Board Game Geek
- ● Every Day Is Halloween at Trick or Treat StudiosTrick or Treat Studios in Santa Cruz, California, has been a gamer for as long as he can remember. "I bought my first D&D box set in fourth grade," he says.
In junior high, he met and befriended Luke Gygax, son of Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, who was temporarily living in Los Angeles because Marvel Productions was working on a Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series. "I met him on a Friday during roll call in sixth period," says Zephro. As soon as he heard the name "Gygax", Zephro approached Luke to confirm that he was indeed related to Gary Gygax. "I said, 'My name is Chris, and I'm spending the night at your house.'"
After spending two decades working for various corporations, in 2010 Zephro and artist/sculptor Justin Mabry founded Trick or Treat Studios, which initially focused on designing and manufacturing Halloween masks and costumes. "We always knew that we would branch out," says Zephro. Over the years, the company added to its catalog: weapon props, action figures, home decor, jewelry, air fresheners, and much more. "Tabletop gaming was always on the list."
At this point, the first four titles from Trick or Treat Studios are scheduled for release in the first half of 2022, with many others planned through 2024.
• One of those first titles is the card game Creature Feature from Richard Garfield. Says Zephro, "I reached out to all my favorite designers, and they all got back to me. I always assumed that designers like Richard Garfield would have a jillion publishers banging down their door, but it's more common for designers to be the ones doing the pitching."
Creature Feature plays out over three seasons of movie-making, and in a season each of the 3-6 players has 8-10 cards in hand that they will use to audition for a spot in 4-5 movies. Cards range in value from 1-11, with some of them having special powers. To play, you reveal a movie worth 2-6 points, then each player chooses a pair of cards in their hand to audition for the star and co-star spots in this movie. Everyone reveals their co-star card, then in turn players have the option to withdraw from the movie to instead audition for a short film worth half as many points as the movie (1-3 instead of 2-6); you can even withdraw from that competition, moving your cards to the "fold" space on your player board.
Once everyone has decided to fold or locked in their audition spots, players reveal their stars to see who has the higher sum of actors for the movie or the short. One twist, however, is that your actors are ignored if your co-star has an equal or higher value than your star — unless this is true for everyone who has auditioned for the same spot. Whoever wins the movie spot claims that tile and all actors who auditioned for that spot. These actors are score face down and worth 1 point each — unless you won the spot with a star that didn't outrank the co-star, in which case your actor cards are scored face up, with them being worth 2-5 points each.
After you play through a hand of cards, you've completed a season, record your points on the scoretrack, then shuffle the cards to prepare for the next season. The deck includes helper cards that you can play while placing star and co-star cards, while resolving cards, and during other situations, with a helper replacing itself immediately so that you can have enough actors to fulfill all possible movie roles.
• Blood Orders is a game from newcomer Nick Badagliacca in which 2-4 players "each take on the roles of powerful but disgraced vampires, exiled from a centuries-old order and hoping to build a new underground kingdom of their own in an unfamiliar city. Players visit locations in disguise to gain resources, perform arcane rituals, and hypnotize the citizenry...but most importantly, to turn hapless victims into fresh, bloodthirsty vampires under their command!"
In more detail:To build your new order, you must manage a continuously evolving hand of vampire cards at your command, sending them throughout the city to visit locations, perform arcane rituals, bewitch victims, and recruit new vampires, all over the course of nine rounds (days). All of these activities take the form of cards activated by your order tokens on the board, allowing you to amass critical resources, perform useful actions, and earn points. However, as your power grows, so does fear within the city, making your quest increasingly difficult as the days go by.
At the end of the ninth day, the vampire player with the most points reigns supreme!
And in still more detail: Blood Orders takes place over three acts, with each act consisting of three days, with rituals, locations, and victims being divided by act.
Each day, you secretly program three order tokens (dawn, dusk, night) based on whether you want to visit the altar to select a ritual, the catacombs to have a garden-variety vampire join your order, or a specific quarter of the city, where you can carry out the effect of a location, pay influence to use a victim's ability, or acquire a specific victim for your order. You use your vampires to overcome the fear values in city quarters, and you must feed vampires blood to recover them from torpor at the end of a day.
TrollFest is another 3-6 player game, this time from Bruno Faidutti and Camille Mathieu, and the best description of the game might come from Faidutti himself, who posted a diary about the game on his blog in September 2021:A game of TrollFest is made of three phases. At the beginning of the game, players draft action and musician cards and build an amateur band of at least four musicians: a singer, a drummer, a guitar and a bass guitar player.
Every group then leaves its starting city for a big tour around the country, moving from town to town, holding concerts, sometimes recruiting additional or better musicians, sometimes even hiring dragons for the final light show. The main way to score points during the tour is to give concerts. The most successful ones are in the cities where the local crowd is most receptive to your musical style — basically, dwarves like dwarven music played by dwarven musicians, trolls like troll music played by trolls, etc. While playing elf pop in orc city halls makes little sense, multicultural big bands can have some success everywhere, especially if they also recruit a few exotic characters, like a siren or minotaur.
Unexpected events such as disagreement between musicians, snow storm, or yellow vests blocking the roads sometimes interfere with the band's well-planned tours. Nothing is more classy, of course, than to arrive on a dragon's back to end one's tour in one's home city.
In spirit, TrollFest seems like a blending of Ticket to Ride and Elfenland, with players starting the game with 10-16 tour tokens and choosing one of the 25 cities as their hometown, that is, the starting point for their band.
On a turn, you move along a road to a neighboring city — collecting a dragon token if one awaits on the side of the road and you don't already have it — then you conduct a tour in that city if you haven't already done so, scoring points based on the band members that match that city's named species, with bonus points if you're the first one to hold a concert there (as recorded by the depositing of a tour token). Some cities let you draft a new action card or draft a new musician for your band, thereby letting you adapt to future cities on your travel itinerary or prepare for varied endgame bonuses based on your band's authenticity; diversity; collection of dragon tokens and light shows; and attribute scores in energy, charisma, and skill.
World-Z League is a straightforward zombie-killing game from David Gregg for 1-4 players, with those players using rubber bands to shoot at targets.
To set up, take turns placing a building and a zombie, an obstacle and a zombie, then your final two zombies. The game includes rules that cover all the details of placement, but in general you need to leave at least half of your first two zombies exposed and all of your last two zombies in the open. Zombies have different point values on the back, and when you strike down an opposing zombie with a rubber band, you also score for zombies that have been knocked down by their owners.
• Regarding the look of games from Trick or Treat Studios, Faidutti wrote this about TrollFest: "Their graphic artist, David Hartman, also works with Rob Zombie, a metal musician and horror movie producer. [Hartman] made the video clips for the movies Lords of Salem and American Witch, and the art for his albums. His style is of course dark and gore, but also light and full of humor, and he visibly had great fun drawing the musicians for TrollFest, which he did incredibly fast. It's different from what we are used to in the boardgaming world, but I think we will see it also in other games by Trick or Treat Studios."
Zephro confirms this, noting that the company has used plenty of great artists over the years who will now bring their talents to board games. "It's like a breath of fresh air because no one has ever seen their stuff", he says.
Combined with the desire to bring a new look to their games, Zephro and project manager Andy Van Zandt are excited to have their games featured in new locations. Says Zephro, "We have established channels in the collectibles market for horror and costuming. We sell in tattoo shops, auto shops, toy stores, and elsewhere, so you'll see games in Hot Topic and other non-traditional channels that focus on horror, monsters, fun, and fantasy."
These new markets and new artists will be combined with familiar designers as Zephro notes that Trick or Treat Studios is also working with established talent like Richard Launius, Banana Chan, Tom Lehmann, John D. Clair, Emerson Matsuuchi, Scott Rogers, and Reiner Knizia. "We're doing both original IPs and a number of licensed IPs as TTS has worked with over 150 licensed IPs," he says, specifically mentioning Child's Play and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Specter Ops, and Emerson [Matsuuchi] and I talked about how cool it would be to have a game like that based on Halloween. One character is Michael Myers, and everyone else is trying to escape from him."
"Richard Launius was working with Mondo on a cool game called LA-1," says Zephro, but Mondo is now out of the picture, with Trick or Treat Studios being in. "It's the version of Arkham Horror that you've always wanted that game to be, and it takes place in a Blade Runner/The Fifth Element-type of universe."
Launis also has a co-operative game based on the original Halloween film from 1978, and Zephro says one of the challenges of selling games into markets that don't normally carry games is that you have to help them understand that despite this game having the same license as the Matsuuchi design, the games themselves stand on their own. "They're mechanically different", he says. "I've had to do a lot of explaining."
Aside from World-Z League, designer David Gregg is working on a new version of the deck-building game Nightfall, with Zephro describing it as a 2.0 version that will feature Universal classic monsters.
Finally in this short list of teasers we come to Reiner Knizia's Dream Factory, a.k.a. Traumfabrik, a.k.a. Hollywood Golden Age. Zephro says that they've transformed the game into Nightmare Factory, with the game featuring all new art and with players now creating horror movies. "The artwork is spectacular", he says. "We're definitely going to make a big splash."
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- Designer Diary: Interior Design for the Discerning Overlord, or Making Dungeon Decorators ShineJeff LaFlam
I never thought Minecraft was a game about decorating...but in some ways, and depending on the person, it is. That person is my son. He would spend hours and hours in that game building all kinds of interesting buildings, then he'd call me over to show me what he had built. He had a tour route already planned where I would see each room one by one. He would go into extreme detail: "See the torch I placed onto this wall so that you can see in the hallway", and "I put this chest next to the bed so a person can grab their stuff when they wake." He had a reason for just about every item he placed, where he placed it, and why that all made sense. It wasn't as much about the buildings, it was how he decorated them — and that's how my idea for Dungeon Decorators started.
I immediately began building a prototype. I made some simple two-, three-, and four-way hallway tiles on the top half of cards and decorations on the bottom half. Before you knew it, I was at a Protospiel running a test of the design. I quickly learned through experience that tucking cards under other cards was a real pain while building your dungeon. Shortly after that, chatting with some designer friends led to the idea of making decorations into tiles instead of cards. I started to test with that, and all of a sudden a decent game was formed.
The game had two types of objective cards that players could work on during play. One was based on the shape of your dungeon layout; I called them shape goals. The other was based on decorating. I noticed that some playtesters enjoyed doing one type of goal over another; some just wanted to do a cool layout; and others wanted to intricately place objects in their dungeons, so I needed both. While designing goals, I thought to myself, "What would a skeleton want to have to be a part of my dungeon?" Maybe it needed a sword rack and a few cobwebs. Maybe it'd like a cluster of rooms at the end of a long hall. What about other monsters? I would build from there.
Every turn, players had to choose between a hall or room tile with which they could extend their dungeon or a decoration tile that they could then place next to an existing wall. A decoration could be placed only on a wall, not on an opening to a room or hallway. This was fine...unless you lacked an equal amount of decorations and dungeon layout tiles, which is why the double-sided tile came into play.
With this change, you had an equal number of decorations on one side as the number of "exits" on the dungeon layout side. What's more, you never needed to flip over a tile to see what kind of dungeon layout tile was beneath. If the tile had four decorations, you knew a four-way hallway was underneath; if it had one decoration, it was a room; and so on. Drafting those tiles was working at that point, but it still had some issues.
Eventually, I added an ordering system and some player-drafting powers to each of the tiles so that drafting was more interesting to players, similar to Kingdomino. Sure, you could take the best tile this round if you were first, but then you would select last in the next round. Next, I had to figure out how many rounds a game should go for and how many tiles the game needed to support that game length.
In playtesting, I found that when people knew the game was coming to an end (as they could see just a few tiles left), they would give up on their objectives and just try to find points here and there. That is when I changed the end of the game to be when the third of three endgame tiles from the second-half set was revealed.
Players would see the first endgame tile come up and you could see them take that as a warning. When the second endgame tile arrived, players were on edge since they really wanted to finish off their current objectives! Now, the game was usually ending before players wanted it to, and that was a great moment, just like Ethnos.
I had a game, but now what?
There was a game manufacturing trade show in Reno where they had a "pitch" session for designers and publishers. I set my game up and waited for publishers to come by. Those that were interested sat down and asked questions, while others moved by. I had a few bites that night that I followed up on, one of which was SlugFest Games.
I ended up creating a Tabletop Simulator version of my game so that they could test it online since the company is comprised of people in different areas of the country. I was asked a few questions about my design choices, then eventually they announced they wanted to sign my game! We had some great back-and-forth during the development of the game, which was interesting and rewarding to see for the first time. They streamlined the game and left some of my design out for potential future work.
