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W. Eric Martin
• Have you seen Simon Tofield's animated shorts of Simon's Cat on YouTube? I have not, but millions of others have, including Samuel Mitschke and Randy Scheunemann from Steve Jackson Games, who have now designed Simon's Cat: The Card Game, due out in 2016. In this simple card game, you try not to catch Simon's attention in order to avoid Blame. That is all.
• Upper Deck Entertainment has published a long illustrated preview of Legendary: Secret Wars – Volume 2, due out Dec. 9, 2015, that highlights a new mastermind, two villains who can become a mastermind, new heroes, new keywords, and a fluffy pink cat.
• We also have some details of Ryan Miller's Pack of Lies from Upper Deck, which was announced at Gen Con 2015 and is described somewhat below:
Pack of Lies takes place in a "noir fantasy" world that is based around lies and deceit. Each player is on a grim quest to clear their name. They must gather a gang of characters that will either use treachery and deceit or bash some skulls until they get to the truth.
The gameplay of Pack of Lies lets players choose to either work with or against other players to clear their name throughout the game; whatever best suits their purpose at any given time. The characters in the game can also help out a number of players at once. Be careful, though — the fate of a character within the game is sure to affect multiple players in the game.
Work with or against the different factions within the city including The Church, The Cops, The Syndicate/Mob, Enchanters, and Dragonclan.
• Portal Games has picked up the English-language rights for My Happy Farm, a game about feeding ever-lengthening animals from Mysterium designers Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko that first appeared in English in 2013 from the now-defunct 5th Street Games. For this edition, due out Q1 2016, Portal has tweaked some of the rules and artwork.
• Were Airfix military models a part of your young life? They weren't a part of mine as (1) I wasn't brought up in the UK and (2) I didn't play with military toys, but Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment had a far different experience from mine, playing with them over and over again and eventually developing rules to play games with them.
Now Birch, along with Alan Paull and Nick Fallon, have designed Airfix Battles, due out April 2016, to serve as an introductory World War II game. The game includes die-cut cardboard components, giving you the option of integrating Airfix models of your own into the missions presented in the box. Modiphius plans to release additional Force Decks and the more involved Airfix Battles Collector's Edition in mid-2016.
W. Eric Martin
• On League of Gamemakers, designer/publisher Christian Strain gives examples of how to design "board games efficiently for cost". An excerpt:
Every punchboard component for every game is different. That means that every time a game is printed, at least one new die-cut tool is made for the punchboard components. The trick here is to keep it to only one die-cut.
When I was getting Evil Intent
printed, I didn't realize this. I created two different punchboard designs: one for money, and the other for markers. If I had taken the two different components and combined them on one design, then I would have only paid for one die-cut instead of two.
I thankfully learned this lesson when I printed Asking for Trobils
, making all four punchboards the same cut.
When I open a game that contains inefficiently produced punchboards as described above, I can't help but view the producer as an amateur and become suspicious of the game in question.
• In a 2,300-year-old tomb in China, "archaeologists found a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them, and a broken tile which was once part of a game board", according to Owen Jarus on Live Science. The article notes that researchers suspect the pieces are from a game titled "bo" or "liubo" that hasn't been played in more than 1,500 years.
• Following the Carcassonne tournament at Spiel 2015, Hans im Glück donated €6,000 — fifty cents per point scored, rounded up to the nearest thousand — to the University of Duisburg-Essen for projects intended to help fund creative integration projects for refugees, such as language acquisition programs.
• Speaking of Spiel 2015, NPR ran a short story on the convention on its Morning Edition program in Oct. 2015, with Tiffany Ralph, a.k.a. TheOneTAR (and now Tiffany Caires following a recent marriage), providing a few details as to why gamers were headed to Essen, Germany.
• Designer Mark Major makes a case for dumping the terms "Euro" and "Ameritrash" in favor of objective and descriptive terms that better describe the elements within a game — although his descriptions focus almost entirely on the mechanisms of gameplay, which is reductionism of another sort.
• It's been three years since a trio of ex-BioWare video game developers ran a KS campaign for The Banner Saga, an award-winning RPG set in Viking culture. The game's now made the leap to analog, with The Banner Saga: Warbands coming from MegaCon Games and designers Brian Shotton and Kenny Sims. This is the same team behind Myth, one of the most polarizing — and lucrative — KS games of 2014. Looks like they've learned a thing or two because this time they've made the final rulebook available to backers during the campaign. (KS link)
• "64 miniatures" and "2 rondels" are phrases you wouldn't typically expect to see next to one another in a game's description, but that's the case for Perdition's Mouth: Abyssal Rift. It's a dark fantasy co-op dungeon crawl, but manages to pull off a diceless combat system, thanks to those rondels. The game was designed by Timo Multamäki of Dragon Dawn Productions, and both Thomas Klausner and Kevin Wilson (yes, that Kevin Wilson) have lent their development skills to the project. (KS link)
• Ants have long been a metaphor for industriousness, which makes the running of an ant colony prime territory for a strategy game. Maxime Tardif's BrilliAnts capitalizes on the idea, allowing players to run their own economic systems while trying to avoid predators. Sphere Games canceled their first campaign and relaunched with a lower price point. The pun in the English title is groanworthy, but the title of the French-language version, Fourmidable, is really quite clever. (KS link)
• There are those who say that the deck-building mechanism has run its course, had its day in the sun. But there are some designers who are still getting mileage out of it, and Jeff Lai is one of them. He's created Draconis Invasion, tinkering with elements of the standard DBG formula and wrapping it in a medieval fantasy setting. Other publishers should take note of what Jeff has done in communicating what sets his game apart from others in the genre. It's always reassuring to know that a creator is aware of their context. (KS link)
