March 16 2017

Board Game Geek


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  • Keep the Death Star from Completion in Star Wars: Dark Side Rising

    by W. Eric Martin

    If you liked the sound of the co-operative dice and card game Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War, but didn't care whether Thanos snapped away a bunch of superheroes or not, perhaps you will instead find yourself drawn to Star Wars: Dark Side Rising, announced today by The OP for release in Q4 2019 — albeit only in Europe, Middle Eastern, and African regions due to licensing restrictions.

    As for the game's setting, here's an overview:

    Star Wars: Dark Side Rising is a co-operative card and dice game inspired by the events leading up to and through Star Wars: A New Hope.

    In the game, players must work together to recruit rebels and prevent the construction of the ultimate weapon, the original Death Star. Each player starts with an individual board that indicates the Rebel cell they are leading: Intelligence, Leadership, Support or Tactical. The player boards depict the Base of Operations — Tatooine, Alderaan, Yavin 4, or Lothal — and team leader (starting character asset) for each player: Captain Cassian Andor, Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and Hera Syndulla.

    Players must coordinate efforts to recruit iconic characters, such as C-3PO, R2-D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Admiral Raddus and Han Solo, and organize their cells to thwart the Empire's rise to galactic domination.

    The main game board features a custom-sculpted 3D Darth Vader bust that commands the Imperial operatives and actions with orders to wipe out the Rebels and to make the Death Star operational. Meanwhile, in a race against time, players must be one with the Force as they direct their Rebel efforts across different locations in the galaxy, including Scarif, Eadu and Jedha. To restore freedom to the galaxy, the Rebels must defeat enough sinister agents before the Empire can either complete construction of the lethal space station or eliminate too many Rebel assets.

    Star Wars: Dark Side Rising retails for US$50 (in whatever currency is appropriate for the regions in which it's sold), and The OP plans to demo the game at UK Game Expo in early June 2019.

    Which franchise might rise next, do you think?

    Read more »
  • More Titles at Tokyo Game Market in May 2019: Moon Base, Sinomilia, Elegantu, Natsumemo & Leiden 1593: The Beginning of Tulip Cultivation

    by W. Eric Martin

    Tokyo Game Market runs May 25-26, and if you plan to attend, you're probably already in Japan or on an airplane traveling there.

    While BGG is missing out on TGM this time due to us hosting our own event — BGG.Spring, which opens the same day — I've been opening dozens of tabs with new games that will be featured at that show and sending myself link after link after link of new games to check out. It's overwhelming, especially since each page I open typically leads to still more pages as I discover a JP version of an existing game and want to create a version listing for that, then yet another new game that has a co-publisher which also needs a new page, etc.

    All that said, here's a tiny sampling of what will be at TGM, much of it courtesy of Jon Power, who helps encourage submissions to the BGG database by JP game designers and publishers and whose initials are (coincidentally?) JP:

    なつめも (Natsumemo) is a roll-and-write game for 2-6 players from 宮野 華也 (Kaya Miyano) and cosaic that has the most delightful setting ever:

    "なつめも" (pronounced "natsumemo") means "summer memo", and it's the practice of children keeping a summer holiday diary.

    Natsumemo is a flip & write game with a summer vacation theme. Each player receives a special calendar sheet and a hidden sheet, pencils and dice. Each round, the active player flips the card of the week and declares the day on which the event will occur. All players choose to join or not join the event all at once, and if they join, write them on their calendars. Of course, you cannot take part in the events of the day if you already filled that date on your calendar.

    The biggest feature is the special bond that grows between the characters who participated in the same event. Players plan the events in order to develop friendships and score more points. "Oh, only Hana and Vivian and I are free on Tuesday, so if I suggest going to swim in the sea on Tuesdays and Wednesday, maybe only I can deepen the bonds with the two girls ...!" This is how boys and girls develop serious feelings and judgments are born one after another. Furthermore, "I was the only one who went to the sea when I tried to open the lid!" These goofy developments, the emotions that come from them are the most enjoyable!

    Another feature is homework. Players must balance having fun with friends, and getting their summer homework done, too. If you do not reach a certain number of pages by the end of the holidays, you get deducted points. You will end up cramming all alone the last week, instead of deepening your new friendships. This reality is unbearable.

    Saigo, who translates Game Market reports for BGG and who tweets about JP games, notes that a Chinese-language edition of the game is likely in the works, so perhaps someone will sign on for an English-language edition as well. We'll see!

    エレガンツ (Elegantu) is a Mao-like card game from Osamu Iijima and ボボン・ボン・ボジワーイ連邦 (The Bobon Bon Bojiwaai Union) in which players attempt to play cards and gain points, but they don't know the "rules for etiquette" that are in effect this game. They'll discover these rules only during play when someone stops them (based on a rules card in their hand) and penalizes the player for doing something wrong. You must remember and follow all of the rules in order to play well!

    Elegantu is a second edition of the game, with some English on the cards, whereas the first edition in 2018 had only Japanese text.

    Leiden 1593: ライデン-チューリップ栽培の始まり- (Leiden 1593: The Beginning of Tulip Cultivation) is a speculation game from designer ハイライフ (high-life) and publisher Spieldisorder, which released the David Bowie-themed Across the Universe in 2017. Here's a summary of the gameplay:

    As tulip merchants, players reclaim the garden, raise tulips, and ship them out. With the help of hired artisans, they aim to be the wealthiest merchant.

    At the beginning of the game, several cards are laid on the table to form the tulip garden. Each card represents 2x3 squares of garden, which is single-colored or double-colored to represent species of tulip. Each turn, you may place a garden card, build your hut, or upgrade your hut into a house:

    —When you place a garden card, you must partially overlay it on existing garden; the overlaid color of tulip becomes rare, so therefore its market value is raised.
    —When you build a hut or a house, you discard several cards and place the building on the garden. You may hire an artisan when you have built a house. Each artisan has a special ability.

    At the end of the game, for each color, you score victory points equal to the market value of that color multiplied by the number of squares your buildings occupy on that color. Then add some bonus depending on your buildings' location. The highest scorer wins.

    Moon Base is a two-player game from Naotaka Shimamoto and itten, with players placing ownership rings on the craters of the moon. Each crater you place eliminates the possible placement of other craters, although as you build up craters, you can place other ones on top of them in a second or third layer. You're trying to place residential zones and resource facilities to score points.

    • At TGM in May 2019, itten will also release Tokyo Highway: Cars & Buildings, an expansion for either Tokyo Highway base game that allows you to add four new building obstacles to the playing area, while giving each player a set of ten vehicles that range from the tiny cars of the original game to buses and tractor trailers.

