March 16 2017

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  • Designer Diary: Firefly Dance

    by Josep M Allué

    In addition to designing 3F (fun/family/filler) games, I like science and magical effects, which means I really like scientific experiments that surprise you and make you think, "How did they do that?"

    A few years ago, I saw an experiment on YouTube about how to light a lamp that wasn't connected to anything by placing it close to a small Tesla coil. While seeing this, I said to myself, "Hey, I'm sure there's a game hidden in here."

    Following various tutorials, I bought a roll of copper wire, the right kind of lamp, and a 9-volt battery, and I made a coil by wrapping the wire hundreds of times. Then, very excited, I connected to the battery and gradually brought it close to the lamp, waiting for it to light up.

    My first (and failed) attempt
    The effect was immediate, yet rather unexpected. Even today, I'm not sure whether it gave me an electric shock or burnt me directly, but, my goodness, it hurt!

    I never did get that lamp to turn on, but I thought that if I could manage to do it, I could have small pieces that would light up on their own no matter where on the game board you placed them. As a magical effect, it would be really nice — the only problem was that I had no idea how to do it.

    I kept wondering how to turn on a light without any kind of connection until one day a friend said: "You need to get a magnetic switch connected to an LED and a battery, then place it close to a magnet." Eureka!

    The key component of the prototype
    I spent the following weeks testing how to assemble the pieces, while at the same time thinking about designing a game with them. It had to be a game with a magical theme, so while I was soldering and testing non-stop, it occurred to me that I could make four fireflies with a different color for each one. To light them, you would have to touch them with a magic wand that would show you which color each one was. I had it!






    The fireflies in full action
    And if there were a magic wand, there had to be a fairy or a magician so that gave me the final component to create the story for the game: "Every night, a small fairy would go out to dance with her friends, the fireflies, to turn on their lights. Will you help them dance together?"

    Front of the prototype
    Depending on which square the fairy finished her movement, the fireflies would perform different actions such as moving or swapping positions, which would force the players to continuously memorize which color each one was.

    Final prototype
    When it was time to dance, the player had to take one of their dance cards, and to win that card, they had to turn on the fireflies in the order shown. The first player to correctly perform four dances would win the game.

    Dance cards from the prototype
    With the prototype ready, it was time to test it on children — and wow, what a success! They loved moving both the fairy and the fireflies, memorizing their positions, and turning them on with the magic wand. And beating their parents, of course. It seemed that everything was ready to be presented.

    I took the prototype to Essen, and many German, French, and even some American publishers liked it. Many copies of the prototype were ordered, and a large publisher even paid a thirty-day reservation fee, but in the end, no one decided to publish it. They really liked the game, but it was difficult to develop technically, and the components were expensive — too much investment and too much risk. Little by little, the prototypes came back.

    Although I wasn't exactly joyous, a few years ago I would have been much more disappointed to see them back. By this time, though, I had already gone through a similar process with my game Go Cuckoo! (designed with Víktor Bautista i Roma), which was finally published by HABA after being rejected by a long list of publishers due to production problems.

    I continued to show people the game until I met the Korea Boardgames team at SPIEL '18. It was love at first sight. They saw the game and requested a prototype, and in less than a month, the contract was signed. At the FIJ 2019 game fair in Cannes, France, Ivan from Korea Boardgames proposed some small changes to the game dynamics and components that, in my opinion, improved the game, so we implemented them.

    Just before SPIEL '19, I received the cover and the photo of the final game, and what can I say? I loved the work done by Korea Boardgames and the illustrations from ZAO.

    The fireflies and their magic friend!!
    The game fair in Essen featured a giant version of the game and was one of the hits of the booth. At the end of the fair, copies were sold out, so I think it was liked by the players.

    Playing at SPIEL '19
    Now it's time to look for new publishers around the world who want some magic in their catalogs. Let's see whether the fireflies will fly far beyond!

    Josep M. Allué Read more »
  • NY Toy Fair 2020 II: Forgotten Waters, Patchwork: Americana, Sugar Blast, and Catan in 3D

    by W. Eric Martin

    NY Toy Fair 2020 is still underway as I write this report, but I've already left Manhattan with a pocketful of pics and more than enough notes to keep me busy until GAMA Expo 2020 opens in two weeks, so let's get started before the next tide of info arrives.