• Since the early days of KS back in 2011, Jeff Siadek has been running lo-fi campaigns for his own designs under his Gorilla Games label, but Palaces marks his first foray into deck-building. As Jeff notes, there's something innately satisfying about building (LEGO has been in on that secret for a long time), which is why this game involves constructing palaces via vertical stacking of blocks that must be won via auction. (KS link)
• Wongamania: Banana Economy from designer Xeo Lye has an interesting origin story. It was developed in collaboration with the Stock Exchange of Malaysia, as an educational effort to teach university students about economics. The world of finance has taken a shine to the game and helped to build its international profile. Publisher Capital Gains incorporated lots of feedback from its first edition, which had a limited print run, and is hoping to take the game global in this KS campaign. (KS link)
• Glenn Drover, one of the most prominent names in game design from a decade ago, has been making something of a comeback lately. He's running a KS campaign for Victory and Glory: Napoleon, to be published under his own Electric Games studio imprint. The game will also see digital release for the PC from Slitherine. I'd imagine the strategically generic "Victory and Glory" moniker means that if the game is successful, we'll see more games from Glenn using this same system. (KS link)
• The first of two projects in this article to feature an exclamation point in the title is All Hands on Deck! from Salamander Games. Designers Chad Scott and Josh Fry are bringing this game back to KS just over a year after their first launch foundered. The quick pitch? It's blind bidding with a 108-card deck, themed with some light-hearted piratical yo-ho-hoing. One can never have enough excuses for playing Alestorm songs on repeat during game night, I say. (KS link)
• As it turns out, publisher Button Shy is no longer box shy, taking a break from the expanding line of wallet games to run a campaign for You're Fired!, a light card game designed by Doug Levandowski that has drawn favorable comparisons to Love Letter. Light fillers make for excellent lunchtime gaming fare, but a hilarious first-player rule might give you pause before pulling this out when your boss is within earshot: "The player with the most soul-crushing job goes first." (KS link)
• Arcadia Quest is currently the highest ranked game in the BGG database from KS juggernaut publisher Cool Mini Or Not, so it should come as no surprise that it's receiving a standalone expansion, following Zombicide as only the second CMON title to merit a sequel. Arcadia Quest: Inferno, designed by Eric M. Lang and the same team of developers behind the original, provides more of the same but innovates with the addition of a branching campaign system. Oh, and there are chibi demons. (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
W. Eric Martin
At Tokyo Game Market in May 2015, I was introduced to many Japanese designers, publishers, and other game industry folks by Ken Shoda, who served as both guide and translator. I had met Ken at BGG.CON 2012, and both of us being huge Knizia fans, we hit it off and have stayed in touch about this-and-that since then, with our paths also crossing at Spiel each year.
Like many gamers, Ken has multiple game ideas burning in his head, and his first published design, Glaisher, was released by Spanish publisher nestorgames in March 2015. The name "Glaisher" comes from mathematician James Whitbread Lee Glaisher, and Glaisher's theorem relates to the partition of integers — that is, the separation of integers into smaller units with each of those units being themselves integers. Shoda teaches mathematics and English, and he says that the design started as a trick-taking game before morphing into its current form.
In the two-player game Glaisher, your goal is to connect opposite sides of the hexagonal playing space with a continuous chain of your pieces. Each player starts with three stacks of six tokens on the game board, with the tokens having yellow on one side and red on the other.
On a turn, a player moves one of their stacks of three or more tokens by partitioning that stack into two or more stacks — each with a unique number of tokens — and moving each of those stacks away from the original stack's location a number of spaces equal to the number of tokens in the new stacks. Since you start with three stacks of six tokens, your first move is to split a stack into two stacks (1 and 5, or 2 and 4) or three stacks (1, 2, and 3).
When you do this, if by moving you'd land a new stack on one of your own stacks, you simply place all of these tokens in a single stack. If you would land a new stack on one of the opponent's stacks, you can do so only if the stack you're moving contains at least as many tokens as the stack on which you would land; if this moving stack has fewer tokens, then you must make a different move. When you land a stack on an opponent's stack, you flip that opposing stack to your color.
After taking a turn, you take a spare token from the bag and place it on any empty space.
To make this explanation clearer, let's look at a few pics that I took today while playing against Ken, who teaches mathematics and English:
After my first turn
After Ken's first turn
One of the familiar elements of Glaisher compared to other abstract strategy games is how you can bait your opponent with a move that they'll want to counter, but which will only backfire if they do. Ken placed his single piece next to the three-stack that I moved on my first turn, and while I could split that three-stack into a 1 and 2 to capture it, he could then immediately recapture by moving his six-stack on the right-hand edge of the game board. Therefore, I needed to leave that piece alone, at least for now.
Another element that seems familiar is the need to play into the "holes" of the other player — that is, to make a move to which they can't possibly respond, such as place a stack of two tokens two spaces away from the opponent's four-stack. Since a stack can't be split into stacks of even height, a four-stack can be split only into stacks of 1 and 3 — which means that your two-stack can't be captured by that four-stack.
Many turns into the game
As the game progressed, I was reminded of wonderful games like YINSH and DVONN, games in which your progress toward victory works against you by limiting what you can do on future turns. In YINSH, for example, you need to create three rows of five rings in order to win, but each time you create such a row, you must remove those pieces from the game board, thereby weakening your future ability to create another row.
In Glaisher, you want to spread out your pieces since you're trying to create a chain of tokens that goes from one side of the board to the other (with a corner space counting for both adjacent sides), but the more that you spread out your pieces, the fewer stacks you have available to move since only stacks with three or more tokens can be split — and if you can't split and move a stack on your turn, then you lose. Progress toward victory creates a handicap toward future progress, but in a natural way that's integral to the gameplay and not tacked on as a catch-up mechanism.
