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W. Eric Martin
• Time to catch up on industry news both recent and aged, some of which has been sitting in the inbox for months waiting for me to put aside SPIEL-related info — which makes it somewhat ironic that I'll start this post with a SPIEL 2016 recap from convention organizer Friedhelm Merz Verlag:
It was by far the largest and most successful SPIEL in the 34-year history of the event. 174,000 games fans and buyers (previous year 162,000) from all over the world came to see 1,021 exhibitor booths (previous year 911) from 50 different countries (previous year 41) and to negotiate license deals, as well as to view more than 1,200 of this year's new releases...
On all four days of the event the doors had to be opened before the actual start time in order to cope with the crowds of visitors. Early every morning there was exuberant expectation at the gates amongst those waiting in queues to discover the treasures inside the exhibition halls.
SPIEL'16 was more international than ever before: More than half of the 1,021 exhibitors this year were from outside Germany (60 percent). Exhibitors from countries such as Colombia, Azerbaijan and Macedonia joined traditionally well-represented nations like the United States, France and Poland.
Morning crowd outside Hall 3; image provided by Merz Verlag
• In September 2016, Alderac Entertainment Group published a description of its "channel relationships", from which I've excerpted the following:
Alderac Entertainment Group sells its products through a variety of sales channels. Our primary channel is the 3-tiered distribution system for tabletop hobby game products used in North America and Europe. In this channel, AEG sells to an authorized Distributor, who in turn sells to approved Retailers, who sell to consumers.
AEG reserves the right to determine to whom our approved distributors may sell our products. AEG provides our distribution partners with a House Accounts List and requires that they not do business with House Accounts unless authorized in writing beforehand by AEG.
AEG has set up the following Brand Protection Policy Guidelines so retailers who wish to carry AEG products know the expectations we have of a retailer who is representing our brands when offering to them to end consumers. AEG will make every effort to inform retailers who are not following the guidelines and allow them the opportunity to make changes.
Retailers AEG feels are not adhering to the policies or are somehow representing our brands in a way we do not feel is positive will be placed on our House Accounts List and permission for our authorized distributors to sell to those partners may be limited or revoked until AEG feels the problems have been resolved.
We know that many brick & mortar stores now offer on-line ordering as a convenience to their customers and AEG supports those efforts.
Retailers that generate a substantial portion of their revenue from on-line sales will automatically be on the House Account list, and individual agreements will be made with authorized distributors to service those accounts.
The determination of how much business comprises a “substantial portion” will be made by AEG on a case by case basis.
Minimum Advertised Price Policies
AEG has established Minimum Advertised Prices for all its games.
The Minimum Advertised Price is the lowest amount a retailer can display to consumers for AEG products while purchasing those products from an authorized distributor. If a retailer consistently displays a price below the Minimum Advertised Price policy, that retailer will become a House Account.
AEG will also make retailers who participate in group ordering programs and similar promotions whereby AEG products are offered to consumers at deep discounts from the Suggested Retail Price House Accounts.
The Minimum Advertised Price policy exists to ensure that AEG can protect the integrity and value of its brands. This policy applies to advertised prices. Retailers can offer any price they wish at the point of sale.
AEG has posted a spreadsheet of available titles here, with the minimum advertised prices being 15% lower than the MSRP of those titles.
• In August 2016, Looney Labs announced that Pyramid Arcade — the publication of which it funded via Kickstarter in May 2016, with the pledge for the complete game being $77 — would be available for purchase online solely through its own website and Marbles: The Brain Store. Looney Labs explains the decision to do this as follows:
At Looney Labs we create innovative, attractive, and above all, really fun tabletop card games and board games that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. We are a small business, and thus rely on the revenue we earn from sales of our games to enable us develop wonderful new products such as Pyramid Arcade. We are excited to work with our retailers for years to come to promote and sell Pyramid Arcade as an evergreen product in our small line of games.
