perfect move.
• You are repeatedly surprised, both positively (which makes you feel good about your choice for that turn — "I'm smart!") and negatively (which you shake off because the "luck" of who played what just didn't fall your way — "Maybe next time!").
• You build toward that final card play, ideally ending on a high note. (Again, "I'm smart!")
• You shuffle the scoring cards each round — for example, this round they're 5-4-2-1-3, then they're 1-5-2-3-4, then 3-1-2-4-5 — which affects how you play your hand and heightens the lottery feel of the game.
• You end at just the right time, late enough that you get to use knowledge learned during play, but not so long that you feel like you're repeating yourself.
6 nimmt!, Wolfgang Kramer's classic card game from 1994 in which players each play a card from their hand simultaneously on a turn, after which the cards are lined up, with players hoping that their card doesn't land in the wrong spot.
What was interesting is that some players said they liked 6 nimmt! and enjoyed Mind Up! just as much, if not more, and some players said they hated 6 nimmt!, but enjoyed Mind Up! despite the similarities. I think those latter feelings come from two elements. First, in 6 nimmt!, scoring is all negative. The best you can hope for on a turn is playing a card and having nothing happen to you. It's a game of avoidance and (ideally) schadenfreude, whereas in Mind Up! you collect a card each turn that (almost always) adds to your score. Sure, you might have wanted the blue for 5 points, but you got an orange for 3 points that bears a +1 bonus, so that's almost as good.
Second, the cards cycle in Mind Up!, giving you additional reasons for deciding what to play when. Perhaps only two purple cards are present in a three-player game, and you have one in hand that you can play now, then likely collect next time to fill your 1 slot. That increases the chances of the other cards you collect landing in more valuable spots. Of course that plan might not work, but you can still make such plans, especially if you can also track some of the numbers in players' hands. I could recall the three or four lowest and highest cards so that helped a bit in terms of assessing whether I might get sniped or when it was safe to play a particular card to grab something on the end of the row.
I mentioned a lottery earlier, and Mind Up! very much feels like you're gambling. You play the odds that your card will end up in the position you want, akin to playing a slot machine and hoping for three cherries. Sometimes you play the 21 in a six-player game, and it is unexpectedly the highest card played — which creates a nice "How did that happen?!" moment — and sometimes you hit perfectly, prompting a clenched fist "Yes!" before you grab your treasure.
Scores in a round have ranged from a low of 18 to a high of 41, but they're often relatively close, giving you the feeling that one big score in the final round can still propel you to victory.
I was slightly misleading earlier when I said everything about this design clicks for me. I've yet to play with the optional objective cards. The game includes 14 such cards, and you can lay out a new one at random each round or leave out multiple ones for the entire game. I understand that variability is a selling point for publishers, but so far I feel like I'm getting all the variability I need from the base game and don't want to add unneeded distractions.
Here's a sampling of the objective cards from the English rulebook:
Note that despite the existence of an English rulebook from the publisher, currently only a French edition exists, having been released by Catch Up Games in mid-May 2023. Many titles from this publisher have been licensed for release elsewhere in the world, so perhaps it will show up in different editions down the road.
I brought only a few games with me to play at BGG.Spring 2023 — after all, we have a library on site with several thousand games that attendees can borrow — and I'm grateful that Mind Up! was one of them as I got to share it with many people and (I hope) helped them have a good time.
Additionally, he pointed out something I missed in the slim rulebook: "Players are actually supposed to draw a new card at the beginning of round 2 and 3. It hampers the players who could really count all cards, though I feel it doesn't negate your point that you do have a clear idea of which colors are numerous or not in play. I totally see how the variant of not drawing a card is interesting to give a bit more control."
Inadvertently, for Mind Up! I have replicated a variant for 6 nimmt! in which you use only cards numbered from 1 to 10x+4, with x being the number of players. This gives you complete information about the cards in the game, allowing you to track everything that's been played if that's your jam.
I'm fine with surprises and playing the odds, so as much as I already like the game, playing with all of the rules will probably be better, both for the spice that comes from swiping a card that an opponent didn't think could be swiped and for potentially higher scores in each round, giving players more hope for a comeback and greater odds of reaching the end of the line in a 3-1-2-4-5 layout. Read more »
- Revisit Black Friday, Play Seasons in Holly Oak, and Flip for Freaky Frogs From Outaspacewritten about Faiyum: Privileges, but it turns out that designer Friedemann Friese of 2F-Spiele has at least three other items that will be released by SPIEL '23 in October.