Victory for red!
One other element to the game that becomes apparent only after the first few turns is that each move you make voids a space on the game board that you previously controlled. If you're trying to create a chain of tokens, but you need to remove that stack to make progress on the chain, then you've just punched a hole in that chain. Yes, you can use your end-of-turn token placement to fill that hole, but a single token doesn't provide much defense since it can be covered easily.
My thanks to Ken for teaching me Glaisher, as well as DuploHex (another nestorgames release and yet another different take on the connect-the-sides challenge of Hex), while guiding me and my wife and son around Kamakura, which was considered to be the capital of Japan for a short time in the 1100s and 1200s. Ken will be demoing and selling Glaisher at Tokyo Game Market on Nov. 22, 2015.
If I learned nothing else today, I now know that playing a game that superficially resembles Go in front of the Great Buddha is a wonderful way to catch a woman's eye...
W. Eric Martin
• Designer Kelsey Domeny explains why gamers should stop hating on Monopoly:
I think we gamers and game designers can jump too quickly to scoffing at mainstream games. But we owe a lot to them. Monopoly really is a bridge from the world of no games to the world of hobby games. If we are to grow our industry, we must be willing to sit down with people who love Monopoly and enjoy a game of Monopoly with them. When we start where they are comfortable and show them we can have fun on their turf, they will be more likely to try our "gateway games" and enter into the world of clever design and cool mechanics.
Don't dismiss people because of what they play; invite them to your table because they do play. Perhaps by playing together you can find games that you all enjoy.
• Designer Nat Levan goes through the five stages of grief after receiving feedback — and a suggested list of extensive changes — from a prospective publisher:
My first reaction was denial. They were completely wrong. I've been working on this for a year, and they've only played it for a few months. Never mind the fact that since there's a whole team playing, they've probably put in almost as much play time as I have, if not more.
• Alex Harkey at Games Precipice catalogs "early game structures" — resources, turn order, and player decisions — to explore positive and negative aspects of each, while giving examples of games that demonstrate these elements.
• When an article on board games opens with this phrase — "In a 1967 lecture, Michel Foucault stated:" — you can be forgiven for wondering whether you're being pranked, but if you're familiar with the Analog Game Studies blog, you probably expect such things by now.
In any case, Devin Wilson's article "The Eurogame as Heterotopia" makes a case for there being as much theme present in a Eurogame design as you care to discover, with such a design simultaneously being a tool through which you can see yourself, should you care to look. A long excerpt:
Existing commentary on eurogames is most often written by enthusiasts and rarely by scholars, though academic interest seems to be on the rise. What we will see is that, though all can agree that thematic abstraction is a hallmark of eurogames, there is dissent among both enthusiasts and scholars about what to do in the face of that abstraction.
In the only extant monograph on the genre so far, Stewart Woods provides a history of eurogames that concludes that their thematic abstraction — while distinctive — is not of great interest.2 This postulation of eurogames' effective lack of theme is demonstrably aligned with the widespread enthusiast perspective that theme is often a negligible quality of games (even outside of wholly abstract games like Blokus
). For example, popular board game reviewer Tom Vasel said of the eurogame Vasco da Gama
, "Don't come into this looking for any kind of theme." But — far more so than with many eurogames — Vasco da Gama
is very plainly about something real: its namesake is a particular historical figure and the gameplay embodies this person's biography in non-trivial ways. Yet Vasel forbids us from looking for theme in this game, insisting that there is nothing there.
Conversely, Will Robinson describes Vasco da Gama
in far more situated terms, noting that the game's abstraction erases the violence of the game's thematic referent. Robinson looks at the virtuality of the game and subsequently directs his attention to the reality of the history depicted. He writes:
"Taking violent histories and turning them into resource management/worker-placement games for family audiences creates an ideological fairy tale. Vasco da Gama
reinforces a clean and unproblematic interpretation of the Portuguese empire with each play."
Indeed, the question of "what is being abstracted out" is vital, particularly when the theme is so specifically historical and that history's violence undermines the supposedly non-violent interactions that characterize the genre. Ultimately, in Robinson's critique of Vasco da Gama
, it's tempting to liken it to a Foucauldian mirror test at which Vasel fails by not seeing the reality of Vasco da Gama's real actions via Vasco da Gama
Wilson goes on to discuss The Castles of Burgundy from his viewpoint as an "ethical vegan":
Given Castles of Burgundy
's abstraction (which is typical of the eurogame genre), these animals can be interpreted as companions, wards, ornaments, or consumable resources. Given my perspective, I see them as more like wards or perhaps companions. The game — like much great art, and like Settlers of Catan
as described earlier — can function as a mirror: it shows me who I am in reality through the materiality of its unreality. In my case, I can clearly (and somewhat unexpectedly) see my real vegan convictions in the unreality of the game and its abstract and polysemic components.
My view of Castles of Burgundy
, like Robinson's view of Vasco da Gama
, is grounded in social critique. But the situation I find myself in when facing the abstraction of Castles of Burgundy
allows me to fill in gaps and virtually "re-theme" the game — without any physical modifications or concrete house rules — according to my politics.
W. Eric Martin
• On the opening day of BGG.CON 2015, two U.S. publishers have announced new additions to their game lines, with Stronghold Games having picked up the Village series of games from Inka and Markus Brand and eggertspiele. Village won the 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres and has since had two expansions released for it, as well as the spinoff game My Village, which debuted at Spiel 2015 in October.
Stronghold Games plans to release Village and the first expansion, Village Inn, in March 2016 for the GAMA Trade Show, with My Village and the second expansion, Village Port, in May/June 2016 in time for the Origins Game Fair.