    We'll also have edited game overview videos from the FIJ 2020 game fair in Cannes, France in the next couple of weeks, so you will have more games to explore than you can possible imagine!

    Components not final
    The Asmodee North America booth was showing a mock-up of a new 3D version of Catan. A representative from Catan Studio told me that with copies of the 2005 Catan 3D Collector's Edition selling for many hundreds of dollars over its original US$300 price tag, the publisher thought it made sense to bring this item back to market, although current plans call for the pieces to be manufactured from hard plastic instead of resin, which would likely lower the price tag from what a resin-based version would sell for these days.

    The Catan Studio rep said that the water pieces will be made from the same material as the island tiles, and the ports will be represented by ship figures that feature the tradable good.


    Fallout Shelter: The Board Game from Andrew Fischer and Fantasy Flight Games has all the players collectively building a shared fallout shelter, while personally tending to their people in order to maintain their happiness — while still sending them out to work in locations where they might be overrun by monsters, which are represented by plastic overlays that make a place impossible to visit while occupied.



    Patchwork: Americana Edition from Uwe Rosenberg and Lookout Games features gameplay identical to ye olde Patchwork, but with graphics that match Americana quilting styles. I posted these pics on Twitter and saw many people saying they prefer the original look, but those people are not the customers for which this edition is intended. If I were to purchase this game for most people in my extended family, this is the version I would give as it would look more familiar and inviting to them.

    Shows like these emphasize how hard it is to keep up with new game announcements. I had seen Forgotten Waters — a design from Isaac Vega, J. Arthur Ellis, Mr. Bistro, and Plaid Hat Games — at an earlier non-public event, but now the game is out in the open, so let's put up a page and say a little about the game:
    Forgotten Waters is a Crossroads Game set in a world of fantastical pirate adventure. In it, players take on the role of pirates sailing together on a ship, attempting to further their own personal stories as well as a common goal.

    The world of Forgotten Waters is silly and magical, with stories designed to encourage players to explore and laugh in delight as they interact with the world around them. It's a game in which every choice can leave a lasting impact on the story, and players will want turn over every rock just to see what they find.

    Forgotten Waters features five scenarios and a massive location book that provides players with tons of choices wherever they go.



    In the game, each player has a character (sheets shown at lower right) that they customize in various ways, and as you progress through scenarios, you can boost stats and gain bonuses, although different characters max out at different levels. You'll use these skills to overcome threats and continue your adventure. As your ship progresses on the water, you'll encounter new situations, such as the two depicted above. In an encounter, at least one player must visit a red activity, at most one player can visit a blue activity, and any number of players can visit a green activity.

    Forgotten Waters will include an app to provide crossroad moments, and the design seems like a cross between a Crossroads game and an AdventureBook game like Stuffed Fables.


    Rory's Story Cubes: Star Wars is pretty much what you'd expect it to be: nine dice that collectively feature 54 iconic characters, objects, and vehicles from the Star Wars films. Roll the dice, then create a story from what's visible. Can you craft a tale that won't have people rushing to Twitter and Facebook to complain?!


    Tea for 2 from Cédrick Chaboussit and Space Cowboys is a two-player-only, deck-building game of sorts. On a turn, you each play a card from your deck, and whoever plays the higher card can use that card's effect or buy a new card for their deck with the difference between the two played cards being the amount you have to spend, although you can increase that amount by paying tarts.

    You want to manipulate the clock that determines which bonus is available, with players having the long-term goal of winning points and being able to pick up bonus tiles along the way that reward them for collecting or doing different things.


    Sugar Blast is a "match 3" style tabletop game from Leo Almeida, Matthew O'Malley, Ben Rosset, and CMON Limited. On a turn, you swap two adjacent pieces in the grid, then remove any rows or columns of three or more matching pieces. After doing this, you tilt the board in your direction to see whether you have any more matches. If so, remove those pieces, then tilt again! You keep at least one piece from each set you make, and the long-term goal is to be the first to satisfy the random goal card for that game, such as four different-colored pairs of tokens (as shown here) or a pair and a four-of-a-kind of different colors. Read more »
  • Grab Your Scooby Snacks and Prepare for Betrayal at Mystery Mansion

    by W. Eric Martin

    On Feb. 20, 2020, I wrote about how three games based on the Back to the Future movie franchise will be released in 2020.

