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BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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Links: Wizards of the Coast Gets Sued, Refugees Get Games, and Carcassonne Gets Tabled

W. Eric Martin
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• Four judges of Magic: The Gathering tournaments have sued Magic publisher Wizards of the Coast in United States District Court as they claim that they have been employed as judges by WotC but not fairly compensated for their work. From the lawsuit (PDF):

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Plaintiffs and the putative class hereby seek compensation for unpaid minimum and overtime wages, missed meal and rest breaks, failure to timely pay wages, failure to furnish timely and accurate wage statements, failure to maintain accurate payroll records, unreimbursed business expenses, for interest and penalties thereon, and for reasonable attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938...

Wizards of the Coast has responded by stating that "These lawsuits are meritless." More fully:

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With the exception of the Pro Tour, the World Magic Cup, and the Magic World Championship, Magic events are run by tournament organizers and local game stores who directly engage judges. But these lawsuits claim that Wizards runs all events and that the people judging those events are Wizards employees. Anyone who has played at their local store knows this simply is not true.

Magic: The Gathering is fortunate to have the greatest community in gaming. Fans choose to become judges out of a sincere love of the game and as a way to enjoy their favorite hobby. They ensure events are fair and fun, and we appreciate everything they do.

On the "Legal Solutions" blog run by Thomson Reuters, Jeremy Byellin writes that "It's difficult to envision a scenario wherein a federal judge...somehow determines that these judges aren't employees of Wizards of the Coast" given a 2015 Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc. (BFI) ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Writes Byellin:

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Wizards undoubtedly controls the terms and conditions of the employment of these judges – even through the intermediaries of local tournament organizers – such that it would be considered an employer of Magic judges under BFI. Trying to redirect employment responsibilities onto local gaming stores simply won't work in court...

The problem for Wizards is that there is no way that judges would ever be legally considered "volunteers." There is a lot of regulatory guidance on this matter. Volunteers are those "who perform[] hours of service for a public agency for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered." Neither Wizards nor its local tournament organizers are public or non-profit organizations. And judges usually expect some kind of compensation for judging at events (although it's usually in the form of Magic products).

Kniziathons have been a thing for a while now, including a big one in 2015 for Reiner Knizia's 30th anniversary as a published game designer, and now Ward Batty has decided to do something similar for designer Wolfgang Kramer, with the first Kramerthon! taking place at Batty's Game-o-Rama event in Atlanta, Georgia on May 26-30, 2016. Lots of Kramer designs will be on hand for attendees, and prizes await both the person who plays the most different Kramer titles and the person who wins the most different games.

• Voting is open for the 2016 Deutscher Spiele Preis and all gamers are welcome to submit their votes here. You can vote for five games in the adult game category (with your #1 game receiving 5 points, your #2 game 4 points, etc.) and one game in the children's category. Whichever game receives the most points wins, with the winner being announced during Spiel 2016 in October. Voters can receive prizes based on being correct or through random draw.

• Germany has accepted more than a million refugees from Syria since 2014, and while the political fallout from this immigration is still ongoing (and beyond the scope of this blog), I can mention two game-related developments. First, designer/publisher Steffen Mühlhäuser of Steffen-Spiele has successfully crowdfunded a games project titled FIVE! (or Give Me FIVE!) to the tune of €38,000, with this being a collection of five games that can be played with the two sets of included tokens, with rules in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Tigrinya (in addition to German and English). The crowdfunded games will be given away to refugees and refugee centers — not sent to backers — and the sale of a copy through the Steffen-Spiele website funds the giving of another copy.

• For its part, AMIGO Spiel says that in response to a growing number of requests, it has created rulesheets in Arabic for a number of its games — such as Halli Galli, Klack!, and Ring L Ding.

• In late April 2015, German publisher Hans im Glück celebrated a world record game of Carcassonne in which three gamers from Sweden laid out 10,007 tiles in 25 hours. Here's a shot of the full layout, followed by a pan-and-scan video for those who prefer the eroticism of a slow reveal:


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Wed May 4, 2016 1:00 pm
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Thieves Join Five Tribes, and SeaFall Prepares to Set Sail

W. Eric Martin
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Bruno Cathala's Five Tribes debuted at Gen Con 2014, then The Artisans of Naqala expansion joined the game at Gen Con 2015.