To protect brand equity and help build consumer demand for Pyramid Arcade, we have unilaterally decided to focus our sales efforts (for this single SKU: LOO-074) through physical retail locations (including conventions), and thus only offer Pyramid Arcade ONLINE through a small set of Chosen Online Retailers.
W. Eric Martin
More news and announcements that slipped through the cracks while I focused on SPIEL 2016:
• Upper Deck Entertainment plans to release Mike Elliott's The Dingo Ate The Baby in March 2017, with this game featuring an RPS-style gameplay. An overview:
Every round, players roll a ten-sided die, then add 10 to the total. That "round number" is the target that each player wants to get as close to as possible without going over. Players then take turns playing cards from their hand on either themselves or other players. Each card has a point value and a color. Cards can be played on others only if the color of that card matches a color already on the other player's board. Some cards have effects (e.g., a baby scares an elephant, while an elephant stomps a lion) that can remove cards from play.
Once the total number of cards that have been discarded equals twice the number of players, the round ends. Players score a point for each other player they beat in getting closest to the "round number" without going over; any player that exceeds the "round number" scores no points.
The next round begins with another die roll, and the game continues until a player reaches a predetermined number of points.
• Upper Deck has also stated that Shark Island from Richard Launius and Pete Shirey will debut at Gen Con 2017. Yes, that convention preview has already been under way for a few weeks. For a rundown of the gameplay, here's a video of Launius at the BGG booth at Origins 2016:
• Looney Labs has released a Saffron mini-expansion consisting of one Keeper and three Goals for Firefly Fluxx that is apparently available solely through the publisher's webstore.
• In a change from expectations, Alderac Entertainment Group has announced that for 2016 its "Black Box" release — an item released on "Black Friday", the day following Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Nov. 25 for 2016 — will contain only a single game instead of a compilation of small games and variants. For now AEG has only teased the contents of this item:
Remember when...game companies were crazy enough to think they could release a game and that it would not be broken to bits by players? Remember when they did not create any deck-building limits? Remember how you destroyed their game and made them ban cards and ban decks?
It was 1993-1995 and it was glorious. For one brief shining moment AEG is going to bring back that unlimited fun.
• In Q1 2017, Cryptozoic Entertainment plans to release Matt Hyra's Batman: The Animated Series – Almost Got 'Im Card Game, with this being a hidden role game for 5-8 players. Here's an overview:
The villains of Gotham City have gathered for a poker night and to share stories about the time they nearly dispensed with that troublesome caped crusader Batman. Little do they know that the Dark Knight is in their midst, disguised as one of their own. Will the rogues be able to suss out the bat in their belfry before he clandestinely subdues them?
Batman: The Animated Series – Almost Got 'Im Card Game
— a variant on the popular Werewolf
-style deduction game inspired by the memorable Batman: The Animated Series
episode "Almost Got 'Im" — adds a poker element to the proceedings, requiring participants to craft poker hands to activate their special abilities when the lights go out. Take on the personas of classic Batman baddies in a game in which everyone has something to hide and no one is safe.
With poker hands guiding the action, players have something to talk about. Everyone has an important role. No bystanders in this game! Too often, social deduction games begin with random accusations just to get the ball rolling. Not so here as players can request poker cards from other players and often see which cards other players are taking. Enemies are made when someone takes the card you wanted. Now you have a reason to be suspicious of another player!
• Cryptozoic also has two titles coming to the U.S. that debuted from Russian publisher Hobby World at SPIEL 2016. Spyfall 2 is a standalone sequel to Spyfall due out in Q4 2016 that allows for up two twelve players to compete at the same time, with up to two spies being found at each location. (We posted an overview of this title in February 2016.)
The other Hobby World title, due out Q1 2017, is Master of Orion: The Board Game, which is based on the video game series, albeit with a far shorter playing time. In the game players must manage their resources (food, fleet, production) and hand of cards, using the latter to build up a steady income of the former so that you can continue to expand your holdings, attack others, and gain glory. Here's an overview of the game that I recorded after playing an advance copy from Hobby World:
W. Eric Martin
Time to catch up on yet more game announcements that piled up in the inbox, both while I was at SPIEL 2016 and in the preceding weeks. Hard to keep up with everything when the biggest event of the year looms ahead of you. Heck, hard to keep up with everything no matter what's going on!