Black Friday is a revised edition of Friese's 2010 stock market game of the same name...or named Schwarzer Freitag if you have the German edition. In this game, 2-5 players try to gain as much gold as possible by dealing in shares before the huge stock market crash. Ideally you can earn cash by cleverly buying and selling shares, thereby manipulating the market development and share prices, then spend it on gold to lock in your wealth.
Black Friday includes an independently acting opponent, the M.I.B.S. (minimally intelligent broker service), that you can use or not depending on the number of players in the game.
• Friese has released a few solitaire games over the years — Friday, Finished!, and 5x15 — and now he's releasing a new one: Freaky Frogs From Outaspace, a card game that simulates a pinball machine. An intro:Try to keep playing as long as possible, relying both on skill and luck. If everything runs perfectly, you will start the nerve-wracking Multiball, or you gain an Extra Ball to play an additional round.
This game can be unfair, exactly like a real pinball machine. Sometimes you lose a ball very quickly without having any opportunities to aim at the targets: Bad luck!
Do not give up if you initially score only 1,000 points. From game to game you will get better. Score Bumpers, hit the Ramps, and possibly activate the Multiball...and you will get to scores of 100,000+ points, just like with a real pinball machine.
Rio Grande Games plans to release all three of the titles above in North America.
Fancy Feathers will see an expansion — It is getting colorful! — that features six new types of animal cards. You play by choosing any six types of cards in the game, so you can add these to the mix, giving you 18 types from which to choose.
Like the base game, the expansion is for two players, but additional copies can used to accommodate up to six players.
• To expand on Rio Grande Games' offerings, the publisher plans to release Prussian Rails, a new edition of John Bohrer's German Railways, which originally debuted in 2008 as Preußische Ostbahn in the second half of 2023.
• In that same time period, Rio Grande plans to release Holly Oak, a seasonal trick-taking game Tom Lehmann in which 3-5 revelers mark the passing of the seasons, seeking the favor of the Oak and Holly kings. In game terms, trump rotates with the seasons as spring becomes summer, then summer becomes fall or autumn (depending on where you live).
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- How Did Codenames Online Become a Mainstream Content Hit? — A Marketing Diary
by Ray Billings
We at Czech Games Edition had hoped Codenames Online would be popular with existing board game fans...but we never could have guessed that it would end up in the hands of some of the world's biggest content creators, being played in front of hundreds of thousands of live viewers.
So why was Codenames Online made in the first place? Why make a completely free browser version of a game that sells millions of physical copies? Well, in 2020 it was hard to deny the impact Covid-19 had on our hobby, which is entirely built around in-person gatherings. We wanted to create a way for our existing fans to access their favorite party game even when miles away from their loved ones and gaming groups. You can read more about this initial process in Tomáš Uhlir's developer diary from December 2020.
A New Kind of Codenames Fan
Codenames Online remains a completely free browser option for Codenames fans to this day — but the concept of "Codenames fans" has taken on an entirely new meaning in the last two years as a result of this side-project site. To our surprise, around October 2020, Codenames started making an appearance on the live-streaming platform Twitch. Even more surprising, the channels playing the game weren't from the board game community as you'd expect. Instead, the Codenames category on Twitch was starting to be populated by major mainstream creators like Chilled Chaos and eventually the likes of Pokimane (9 million followers), xQc (11 million followers), and Sykkuno (3 million followers), who are considered to be among the top streamers in the world.
Codenames Online has truly taken on a life of its own. I constantly come across comments from viewers and streamers alike who are surprised to find out that Codenames is a board game and not just an online game.
Why Is Codenames So Popular on Twitch?
So the big question is obviously how did this happen? Well, as with anything on the internet, it's hard to pinpoint the exact beginning of a trend, but what I can speak to is why this happened. Once that initial spark was created — some streamer somewhere picked it up, and showed it to their friends — why has the game stayed popular on Twitch for over two years?
Beyond being a fun and easy game to play, there are several factors at play that make Codenames Online very streamable:
• It is easy for the streamer to understand and explain, and audiences can usually intuit what's going on even if they join the stream after an explanation has been given.