For Gen Con 2016, publisher Days of Wonder will debut a mini-expansion for the game — Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala — with Europe seeing the release of this $6/€5 item in June 2016. Here's an overview of how these thieves get involved in the game:

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Naqala is now a prosperous place. Gaining the favors of the different tribes was not easy, and your rivals have not been discouraged by your success. In fact, some tribes have now abandoned your cause and rallied to your rivals instead, and you'll soon discover that these tribes follow influential leaders that your rivals hired against you. Every man has his price, though, so perhaps you can return the favor to your rivals — should you have what it takes to recruit the thieves of Naqala.

Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala is a mini-expansion of six thief cards and one new djinn that introduces a new element the base game to create a real thorn in your opponents' side. The djinn is shuffled into the deck with the other djinns and protects you from the effects of thieves. One thief card is revealed at random at the start of the game, and whenever someone would buy a djinn, they can purchase the thief card for the same price as the djinn. Each thief is associated with one of the tribes, and whenever you take an action with that tribe, you can choose to activate and discard the thief. If you do, everyone else must get rid of something — two resource cards, one tile they control, even a djinn or palace — after which you get to choose to keep something from all the discarded things.

For Gen Con 2017, the Five Tribes expansion will consist of a single word that Cathala whispers in your ear. No spoilers!

Three-sevenths of the components


Plaid Hat Games has opened preorders for the long-awaited SeaFall from designer Rob Daviau, with the game to be released in 2-5 months as it's "currently being assembled by our manufacturer".

PHG notes that some copies of SeaFall will be available at Gen Con 2016 in August, most likely ahead of the preorders being shipped, but those copies cannot be preordered and they won't include a package of metal coins that will be included with preorders and otherwise sold separately.

Sample captain and leader cards


Sample treasure and damage cards


Not nearly everything in the box
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Wed May 4, 2016 12:00 am
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Designer Diary: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis, or Blowing Up the World, One Card at a Time

Asger Sams Granerud
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My name is Asger Sams Granerud and with Daniel Skjold Pedersen, we are the designers of 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis. We want to share the journey of our game from idea, through development, into a game that you can now get your hands on! We hope you will enjoy the read...

What You Will Experience Playing 13 Days

13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis is a 45-minute game for two players highlighting USA vs. USSR during the most dangerous tipping point of the Cold War. Players take the role of either President Kennedy or Khrushchev. You have to navigate the crisis by prioritizing your superpower's influence across many different agendas. You want to push hard to gain prestige and exit the crisis as the perceived winner. But there is a catch as there always is: The harder an agenda is pushed, the closer you get to triggering global nuclear war which will lose you the game!

13 Hours: Driving Home from Essen

It was Monday, October 27, 2013, somewhere close to midnight. The massive board game fair in Essen, Germany had just finished, and the road trip back to Copenhagen was well under way. Sitting in the car were three tired aspiring game designers: me, Daniel (my co-designer) and a shared friend. Daniel also happens to be the guy who introduced me to Twilight Struggle a few years back. Unfortunately, we rarely get to play that brilliant game due to time constraints, which is doubly a shame as the game also improves with repeated play. It is not an easy game to pick up, but it offers a rich experience when you do. Though tired after a long week of talking about little other than games, we started discussing design ideas. The prolonged drive revealed that we had both had the same basic idea: How can we imitate the core experience of Twilight Struggle in a readily accessible package, lasting less than an hour?

The rest of the trip was used to flesh out this idea, and several design goals were locked in place before reaching Copenhagen later that night. The game had to be short and intense, with a constant threat of losing. We settled on the Cuban Missile Crisis as this was probably the highest profiled conflict of the entire Cold War. It also happened to be short and intense, which perfectly suited our narrative. We wanted to retain the constant agony of choosing between lots of lesser evils that Twilight Struggle does so well through its card-driven dilemmas.

13 Days: Building the Game

Almost half a year passed before Daniel and I managed to sit down and design the game. It was our first ever co-design process, so lots of things had to be learned from scratch. We discovered over time that we have different skill sets and experiences, but aligned goals and preferences. If you can find a co-designer like that, I can't recommend it enough!

Very early prototype drafts of the game board...

DEFCON track...

...and agenda cards

The following design sessions are almost a blur for me. So many things happened so quickly, and the exact chronology escapes me because most of them fell into place within a very short timespan. We wanted to work in multiples of 13 where possible, so we ended up deciding that the game should have 13 turns. Moreover there are 13 Agendas, and 39 Strategy Cards divided into 13 USA, 13 USSR, and 13 Neutral cards.