• In December 2013, I wrote about Jay Little's Patient Zero, which was unusual for this space as I don't normally cover prototypes that haven't been picked up, but the game sounded interesting and Little has a strong track record.
Now Split Second Games has picked up Patient Zero and will preview the game at BGG.CON 2015 ahead of a Kickstarter funding project in the first half of 2016. Here's a rundown of what the game's about:
Nearly 75% of the U.S. population is infected with an airborne disease: the Z-B13 virus. About a quarter of these people are at Stage 3 of the infection, reduced to shambling husks. The numbers of the "Afflicted" are growing by the day. Cities throughout the U.S. Midwest are emptying as healthier citizens flee for the coasts and roving gangs terrorize the highways. Today on the Internet, a madman released his manifesto, stating that he developed Z-B13 for a reason and will continue his experiment on humanity until his demands are met. He calls himself "Patient Zero".
In the cooperative zombie survival game Patient Zero, players undertake the search for the person responsible for the apocalyptic outbreak. Immune from the effects of the virus, characters band together and travel from city to city, scavenging for the clues and resources that will lead them to a final confrontation against this madman.
Each city in Patient Zero has multiple locations that require a specific combination of dice to be rolled in order to clear them. In some cases, you may have to roll a set of three 5s, others may require a straight, say 2-3-4-5-6. Some locations are actually hazardous and hurt you, but since you must play a die every turn, you may have to take the hit. Every location gives you resources in the form of ammo, food or fuel. Players must also be aware of time since taking too long forces the players into the next city at night, and the nighttime side for each city is more difficult than the daylight side as more afflicted are out and ready to prey on you! Be sure to manage your resources well because even though using ammo and fuel will kill zombies and move you faster, running out means the end of the game, and everyone loses.
The Patient Zero encounter adds a twist to the final location the players encounter, and it is a fight to the death. Who will be victorious?
In a press release announcing the deal, Little had this to say about his design: "I am really excited about Patient Zero. I wanted to design a zombie game where you don't actually fight the zombies — because the survivors hope that these Afflicted can still be saved. Patient Zero's gameplay combines many of my favorite mechanics; push-your-luck elements and risk-reward decisions that will weigh heavily on the players. With clever teamwork opportunities and a crisp pace, Patient Zero keeps everyone engaged, even on other players' turns."
W. Eric Martin
As a preview for Tokyo Game Market, which opens on Nov. 22, 2015 and which I'm covering for BGG, let's take a look at Yoshihisa Itsubaki's MountTen from publisher/retailer Ten Days Games, which was released sometime after TGM in May 2015. Let's start with a game rundown, which I've written based on 1.75 plays on a review copy:
In MountTen (テンガロン), players want to rid themselves of cards in hand first in order to win the round. The deck consists of green cards numbered 1-40 and red cards numbered 10-30. Players start with ten cards in hand with 2-3 players and eight cards with 4-6 players. Set the deck nearby with the top card revealed.
The start player plays any card to the center of the table. The next player must play a card at most ten lower or higher than this card, e.g., playing 14-34 if the 24 was lead. If the second-played card is lower (higher), then all subsequent cards must be lower (higher) — but also always within ten of the most recently played card. If a player cannot or doesn't want to play, they pass and draw the top card of the deck, then reveal the new top card. If all players pass in turn, then whoever played the most recent card clears the table and leads a new card.
1. If the next player in turn can play a green card exactly ten lower or higher than the topmost card on the pile (no matter the direction of play), that player can call "Mount Ten!", play the card, then clear the table and lead a new card.
2. If any player can play a red card exactly ten lower or higher than the topmost card on the pile (no matter the direction of play), that player can call "Mount Ten!", play the card, then clear the table and lead a new card.
When one player has no cards in hand, the round ends. Each player with cards in hand scores -1 for each green card and -2 for each red card; the player who went out scores positive points equal to all the negative points scored that round. Complete as many rounds as the number of players, with the start player rotating each round. Whoever then has the highest score wins!
Superficially, MountTen brought The Game to mind at first due to the ascending/descending gameplay and the special power being triggered by a card that's ten away from the top card of the pile, but in practice the two play nothing alike. Okay, yes, in both you track which numbers have already been played in order to make better plays, but that's about it. In MountTen you try to stick others by making it impossible for them to play, which means paying attention to who's played which cards when and what someone's picked up from the deck, but you're also at the mercy of what others have played.
You're also watching the cards fly by as the design functions something like a real-time game with players trying to get something onto the table before someone else "MountTen!"s them out of turn — which in a five-player game happens a lot since forty cards start in play. (Which is why you have to say "MountTen!" in the first place as otherwise the game turns into Dutch Blitz, with people slapping out cards to beat others to the punch, bending your cards, then looking sheepish because they forgot the rule about saying "MountTen!") With fewer players, it's easier to track who's played what and make plays accordingly
Naturally you feel compelled to hold onto the red cards over the green since you can possibly play them out of turn — thereby stealing the play and getting rid of two cards in one go — but that's why the penalty for holding red cards is higher. Good and bad are merged in one element, adding a bit of tension to what you're doing on every play, which is what you want in a design. That said, you don't need to hold red cards to win a round, so you have to learn to let go based on what's actually being played.
One oddness with the cute artwork is that the cards are indexed on only a single corner, with the opposite corner having a giant number that you can see only by fanning your cards out across both hands.
Don't hold your cards like this...
Hold them like this if you want to see the numbers
The publisher labels MountTen as being playable by ages six and up, but either Japanese children have giant hands or their parents smartly bring card holders to the table to make things easier for them. Me, I didn't do that, which made things tough for my 6yo. Lesson for the future...