• It's free, which makes it easy to pick up and try without commitment.
• It's not locked behind a third-party service like Tabletopia or BGA, making it more accessible to a non-board-gaming audience.
• The playtime is relatively short, making it easy to play a couple of games in between other content.
• It can accommodate a very wide range of player counts.
• It involves hidden information.
The last two points are key. These two traits make it so that Codenames fits perfectly into a style of streaming called "lobby content". Lobby content is when a bunch of streamers get together to play the same game with each other but stream their individual perspectives to their own channels. In addition, streamers like to play games in this format that involve some sort of hidden information because it encourages their audiences to move back and forth between the various lobby streamers to see their different points of view.
This genre exploded during the pandemic. Games like Among Us, Gartic Phone, and Project Winter were suddenly dominating both the Twitch and YouTube gaming spaces. The reason for the rise in this type of content is pretty self-evident: Creators were isolated just like everyone else, so they were more drawn to party games with their friends than usual. In many ways, Codenames Online rode a similar wave. You can see it frequently being streamed alongside these other lobby games:
Changes that Helped Codenames Online Grow with Streamers
As Codenames Online grew in popularity — both with streamers and regular players — we started receiving more feedback and higher expectations for the game. If any readers are hoping to create their own online board game, here are some things to keep in mind if you want the game to be successful with streamers. These are all additions we made after the initial launch due to feedback we received that turned out to be very useful for our streaming audience:
• Make a dark mode. Streamers stare at screens all day and will often be deterred from a game if it's overly bright.
• Give people the option to hide their game's URL. If the URL for a game is visible, large creators will often have audience members join the game in an attempt to disrupt the game.
• Provide outlets for creativity and customization. Streaming communities are built around a shared sense of humor, in-jokes, and audience participation. The custom words feature quickly became a favorite among streamers.
How Do We Engage This New Audience?
Once we adapted the game itself to the needs of streamers, we needed to adapt our marketing as well. This was a challenge I took on when I first started working at CGE. The tricky part is that, as I mentioned, many of these creators and their fans are unaware of the Codenames board game, not to mention the board game community. CGE might carry a decent amount of name recognition and cachet in the board gaming world, but to these creators, we're just a random indie company trying to get their attention.
So we needed to A) help raise brand awareness for the actual Codenames board game and B) forge relationships with these creators who are the backbone of the game's continued success online.
Here's how I hit those two birds with one stone.
Before traveling to US TwitchCon 2022, I had our art department make Codenames agent cards depicting two prominent Codenames streamers who I knew would be attending: KaraCorvus and Julien.
During the show, I tracked down where their meet-ups were happening and waited in line to talk to them and show them their customized cards. This gave them something from the physical board game to show off to their fans, and most importantly it was a memorable and genuine first contact. (I literally stood in line in the California sun for two hours.) I can't imagine how many soulless "Dear Creator" emails these streamers receive, so it was incredibly important to me that we didn't get lost in the shuffle. I wanted us to stand out as developers who truly care and are grateful for the work that streamers have done to make our game popular.
The response from Julien and Kara's communities was overwhelming, to say the least. I knew we had done something right and that this was the approach to continue.
The Codenames Streamer Celebration
After TwitchCon, I got to work planning a larger event built off this experience. I spent the better half of a year digging into the Codenames streaming community and picking out creators who have large audiences and a history of streaming the game consistently. I then reached out to them individually asking whether they would like cards made for them in the same style as Julien and Kara's and whether they would be okay with those cards being featured in the online game for a limited time.
Almost every creator I reached out to came back with an immediate and resounding "Yes!" And from now until June 12, 2023, you can see these creators' agent cards featured in Codenames Online. The featured creators include ChilledChaos, Sykkuno, WhatifJulia, and many more!
Our hope with this promotion is to continue to foster a supportive relationship between us and Codenames live-streamers. The event is only in its first week, but the incredible uptick in social media conversation surrounding Codenames is real proof of the power of influencers.
Where Do We Go from Here?
There are many interesting avenues to explore after this promotion. Should we continue to try to retroactively push the physical Codenames board game by perhaps creating a "Streamer Edition" of Codenames as many fans have asked for? Or should we embrace the digital future with the upcoming release of the Codenames app? We've added several features to the app that should open up tons of new possibilities for streamers to engage with their audience over Codenames. Maybe we'll do both! Perhaps I'll write another diary when we've decided...