    • Finally, for this post at least, is a game that seems tailor-made for my tastes: συνομιλία, a.k.a. シノミリア, a.k.a. Sinomilia by designer Kengo Ōtsuka and シノミリアプロジェクト (Shinomiria Project). "Sinomilia" is the Greek word for "conversation", and this two-player game exists as a conversation of sorts carried out via gameplay. Here's a summary of how it works:

    Each player receives a set of cards numbered 0-9 and fifteen chips. At the start of a round, each player places one of their cards face down to predict how many chips will be played that round. Players then take turns, and on a turn you can either place a chip in the playing area or pass. Do you add chips to get closer to your prediction at the risk of losing more of your chips, or will you pass and let your opponent control the conversation?

    Once either both players have passed or a total of nine chips have been played, the round ends and players reveal their cards. If your card is closer than your opponent's to the total number of chips played, you win and collect all the chips played, plus two additional chips from your opponent. If the two cards are equally close to the total, whoever last took an action loses and whoever passed first wins. Play multiple rounds to determine the winner.

    From the description, Sinomilia sounds as minimalist as The Mind, sounds like something that shouldn't work — yet I can already imagine how a round might play out, with subsequent rounds building on what's already happened. I need the full rules to know for sure what's going on and how the rounds relate to one another and how someone wins, but I'm already in. Now I just need to figure out how to get a copy...

    Read more »
  • VideoUpdate on the Origins 2019 Preview and Publisher Preorders

    by W. Eric Martin

    In just three weeks on June 12, BoardGameGeek will launch its livestream broadcast from the 2019 Origins Game Fair, so if you can't make it to that show, you can turn to the BGG channel on and watch the new and upcoming games being presented on camera by their designers and publishers.

    To check out which games we aim to feature on camera, you can peruse BGG's Origins 2019 Preview, which now tops two hundred listings and which should grow quite a bit longer over the next 2.5 weeks as I'm poking and re-poking publishers who haven't yet responded to my requests for info. I want to ensure that those going to Origins 2019 will know about as many games that will be there as possible, while also getting folks scheduled for demo slots ahead of time.

    If you will be at Origins, you might consider preordering games via our Origins 2019 Preview for pick-up at the show. As I noted in early May 2019, BGG has implemented a convention preview preorder pick-up system starting with this preview, and we intend to make this same system available in the Gen Con 2019 Preview, the SPIEL '19 Preview, the BGG.CON 2019 Preview (yes, we'll have one this year), and pretty much every con preview to come. How does this system work for you the user? Chaz Marler, who developed much of the preorder system, explains in this video:

    Youtube Video

    For those who want the text version, scan the Origins 2019 Preview for titles available for preorder, click on them to add them to your cart, pay for the stuff, receive a confirmed order in your GeekMarket account, then bring proof of purchase to Origins 2019 and show it to the publisher to pick up your stuff. Specific pick-up details might vary depending on the conditions that publishers set up when they establish preorders. No one has yet demanded that you hand over a jar of Nutella upon pick-up, but I can imagine it happening at some point.

    If you want to see only those items available for preorder on our Origins 2019 Preview, you can do so here. By preordering, you know the item will be there waiting for you, the publisher gets a better idea of how many copies to bring to the show, and BGG earns a 5% commission on the sale. It's a virtuous circle in which everyone wins!

    In a thread posted by BGG owner Scott Alden about this preorder system, people asked whether we would use this system for items sold through the BGG Store, especially for items being sold at SPIEL '19. The answer right now is maybe.

    Since I started creating con previews on BGG in 2011, I've focused on them including only new releases and games being demoed. Some publishers have asked about being able to list everything in their back catalog, especially when they have older material that might be appropriate for clearance, but I'm hesitant to add all of those games because it would be difficult to differentiate new titles from old. Ideally we can create a second type of convention preview listing that can be hidden by users who don't want to see such things, but available to those who do. I can see lots of uses for such a system as long as it doesn't detract from the previews main purpose — letting people see what will be at a show.

    One improvement we are definitely doing, though, is adding a second type of preorder to the SPIEL '19 Preview. In addition to being able to preorder games for pick up at the publisher's booth in Essen, you will be able to preorder games for pick up at BGG.CON 2019 in November. To do this, we are partnering with Funagain Games, which used to provide this service through its website. Funagain will handle fulfillment of these orders and as with publisher preorders, BGG provides the conduit through which the sale happens.

    All of these preorders are up to the publishers, mind you. They can sign up to place preorders in our convention previews or not as they desire. Ideally this system provides a benefit for them, both in terms of having a better prediction of sales and in handling less cash at shows. If publishers aren't handling thousands of Euros at SPIEL '19 but are instead fulfilling orders completed and paid for ahead of time, then that reduces their potential losses to theft during the show — and given the multiple thefts that took place at SPIEL '18, that might be all the incentive they need. We'll see what happens in the months ahead, including whether we can expand the convention listings beyond only what's new. Read more »
  • VideoGame Preview: Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal, or Use Beer and Money to Lure Nobles into Your Bar

    by W. Eric Martin

    It would be time-intensive to carry out this challenge, but at a future convention, I'd like to see someone set up a gauntlet of mystery games, then invite people to play these games and guess the designers.

    To do this challenge properly, you'd have to choose somewhat obscure games from famous designers, not to mention making your own versions of these games with handmade components or public domain art so that someone couldn't recognize a title they've seen in passing; alternatively, you could liberate prototype games from the designers' homes so that no one would play something they've possibly played before. Conducting this challenge might take hours, given the number of games on hand and their playing time, but I'd be curious to discover whether game fans could find a Pfister or recognize a Rosenberg in a crowded field.

    This thought experiment came to mind after playing Wolfgang Warsch's Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal, a big box game for 2-4 players that German publisher Schmidt Spiele released in March 2019, and finding it similar in spirit to Warsch's 2018 The Quacks of Quedlinburg (and more distantly his games The Mind, Illusion, Brikks, and Ganz schön clever/Doppelt so clever), despite not sharing any game mechanisms with those designs.

    When playing any of these Warsch designs, you'll experience huge highs and lows driven by large doses of luck, whether it's rolling exactly the dice you need in Brikks or GSC/DSC, flopping sequential cards in just the right order in The Mind, pulling all the right tokens from your ingredient bag in Quacks, or filling your tavern with the perfect combination of cards in Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal, which translates as "The Taverns of the Deep Valley" and which will be released in English in Q4 2019 by North Star Games.