We actually ended up cutting some corners for the sake of gameplay and accessibility. The better game must win over dogmas when they collide! As a result, the 13 turns became 12 turns and a special Aftermath turn. Twelve was easier to divide into three rounds of 4, which lead to a hand size of five cards. (The fifth card isn't played but is fed into the 13th Aftermath turn.) One small thematic decision ends up having lots of unforeseen ripple effects. My experience a couple of designs later is that simply locking in a few aspects early on is a great way to get started. Assuming you are capable of killing your darlings, it is easy enough to change such dogmas at a later stage!

By this time we knew we would be using the dual nature of event cards from Twilight Struggle (i.e., the card-driven games or CDGs). All cards would be divided into three alignments (USA, USSR and Neutral), and each card would have the option of being played either for a basic Command (value 1-3) or for a unique Event that broke the core rules in different ways. If you played an opponent's event, he could get some benefit, despite it not even being his turn. What makes this experience work so well in Twilight Struggle is the fact that every play of a card is a dilemma. Their dual nature, and sometimes detrimental effects, means you often feel like you're doing an impossible balancing act. Often the winner ends up being the person timing card play to minimize negatives. It sounds simple but really isn't! Compared to TS we reduced the hand size and forced all cards to be played one way or another, ensuring that this core dilemma hits you from the first card in your first hand!


The first *pretty* prototype we created when our own test had confirmed the potential of the design and we needed outside playtesting

The scoring mechanism is central to any game. We wanted the entire feeling to be evocative of the tension from both the Cuban Missile Crisis and Twilight Struggle. Unfortunately we had few turns to achieve this since we also wanted a game playable in 45 minutes. This meant we couldn't rely on reshuffling the deck and having the same scoring cards surface several times as that would require too many turns to be feasible in a short game or such a small deck that it would hamper replayability. We therefore made three distinctive choices:

-----A) Each player picks a secret Agenda for the round, creating a partial bluffing game.
-----B) All scoring was based on pushing ahead on either Influencing specific Battlegrounds or Dominating DEFCON Tracks.
-----C) If your DEFCON Tracks are pushed too far, you risk losing the game immediately by triggering global nuclear war.

To make matters worse, the DEFCON tracks automatically escalate each round towards an end-game crescendo, and the Command action (the bread and butter of the gameplay) further escalates DEFCON. If you make small "non-threatening" Command actions, DEFCON stays put; if you make big heavy handed actions, the DEFCON track responds with equally wild swings. This can be beneficial if you rapidly need to deflate the DEFCON tracks, but more often it will be dangerous.

Rapid Prototyping

Ahead of the first design session, we agreed that we should be playing the game by the end of the evening. This forced us to do quick and dirty prototyping, knowing full well that all we had to test was the bare bones core mechanisms. No chrome, no nothing. We used a deck of playing cards to simulate the basic Command action, drew some different locations on an A4, and started pushing cubes around. By the end of that first evening two things were clear: 1) there was a worthwhile game to pursue and 2) testing further without the tension of the events was futile.

Thus, the ambition for the next design session was created. We had to make and test different events. We deliberately made more than we needed and removed some along the way, adding others. The events added the asymmetry and dilemmas we were hoping for, and experiencing the agony involved in deciding which cards to play when was a clear indicator we were on to something. You have only twelve cards to play during the entire game, so each decision is important. By that session, we were pretty sure that this game wasn't just interesting to us, but also relevant for a larger audience waiting to scratch that Twilight Struggle itch!

For the design interested people reading this, there are two things I really can't recommend enough:

I) Get yourself a design partner. Actually, any creative endeavor in life I've participated in benefits if you have someone you can throw ideas up against. An internet forum is a poor man's alternative as it can never be as responsive or involved as a co-designer who knows the ins-and-outs of the project as well as you do. Testing the core game also becomes much easier (assuming it isn't min. 3+ players). If you find the right person to co-operate with, I can't see any negatives to working in pairs!

II) Rapid prototyping. Try to play your game as quickly as possible. Find out whether your core idea has the spark to be interesting. Don't think about it; try it. Forget about balancing, artwork and UI. Instead try to define what you consider to be the core mechanisms, and test whether they are fun at all. Satisfaction from playing games is more psychology than mechanisms, and you have to be much more talented than I am to figure that out from the sketch board, so try it!