What Does This Mean for the Board Gaming Community?
Covid-19 pushed the board game industry to adapt in many ways, one of the most notable being that we were forced to learn how to play online board games and how to make them better. I think continuing to pursue digital adaptations is the key to expanding the board game hobby. Obviously, board gaming will always be an in-person pastime at its core, but there clearly is a need and a brand new market for easy-to-learn digital party games. Even Gartic Phone, which I mentioned previously, is basically a browser version of Telestrations. I think, if approached correctly, other games of similar weight and structure could definitely follow in Codenames' footsteps and become a hit with live streamers.
Thank you for reading my thoughts on the Codenames Online phenomenon! Come join us in playing with these limited-time streamer cards from now until June 12, 2023 at Codenames.game. You can learn more about the featured creators on our website here.
Ray and the CGE Team Read more »
- Manage Railroads in Wyoming and Explore New Dual Gauge, Age of Steam, and Maglev Metro MapsAmabel Holland's Dual Gauge, which is a stock-holding and route-building game for 3-5 players. Plus, I played an epic and enjoyable first game of Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler's 1880: China (new Lookout Games edition), which was one of my most anticipated SPIEL '22 releases. So in the spirit of trains, allow me to share a few new and upcoming releases.
Hollandspiele announced the release of Dual Gauge: Netherlands and Eastern U.S., the third expansion map pack for Dual Gauge, designed by Amabel Holland. If you're not familiar with Dual Gauge, it's a shared incentive train game system where you compete against other players building train routes, and operating and investing in train companies. It has 18xx-lite vibes, but feels unique and can be played in about 90 minutes. Each map for Dual Gauge varies up the core system in fresh and interesting ways, offering players a plethora of exciting new challenges.
Here's the publisher's description of what twists and turns you can expect in the new Netherlands and Eastern U.S. map pack:These maps introduce Star Dits, which function as normal dits for most purposes – they count as a stop but cannot be tokened – but are worth more money. Depending on the map, players may also have an additional incentive to hit these stops over others. Both maps also see players in a race to grab bonuses, which also serve as another game end trigger.
The Netherlands map seats up to five players and features a new gauge conversion step, allowing you to flip narrow track to its standard side. Of course, what it doesn't do is change your narrow trains. You'll need to plan your train purchases carefully, and beware of opponents who might use this tactic offensively.
That's if you have enough time, of course! The standout feature of this map is a race to complete certain Goals. Achieving one of the map's eight Goals will win you a disc. This can be traded in later, either to place a station or to buy a precious second share of stock in a single round.
The Eastern US map is for three to four, and is a bit subtler. Preprinted track segments provide awkward chokepoints to either work around or embrace. Company turn order isn't fixed, but shifts from round to round depending on company stock value. Increases in that value are gated – tied to your dividends, so you'll need to work for big routes while your rivals try to block you with aggressive token play.
At the western end of the maps, there are the destination cities of Detroit and Chicago, each containing a set of Bonus Discs. When a company ends a run there, their President claims a disc. At the end of game, you'll get a payout based on the number of discs you've claimed.
Eagle-Gryphon Games is crowdfunding the Age of Steam Deluxe Expansion Volume IV on Gamefound, which includes seven new expansion maps for Age of Steam. The Volume IV maps cover a wide range of player counts (2-6 players) and each map has its own unique feel.
The crowdfunding campaign also includes the Age of Steam Deluxe: Acrylic Tile Set, which features transparent acrylic tiles for both track placement and new city placement, which will allow you to see the board below each track tile to read the maps easier.
If that wasn't enough, there's also a Jamaica/Puerto Rico promo map expansion available too. Jamaica is a 2-player map expansion and Puerto Rico is a solo map expansion, both designed by Ted Alspach.
Maglev Maps: Volume 1 is available at retailers after a successful Kickstarter campaign in May 2022. With Maglev Maps: Volume 1 you get a box set with three expansions for Maglev Metro (Moonbases & Mars, London & Paris, and Mechs & Monorails), and each features a double-sided map with different rules and mechanics from designers by Ted Alspach and Dale Yu and Bézier Games.