    Turns out that's not the only media property being gamified in multiple ways this year as the recently announced game Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion from The OP will have to share shelf space in game stores with Betrayal at Mystery Mansion, a game from Avalon Hill and Rob Daviau, Banana Chan, Noah Cohen, and Brian Neff that will debut on May 15, 2020 — the same day that the Warner Brothers movie SCOOB! will open in theaters.

    As for what's in the game, here's an overview:
    Based on the award-winning Betrayal at House on the Hill board game, Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is the mash-up fans have been clamoring for!

    Play as Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, or Fred as you explore the mansion and its grounds, finding clues, encountering strange occurrences, and maybe even catching sight of a monster! When you find enough clues to learn what's really going on, that's when the haunt starts, and one player will switch sides to play the role of the monster! Will you be able to stop them before they carry out their sinister plan?


    Betrayal at Mystery Mansion contains 25 new haunts based on popular episodes and movies from the Scooby-Doo oeuvre, with different monsters, items, events, and locations each time you play.
    Read more »
  • Oriflamme, Res Arcana, and Dream Catcher Win As d'Or 2020; Pictionary Air Wins 2020 TOTY

    by W. Eric Martin

    On Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, on the eve of the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes, France, the winners of the As d'Or — France's game of the year award — were announced, with first-time designers Adrien and Axel Hesling and first-time publisher Studio H winning the main As d'Or for the card game Oriflamme.

    In that game, each player has a deck of the same ten cards, but three cards are removed at random from each player's deck, which means your cards will differ from everyone else's. Each player in turn plays a card face down in the queue, with each card being placed at the front or end of the line. After all players have played, starting at the front of the line a player has the option of placing an influence on a card or flipping it over, claiming all influence on it, then using its ability. Starting with the second round, you can play on top of one of your own cards, in addition to the usual front and back of the line. After six rounds, whoever has collected the most influence wins.

    Runners-up in this category were Draftosaurus, Fiesta de Los Muertos, and Little Town.


    Res Arcana from Tom Lehmann and first-time publisher Sand Castle Games won the As d'Or in the expert category, beating out fellow nominees Gloomhaven, It's a Wonderful World, and Root.

    The winner of the children's As d'Or was Dream Catcher from Laurent Escoffier, David Franck, and Space Cow, a game in which players attempt to cover up nightmares on square tiles with cuddly toys on round tiles. You want to pick the tile that's just the right size since you score more dream tokens when you use a smaller toy, but if you don't cover the nightmare, then you get nothing.

    Runners-up for the children's As d'Or were Hedgehog Roll, Yum Yum Island, and 2019 Kinderspiel des Jahres Valley of the Vikings.

    • On the eve of NY Toy Fair on Feb. 21, Mattel won the 2020 Toy of the Year (TOTY) in the game category for Pictionary Air, besting seven other nominees: Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared, Funkoverse Strategy Game, Heist, Ms. Monopoly, Orangutwang, Throw Throw Burrito, and UNO Braille.

    Read more »
  • VideoGame Overview: Chili Dice, or Spicy Dice By Another Name

    by W. Eric Martin

    At Spielwarenmesse 2020, BGG recorded an overview of Chili Dice, a game from Andy Daniel and AMIGO. During that video overview, I mentioned that Daniel had previously designed and published a collection of dice games called Spicy Dice under the brand Enginuity that uses the same type of special six-sided dice found in Chili Dice — dice that feature a red face on one side, with the six dice in the game having one red 1, one red 2, and so on.

    As it turns out, the story is more complicated than that.

    At NY Toy Fair 2020, which I attended after recording the video posted below, I happened to run into Andy Daniel, who was running an Enginuity booth and selling Spicy Dice — except that he wasn't selling the Spicy Dice game collection from 2004, but a standalone game called Spicy Dice that was not included in that earlier collection, a standalone game that Daniel released through Enginuity in 2018, a standalone game that Daniel had licensed to AMIGO, which had changed the name to Chili Dice.


    Daniel mentioned during our conversation at NY Toy Fair that he was much more of a designer than a marketer, which is a fair thing to say given that Spicy Dice — the new one — didn't have a BGG listing until I made one to accompany this posting.