13 Months: Pitching and Developing the Game

Obviously that was just the game design. The development took much longer. Even though the core game hardly shifted from the design established in March 2014, the cards were continuously tweaked and the user interface was updated to make testing with outsiders more feasible. We physically kept track on each card, making marks on how often they were played for Events vs. Command as well as looking out for an opponent's willingness to play the card or delay it for the Aftermath. This proved to be immensely valuable as it allowed us to continuously monitor which cards were fine and which needed tweaking or removal. Taking notes on the physical prototype is another lesson we've brought to our later designs.

All events were tied to a historical event from the period, and short texts setting the mood were added. Card effects were aligned to fit the new event, and lots of streamlining happened.

The biggest design "problem" that pursued us throughout the project was how to handle the secret Agendas and the scoring mechanism. We've tried more than five different variants as we wanted to find a version that ensured the bluffing didn't become blind guessing. We needed enough revealed information to create informed choices, without giving away so much that it was meaningless. Some of our variants became pure guessing, others became almost full information, and naturally we wanted the sweet spot in-between.



Playtesting from different stages of development of the game

Thankfully a fast-paced two-player game is very easy to playtest when you're co-designing. Daniel and I could easily play a game in 30 minutes or less, and we thus managed to get many tests done. Obviously we also had to find external playtesters. We brought the game to two local conventions as well as several gaming groups. Finally, members of the Nordic Game Artisans also tested it and eventually gave it their seal of approval.

13 Days has received the Nordic Game Artisans seal of approval

Around that time, we started preparing for Spiel 2014 and contacting publishers to set up appointments. We brought a couple of other games as well, but knew that this game would likely require a niche publisher. Hence, we targeted our pitches at a much smaller group. One of them was Jolly Roger Games, which unfortunately wasn't attending Spiel. On the plus side, JRG's Jim Dietz wanted to review the game anyway and asked for rules and other relevant files. He consulted none other than Jason Matthews, co-designer of Twilight Struggle, and with his glowing endorsement proceeded. We sent a copy and his testing started, but he quickly asked that we reserve the game for him to decide by year's end!

We still ended up bringing the game to Spiel and pitching it to a few select publishers, with all involved parties being informed of the current situation, just in case. Thankfully Jim was impressed by the blind testing he had been doing himself, and after some consideration ended up pushing the big red button!

Prototypes assembled and packed for Spiel 2014

Final Thoughts

Both Daniel and I are really proud of the game we've designed and developed for you. Obviously it isn't a perfect realistic simulation of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 45 minutes, but we do feel it simulates core elements of it very well. Each player has to participate in several interconnected subgames: both a poker bluffing game of trying to mask which agendas are really important to them while uncovering your opponent's and a real world chess game of applying political, military and media influence across the globe. The conflict is constantly escalating and even though you don't want to slow down, you will often find yourself backpedaling to avoid the threat of global nuclear war. Finally, the stressful choices available to each president are effectively mirrored by the dilemmas forced upon you each round in which all cards must be put to use one way or another — even the bad ones.

13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis turned out exactly as hoped, providing a great introductory political conflict game. The classic fans of the genre in general, and Twilight Struggle in particular, will find a meaty filler. Meanwhile, newcomers will find an accessible introduction as the bluffing, the luck of the draw, and a capped scoring ensures that you're never too far behind to make a comeback — and even if you fail, you can always rewrite history in another 45 minutes!

If you're interested in hearing much more about the game, read our Sidekicking blog on BGG, which includes a series of mini-designer diaries (MDD) written while the Kickstarter was running in 2015 that delve into the nitty-gritty details of the design process!

At the Spielwarenmesse fair in Nürnberg, Germany, with the first printed copy. Look at that footprint!
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Tue May 3, 2016 1:00 pm
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The Complaints in Spain Stay Mainly in Pandemic Iberia

W. Eric Martin
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As I noted in April 2016, Z-Man Games plans to hold the 2016 Pandemic Survival World Championship in Barcelona, Spain, and in an entirely not coincidental turn of events, Z-Man will also release a special version of Pandemic to coincide with that event. Here's an overview of Pandemic Iberia, coming from designers Jesús Torres Castro — editor of the Spanish gaming blog Jugamos Tod@s — and original Pandemic designer Matt Leacock:

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Welcome to the Iberian Peninsula! Set in 1848, Pandemic Iberia asks you to take on the roles of nurse, railwayman, rural doctor, sailor, and more to find the cures to malaria, typhus, the yellow fever, and cholera.