    In the game, each player has their own tavern, which includes three tables, small storage areas for money and beer, a barrel of your custom house brew, a cashbox, a monk at the bar, and a beer supplier outside your door. You each have a deck of cards that consists of seven regular customers, a waitress, an extra table, and another beer supplier.

    At the start of a round, you receive a bonus associated with that round — a treasured guest, your choice of a dish washer or a waitress, etc. — then you each flip over cards from your deck until all the tables of your tavern are full. The guests, sad and introspective, all want to sit on their own, so you might flip only three cards and be done; alternatively you might reveal and place all the cards in your deck other than guests, then finally fill the tables afterward. Mostly you'll fall between these extremes, just you do in Quacks when drawing ingredients from your personal bag.

    After each player fills their tables, you each roll four white dice, place them on a serving platter in front of you, take turns drafting one die from your platter, then pass the platters to the left before you each draft another die, and so on until you've drafted four dice to accompany any additional colored dice brought to you by the waitresses. You use these dice to serve beer to guests (which requires placing a 1 or 2 for your deck's initial guests), get beer from beer suppliers (placing a 1 or 6), get advice from the monk (placing a 5), or dipping into your cashbox or drawing a beer from your house supply (placing any one die for each).

    By drawing beer or getting beer from passing merchants and suppliers, you can attract new guests to your tavern, whether one of the slightly better guests from a fixed stack or one of four random guests in a drafting line. These guests have beer costs from 3-8, and you can acquire at most one guest a round — but any guest you do get is placed on top of your deck, which means they will visit your tavern next turn. Be ready for them!

    For mint lemonade, you must come to my house instead of a tavern

    By serving guests or dipping into the cashbox, you get doubloons, with which you can improve your tavern — whether by hiring beer merchants or dish washers, acquiring another table, or upgrading your tavern permanently. Most of these improvements are on cards that (like guests) you'll place on top of your deck so that you can first use them in the next round.

    Permanent upgrades are what you're aiming for in the long term as they are not cards that you'll use once, then place in your discard pile, not knowing when you'll see them again. You can add an extra table, which means you'll seat one more guest, which means you'll likely place even more cards in your tavern and therefore do more stuff overall. You can upgrade the beer supplier so that you receive two beer for each die you place instead of only one or you can enlarge your safe so that you can store up to five doubloons from one round to the next instead of only two (and you want to store doubloons so that you can purchase other upgrades more easily).

    What's equally important to improving your tavern for future rounds is that each upgrade attracts a noble in town, with you placing that noble card on top of your deck. I'm not sure why a noble would care that you hired a dish washer permanently instead of having only temp help, or that you have a larger cashbox that will allow you take three doubloons from it instead of only one, but we'll assume they're all simple-minded and move on.
    Most cards that you add to your deck are worth 1-4 points, but a noble is worth 10 points, so you want to attract as many of them as possible. Nobles function as guests, so you can serve them beer in the future and make money from them, but mostly you care about them only for points — and as in Quacks, you can have giant turns in Tavernen in which you upgrade three things at once and add three nobles (and 30 points) to your deck or in which you serve twenty beers, with you being able to attract 1-3 nobles directly with 9-18 beer. As I said, simple-minded.

    Using the first two expansions

    At other times, your turn might be largely a bust. You place only a few guests, pull only one beer merchant (who supplies only a single beer and can take no dice), and...nothing else. You have a 4 guest and 5 guest who would place lots of coins in hand if you could supply them beer — but no 4s and 5s are rolled that round (and you lack the dish washers needed to increase the number on a die). Again, this sensation mirrors Quacks as in that game sometimes you draw all the wrong ingredient tokens and bust for the round, which sets you back against everyone else who is landing both points and money instead of only one of those.

    You can mitigate bad luck in a few ways — having the aforementioned dish washers; using one of the three treasured guests you receive to clear your tavern and start placing cards anew — but you can't eliminate bad luck completely, and you won't necessarily know when to use a guest until you've played the game through and see what can happen when over the course of its eight rounds. You want to buy additions to your tavern each round and attract a new guest each round so that all of your growth compounds over time, but you can't be sure that any of your many, many decisions will be correct until things play out in the future, and maybe the luck of the dice does you in anyway, even though your choices seem ideal.

    To live out the game's high highs — in this case the thrill of putting together a huge turn — you need to risk having low lows as well, just as sometimes you lose lives repeatedly in The Mind by sequential card plays not going your way or you fail in Illusion by cards being only one percentage point off. This high luck/high thrill combination seems evident across Warsch's designs, and ideally you as a player experience enough of those unpredictable highs that you can shrug off the lows and still feel like playing again.

    I've played Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal four times on a review copy from Schmidt Spiele: twice with the base game, once with the first expansion, and once with the first two expansions. The game comes with four expansions in all — called "modules 2-5", with the base game being "module 1" for some reason — and you must use all earlier expansions when adding one to play.

    These expansions add new twists to gameplay, with the first expansion adding schnapps to your menu and giving you new guests in the first five rounds that you can use each in one of two ways by serving them schnapps. The second expansion lets you earn reputation points based on the lower amount of the beer or money you earn in a round, with reputation earning you schnapps and nobles; bards become another tavern improvement option, with their performances increasing your reputation. The third expansion gives you variable starting decks, and the fourth expansion gives each player a signature book that newly arriving guests "sign", which gives you a variety of bonuses.

    All of these expansions add rules and fiddliness to the game, and the base game already has a dense twelve-page rulebook, which can be a lot to absorb, despite the gameplay itself being simple. Tavernen is an ideal game to learn by playing, preferably from someone who already knows the game so that you can skip the long rule descriptions and get right into the game, but of course that won't be possible for most people. Perhaps my video overview, which goes into more detail than what I described above, will be enough to kickstart your game-playing experience...

    Youtube Video Read more »
  • Spiel des Jahres Nominations for 2019: Just One, LAMA, and Werewords; Carpe Diem, Detective and Wingspan Collect Kennerspiel Nominations

    by W. Eric Martin

    The Spiel des Jahres — Germany's "game of the year" award — turns forty in 2019, the award having first come into existence in 1979 with a list of nominees that included Sid Sackson's Acquire and Sly, Alex Randolph's Twixt, the electronic games Simon by Ralph Baer and Merlin by Bob and Holly Doyle, and eventual winner Hare & Tortoise by David Parlett.

    For its first few awards, despite the "Jahres" in the award's name, the jury of journalists who ran the SdJ selected nominees that had been released within the past few years rather than only the year immediately preceding — a practice that makes sense given that the award was meant to shine a spotlight on modern games for an audience of casual players that might not have been paying attention to everything that was being released.