W. Eric Martin
Tokyo Game Market takes place on Nov. 22, 2015, and my family and I have arrived in Tokyo a week early in order to get adjusted and tour the area before attending the show. (I'm writing this post at 02:00 Tokyo time after sleeping from 18:00 to 01:00. Not adjusted yet!)
While wandering in the Shinjuku area today, we visited the Shinjuku branch of the retail store Yellow Submarine, so I took a bunch of photos to bring you on a virtual tour of its offerings. I didn't shoot photos of the dozens of collectible card games being sold on the third floor, but focused on the board and card games, which took up about two-thirds of the second floor, with RPGs filling the remaining space. I didn't take pics of everything in the shop, but this gives you a sampling.
Here's the "new/hot stuff" table that greets you by the front door. The Fleet Commander games and accessories appear to be imports straight from Germany/Spiel — or at least that would be my guess — and imported games that debuted at Spiel 2015 pop up in other images as well:
The wall of classic intro games, complete with a video demonstration of Catan that runs continuously. Note the Dutch version of the Catan: Ancient Egypt spinoff game. As someone who has imported any number of games in languages that I don't speak, I can understand the appeal of having access to certain games in whatever form they're available.
And how does one play such games? Japanese rules are attached to the back of such games in a baggie. My understanding is that the importer creates these rules, but multiple importers bring titles into Japan and they don't share rule translations with one another or have a database along the lines of BGG, which means that if you import something on your own, you'll have to hunt down someone else who owns the game in order to copy the rules.
Cthulhu plushies! Along with Golem Arcana, Bolt Action, Bones miniatures, and other odds and ends.
Each game store in Japan that I've visited, both in May 2015 and now, has had a display case in which they show off games that look far more enticing when they're out of the box. I've rarely seen such displays in U.S. game stores, or in game stores in other countries for that matter.
The other half of the display case, this one featuring copies of the games on display that you can purchase, along with other titles.
Small suggestion for game store owners: Note that on this endcap display of releases from various independent designer/publishers, Yellow Submarine uses small wedges under the games to tilt them backwards, thus keeping them from falling off the shelf while also angling the game to viewers. These wedges are wrapped in gift paper to make them look nice.
Next to Reidemeister (the green box) on the second shelf, you might also notice a gift-wrapped box. Yellow Submarine had many such boxes all over the store to keep the smaller games from being pushed to the back of the shelf and lost. The second Machi Koro expansion is sitting on such a box, for example, to save space and keep it close to the base game.
I was not aware of how many versions of Cat & Chocolate existed. Now I am. The one for the wedding, subtitled "Japanese Ceremony", seems like it'd be a hoot!
Now you have a display case featuring tons of tiny games, perhaps half from Japanese publishers and half from publishers outside of Japan.
And here's the POP display case to entice you to add another item or two to the sale. Let no space go unused! I think that motto is a given here...
Bonus non-gaming pics! If you want more Star Wars toys and objects than you could possibly fit in your house, come to Japan. In the observation area on the 45th floor of the north tower of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, you could fill your luggage to bursting with items such as these:
Or you could just enjoy the view...
Alan R. Moon
In 2013/2014, I designed several Ticket to Ride maps that I hoped would be the new products for 2015 and maybe 2016. I know it's a tease, but I can't tell you much about them except to say the two new maps have significant new elements not in the existing games. Of course, the best laid plans always seem doomed to fail, and my plan was no exception.
Late in 2014, Mark Kaufman called me on a Sunday to tell me that he and Eric Hautemont had sold Days Of Wonder to Asmodee. To say I was stunned would be a huge understatement. Mark said he and Eric Hautemont, the two guys I was used to working with on Ticket to Ride, were both leaving the company and my new point guy was going to be Adrien Martinot. My next thought was, "Wow, I won't have to try to translate Eric's machine-gun, rapid speak, French accent phone calls anymore." But then my following thought was "Geez, Adrien's French, too, and not even a semi-Americanized Frenchman like Eric. Is there any chance his accent will be easier?"
I won't say anything more about his accent, but Adrien has been a very pleasant surprise. A man of many ideas, Adrien had good and bad news for me. The bad news was that he didn't want to use the maps I'd already designed for new products in 2015. The good news was he had an idea for a new map. Adrien suggested a Ticket to Ride UK map and emailed me an outline of some ways to add "technology" to the rules. His impetus being that because the UK was where railroads were born, we should try to add that into the mix. I was immediately taken with the idea and started thinking about how technology could be integrated into the basic system.
Almost every expansion I have done starts out as a moderately complicated version of basic Ticket to Ride, changing the game in one or more very significant ways and adding lots of new rules. Fortunately, in every case, the actual published versions are quite streamlined compared to their first prototypes because my goal is first and foremost to retain the heart of what is Ticket to Ride while adding a new, fun experience for the fans of the game. While the UK map in Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 is probably the most involved of all the expansions, I feel like the added features are still very easy to pick up.
The first UK prototypes featured a Tech Chart with four or five tracks of technological developments. Here is one early version:
There were numerous versions of the chart, each change an attempt to balance the tracks on the chart and provide multiple and equal paths to victory — but it was not to be.
The major problem was that the developments were all "bought" with points. In every playtest, one or more players jumped out ahead on points and were then able to buy more tech than the ones lagging behind. It was also hard to balance the relative worth of the tech tracks, so it always seemed like focusing on one track first was the obvious choice.
After quite a few attempts, changing the Chart after each play, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn't make it work. It became obvious that it was going to be impossible to balance the options on the Tech Tracks — at least, not in the time I had. Maybe if I playtested it for year, maybe I could have make it work, maybe, but certainly not in the couple of months I had.