From Barcelona to Lisboa, you will need to travel by carriage, by boat, or by train to help the Iberian populace. While doing so, distributing purified water and developing railways will help you slow the spread of diseases in this new version of Pandemic.

Discover a unique part of the world during a historically significant time period: the construction of the first railroad in the Iberian Peninsula during the Spring of Nations.

Z-Man Games notes that Pandemic Iberia, due out Q4 2016, is a "Collector's Edition" and as such it "will have a one-time only print run". The publisher has also released this teaser video that highlights a few differences of this design from the original game:

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Mon May 2, 2016 10:30 pm
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Game Overview: ButaBabel, or Rising to the Occasion

W. Eric Martin
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Since I'm on my way to Japan at the moment to cover Tokyo Game Market, I thought it appropriate to cover one of the three games that I managed to acquire from the Kobe Game Market that took place in February 2016.

ButaBabel is a card game for 3-5 players from designer Yuo and design circle Kocchiya that consists of only a few rules and plays in only a few minutes. I'm fascinated by Japanese game design minimalism — not that all Japanese game designers exhibit this trait in their creations, mind you, but many do. The games feel like cotton candy in your mouth, almost disappearing as you play them — yet you know something's there, so you try them again and again, curious to find out how the thing works.

I know that a lot of people put an emphasis on playing games for fun, but I lean toward playing games to discover what designers have created. Fun is a good thing, sure, but my concept of fun and yours might not overlap, and in many cases I find fun in the exploration of the game as an artistic object more than an activity. The possibilities of what a game can be are huge, and I love exploring them!

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Mon May 2, 2016 5:00 pm
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On the Road Again...

W. Eric Martin
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I'm headed to the Tokyo Game Market once again, with this show taking place on May 5, 2016. I've created a GeekList preview to highlight some of the titles that will debut at that show or be available there (while being generally unavailable anywhere else), but I regret to say that this preview isn't up to the standard set by past TGM Previews. Travel — both for work and family — has eaten into available time, so in the time that I have had, I've focused more on posting on BGG News about games that will be available to a wider audience.

I'm taking the video camera and have already contacted some individuals about recording game overviews for titles at TGM. I'll also be posting pictures from the show, but probably not while the show is underway since TGM lasts only seven hours, and you need every minute available to photograph games, talk with people, and spot all of the stuff that you never would have imagined spotting earlier.

Following TGM, I'll be on the road for an additional nine days, taking an honest-to-goodness vacation for once — mostly because (1) I'm unlikely to have Internet access and (2) my boss has promised that I'm not on assignment during this trip. Yes, I had to get that statement in writing. I'll still be scouting for games during this trip, but just for fun — not for work.

To keep things going on BGG News since I'll have limited Internet access or none at all while traveling, I've scheduled designer diaries, game overview videos, round-ups of older (yet previously uncovered) games, and a links round-up or two. If possible, I'll jump online to post about newly announced games or round up pictures from TGM, but if not, I'll see you back in this space in mid-May. Be good in the meantime, and treat your fellow players better than they treat you!
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Mon May 2, 2016 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: All's Fair in Food and War

Dustin Schwartz
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Thunderworks Games is adding a third title to its catalog with Blend Off!, a real-time dice game from designer Scot Eaton. This is Scot’s first published design, but you may know him for his work creating fan expansions for both Catan and 7 Wonders. Well, here’s my own fan expansion idea for Blend Off!: play the game with a theatre-size box of Runts candy, and then eat your smoothie creations as you complete them. I take no responsibility for any sugar comas induced in this way. (KS link)

• The original race for the galaxy occurred in the skies just over our planet during the Cold War, and that struggle is represented on the tabletop in Space Race: The Card Game from Marek Loskot and Jan Soukal, first-time designers who also decided to navigate the frontier of self-publication. If you’re a fan of real space race history or card games where discovering synergies is the meat-and-potatoes of the gameplay, this might be the offering for you. I just have one question: does it come in a retort pouch? (KS link)