    In any case, here's an overview of Chili Dice, which is available in the U.S. under one name and in Germany under another. Either way, the game plays the same. In general, Chili Dice is akin to Yahtzee as each player will roll dice and score separately in multiple categories such as points for 1s, straight, and chance.

    Where Chili Dice differs from that earlier game is that players have at most thirty rolls during the entire game, with them being able to allocate as many rolls as they want across the ten categories in which they'll score. Roll five 4s and want to press your luck rolling a sixth 4 to grab 75 points? Go right ahead!


    The red faces on the dice are the other element that differs from Yahtzee. When you roll a red face, you can change that die to any number you want, which is great for creating a straight of six numbers or creating pairs and triples. If you keep a red face, however, you can gain bonuses in different ways. If you're collecting dice showing a single number from 1 to 6 and you have the red face showing that number, then the sum of those dice is doubled. Four 6s is 24 points, but if one of those dice is red, then you have 48 points. If you have a straight with a red 1, then you can score those 21 points in a straight like normal, or you can score 21 points in the 1 category, which normally doesn't net you many points.

    If you fill all the categories, then you score 5 points for each roll unused — but winning scores in my six non-solo games on a review copy from AMIGO have typically been 300 points or more, which means that players are averaging at least 10 points per roll, which means you'd probably be better off rolling repeatedly to maximize your score in various ways instead of stopping early.

    I go into more detail about the gameplay, the scoring categories, and why puzzle-based games aren't the same as puzzles in this video:

    Youtube Video Read more »
  • NY Toy Fair 2020 I: SpongeBob Meets Fluxx, and FoxMind Invites You to Chop More Wood

    by W. Eric Martin

    I've finished my first day at NY Toy Fair 2020, having taken lots of pictures and many notes about things that can and can't be talked about. We see a few licensed products at the Spielwarenmesse trade fair, but NY Toy Fair is a bonanza of licensing, with games, dolls, scooters, drones, squish toys, bubble wands, and much more carrying images from a huge assortment of IPs.

    Some of those pairings make perfect sense, as with Looney Labs' announcement of Andy Looney's SpongeBob SquarePants Fluxx, which has a U.S. street date of May 21, 2020. The chaotic nature of both Fluxx and SpongeBob inspires a "Yes, of course, why didn't this happen earlier?" Like the 2019 releases of Marvel Fluxx and Jumanji Fluxx, this "Specialty Edition" from Looney Labs is packaged in a larger-than-normal box for Fluxx, with a poker-style coin and seven bonus cards. (Looney Labs didn't have a mock-up of the game on hand for NY Toy Fair, so I've included the cover image that the company sent to me directly.)

    What Looney Labs did have on display were mock-ups of the four "Pyramid Quartet" titles being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) as they're showing these titles to retailers and explaining how they can serve as expansions for Pyramid Arcade (if the retailers are already carrying that item) or sold as standalone games that can serve as an entry point to the larger world of pyramid games (should they not be carrying that item).

    Non-final copies
    Much of the work that goes on at NY Toy Fair and other trade shows is educational. Retailers can't see everything on the market, and new stores open all the time, so even when a title is old (or even "old" in the sense that it came out 1-2 years ago), that game is often new to whoever is approaching the publisher's booth. From the publisher's perspective, they need to show why this retailer would want to carry the game and how the retailer would introduce the game to potential customers. If you can help retailers sell your wares, you've effectively enlisted them as a salesperson in your company, but a salesperson who buys the game from you in order to spread it amongst the community.

    At one publisher's booth, two fair attendees asked the company representative whether a Spanish version of the game existed. Yes, company A has a license and plans to release the game in Spain at time B. Okay, but what about in South America? No, we don't have that; let's set up a time to talk.

    I heard representatives from France, Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, and many other places asking about the availability of titles, whether via direct sales from the publisher, through a licensee, or through a possible license. Business at shows like Origins, Gen Con, and SPIEL often takes the form of individual sales, ideally to those alpha gamers who will then introduce the game to others, spreading awareness of a design; business at shows like NY Toy Fair and Spielwarenmesse can be a half-hour meeting that results in five hundred copies sold — or fifty thousand copies, or nothing. The event can have a lottery-like feel as you don't always know who's going to show up at your booth and what might result from that first "Hello".

    Anyway, more about games...