My game design started from watching my son play Minecraft, and then realizing what made that game so much fun for him. I wanted to capture that fun in a board game, so that is what I set out to do. I usually get inspired by playing a game myself or seeing something inspiring and thinking, oh, what if this was to happen? It never occurred to me that you can also get ideas from watching and analyzing others play. My eyes have a new filter on the world now, and it's fun.
And now SlugFest Games chimes in, with Jeff Morrow!
After a bit of exploration and discussion post-show, we decided to license the game and start digging into it. This post talks a bit about what we changed and what we didn't.
Let's start with what we kept: the draft mechanism and the tiles survived almost unchanged from Jeff's original design. The main changes we made were adding a fifth and sixth tile color, as well as slightly tweaking some of the assistant abilities. We also moved the "draw/mulligan" spot from the end of the line to the middle and changed its functionality ever so slightly.
One other small change that we made was to the draft process. In the original game, you would fill the draft board each round with N tiles, where N is the number of players in the game. We changed that to four tiles regardless of N. This was easier to remember, and it ensured that the game lasted the same number of rounds no matter how many players were playing.
SlugFest is best known for our flagship comedy card game The Red Dragon Inn. While we knew that we didn't want to try embedding this game in the RDI world, we felt it would be a good idea to add some "dungeon comedy" to the game, so while the original game had somewhat generic elements like goblins, rogues and skeletons, we went with cards like the Dragon Day Care Center and the Sharp Pointy Object Storage.
Where we ended up making more extensive changes was in how players score points. In the original design, players had a hand of decoration goals, there were one or two shared shape goals on the table, and there were no boss goals. The decoration goals worked pretty well, but the shared shape goals were worth lots of points, were rather difficult to make, and gave diminishing point values as each player achieved that shape.
Unfortunately, this tended to make them very decisive; players were generally forced to go after them, lest they find themselves in a big hole relative to the players who did. So we made shape goals easier, and we made a new deck out of them. This gave the players more agency since they could decide whether to focus more on decorations or more on shapes.
However, we later decided that it would still be good to have some kind of shared goals. For this, we turned to an experimental mechanism that Jeff had just added to his prototype: "overlord" cards, which eventually turned into boss goals. By creating two different decks of boss goals and having one of each at the beginning of the game, it allowed us to make a mechanism that gave gentle nudges to players. This, in turn, made it so that each play of the game was somewhat different, while also mitigating the problem mentioned above in which shared shape goals were super important and therefore also super high-stakes.
After making these changes, we kept playing the game, and we kept liking it. For those of you not in the industry, we should explain: Most of the time, after we playtest a game for a while, we get really, REALLY sick of it. We knew this game was special because that never happened. In fact, it STILL hasn't happened. We still really enjoy this game, and we hope you all do, too.
Thanks for reading! Read more »
- VideoGame Overview: Art Robbery, or Good Players Borrow, Great Players StealReiner Knizia's games over the years, and today I'm covering yet another of his designs, one that is about as far from The Siege of Runedar — a co-operative, deck-building, tower defense game from Ludonova that I covered in early October 2021 — as is possible.
The game in question is Art Robbery from Swiss publisher Helvetiq, and the game is bare bones in terms of its components and rules, yet all the parts prove to make for an engaging little challenge, especially for those of us with family members who like to play games that can be explained in less than a minute.
The goal of Art Robbery, as in many games, is to end up with more stuff than everyone else, and to emphasize your callous nature toward to the feelings of others who undoubtedly want to rack up a W for themselves, you play a thief who wants to claim your "fair" share of the goods your group has recently heisted. The problem, however, is that if you focus solely on goods to the exclusion of alibis, everyone else will make it to freedom while the police come down on you.
In each of the game's four rounds, you reveal that round's nine tokens, then take turns playing a card from your hand and drawing a replacement card. When you play a number (0-5), take a token with that number from the center of the table; if all of them have already been claimed, take a token with that number from someone else, preferably while saying "Yoink!"
If you play a guard dog card, you can take the guard dog figure, and when someone attempts to yoink a token from you, you can send the dog after them instead of that token. Sure, you no longer have the dog's protection, but you still have that token, so you're probably bett... Oh, wait, the next thief stole your now exposed token. Never mind — forget about it and see what you can get your hands on this time!
If you play a boss card, you take the boss token, which sounds cool and all, but the boss apparently feels under confident or perhaps unsure of their abilities because if you don't have a 4 or 5 token to accompany the boss at the end of the round, the boss splits to a desert retreat to attempt to self-actualize so that they can stand on their own without support in the future.
If you play a greedy thief, you can grab any one token that hasn't yet been claimed. You can't steal from others because the greed has arm-wrestled your reasoning powers into submission so you can't just go for the high-value tokens or boss token sitting in someone else's care, no, you just grab one thing that no one else has called dibs on.
Don't become too attached to what you take because it can be stripped from you immediately. Ownership is locked in only when the final token from the round is claimed, and that often happens more slowly than you think as each round includes three 3s — which means that everything other than the 3s is usually claimed first, then tokens and the dog keep circling the table until someone feels like they're not going to do any better than taking one of the 3s, which then upsets the point equilibrium and sends players off on a new round of stealing.
You might be hamstrung by what you draw, of course, since you can't steal someone's 5 or boss if you don't have those cards in hand, yet that's not necessarily a bad thing because in a game with more than two players, whoever is in the lead — or at least holding the lion's share of the points in the current round — might be stripped bare of tokens between one turn and the next. You want to collect points, sure, but not be so obvious about it that you attract attention and therefore attacks.
At the same time, you want to collect alibis to keep from being eliminated from scoring at game's end, similar to what happens to whoever ends up with the least cash on hand in Knizia's High Society — but as in that game, you don't need to worry about all the other players; only the worst one aside from you. (See "You don t need to be faster than the bear.")
I've now played Art Robbery six times on a review copy from Helvetiq with all players counts (2-5), and I talk more about the game in this overview video, including how the feel of the game varies based on the player count. One important thing to note: With only two players, whoever has the fewest alibis loses 10 points and is not immediately eliminated from contention — except that 10 points is probably a large enough chunk of your score to result in the same thing.
Youtube Video Read more »
- Create Patterns, Jump Exactly Two Tokens, and Flick a Foe to Their Doomwrote about five games from German publisher Clemens Gerhards, which tends to release perfect information, abstract strategy games created out of hardwood, and now it's time to revisit the company to see what they've released in the meantime. I would prefer to see the games firsthand, of course, given my interest in this style of design, but I wasn't at SPIEL '21 and neither was Clemens Gerhards, so here we are.
• First, let's look at the two-player game Peak from Andreas Kuhnekath, who has previously created the fabulous games Kulami and Rukuni:When you move in Peak, you must always jump over TWO playing pieces. These pieces may lie on the board on top of one another, next to one another, or with a distance between them — all options are possible, but you must jump over exactly TWO pieces, not more, not less. Unoccupied spaces are ignored; you can jump over them or use them as destination spaces. If the chosen destination space already contains a playing piece, you stack the new piece on top.
At the end of the game, the piece on top of a tower determines who scores for this tower; each playing piece is worth one point. The player who stacks best and is thus able to claim the most pieces wins.
Hmm...that's it? Seems so very simple that I can't imagine what it would be like to play it, which mirrors this comment from user getareaction, who is the sole person to have commented on the BGG page to date: "First impression: aesthetically wonderful, beautifully simple rules, interesting decision space, not immediately obvious how to play well. I like it." Sounds like something to explore!
• Designer Sascha Schauf has had two games with Clemens Gerhards previously — Disci and Raupenrallye — and is now back with the 2-4 player game Cube, which plays like this:In Cube, players try to recreate the color combinations of their task cards on the game board. Whoever first fulfills the required number of cards wins.
The situation on the game board changes with every turn. The active player can choose to either place a blindly-drawn wooden cube on the board or to move an already-placed cube to a different space.
A ball recessed at the bottom of the game board makes it easy to rotate the board in all directions, and the different perspectives — from above or from one of the four sides — allow for multiple possibilities of fulfilling a task card for all players, whether it's their turn or not. If the cubes on the game board lie on different levels or in different rows, the viewing direction is crucial. Cubes hidden from view don't count.
• Habt 8 from Lilly Schauf works similar to Cube, but it's solely for two players in a two-dimensional playing space, with white joker blocks that can serve as any color while players race to be the first to complete eight task cards.
• Diggrie is a two-player game from Tobias Grad, who in 2018 published Abstrakte Brettspiele, which describes fifty traditional and modern abstract strategy games that can be played on either a checker board or a 5x5 board, one of which was Grad's game Diggrie.
Gameplay details are scant, which is unfortunate since the details of play matter much more when the rules are at a bare minimum. Anyway, here's what I have for now:Diggrie is a two-player game played on a 5x5 grid, with each player having five flat discs and one taller king disc in their color.
To win, you must create in your color a row of four pieces or a square of pieces. You can move over unoccupied spaces; jumping is not allowed. The game includes three variants, and if you include the king piece in play, it needs to be part of the winning row or square.
• Let's close with Schnipp & weg! (Snap and away!), a two-player design from Dieter Zander that first appeared in the early 2010s under the name Kosakenschubsen through his own company, Historische Spiele Zander.
The design is supposedly based on an old Russian folk game, which is what the original name of Kosakenschubsen references: jostling cossacks or cossack pushing. As for how you play, here's an overview:Schnipp & weg! is a flicking game for two players that's played on a game board shaped like an hourglass.
Each player starts on one end of the board with nine pieces of their own color. On a turn, you flick one of your pieces at one or more of the opponent's pieces, and if you manage to knock at least one opposing piece from the board while not flying off yourself, you take another turn; otherwise, the opponent takes their turn.
If you manage to remove all of the opposing pieces, you start the game again, but with you now having eight pieces instead of nine and with those pieces being one level closer to the center of the game board. Each round that you win, you start with one fewer piece and one level closer to the center. If you win a round after starting on the fifth row with only five pieces, then you win the game.
Clemens Gerhards has released the game with red and white tokens and with brown and natural tokens, but I've seen only the red and white version for sale in the U.S. (I include that link only because I've already ordered my own copy and am no longer at risk of the company selling out before mine is on the way.) Read more »
- New Risk Awaits in 2022 Thanks to Shadow Forces from HasbroPulse Con 2021, U.S. publisher Hasbro has announced a successor title of sorts to 2011's Risk Legacy from Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis, a game so influential that "legacy" has become a standard term used to describe games that feature permanent changes based on the results of a played game.
That successor is Risk: Shadow Forces, a game for 3-5 players that will be released in October 2022 and is available for pre-order via Hasbro through November 8, 2021. Here's a quick overview of the setting:Read more »It is the year 2050, and the world is not as it should be. Tides lash the shorelines, smashing everything in their reach. Hurricanes whip down out of nowhere and destroy entire cities while uncontrollable firestorms tear across nearly every continent. Viruses rage out of control. Within this chaos, nefarious factions work from the shadows conducting disinformation campaigns and mobilizing mercenaries to collect a new mysterious energy resource of incalculable power. These factions, led by ruthless warlords, are fighting for power and control, but they are also simply battling for the destiny of humanity. The shadow conflict begins.
Risk: Shadow Forces is a legacy-style game. You will write on your game, mark it, put stickers on it, and even throw away parts of it. Every game played will change every future game. All players shape how their world evolves: its history, its cities, even its factions and how they fight. Cards and stickers will come into play. Unlock new rules and watch events unfold with each game. No two games will ever be the same.
More specifically, the game includes four sealed envelopes and one sealed container. You will be directed to open these envelopes as you play your campaign missions in order.
Warlords have emerged to not only lead the various factions, but to also go on covert missions. Each of these covert missions is a squad-level skirmish game that will have a direct effect on the world map in certain undetermined secret locations.
- The Ice Cream of the Future Travels to 2022's Zoo KingSaratoga Toy & Game Co. is a U.S. publisher founded in 2020 that is running a Kickstarter project for its debut title — Zoo King from company owner Evan Johnson — through November 4, 2021.
Here's an overview of the gameplay in this 30-minute card game that's due for release in Q2 2022:In Zoo King, 2-4 players compete to build the best zoos by acquiring animal, staff, and facility cards, with the long-term goal of winning awards that will be revealed over the course of play.
Before the game begins, each player purchases one of the staff or facility cards from their starting allotment of 1,000 money. Randomize the event and award cards into a single deck, with the cards being separated into groups based on the player count. On a turn, you reveal an event card from the deck, then perform two actions (whether the same or different) from these four:
• Purchase an animal, staff, or facility card from those available on the market, then add it to your zoo.
• Draw the top card from either the animal deck or the staff/facility deck, then either purchase it or discard it.