• Nearly three years ago, Rikki Tahta’s Coup was funded on KS and published by Indie Boards & Cards, and it would go on to become one of the seminal designs in the twin genres of microgames and bluffing games. Fast forward to early 2014 and the storm of excitement kicked up when images appeared online of the localized Brazilian edition published by FunBox Jogos, reskinned with new illustrations from Weberson Santiago. Now, IB&C is bringing that reskin to their core audience in a limited edition that also incorporates expansion elements from Coup: Reformation. (KS link)

• Following the trajectory of Star Realms before it, the two-player deck-building game Helionox: The Last Sunset is getting a standalone expansion set. This new set from Mr. B Games and designer Taran Lewis Kratz, dubbed Helionox: Mercury Protocol, can also be combined with the original to allow for three- and four-player games (in both competitive and co-op modes). For anyone wondering, scenarios like this are why publishers will sometimes add seemingly unnecessary subtitles to their releases; they’re future-proofing against potential confusion as they expand a product line. (KS link)

Artana’s stock is on the rise thanks to lots of folks being excited about the ambitious new legacy game system in development, but their current hit Tesla vs. Edison is no slouch either, selling out its first print run and precipitating the Powering Up! expansion. This expansion, from designer and Artana founder Dirk Knemeyer, has an array of modules of the plug-and-play variety, including solitaire mode, an events deck, and sixth-player support. Perhaps more importantly, some of the additions are designed to make secondary strategies as viable as pouring all your energy into stock portfolios. (KS link)

• Creating a card game about kawaii-faced sushi is certainly a bold move, given the dominant market presence of Sushi Go!, but that’s exactly what Vanessa Simek is doing with Sushifuda. If you can get past the superficial similarities, though, you’ll find a different sort of gameplay. As the name implies, the game is essentially a deck of Hanafuda cards, which can be used to play a number of traditional Japanese card games, but Sushifuda focuses on the Sakura variation, which is about making matches. (KS link)

• What do heroes do with their time off? The answer to that question provided the thematic backdrop for Epic Resort, released in 2014 by designer Ben Harkins through Floodgate Games. But whoever said there ain’t no rest for the wicked? Epic Resort: Villain’s Vacation is an expansion for the original deck-building game, and has you creating getaways for vampires, witches, and other archetypal bad guys like you’re writing a script for Hotel Transylvania 3. Truly, catering to such a diverse clientele must be frazzling for all but the most steadfast proprietors. (KS link)

• Over in Valeria, nobody’s resting on their laurels, because there are quests to be undertaken! Quests of Valeria represents Daily Magic Games and designer Isaias Vallejo’s third foray into this fantasy world. Here, completing quests is a matter of having the right combination of citizen cards in hand, which are gained via a conveyor belt system of depreciating cost (a la Small World). Many of these quests involve violence, so let’s hope that blades made of Valerian steel are as strong and true as their Valyrian counterparts. (KS link)

• Some miniatures games storm onto the KS scene, and others crawl in at the ground level, fighting for scraps left behind by the giants. The latter scenario may be an apt descriptor for Picnic Panic, which pits players as rival ant tribes, all bent on pillaging those red-and-white-checkered pantries du jour. Stonegate Forge is the design and publication team behind this grid-based battle game. In keeping with the theme, the rules encourage players to offer up actual food items as stakes for the win. Turn your next picnic into the Hungerdome! (KS link)

• Never would have thought I’d be writing about a luxury vehicle in one of these articles, but that’s exactly what the Game Canopy is: sumptuous transportation for your cardboard wealth. The folks at Level 3B have produced a state-of-the-art product unlike anything this industry has yet seen. Innovative features and rugged construction make it the bag to end all bags (and, like Bag End, it could likely fit a hobbit). The Game Canopy carries a hefty price tag but is an heirloom-quality product. I won’t need any other game bag for the next decade. (KS link)



Editor’s note: Please don’t post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I’ll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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Mon May 2, 2016 2:00 am
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Links: Making a Fortune While Going Broke, Crowdfunding as Art, and the 2016 Dice Tower Award Nominees

W. Eric Martin
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• The old joke goes: How do you make a small fortune in the game industry? Start with a large fortune, then try to publish a game. Note that this same joke is told about the wine industry, real estate, book publishing, football clubs, and any number of other businesses in which people can burn through piles of money with little to show for it, which includes every business ever — but despite the joke's chestnutty woodiness, it still contains a nugget of truth, especially when you sabotage yourself on your way to that large fortune.