    These days the purpose of the award remains the same — highlight and suggest games appropriate for an audience of casual players — but the jury focuses solely on games released in Germany within the past twelve months. From my understanding, a game needs to be available in a German edition prior to the end of March to be considered. This cutoff date gives the jury members enough time to play potential nominees and consider them against one another before settling on three nominees in what is now three categories: the original Spiel des Jahres (SdJ), the Kinderspiel des Jahres (KidJ) for children's game of the year, and the Kennerspiel des Jahres (KedJ) for enthusiast's game of the year, that is, for those already comfortable with learning and playing new games.

    As part of its fortieth anniversary, jury chairman Harald Schrapers attended an exhibit about the SdJ at the Deutsches SPIELEmuseum in Chemnitz, Germany and announced the SdJ nominees during a live broadcast on Facebook:

    • Just One, by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter from Repos Production (video overview)
    • LAMA, by Reiner Knizia from AMIGO (video overview)
    • Werwörter, by Ted Alspach from Bézier Games (and in Germany from Ravensburger) (video overview)

    In commentary on the nominees, Schrapers pointed out that the three nominees are all small games that you can learn and play almost immediately. LAter in his commentary, Schrapers writes, "We now have a large number of titles on the table that are very high quality compared to decades past. Of the games that the ten jurors have played intensively over the last twelve months, probably more than one hundred would have been a candidate for the leaderboard in the 1980s."

    Aside from these nominations, the SdJ jury recommended the following six titles: BelrattiDizzleImhotep: The DuelKrasse KackeReef, and Sherlock, a series of three standalone games from GDM Games that were released in Germany by ABACUSSPIELE: Sherlock: Death on the 4th of July, Sherlock: Last Call, and Sherlock: Tomb of the Archaeologist.

    Note that the Spiel des Jahres award is primarily aimed at family gamers, i.e., those who play games but aren't heavily into the gaming scene.

    Nominations for the Kennerspiel des Jahres went to:

    Carpe Diem, by Stefan Feld from alea (video overview)
    Detective, by Ignacy Trzewiczek from Portal Games (video overview)
    Wingspan, by Elizabeth Hargrave from Stonemaier Games (and in Germany from Feuerland Spiele) (video overview)

    The SdJ jury recommended four other titles at the Kennerspiel level: Architects of the West Kingdom, LowlandsNewton, and Paper Tales. The winners of the Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres will be announced in Berlin, Germany on July 22, 2019.

    The titles nominated for Kinderspiel des Jahres 2019 are:

    Fabulantica, by Marco Teubner from Pegasus Spiele
    Go Gecko Go!, by Jürgen Adams from Zoch (video overview)
    Tal der Wikinger, by Marie and Wilfried Fort from HABA

    The Kinderspiel des Jahres jur, which differs from the SdJ/KedJ jury, also recommended seven other titles: Bauernhof Bande, Concept Kids: Animals, Magic Maze Kids, Monster Match, Monster-Bande, Octopus, and Voll verwackelt.

    The winner will be announced in Hamburg, Germany on June 24, 2019, roughly one month prior to the winners of the other awards.

    Read more »
  • Designer Diary: Designing Backwards by a MegaGame Designer

    by Shaun McMillan

    I've heard it said that the easy way to start designing a game is to begin with a good base mechanism. The horrendous alternative approach that I most often follow is to start with a theme, then try to find the mechanisms that make that theme work.

    The logic of starting with a simple mechanism sounds reasonable. It's something you can quickly make into a prototype and start testing. The sooner you can test your game, the sooner you'll get feedback from others and the sooner you'll know whether you have a marketable game. If strangers enjoy playing a game that is hand-written on a few index cards, uses a modified poker deck, or features a large geometric board with a few dice or shuffling thrown in, then surely thousands of Kickstarter enthusiasts will pay for the opportunity to play the same game with art, theme, and a little hype, right? It's a simple, straightforward, ideal route to success. Sounds awesome — why not start now?

    The problem, in reality, is that a game with only one mechanism will not hold someone's attention for more than three rounds. It quickly becomes predictable, so you need a second mechanism to make the game a little more dynamic — but even with two mechanisms, you still have a game in which the choices you should make are pretty obvious. You really need three mechanisms all interacting with each so that unexpected layers of meta-gameplay emerge that players could not have predicted simply by knowing the base rules.

    Ideally two of these mechanisms will be familiar to players or similar to other popular games, and one would be truly innovative or unique. This way the game is an easy sell. It would then have enough familiarity for it to find its true audience (those who like other popular games with these mechanisms would be drawn in by hearing a new game has the same mechanism), and your one new innovative mechanism would be the hook that leaves a little mystery to pique their curiosity. This is why most new games are a modified improvement of some other game from its genre.

    Introducing too many new innovations too quickly can be overwhelming to players. As a megagame designer, I am speaking from experience. Many board game enthusiasts know what designer board games are, but are familiar with megagames. My audience is mostly high school and college students. Many of them don't even know what a designer board game is, so introducing them to a political science simulation that combines designer board game mechanisms with tabletop RPG mechanisms and LARP style theatrical roleplaying is completely overwhelming. For a little literature on this, you might find the books The Creative Curve and The Blue Ocean Strategy good to read. Both of them make the argument that when innovating and trying to be successful in a market, you want to be a little ahead of the curve on a rising trend, but not so far out that you are ahead of your time.

    Okay, so let's start with a dynamic set of at least three mechanisms, two of which are familiar. Still sounds pretty reasonable right?

    My Achievements to Date

    After designing ALLIANCE: The Ultimate World Leader Political Science MegaGame, a game for 8-72 players that takes at least two hours to play, with my game design class of high school students, I decided to try something a little smaller, so I then successfully Kickstarted, then designed — yes, in this order as I prefer to do things backwards — from 2015-2016. Great Boy: The Game, which was based on the rules from T.I.M.E Stories, taught students how to understand a specific story from the Bible. Most of my games are educational because I am first and foremost a teacher. I became a game designer only because I saw that students learn better from simulations than they do from lectures.

    But even my Bible Study simulation game took two to three hours of gameplay if you played the full version that included the optional social deduction mechanisms. My audience complained that the game was too long, and the rules too overwhelming to learn. (Most of them knew only Monopoly and Poker card games.)

    Then I made a microgame slightly more complicated than Love Letter but just as short. This game simulated David hiding from King Saul.