    Canadian publisher FoxMind has a new version of Justin Oh's Click Clack Lumberjack coming to market under the name TacTac Jack, with the game due out "soon". In the game, you use the plastic axe to chop at the plastic discs, trying to knock them just far enough that the bark arcs on the sides fall off (as you score points from those), but not far off that you get the core as that's a huge negative.


    FoxMind also has a new version of Andreas Kuhnekath's excellent abstract strategy game Kulami coming to market in April 2020. To play, fit the wooden blocks together in some manner, then take turns adding a marble to the board. After I place a marble, you must then place your marble in the same row or column as the marble I just placed, but you can't place it in the same block or on the block where you placed a marble the previous turn. If a player can't play, then the game ends. Players claim the blocks where they have a majority of marbles, then you score points for all the divots in those blocks, whether filled or empty. Whoever has the high score wins.

    FoxMind's David Capon said that the only change to this edition is that it includes two "capping" pieces that you can place over your most recently played marble. In the late game, this makes it easier to see in which row or column you must play and where you last placed.


    In Q3 2020, FoxMind plans to release a new edition of Alberto Corazón Arambarri's Secret Operation, a 4-10 player hidden identity game that debuted in 2019 from Brain Picnic and Zacatrus.

    In the game, one or more players are working against the others to keep a robot from being constructed. On a turn, you place one of the three cards in your hand face down on any one of the unfinished robot spaces, saying what you're placing there or not as you wish. Once a space has as many cards as is indicated, with that number varying based on the number of players, you shuffle those cards, then reveal them. If all the required cards are included, that piece of the robot is built; if not, you discard the cards and learn that someone who played there is not working with the team. You must build all of the robot before the deck runs out, or the traitors win.


    Another reissue from FoxMind is Alex Randolph's Figure It, first released in 1975 as Domemo. The game consists of 28 tiles, with one 1, two 2s, and so on up to seven 7s. After shuffling the tiles, players take 4-7 tiles depending on the player count and face them away from themselves. Some tiles are left face down, and some might be turned face up. On a turn, based on what you see and what others have said, you ask an opponent whether you have a particular number, and if you do, they reveal a tile with this number in your hand. Whoever first reveals their hand wins.

    My friend Ken Shoda offers this "shoot for the moon" variant in which you can win the game immediately if you can name all of your tiles correctly.


    Jeppe Norsker's Match Madness is a real-time pattern-building game in which each player has five rectangular blocks with domino-style markings on them, and during a round players race to assemble their blocks to match the pattern revealed on a target card. (The game has different variations in which multiple cards are in play.)

    Match Madness: Extreme expands the game by giving each player a single cube that has four markings on it. Now you'll have a much tougher time figuring out how to replicate the patterns since not everything is chunked into domino shapes.


    Slam Bluff is the second "game in a collapsible dice cup" from FoxMind. You shake the dice, then slam down on the cup with your hand, which collapses it and locks the dice in place. You then secretly look at the dice and Bluff-style give a number created by the dice (or just make up a number). The next player calls your bluff or takes the cup, looks at it, then says a higher number, with the subsequent player needing to call them out or raise.

    Slam Words has a similar cup, but you smash it, reveal the letters, then race to name a word that contains those letters before anyone else can.

    •••

    I had hoped to post more from this show, but the internet is junky in this hotel, and the fair opens again in a half hour, so I need to head back to the Javits Center to take more pics and notes. For now, I'll leave you with a full frontal Pikachu shot:

    Read more »
  • VideoThe BGG Show: Catching Up on the Past Four Months

    by W. Eric Martin

    I'll keep this update brief:

    1. I've now posted more than ninety game overview videos from the Spielwarenemesse 2020 trade fair on our BGG Express YouTube channel. Many of the videos are only two or three minutes long, giving you a quick taste of what awaits in the future. I have another eleven still to post and will do so in the next day or two. Lots going on right now...

    2. We have a BGG team at the FIJ game fair in Cannes, France, and they will be livestreaming interviews with designers and publishers on Saturday, Feb. 22 and Sunday, Feb. 23 on our Twitch channel. You can see the schedule of which titles will be featured on camera here, but that schedule was somewhat empty and the team has been dragging unexpected guests on camera to talk about their games. Who knows who will show up next?!