• Purchase the top card of either discard pile at a discount, albeit not a card you discarded this turn.
• Exchange an animal in your zoo for one of equal or lesser cost or star value in the market or on top of the discard pile.
After you acquire a pair of animals, you receive an immediate bonus of 100. You can also earn money from event cards, with staff and facility cards granting discounts and other benefits.
After a certain number of rounds, the first set of award cards will appear, with the awards being handed out one by one or returned to the bottom of the event deck in case of a tie. Sample awards include most felines, most money in hand, and highest total star value. As soon as a player has collected three awards — or four awards in a two-player game — that player immediately wins. If no one wins during the first award ceremony, then complete another round of events, after which more awards will be distributed.
Setting aside the gameplay for a moment, I wanted to focus on an unusual element in this game presentation, that being this logo on the cover:
In case you're not familiar with Dippin' Dots, the self-proclaimed "Ice Cream of the Future", let me excerpt the company history:In 1988, microbiologist Curt Jones used his knowledge of cryogenic technology to invent Dippin' Dots — an unconventional ice cream treat that's remarkably fresh and flavorful, introducing the world to beaded ice cream.
Dippin' Dots Ice Cream proved to be irresistibly fun to eat. In the late 80's and early 90's the Dippin' Dots dealer network began and various theme and amusement parks discovered their customers' love for the exciting new ice cream. In 1995 Dippin' Dots were first introduced to an international market, making their debut in Japan. In 2000, the company's dealer network evolved into what is now an award-winning franchise system with locations coast-to-coast. Today Dippin' Dots can be found in more than 100 shopping centers and retail locations and in more than a thousand theme parks, stadiums, arenas, movie theaters and other entertainment venues across the country.
My wife Linda and I first encountered Dippin' Dots in a shopping mall in the early 2000s, and if nothing else, it's an unusual way to enjoy a cold, sweet treat. You can check out its dozen flavors and order some for yourself here.
Puzzled about the brand tie-in, I asked Johnson about Dippin' Dots' presence in Zoo King, and the explanation turned out to be simpler than I expected:I've always been a fan of Dippin' Dots but didn't really make the connection to my project until we went to the zoo to do some research. We bought some, and I realized that it would be a perfect fit for the nostalgic vibe of the game.
Fortunately, Dippin' Dots is still a family-owned company, so there wasn't much red tape. We don't have a licensing agreement; it's simply a permission of use. They really liked the game and thought it was a perfect match. I give them free advertising, and I get that aspect of the game I wanted and hopefully some added credibility of a known brand in the game.
Today's lesson for publishers: It never hurts to ask should you be looking for a marketing tie-in! Read more »
- VideoZenobia Award Winners & SDHistCon & GMT Warehouse Weekend, Oh My!Zenobia Award results are in. Three winners were selected out of the eight Zenobia Award finalists after a close vote and feedback from a panel of 14 judges and the Zenobia Award board members. I mentioned all the finalists in my last Zenobia Award post and now I want to extend a big congratulations to the winners: Akar Bharadvaj's Tyranny of Blood in 1st place, Will Thompson's Winter Rabbit in 2nd place, and Alison Collins' Wiñay Kawsay in 3rd place.
You can check out brief overviews and snippets of the rulebooks for each game below:
Tyranny of Blood is about a hierarchical system that has oppressed people throughout history and has lingering effects that continue to cause suffering today. The game is meant as a condemnation of the system and a method of understanding it, not an endorsement or celebration. I hope that learning about this history will inspire players to think critically about the inequalities that plague the world today, and to struggle against them. …
Tyranny of Blood models the rise and fall of British colonialism in India from 1750 to around 1947, and the ensuing social displacement—in the religious, military, economic, and labor domains—that still resonate today. The game seeks to answer the lofty questions: how do classes with disparate bases of power work together in a society, how do they struggle against each other, and who are the victims of this process?
Each player plays one of the four major caste groups (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra/Dalit) with the end goal of shaping the coming independent Indian nation-state to support their interests. Each faction has its own role to play in the game and its own method of earning victory points based on its different goals.
• The Kshatriya player (warriors and kings, represented by green) uses political and martial power to build royal luxury and military prowess, commemorate the legacy of the princely era, and maintain a princely basis for power in an independent India.
• The Vaishya player (merchants and artisans, represented by purple) uses economic strength to increase national wealth, translate wealth into prestige and religious “purity,” and support India’s development as an economic power.
• The Shudra/Dalit player (laborers and those barred from society, represented by grey) uses limited labor power to build caste consciousness by playing the other three castes off of eachother, and struggling to build a more egalitarian Indian nation-state.
In this game, the British are not a playable faction, but a non-player force that players will have to respond to, either by fighting against colonial forces, or working with them to oppose the other players.
In the world we’ve come to call the West, history is seen as a linear thing: events happen, someone writes them down — we interpret those texts to learn of the history; however, occasionally those texts are reinterpreted. For the indigenous people of this continent, the telling of history takes a slightly different form. …
In this game, we are telling a version of that story of the Cherokee people settling in their new homeland. But we aren’t doing so in a literal sense, in the way the story is traditionally told. Instead, we are using the characters from Cherokee fables — Rabbit, Bear, Deer, and others — to convey how such a settlement may have come to be, reflecting Cherokee cultural values. … So, from here, I take the liberty to create a story with you. The story of Winter Rabbit, where the people prepare their village, far to the North of their ancestral home, and work together to ensure all have what they need. …
The goal of Winter Rabbit is to have the highest Wampum at the end of the game. The history and use of Wampum by the Cherokee and other tribes is complex. In this game, it represents each player’s contributions toward the goal of Winter preparation. You gain Wampum by completing Provisions and Stories. …
There are 6 production locations on the board (and the Rabbit Burrow). … When all the Open Spaces (those not covered with Conservation tokens) of a location are filled with Villagers, the location produces. … Clearing land is an option for gaining resources of a particular type after that resource location has already produced. … If a location produces and the Rabbit is revealed there, then no player gets to take resources. Instead, all resources generated in that area are placed in the Rabbit Burrow. …
The site of Machu Picchu has captured the imagination of historians for over a century. However, despite years of seeking to understand its secrets, the functionality of Machu Picchu is still an enigma. Was it a lost city as stipulated by legendary explorer Hiram Bingham III? Or was it a royal estate? Perhaps a citadel? A religious site? Or maybe something else entirely?
It is up to you, my fellow historians, to explore the evidence found at Machu Picchu to argue for an interpretation of the functionality of the site. However, given the cutthroat nature of publish-or-perish academia, will you be able to succeed in dominating the academic and public perception of what Machu Picchu really was?
Wiñay Kawsay is a 2-4 player competitive board game … in which players are historians seeking to manipulate public perception of the functionality of Machu Picchu. Though largely a deck building game, Wiñay Kawsay also involves worker placement (these workers being three assistants and a Lead Researcher), management of two currencies (coloured blocks and Faction Tokens), and the deconstruction and rebuilding of a central block model of Machu Picchu, which represents the public perception of the functionality of the site.
The name Wiñay Kawsay means “history” in Kichwa, the language family of the Inca. However the word more literally translates to “always life”, reflecting the ever evolving and living nature of history and historical narratives.
San Diego Historical Games Convention (SDHistCon) which is being is held virtually Thursday, November 12 through Sunday, November 15.
If you're not familiar with this game convention, their mission is to "create a diverse and supportive gaming community dedicated to playing exploring historically-based conflict simulations". Even though you may be missing the San Diego weather and sun with SDHistCon being online/not in-person, you can still expect a fun-filled weekend of a variety of historical board game sessions and demos, livestreams, and giveaways. In fact, I even signed up to run a demo for Geoff Engelstein and Mark Herman's WWI, political, negotiation strategy game, Versailles 1919, which I find appeals to wargamers and eurogamers alike.
GMT Games' first Warehouse Weekend event since 2019. I had such a wonderful experience there the both days I attended. Everyone was super nice, friendly, and welcoming. It sort of felt like a family reunion even though, besides the two friends I brought, it was a group of people I've never met before mixed with a few people I've "met" on Twitter. The energy was extremely positive and it was incredibly heartwarming to see so many people excited about building and diversifying the hobby. ...and this is coming from a woman (me) who was on a mission to play all 15+ games that she brought, but only ended up playing 3 of them. I was too busy learning new games from new friends, buying games, and socializing. ...and I loved every minute.
Here are a few highlights from my days at the warehouse:
Mike Bertucelli's Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs with some new & old friends including Gandhi designer Bruce Mansfield and his brother Scott. Who knew I'd be into dueling tank warfare?! The multi-use cardplay, mixed with great art and graphic design makes it so hooky...so hooky that a few of us played again later that evening!
Jerry White's Atlantic Chase just prior to strapping in my Panzer IV tank for Tank Duel (round 1). I continue to be intrigued by this design and need to make more time to delve in deeper.
Tomislav Cipcic's Brotherhood & Unity from Compass Games. It's an excellent 3-player game covering war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992-1995. It left us all wanting to play again.
If you're curious about other action at GMT's Warehouse Weekend, Justin Fassino (who's designing SELJUQ: Byzantium Besieged) captured and posted some excellent video footage of the weekend:
Youtube Video Read more »
- Double Up on Colt Express, Travel with Precognition, and Build 1001 IslandsLudonaute showed off a new expansion in the works for designer Christophe Raimbault's 2015 Spiel des Jahres-winning game Colt Express.
Here's an overview of Colt Express: 2 Trains & 1 Mission, with this expansion that's due out in 2022 being for 3-9 players:Players now work together as teams to try to become the wealthiest bandits in the Wild West, and what's better than a second train containing precious documents to spice up the adventure? As soon as they hear this, our famous bandits do not hesitate for a second, jumping from train to train to try to steal these documents on top of everything else up for grabs — but the shotguns roam wild and the Gatling on the roof does not bode well. On top of everything else, bandits have to be back on the starting train at the end of the last round if they want a chance to win.
This expansion introduces a new 3D train with special cars, two new bandits (Misty and the Twinz, each with new powers), a double team mode with the possibility of betraying your team or not, and an AI Bandit, Il Professore, to allow you to play with an odd number of players and a new action card to nudge a bandit from your team.
Beth Heile, BGG's production manager, visited the Ludonaute booth during SPIEL '21, and she notes that aside from being able to betray your parter, the expansion features bullets you can pick up, documents that give you money for finding the opposing team, luggage that's points on its own, and a coal car that includes one gold-filled lump of coal amongst the (relatively worthless) lumps of actual coal.
• Ahead of this release, Ludonaute will package the Colt Express base game and the two larger expansions — Horses & Stagecoach, and Marshal & Prisoners — into Colt Express: BIG BOX, with this item also including a new bandit — Silk — that will be available later from the publisher's web shop.
• Another title in the works from Ludonaute is Precognition, a game in which you and your fellow mutants travel in ships down a river, rescuing humans to help you. Different parts of the ship unlock different abilities for the mutants, e.g., parking a mutant in the medbay allows you to heal humans.
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet from Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala for release as 1001 Islands in the first half of 2022.
As the publisher explained to Beth, they no longer have the license to the book IP, but the game remains popular, so they're tightening the rules involving scoring and getting new art from Marie Cardouat for this new setting that will put the game on the market again.
Here is a sampling of Ludonaute's testing regimen from mid-2021:
[twitter=1414568514493587457] Read more »
- At SPIEL '21, IELLO Teases Get on Board, Distant Suns, Wagon Infernal, and King of...GeekUp bit sets, pick up games for use in the library during BGG.CON, and...become W. Eric Martin.
This latter bit was not something she intended, but she told me that sometimes when she met with publishers, "they treated me like I was you" and talked about future game releases. Aside from marveling at the number of pronouns featured in that short phrase, I am thankful that Beth got a sneak peek at games on my account because now I can talk about them in this space.
Today I'll focus on titles coming from French publisher IELLO and its children's brand LOKI, and I have a lot to cover, albeit often with little to go on. The prime example of this is the teasing announcement of the third title in the "King of..." line from designer Richard Garfield following King of Tokyo and King of New York.
So...King of the Sea? King of Atlantis? King of Crab? Any guesses on your end? This title won't be released until SPIEL '22, so we have a lot of time to speculate on such things. Please note that for almost everything depicted, the designs in question are not final and might change prior to release.
Speaking of King of Tokyo, the King of Tokyo: Monster Box is due out before the end of 2021, with this set featuring ten monsters (with Baby Gigazaur appearing in this set for the first time), the Power Up! and Halloween expansions, Evolution cards for (I believe) all ten monsters, a dice tray, and power cards previously released as promo items.
IELLO has stated that Baby Gigazaur and its power cards will be available separately at some point, with King of Tokyo: Monster Box meant to serve as introductory item for newcomers that gives them a lot of material all at once.