    Since then I have made another strategy card game called Conspiracy for 2-9 players in which you can choose who you want to ally with, and who you want to conspire against or betray. Many can win together, but one must die. It was my first non-educational game, but it's a lot of fun. I also created a sequel to my original megagame called ALLIANCE Last Days in which up to one hundred players are given four hours to bring the world back from the abyss of the Apocalypse.

    Obligatory Shameless Self-Promotion

    Starting May 19, 2019, I will be selling eighty tickets for a game of ALLIANCE Last Days that will take place at Gen Con 2019. You can see more about this game and my other ones on this website.

    Okay, now that credibility has been established and all business aside, let's get back to avoiding the straightforward easy paths when designing games.

    My Least Efficient Tried-and-True Fun Technique for Making a Game that Works: Take The Scenic Route, Not the Short Cut

    So after designing four-hour megagames that can fit one hundred players as well as short fast strategy card games what have I learned? What actually works when designing a game? Here are a couple of the tips I've learned:

    Play games. Admire their mechanisms and admire their systems, but keep in mind that what we really love about games is the emotional experiences that emerge from those mechanisms. Designing games is a lot of work, and very few of us are really making any money from it, so it should be fun — not work.

    Designing experiences is fun, so start by dreaming about the epic experience that you want to emerge from your mechanisms, not the mechanisms themselves. I like and want to make games in which players have to build trust between each other, then feel the tension of not wanting to betray that trust, but having such an overwhelming sense of desire to reach a morally justifiable achievement that they find themselves choosing to betray that trust. Or maybe you want a game in which no matter how much of a lead the winning player has they still feel fear that the losing player's big gamble could result in their own very personal humiliation at losing that huge lead at the very last second. These emotional experiences are what we remember and live to tell others about after the game. This is what sells games. This is what motivates us to make games. Start with the emotions.

    This emotional experience you are designing for will not emerge from mechanisms that don't exist, so now I have to research like crazy, playing every game that I think might have the mechanisms I need to create this experience. Maybe I can combine some of the mechanisms from Dead of Winter with the mechanisms of Pandemic, and possibly even a little bit from the Fallout video game. This is how I designed ALLIANCE Last Days.

    Now I'm working on a standalone expansion to ALLIANCE Last Days in which five different factions are all investigating Ground Zero. It borrows some decksploration mechanisms from T.I.M.E. Stories, a deck-building mechanism from Shadowrun: Crossfire, and a little from The Grizzled. This is how I work. I am so excited to create that overwhelmingly emotional experience that it gives me the motivation to do the research required. It's not the easy fast way to make games. It's the long scenic route, but it works for me.

    I took the short easy path once, starting with a couple of simple mechanisms when I designed Conspiracy. The basic idea was that it would be a simple cloak-and-dagger strategy game like Coup (excluding the bluffing mechanism, which is really what makes that game fun), but with the simple twist that you always have the option to give away your secret role card at the end of your turn. This meant the odds were only 50/50 that a player still had their secret role card after they used it to stab you.

    This was the fastest I ever designed a game, but I knew that this mechanism combined with secret alliance mechanisms would create the kind of emotional experience that I love about social deduction games. I got very lucky that the base mechanisms worked from right out of the gate. The only real issue was making those mechanisms tighter and not so clunky. This leads me to one of the biggest lessons I've learned from making games:

    Begin with the excitement of designing the game you want it to be, but finish with the game that the game wants to be

    2. Player Experience = Emotions

    The player experience can best be described with emotion words or feelings. I want one player to feel betrayed. I want the players to feel the immense pressure of having to make difficult choices with horrible tradeoffs. I want them to feel morally calloused. I want my players to feel drunk on power. This player will be blinded by their ambition and shocked when a weak player humiliates them. They will feel a sense of mystery as they each have only partial information and feel pressured because they have to make critical choices in a timely manner based on faulty information. They will project a sense of false confidence by bluffing.

    1. Mechanisms = Actions

    Mechanisms, on the other hand, can best be described with action words. In order to introduce an element of randomness, players will shuffle cards or roll dice. They will have to choose which bonus they want. They will have to discard the card after they use it as their action.

    This is backwards in the sense that emotional depth emerges from simple mechanisms, so to start with emotions and make them a priority I have to use what I call the shotgun approach with mechanisms. Try tens or hundreds of mechanical ideas until the experience you're designing for emerges from the mix. You are like Edison trying hundreds of different metal filaments until you find exactly the right one that will efficiently turn electricity into artificial light. This method is neither fast nor efficient, but it is the only way I really enjoy the process.

    3. Adjust Your Dials: Information and Power Values

    The third thing you need is to dole out information and to hold information back. But this is simply a dial you will crank up or turn down to facilitate balance between the other parts of the game. It's like the purchase cost of any card or its power value. You don't start with these values; at first you throw in somewhat arbitrary numbers, then you keep modifying them until they seem to create some asymmetric balance (at least in the kind of games I design).

    You will have only a wild notion of what you think could make for a playable game. It might work with the initial mechanisms and values you first throw together, but more likely it will be wildly broken or uninteresting — and often both.

    But that's okay because as long as some part of it seems interesting, then you can throw in or take out mechanisms randomly or try different modifications of the rules until the game becomes the game that it was meant to be. You have to let the game mature and sacrifice many of the initial groundbreaking ideas you thought would form the identity of the game. It's like raising a child. Raise it according to its own individuality once you give birth to your game. Converse with the game through playtesting. Find what works for the game. Ultimately, it should create one novel emotionally thematic experience.

    For me, the emotionally thematic experience takes priority over clever mechanisms. If it comes down to it, I must sacrifice clever mechanisms for the greater emotional experience. Maybe you thought your son would grow up to become a great pitcher, but as it turns out he wants to play soccer. If he has the potential to be a good soccer player or have a lot of fun trying, then celebrate because your game loves sports.

    This could also be said for theme, but anyone reading this article will already be familiar with the "theme should match mechanisms" message.

    There is yet one more method I have used to make games. As you might have noticed earlier, I like to start with my favorite games as a template and turn them into the games I wanted to make.

    My Painfully Backwards Four-Step Technique for Turning Your Favorite Game Into an Entirely New Game

    I love Dead of Winter. I like the weight of the box created by the overwhelming number of counters. I like the stupid simplicity with which the mechanisms simulate a personal dramatic narrative. I like the severity of the meanest twelve-sided dice I have ever rolled in any game I have ever played. I even like the art. (I am a rare species of game designer who actually draws, paints, and designs all of my own graphics. I don't care for maybe 80% of the board games I've played, and I like the art of even fewer of those games.)