• On October 5, 2016, Modiphius Entertainment announced a deal with Fantasy Flight Games for the "global publishing, retail distribution, localization, and translation of the Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel miniatures board game", which ended up collecting $600,000 in support in a Kickstarter funding project that ended on October 8.
In a press release about the announcement, Modiphius and publishing partner Cabinet Entertainment note that this deal will allow them to focus on design and development, while leaving everything else in FFG's hands. (The press release also notes that the campaign had collected $280k at that point, which means that more than half the KS funds came in the final three days of the campaign. Amazing.)
• In early 2017, Cryptozoic Entertainment will release a new edition of Sean McDonald's Train Heist, which was previously released by McDonald's own Tower Guard Games in 2015. In this design, which can be played cooperatively or competitively, players try to rob a train of as many loot and cargo as possible. Not because they're greedy thieves, mind you, but because they're trying to spread the wealth with the poor townsfolk amongst whom they live.
• Kota Nakayama's Hanamikoji — which I raved about in this SPIEL 2016 preview video — will be released in the U.S. by Quick Simple Fun Games before the end of 2016.
Also due out in Q4 2016 from QSFG is Robert Burke's Moons, a trick-taking game in which players play moon cards in the hope of collect sets of planet tokens, and Kelly North Adams' Veggie Garden, with players trying to grow the most vegetables in the shortest amount of time.
• Mayday Games has picked up two titles for release in the U.S., with one of those being the self-published Gaijin Dash! from Antoine Bauza and Corentin Lebrat that appeared only in a 500-copy edition at Tokyo Game Market in May 2016. (I recorded an overview of this real-time game of quick reactions following that show.) Gaijin Dash! will receive new art and be released in early 2017.
The other title coming from Mayday Games, this one in mid-2017, is Stefan Dorra's Bucket King 3D, a new version of Dorra's The Bucket King that first appeared in 2014 from Hong Kong publisher Jolly Thinkers before latter appearing in the Netherlands and Germany. Bucket King 3D is a rolling trick game in which you set up a vertical pyramid of colored buckets before the start of play; any time that you can't play onto a trick (or choose not to), you must remove a bucket from your pyramid that matches the color of the trick, possibly causing other buckets to topple in the process. Hey, I recorded an overview video for this game, too! So many videos!
W. Eric Martin
Time to catch up on a few of the many things not related to SPIEL 2016 that have happened in the past few weeks, including more crowdfunding campaigns than a person could possibly support unless they are a wealthy spendthrift with a passion for promises. Should you fall into that category, here are a few of the many, many games that you could back right now on Kickstarter:
• Spires from T. C. Petty, III and Nevermore Games has you collecting cards that feature the same, while trying not to collect more than three cards in any suit since that tanks your score for the suit in question. (KS link)
• Cobras from Chris Zinsli, Suzanne Zinsli, and Cardboard Edison belongs in the category of trick-taking games in which both winning and losing tricks can be a good thing. You want to lose in order to collect cobras on the cards played during a trick and win to convert those collected cobras into points. The challenge, of course, is that you can't always control when you do what! (KS link)
• Craig Stern's True Messiah from Sinister Design is, to quote the Kickstarter page, a "strategy game of surreal religious horror", a "fever dream of deck-building, board control, and tactics: Dali meets Dune". Your first step during set-up: Choose your messiah. (KS link)
• In The End Is Nigh from Bennett, Chaney, Schirmer and Mystic Ape Games, players need to weed out the cultists from the refugees who are trying to enter your bunker before an asteroid strikes Earth and wipes out nearly all life. Coincidentally the end of the c.f. project is also nigh. (KS link)
• Another project nearly wrapped is Jason Slingerland's Unreal Estate from Grand Gamers Guild. Each round players draft fantasy buildings or play one or more cards from hand. Anything undrafted is placed in the scrap pile, and players score for played cards based on how many copies are in the scrap pile, after which all of those cards are removed, so timing is key. (KS link)