I've already written about Get on Board: New York & London, the new version of Saashi's 2018 title Let's Make a Bus Route, but now I can show off the look of all the components in this February 2022 release.
I know nothing about The Animals of Baker Street other than what's shown here, although one of the co-designers is Dave Neale, who has created multiple game designs about Sherlock Holmes and deduction more generally. The other co-designer, Clémentine Beauvais, appears to be new to games, but (if I have located the proper person) is an accomplished author of books for children and young adults.
Slightly more is known about Wagon Infernal from Thomas Brissot, with this being a co-operative game for 2-5 players in which to win you must play through the entire deck of cards in less than seven minutes.
You and your fellow players are trapped on a handcar that you must keep moving to escape from the danger behind you. You will play cards in front of the handcar to extend the track, and as long as the symbols match, you're safe; when they don't match, cards behind the handcar blow up — and if the inferno catches up to you and blows you off track, you die.
Little Town, IELLO's version of Little Town Builders from designers Shun and Aya Taguchi will receive an expansion. Each worker receives two blank cards (visible at the bottom of the image below), and if you upgrade either of those cards, you get that bonus power when you place the worker. Upgrades get more and more powerful, but also more and more expensive.
Break the Cube is a standalone successor to Ryohei Kurahashi's Break the Code, which is IELLO's version of his game TAGIRON.
Distant Suns is a "choose and write" game from designers Gary Kim and Yeon-Min Jung in which you're trying to improve your equipment, map the galaxy, locate black holes, contact extraterrestrials, and reach the edges of space (i.e., your personal score sheet) to score extra points as a famous space explorer.
In Last Message from designers Juhwa Lee and Giung Kim, one person tries to help others identify the suspect of a crime, while a second person attempts to thwart that communication. More details in this BGG News post.
For the titles from LOKI, I often have a picture with no other info for now. Beth is forwarding the catalog that she picked up at SPIEL '21, but for the moment pictures with bare bones info will have to do, as with Cosmic Race from Alexandre Emerit and Théo Rivière.
Or Tentacolor from Davide Panizza.
Or the press-your-luck, co-operative game Carla Caramel from Sara Zarian.
Or Farm & Furious from Luc Rémond.
Or Hâpy Families from Olivier Cipière and Forgenext.
Okay, we have a lot of unknowns in everything listed above, but now you have a brief taste of what was to be found in IELLO's media showroom at SPIEL '21. Once again, thanks to Beth Heile for the pics, and ideally I'll be on hand myself for SPIEL '22...
Read more »
- Richard Garfield and Alea Offer Dungeons, Dice, & Dangermy coverage of The Hunger from designer Richard Garfield, let's take a sneak peek at something new coming from him on 2022, with the publisher being Ravensburger's alea brand — and while Garfield+alea seems like an odd combination, I can imagine this design being similar to earlier, pre-Feld alea titles.
Here's a quick overview of Dungeons, Dice, & Danger, a roll-and-write game that will debut in Germany in January 2022 and in the U.S. in March 2022:Gather your courage, pack your sword, and roll the dice as you journey through the realm in search of treasure and glory. In Dungeons, Dice, & Danger, you explore deep, dark dungeons filled with treasure — and infested with monsters! Do you have what it takes to be a hero of legend?
After releasing no titles in 2021 as it transitioned from developer Stefan Brück to developer André Maack, alea also plans to release a second title in late 2022.
Oh, and you can look forward to still more from Richard Garfield in a BGG News post coming soon. Read more »
- Designer Preview: Res Arcana: Perlae Imperii
by Tom LehmannPerlae Imperii — Pearls of Power — is the second expansion to Res Arcana.
Perlae Imperii adds 4 mages, 4 monuments, 4 Places of Power, 12 artifacts, a magic item, and 25 pearls, a new essence type. It can be played with just the base game or combined with the first expansion, Lux et Tenebrae (light and darkness).
Pearls, a New Essence
Pearls are a powerful and flexible essence. They are worth 1 VP apiece and can be converted into a gold or any two (same or different) non-gold essences. In addition, various powers can use a pearl essence.
In a game with just a few rounds, one challenge when adding pearls was to ensure that they were more than just an accelerated start or a way to make an extra VP at game end.
Being able to convert a pearl for 3 gold (Diving Cord), 6 cost reduction (Scrimshaw Awl), or 6 non-gold essences (Trident) ensures that setting up a pearl engine can be quite lucrative.
Each player starts with a pearl, effectively increasing a player's starting essences by 2. This improved start is balanced by a higher victory threshold; now it takes 13 VPs, not 10, to end the game and possibly claim victory.
Calcination ensures that all players potentially have a way to produce more pearls.
Res Arcana games among experienced players often end on round 4. With Perlae Imperii, a fair number of games will now last five rounds, though four-round victories will still occur. Evaluating how long a given game will take and adjusting your plans accordingly is part of the game.
When designing expansions, I look for ways to enhance existing strategies and add new ones. With the new Places of Power, I added a Menagerie centered around creatures, calm, and card flow; a Workshop where pearls serve as catalysts to make gold; Blood Isle, which provides two different essence routes; and a Pearl Bed based on placing pearls upon it.
The last obviously works especially well with the Infuser, though the Infuser can work with almost Place of Power.
The Hidden Hall is a response to "Big Gold" strategies as it works better if you build monuments over several rounds instead of all at once on the final round.
While pearls are obviously the star of this expansion, dragons, creatures, and demons (from Lux et Tenebrae) also receive attention.
Catherine Wheel's attack hurts all players, even its owner, making Ignore Attack artifacts more interesting. The Phoenix gets reborn after defending against life loss, and as react powers that don't involve turning the card can be used when a card is already turned, it can often produce a gold along the way.
Windup Man is a base game card that was fun for brand new players, but as play improved and games got faster, it became less interesting. With Perlae Imperii, a player can invest their starting pearl on it, turning 1 VP into 7 VPs in four rounds with no additional effort. That's half of what one needs to attempt victory, but it effectively claims eight of your 14 initial essences (counting cards, essences, and mage). Can you find a way to turn six essences into another 6 VPs?
Variety, Subsets, and Lemonade
Perlae Imperii shakes up Res Arcana's strategy space, both by adding pearls and a higher victory threshold and by increasing the number of cards from which any given game uses just a subset (scaled with the number of players, as introduced in Lux et Tenebrae).
As players increasingly can't count on seeing any particular card combination, even with drafting, they must be alert and agile at pulling off new combinations, making "lemonade" from what's in play in any given game. Enjoy!
(Note: As of this writing, Perlae Imperii is available in the EU from publisher Sand Castle Games, but hasn't yet cleared customs into the U.S., so it will be several more weeks before it appears in U.S. stores.) Read more »
- VideoGame Overview: The Hunger, or Forever and Ever Lasts Only 15 RoundsRichard Garfield's The Hunger sounds like the second coming of Paul Dennen's 2016 game Clank!: Both are deck-building games in which you start in a shared location, then travel along a branching network of paths to collect things, with the need to return to a safe zone before the end of the game because otherwise you automatically lose.
Actually, at second glance they're still pretty similar.
That said, The Hunger can be treated as its own thing because the game feels less generic than Clank! in its subject matter, and it provides different incentives to players for what they might want to do.
In the game, you are all vampires, and you are spending the night traveling the nearby land to feed on humans. The game lasts 15 rounds, and if you are not back to safety at the end of that time, the penetrating rays of the sun will make you wonder why you didn't order through GrubHub instead —although I suppose that you can feed on only one or two delivery people before they stop providing service to your castle.
Every player starts with the same deck, and on a turn you have only three cards in hand with which to do things, namely move somewhere, then hunt. Your starting cards have a decent number of movement points, and you can move as many spaces as the number of points on the cards you play on your turn — but whatever you don't spend on movement can be used for hunting, albeit with a general restriction of only one hunt per turn. Too much bloodshed makes the human targets antsy, I suppose.
The hunt board has one more row than the number of players, and each turn you slide unchosen cards to less expensive hunting grounds — from a hunting cost of 3 to 2 to 1, with cards eventually piling up on the 1 location — to put out fresh meat. Aside from humans, the hunting deck features new vampiric powers and familiars, creatures that will stay in play by your side to grant you new abilities.
While humans as a rule make a good meal, some humans are better — or let us say, more agreeable to the system — than others. Humans range from 1-5 points, and they often feature special powers that will have you second guessing whether you should dine on them because like plenty of other food that's a bit rich for your system, humans keep repeating on you. When you acquire new cards, you place them in your discard pile, which means when you shuffle those cards to form a new deck, humans will end up in your three-card hand, and most humans have 0 movement points — which is understandable given that you have transformed that mobile individual into a legless bolus that's now making you feel bloated. In general, the more you eat, the worse you'll feel.
That said, you'll probably still keep feeding on people as otherwise you'll go hungry and your competing vampires will laugh at your measly bloodcount on the scoring track. The challenge is to eat the right people and juice your digestive track to keep them passing through your system without stopping. Some vampiric powers let you draw an extra card or two when you start the turn with a human in hand, while another grants you bonus movement points. Certain locations on the game board allow you to digest a human of the proper type, removing them from your deck entirely, although the memory of that meal still stays with you, which can be important for endgame scoring.
You start the game with a mission tile, keeping one of two that you were dealt, and over the course of the game you can stop at crypts to pick up additional missions. Some give you a special power you can use once during the game, while most allow you to score points based on how well you complete the listed task. You might score extra for feeding on humans worth only 1 or 2 points, for example; or for eating more humans of a certain type than everyone else; or for collecting bonus tokens from the game board, each of which is worth 2 points and carries a tiny bonus power; or for reaching the labyrinth at the end of the path and collecting a rose to show how soulful you are.
With crypts and bonus tokens and wells that let you hunt a second time (but only on the 1 track) and locations that aid your digestive processes and a single tavern that offers three random cards for a low, low price, you'll find yourself pulled in many directions on the game board, often wanting to travel further than everyone else since you'll then have first crack at the daily specials revealed at the start of the next round.
The trouble comes from you not realizing how much those meals slow you down later. I've now played five times on a review copy from Renegade Game Studios, the English-language partner of Origames, the original French publisher, and inevitably in their first playing people find themselves lumbering toward home in the second half of the game, barely moving due to all the blood they're carrying.
On the novice side of the game board, the safety zone encompasses all of the mountains, with you losing 5 to 25 points depending on how far away from home you end up — yet despite those negatives staring you in the face, you often spend the last turn or two trying to justify one more meal. Surely I'll move two spaces next turn, right? That will make my penalty only -10 instead of -15, which means it makes sense to eat all of these cards on the 1 space, right?
With more experience, though, you get a better sense of how quickly you go through your deck, which means you can better judge how many times you might have your meals pass through your hands, which means you can better assess what to eat when and how it affects your movement and what the value of a mission might be. These assessments will be complicated by the player count, however, because you'll see far fewer cards in a two-player game, which means your efforts to collect, say, members of the nobility depend more on chance since less of the deck will be revealed.
For more thoughts on gameplay, details of how turns unfold, and examples of missions available, check out this overview video:
Youtube Video Read more »
- Smother Fire with Snow, Split Dice Across a Mirror, and Play Qwixx LongerNSV debuted three titles at SPIEL '21, with one of those being Snowhere from frequent NSV collaborator Steffen Benndorf.
As with NSV's The Mind, Snowhere seems like it will invite "Is that really a game?" type of questions from those who encounter it. See whether you agree after reading this description:Your challenge in Snowhere is to use snow cards to extinguish all the fire in play.
To set up the game, spread the 111 cards fire-side up on the table in a single mass so that none of the cards are separated from one another. On a turn, a player picks up a fire card that is either uncovered or covered by at most a sliver of one other card. Turn the card over. If it shows a giant snowflake, set it aside; otherwise, use it to cover one or more of the fire cards still in play. You cannot cover a fire card one-to-one, but must cover part of the playing area (along with fire) with the snow card or cover part of another snow card already in play.
When a player can no longer remove any fire cards from the table, use any giant snowflakes set aside earlier to cover as much of the remaining fire as possible. The fewer fire cards revealed, the better, and if you have covered all of the fire, then you win.
This design — which is listed for 1+ players — sounds like an interactive art exhibit as much as a game, and I'm intrigued by minimal rule sets like this that leave me wondering how something even works. The experience itself is the thing, and I'm curious to see what it's like.