    3. I'm heading to NY Toy Fair on Saturday, Feb. 22 and Sunday, Feb. 23 to see what there is to see, and I'll be tweeting pics and notes on BGG's Twitter feed. Follow along, or wait for the round-up posts that will come in the next couple of weeks before BGG will run its next livestream at GAMA Expo 2020 on March 10-12.

    4. After months of busyness following SPIEL and BGG.CON 2019, we have finally recorded another episode of The BGG Show. Lots has happened since our last show, and we summarize some of those events, with me giving a quick rundown of Man muss auch gönnen können, a somewhat involved roll-and-write game from Ulrich Blum and Jens Merkl that was recently released in Germany by Schmidt Spiele. I plan to do a thorough overview in the future once I've played a few more times, but this will give you a taste of the game:

    Youtube Video

    00:15 Opening and intros
    01:01 BGG News and Announcements: Moving
    04:11 BoardGameGeek Express Channel convention coverage
    07:52 GameNight! Live: The Wilson Wolfe Affair — George G Fox — Simulacra Games
    08:36 Top 10 vs. 10
    10:52 BGG Events — BGG Spring 2020: May 22nd-25th
    12:19 Upcoming convention coverage
    15:08 Dodo — Frank Bebenroth, Marco Teubner — KOSMOS
    17:39 BoardGameGeek has exceeded 100,000 subscribers on YouTube!
    19:57 News and New Releases: Repos Production purchased by Asmodee
    21:27 New edition of Belratti
    24:05 What Have You Been Playing?
    Eric — Man muss auch gönnen können — Ulrich Blum, Jens Merkl — Schmidt Spiele
    29:08 Nidavellir — Serge Laget — GRRRE Games
    30:19 Steph — Maracaibo — Alexander Pfister — Game's Up
    36:07 Scott — Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated — Andy Clautice, Paul Dennen — Renegade Game Studios
    38:53 Lincoln — 5 Minute Dungeon — Connor Reid — Wiggles 3D
    39:49 Video Vortex — Mitch Ryckman, Trevan Haskell — Mondo Games
    43:55 BoardGameGeek turned 20!
    45:43 Goodbyes Read more »
  • VideoGame Overview: Nidavellir, or Drafting a Dwarven Rainbow

    by W. Eric Martin

    To coincide with the opening of the 2020 Festival International des Jeux in Cannes, France, I present a game newly released at that show by Serge Laget and French publisher GRRRE Games, a 2-5 player bidding-and-army-building game called Nidavellir.

    Nidavellir is the homeworld of the dwarves in Norse mythology, and in this game you're building an army of dwarves, with the value of that army being determined by its collective bravery value, along with the sum of the coins you use to bid.

    The game lasts two ages, and in each age you have 3-4 turns, with each turn consisting of the players visiting three taverns to recruit dwarves for their army. Each player starts with five coins — 0,2,3,4,5 — and you secretly place bids on your own player board for those three taverns, with the remaining two coins being placed in your purse. Everyone reveals their first bid, with ties being broken based on numbered gems, then players each draft one dwarf based on the bidding order, swapping gems in the case of ties. Then you reveal the second and third bids and do the same thing again.


    If you reveal your 0 bid, you choose late at that tavern, but you sum the two coins in your pouch, then take a coin equal to that value from the bank, then discard the highest coin in your pouch. This boosts your bidding power in future taverns, and you earn more points at game's end for your coin stash.

    When you have the first rank of all five types of dwarves in your army, you collect one of the heroes on the side of the board. In the image above, you can see that I took one of the orange heroes that adds three ranks with only one card. This both boosts the orange scoring — which is computed by multiplying the number of your orange ranks by the sum of your orange values — and makes it so that I don't have to worry about getting more orange cards in order to complete more ranks.

    You want to get sets of all five ranks in order to collect more heroes, but you also want to specialize in colors since the more you get in a color, the more valuable (in general) those later cards are. A purple rank is worth 3 points, then 4, then 5, and so on, so you want lots of purple, but green is worth the square of the number of green ranks you have, so you want lots of those, too.


    After the first age, a bonus is possibly handed out for each color. If one player has more ranks in a color than each other player, then that player receives the bonus in that color, which might allow them to upgrade a coin or gain a bonus card or acquire a permanent tie-breaker bonus. You then run through the second age — bidding, drafting, possibly grabbing heroes — then you tally your points.