• Matt Leacock's Chariot Race debuted at SPIEL 2016 from Pegasus Spiele, and now Eagle-Gryphon Games is bringing the title to the U.S. and Canada. (Licensing restrictions, I'm sure.) I'd offer an opinion on gameplay, but I read the rules late at night at SPIEL, then decided I'd better go to sleep since I'd be on camera the next day. Priorities! (KS link)
• To continue with games from known designers, the second title likely to be coming from Kids Table BG is Scott Almes' Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants, in which you use ant dice to snatch food, then place it in arrangements that will please the queen. (KS link)
• Steve Finn is funding the "steampunk worker-placement crossword game" C.O.G. from his own Dr. Finn's Games. Spell words to collect resources and score! (KS link)
• Valeria: Card Kingdoms – Flames and Frost from Isaias Vallejo and Daily Magic Games adds more monsters, citizens, and domains to the Valeria: Card Kingdoms base game. (KS link)
• Illimat originated in 2009 when the band The Decemberists created a mystery game to be used as a prop in a photoshoot, but now Gloom designer Keith Baker has made it into an actual thing — similar to how James Ernest brought Tak to life — and Twogether Studios is releasing this hand-management, set-collection game that uses the box to change seasons during play. (KS link)
• The Hackers Guild from Raymond Northcott and Games by Ray is a futuristic one vs. many design of "freedom fighters" trying to bring down a robot-run government. (KS link)
• James Taylor's Special Committee is a kind of political Coup, with players having two secret U.S. Senators under their control and trying to pass legislation that benefits these Senators with others being able to figure out who those people are. (KS link)
• Pretending to Grownup from Jason Anarchy and Wiseman Innovation sounds like another take on Top Trumps, with players comparing cards that feature values for time, money and energy to see who wins. (KS link)
• In the realms of silly extras, Minion Games has a set of seven giant squishable foam dice. (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 SPIEL 2016, at least two publishers had their cashbox swiped near the end of the day on Saturday, the busiest day of the fair.
Frank DiLorenzo from R&R Games, located in Hall 1 of the Messe Essen, told me that while he was sitting in his booth — with his right hand practically over the cashbox — he was asked a question from over his left shoulder, turned to answer the question, heard a crash on his right, turned back, and discovered the cashbox gone. "I thought one of my employees had grabbed it to make change, but then I realized that didn't make any sense, then I realized what had happened."
LudiCreations, also located in Hall 1 not too far from R&R Games, had a similar story, with a representative being asked for a game, going into the back room to grab it, and returning within ten seconds to find the cashbox missing. In response to this theft of €3,500, designer Dávid Turczi — who has had his designs [microfilms] and [redacted] published by LudiCreations — designed a postcard game that evening, and representatives from the publisher stayed up all night testing it, designing graphics for it, then launching a Kickstarter for it on Sunday. To date, the KS campaign for Steal This Game — a two-player design in which one player is a game publisher who is trying to keep their cashbox from being nicked by the other player — has received more than $25,000 in backing.
I heard reports of other publishers having thefts attempted against them at SPIEL 2016. Everyone is sure that some games were lifted during the event, but the loss of a few games pales against the loss of an entire day's worth of sales. Asked about preventative measures, some publishers specified that they kept their cashbox in an area inaccessible by visitors or chained to a fixed object in their booth or both. Such measures can sometimes be difficult at SPIEL given the small nature of the booths, but ideally everyone can be aware of the need for such security measures at future conventions.
Ancon — a charming city with a lake surrounded by verdant hills, a pleasant marina, a beautiful opera house…
In winter when tourism is dormant, its streets are empty and fog rises from the water, Ancon's beauty takes a rather eerie and melancholic turn, verging on the sinister: something like Death in Venice (without the sun) meets The Shining (without Jack Nicholson running after you with an axe).