When I announced that I was giving up on the Chart, the three playtesters present were incredibly disappointed. I spent the next hour talking to them about the game and trying to present my reasons for needing to try something else. Their passion for the Chart-driven game surprised me, and even though I assured them the next version without the Chart would probably appeal to them, they weren't thrilled. Their lack of confidence in my ability to create another version they thought would be as fun was a little disappointing, but luckily I was confident enough for all of us, at least outwardly. The discussion with them was one of the most interesting design discussions I've ever had.
Instead of the Tech Chart, I decided to go with what I consider one of my strengths as a game designer: cards. So the spaces on the tracks of the Tech Chart became cards. This was immediately better and felt more like an appropriate Ticket to Ride expansion, but the problem of a runaway leader or leaders remained.
The next step was to change the cost of the cards to a mix of points and Wild Cards. Again, better, but still not right. The final step was to use only Wild Cards to pay for the Tech Cards. Ten minutes into that first playtest with this payment method, I knew I was almost there (a very satisfying feeling for a game designer during development). The actual cards and their costs changed quite a bit, as did the number of copies of each card, but that was just a matter of more testing.
The other thing I wanted to make different about the UK was the map itself. Because of the size of the land portions, I knew it would be able to handle only four players at most right from the start. I also knew it would need lots of small routes because the distances between the major cities were so short. Luckily, short routes were going to work well with the technology rules since players would be able to build only one and two space routes at the start. The pleasant surprise for me was the congestion created around London and the midlands, which also worked well with the technology.
There seem to be four basic strategies in the game:
-----1. Buy the Boiler Lagging Tech Card first. Build lots of small routes in England and Scotland. You will gain 20+ points for the Boiler Lagging Card. You will not need to buy that many other Tech Cards, maybe only the Scotland Concession and Mechanical Stoker Cards.
-----2. Build from Southampton through London north to Edinburgh and Glasgow, then start drawing Tickets. At the crucial moment when the game is about to end, buy the Double Heading Card. You will gain 20+ points for the Double Heading Card.
-----3. Draw lots of cards, including Wild Cards whenever available. Don't build any routes. Don't worry about your Tickets. Buy the Booster Card early. Claim the Southampton-NYC route as quickly as possible. After that, buy the Steam Turbine, Ireland/France Concession, Propellers, and Superheated Steam Boiler Cards. After you have all of these cards, buy the following Ferry routes: Penzance-Cork, Belfast-Barrow, Plymouth-Southampton, Dover-France, and Newcastle-Hull. Those routes will need 22 trains. That will leave you with three trains, so you will need to build one other route to initiate the end of the game. You will score 94 points plus/minus your tickets. If you can end the game quickly enough, you can win. The key will be getting enough Wild Cards, so this is more of a gambling strategy, but it's also fun. Of course, it can also be messed up if an opponent buys one of the key routes you need.
-----4. Use a more balanced approach based on your initial Ticket Draw like other Ticket To Ride games. You may want to draw more Tickets on your first turn just to clarify your strategy. Building routes in Ireland initially, especially if no other player is building there, can be a winning strategy when combined with builds from Ireland to Scotland, Wales, and England later in the game. The key to this strategy is to buy only as many Tech Cards as you need. Don't waste Wild Cards buying a Tech Card that you use only once.
Of course the preceding, especially the first three options, assumes no one else is following the same strategy as you. If someone else is following the same strategy, you will probably need to modify your choices.
The end result is a game that feels like Ticket To Ride with some fun differences and additions. I particularly love the fact that players have to build smaller routes so they spend a lot more turns playing cards — which also means the competition for routes is heavy right from the start, particularly on the double routes that run from Southampton north to Scotland. There are alternate routes, but many of them require Tech Cards.
The Advanced Technology Cards were not fully playtested and should definitely not be used if any of the players are playing for the first time. There were quite a few other possible Tech Cards that did not make it into the game.
The Pennsylvania map was done before I started on the UK map. For many years, my good friend Erik Arneson had encouraged me to design a PA map for Ticket To Ride, his main argument being that PA was such a perfectly rectangular shape. I would always laugh when he suggested this. While I hate to admit it publicly, he was actually right, at least about the shape. But as I thought about it more, I realized that Colorado was also a rectangle and it had tons of railroad history, so the second map of this expansion started out as Colorado. My basic idea was to add Stock Shares of the railroads into the game that players would receive for building certain routes.
Unfortunately, while Colorado had tons of railroads from which to choose, including favorites like the Cripple Creek, Cimarron Valley, Rock & Rail, Cumbres & Toltec, and Durango & Silverton, they were mostly "very" short lines, so it quickly became obvious that I couldn't create enough routes for them.
At that point, it was like Erik's voice was in my head, and my eyes turned to Pennsylvania. I had been so enamored with the Colorado railroads that it had blocked out the plainly evident fact that Pennsylvania also had a ton of railroad history and great railroads. As soon as I started researching the railroads and their lines, I knew PA was the right choice.
The rules for the Stock Shares are similar to the new rules for Passengers in the Germany map game. They create some interesting choices. Since the first share is the ultimate tie-breaker for each railroad, it can be very important to build routes early. It can also influence your choice of routes to build. Sometimes, building more short routes can be valuable to give you more shares. Sometimes, building a specific route just to get the last share or one of the last remaining shares available can increase the points you will receive for that Railroad. It is easy to get too distracted by the shares though, and sometimes it's best just to follow a more normal Ticket To Ride strategy.
There is a Big Cities element in the game, with Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City as the Big Cities. All six of these cities are connected to each other as Tickets, and each of these six cities has one more Ticket as well, meaning that 21 of the 50 Tickets in the game involve the Big Cities.