Qwixx and The Game — that NSV is now producing with no plastic components. To summarize the details on the NSV website, the NatureLine titles use:
—Paper banderoles on card decks instead of cellophane wrapping
—Score pads and instructions made from recycled paper
—Unpainted wooden pencils
—A box that is packaged inside a slipcase, with both being made from recycled cardboard
—Water-based varnish and sustainable inks
—Wooden dice that are "100% FSC"
• Speaking of Qwixx, one of the other new titles from NSV is Qwixx Longo, co-designed by Benndorf and Reinhard Staupe, with this title playing much like the original game, but taking a bit longer to play...which you might have already suspected given the name.
For those unfamiliar with Qwixx, here's a rundown of gameplay in Qwixx Longo, which will also cover what's new for those who already know the game:Qwixx Longo is a quick-playing dice game in which everyone participates, no matter whose turn it is. Each player has a scoresheet with the numbers 2-16 in rows of red and yellow and the numbers 16-2 in rows of green and blue. To score points you want to mark off as many numbers as possible, but you can mark off a number only if it's to the right of all marked-off numbers in the same row.
On a turn, the active player rolls six eight-sided dice: two white and one of each of the four colors listed above. Each player can choose to mark off the sum of the two white dice on one of their four rows; additionally, if the sum of the white dice matches one of the two lucky numbers printed on your scoresheet, you immediately mark off the next number in the row in which you have the fewest marks.
Then the active player can choose to mark off the sum of one colored die and one white die in the row that's the same color as the die. The more marks you can make in a row, the higher your score for that row. Fail to cross off a number when you're the active player, however, and you must mark one of four penalty boxes on your scoresheet. If you have at least six numbers marked in a row, then you can mark off either of the final two spaces in a colored row (15/16 in red/yellow and 3/2 in green/blue) — assuming the dice allow you to do so, of course. If you do this, you also mark off the padlock symbol in that row, locking everyone else out of this color.
When either a player has four penalty boxes marked or a second color is locked, the game ends immediately. Players then tally their points for each color, sum these values, then subtract five points for each marked penalty box. Whoever has the highest score wins.
• The final new title from NSV in the second half of 2021 is Splitter from first-time designer Stefan Nikolic. The game is listed for 1-12 players, but in theory you could have any number of people at the table as long as everyone has a score sheet and knows what numbers are rolled on the dice.
Here's how to play:In Splitter, you must group numbers together to score points — two 2s, three 3s, and so on — but you're placing two numbers at a time, so things won't always work out.
Each player has their own score sheet with 44 empty spaces on it, with two different patterns of spaces included in the box; each pattern has a dashed line through the middle that splits it into two mirrored halves.
On a turn, someone rolls two six-sided dice. Each player then writes the results, e.g. 1 and 4, in empty spaces in the pattern, with each number being in the mirrored space of the other. If, say, you place the 1 in the leftmost space of the top row, then you must place the 4 in the rightmost space of the top row.
After 22 dice rolls, everyone's pattern will be filled. Each 1 on its own — that is, with no other 1s orthogonally adjacent — scores 1 point; each set of two 2s that have no other orthogonally adjacent 2s score 2 points; and so on up to a set of six 6s with no other orthogonally adjacent 6s being worth 6 points. A starred space is present on each half of the pattern, and a scored group that contains this starred space has its points doubled. (One pattern has a set of three spaces with hearts, and if you fill all three hearts with the same number, you score 5 points.)
Whoever has the highest score wins.
My immediate question: Why isn't Splitter part of NSV's "NatureLine"? Couldn't these dice be 100% FSC wood? Couldn't the pencils be unpainted?
That's one of the hazards of planting a (sustainable unbleached hemp) flag for environmental causes, of course. Everything else you do suddenly becomes suspect, a source for questions that diverts attention from whatever progress you have made. Sure, you've done X, but why not Y?
I know NSV is busy with SPIEL '21 right now, but I've asked for an interview to cover this question and try to get a bigger picture of what the introduction of NatureLine means. Read more »
- Repel the Voidborn and Restore Domineum in VoidfallMindclash Games. For my taste, they tend to knock it out of the park when it comes to highly thematic, heavy board games. However, due to Covid-related reasons and travel restrictions, they were unable to attend.
In lieu of meeting in person, I met up with some of the Mindclash crew via video chat after I returned from Gen Con, and (via Tabletop Simulator) Dávid Turczi gave me a high-level gameplay rundown of Voidfall, their upcoming, grand, sci-fi 4x Eurogame that is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) for a 2023 release.
Voidfall comes from the creative minds of Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi, the same designer duo behind the the unique, civilization-building, deck-building games Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends, which are 2021 releases from Osprey Games. In Voidfall, Buckle, Turczi, and Mindclash Games boldly present their take on a euro-style 4x game, capturing player interaction, tension, exploration, and empire-building, combined with minimal-luck gameplay, resource management, and tough decisions, often found in economic euros.
Voidfall plays with 1-4 players in 60-240 minutes and can be played competitively, cooperatively, or solo conveniently using the same core rules. Here's the backstory behind it:For centuries, the Novarchs, descendants of the royal House of Novarchon, have ruled with an iron fist over the feudalistic galactic empire of humankind, the Domineum. During this time, they brought stunning technological innovation and scientific advancements to their domain. This accelerated progression helped the Domineum reach — and eventually inhabit — even the farthest segments of the known galaxy, where new Houses emerged to govern the outer sectors of the empire. As the House of Novarchon grew in power, so grew the religious cult that surrounded them, proclaiming grim prophecies about an ancient cosmic being from another dimension: the Voidborn.
Many thought it to be only a myth, but in truth, it was the Voidborn's dark influence that granted the Novarchs the sheer knowledge to achieve rapid expansion for the empire. While the cult of the Novarchs envisaged eternal life through the otherworldly entity, the Voidborn's only intention was satiating its eternal hunger. And so, when the Domineum had achieved a vastness fitting the Voidborn's craving, interdimensional rifts opened at the heart of the Domineum to unleash cosmic corruption. As the House of Novarchon and its followers welcomed the Voidborn and sought their false salvation, the entity infected and spread and seized control over the inner worlds. Now, it is time for the remaining Great Houses to purge the galactic corruption, prevent the Voidborn from fully manifesting in our dimension, and to ultimately overcome the chaos as the new rulers of the Domineum.
In Voidfall, each player plays as one of the ten Great Houses that broke away from the Domineum. Each house plays asymmetrically with its own history, strengths, and weaknesses. In the solo/co-op mode, players can win the game together by pushing back the Voidborn, whereas in the competitive mode, you need to gain more influence in restoring the Domineum than your opponents/rivals.
There is a lot to soak in with Voidfall. I was initially intimidated by all the components and iconography when I saw it in Tabletop Simulator. The good news is that Ian O'Toole is behind the art and graphic design, so it looks awesome and once you initially learn the iconography, it will click and make sense faster than you'd expect. At least, that's how I felt after Dávid explained the iconography on a few cards to me — my mind quickly went from "This is crazy!" to "Ohhh, I get it."
Voidfall features a modular map set-up with beautiful large hexes known as sectors that players interact with throughout the game. It can be played with a variety of map setups and scenarios, including multiple options for players preferring less combat/more peaceful gameplay, or more aggressive gameplay options if that's preferred. Between this, multiple play modes, and the variety of asymmetric houses, there is a lot of replay value packed into Voidfall that should keep things interesting and fresh game after game.
Players each get a player board which has slots for different agenda and tech cards, and their house mat which includes civilization track effects for their respective house. Players also receive an influence dial to keep track of their score, production dials to keep track of production and inventory of resources, and a deck of focus cards which are used to take actions during the game.
Voidfall is played over three cycles (rounds), and each cycle has a new event, a new scoring condition, and a specific number of focus cards that can be played. Each cycle is split into 3 phases - Preparation, Focus, and Evaluation phases. While the Preparation and Evaluation phases are mainly maintenance and upkeep-related, the Focus phase is really the heart of the game.
During the Focus phase of each cycle, you play 4-7 Focus cards, one at a time in player order, to take actions and guide your empire's strategy. First you choose an available Focus card, then you resolve up to two out of three actions on it, and then you discard it. Focus cards help you improve your sectors, improve technologies, boost your production, reinforce fleets, prepare for attacks...you know, all the things you need to do to make your empire more awesome than your opponents. You'll likely want to and need to do everything, but each Focus card can generally only be played once per cycle, so I can see how tough decisions surface when it comes to deciding which card to play, when to play it, and which two out of three actions you want to resolve on it.
As far as action on the game board goes, each sector starts a certain way based on the scenario and each player's house has a home sector that they rule. Each sector can be improved during the game by adding military installations to aid in combat, and guild locations to help you produce resources. Each sector also has a die to represent the population which is a production multiplier for your guilds. Beware though, the higher the population, the more likely your opponents will be to try to attack you and take over your sector.
Unlike most 4x games, combat is completely deterministic in Voidfall. There are no luck-based factors contributing to your battles so you can tell which side will win the war before it even starts, since it's mainly based on who has the best fleet power.
Combat is split into two phases, an Approach step and one or more Salvo steps. In the Approach step, sector defenses deal damage to the invading
player's fleet. Certain types of fleets can also deal damage in the Approach step if they have the appropriate technology. Then in the Salvo round(s), each side deals damage in initiative order, and initiative is based on who has the most fleet power. This step is repeated until one side runs out of fleet power. Hence the reason you can determine who will win before combat even starts. Considering this, you can think of the importance of strengthening your fleet in Voidfall to be similar to keeping up your military in a game like Through the Ages. But you can't always do everything, so there lies part of the balancing act that makes Voidfall very appealing to those looking for a challenging and engaging gaming experience.
Voidfall also features an interesting agenda system where players can build and customize their own tableaus of influence scoring conditions. With each House, you can pick between two agendas to start with which can help guide your strategy early on, and then you can draw additional agendas through Focus card actions and various other sources. Then once you've played your Agenda in one of your open Agenda slots, it can be scored at the end of each cycle.
Whether you're playing Voidfall competitively or cooperatively, the game ends after the 3rd cycle is finished. In competitive mode, the player with the most influence wins. In cooperative mode, you calculate the Voidborn's influence score and if all players have at least that much influence, you all win, otherwise you all lose.
There's tons more learn and discover in Voidfall. The sneak-peek I got left me excited and very curious to experience a full game, even considering I'm nowhere near fully grasping every aspect of the gameplay. I recommend checking out the design spotlight articles the Mindclash development team has been posting if you're interested in learning more about Voidfall.
I'm really looking forward to playing Voidfall when it officially releases. In the meantime, I'm super pumped to get my copy of Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles – Episodes 1 & 2 which I'll get my hands on much sooner. Read more »
- Pics from the Press Room at SPIEL '21
As a result, only Beth Heile is on hand at SPIEL '21, and she and partner John K are gathering games for BGG.CON 2021 in November, meeting with publishers to talk about GeekUp bits, and taking pics of what's on display at the show. Here's a sampling of what she saw in the media showcase room:
• Lost Ruins of Arnak: Expedition Leaders was still being worked on only three weeks ago, according to a representative from Czech Games Edition, but CGE prints in the Czech Republic, so shipping was not an issue regarding get copies to SPIEL '21.
• Golem, from Flaminia Brasini, Virginio Gigli, Simone Luciani, and Cranio Creations
• SCOUT, from Kei Kajino and Oink Games, with this new version featuring circus-themed icons on the suits as a visual aid, with each card being named to represent an individual performer.
• It's a Wonderful Kingdom, from Frédéric Guérard and Le Boîte de Jeu
• Lisbon Tram 28, from Pedro Santos Silva and MEBO Games, includes a completely superfluous, yet thematic bell. The publisher noted that playtesters loved ringing it as they took actions, so the bell made it into the final game for ambiance...
• One of the 100 copies of Hippocrates from Alain Orban and Game Brewer shipped to SPIEL '21 in advance of the full production run.
• Moon Adventure from Jun Sasaki and Oink Games, with the publisher describing this title (which features elements of 2014's Deep Sea Adventure) as a "hard co-operative game".
• Garden Nation, from Rémi Saunier, Nathalie Saunier, and Bombyx
• ECO: Coral Reef from Unique Board Games, with designer Izik Nevo saying he was inspired by his time as a diver, his love of chess, and his desire to bring attention to the issue of pollution on the sea turtle population.
• EXIT: Das Spiel – Die Rückkehr in die verlassene Hütte, from Inka Brand, Markus Brand, and KOSMOS introduces 3D elements to this best-selling line of escape room-inspired games.
• Components in Paleo: Ein neuer Anfang, an expansion for the 2021 Kennerspiel-winning game Paleo from Peter Rustemeyer and Hans im Glück.