    I also really like Coup. I like short cloak-and-dagger strategy games, social deduction games, and deep, long narrative games, and almost nothing in-between. I like learning games and admiring their systems, but I don't care for just playing them.

    I also really like — and don't worry as I am getting somewhere with this — T.I.M.E Stories. Well, I like how they turned a linear narrative into a playable game, but I hate their narratives. Their mechanisms are also quite shallow, but at least their choices and exploration are really good. Basically after reading six books on scriptwriting and storytelling, I believe I can do better. And who knows? Maybe I can even add in some social deduction between the players. This idea was what inspired me to create Great Boy: The Game.

    It's also the process by which I am currently working on a standalone expansion to my megagame ALLIANCE Last Days. The idea for this game is that I want to make a T.I.M.E Stories-like "choose your own adventure" narrative game that explores moral ambiguities like a great sci-fi novel. I also want it to have deeper mechanisms that actually serve the story. Pixar says "Story Is King", and they design all of their characters, write every line of dialogue, and compose every storyboard to serve the purpose of that story.

    Also, if possible, I would like to make it into a game that can be played by as few as two players, but as many as twelve, so that it can be played through at least five different times five different ways or at least be completely replayable and have far deeper mechanisms.

    My ambitions are big, and according to the method I described above, it's time to shotgun some mechanisms until the above mentioned features emerge. Where to start? My suspicion is that I could use deck-building (old familiar mechanism) to allow each player to fulfill conflicting objectives (old familiar mechanism) while exploring a set of locations with a linear narrative in the guise of five different factions from five different corners/starting points, each with 2-3 players/characters (a somewhat new mix of relatively new trending mechanisms).

    To make this game I:

    1. Researched all of the games I thought might have useful mechanisms, including three adventure deck builders, Fallout the board game, T.I.M.E Stories, and countless others. I created a word document that explained all of the mechanisms as abstractly as possible and looked for both the similarities and differences between all of these games.

    I also created an elaborate list of possible mechanisms I could throw in to suit my game's theme or create the emotional experience I hope my players will have.

    2. I created a hand-written copy of Shadowrun: Crossfire on index cards and played it with friends to hear what they thought of it, then played it by myself on TableTop Simulator.

    3. I then built a spreadsheet of all the cards in Shadowrun: Crossfire and re-themed them, changing all of the key vocabulary to match the themes in my game.

    4. I then removed many of the decks that complicate the game and replaced them with mechanisms/decks borrowed from other games. For example, I added some T.I.M.E Stories-styled mechanisms through tarot-sized narrative card location decks to go along with the newly themed deck-builder. I also threw in a secret objective deck.

    Now I'm slowly but surely modifying and replacing every rule and every card to match the themes and facilitate the ugly trade-off between players working together or against each other that I love from Dead of Winter.

    I'm also fine-tuning the game by doling out information asymmetrically to each player and withholding information. I also need to play the game enough to see whether the power values of each card are balanced or not, but this will easily get sorted as I playtest with more and more players.

    The game will begin to break as you begin replacing the original mechanisms with mechanisms from other favorite games, but at least it will be dynamic. When starting from scratch, it's hard to get the bare minimum number of mechanisms interacting with each to make the game interesting enough for game testing.

    My Technical Process

    I use a combination of Photoshop, InDesign, and Spreadsheets to crank out large numbers of cards quickly. I do all the graphic design myself, and these days I do full graphics for even the earliest version of my prototype for two reasons, neither of which justify you following my example:

    A) I love to do the graphics. Don't take my fun away from me.
    B) I'm a snob, and I demand the aesthetic appeal of playing a game that looks good.

    These days I'm playtesting my games on Tabletop Simulator, which is a great cheap way to play both by yourself and with others remotely through the internet. If you are interested in playing any of my games, hit me up on my Discord server.

    In Defense of My Own Backwardsness

    I do have one major piece of advice I'd like to give, and not just to justify what I have already deemed as a backwards method: Take your project from the first phase all the way to the final phase as quickly as possible as many times as possible. Don't get stuck in any one phase. Don't spend an absurd amount of time obsessing over some minor mechanism as a form of procrastination to stave off the real fear of putting a real prototype in front of real players with real opinions. Print out an unfinished copy of the game and see what it looks like on the table being played. Deal with the real problems instead of avoiding or delaying them. Face them like a champ. Be astonishingly disappointed by aspects you didn't expect early on instead of later on. Find out that there is not nearly enough contrast to be able to read the text.

    Is there some phase of this process that strikes you with terror simply because you've never done it before? Then focus on dealing with that fear more than any other aspect, especially more than on the aspects of the process that you are familiar and comfortable with. This is, of course, useful advice only for those of you who want to bring a game to market. If that's not you, that's okay. Then my advice is to enjoy your hobby and don't worry so much about your achievements compared to anyone else's. Know what your end goal is, whether that is to bring a game to market, or to enjoy playtesting your own creations only with trusted friends, and start with the end in mind as your top priority.

    Shaun D. McMillan Read more »
  • New Game Round-up: From Mountains to Oceans, and From Galactic Emperor to Empire of the Stars

    by W. Eric Martin

    • In 2008, designer Adam West released Galactic Emperor through CrossCut Games, which he co-owns. More than a decade later, he's revisited and reworked the design, with Empire of the Stars due to hit Kickstarter in 2019 ahead of a planned 2020 release. Here's an overview of the game, which sounds similar to the original at this high level:

    Empire of the Stars is a fast-paced empire-building game of exploration, conflict, and struggle for dominance. The last galactic emperor has met with a sudden and quite fatal accident. Now there is a power vacuum in the galaxy, and you're one of the Planetary Dukes who wants to fill it.

    Each of the 2-4 players takes one of 30 asymmetric powers and controls their own throne and sector of the galaxy. Using a unique action selection system, the game plays over several rounds, and within each round, the roles players choose determine what happens next. There are seven different roles: Explorer, Merchant, Steward, Engineer, Scientist, Warlord, and Regent. All players get a turn to act during each role, so the game is fast paced and everyone is always playing. Combat is thrilling and daring using a unique card combat system. There are 75 unique technologies impacting all parts of the game from industry and culture, engineering and the economy, and (of course) military might. Once the galactic throne is taken, every round after the game ticks down automatically, adding to the tension and excitement! Finally a 4x sci-fi game that guarantees a fast play time while arcing through an epic experience!

    The player who uses all of this to their best advantage by exploring new worlds, expanding their empire, exploiting their precious resources and income, and exterminating their opponents to score the most galaxy tokens wins the game!