Finally, I wanted the PA map to feel more like the USA map than the other expansions, so there are lots of big routes to build.
The playtesting of the PA map was fairly uneventful. I started out with more railroads than the final version, but fewer railroads provided more competition and put the emphasis on the big lines like the PRR and B&O. There were a few route changes and some Ticket changes, but the game quickly came together. The last few playtests were very fun with one or more players trying to end the game quickly and others trying to pick up as many Stock Shares as possible.
There are a number of personal things in this expansion. The two maps include Southampton which is where I was born and Syracuse which is where I currently live. I really like the fact that Reading is on both maps and that three of the four Monopoly railroad lines are also present. Perhaps the most fun for me though is the Southampton-New York route, which is a tribute to my grandfather who was a steward on the Queen Mary his whole life, sailing back and forth along that route.
I hope you enjoy both of these maps as much as I enjoyed designing them — and I hope that in 2016 you'll see the two maps I designed before these two...
Preorder One Night Ultimate Werewolf now from www.beziergames.com
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Back in the Day...
After Daybreak (the standalone expansion to One Night Ultimate Werewolf) was completed in mid-2014, I figured that I was done with the One Night series for a while as the base game and Daybreak provided a pretty much complete experience for One Night players, ranging from simple roles to really interesting, complex ones. I thought I would probably put out a few more expansions because there are cards that were on the sidelines for a variety of reasons, but as far as gameplay goes, One Night was locked in place.
I had started working on One Night Revolution for Indy Boards & Cards, and I thought that ONR would be a nice sideways step for the mechanisms in the original One Night Ultimate Werewolf, mainly by splitting the role from the player's team. One of the things I had been toying with was preventing a player from using their night action in Revolution, and this was done by a player giving a "disable" token to another player, who would wake up later in the turn order to discover he couldn't do his night action because someone before him had disabled him. Neat idea, but for a variety of reasons it just didn't work in ONR.
Would You Like a Bite?
That idea of "giving" something to someone stuck with me, and one morning I woke up with the idea of a new One Night role card for a Vampire, who would "give" his gift of vampirism to another player by biting them. Actual physical biting was considered, then quickly dismissed, but the idea of the Vampire player giving a "bite" token to another non-Vampire player was pretty solid. Of course, then everyone would know who was bitten, which would suck (pun intended) for the victim.
New idea: What if everyone started with one of those tokens, a blank one, then the Vampire exchanged the blank one for a bite? Problem solved! But that would require ten blank tokens (one for each player) and a bite token (maybe two because of the Doppelganger) just for that one role card. The publisher side of my brain did the math and rolled his eyes at the designer side of my brain — yet another idea crushed by the realities of publishing.
Marks Take Hold and Won't Let Go
A few days pass, and in the Shower of All Great Ideas™ I'm struck by Cupid's arrow. Well, not his arrow (that would hurt, and I'm married, so it would be awkward, too) but instead by how I could get Cupid to work in One Night. Cupid, you see, is one of the more popular roles in Ultimate Werewolf: One player causes two other players to fall madly in love, so much so that if one of them dies, the other dies of a broken heart. These new tokens required for the Vampire role would also work for Cupid — two players could receive one of Cupid's arrows! And if Cupid woke up after the Vampire, Cupid could cure Vampirism. (A "love heals all wounds" kind of thing — very romantic of me in hindsight.)
So now there's a thing — these tokens could really add some flavor to the game by marking the players with various attributes. I renamed them "marks" (Mark of the Vampire and Mark of Love) and thought about what else would work with this new mechanism. The original idea was a Mark of Disabling, which sounded a little too crippling to be fun, but what if a special-powered vampire scared someone so much they couldn't do their night action? A Mark of Fear! The Count was given this ability — and an uncanny resemblance to a certain muppet.
The Marks of Nothing were renamed to Marks of Clarity during this process, too.
Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch of Mark-Manipulating Characters
Now things were looking good. I looked through the dozens of characters in Ultimate Werewolf Deluxe Edition to see whether any more might work with the new Marks system and found the poor Diseased role, who in the "big" game makes werewolves sick, preventing them from eating the second night. Of course, there is no second night in One Night (or it would be called "One Nights", which is a grammatical nightmare).
No one wants some terrible, very communicable disease, but because it is so contagious, the Diseased gives a Mark of the Disease to the player sitting directly to their left or right. And because the Diseased is on the village team, they have a really fun defense: If anyone points at a player with disease, that player (not their team) loses (even if their team wins) because thematically they contract the disease and die a horrible painful death while the other team members are partying in the village square to celebrate their victory.
What's really fun about this is that the Diseased can give their disease to a vampire, which still has to be killed in order for the village to win, but YOU don't want to be pointing at them. (You'll need to convince everyone else to do so while you point at some other random player, thus ensuring that your team will win, even though most of them will end up losing because they pointed at a Diseased player.) Really fun!
The Tanner in the original One Night Ultimate Werewolf, who has to die in order to win and in doing so prevents the werewolves from winning, is a fun role. I really like the idea of additional teams, and in creating the Assassin, that's what you get: a new "team" of one that can win only if his target, whom he's given the Mark of the Assassin, dies. He's got to convince the players to kill his target (he can't do it alone), knowing that if they suss out that he's the Assassin, his motives aren't to be trusted and they might go another way. However, with the Assassin, if he wins, other teams can still win, so if the Assassin is lucky enough to put a mark on a Vampire, he should have an easy time getting the village on his side. Likewise, if he's targeted an innocent villager, he might be able to sway the Vampires to help kill said villager.