On Geek & Sundry, Ben Riggs catalogs the fortunes of Chaosium Inc., which collected more than a half-million dollars on a Kickstarter project for the seventh edition of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game — only to discover after the fact that the very success of that KS would lead to a disastrous outcome for the company. After all, when you lose money on each customer, runaway success only heightens those losses.

The problems started with an earlier KS for a new edition of the Call of Cthulhu campaign Horror on the Orient Express, which brought in ten times the $20k goal that Chaosium had established, but without covering the costs required to fulfill what was promised to backers. From the article: "The previous management only charged international backers $20 to ship a ten pound game. The actual cost of shipping was vastly higher, sometimes as much as $150 for backers in Japan. [Current Chaosium president Rick] Meints said that this Kickstarter alone likely lost Chaosium $170,000." What's more:

Quote:
The Call of Cthulhu Kickstarter compounded these problems...

The magnitude of the error can be seen in a simple glance at the shipping. At the "Nictitating Nyarlathotep" level of pledge, backers would end up having eight books shipped to them. International backers had to pay a total of $355 for all their rewards plus shipping, which sounds like a lot, until you consider that's only $15 more than customers in the continental US were paying. The idea that shipping eight books to Japan would cost a mere $15 more is a madness not even Lovecraft could have conceived.

As described in the article, in June 2015 Chaosium founder Greg Stafford and Call of Cthulhu creator Sandy Petersen took over from the former owners and preceded to shell out a bunch of their own money in order to make things right.

Bottom line: If you plan to run a crowdfunding campaign, do your homework, figure out what shipping will cost you, and account for that cost in what you charge. Don't promise the moon and a ham sandwich when you've budgeted solely for the sandwich.

• For another perspective on crowdfunding, Byron Collins of Collins Epic Wargames invites you to consider "4 Reasons Why Every Kickstarter Project Is a Work of Art". To do this, Collins applies four statements about art to the crowdfunding projects themselves — that is, the presentation of the project, not the product itself. The statements in question:

—Art ignites emotion.
—"Good" art is well thought out.
—Any piece of art has a limited time to make an impression.
—Every piece of art invites judgment.

Quote:
I've visited a lot of big name galleries — most recently The Met and The Guggenheim in NYC — and seen countless works of art by artists across many centuries in many different styles. But, I can honestly say I probably spent no more than 1 minute on each piece of art, if that... Some of these artists spent years creating whatever you're looking at for 1 minute.

The same is true with any Kickstarter project. Someone who clicks a link to your project page has no idea how much time went into that presentation, that work of art, but, they know within 30 seconds if they are interested enough to read more or watch your video.

• The Dice Tower has announced the nominees for its eponymous Dice Tower Gaming Awards in fourteen categories, including best game from a new designer, best artwork, best game reprint, best game theming, and best small publisher. Each category has five nominees, as chosen by a jury of Dice Tower staff and prominent bloggers and reviewers, except for the "game of the year" category, which features these ten nominees: 7 Wonders: Duel, Blood Rage, Codenames, Elysium, The Gallerist, Mysterium, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, Roll for the Galaxy, T.I.M.E Stories, and The Voyages of Marco Polo. The winners will be announced at the Dice Tower Convention in July 2016.

• In The New Yorker, Siobhan Roberts profiles "The Dice You Never Knew You Needed", i.e., the d120, which was created by Robert Fathauer and Henry Segerman of The Dice Lab and which debuted at the 2016 Gathering for Gardner. An excerpt: "The d120 is a polyhedron, more specifically a disdyakis triacontahedron, a geometric creature first described by the French-Belgian mathematician Eugène Catalan in 1865..." Ignoring the technical name, the d120 looks like a dodecahedron that has had each face replaced with an object created by ten skinny triangles that meet at a single point. A longer excerpt from The New Yorker article:

Quote:
The die's most winning property lies in its being numerically balanced: the face numbers are spread out evenly, such that any two opposing sides sum to a hundred and twenty-one. Each of the die's sixty-two corners boasts equanimity, too. (A vertex at which ten triangles meet, for instance, sums to six hundred and five, which is ten times the average of all the numbers on the die.) All this fine-tuning was courtesy of Robert Bosch, a professor at Oberlin College who uses mathematical optimization techniques to create art. Bosch spent nearly two months running various accelerated brute-force computations (a process called integer programming), trying to get everything in sync. He almost abandoned two especially tricky vertices, which couldn't be made to coöperate, but past his deadline he made one last-ditch effort. He coded a script, let the program run, and came back a few hours later to discover that his computer had stopped. "It had either crashed or found a perfect solution," Bosch said. Lucky day, it was the latter. "It was a great feeling. And it was kind of ridiculous how good a feeling it was, because it's not practical. It's just a cool object, a beautiful object. I really love it, but it's not Earth-changing."


