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  • HeroScape to Return...Again

    by W. Eric Martin

    In August 2022, the Hasbro studio Avalon Hill announced HeroScape: Age of Annihilation, a new standalone game that would be fully integrable with previous HeroScape titles that were released from 2004 to 2010.

    The caveat on this announcement: This title would be crowdfunded to ensure that enough people wanted this game to make it worth Hasbro's time, and when the crowdfunding campaign on Hasbro Pulse ended on November 15, 2022, only 4,300 people had backed the project, just over half of the 8,000 backers that Hasbro required to meet its funding goal.

    In response, Hasbro said that it would shelve the design and move on to other things: "As we said during the campaign if this project doesn't meet its goal, we won't be able to produce Age of Annihilation. That has not changed."

    However, just because Hasbro won't produce more HeroScape, that doesn't mean that no one can.

    Renegade Game Studios — which already has licenses to release the Hasbro-owned titles Acquire, Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, Robo Rally, and Squad Leader — has now announced a license with Hasbro to bring HeroScape back to market. Here's an excerpt from the press release about this deal:
    Now, the organizations have come together to usher in the long-awaited return of Heroscape for the hobby, mass, and specialty markets. Renegade will also partner with Hasbro Pulse to make Heroscape available to as wide an audience as possible.

    Fans will get to experience classic elements of the game they love with all-new content, alongside the introduction of terrain packs, faction boxes, and more. Going forward, Renegade hopes to introduce new models in a variety of configurations and price points for both new and hardcore Heroscape players.

    "Heroscape brought a lot of people into hobby gaming and to this day there is a robust and passionate community; we look forward to growing that community and continuing to offer new and exciting models for gamers to enjoy," said Scott Gaeta, President and Publisher of Renegade Game Studios. "Additionally, we will be partnering with hobby stores to give Heroscape and its community of players the best home possible where they can make new friends and engage in exciting battles across Valhalla!"

    Additionally, Renegade will provide online community and organized play support, including a future World Championship. Hobby stores can look forward to organized play and point of purchase support at launch.

    "Fans have been clamoring for a revival of Heroscape, and we've heard you. That's why we are tremendously excited to bring back and expand the beloved brand with the Renegade team, who are big fans themselves," says Bradley Bowman, Licensing Director of Global Toys & Sporting Goods at Hasbro. "We're celebrating this return alongside our fans, and look forward to offering existing players more ways to enjoy the game and introducing a whole new generation to Heroscape and its endless imaginative potential."

    Heroscapers can sign up for a Heroscape Newsletter from Renegade to stay informed of the latest developments and news!
    Read more »
  • BGG.Spring Report III: Lacuna, Inside Job, The Number, Dual Gauge, and SHŌBU

    by W. Eric Martin

    Time to wrap my coverage of BGG.Spring, an event that ended, gosh, ten days ago so that I can move on to other things...such as wrapping my coverage of GAMA Expo 2023, which took place in April, or perhaps wrapping my coverage of the trick-taking event that I attended in January 2023.

    Game announcements are so plentiful that I find it hard to focus on what I've seen and played before new games fill my every view — although sometimes the two experiences, the new game and me playing something, coincide, as with...

    Lacuna is a two-player game from designer Mark Gerrits and publisher CMYK that will be released on July 6, 2023, with a pre-order being available from the publisher, and it falls into the rare category of a perfect information, two-player abstract strategy game that could find itself a mainstream success, depending on marketing and availability, of course — but I'm getting ahead of myself.

    To set up the game, lay out the cloth mat, then sprinkle the 49 wooden tokens — seven each in seven colors — from the storage tube onto the mat like salt on mashed potatoes. (The tube has a plastic top with a small opening to ensure that the tokens don't come out all at once.)

    Your goal in Lacuna is to win four colors; to win a color, you need to collect at least four tokens of that color. The first player collects a wooden token of their choice from the mat, then takes the first turn. On a turn, place of your metal pawns anywhere on the line between two tokens of the same color, then collect those two tokens. This line must be unobstructed by other tokens or player pawns.

    Ken Shoda uses the included ruler to check for legal placement
    Players keep taking turns until they've placed all six of their pawns. At that point the first player has collected 13 tokens and the second player 12, so no one could have won the game, although someone might have won a color or two.

    For each remaining token on the board, you award it to the player whose pawn is closest to it. Here's an overhead view of a game at that point:

    For the most part, you can easily tell who has claimed which tokens. The light blue in the upper left goes to the gold player, for example, while the light blue at the far left goes to silver. When you're not sure, use the included ruler to determine which pawn is closest to a token. After all the tokens have been claimed, one of the players will have won four colors and therefore won the game.

    Lacuna is beautifully simple in its design, and the publisher has matched that beauty in its presentation of the game. The cloth mat, the heavy metal pawns, the wooden tokens with their unique shapes and patterns, the salt shaker storage container — all of it is satisfying to hold, touch, and use, and that satisfaction helps mask the difficulty of playing well, which is why I think people who don't normally enjoy perfect information, abstract strategy games would still find it pleasing to play.

    Every turn is two-fold. When you place a pawn, you claim two tokens, which helps move you toward victory, and you call dibs on other tokens around you, but those tokens can be snatched away by an opponent's placement. When you look at the image below, you'll see all sorts of possibilities for what you can claim now, but what might you get later?

    One rules clarification: If you place a pawn between two pairs of tokens simultaneously, you claim only one pair, so you can't place between two purple and two deep blue on the left and claim both pairs at once — but you can place at that intersection anyway, claim one of the pairs, and block the opponent from claiming the other pair.

    That said, this layout has a rich cluster of blue and purple, so you can't block everything. In fact, silver pretty much has a lock on a blue token on the right, so silver might want to place on the line between the two blue on the left because then they're pretty much locking in the blue on the far left, which will win them blue.

    Placing on the larger spot possibly blocks anyone from linking that far left blue to other blues
    However, they've then used two pawns to win one color, which is probably not a winning strategy. What else are those two pawns going to be able to claim? Will they participate in other ways? That's not clear because both of you have more pawns to place — and the image two above shows that those dark blue tokens have been claimed before the final distribution.

    The gameplay is beautifully clear, and you're pulled in multiple directions thanks to the web of possibilities. The clearest conflict: Should you use two pawns to claim four tokens of the same color and remove all doubt of who won it, or do you use only one pawn, claim two, and somehow fence off two more beyond a doubt? Is that a sure thing? Not necessarily because as tokens are removed, other tokens become targets when previously they were blocked from being claimed.

    I've played Lacuna three times, twice on a review copy and once with James Nathan, who is a scout for CMYK and who was playing the game at BGG.CON 2022, and I'm entranced. Intriguingly, the victory condition — four or more tokens of four or more colors — is also a victory condition in Tintas, a wonderful game that I covered in 2016, but Tintas bears the traditional austere look of an abstract strategy game while Lacuna looks lighter and more joyous...despite requiring exactly as much thought as Tintas!