Needless to say, I was there one winter.
I had just flown in to replace a deficient colleague in a production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. I didn't know anybody on the production (the fate of latecomers) and had packed only one book: Jared Diamond's Collapse (which describes how brilliant past civilizations have collapsed almost overnight for badly managing their natural resources –something that, according to Diamond, will happen to us soon, if we do not change our ways).
Was it the uplifting read, the loneliness, the fog? Sitting in my hotel room, thinking about what the next game in the Oniverse series could be, I decided: "I'm going to take the WORST game mechanism ever and use it to make a fun solo/coop game" — and the worst game mechanism I could think of was "roll and move".
Ah, roll and move! The mechanism that most of us "serious gamers" love to hate! How could I possibly turn this into something that I would consider a satisfying and fun solo game experience?
My first impulse was to think: "Onirim: The Dice Game". You are in a labyrinth and have to get out. To do so, you must outrace a bad guy running towards you (it was obvious to me that he'd be running towards you as thematically absurd as it was at that time; my intuition would be proven right a couple of weeks later) and get to the exit (the bad guy's starting point) before he reached the center of the labyrinth (your starting point).
To make things interesting, you wouldn't only need to go as fast as you could, hoping for high rolls (where's the fun in that?); along the way, you would have to gather pieces of a key-like artifact. Only with the complete artifact would you be able to open the exit door. And the path would actually be made of the pieces, so no need for a board or track. For this reason, you would sometimes need to go slower in order to pick the right piece (obviously, there are several copies — four actually — of each piece, allowing you to jump over some of them).
Already in my first draft, the bad guy was not alone: an arch-villain would hover over the race, sabotaging your progress.
So the primal situation with its game-nurturing contradictions was the following:
• You want to go fast BUT must sometimes slow down to get missing pieces.
• You want the bad guy to go slowly BUT you must be careful that he doesn't land too often on the pieces you will need. After all, he steals each piece he lands on, so you sometimes need him to jump over a larger part of the track.
• You need to prevent the arch-villain from too often sabotaging your race as he makes you discard pieces you already have if he gets high results on the dice.
Three actors (player, bad guy, arch-villain), three dice.
And instead of each actor having their own dice, you would roll all three dice each turn, then assign them.
This was the first playable version. It had enough hard and fun decisions in a short amount of time for my taste, so I didn't throw the prototype out the window.
Still there were some flaws: I had no expansions at all and a lot of elements didn't make sense thematically: Why would you race towards the bad guy? Why is he ignoring you when you cross paths in the narrow alleys? Why do you lose as soon as he gets to the center of the labyrinth?
The solution actually came from a tiny, but annoying thematic/component-related problem: How could I represent the player?
In Onirim, the player has no physical presence in the game components: the cards represent the visited locations and the encountered dreams — but the player somehow stays "themself", which I find coherent with the story that the game is telling. And the same goes actually for Sylvion, Urbion, and Castellion.
Would I change this here? And how? A humanoid figure running? An abstract pawn?
Then the answer dawned on me: The player should either be wearing a suit or be in a vehicle! A diving suit? A car? A boat? A submarine!
And suddenly everything made sense!
You weren't escaping anything; you were diving into the depths, towards the lair of the arch-villain, who was no longer hovering over you, but firmly waiting at the bottom of the ocean, prepared to conquer the whole aquatic world of the Oniverse.
The bad guy would be the arch-villain's henchman, a ghost ship — or rather a phantom submarine! — on its way to the surface to bring desolation to your homeland, the Happy Isles.
That's why you have to get to the bad guy's starting point before he gets to yours: By destroying his boss, he will become powerless! And in order to defeat this arch-villain — a sinister Darkhouse that emits darkness instead of light — you would need help from various inhabitants of the depths, no longer inanimate pieces of a key.