• Living Forest, from Aske Christiansen and Ludonaute
• Dreadful Circus, from Bruno Faidutti and Portal Games
• CATAN: Logik Rätsel, a solitaire logic puzzle that I previously wrote about here
• Mille Fiori, from Reiner Knizia and Schmidt Spiele, which I described in detail here
• 1923 Cotton Club, from Pau Carles and Looping Games
• Wer lacht, verliert! is a party game aimed at folks who (at a minimum) would not object to the NSFW image posted below. I'm fairly certain you will not find a copy of this game at BGG.CON 2021, so you'll have to buy one for yourself should you want to play.
• Beth took a break from shooting pics to take aim at a shifty character from Spiel des Jahres-winning MicroMacro: Crime City. (Note Beth's "golden ratio" earrings, which are awesome.)
I greatly appreciate her efforts to sample the SPIEL '21 offerings on top of everything else she's doing!
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- VideoDesigner Diary: Wonder Book
Once upon a time, in a small town in central Italy, there were a couple of kids who liked to make custom Yu-Gi-Oh cards with paper. As they grew up, they developed more and more games together...
Martino Chiacchiera (l) and Michele Piccolini, already playing games (Can you spot the Pokemon TCG booster pack?)
Wait! This is a little too far back.
Our journey with Wonder Book begins in the distant past, but not that distant. It was 2015, a time when we didn't yet know how to write a story or how to fold a piece of paper to make the simplest of 3D pop-ups. Our memories are blurry, but we'll try our best to reconstruct what happened.
One day, probably during some design session of one of our scrappy first games, an idea descended upon us: How cool would it be to make a game with pop-ups? It would have a board that is both 3D and interactive, light years ahead of current board games!
What kind of game could we make with that "technology"? Our first idea, which has remained unchanged since then, was to make a co-operative, story-centered, dungeon crawler game, with rules so intuitive that everybody would be able to play and enjoy.
We began with a "flat" prototype (i.e., a normal game with a normal board) to start evaluating mechanisms. We had a couple of nice ideas — but that was no pop-up game! We wanted pop-ups to be central to the experience. We didn't want to "build pop-ups around a game"; we wanted to build a game around pop-ups!
There was one little problem, though: We had absolutely no idea how to build a pop-up.
Easier Said than Done
After that, we started frantically researching and studying pop-ups. You can admire in the image below our first YouTube search on the topic:
At the top, you can see Duncan Birmingham, our savior. In "The Pop-Up Channel", he covers most of the pop-up mechanisms that exist on this planet — a bible of paper engineering knowledge! — and teaches you how to build them. (For those who don't know, there is an entire discipline dedicated to making pop-ups, and it's called, you guessed it, paper engineering.)
Obviously, we proceeded to watch all of his videos, and we built our own "physical encyclopedia" of mechanisms. Then we used these acquired skills to painstakingly make our first prototype of an interactive scenario. After a lot of time spent cutting, gluing, and swearing (because pop-ups never go flat when you fold them), we had our game board: a small village and a big ugly temple. We even had an interactive dragon as a boss! (Keep this dragon in mind as it will come up later.)
The Sacred System
We had a pop-up board, we had combat and exploration mechanisms, we had grandiose ideas for a branching story — great! We tested it. It wasn't great. The game was a bit all over the place. Too many rules, too many components. What we needed was an elegant system that all on its own handled the story and the game progress, that introduced the rules, the heroes, the enemies, and the scenario. But how? We were searching for a sacred grail.
Then, the solution struck like thunder and it had always been right under our nose: We needed a pre-sorted deck of cards! And each card could have all sorts of things on it. It could introduce rules, challenges, riddles, choices — all at the pace that we desired!
A Home for the Game
It should be said that during those years we were living in different cities and that the development had been mostly remote and very hiccupped since we could have in-person sessions only when we were in the same city (which happened mostly during holiday periods, when we were both in our home town).
Our project looked promising, but we couldn't easily find an opportunity to develop it at full force, so when we did have the chance, we made sure we ended up living in the same place. For a period of time, we even lived under the same roof. Only a few months of work, and we could finish the game! We thought. We had no idea how much our estimates were off.
Regardless, there we were, developing the game design night after design night, always rigorously accompanied by tea and biscuits. We had a system that worked, but building pop-ups from scratch took way too long. What could we do?
Steal like an Artist
In the field of drawing, artists make extensive use of references. It is surprising when for the first time one discovers that most concept artists, for example, don't paint a character out of thin air. Rather, what they do is take inspiration, steal, stitch together, and transform parts of pre-existing artwork until they get something cool and new.
Basically every field from writing to music, from programming to design has some kind of saying that suggests that the most efficient solution to everything is to "steal". You may have heard it as "talent borrows, genius steals", or "everything is a remix", or something similar.
We needed that. To steal...ahem, to get inspiration from references.
Thus, we bought and consulted an avalanche of pop-up books. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we would start from what was already done and make it better! We studied their designs, and we looked for cool mechanisms, finding some interesting ones. (A modified version of the most complex one is now at the very center of the Wonder Book's game board!)
But not all we found was great. In fact, we realized that most of the pop-up designs that exist in pop-up books are engineered to be looked at, not to be used. They are not suitable, for example, to support miniatures or they don't achieve the level of interactivity that we desired.
So we started thinking about how we could modify some of the mechanisms to make them work in a board game. We were coming up with many prototypes, but we dreaded the idea of refining some of those to production quality. It was clear that it would take us too much time, and we were not suited to the task. We thought we had a solution to inefficiency, but we were back at square one.
We needed a paper engineer.
Bye, Bye, Frankenstein
In the magical water world of Venice, Italy, there lives a paper engineer who had created some books that we liked very much: Dario Cestaro. We tried to contact him. Surprisingly, he wasn't scared away by two crazy guys asking him to build professional pop-ups out of some wacky home-made designs. Actually, he was enthusiastic. Dario was on board!
He would make real dummies starting from our scrappy prototypes (affectionately named "Frankensteins" because of their nature as "pieces sewn together"), and he would also provide contacts for pop-up manufacturers.
We had a game, and we had a paper engineer on board. The missing piece was a publisher.
Looking for a Publisher
We asked dV Giochi, both because of our history of collaborations with them and because our intention of making a game for everyone aligned with their motto that "Everyone wants to play." They were growing, and they had partners in several countries. They were the perfect publisher!
We pitched them the game, expecting "yes" as an answer, but the answer that we got instead was...
"ABSOLUTELY YES! We must release it as soon as possible!"
The issue? The game was not actually ready, and it wouldn't be ready for quite some time still. The scope was simply too big. We had settled on a narrative-driven game, which required a lot of content to produce manually. Moreover, making a pop-up game and finding the perfect use for each pop-up was not an easy task. It hadn't been done before, thus, we couldn't steal, ahem...take inspiration from anything. For the game system, we had taken inspiration from Legends of Andor, Stuffed Fables, Near and Far, Deckscape, and many others, but there was nothing with pop-ups. And we couldn't know for sure how many pop-ups we could fit in the game scenario until the manufacturers told us what the prices were — but to get a quotation, they needed the final pop-up. A chicken-and-egg situation.
Then, we got the news: Pop-ups are expensive. Gluing pieces together costs, so we had to be smart about what we put in there. Furthermore, the typical numbers in which pop-up books are printed is much higher than the typical numbers of a board game print run.
This was hell! With a tight deadline, we would have to redesign some pop-ups and rethink our gameplay and story for the hundredth time while coming up with clever solutions to keep the quality and the quantity of pop-ups high. And we needed the publisher to bet big on the game because it would have to be a huge success in order to amortize the costs.
Plus we had a few other minor obstacles, like babies being born, full-time jobs, living in countries other than the publisher's, and then even moving again to end up living in completely different countries and doing an important part of the final development remotely again.
And finally the cherry on top of the pressure cake: We received news about other games in the making that contained pop-ups! A chilling sensation ran through our spines and lingered for weeks, months even. But our fear gradually faded as we got more and more information, realizing that we weren't competing for the same genres and that our game could still stand out thanks to its unique features, like the interaction with pop-ups relevant for gameplay purposes.
What followed was an intense, non-stop period of close development with the publisher, with game mechanisms being revamped, an infinite amount of story that had to be refined, tons of sampling to ensure component durability, improvements to pop-ups, and a complete renewal of several aspects of the game, including the collaboration with hall-of-fame artist Miguel Coimbra, who did a wonder book... erhm, wonderful job! All of this while more and more partner publishers were getting on board, hyped for the game and urgent to have it. This period seemed to last forever, but it was necessary to support the development of a game like this.
Fortunately, there is a happy ending. Everyone's hard work has paid off. We are very happy with the final result and are thankful to everybody for their amazing work, from the publisher for their help with development, to artists, to testers, to the marketing. Everyone made this metamorphosis possible and turned a scrappy idea on paper to a beautiful polished product made with paper.
The game board now has beautifully illustrated and refined pop-ups that use a paper 10% thicker and 33% stronger than the one normally used.
Thanks to the feedback from the publisher and many playtesters, the gameplay has been enriched and geared toward more experienced players, while maintaining its original characteristics that make it easy to learn and playable by everybody. (You can expect a game that can easily be opened and played right away, but don't be tricked by its cute aspect into thinking that it will be easy to beat the game! We even support different difficulty levels, and if you are a hardcore gamer, don't worry, they are all difficult.)
The story now covers six chapters spread across almost three hundred double-sided cards that will offer you challenges, touching moments, laughs, and dilemmas that will force you to make decisions that impact the future.
The lore has found its raison d'etre in dragons. Do you remember the big dragon pop-up boss that we had in our early prototype? It became clear soon that this was the thing testers loved the most, which prompted us to put dragons at the center of the story. Not only will you find that very same dragon in the final game, but you will find out that it is now just a mini-boss. We wanted to go big, and therefore we introduced a much, much bigger creature...
The game is now manufactured and is coming out! At the Gen Con 2021 pre-launch, copies were sold out. The game will be featured in Europe at SPIEL '21 and will hit the shelves in multiple countries at the beginning of November 2021. It will be available in Italy, USA, France, Spain, Chile, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and UK, and negotiations are ongoing for many other countries!
The dust has settled, the heroes can rest...
Or can they? A terrifying silhouette of a dragon pops up. (Pun intended!) Something troubling is happening in the magical world of Oniria. The land of the dragons needs new heroes. Are you ready to enter the Wonder Book and become one of them?
Youtube VideoEnjoy the trailer, made by SpoiledBoiled
Every End is a New Beginning
Wonder Book is out, and now we can finally take a rest!
—Michele Piccolini and Martino Chiacchiera
Read more »
- VideoGame Preview: The Siege of Runedar, or Building a Better HandIn the co-operative game The Siege of Runedar, you and your fellow dwarves — or you alone as the case might be — attempt to defend a fortress from attacking orcs, goblins, and trolls, but you're defending it only until you can dig a tunnel to freedom and escape with whatever part of your golden treasure the orcs don't take home for themselves.
The Siege of Runedar is marketed as a deck-building game from Reiner Knizia and Ludonova, but "deck improving" might be a better description as your deck size remains at twelve cards over the course of play, with you ideally replacing starter cards with upgrades, then still better upgrades.
One problem, though: Your deck contains two orc cards that can never be upgraded or removed, and whenever you start with one of those in hand, you draw a card from the orc deck, which will add one or more orcs around the fortress, advance those orcs over the walls and into your living area, or bring a siege tower or catapult within range of attack.
The one bright spot in this situation? You might not see those orc cards thanks to a twist in how you handle the cards in your deck. After you shuffle your deck, you place two cards on the discard pile, leaving you ten cards that you will play over the next two rounds, five at a time. You never draw extra cards on a turn, and you won't know which cards have been removed until you pick up your second hand of five cards.
With this set-up, you know that bad things are coming, but each time you pick up a new hand, you hope for a reprieve. No orcs in the first five cards? Okay, great for right now — let's go to work! Maybe they're both waiting in the second hand, which means you'll have only three cards to play, which won't allow you to do much...but maybe you'll find fewer than two and can do even more. More than other deck-building games, The Siege of Runedar gives you opportunities for good feelings just by picking up your hand and seeing what's not there.
To upgrade your deck, you play cards while in an orc-free workshop to collect matching resources — metal, leather, wood — then place these resources on the available upgrade cards. Once you've paid the complete cost of an upgrade, any player during their turn can choose to remove a non-orc card in their hand from the game and replace it with that upgrade, which they can then play on the same turn.
Each card you play can be used for movement points in the fortress or for one of its listed powers: resource gathering, close combat, long-range combat, or digging. That last one might seem unexciting, but to win the game, you need to clear all the rubble in the fireplace room — 6/8/10/12 pieces, depending on the difficulty level of the game — which then clears one of the five tunnel pieces, with you then confronting two goblin tokens before you can start digging again to clear the next batch of rubble.