    • Another new game (at least in English) that hit the table was Inside Job from Tanner Simmons and KOSMOS.

    In this 3-5 player trick-taking game, each player gets a secret role card, with all but one player being an agent and that one player being the insider, who is trying to thwart the agents from completing missions. Each player gets a hand of cards from a standard 52-card deck.

    At the beginning of a trick, the starting player looks at two mission cards, discards one face down, then reveals the other. Each mission shows a trump color for that trick along with a task to be completed, e.g., all cards played must be between 7 and 13, or the second card played must win the trick. The starting player leads a card from their hand that other players must follow, if possible — except for the insider, who can play what they like. If the mission succeeds because players did what was written on the card, then you place the mission in a "success" pile; otherwise, discard it. Whoever played the highest card wins an "intel token", which looks like a briefcase, then starts the next round by drawing two mission cards.

    If the agents succeed at a certain number of missions, which varies by player count, they win immediately, and if the insider ever collects enough intel tokens, they win immediately — and if both happen simultaneously, the insider wins. If neither side wins by the final trick, everyone votes for who they think the insider is, winning only if the insider has more fingers pointing at them than anyone else has.

    We played twice...but not really since some of the rules were not taught:

    — We just flipped missions from the top of the deck, so the starting player had no say in the course of the round beyond their choice of lead card.

    — We talked about our cards in hand, saying things like "Don't lead green", when you're not supposed to talk about cards in hand, only cards already played.

    — We didn't wager intel tokens, a move in which you can place a previously won intel token on a played card to make it part of the trump suit; whoever wins this trick collects all wagered intel tokens, in addition to winning one for the trick itself.

    So I don't know what to think at this point. I hope to play again, worrying a bit that the initial mission choice might take longer than I like, but it can't possibly slow the game down as much as the between trick activity in American Psycho: A Killer Game.

    The Number is from Hisashi Hayashi and Repos Production, this being a licensed version of Hayashi's self-published Suzie-Q.

    Each turn, each player secretly writes a three-digit number on their board, then they reveal their boards and arrange them from low to high. If any digit in the highest number is included in a lower number, that player's board is removed and they score 0 points for this turn. Keep evaluating boards until you have a highest board with no digits repeated by others. Each player still in the round scores points equal to the value of the first digit in their number, and the player with the highest number receives a bonus — then they cross out all the digits in their number on their scoring board and can't use these digits again for the rest of the round.

    After five turns, with everyone doubling the value of their winning highest digit in the fifth turn, you tally your points — which includes 1 point for each crossed-off digit — then start a new round with all digits being available for everyone. After two rounds of five turns, whoever has the highest combined score wins.

    I forgot to take a picture during play...
    The Number is weird in that you have an obvious opening move of 999. If no one else writes a 9, you score 9 points and the round bonus, then only one digit is off limits for you in the remainder of the round. If someone else writes a 9 in their number, they bump you out, but now they likely can't use 9 again while you still will anyone else write a 9 since it prevents them from writing 999 at some point?

    Thus, you're all guessing who might write what when, with the open knowledge of which digits people can't write. If two people write the same number, they score or are eliminated together...but if we both have 9s open late in the round, I might write 799 in the hope of eliminating you and being the high number, and you might in turn write 777 to take me out. I need more plays to even know what I think about this game...

    • My co-worker Candice Harris was eager to play more Dual Gauge from Amabel Holland of Hollandspiele and set up the Honshu side of the Dual Gauge: Honshu & Wisconsin Maps expansion.

    Dual Gauge is somewhat 18xx-light, with players initially holding an auction for a share in each rail company in the game, then playing in alternating operating rounds and stock rounds until the game ends, something that triggers due to running out of trains, track, spaces for stations on the map, shares available for purchase, or other things specific to a map.

    After one operating round
    The title refers to the dual types of track available for purchase: narrow and standard. Narrow track is cheaper to build, but you can run a train on it from only one station to the next, whereas a train on standard track can travel to two stations on a line.

    Whoever holds the most shares in a company controls the actions of that company: laying track, placing stations, buying trains, running routes, then either paying out the earnings for that round or withholding that money in the company's treasury. Your long-term goal is to end up with the most money, which is earned by (1) owning shares in companies that increase in value and (2) collecting payouts.

    At game's end
    It was the first play for at least two of the four of us, so possibly we played stupidly, but in the middle of the game it felt like many of us were spinning our wheels, running the same routes each turn and not advancing our company's network in meaningful ways. If you don't build track, then the company must withhold money earned on routes and its stock price falls based on the number of shares issued or converted into stations, so we often built track to nowhere because we couldn't see what to do productively. I suppose at times you want to tank a company's share price, but we couldn't see why.

    Bottom line: Dual Gauge seems like the type of game where playing once is akin to not playing at all. Only at game's end can you assess where and when people made smart choices and whether you should have made other moves, then you apply all of that info to your next playing. If you don't play again, then you're left only with the feeling that you played horribly.

    • While at the flea market, I convinced my friend Ken Shoda to buy SHŌBU, a 2019 release from designers Jamie Sajdak and Manolis Vranas and publisher Smirk & Laughter Games. Ken loves abstract strategy games and seemed unconvinced by the look of the game, but caved and bought it.

    Here's the starting position:

    Image: Doctor Meeple
    A turn consists of two steps: passive, then active. First, move a stone of your color on one of the boards close to you. Move in a straight line orthogonally or diagonally as far as you want, stopping at the edge of the board or another piece.

    Second, move a stone of your color on either board of the color opposite of which you first moved on, duplicating the move you made initially, e.g., if you moved forward two spaces on the dark board, you must move forward two spaces on either light board. In this action, you can push one stone of the opponent's, ideally pushing them off the board. If you can't make this active move, then go back and make a different passive move.

    If you push all of the opponent's stones from one board, you win.

    Ken and I played twice, with the starting player winning both times, which made Ken worry about a starting player advantage, then we played twice more, with each of us starting one of the games, and I beat Ken both times. Theory — rejected!

    SHŌBU sort of feels like four games in one thanks to the multiple boards, but everything is linked in complicated ways. In the image above, the white stone on the upper left board is pretty much useless. As a passive move, Ken can move it toward him 1-3 spaces or diagonally or horizontally one space, with none of those moves allowing the white stone in the lower right — a stone I am about to push off the board for the win — to move to safety.

    But to give that stone on the dark board more freedom of movement, Ken would have to first move a stone on the light board close to him, and his options there are also limited.