This thematic change not only made everything more coherent, but it somehow opened up the game to various expansions, as if the thematic inadequacy of the first draft had me stuck into a mechanical dead end.
First, you could have various submarine designs. With of a simple "air conduct rule" (you can take a new member in your ship only if their cabin is adjacent to the cabin of another member), some submarines would be much easier to man than others. I came up with six different shapes, ranging from quite comfortable (lots of adjacent cabins) to very tricky (with cabins connected only to one other cabin).
Niobe racing the Hammer to Zion through a mechanical line, Lando and Nien Nunb maneuvering the Falcon through the Death Star pipes, Max and Furiosa bogged down under enemy fire — what would a good race between vehicles be without obstacles? In the "Reefs" expansion, some of the crew-members gain special abilities to outmaneuver various sub-aquatic traps that would otherwise bring your ship to a grinding halt, making you lose a whole turn, while the Phantom Submarine, impervious to anything in its way, would continue on its path up relentlessly!
If some crew members were pilots, other could become…fighters! The "Mercenaries" expansion develops on this and adds a new climax to the mid-game. (In a movie — or an opera — you would call it the first act's finale.) Now when you cross paths with the Phantom Submarine, you have to fight him! Not only does it start with better equipment, but it can also enslave fighters it meets on the way, further increasing its strength.
Fighters, pilots…how about some mechanics? Those would have the ability to re-roll some dice, but only if helped by a new sort of crew member: the Undersea Mages! This expansion actually brings a new type of dilemma; the fighters and the pilots help you as part of the crew on the submarine, but in order to get a mechanic's help, you have to pair it with a Mage in a separate section of the ship. Re-rolling dice is cool during the game, but is not part of the winning condition…
And what about the Darkhouse, lurking in the depths? I decided it would be fun to make him a cheater: the fourth expansion (named after him) brings rule-changing cards into the mix. Each turn, a new rule comes into effect, slightly modifying how the dice are rolled or assigned, how the figures move, how the tiles are distributed, and so on. Some of those cards make the game trickier, some make it easier; you choose at the beginning of each game how difficult you want your mix to be, then randomly reveal five cards that will be in effect alternately each turn.
Finally, what's a good crew story without some heroic sacrifices? The last expansion adds those; you will have to sacrifice some of your hard-earned crew members in order to accomplish heroic actions that may help you tremendously — but only if triggered at the right time!
This is how I made the journey from the quiet shores of Ancon's lake to the troubled ocean of the Oniverse, full of turmoil, submarine fights, and tricky tides.
The worst game mechanism ever? Probably.
A fun solo/coop game? Grab the dice, and dive into it to find out!
One of the first things they taught us in film school was that when writing a script, you need to write about what you know. Although we didn't agreed with that opinion, inevitably we did write about characters and situations that we had already experienced. Everything about this profession was new to us, and it's unlimited options were frightening, so we needed something familiar in order to get a foothold. It was obviously easier to reproduce something we already knew than to imagine, and then create, a whole new universe. As we grew as artists, we had the chance and ability to venture outside the known and usual stories to create something truly unique and new. That took time, practice, and a lot of hard work.
Some years later, the same happened to me again when I started designing board games. Here, like in the film industry, I was entering a whole new — and equally massive — ocean of potentials, and I needed something familiar to grab and float onto.
So the first game I ever tried to make was about the film industry, a subject I already knew well. As a beginner, I fell into literally all the traps a first-time designer can fall into. My first game was way too long and complicated, it had every mechanism I had encountered, and most importantly it wasn't fun. Thankfully I had already dealt with many, many, many failures and disappointments in my first job, so I didn't give up and I made a second, a third, and many more versions of that initial game. At some point I was confident enough to show it to a publisher, mostly for feedback and thoughts. In no way was it a finished design, but the meeting was positive enough for me to keep at it.