    In this BGG thread, West details the changes from Galactic Emperor (which was for 3-6 players) to Empire of the Stars.

    • Polish publisher Nasza Księgarnia has released new versions of two old-school two-player games: Głębia, which is Polish for "deep", is a new take on Stephen Glenn's Balloon Cup, with players now trying to sink in the ocean instead of floating high over mountains.

    Kruki ("ravens") is a Polish version of the second edition of Odin's Ravens from Thorsten Gimmler, with the game's setting remaining the same and the otherworldly artwork being brand new courtesy of Marcin Minor.

    Nasza Księgarnia has also released its own version of Zachary Eagle's Go Nuts for Donuts under the name Niezłe ciacho, which translates as "Pretty nice".

    And the reprints continue with Fabryka czekolady ("The Chocolate Factory"), a new version of Nao Shimamura's Throne and the Grail, a two-player-only design that first appeared in 2016 from Taikikennai Games. In this game, over three rounds players either add a card from their hand to the river of cards or they take the most recent five cards from the river and add those cards to their collection. Collect majorities to score points, or collect all three grail cards to win instantly. The new version lacks a grail, of course, so you can try to collect the three bits of white chocolate instead.

    Finally, we have Magazynier ("Shopkeeper"), a new version of Jog Kung's Small Warehouse that is for 2-4 players instead of only two. Each player builds their own collection of goods from cards that depict 3-5 types of merchandise on them. You can overlap the cards to create larger blocks of merchandise, and after you have eight cards, you score for each type of merchandise by multiplying the number of goods in that largest block by the number of different blocks you created.

    Player cards in Kruki Read more »
  • VideoGame Overview: Sushi Roll, or You'll Die for Another Serving to Go

    by W. Eric Martin

    I don't imagine that designer Phil Walker-Harding thought he'd be connected with sushi for the rest of his life when he self-published Sushi Go! in 2013, but here we are in 2019 with Sushi Go! being a staple title in the game industry, a go-to suggestion when someone wants to gift a game to a stranger or introduce a newcomer to modern games.

    Sushi Go! is appealing to many people because it's quick and easy to play; in each of three rounds, you pick up the cards dealt to you, choose one, reveal it and see what everyone else has chosen, pass the cards left, then choose again. You get a little surprise each turn, whether it's in the cards you've been given or the discovery that someone else has taken the lead from you for the endgame pudding bonus. When a round ends, you score points for the sets and individual cards you've collected, giving everyone a chance to evaluate who's in the lead and what you might want to do next round — assuming the cards work in your favor, of course.

    Sushi Go Party! in 2016 expanded gameplay to eight players (instead of the game maxing out at five), and it included a catalog of card options that allowed you to customize the deck each game. Set-up time increased, yes, but so did the variety of the game experience.

    For 2019, Walker-Harding and publisher Gamewright have released another tweak of the game system: Sushi Roll, a 2-5 player game that places the sushi on dice instead of cards. Gameplay is similar to Sushi Go! with players drafting dice over three rounds, scoring at the end of each round, then evaluating the pudding bonus at game's end, but the introduction of dice over cards changes a few elements of the game.

    First, the game lasts fewer turns, with players starting each round with 5-8 dice (based on the number of players) drawn at random from the bag. Instead of having maki cards that depict one or more rolls, you now have a maki die that depicts 1-3 maki on its six sides; instead of a three types of nigiri cards, you have three types of nigiri on one die. All the sides of all five types of dice are helpfully presented on the menu that lies in front of each player, letting you know the odds of what might come up a die.

    At the start of the round, you roll your dice, place them on your personal conveyor belt card, then draft one die from this card into your personal tray. After each player has chosen one die, you rotate the conveyor belt cards left, roll all the dice you just received, then choose one die again, and you repeat this until all the dice have been chosen. Each player starts with chopstick tokens that let you yoink a die from someone else's conveyor belt and replace it with one of your own and re-roll tokens that let you re-roll as many dice as you want on your conveyor belt before making your choice for the turn.

    With dice replacing cards, the drafting choices are now open. When I pick a purple die with a tempura symbol, I can see how many other purple dice are in the game and where they are — which is important since I want to have some idea of how many such dice might be available to me over the course of the round — but I won't know exactly what's available to me on those dice since I have to roll them at the start of each turn. Sushi Roll replaces the mystery of which cards are being handed to you to which faces you'll see on the dice, while also giving you tools that allow you to manipulate fate in your favor — well, at least some of the time because you might bomb out repeatedly on rolling the sashimi you need to complete a set.

    All menus, conveyor belts, and dice fit in the bag, with the tokens needing a doggy bag of their own

    The other big change that comes with using dice instead of cards is that players now draft sequentially instead of simultaneously, possibly giving you a chance to respond to what someone else does. If you're leading someone in maki, which awards 6 points to whoever has the most rolls at the end of the round, and you each have a maki die on your belt, that player knows you can retake the lead if they choose it, so they might take something else. When you take a wasabi die, you place it on your tray, then place the next nigiri die you draft on top of it, tripling the value of that die — but you and everyone else can see where those nigiri are, and someone else might use chopsticks to take what you need before you get the chance to.

    You can also use chopsticks to set up future turns, perhaps by swapping a die on your tray for a die on the player to your right. You'll get the die you want right now from that other player, then that player will ship that die back to you on the next turn, giving you another chance to roll what you need.

    I've played Sushi Roll four times on a review copy from Gamewright, and gameplay with two seems notably different from gameplay with three and four players. You use only 16 dice at a time with two players, with each of you of seeing everything available, and the choices seem to play out in a somewhat obvious manner.

    With three players you have 21 dice in play and with four players 24, so with more players you have more dice in play, with the turn order mattering (since you're not simply handing trays back and forth as in a two-player game) and with players competing for different things. It's not just you and me fighting for both maki and pudding and sets, but now I'm competing with Alice for maki and Bob for pudding and Cecily for sets, so you're pulled in multiple directions, while at the same time drafting fewer dice than in a two-player game, which makes each choice feel more important.

    Youtube Video Read more »
  • New Game Round-up: Race to Dig the Chunnel, and Try Not to Die in the Forest

    by W. Eric Martin

    Yesterday's post featured a new title from AEG that folks will first see at SPIEL '19 in October, so let's continue along those lines with even more games that most people will first experience in Essen.