• On the 18xx front, Mercury Games announced 1868: Wyoming in a May 2023 press release. 1868: Wyoming is an 18xx game for 3-6 players from designer John Harres, which integrates the coal and oil industry boom in Wyoming to add some fresh twists to traditional 18xx mechanisms.
Here's the scoop from the press release for 1868: Wyoming, which is due out in 2024:Read more »1868 takes players on a journey through the history of the railroads during the coal and oil industry boom in Wyoming. Headlined by the powerful Union Pacific, this territory was not only born thanks to the railroads, but also saw a large influx of people and industries looking to make their mark on the immense and rugged terrain.
1868: Wyoming is novel in that it depicts the coal and oil industry boom-and-bust cycle in a way that is different each play. Railroads must decide whether a new rail line makes sense given the development level of an area and the potential for total industry collapse. All the while the Union Pacific pushes further West seeking vital connections to maximize their revenue. Variable at-start Private Companies ensure that no one strategy can be employed with any guarantee of success.
- VideoMetal Gear Solid: The Board Game Release Plans Now Solid Once AgainIDW Games announced Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game from Emerson Matsuuchi, stating that the game was "Coming 2019". Here's an overview of this 1-4 player game:Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game is a fully co-operative, miniatures board game. Following the story of the first Metal Gear Solid video game, players take on the roles of Solid Snake, Meryl Silverburgh, Dr. Hal "Otacon" Emmerich, and Gray Fox the Cyborg Ninja and need to use their unique skill sets to avoid detection as they complete objectives across multiple campaign scenarios. Featuring a highly dynamic A.I. system and sandbox gameplay, missions can be completed in multiple ways and always play out differently.
Then more than two years passed.
In February 2021 Matsuuchi announced that IDW Games would not be releasing the design:The rights to the design were finally given back to me a few weeks ago. So I have reached out and enlisted the help of a friend that is a bonafide expert in licensing and has connections with Konami. We're working to keep this project alive and exploring possible options. While there are no guarantees that our efforts will bear fruit, I'm still optimistic that we will be able to get the MGS game to market, to the patient fans that have been kept waiting.
If you are one of those patient fans, your patience is now being rewarded ...sort of, as you still have to wait at least one more year.
CMON has announced that it plans to release Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game in May 2024, with a pre-order open now for the "Integral Edition" of the game that includes a graphic novel that illustrates each mission, as well as a 13 cm tall "Metal Gear REX" miniature.
CMON notes that the game's 14-mission campaign will be the same in both the retail edition of the game and the "Integral Edition". Additionally, it clarifies that "all exclusive promos are exclusive to this Pre-Order (or crowdfunding platforms), with remaining stock available through conventions and special promotions only", so maybe "exclusive" isn't quite the right word.
For more on the game, you can check out this interview with Matsuuchi (and IDW's Spencer Reeve) at Gen Con 2019:
Youtube Video Read more »
- KENDi Kicks Off with The Choice, Durchmarsch, and Get It!KENDi is a German publisher founded in February 2023 by Franz Jurthe, who was previously the managing director at Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag (NSV). At KENDi, Jurthe has been joined by Steffen Benndorf, who designed two of NSV's biggest hits: Qwixx and The Game, and Reinhard Staupe, who had been a game editor at NSV since 2012, in addition to being a designer himself.
The goal of KENDi is to publish designs similar to what they used to do at NSV. As Staupe said in an interview with Michael Weber for Reich der Spiele:This is mainly due to my own vision: I generally like developing simple games, both as an editor and as a writer. In other words, games that use simple means to bring as many people as possible to the table and build a bridge. In terms of game mechanics, I'm always looking for a reduction to the essentials. The perfect example of this is The Mind. Almost no rules, ingenious and bold. A spectacular shared experience easily accessible to everyone.
In that interview, Staupe mentions that Qwixx, The Game, and The Mind have all sold more than a million copies and they "have such great potential that they will certainly continue to be represented on the market at a very high level."
The publisher's name, by the way, originates from a shortening of "I kenn' di", which is apparently the Bavarian way of saying "Ich kenne dich", which means "I know you" — which is appropriate since the three main parties have worked with one another for more than a decade. (I have Bavarian friends living nearby, and they've mentioned that Bavarian German is almost unintelligible to Germans elsewhere, so it's almost like they speak two languages since they also speak "regular" German. I felt similarly confused when I visited southern Mississippi long ago, barely understanding anything I heard despite me living in Tennessee at the time. Dialects are fascinating...)