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Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:00 pm
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Stonemaier Games Founds a Village with Charterstone

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For the most part, legacy games have presented players with extreme situations — global warfare, global pandemics, the dawning of civilization, a shortage of furry costumes — but designer Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games is taking a different approach with a legacy design of his own, one that isn't so doomy and gloomy.

In Charterstone — which carries a 20-60 minute playing time for 1-6 players — players compete to populate a village, a village that starts off with almost nothing, but which becomes larger, with more options available, in subsequent games. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
The prosperous Kingdom of Greengully, ruled for centuries by the Forever King in the increasingly overpopulated capital city, has issued a decree to its citizens to colonize the vast lands beyond its borders. For those who heed the call, the king has sent thousands of scouts into the wilderness to pick the best areas and claim each one with an iconic Charterstone. It is to one such new village that you arrive with your friends and competitors, each of you hoping to create the greatest legacy for your guild.

In Charterstone, a competitive legacy village-building game, you construct buildings and populate a village shared by all players and their workers. Buildings are permanently added to the game board and become action spaces for any player to use both in the current game and during subsequent playings. Thus, you start off with simple choices and few workers in the first couple of games, but soon you have a bustling village with dozens of possible actions.

Before each game, one advancement will be revealed, unlocking a new rule, card type, or component for all subsequent games. These advancements are grouped into chronological eras but are randomized within each era, creating a unique storyline for your copy of Charterstone. Random events within each era require players to make group decisions that will later haunt or help the village.

A game of Charterstone ends when players have placed all of their workers, at which point end-game victory points (VP) are scored. The player with the most VPs wins.

A copy of Charterstone will net players a total of 24 games within a campaign, though the village you create remains functional for subsequent plays.

Stegmaier notes that Charterstone is still under development (so perhaps that gloom will show up after all), but the game will likely have a preorder or Kickstarter campaign before the end of 2016 for release in 2017.

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New Game Round-up: Agricola Unwrapped, From Stars to Heroes, and a Double Dose of Adventure Time

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• I'm late to the party on this announcement, but White Wizard Games plans to launch a Kickstarter project "soon" for Hero Realms, a fantasy-themed deck-building game that's based on their own Star Realms game from Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty. Hero Realms will have character-specific expansion packs and a way to play against the game in campaign mode in order to level up your character.

Adventure Time Card Wars: Doubles Tournament, due out June 2016 from Cryptozoic Entertainment, is a team version of Adventure Time Card Wars as Jake and Charlie face off against Grand Prix and Moniker with new decks and special Teamwork cards that can give you and your partner a benefit turn after turn.

• Designer MJE Hendriks, known for Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, is founding his own publishing house. While he's commissioned artwork for his initial release, he hasn't yet revealed details about it, mostly because he's still trying to nail down what he should name the publishing house. He invites your suggestions here.

• After tweeting the message below, designer Antoine Bauza noted later that Takenokids will be a standalone game for young players, not a second expansion for Takenoko. Adorable tiny pandas incoming!


• UK publisher Backspindle Games is printing a new multilingual version of Leonard Boyd and David Brashaw's Codinca to debut at the UK Games Expo in June 2016, with new publishing partner Ninja Division picking up the titles for U.S. distribution.

Agricola fanboi Tony Boydell received an advance production copy of Mayfair Games' new version of Uwe Rosenberg's industry-changing game design courtesy of artist Klemens Franz, with whom Boydell has worked on his own Snowdonia, and Boydell promptly posted many, many pictures of this new version of Agricola on his BGG blog.

Clearly this version will need a separate listing in the database after all, despite it being the same game at heart. Frustrating! We still need to figure out a way to list such new editions in a separate but equal way, despite history showing that "separate but equal" is a terrible policy that's unworkable in the long run. Its use probably isn't comparable to a situation in which you're cataloguing items in a database, but the phrase came to mind anyway. Okay, I should probably stop now.


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Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:30 am
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