    How we got to that position took a long time, and it's hard to reconstruct exactly how things went wrong. In a way, you can think of the boards closest to you as programming boards. You want to keep your options on those boards as open as possible, which is why the opponent wants to attack you there — except that sometimes removing a stone is a good thing since it gives you more room in which to move.

    In any case, I made a good call, and Ken will take it back to Japan to introduce it to others at his abstract game club.

    • While in Dallas for BGG.Spring, I got to visit Common Ground Games, which has an impressive selection of new games for sale, not to mention dice and other geeky stuff, along with tables for events.

    Common Ground Games has a giant preschool-style stack of Frosthaven by the front door, perhaps as a lure for thieves who think that they can grab a copy and scoot out the door as they will instead be dragged to the floor by its weight, their fingers pinned under the box, giving the employees plenty of time to call the police.

    It also has a $250 giant squishable frog that I passed on buying with regret, not because I want a giant squishable frog, but because I robbed my wife of the joy of telling everyone in her family that I spent $250 on a giant squishable frog. She would have liked that.

    Every so often I do something completely out of character, sometimes without really knowing why and sometimes intentionally. Whenever she learns of such things and acts shocked, I get to say, "You don't know the real me!" Married life...

    The BGG media team also visited Velvet Taco, where I stared hypnotically at a painting of Marie Antoinette. Seriously, I couldn't not look at this painting. (Here's more work from artist Laura Shull.)

    • I'll close with words of thanks to Ken Shoda. To start, Ken offered to pick up games for me at Tokyo Game Market in late 2019 that I would pay him for the next time I saw him, probably at Game Market the following May.


    But Ken held on to those games, then held on to even more games when he was clearing out stock of various nestorgames titles in April 2021 when Game Market first re-opened.

    Ken stuffed all of those games in his bag and delivered them to me at BGG.Spring, where I met him with a big stack of bills.

    Beyond that, Ken's taste in games line up perfectly with mine: card games of all sorts, perfect information abstract strategy games, and pretty much anything from Reiner Knizia. In short: cards, combinatorics, and Knizia.

    We've played many games together over the years, and however much I think I know about games, Ken's knowledge of Knizia titles is encyclopedic. What's more, he recalls particular games in a way that I often now struggle to do. While looking around the charity flea market, Ken picked up a copy of Reiner Knizia's game Motto and told me I should get it: "Don't you remember? We played it several times at a temple on one of your trips to Japan, and you told me you don't have it."

    The game didn't look familiar to me, so I looked it up on BGG to find a 5.5 rating on a title from Polish publisher Granna that never made a splash on the market and that likely disappeared on clearance shortly therefter.

    And I also found that I had played it three times in May 2016. Then I looked at the pictures on my phone, and there we were, playing Motto at the Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.

    How could I not buy this game?

    Many thanks once again, Ken, for the wonderful time playing games with you at BGG.Spring, and ideally we'll see one another again at SPIEL '23!

    Ken is also a math guy, like me Read more »
  • Upper Deck Is Suing Ravensburger and a Game Designer over Disney Lorcana

    by W. Eric Martin

    Upper Deck, which is located in Carlsbad, California, is filing suit against Ravensburger and a former Upper Deck game designer "for stealing and copying Upper Deck's original game which Ravensburger repackaged and marketed as Lorcana".

    From the press release announcing this action:
    "We invested significant time and resources to develop a new and novel trading card game. Our current leadership values the importance of protecting intellectual property of both Upper Deck and its licensors," said Upper Deck President Jason Masherah.

    "We want gamers and fans to continue enjoying and having access to unique, innovative and immersive trading card games," added Masherah. "We encourage competition in the industry, but also strongly believe in playing by the rules to ensure the gaming community benefits from the different creative choices by each manufacturer."

    Upper Deck plans to file suit in San Diego against the game designer for "breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud" and against Ravensburger for "unfair business practices".

    The designer isn't named, but of the two designers of Disney Lorcana, as best as I can tell Steve Warner has not worked with Upper Deck, whereas Ryan Miller has three designs published by Upper Deck: Dread Draw and Pack of Lies in 2017, and Aliens: Bug Hunt in 2020.

    Regarding the "new and novel trading card game" mention in the press release, a representative for Upper Deck tells me, "We are referring to a design developed internally that we are still working on and intend to release."

    Sample card from Disney Lorcana Read more »
  • Francophone Smurfs to Smurf a Smurf-based Smurfy Smurf in 2024

    by W. Eric Martin

    Publisher Maestro Media has signed a licensing deal with IMPS/LAFIG, the world license holders for The Smurfs, to release a tabletop game based in their cool blue world in 2024 to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the comic's debut from cartoonist Peyo. (Technically the Smurfs debuted in 1958, but they were secondary characters in Peyo's strip Johan et Pirlouit. The Smurfs debuted in standalone stories in 1959.)

    That game is currently titled The Smurfs: Hidden Village, and it comes from designers Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Rivière — yes, the same team responsible for Dead Cells: The Rogue-Lite Board Game, so a crossover is sure to be in the works, yes?

    The Smurfs: Hidden Village is a 1-5 player game for ages 7+, and it's a co-operative design, which seems appropriate. Here's a short description:
    Players are Smurfs who are tasked with rebuilding the mushroom village from scratch following the evil sorcerer Gargamel's latest scheme. To succeed, you need to work together as a team, collecting resources, building inventions, and locating missing Smurfs to help rebuild mushroom houses. Each Smurf has a unique set of skills that you must use strategically to outsmart Gargamel and his cat Azrael.

    And an excerpt from the press release announcing this game:
    "The Smurfs are one of the most recognizable characters in the world with a long history of licensed products, iconic TV shows, films and more," said Javon Frazier, Founder and CEO of Maestro Media. "To be able to work on a project, especially one as beloved as The Smurfs, and bring a new gaming experience to fruition, is an absolute delight. We cannot wait to work directly with the beloved brand's millions of fans all over the world, incorporating their ideas and feedback, to create a one-of-a-kind experience the community will love."

    With a history of creating multiple record-breaking campaigns and surpassing over $15 million with previous crowdfunding projects, Maestro Media has become a leader in the tabletop crowdfunding community, and is set to design and execute a fun and interactive campaign that will engage and delight the The Smurfs community worldwide.
    Read more »
  • VideoWhat Do Game Publishers Owe Us When They Release a New Edition?

    by W. Eric Martin

    Given the hubbub over Gloomhaven's announced second edition, which initially would have no upgrade kit from first to second edition and which will now have a limited upgrade kit solely for the game's characters, I started thinking about the different types of second editions that hit the market and whether publishers should have an obligation to buyers of earlier editions when they release something new.

    The short answer: No. While it's nice for publishers to make such things available, I don't think publishers should feel required to do so, even when they published earlier editions of the game.