    I've played Nidavellir twice on a review copy, but only with two players each time which is a shame as the game will clearly play out differently based on the number of players. More players means more competition for the dwarves in each tavern, which means that bidding will be more important since you risk being locked out of the colors you need, whether for hero-worthy sets or for a points bonanza in a color. With only two players (or three), you draft more cards during the game, so you're more likely to complete ranks and get heroes, which means that scoring will be much higher than in games with four or five players.

    In any case, I go further into the game in this overview:

    Youtube Video Read more »
  • Back to Back to the Future with Funko Games

    by W. Eric Martin

    The year 2020 is outside the universe created by the Back to the Future film series, yet the movie is apparently more popular than ever — at least for game creators who want to give people a chance to travel back in time to right the past and ensure the future.

    Just ahead of NY Toy Fair 2020, U.S. publisher Funko Games has announced the first non-Funkoverse title in its line-up — Back to the Future: Back in Time, with this being a fully co-operative game for 2-4 players that plays in under an hour and that features a dice tower inside the Hill Valley clock tower.

    Here's an overview of this Q3 2020 release from the in-house design team of Prospero Hall:
    "Wait a minute, Doc, are you telling me you built a time machine...out of a DeLorean?"

    The photo of the McFly family is slowly fading... It's 1955, and you're wrapped up in a time paradox with Biff, Lorraine, George, and Doc Brown! Cooperate to move around Hill Valley to get the DeLorean ready, avoid Biff and his gang, help George and Lorraine fall in love, and crank the DeLorean up to 88 MPH — all just in time for the lightning to strike the Clock Tower, sending you back to the future!

    In Back to the Future: Back in Time, each player takes on the role of a major character from the movie: Marty McFly, Doc Brown, Jennifer Parker, or Einstein the dog. The objective of the game is to have the characters move around 1955 Hill Valley, collecting certain items in an effort to fix Doc's famous DeLoreon time machine, defeat Biff Tannen and his gang of trouble-making friends, while ensuring that Marty's parents fall in love. Only when that is accomplished can players then accelerate the DeLoreon to 88 MPH down Main Street before the clock tower strikes 10:04 pm!

    The other BTTF titles due out in 2020, as covered in October 2019, are a Back to the Future title from Funko Games due out in July 2020 that will be part of the Funkoverse Strategy Game and a different co-operative dice-based game from Chris Leder, Ken Franklin, Kevin Rodgers, and Ravensburger titled Back to the Future: Dice Through Time that will debut at UK Games Expo in June 2020. Read more »
  • Try Your Hand at Being a Meddling Kid in Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion

    by W. Eric Martin

    Let's think back all the way to, um, yesterday, Feb. 18, 2020, when I posted about Ravensburger's Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons. In that post I wrote "it's time to start seeing game announcements for licensed titles that will have their revelations timed specifically to this show", and here's yet another such announcement:

    In mid-May 2020, Warner Brothers and Atlas Entertainment will release the animated movie SCOOB!, which will feature the fifty-year-old dog Scooby-Doo and his constant companions Velma, Fred, Daphne, and Shaggy trying to solve yet another mystery.

    Not coincidentally, in late May 2020, game publisher The OP will release Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion – A Coded Chronicles Game, a co-operative game from Sen-Foong Lim and Jay Cormier in which players take on the roles of these characters and attempt to solve a mystery of their own. Here's an overview of how this game works:
    In Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion, players take on the roles of the teen sleuths and their courageous canine pal to solve a mystery! Work together to decode clues and find your way out of the haunted mansion in this co-operative "Coded Chronicles" game. Can you solve the mystery of Lady Fairmont's ghost with the help of Mystery, Inc.?


    In more detail, more than fifty clues are hidden in the pieces and interactive game board to help you discover what happened in Lady Fairmont's haunted mansion! Players share five narrative booklets to be read as everyone works together to fill in the story's missing details. Different parts are kept in secret envelopes to be opened as the crew unlocks the answers.

    "Coded Chronicles" is The OP's trademarked term for, to quote its press release, "the first at-home escape room-style activity that integrates storylines from iconic franchises into the foundation of a unique code-revealing mechanic, which players use to cooperatively and gradually unlock new parts of the game".

    Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is for one or more players ages 12 and up, and it bears a 120-minute playing time. Read more »