Goblins come in five levels of difficulty to match the five tunnel pieces, with you drawing two at random from the appropriate level. Maybe you'll have to fight the goblin, maybe you need to give it resources to pay it off, and maybe the goblin has brought more rubble that you need to clear. Whatever the challenge is, you probably won't be happy to see it.
Each turn, you are pulled in many directions, needing to collect resources for upgrades, to dig to clear rubble and escape, to fight orcs so that you can collect resources or not have them steal your gold, and to remove the siege tower and catapult before they cause large-scale trouble.
Combat is handled with six-sided dice, with two sides showing a crossbow for a long-range hit, two sides with a single close-range hit, one side with two close-range hits, and one side with three close-range hits. For combat, you play as many cards as you like with the appropriate symbol (close range or long range), then roll all the dice at once. You need two hits to kill an orc, which discourages you from playing one card at a time since a single hit does nothing and doesn't carry over to the next roll — yet if you overcommit on combat, then you give up cards that could be used for something else. These choices are standard stuff in games of this type, and they work as intended, with you sometimes gambling on a single roll to great success and euphoria and sometimes committing big to a "must win" situation that you do not win.
As with many co-operative games, you can lose in various ways, e.g., if the last piece of gold is stolen or all ten orcs are in play. You can fight against those two loss conditions, but you do have a definite clock in the game, that being the fifty-card orc deck. If you draw the last card, you lose, and while lucky shuffles may keep the orcs away for a while, inevitably you will draw those cards and see more forces against you.
Siege towers bring troll attacks if you don't remove the tower in time, and if you would be attacked by trolls for the fifth time, you lose. The catapult has a similar loss condition in that the fifth such attack kills you, but you'll feel the walls closing in long before that because each time the catapult strikes, you lose one of the possible upgrade slots, giving you fewer choices of how to make your deck better and possibly costing you already collected resources, i.e., time, with time being your most precious resource of all.
I've played The Siege of Runedar twice on a review copy from Ludonova, both times with two players, and offer more details of gameplay and more thoughts on this SPIEL '21 release in this overview video:
Youtube Video Read more »
- SPIEL '21 Preview Nears 500 TitlesSPIEL '21 Preview, which might be of interest even if you're not heading to Essen, Germany for the show given the wide variety of games listed, with the latest being the space-based card-management game Apogee from French publisher DTDA Games.
DTDA Games showed up at SPIEL '19 seemingly out of nowhere with Efemeris, and now it's a late arrival at SPIEL '21, too, with the publisher not being listed in Merz Verlag's SPIEL-GUIDE 2021 or its late registration list from the end of September.
What's more, I just heard from Korean publisher Playte — formerly OPEN'N PLAY — which booked at SPIEL '21 the week of October 4. Yes, Merz Verlag is still booking publishers down to the wire, and I need to get those titles listed ASAP, even though they'll be available only for demo right now.
Ideally I can give you a good picture of what will be there in Essen to help you know what you want there on your table... Read more »
- Can You Control the Right Areas in Europe, the Middle East, and...the World of SHASN?Osprey Games has announced Crescent Moon, an upcoming 2022 release from designer Steve Mathers that's described as "an ambitious asymmetric area control game of tense negotiations", to which I respond, "Yes, please!"
Crescent Moon plays with 4-5 players in 150-180 minutes and promises tense negotiations and political intrigue in a 10th century Middle East fantasy setting as described below:As the sun rises over the deserts, rivers, and oases of the Caliphate, a delicate balance has been upset. As one of many rival powers in the region, you now have the opportunity to alter the course of history and seize power for yourself. The ambitious Sultan sits in a golden palace, presiding over great works of architecture. The secretive Murshid works to covertly undermine the central authorities through an expansive network of agents.
The wandering tribes of the Nomad aim to sow discord in order to secure employment for their experienced mercenary citizenry. The ravaging forces of the Warlord sweep across the land, chasing after promises of plunder. And, in the face of chaos and uncertainty, the Caliph aims to preserve order through military might. Will you successfully navigate this web of rivalries and rise to prominence, or will you squabble with your lesser adversaries and fade into obscurity?
Crescent Moon is played over three years (or four years in the long game). Each year, players will take four actions which might be to deploy new armies, enlist mercenaries, build fortifications and settlements, conquer new land, expand their influence, and much more. Each character has a unique pool of abilities and available actions, which will shape their game, whether its the Sultan, who cannot raise their own army and must depend on mercenaries, or the Murshid, who can use their political influence to interfere in other characters' battles. Players can purchase potent power cards, representing ploys, wise advisors, and specialist units from a market shared between all players. At the end of each year, players score points according to their own unique character objectives, and at the end of the game, the player with most points wins.
Crescent Moon is an area control game for four or five players. Take on the role of one of five radically asymmetric characters, each with their own objectives to fulfill, unique actions to utilize, and game-changing special powers to employ. Build symbiotic relationships with your allies, undermine your rivals, and choose your friends and enemies wisely in this cut-throat game of power and politics.
• Norweigan publisher Aegir Games teamed up with Paradox Interactive to bring the award-winning Europa Universalis PC game back to the tabletop world in 2022 with Europa Universalis: The Price of Power from designer Eivind Vetlesen, with a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi.
Europa Universalis: The Price of Power, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter in November 2019, is a 4x, grand strategy game for 1–6 players that plays in 90-300 minutes. Here's a high-level overview of what you can expect:Govern one of Europe's great nations through the Ages of Discovery, Reformation, Absolutism and Revolutions — spanning more than three hundred years of history. Lift your nation out of the slumber of the Dark Ages and create a glorious empire, through clever diplomacy, brave exploration and ruthless conquest. Each of the playable nations have their own very unique opportunities and challenges.
Europa Universalis is a strategy board game that gives players a full 4X game experience in a historical setting. Through strategic use of cards and careful management of resources you can expand your realm on the map board, while at the same time developing the internal machinery of the state on your player board. You must build diplomatic relations that support your ambition and you can explore far-away parts of the world. By recruiting skilled advisors and carefully investing monarch power in great ideas, province development, and long term strategies, you may well be able to outshine your historical counterparts.
This is a game for 1–6 players (depending on the various scenarios included). The goal of the game is to build the most successful empire, and points are scored for (amongst other things) owned provinces, explored territories, diplomatic relations, victories in wars, and secret objectives that have been accomplished.
The board game is based on the famous strategy game series by Paradox Interactive, and captures the heart and soul of the grandness that makes the computer game so magnificent.
Columbia Games is planning to crowdfund Alliance, a new strategic game with coalitions and shifting alliances during the Napoleonic Wars (1805-15) for 2-6 players from designer Tom Dalgliesh (Hammer of the Scots, Napoléon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815, Richard III: The Wars of the Roses)):A game of diplomacy in the Napoleonic Era...with a Columbia Block System twist.
Set in the Napoleonic Era, the players play as Austria, Britain France, Prussia, Russia, and Spain. They cannot do it alone though, they need help of the neighboring countries, the minor states. The Columbia Block System add a level of granularity to the traditional style of such games.
Even though Alliance is best played with 3-6 players, the Minor States creates added depth for even a two-player game. Solo rules will also be created for the growing demand for solitaire play.
Players start the turn by receiving six cards, and discarding one. Afterward, the take turns playing a card, moving and building units, conducting combat operations if the need arises. Then a political phase happens where players make diplomatic plays for the Minor States in the game (non-committed countries).
Players make alliances with each other that last at least a year and can have many subjects (gold tributes, border disputes, non-aggression pacts, etc.) By default, the winner is who gains the most Victory Points in cities by the game's end. Other scenarios may have extra stipulations that also determine victory.
• Zain Memon, game designer and co-founder of the cinema and new media studio, Memesys Culture Lab, is at the tail end of a Kickstarter (KS link) for his latest political, area control title, SHASN: AZADI, which is available as a standalone follow-up or expansion for his 2021 release SHASN.
If you're not familiar, SHASN is a political area-control game for 2-5 players where every player takes on the role of a politician in the midst of a political campaign. Here's the gist of what AZADI brings to the SHASN world:Read more »SHASN: AZADI is a semi-cooperative political strategy board game where players play as revolutionaries, trying to free their country from the grips of a tyrannical imperial power. If they succeed, only one will emerge as the leader of the new nation.
Each player must work with their compatriots to topple the Imperials and gain freedom for their nation. But every time a player takes a turn, the Crown will march forward and the Imperials will take a turn, launching devastating attacks against the revolution.
Players can combat the Imperials by resolving Azadi Cards. From Jallianwala Bagh to the battle of Yorktown, each Azadi Card is a unique event from history.
Each Azadi Card has two sides, presenting players with two divergent paths of resistance. Will players take the path of peace and sit on a hunger strike, or will they take up arms and assassinate their oppressors? Each choice in an Azadi Card belongs to a certain Ideologue. Players must choose their path wisely, for their choice will unlock a new zone, and a Resistance Card belonging to that Ideologue, strengthening that Ideologue for the rest of the game.
For every action you complete on an AZADI Card, you will gain legacy. Spend your legacy to erect Monuments to your sacrifice and earn new powers once your nation gains Azadi. If players resolve the number of Azadi Cards required by their difficulty, and a final Foundation Card before time runs out - Azadi will be theirs.
But the new sovereign nation will need a leader. Players must compete in the first democratic elections of their country to see who will be declared winner.
What will you stand for? And what will freedom cost?
- Designer Diary: Dinosaur World, or Life, Uh, Finds a Way
After a night of playing Fleet: The Dice Game, I got inspired to design a roll-and-write game. I was never enamored with roll-and-writes until I got to experience the engine building of Fleet. Not only did I get to mark off Xs that enabled me to mark more Xs, but every other phase those Xs actually did something!
Marissa Misura and I began brainstorming some elements that we wanted. Above all, we wanted to create something. Some of our favorite games leave us with something to be proud of. Sure, I might score terribly while playing Agricola, but at the end I have my own dysfunctional little farm. Knowing Brian Lewis and having personally seen Jurassic Park thirteen times in the movie theater, Dinosaur Island seemed like the natural fit. I pitched some basic ideas to Brian, jokingly called it a "Roar 'N Write," and Brian was in. Thus began a journey that none of us had foreseen.
Okay, Who's The Jerk!?
While Brian has had success in the industry, I figured I would introduce the team. I also feel that the games we love say a lot about us.
Brian Lewis: The co-designer of Dinosaur Island and very much the John Hammond of the project. Brian is the type of designer who has a prototype ready to go the very next day. On top of that, he loves a quality spreadsheet and frequently lands on elegant solutions after long conversations. Brian's favorite game is Brass, and I think that mirrors his design philosophy. It isn't always easy, and you might have to lean on others, but the textile is going to get to the port whether you like it or not. Maybe it is because of his many creative ventures, but Brian ensures things get done and we are all constantly marching forward. This game exists because of him.
David McGregor: My design experience is largely from playtesting the designs of others and being fascinated by the constant stream of new releases. I would love to call myself the Ian Malcolm of the group in that I often find the "quotable moments" in design conversations. I like discussing game "flow", clean turn structure, and "feel good moments". I am one of those much loathed pacifist gamers; like a hobbit, my heart lies in peace and quiet and in good tilled earth. Unlike Malcolm, a mathematician, I don't care about the math behind a design decision as long as it "seems right". Where other designers can talk of input and output randomness, probabilities, etc. I stick to baby talk: "This feels good, and that doesn't." My favorite game is Le Havre because it is a sandbox in which I can make fish sandwiches while you ship steel. I love how the game has a real sense of narrative, with the city, ships, and economy changing as the generations pass. I hope your final park in Dinosaur World gives you the same sense of satisfaction that my splay of cards in Le Havre does for me, even when I come in dead last with the finest fish sandwiches on this side of the Seine.
Marissa Misura: Marissa is the Sattler and Grant of the design team by lending direction to the chaos. Not only does she make sense of the stream of consciousness of ideas that we all regurgitate, but she translates it to beautiful notes that we can work with later. Both she and Brian are the math gurus of the group, and while they work on balance and toil in the spreadsheets, my mind drifts to dinosaurs on Jet Skis. Marissa's favorite game is Race for the Galaxy, and she loves "digging" through the deck to find synergies. She is constantly amazed at how much you "get done" in a short session and wanted a similar feeling with Dinosaur World.
The three of us have known each other for nearly a decade and have worked together on a previously published design called Fungeon Party. This dexterity party game came out of a casual night with friends. As the night went on, we continued to challenge each other with more and more ridiculous dice-based challenges. We eventually wrote them all on index cards, set a timer for thirty seconds per card, and attempted to complete the stack of cards in co-op fashion. It was a silly game that we thought would be nothing more than a fun thing to entertain our friends. However, after taking it to some playtesting groups, several other designers suggested we pitch it. Sure enough, after a handful of successful pitches, we happily signed with WizKids. Dinosaur World would prove to be a much more involved and ambitious design challenge.