From that meeting, I learned about a national board game design contest that was taking place in my town. I was encouraged to participate in it, but I felt it wasn't the right time to show my design to such a wide audience. I promised to myself that next year I would be ready. In the meantime, I put aside my first game and tried to complete other ideas I had. Some were very promising, and some were unimaginable disasters.
Some months later, the next national board game design contest was announced and a friend of mine suggested that I should participate with my cinema game. I felt it was still too complicated and big for that environment, so I decided to make a new game, specifically for the contest, by keeping the same theme and inserting new, streamlined and easier mechanisms. I needed to create a game that could convey the theme of managing a movie studio by using only cards. I wanted a game that would be easier to set up, explain and play than the heavy worker placement and economic game that I had already made, so I tested many different mechanisms and I ended up loving the idea of hand management. As in real life, you need to manage correctly your crew and cast, as a production of anything audiovisual is an extremely long and hard process. I also wanted to incorporate a sense of expansion and progression, so I decided to implement deck-building aspects to the game by adding new crew members that the players could hire to their studios.
The projects at the beginning were only movies, but soon I realized that by adding new kinds of projects, such as television series, commercials and awards, I could add multiple ways to victory, much more replayability, and of course cool new artwork!
Early in the design process, I also decided to make the game two player only as I thought I could manage the balance better and I was able to playtest it more often. In the initial playtests, I was happy with the general idea and direction of the game, but I needed to make sure that players always had interesting choices to make during their turn and were not obliged to play a specific card. Unfortunately by making some big changes to the game, I went to the opposite direction. I though it would be cool to have each type of project always available to the players. That way they always had something to do in their turn, but the problem was that these many options didn't help the pace of the game, and by removing the limitations I had made the game less interesting. By reverting to the original idea of shuffling together all the projects and dealing some of them in the middle, I could create an interesting puzzle again.
Many versions later, I was convinced that the game could support more players, but I wanted to make sure that by adding more players I wouldn't add more chaos, so I decided to incorporate specific set-up patterns in order to ensure that by the time a player's turn came up again, the available projects would be mostly the same.
After a lot of work, I had a version that played 2 to 4 players in forty minutes, and I was confident enough to submit my game to the competition. During that competition the designers would have the opportunity to playtest and showcase their games, and after three months the jury would select the ten best games. The first of the three playtest events was very enlightening because for the first time strangers played my game and gave me feedback. Up to that point, my focus group was friends and family that although sincere still wouldn't hurt my feelings with aggressive opinions and critiques — but strangers didn't care about my feelings and that's exactly what I needed! After the first event, I redesigned almost every card in the game and I introduced goal cards. I felt that players needed a sense of direction both for the entirety of the game and for the early rounds, so setting up objectives that reward fame points for specific strategies helped to guide the players, even those who deliberately avoided them.
With the new version of the game, I went to the second playtest event, where I had the chance to show it to three different publishers! Drawlab Entertainment was the first company that immediately liked my idea and soon we met again to further discuss the game and its potential. From the first moment, their level of enthusiasm for my game won me over, and after months of balancing and developing its core aspects we had managed to create an amazing game based on what I knew best: cinema. The game ended up in third place in the card games category, but I felt like a winner as I knew I had found the best home for my creation.
I hope you will enjoy Motion Pictures: Movies Out of Cardboard and keep enjoying it as we develop more content from the endless world of audiovisual productions.
Motion Pictures on display in the press room at SPIEL 2016
W. Eric Martin
Portal Games plans to debut its new edition of Robinson Crusoe at SPIEL 2016, along with expansions for Neuroshima Hex! and Imperial Settlers, but hey, why stop there? Let's announce even more!
Yes, Portal Games has announced four forthcoming titles for 2017, in addition to the previously announced (and still under development) First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet. Stronghold: Undead is a revised version of the previously released Stronghold: Undead expansion from 2010, with rules for "gathering mana, spell casting, and terror", as well as new buildings and abilities for the Defender and a brand new map with new routes for the Attacker. 51st State: Scavengers, an first expansion for 51st State: Master Set based on the previous 51st State expansion Ruins adds new locations to the game and lets you search the discard pile for tools to use in your State. Cry Havoc: Aftermath includes five new skills and three new structures for each faction and introduces an alternate game mode that ensures each game lasts for five full rounds; what's more, when passing an event token, instead of removing it, new scoring abilities are introduced that allow players even more options to gain victory points.