    If a different publisher is releasing the new edition, then I would never expect them to make such material available. After all, what are the chances you're going to match cardstock and card size perfectly, match the colors of the wooden bits, and so on? Such upgrade kits seem like a minefield of potential future complaints when you could instead point to your new edition and say, "If you want to ensure consistency, go with this package that has been designed as a whole from beginning to end."

    I understand that upgrade kits along these lines can be good for customer morale, but I think it's more of a nicety than an obligation. If a publisher doesn't offer one, I understand why due to the headaches involved in production, shipping, sales, and inventory management. I figure that when I'm buying a game, I get what I get, and that's that, with no future promises. If, for example, a book publisher released a new edition of a title with a new afterword from the author, I wouldn't expect the publisher to make that afterword available in other formats. Buy the book or don't — my call.

    Maybe the question to ask, as I do in the video, is to wonder at what point you feel a publisher doesn't have an obligation to create an upgrade kit or make new material available to owners of an earlier edition. From your perspective, when are they off the hook? (I depict The Quest for El Dorado in this post because it's a unique situation, with the designer going beyond what the original publisher did because he had created much more material than the original publisher wanted to release and he wanted all of the material presented in a larger format.)

    The video talks about four types of new editions and how they differ in terms of customer expectations, then expands upon my belief that your contract with the publisher consists only of the current game release.

    Youtube Video Read more »
  • Gen Con 2023 Preview Now Live

    by W. Eric Martin

    BoardGameGeek's Gen Con 2023 Preview is now live, listing dozens of new games that will be sold or demoed at that convention.

    Publishers, you have until July 28, 2023 to submit info to this preview, and Stephen Cordell and I will keep updating it as time allows to account for last-minute surprises, which can be both good — an embargoed game is revealed! — and bad — our container got stopped at customs!

    BGG will once again be running a Hot Games Room at the Hyatt in the Regency Ballroom during Gen Con 2023, with the HGR open from 10:00 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. All games will then be shipped to Dallas so that they can appear in the BGG Library for BGG.CON 2023 in November.

    GeekUp bits and other items from the BGG Store will be sold by Meeple Source (booth #2909) at Gen Con 2023. I don't know which items will be available as Beth Heile will make that determination closer to the event.

    Some of the titles scheduled to be at Gen Con 2023 Read more »
  • BGG.Spring Report II: Kards with Ken — Perfect Numbers, ReCURRRing, Robotrick, and Bag of Chips

    by W. Eric Martin

    • Let's follow my first report from BGG.Spring 2023 with several games that I did enjoy, starting with Perfect Numbers, a card game from Lars Jansen and Jolly Dutch Productions that I've heard no one talk about since its release at SPIEL '22, where my friend Ken Shoda talked it up.

    By chance, Ken was at BGG.Spring, and Perfect Numbers was one of four card games that he had brought with him from Japan, so apparently he thought highly of it! We played once with three players, then again with two, and I can understand why he likes it so much.

    The deck consists of cards numbered 2-7 in five colors, along with one joker of each value and special action cards. Start a round by dealing a row of three cards, two rows of two cards, and a row of one card. The first player drafts a row, then everyone else does in turn, with players getting more than one row in a game with two or three players...something you don't necessarily want!

    When you take cards, if you get cards of a color you already have, you must add them to your existing rows, starting with the low numbers first. If the number you add matches the number of cards in your personal row — the perfect number! — you may score that row, with each card being worth 1 point. If the number is larger than the number of cards, you just add; if it's smaller, you must discard cards from that row equal to the number, so placing a green 3 on my pile above would force me to discard everything but the green 2.

    If you get a color you don't have, you can start a row with it, but you can have at most four rows. If all your rows are occupied, you can ditch a color to start a new row or give away that new color to another player who already has this color — and if you would place the perfect number on their row, you score those points instead of them! Similarly, if you place a low number, they have to discard cards, but you score them!

    So Perfect Numbers is a "take that", set-collection card game in which you have to consider (almost) every choice you make to determine whether an opponent can hurt you later with the card you leave behind, especially in the two-player game when you each take two rows. We discarded way more cards in our 2p game!

    I'm glossing over a few elements above, such as you scoring additional cards from the deck if your perfect number is 5-7, which gives you an incentive not to score a perfect number of 2-4. Ideally you can count cards to know what's not left in the deck, but I don't think that's essential.

    • Another game Ken had in his bag was ReCURRRing, a shedding card game from Saien that I covered in writing and in video in 2017. ReCURRRing is, to a degree, SCOUT three years prior to SCOUT, and it's a shame that ReCURRRing has never been licensed outside of Japan.

    The game lasts three rounds, and your goal is to score the most points. The deck is modified based on player count (3-5), with the five-player game having one 1, two 2s, etc. up to nine 9s and either ten or fifteen Rs, with R being higher than a 9.

    Deal the deck, then whoever has the 1 starts by leading any single card. The next player can pass and exit the round, or play a single better card — with lower values being better — or any pair; if they beat the initial play, they take that card into their hand...and that's where things get tricky.

    My starting hand
    If the lead player plays a 6 and you're next, do you want that 6? If you play a 5 to beat the 6, but you have no 6s, then you've worsened your hand (exchanging a better card for a worse one), but you're still in the round. If you do have 6s, then you now have a larger group of 6s...which is not always a good thing because you can overplay someone by at most one card. If I need to beat a pair of 4s, I can play a pair of 2s or 3s or any three-of-a-kind, whether Rs or better, but I can't play four 6s. I would have to break up the 6s, stranding one of them.

    And if you pass, then you're out of the round and can't change your hand, whereas other players might be overplaying and molding their hand into larger groups.

    Cards exit the game only after all players but one have passed. The person who played those cards places them face up on the table before them, then leads any single card to start the new round. When someone empties their hand, they place the cards they beat face down in front of themselves, and if their cards hold, they place those cards in front of themselves; otherwise, the player who last plays scores their cards.

    At round's end, every card in front of you is worth 1 point, except for Rs, which are worth 0 points — unless you were the first to empty your hand, in which case Rs are also worth 1 point each.

    A great third round, landing me in second place
    Like SCOUT and to some degree Abluxxen, ReCURRRing is all about crafting your hand into something better than what you started, ideally earning points through smart plays. If possible, you want to track who is picking up which cards so that you know who can play over you and when to strike with a large set since you (sort of) worsen your hand with every play that doesn't hold. The Rs are numerous, but they're worthless unless you go out first, so their power is somewhat balanced, although a large R set can let you grab a slightly less large non-R set, which you can perhaps score later.

    You can tell from the wear on the box how much Ken loves ReCURRRing. Perhaps some day it will be widely available outside of Japan for others to discover...

    • In addition to something old-ish, Ken had Robotrick, a three-player-only trick-taking game from designer Domi (ドミッチ) and publisher The Game Gallery Works.