What Kind of Park Is This?
With inspiration found and a Dinosaur Island "rawr" and write to make, we started firing off ideas. We wanted an "activation phase", and we wanted combos as in Ganz schön clever. Buildings became polyominoes, dino paddocks became rectangles, and they all did something.
Early on, we had an idea of a logistic puzzle in which you would build roads and "travel" along those roads scoring in some way. In my dreams, dinos made their way to exits and escaped on Jet Skis, but this proved to be difficult to track. We were building roads and buildings, then crossing them off as they became "visited." By the end, you didn't have a cute little park blueprint, but instead a grid of scribbles and Xs. The goal was always to walk away with one of those "I made this!" feelings that we got from the Rosenberg classics.
As the game was now set in the Dinosaur Island universe, we wanted to use the DNA dice as the primary component. Very quickly we came up with a core worker-placement mechanism for our general actions: building attractions and special buildings, creating dinos, and laying down roads to connect attractions. The dice would be drafted, provide their base DNA, then be placed on a board to take an additional action.
In our first few plays, the board felt a bit too tight, so we added a dice-stacking mechanism reminiscent of Marco Polo. You could now use an occupied space as long as the threat pip value was higher than a previously placed die. This added a nice competitive wrinkle to the initial draft as you may want the threat pips to ensure your second action will be possible. For example, you may need a specific type of DNA to build dinosaurs, so one of your dice might have a high threat value to ensure that you can take a "create dinos" action later in the round.
After some tinkering, we had a core turn structure. You drafted dice, placed them to take DNA and actions, then built attractions in your park. When adding buildings to your park, they immediately activated, which would give you money to activate other buildings, specialists, etc. It was a fun system, but was difficult to teach and required a lot of resource tracking. We found it easy, but we were the ones who created it.
Brian threw together a prototype board, and we took it to Origins 2019 to pitch to the Pandasaurus Games team. The pitch went well, and the reception from the various playtesters was inspiring. We refined the game using several bits of feedback and brought a newer version to Gen Con 2019. This was the first experience when we had playtesters find us and return looking for another go at the game. As a new designer, this was such a cool moment for me, and I know Marissa and Brian felt the same way.
Gen Con 2019 was where the game really took on new life. We wanted ways of making the economy more diverse, but we didn't want to change the core mechanisms or add more complexity. Our countless playtesters over the weekend came up with brilliant ways to add player agency and a diverse economy, and they solved some final scoring wrinkles that we had yet to iron out. The buildings went from being pre-printed on the board to a deck of cards that could be drafted to add variability to the game. The convoluted route scoring was simplified, and we left the con with a game we were proud of and that felt close to being done.
The next problem was more of a publisher issue than a design issue. How was the game going to be presented? Brian suggested that we make a small Dinosaur Island expansion to pair with the roll-and-write, and we graciously jumped on board. Little did we know where the design process would take us...
They Didn't Stop to Think If They Should
Our initial idea was to take Dinosaur Island into the Ice Age. We listed issues that gamers have had with Dinosaur Island and Totally Liquid, then brainstormed ways to "game-ify DI".
One of the core ideas was to create a Dinosaur Island campaign. Titled "The Rise and Fall of Dinosaur Island", it saw your park thriving through a period of boom before being riddled with corruption and sabotage. Each of the episodes would act as a module that could be played in a variety of combinations. Some of these modules were more ambitious than others. The earlier episodes were basically sets of new buildings and dinosaurs. One of our goals was to make the park itself more interactive. These initial tiles had placement bonuses and adjacency scoring. The new dinosaur tiles had variable recipes that would change as you created more of them.
The first of the ambitious elements was a stock market module using Ice Age mammals. Mammals were commodities, and we added speculation phases, buy phases, and sell phases. We also wanted players to be able to invest DNA into making mammals and manipulating the markets. Mammals would enter the economy from outside agencies, and players would be adding their own to change the values of certain creatures. Costs and VPs would fluctuate, and the idea was that entering the market would be a highly-interactive but necessary aspect of play.
It was a challenge from the start. We did our research by playing stock games with both simple and more complex mechanisms to find something that would work. We saw this as the key module and worked tirelessly to make this function while keeping the rest of Dinosaur Island intact. Ultimately, we used a system in which the dinosaurs would enter the system randomly and be up for sale. As they were purchased, the player would get "action points" to manipulate the market as they saw fit. It didn't work. The decisions were obvious and boring, and we shelved it to focus on the other modules.
Some of the other modules included a series of tasks that you had to complete to satisfy a guy we referred to as "Nerman", as well as a complete overhaul of the hooligan system. Nerman, based on Dennis Nedry, would cause issues across the parks, and you would have to allocate workers or money to the tasks. We discussed the idea of these tasks being semi-cooperative like Troyes or more take-that with the ability to sabotage other players like mandatory quests in Lords of Waterdeep. Either way, this module never got to testing.
The hooligan revamp came entirely from my dislike of the original system. As one of the earlier playtesters of Dinosaur Island, I had a table flip moment with some poorly drawn hooligans, and I questioned the system throughout the entire design process. If I was going to get my crack at Dinosaur Island, we were going to have to address this.
The idea eventually became a bag-building system. You would court customers through PR actions. The customers were color coded, with each color representing various wants and needs. If you were able to place the specific color meeple at the attraction they most desired, you would score additional points, excitement, etc. Going heavy on dinos? Court more dinosaur lovers. Love amusement park french fries? Court customers who were amped about amusement park food. The customer draw led to more positive interaction. Instead of the sting of hooligans, you would get the occasional bonus of attracting specific customers. We even added variant cards that would change the function of the customers from game to game. This module worked well, and we were in a state that was ready for development.
The last of the more ambitious modules were hybrid dinos that blended the three dino types from the base game. The idea was to massively overhaul the threat system and make the game more punishing. Many players were clamoring for a bloodbath, and that was the goal. We were working on dinos that would march around the board shutting down systems and point-scoring options. The players would have to invest in Robert Muldoon-style security to march around securing the dinosaurs.
This module was more manageable, but it continued to exacerbate a problem we had with most of them as the game was already phase and upkeep heavy. We had hit a wall. Everything we tested added some fun, but also made the game more difficult to manage and more of a table hog. We often left the playtests wondering if it was worth it, and we settled on the reality that it wasn't. This was probably the lowest point of development for the "Rise and Fall" campaign expansion.
You Can't See What Is on the Other Side Until You Get There
Throughout our brainstorming sessions, we often talked about cutting and adding components. Brian came up with the idea of doing away with the park boards and building with hexes. Another evening we talked about having a little truck that would move through your park and activate tiles. Eventually, all we had from Dinosaur Island were the dice and theme.
Up to this point, the goal was to make a small component-light complement to the roll-and-write. Despite being campaign focused, we were working with only new cards, tiles, and Ice Age meeples. We were still designing within the basic structure of Dinosaur Island and had no intention of pitching this as a standalone title. The first play with the hexes and truck tour changed that. Cutting the vast majority of the Dinosaur Island components liberated our design space, and suddenly we started bringing back ideas. We all love games with engine building, so we saw the park activation as the primary means of scoring points and earning money. Elements we used in the roll-and-write were showing up and being added to tiles.
From here, the design process went fast. We kept some of the phases from Dinosaur Island. You still drafted dice and used workers to collect dinosaur recipes, buildings, etc, but now you had to hold back some workers to ensure you had enough to run your park. The park phase turned into a logistic puzzle in which your truck would start in the Welcome Center and travel to adjacent tiles. If the tiles had workers present, you would take the action and collect resources.
The various colored meeples that represented customers now became workers with specialties, and instead of building your customer base, you were building your worker pool. Blue workers became scientists, red truck mechanics, etc., and we kept the bag-building mechanism for this. Workers would come in on "résumé cards" that were similar to the boats of Keyflower, with you drafting the workers, then adding them to your bag. Eventually this mechanism felt cumbersome, and very rarely did we feel any meaningful strategy in the bag building, so we cut it. Simply having the players draft a résumé card and take the assortment of workers still required the players to puzzle their way through activating their buildings and efficiently using the bonuses provided by the workers.
The new park phase allows you to move your "jeeple" from attraction to attraction, gaining resources as you went. If you move to a dino paddock, you get excitement, but you also have to roll the threat dice. Each category of dinosaur deals a differing amount of threat and potentially death. Attractions provide bonuses based on their adjacency, and buildings do any number of things.
Our goal was to keep the basic economy of Dinosaur Island in which excitement would convert to money at the end of the round, but we also changed excitement to a spendable resource during the park phase. Thematically, some buildings just aren't as exciting for your visitors, but might be necessary for operation. As you visit these, you must spend "active" excitement to get the benefits. This will lower the total income for the round, but will hopefully get you some benefits. Excitement also reverts back to zero at the end of the round, so you must generate excitement on the turn you intend to use it to get any use out of certain buildings.
The park phase proved to be a favorite among playtesters, but we were growing concerned about players hammering the same route over and over again. Once some players found a juicy combo, they were content with doing it repeatedly. We eventually decided to use dice to "count down" activations. You could use an attraction as much as you wanted, but each use would become less exciting for your patrons. Eventually, these buildings would cease to produce excitement, but instead cost it. Players could use their nice combos a few times before the value started to decline.
While this solved one problem, it opened up another. Now buildings at the front of the park had excitement generation in the negatives, and players couldn't activate them. On a whim, we decided that after three years, the park needed to renovate the entrance and create a new one. At the beginning of the third or fourth round (depending on the player count), players add a new entrance for the remainder of the game. Now tiles that were buried in the remote reaches of your park could be hit early, and new combos were accessible.
The core was set: dice drafting, worker placement, tile laying, and logistics. We fine-tuned our phase structure, flipped phases here and there, and cleaned up the flow of play, then we were ready to playtest. We felt the design was of a similar weight to Dinosaur Island, but the experience felt quite different.
Life Breaks Free
As Brian, Marissa, and I continued to fine-tune and playtest, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, and upended our plans for an Origins and Gen Con roll-out and playtesting frenzy. Our little game was the farthest thing from our minds as we were concerned for the safety of our friends and family.
After the first major wave of infections had subsided, we were able to continue to work together, but development and playtesting slowed. With the help of Brian, Stevo Torres, and the Pandasaurus team, we were able to put our prototype assets in Tabletop Simulator and shift playtesting to an entirely digital space. Playtesting this way lacks much of the genuine interaction and feedback you can get face to face. So much of the experience of this hobby is tactical and based on friendly banter and conversation, that these early tests felt cold and distant. The upside is that there is little to focus on but the mechanisms and experience. A good digital playtesting experience might be fun, but a bad digital playtesting experience really sits with you. Some of our most genuine feedback has come from these digital plays.
Pandasaurus hired Andy Van Zandt to handle the remaining development. Andy was able to fine-tune balance and make excellent suggestions about turn structure and streamlining. All of the buildings or elements of the flow of play that we knew needed polish were suddenly getting that attention.
Kwanchai Moriya was once again on board, with Stevo Torres handling graphic design and Joe Shawcross and Andrew Thompson contributing additional illustrations. It seemed like within days we were getting art proofs and concepts that left the design team speechless.
An Aim Not Devoid of Merit
When Pandasaurus shared the official announcement and covers for both of these games, it was the first time I felt a resounding sense of dread. I have never fancied myself a creative, and the act of putting your work out there is terrifying.
From day one, I never considered this a product. Brian, Marissa, and I were just having fun. From the "rawr" and write, to the expansion, to the campaign, to World, each breakthrough and setback was a fun challenge to overcome. Not once did any of it feel like work. Sure, we had arguments, a bad playtest with close friends, and moments when simple solutions felt impossible, but after every play the game felt better. We were having fun.
Toward the end of the design process, we asked ourselves whether this was different enough. We know the theme is rife with options for more direct interaction and sabotage. We know some gamers would want nothing more than to march raptors into your opponents' Welcome Center, but those moments never really emerged. The puzzle of linking your tiles and driving your little truck around continued to be fun, and the design space grew around that. We always went back to my "baby talk" design philosophy and asked the question, "Well, does that feel good?" After each change, both major and minor, we felt the answer was a resounding "Yes!"
From the get-go, we let the design lead us. No idea was too wacky; even when we had whittled Dinosaur Island to just the dice, it felt like the right step. Every decision was in the interest of fun, and we felt, as John Hammond would say, that that was, "An aim not devoid of merit." We hope you enjoy playing the game as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
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