Aside from those expansions, at Gen Con 2017 Portal Games plans to launch Alien Artifacts by Viola Kijowska and Marcin Ropka. Here's a short description:
Alien Artifacts is an 4x-style card game in which you play as an interplanetary corporation, sending your research vessels into uncharted space to expand your knowledge and power. Build your ship, research tech, and explore the galaxy for anything — or anyone — you can exploit.
Alien Artifacts provides a true 4x experience in under an hour. With over 200 cards, Alien Artifacts offers players many scoring strategies and great re-playability.
A game titled "Alien Artifacts" by seemingly the same authors was announced by Polish publisher Trefl in 2015, and this might be the case of one game migrating to another publisher — something I hope to check given that the publisher and at least one of the authors is one site here at SPIEL 2016 and I can ask directly! Update, October 12: Yes, the two titles are the one and the same, and I've merged them in the BGG database, while moving the old images on that game page to the personal galleries of those who uploaded them since they no longer represent the game in question.
W. Eric Martin
Not content to have new games for sale at SPIEL 2016, a few publishers have also decided to announce upcoming titles at this game convention in Essen, such as Bézier Games with New York Slice, a new version of Jeffrey D. Allers' Piece o' Cake, which first appeared in 2008. Here's an overview of the gameplay, along with some details of what's changed in this release, which is due out in January 2017:
You've just been given a shot at being the head chef at the prestigious New York Slice pizza parlor. Now you and your fellow pizza chef wannabes have to make the most amazing pizzas...one slice at a time!
In New York Slice, a revised version of Piece o' Cake, each player slices pizzas into portions, giving their opponents first choice, while they take the leftovers. There are a dozen kinds of pizza to work with, from veggie to hawaiian to meat lover's, and each player decides if they want to eat or keep some of the slices, building the best collection of pizzas possible!
In this release, each time a player slices a pizza, there's a different special to go along with it, whether it's allocated to one of the portions or placed on its own. Specials provide the player with special powers or points, such as calling dibs on a slice before the pizza is divided, getting one of the normally-out-of-the-game "mystery slices', having an opportunity to "sneak a slice" by moving it from one portion to another when they choose, and many more—there are 14 different "Today's Specials" in the game.
Some slices have anchovies on them (yuck!), which are worth negative points to anyone who collects them — but anchovies might show up on different pizza types you're collecting, so in order to have the majority of a type, you just might have to collect one with anchovies on it!
If you tie another player for the most slices of a type, neither of you gets any points — but a bunch of slices have two types of pizza on them, with each combo slice being worth half a slice of each type, which is great for breaking ties.
The dollops of whipped cream in the original game generally aren't accepted on pizza slices as a topping, but instead most slices have pepperoni on them, which you can eat for points (instead of collecting to go for the majority of each slice type).
Prototype on display in the BGG booth at SPIEL 2016
W. Eric Martin
For my final pre-SPIEL 2016 preview, let's check out the two-player game Hanamikoji from Kota Nakayama, first released by Japanese publisher Takamagahara in 2013 as 21 Flowers (with the cards depicting, yes, flowers) and now out in Chinese, Japanese and English from EmperorS4 Games with players competing to win the most favors from geishas or hire geishas or compete for dominance in the geisha mindspace. I'm not exactly sure of the setting, but the gloriously colorful art makes me not exactly care.
I don't normally opine much in these preview videos, but in this case I'll tell you that this game is incredibly good at what it is: a quick-playing card game of tug-of-war in which you need to somehow trick the opponent into taking exactly what you want them to take — or else know how to recover when the dirty dog does you wrong....
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