    Every trick-taking game needs a twist, and Robotrick's twist is two-fold: A robot is the fourth player in the game. It sits between two players, is dealt a face-up hand of twelve cards just like the people, and plays cards according to a randomly dealt directive, such as these:

    Four of the ten directives
    The robot leads the first trick, so if it were controlled by the directive in the upper left, it would play its highest card, with ties being broken in favor of the short suit, with card color being the second tie-breaker: A > B > C > D. If on a later trick you lead blue, the robot will follow with its lowest blue; lacking blue, it will play its lowest card from its longest suit.

    The second twist comes from the scoring. If the robot wins the trick, each player keeps their card face down as negative points, with cards being worth 1-15 points. (The deck is a standard four-color deck from 1-13. One card is revealed as trump, and three cards remain hidden out of play.) If you win a trick, you keep the robot's card as positive points — except that any card you win after the third is flipped face down as negative points.

    Starting hand, and the robot has five red, which is trump...oh, boy
    So you want to win tricks, but not too much, and you don't want opponents to win tricks, but if they're not and you're not, then the robot is, which will hurt you.

    I did horribly, playing the wrong card (which I found out only later), winning the wrong tricks, and messing up in thinking about what the robot will play next, although since the robot has to follow suit, sometimes you're thinking that the robot will lead X, but by the time it does lead, its rules now force it to play Y. After only one game's experience, I'm still clueless about how to play well, even when it comes to passing two cards before the round starts, as demonstrated in the image below:

    After the pass I have the four highest trump and six total; I'm going to eat so many cards!
    Anyway, I'm glad to have played, and Ken gave me the copy to take home, so I'll get to try again on two new unsuspecting players.

    • During the flea market, Ken and I were suggesting various games that the other might not know about or have access to, and Ken had the additional restriction of needing tiny games since he had little luggage space. When I found Bag of Chips, a game from Mathieu Aubert, Théo Rivière, and Mixlore, I knew it was an ideal choice: small, card-based, and not available in Japan. (Whoops, that last detail was incorrect. See image at right.)

    Each round in Bag of Chips, you start with a hand of six cards, draw five colored chips from the bag, discard two cards, draw four more chips, discard another card, draw three chips, then allocate your cards, with two of them scoring you positive points if their condition is met and the third scoring you negative points. To end the round, draw a chip, then draw one last chip, then see what you score. The two highest scorers win tokens, and whoever first collects four tokens wins the game.

    The game has a great press-your-luck element, with you weighing the odds of which cards might score based on the chips revealed — 14 total out of 25 in the bag — while knowing that one of those cards could count against you. Maybe you have the card that's worth 180 points if six onion chips are drawn. With early onions, you'll probably want to hold it — but you might also want to hold it if no onions come out since it wouldn't cost you any points as a negative card if the condition isn't met.

    I covered Bag of Chips in detail in 2021, and the game remains a winner.

    BGG admin Stephen Cordell, who works on the library and convention previews, and Ken Read more »
  • BGG.Spring Report I: Visiting the Charity Sale, Playing Spiel des Jahres, and Being the Boss

    by W. Eric Martin

    BGG.Spring took place on May 26-29, 2023, and with that show in the books, I thought I'd talk about games played and other happenings from the show.

    To start, each year at BGG.Spring we have a charity sale with proceeds going to Café Momentum, an organization that has locations in Dallas, Nashville, and Pittsburgh. An overview:
    Café Momentum is a nationally-recognized non-profit restaurant and training program that provides a paid internship for justice-involved youth. The internship includes 12-months of curriculum programming.

    The interns work their way through all areas of the restaurant, learning legal employment, social skills, and life skills. Case management works to round out the ecosystem of support including financial education, parenting classes, educational assistance, and career exploration.

    Case managers help the interns work through issues such as anger management, trauma recovery, fatherlessness, and abandonment. After the 12 months of curriculum, successful interns are able to graduate from the program and are placed in a job with one of our community partners. These young people, who the juvenile justice system has referred to as "throw-aways" are now employed, tax-paying, wholly contributing members of society.

    Prior to BGG.Spring, we go through the BGG Library and cull (1) games that haven't been checked out in several years or (2) duplicate copies of games that don't see much use, then put them up for sale, with most games being $10 the first day, then discounted the second day, regardless of what those games are. Horus Heresy from 2010? $10! Coimbra from 2018? $10!

    BGG owner Scott Alden also usually sells a few items from his personal collection, with these being priced individually. This year included Full Metal Planète for $100, Allerley Spielerey for $150 (bought by my friend and fellow Knizia addict Ken Shoda), and Catena for $40, bought by yours truly. In fact, you might recognize a theme among some of my acquisitions from BGG.Spring...

    Anyway, the sale runs for two hours on Saturday, then two hours on Sunday, with prices dropping until everything goes. Here's the sale just before opening, then freshly underway:

    The sale raised $7,801 for Café Momentum, and Tracey Hull, Director of Development, told us that will cover the cost of DART bus passes for all program participants in Dallas, which will make it easier for them to get to the program, but also anywhere else they want or need to go in Dallas. (Hull said that 90% of the jobs in Dallas are on the north side of the city, while 60% of the residents live on the south side — which means they need the ability to travel to find more and better job opportunities.)

    • As for what I played at BGG.Spring, so let's look at the three 2023 Spiel des Jahres candidates. I've already played and covered Kasper Lapp's Fun Facts from Repos Production in December 2022, but I gave it another go with folks who hadn't played...and the result was the same as before.

    In each of the game's eight rounds, you're presented with a question that has a numerical answer (e.g., "From 0 to 100, how much do you like horror movies?"), then you're challenged to place those answers in order from low to high without seeing what people wrote.

    In our game, a couple of questions gave you something interesting to answer that could become a topic of conversation; a larger number of questions were uninteresting; and one question ("How many intimate relationships have you had that lasted longer than a year?") drew an immediate "Nope!" from one of the players — and that reaction, even without an answer, made everyone uncomfortable, which is not what you want from a party game (unless that's the goal of the game, of course). From this question and others, I think the game is aimed at a European audience that would (in general) be more comfortable sharing such details of their life, but even so a lot of the questions fell flat, giving us no incentive to play again.

    Next Station: London from Matthew Dunstan and Blue Orange Games is a flip-and-write game, part of the *-and-write genre that largely exploded into being following the success of 2018's Ganz schön clever.

    In the game, each player has grid of stations on their board, as well as one of four different colored markers. Someone flips the top card of the deck, and you draw a straight line from the station that matches your marker to a station showing the symbol on the revealed card. Sometimes you can connect to any station you want, and occasionally you can branch the line. Once five pink cards have been revealed, you score that line — number of sectors entered multiplied by largest number of stations in a single sector, plus twice the number of times you've crossed the river — then shuffle the deck, get a marker you haven't yet used, and start a new round.