KENDi launched with three titles in April 2023 at the SPIEL DOCH! game fair in Dortmund.
• The short description of Benndorf's Get It!, a card game for 3-6 players, might be "Speed Hanabi Mind". To explain:Your goal as a team in Get It! is to play all of your cards in ascending numerical order. Sounds easy, doesn't it? However, you have only one minute to do so, and you are not allowed to speak...and you can't see your own cards — only the cards of the other players! Can you give the right signals and interpret your teammates' signals correctly to play everything in time?
To win, you need to complete six levels of play. For level 1, deal out ten cards from a deck numbered 1-40 as evenly as possible. Sort the cards face down (without showing anyone else) to stack the cards from low to high. Each player picks up their topmost card facing away from themselves so that it's visible to everyone else, then someone starts the timer. Whoever has the lowest card must play it. How will they know? Tell them with your eyes! If they play the card correctly, they pick up their next card, then you all figure out who plays next; if not, restart the level, losing the game if you fail a second time.
If you complete the level by playing all cards correctly, add the special cards for level 2 — smile cards — and deal 13 cards. Special cards can be stacked anywhere in a player's pile other than the topmost card. When a player holds a special card, that's considered the lowest card in play. Each level adds new special cards, such as the mirror and a second copy of some number cards, and more cards dealt to players. Make it through 25 cards in one minute at level 6, and you win!
• Durchmarsch is a press-your-luck dice game from Staupe in which 2-4 players attempt to march through ("durchmarsch") a row of numbers on their player sheet:Each player has a sheet of paper with four rows of numbers from 10 to 1. If you cross off all the numbers in a row, you win!
On your first turn, roll the eight dice, then see whether you can use two dice to sum to 10. If you can mark a 10, you either:
—Set aside one die, and roll the remaining dice, hoping that two dice add up to a 9; if so, mark the 9 in the current row, then make this decision again for the 8, and so on. You never set aside more than three dice in total.
—End your turn, passing all eight dice to the next player.
If you end your turn, on your next turn roll all eight dice and hope to mark off the leftmost unmarked number in your current row. To mark off 7-10, you need two dice that sum to this number; to mark off 1-6, you need one die that matches this number.
If you ever fail to mark off a number, mark the "misthrow" box at the end of the current row; next turn, roll the eight dice and hope to be able to mark the 10 in the next row down. If you have marked a misthrow in all four rows, start on the top row once again, trying to mark off the leftmost unmarked number. If you misthrow again in this row, mark through the row completely. If you mark through all four rows, you're out of the game.
If any player crosses off all the numbers in a row, they win. If no one manages to cross off an entire row during the course of the game, whoever remains in the game the longest wins.
• The Choice is another dice-rolling game from Staupe, with 2-4 players choosing how to use the dice results each turn:Read more »In The Choice, each player receives a pen and a sheet of paper from the game pad. Each side of the paper shows an area with 13 hexagons, each filled with a number, surrounded by a ring of 16 hexagons, each filled with a color. Start on whichever side you want; you use both during play.
On a turn, the active player rolls three dice, then can re-roll any number of dice once. Each die has the numbers 1-6 with a different color on each side. After the roll, all players use these dice to mark off hexes on their sheet. For each die, you can use either the number or the color; additionally, you can sum numbers on the dice, which will be required since the numbers in the hexes go up to 12.
However, once you mark a colored hexagon, you can mark only the adjacent colored hexagons from that point on. Similarly, when you first mark a number, circle that number. The next number you mark must be in an adjacent hex; draw a line that connects this number to the circle. With each subsequent number marked, you must extend the line, never crossing it or revisiting a marked space.
If the active player can't use all three dice, they mark a misthrow box on their sheet; the same is true for non-active players who don't use at least two dice. When you mark all three misthrow boxes, flip your sheet, then start marking the other side on the next turn; you can also choose to flip your sheet before you get three misthrows.
When any player has three misthrows on their second side, the game ends, and players tally their points for each side, summing those values. The more hexes you mark off, the better your score!
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