One of my favorite new roles is yet *another* solo team. Originally I thought it might be fun if the Assassin had a helper, a morally-challenged Robin to the Assassin's Azrael-style Batman. (Extra points if you don't have to look up that reference.) The Apprentice Assassin would help the Assassin kill the player with the Mark of the Assassin — but after a few playtests, it wasn't nearly as interesting as I thought it would be. Keeping the name, the new Apprentice Assassin has a single goal: to be the Assassin. How does she do that? By killing the original Assassin! What's super cool about the interaction here is what happens at night: The Assassin wakes up and places his Mark of the Assassin on a player, then *doesn't close his eyes*. The Apprentice Assassin wakes up and sees him, and the Assassin sees her and knows she wants to kill him. They're totally aware of each other, but neither can say anything about the other or they'll never manage to kill their respective targets!
The Priest came about as a way for the Villagers to ward off the avalanche of Marks being played. He rids both himself and a player of his choice of any Marks, giving them a blank "Mark of Nothing". (That was the working title of the "empty" marks.) This worked thematically quite well as it ensured that the Priest couldn't be a Vampire *or* be in love. (You're welcome, Catholic Church.)
One of the reasons people love the original One Night Ultimate Werewolf is because of the potential for role-switching. I wanted to add some of those abilities to this game, with a focus more on Marks than role cards. The Marksman is a Seer-like role, allowing the player to look at one player's card and one other player's Mark. The Pickpocket is the Robber's little brother, stealing a Mark from a player and replacing that player's Mark with their own. The Gremlin is like the Troublemaker on steroids (steroids that turn you into a weird blue monster), with the ability to exchange Marks *or* role cards, including your own.
Dusk vs. Night
The working title of the game was "Dusk" (nice symmetry with Daybreak, which had a lot of roles that took place at the end of the night) as most roles did their actions before the roles in One Night Ultimate Werewolf. To that end, there's a distinct break between Dusk and Night, where all players open their eyes and view their Marks, then close their eyes again. This allows players with "night" actions to use the info on their Marks when they do their actions — for instance, if the Pickpocket has the Mark of the Vampire, he knows that when he steals a Mark from a player, then that player will get his Mark of the Vampire; if he can convince the village of that, it should be an easy win for the village team. Should be.
Later in development of the game, when it was determined that the game worked incredibly well as a standalone, the decision was made to give it a new name, and One Night Ultimate Vampire was the clear choice.
Through a lot of playtests — One Night games have been playtested more than two thousand times for all three games — a few other roles were added and modified, and several (not mentioned here) were discarded.
The original One Night Ultimate Werewolf game has a role called the Doppelganger. It's awesome and fun because it allows a player to look at another player's role card and essentially duplicate that role. Making the Doppelganger work initially was pretty difficult, and when Daybreak was being developed, all sorts of issues cropped up that had to be dealt with. With Vampire, those issues took on a whole new level of complexity.
The key with the Doppelganger is to get all the roles to work with it without having to modify the original role functionality at all. At least, that's the theory — and with the exception of the Copycat, I was able to pull it off. One of the things that had to be done was to provide another set of Marks just for the Doppelganger (similar to how there are two Shield tokens for Daybreak's Sentinel). The publisher side of my brain fought this pretty hard because it essentially added another punchboard to the game and about two pages to the rulebook as well as a new Doppelganger token because the number on the token (that determines wake order) had to change.
Things are a little weird for several edge cases, such as when the Doppelganger views the Apprentice Assassin because now the Assassin has two people gunning for him, but I guess that's part of the job, as anyone familiar with Grosse Pointe Blank will tell you.
That Amazing One Night App
The app for One Night would, of course, need to be updated with all the new roles, which by itself isn't too bad; it's the interaction with pre-existing roles that takes time. For instance, The Revealer (from Daybreak) flips over a card and leaves it there unless it was a Werewolf or a Tanner, in which case he flipped it back down — but the narration had to change because if the card is a Vampire, he has to leave it face up and the narration can say that only if a Vampire is in the game, and if there are no Werewolves in the game, he can only say Vampire and not Werewolves. Similar issues appeared with lots of other roles.
And then there's the !@#$%!@#$ Doppelganger. The app logic for the Doppelganger is SO confusing that the spreadsheet for the app needed all sorts of new "if" and "then" columns in it. Working through all the permutations was a brutal exercise to get everything just right. The positive, glass half-full view of this is that those permutations resulted in lots of rules clarifications for how things are supposed to happen, which led to notes in the rules to help players figure things out. The app is more useful than ever when you're combining Vampire with the original One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Daybreak.
For Vampire, I hired Eric Summerer much earlier in the process to provide narration for the new roles; this allowed for app and game testing much earlier than in previous One Night games, and while I've had to get corrections/updates from Eric several times, having "real" narration in a beta app for testing has been incredibly valuable.
Next, I started working on ideas for app enhancement. The app was already awesome, so I didn't want to mess with it too much, but there were some things that could be better. I designed a "verbose" mode for the Doppelganger that reads off the roles that have to take their action immediately when the Doppelganger wakes, and an expert mode that makes the night move super fast for experienced players.
No, Really, They're Epic
During development, I was convinced that Vampire would work only if there were no Werewolves. After all, the winning condition for Vampires and Werewolves were the same: No one on your team can die. That would result in Vampire/Werewolf team-ups to kill a villager, something that would be hard to stop if you're a villager.
But as expected, the Shower of All Great Ideas™ came through, and by changing the winning conditions for all three teams, Epic Battles not only work, but they're, well, Epic.
As a bonus, those three-way Epic Battles work with as few as three players!
I'm super-excited about this One Night prequel, and I think anyone who has enjoyed One Night will really have a lot of fun with the new mechanisms and roles!
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