    After four rounds, you score bonuses for stations that have been reached by two or more lines as well as the number of starred stations you've reached.

    As with many *-and-write games, Next Station: London is effectively a solitaire game. Our only interaction as players in the same game is to see how one another is scoring after a round, then...what? Make riskier moves for a bigger payout? Not really. You're all getting the same cards in the same order. I imagine that you can plan better when deciding which station to add to a line, but in many cases I had only one option — although perhaps that was due to earlier poor planning.

    I never felt like I was doing something clever — only incrementally gaining points bit by bit, then seeing who stacked them up better. The game had no arc, no rising tension, but felt flat from beginning to end. Keep in mind that I've played only once, but I'm indifferent as to whether I play again.

    The game includes two expansions: one that provides scoring objectives that all players can achieve, and the other gives a special power to each marker, such as using a flipped card twice or branching an extra time. Those powers would give you a little more to do, being one element that's unique to you (at least for the current round).

    • The final SdJ nominee is Dorfromantik: The Board Game, a design by Michael Palm, Lukas Zach, and Pegasus Spiele that adopts the Dorfromantik video game for tabletop play.

    The game consists of hexagonal task tiles and landscape tiles, along with task tokens valued 4, 5, and 6 and boxes of stuff that you will unlock over the course of many playings. To start, a player draws three task tiles one at a time, placing them into the tableau. Rivers and railroads must abut matching tiles, but a village or forest or wheat field can be cut off by something else — and often you want to do that because each time you reveal a task tile, you draw a task token of the matching type and place it on that tile.

    A forest task gets a forest token, for example, and to complete that task, that forest needs to be as many tiles as the number on the token. If this happens, place the token aside for points, then draw a new task tile next turn. As long as you have three task tiles in play, you draw a landscape tile on your turn, and if you need to draw a landscape and can't, the game ends — which means your challenge is to complete as many tasks as possible so that (1) you score more points and (2) you keep bringing more tiles into play, which probably helps you complete even more tasks.

    BGG's Candice Harris
    At game's end, you add up all the completed task tiles, score 1 point per tile for your longest river and longest railroad, and score 1 point per tile for closed areas that contain a flag. (Think cities in Carcassonne, which score as soon as they're surrounded by walls.)

    I played with my BGG News compatriot Candice Harris and a couple of other people, and we all wondered why we would want to play again. Dorfromantik: The Board Game is co-operative, but you have no hidden information or personal goal or unique powers, so the design is really a solitaire game with the actions divvied up among however many people are at the table. You can advise one another on where best to play a tile, but unless I have the tile deck memorized — and three landscape tiles are removed at random each game — your choices are probably just as good as mine, so why am I at this table?

    As with Next Station: London, Dorfromantik: The Board Game felt like it had no arc. I guess the idea is that the task tiles sort of have a lottery feel, and you ideally flip one over, place it where you can immediately score it, then flip another task tile, thereby racking up points quickly — but we didn't actually feel that during play.

    At game's end, you sum the points, then mark a certain number of spaces to advance up a branching path, unlocking boxes of new content when reach certain locations or achieve specific point totals. As you add new tiles, your scores will (probably) go higher, allowing you to hit new targets.

    BGG's Lincoln Damerst and Scott Alden
    BGG owner Scott Alden really likes Dorfromantik: The Board Game and invited me to play again, sure that we had done something wrong in my first game. We had not.

    I've never been a video game player, and I think Dorfromantik: The Board Game has more appeal to someone with that background, such as Scott, who worked in video game development before starting BGG. In this game and in many other games that can be played solitaire, you're challenged to hit a certain score to level up, unlock new powers, then take on bigger challenges — and I have no interest in that. I almost never play solitaire games, and when I do, I rediscover why I almost never play solitaire games.

    For a co-operative game, I want us all bringing something unique to the table, perhaps thanks to hidden info or player powers, so that together we can do something that wouldn't be possible on our own.

    • I'm bummed that all three 2023 Spiel des Jahres nominees are duds for me. Even if I'm down on one nominee, as was the case with Cascadia in 2022, I usually dig the other two, but not this year.

    To end on a positive note, let's talk about a game I played that I love — and no, not Mind Up! because I've already covered that game. Let's instead talk about Big Boss, Wolfgang Kramer's 1994 take on Acquire that Funko Games is reprinting in a somewhat modified form in 2023.

    Your goal in the game is to end up with more money than anyone else. Collectively you're establishing and growing businesses on a linear track numbered 1-72. Each time you start or add to a business, you earn money equal to the current share price, money that you often immediately plow into buying 1-2 shares of active companies on the board. If you have enough money, you can place a tower in the company HQ that counts as three shares of that company's stock.

    When a block is placed that connects two companies, the larger one consumes the smaller one. Anyone owning shares in the smaller company is paid out, then the value of that company is added to the larger one.

    Only three companies survived at game's end
    Thus, the two ways you earn money are (1) adding to a company and (2) having the value of your shares increase. Everyone starts with ten cards in hand from a deck that contains numbers 1-72, and you can buy more cards during play, whether face up from the market or face down from the deck.

    As people play cards and buy shares, you get a sense of who expects which businesses to grow and where — although sometimes you can see this more explicitly thanks to the purchase of face-up cards. (This is a change from the original game in which all purchased cards came from the top of the deck, although you can play that way if you wish.) Sometimes you're dealt a card or two that lies between two businesses, giving you a lever in deciding which one will survive — or whether a merger will never take place should you own shares in the smaller company. Your own share purchases will hint at what you're hoping to do, so ideally you can time a tower purchase or merger at just the right time to profit best.

    But even if you don't own shares in a giant business, you can make up to $50 million just by placing a block in it, and since the share price can never rise over $50 million, you can sometimes make out better than those who do own shares.

    I played Big Boss twice at BGG.Spring 2023 and loved it both times. I've played the original game ten times, and this new version is much the same, while being a little more forgiving in various ways. I plan to post a more detailed overview later, but in short I love how the game requires you to read others, make plans, gamble on the future, and react to changing fortunes. Everyone matters in determining the flow of the game and your actions shape what happens to everyone else, a trait I value in games. Read more »
  • Designer Diary: Autobahn

    by Fabio Lopiano

    Towards the end of 2019, Nestore Mangone and I attended a playtesting event in Verona, and there we started tinkering with the idea of designing a game together. After the event, Nestore came to visit me in Milano, where we spent a few days brainstorming game ideas.

    One of the first ideas that Nestore threw at me was to make a game about building the Autobahn, that is, Germany's highway system. It would be almost like a train game, but with highways instead of railways.

    We also joked about the fact that there are way more games by German designers set in Italy than games by Italian designers set in Germany, so we should try to balance the scales a bit.