    Spanish publisher Looping Games will continue its historical series of games that are named "[year] [event/place]" with two entries, with those games being funded on the Spanish crowdfunding site Verkami through May 24. Esteban Fernandez' 1942 USS Yorktown is a 1-4 player co-operative game that the designer first released inline in 2011 under the name Sink the Carrier. Victory Point Games flirted with its own version of the game for a few years, but never released it, and now Looping Games will bring it to print in this guise:

    On the stage of the Pacific battle, there was a concrete confrontation that marked a milestone in history, that of the American aircraft carrier USS Yorktown against the Japanese aircraft carrier IJN Shōhō. It is said that it was the first naval battle where the ships never saw each other, and they faced each other launching airplanes to locate their enemy and bomb them.

    In 1942 USS Yorktown, you take the role of American pilots who take off from the USS Yorktown to try to locate and sink the Shōhō while you fight against the planes it throws at you. Time will be your main enemy since the whole game will be against the clock and there will be no time to prepare great strategies or for the dreaded "leader effect".

    • The other title from Looping Games is 1987 Channel Tunnel, a two-player competitive game from designers Israel Cendrero and Sheila Santos that digs into a fascinating topic not previously covered in games as far as I know:

    For centuries, the relationship between Britain and France has been marked by wars and rivalries, but also by mutual alliances. Both societies have a markedly different conception of Europe, but an intense commercial relationship that allowed them to work together in a common interest: the construction of the Channel Tunnel.

    In 1987 Channel Tunnel, you get to put yourself in command of a team of builders from Britain or France to unite the two countries under the sea! You need to lead your team of workers, develop technology, and seek funding to bring the tunnel boring machine to the meeting point at the heart of this epic engineering feat. When the center of the tunnel length is reached, players earn points based on how far have they developed their technology tracks, which cards they have, and whether they haven't deviated with their machines too much.

    When taking an action during the game, players play part of their tower of colored discs to perform it. This action won't be available for the rest of the round unless someone plays a taller tower (with more discs) on it. As soon as both players pass, return the discs to the bag, then start a new round.

    • Michel Baudoin, who designed and illustrated 2011's Space Maze from Wacky Works, is launching new publisher Cinnamon Games with the SPIEL '19 release of Oh, Fox!, a quick-playing game for 2-4 players from first-time designer Hurby Donkers. Baudoin plans to demo the game at the UK Games Expo, which is becoming a familiar statement from European publishers who have new releases for SPIEL. Here's what to expect:

    Only a few steps and those sweetly delicious berries you craved so much are yours to eat. They're right there, just take them! But you hesitate as things may not be as they seem. That vague shadow you spotted earlier could be anything and anywhere. It could be one of your forest friends, looking for food, as usual — or it could be something more dangerous, watching your every move, planning its time to strike...

    In Oh, Fox!, players secretly take on the roles of animals of the forest, each with their own unique ability. Prey animals are gathering food while being hunted by the predator. Over seven turns, players move across the board by simultaneously playing one face-up movement card each turn. However, their figurines don't actually move until the end of the game! Until then, players try to hide their own identity while attempting to figure out who the others are before it is too late.
    Read more »
  • Reform the Earth, Then Raid Islands with John D. Clair and AEG

    by W. Eric Martin

    • Designer John D. Clair and publisher Alderac Entertainment Group have worked together on several designs, starting with Mystic Vale in 2016, then continuing with Custom Heroes in 2017, Space Base in 2018, and Edge of Darkness, which was funded on Kickstarter to the tune of $636k in March 2018 and which is currently scheduled to debut at Gen Con 2019 in August.

    Turns out that this duo has several other titles in the works. Ecos: First Continent is a simultaneous play game — a genre also inhabited by AEG's recently released Tiny Towns — for 2-6 players that will debut at SPIEL '19 in October. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

    What if the formation of Earth had gone differently?

    In Ecos: First Contient, players are forces of nature molding the planet, but with competing visions of its grandeur. You have the chance to create a part of the world, similar but different to the one we know. Which landscapes, habitats, and species thrive will be up to you.

    Gameplay in Ecos is simultaneous. Each round, one player reveals element tokens from the element bag, giving all players the opportunity to complete a card from their tableau and shape the continent to their own purpose. Elements that cannot be used can be converted into energy cubes or additional cards in hand or they can be added to your tableau to give you greater options as the game evolves.

    Mountain ranges, jungle, rivers, seas, islands and savanna, each with their own fauna, all lie within the scope of the players' options.

    • Yet another design coming from Clair and AEG is Dead Reckoning, which features the "card-crafting" system seen in other Clair designs, along with a whole lot of other material. Dead Reckoning is for 2-4 players, bears a 90-120 minute playing time, and is due out at some point in 2019. An overview:

    Dead Reckoning is a game of exploration, piracy, and influence based in a Caribbean-eque setting. Each player commands a ship and crew and seeks to amass the greatest fortune. They do this through pirating, trading, treasure hunting, and (importantly) capturing and maintaining control over the uninhabited but resource-rich islands of the region. During the game, you can:

    • Customize your ship: Your ship is represented by a token on the board. The board starts mostly unexplored and will be revealed as you venture into uncharted waters. You also have a ship board where you load cargo and treasure, and you can customize the guns, speed, or holding space of your ship.

    • Card-craft your crew: You have a small deck of cards that will drive your actions in the game, with each card representing one of your crew members. This deck functions like one in a deck-building game, but the cards in the deck are sleeved, and rather than add new crew cards to your deck, you improve the skill and abilities of your crew cards by placing transparent "advancement" cards in those sleeves. Aside from the transparent advancements, your crew will also "level up" naturally during the game using a new card-leveling mechanism not seen in other card-crafting games such as Mystic Vale.

    • Control the region: The region is filled with many deserted islands. These islands are a major source of treasure, and players will battle for control of these islands.

    • Battle via a dynamic cube-tower: You can battle other players' ships or NPC merchant ships, and these battles are resolved via a new take on what a cube tower can be, with crew cards and ship powers increasing your chances of victory.

    • Uncover secrets of the sea: Expansions for Dead Reckoning use a "saga" system in which certain content remains hidden and is discovered and added to the game organically only via playing. Rather than add everything at once, you gradually add it by playing and discovering. Depending on luck and player choice, less or more new content may get added each game.

    • Aside from those two standalone games, in August 2019 AEG will release Clair's Space Base: Command Station, an expansion for Space Base that includes components for two additional players (allowing for up to seven players to be in the same game) as well as "pre-deployed" ship cards "to adjust for balance and gameplay with more than five players". Introduce a problem, then solve it in the same box — sounds like a plan!

    Space Base: Command Station retails for US$40 and is packaged in a large box that can serve as storage for the Space Base base game, the Shy Pluto expansion, and additional future expansions. Read more »