    We started by setting design goals: We wanted to design a slightly heavier game than our previous ones, with some aspects of hand management and with an unusual scoring system. We didn't want to make a "point salad" game in which every action rewards you with some amount of victory points; we wanted instead for players to be more deliberate at how they would score points.

    One aspect of this theme that interested me was that, unlike in most train games where individual players own parts of the network, the Autobahn is public infrastructure and there would be no player ownership of the roads as they are built. This means that once a piece of road is built, we don't need to keep track of which player built it.

    This gives us the opportunity to use colors in a different way; we could have each highway be its own color, distinct from the player colors. Players would be able to build roads in any color. The game mechanisms should push players to work on different colors simultaneously, making it harder to focus on one highway at a time.

    The Map

    We looked at a current map of the Autobahn network and how it evolved over time from the end of World War II to the present day. The network was very interesting, with one main road going north-south being the only surviving Autobahn at the end of the war, and several other roads branching out from it and going west or east.

    More importantly, the unification of Germany in 1990 would make the map open up halfway through the game, with only the west side of the roads being built during the first half of the game and the east side becoming available in the second half.

    Autobahn map and first version of the board
    To simplify the map, we kept only the cities that were at the intersection of two or more highways. We also had to merge some shorter routes to keep the number of colors manageable.

    Initially, we decided to use eight colors, six of which were available from the start of the game, while the other two would enter play as the game progressed.

    At the time, the game was divided into five periods of fifteen years each. Players would gain a purple card (for the connecting highways) at some point between the second and the third period, and they would all gain a brown card (to use in eastern Germany) at the start of the fourth period.

    When we signed the design with Alley Cat Games, one of their requirements was to make the game more accessible by simplifying a few things and possibly shortening the length to two hours.

    Initially we went for a double-sided board, with an introductory map on one side that would play over three periods, while keeping the "full game" on the other side.

    Full game: eight colors, five periods, more roads, some links have three sections, and a few more connections to neighboring countries
    Intro game: this map was probably too simple, with only six neighboring countries
    Eventually we managed to streamline the game and make a single map that was somewhere between the two. We also moved some things out of the base game and into modular expansions, e.g., "Wine Delivery", which had been in the original game for a long time.

    "Goldilocks" map
    The Cards

    It took some time and several iterations before nailing down the card play.

    Initially we had a card for each city on the map in the color of the roads passing through those cities, and we had mostly a hand management system in which each turn, players would discard a number of different color cards in order to perform actions next to those cities, after which they would draw back an equal number of cards from a pool, with the cards they discarded entering the pool for the next player. This had various problems, but we kept it as a scaffolding until we nailed down a few other aspects of the game.

    The type of actions you could do with a card also evolved over time.
    Initially we had a more convoluted system in which players had concrete-mixing trucks moving around the map, along with a number of workers on their team that determined how many pieces of road they could build in a given turn.

    With a card action, you could take up a road piece of the given color (different color roads cost different amounts of money), lay down a road piece on the map next to your concrete mixer, hire new workers, and move your truck. Soon after we also added service stations as a side gig.

    Eventually, we simplified the road-building business by removing the concrete mixer and construction workers. At this point, the actual city on the card didn't matter. Also, we didn't have vehicles moving on the roads anymore, so we introduced trucks that would pick up goods in some cities and deliver them to neighboring countries.

    Evolution of a card from initial prototype to finished product
    Once we had defined the five main action types in the game, we changed the card play to what it is now, where you start with a hand of six different color cards and you play a card on an action slot in order to perform that action in the card color. We then added limits to how many cards you can play in a given slot, we defined how and when you would recall your cards into your hand, and we introduced ways to improve your cards or even gain new cards during the course of play.

    Driving on the Autobahn

    Early in the design process we decided that as we build the Autobahn, it would be fun if we could also drive on it — which basically meant that we needed some kind of pick-up-and-delivery mechanism.

    Germany is a net exporter, so we decided to focus mainly on international shipping. We looked at the major exports from Germany and picked a few that would fit our needs. When we thought of the major brands coming out of Germany, they fell mostly into a few categories: automobiles, chemicals, and appliances.

    We then had each neighboring country require a trade route with a source of these goods. Players would use a truck piece, moving it from a depot to a neighboring country in order to establish a trade route. In order to keep the current card play consistent, we decided to place a depot on the intersections of the black road with the colored roads. By playing a card matching either of the two roads intersecting at the depot, you would load the matching goods to your truck.

    It took a long time to find the right way to handle the truck movement, though. If we needed to play a card just to move a truck, trucks would move too slowly and also the whole game would slow down because those cards would not be used to build more roads. Moving automatically every turn, on the other hand, would have been not so interesting either.

    The really clever idea was to move your truck only after playing a card matching the road where the truck is currently located, so the movement is a side effect, regardless of which action you used that card for. This adds a whole new layer of planning to the game; once you have a truck on the road, you want to play your cards in the optimal sequence in order to reach your destination quickly, and make sure to move your truck so that it always ends its turn on a road whose color card you still hold in your hand.

    Another aspect that required quite a few iterations was how to reward a delivery. Initially we just had some bonus tiles to place during set-up on each country, tiles that provided a one-time bonus to the first player to deliver the specified goods to that country.

    This created some good tension, and players would race to gain those tiles. The second player, though, would have to find a new destination for their goods, which was often frustrating as maybe no other connected countries wanted their goods at the time.

    Moreover, the bonus should somehow be commensurate with the distance driven. For example, delivering some goods from Hamburg to Switzerland should be more rewarding than delivering the same goods to Denmark.

    Another problem was that we had different sets of delivery tiles; each set had six tiles, two for each good type, each with a one-time bonus (proportional to the distance from the closest depot of that good). We would randomly place a couple of tokens per country during set-up and add another random tile or two at the end of each period.

    This process was extremely fiddly and added a lot of time during set-up as you sorted and placed those tiles. Eventually we turned things around: Each player receives a different delivery table that maps countries to specific goods and rewards (which are commensurate with the distance), with random bonus tiles on the countries so that each player gets the bonus on their personal board when doing a delivery, but the fastest players also get one of the bonus tiles on the map. These bonus tiles are now completely random and don't need to be specific to goods or countries.

    Moreover, the delivery boards now push different players in different directions since they are more interested in connecting the countries that reward them with the better bonuses.

    In the earlier iterations, we had a way to also import goods into Germany, e.g., wine from France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Each player, at the start of the game, got a card telling them to deliver wine from one of these countries to one of the cities in East Germany. This provided another incentive for players to connect different eastern cities to the network.

    Once we conflated the "intro" and "full" games into a midway point, we moved this out of the game and into the "wine expansion".


    Among the initial design goals, we thought about some non-conventional ways of scoring. We didn't want to make a "point salad" game, and we also didn't want to simply have a "most money wins" approach, so we thought of something different. Given the setting, we tried an approach in which as you build a piece of highway, you gain a seat at the administration table for that highway, and over time your employees get promoted to more prestigious tables, climbing their way up the ladder of the organization. At the end of the game, the final score would be determined only by the value of the seats obtained by each player.

    Initially, we thought of the players as construction companies that would pick up contracts from the BundesAutobahn to build sections of roads, but after better defining the scoring, we decided to turn things around. Now players are actually managing directors within the BundesAutobahn organization, so they get assigned a certain budget for building the Autobahn, while they try to place their trusted employees in key places of the organization.

    Getting the right scoring mechanism, though, was quite difficult. At first we had a layered system of tables in which each table would have a certain number of seats and a fixed victory point value per seat. For example, seats at the bottom table would be worth 1VP each, seats at the table above it would be worth 2VP each, and so on.

    Each table would have fewer seats than the table below, and the top table would be the desk of the ministry of transportation, with just one seat. When a player managed to promote one of their employees to that table, the game would end.

    When an employee was pushed out of one of the color tables, they would move to the bottom table. If that table were full, then they would push another employee to the table above, and so on, eventually causing a long chain of promotions. This was problematic in various ways, and often the chain of promotions triggered by the building of a road section felt both random and very consequential.

    After various iterations, we settled for the current system in which we have a few different administration buildings, each one awarding points for different things you did during the game. We also linked the abilities you unlock in your player board to the rooms so that in order to access a room that rewards points for, say, building service stations, you need to first unlock a corresponding ability linked to service stations.


    I built a quick prototype right away, I kept refining it for a few weeks, and in January 2020 I managed to bring it to a nationwide playtesting meeting in Parma where I met again with Nestore and managed to play a few rounds of the game with some other Italian designers. It was still very early and there were lots of problems, but at least the game showed some promise.

    I had one more live playtest in Milan in mid-February, then the pandemic hit, and soon enough the whole country was in lockdown.

    Shortly after we started working with Tabletop Simulator. It took some time to learn the ins-and-outs, but eventually TTS became our primary platform for playtests. Nestore and I would meet online on an almost daily basis, playtesting and discussing changes.

    We participated in a number of virtual playtesting events and we met new players online willing to help us test the game. A lot of people, at the time, were locked at home 24/7 for a few months, and in that period it was pretty easy to find playtesters at every time of the day. It was not unusual to have a playtest with a group in the morning, make some quick changes to the prototype in the afternoon, then playtest again with a different group in the evening that same day.

    A digital playtest from July 2020
    By the middle of 2020, the game had gone through hundreds of tests and a lot of changes. It was as if a development time of a couple of years was compressed into a mere six months.

    We kept testing and tweaking the game for about another year, with some major changes in the first half of 2021 when Covid restrictions began to ease up and we started doing live playtesting again.

    Until that time we were playing two cards at a time each turn, but in live playtests that ended up creating too much downtime. The first live playtest of a full game took forever, so we quickly agreed on changing to playing only one card per turn. This was a big improvement and also introduced more tension on what you could do and improved a few dynamics on the game.

    A live playtest from August 2021
    We also added some limitations on how many bonuses could trigger within a single turn: only one delivery bonus at the start of the turn and one bonus token during the main action. This further reduced the downtime due to long chaining of bonuses. It also meant that any bonus obtained by completing a delivery would not be usable until the following turn.

    Alley Cat Games

    At some point in June 2020, I got a message from Caezar at Alley Cat, asking about any new games I was working on. I mentioned that I was working with Nestore on this big Eurogame about building the German autobahns, adding that it was probably not a good fit for their line, but he wanted to see it anyway, adding that they were planning on expanding their catalog and were looking for a medium-heavy Eurogame.

    The game we had at the time was probably a bit on the heavier side; with a larger map, eight color roads and five periods, it lasted between two and three hours.

    Nevertheless, Alley Cat was keen on making the game, and we signed the contract before the end of summer 2020, aiming for a Kickstarter sometime around the end of 2021 / start of 2022, with delivery by SPIEL '22.

    We kept working on the game for over a year, with some major changes in gameplay until summer 2021. Among the main changes, we reduced the number of cards to play per turn from two to one, we finalized the scoring by introducing the four different departments, and we moved some features out of the original game into the three mini-expansions.

    In October 2021, I was in Essen for SPIEL with the Alley Cat team where we demoed the prototype to lots of people.

    Shortly after Javier González Cava began working on the artwork for the game, illustrating a gorgeous board with a few easter eggs here and there (including the Messe building where the SPIEL takes place in Essen).

    After a successful Kickstarter campaign ending in May 2022, Alley Cat Games managed to get the game printed just in time for SPIEL in October, where I was happy to demo the game and sign several hundred copies to backers that had chosen to pick up the game there.

    The finished game at SPIEL '22
    With all of the other copies on their way to backers, the game finally hit the shelves in retail in May 2023.

    We had a lot of fun working on this game, and I still enjoy every time I play it. We hope you will enjoy it as well!

    Fabio Lopiano Read more »
  • Gloomhaven: Second Edition Is Coming in 2024

    by W. Eric Martin

    In December 2022, publisher Cephalofair Games announced Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, with the goal of designing it "to be cross-compatible with all of our previous board game releases". The press release included an April 2023 launch date on BackerKit for the RPG and a line of miniatures for use with all Cephalofair products, a launch date that has slid to June 20, 2023.

    But on top of the RPG and miniatures, Cephalofair Games' BackerKit crowdfunding project will also include Gloomhaven: Second Edition, a revised and updated version of Isaac Childres' 2017 blockbuster Gloomhaven.

    Cephalofair notes that the world, story, and gameplay remain the same in this edition of the game, but it will feature "rebalanced and redesigned mercenary classes, items, and scenarios, as well as brand new artwork, newly written narrative and events, updated miniatures, a new faction-based reputation system, and more".

    The project leads on this new edition are Drew Penn and Dennis Vögele, with the latter saying this in a press release from Cephalofair: "Drew and I have spent the last six years reading the community's feedback on all of the Gloomhaven games, so we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve with this project. We hope you enjoy playing Gloomhaven: Second Edition as much as we enjoyed working on it."

    All of the components, tiles, encounters, and whatnot in Gloomhaven: Second Edition will be compatible with Gloomhaven: Role Playing Game, as will the first edition of the game, so if you get a second copy of the game, you can play through it again to discover what's new, then use all the bits in the RPG. Of course, you might have no room in your home to play anything at that point, what with Frosthaven occupying half the bed and all, but I'm sure you'll make do.

    Cephalofair Games plans to produce Gloomhaven: Second Edition in early 2024 for release later that year. Given the extent of the changes across numerous components, an upgrade kit for Gloomhaven will not be sold separately.

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