BoardGameGeek News

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

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Spiel 2015 XXIV: Peloponnes Card Game, Fruit Mix, Giraffometer, Splash! and The Producer: 1940-1944

W. Eric Martin
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Bernd Eisenstein's well-regarded Peloponnes board game debuted in 2009, and he's released mini-expansions for the game through his Irongames brand roughly once a year since then. Now Eisenstein has transformed the system a bit with the Peloponnes Card Game — the same, but different! — with this title having debuted at Spiel 2015. In this video, Eisenstein and sometime design partner Jeffrey D. Allers lead you through the basics of play.





• Martin Nedergaard Andersen has had a couple of dozen games released by publishers in the past three years, with Russian publisher Lifestyle Boardgames being responsible for two of them. The memory game Fruit Mix challenges you not to match the fruit hidden behind the tiles, but the fruits (and plates and colors) keep changing, so good luck with that.





• Which number is larger: the length of the longest cigar or the number of sausage varieties in Germany? Andersen's Giraffometer from Lifestyle throws lots of numbers at you in different categories, but you don't need to know the exact answers to score — you need only guess well and get lucky.





• At Spiel 2014, Lifestyle demoed Marie and Wilfried Fort's Splash! to distributors and other publishers, and by Spiel 2015 the game had been released with versions in Dutch, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Polish and Russian. Why? Because Splash! is both familiar and easy-to-learn, a balancing game in which you want others to knock stuff over so that you can score.





• New publishers pop up each year at Spiel, sometimes only to appear once before vanishing and sometimes to launch a title that heralds a new presence in the game industry, with most newcomers falling somewhere between those extremes. One of the first-timers for Spiel 2015 was Italian publisher Apokalypse Inc, which debuted with Manlio Zaninotti's movie-making game The Producer: 1940-1944.

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Sun Dec 27, 2015 1:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 XXIII: Bombyx Game Previews — Histrio and Zany Penguins

W. Eric Martin
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• The year 2015 is coming to a close, and I regret to report that I still haven't posted everything that BGG recorded at Spiel 2015 in October. For heaven's sake, Eric, what's your problem?

Thankfully many of the videos still to be posted are ones that I recorded away from the BGG booth, videos that serve as previews of forthcoming games — which means that I'm not late with these videos after all! Instead they serve as previews of what's coming in 2016! Why, that's just good planning on my part (as long as we ignore the videos for which this is not true).

In any case, let's look first at an overview of Histrio from Bruno Cathala and Christian Martinez, which publisher Bombyx will also release as Fourberies in French. The gist of the game is that players are pulling together a troupe of animal actors to put on a play, manipulating the tastes of the king so that he's anticipating what you plan to deliver. The artwork by Jérémie Fleury is amazing; here's a sample showing the queen. Intense! (Tric Trac published an excellent overview of Fleury's work on this game, showing sketches and historical influences, along with finished illustrations.)







• Cathala also showed off the card game Zany Penguins, a co-design with Mathieu Lanvin that Bombyx will debut at the Cannes game festival in February 2016 before releasing the game in France in March and elsewhere in later months.

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Sat Dec 26, 2015 6:00 pm
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Links: BGG's New Look, Ex-CIA Agents Play Homeland, and Cards Against Humanity Against Picasso

W. Eric Martin
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• Nicole at The Daily Worker Placement interviewed BGG's Scott Alden in mid-December 2015 about the site's redesign, including lots of images of the new look in the article and mentioning that an open beta test will likely be ready in January 2016.

• And now for a second BGG-related post: BGG has used Livestream in the past (but will not in the future) for its livestream game demonstrations from Gen Con and Spiel, and since Livestream has reported being hacked, I'd suggest that you take whatever action is needed should you be one of those who uses the same password on multiple sites.

• Three former CIA employees play Gale Force Nine's Homeland: The Game and report on the experience on Slate: "We may have nearly two decades of intelligence experience among us — including time spent working on counterterrorism issues both in the field and back at Langley — but we spent more than an hour trying to make heads or tails of the game's rules and components. There are six different types of playing cards to master, two different figurines, four different tokens that added up to...something. The cards use terminology we used in our former careers — assets, threat analysis, official reprimands — but they meant different things here than in real life."

The Onion's A.V. Club polled readers about 2015's best and worst movie, book, television show, etc., and the only board game to place on the list of games was Pandemic Legacy.

• This link might be a tad late for you now, but The New York Times highlighted eight gifts for family game night, including Dominion, Ascension, Qwirkle (spelled wrong, as it often is), Sushi Go!, and Mary Flanagan's Monarch, with Flanagan being the expert whose game suggestions are used in the article.

• As a publicity stunt, the creators of Cards Against Humanity are polling the 150,000 supporters of its Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah to see whether it should cut up a Picasso print into 150,000 pieces (thereby allowing each supporters to own a piece of a Picasso) or whether it should donate the print to the Art Institute of Chicago. Gabriel Roth responds on Slate by yawning and giving a "Is that all you got?" in response:

Quote:
The idea, I guess, is that some people will be scandalized by the idea of "an original 1962 Picasso" being destroyed ("This is an outrage! Donate it to the Art Institute," reads one of the ballot options), just as some people are scandalized by the idea of randomly combining phrases like "date rape" and "a midget shitting into a bucket" in a party game, while other people — people who find themselves unable to provoke a more complicated reaction in their fellow humans than shock and offense but who still need to be reassured that they exist, that they're not disembodied wraiths passing unnoticed across the surface of the world — will view that potential outrage as an opportunity for a self-soothing act of assertive hostility.

But unlike a racist card game, this chop-up-a-Picasso stunt isn't worth getting upset about. Tête de Faune is "an original 1962 Picasso" print — one of a run of 50 signed lino-cuts. The Art Institute of Chicago would stick it in the basement and barely send you a thank-you note.

If you want to annoy people by destroying a work of art, don't pick one of a set of 50 prints from the waning years of the most prolific artist of all time. Cut up the Demoiselles d'Avignon or something! Go big or go home!

Whether a publicity stunt can be judged successful is determined by how much publicity it receives, and I realize that I'm contributing to that tally. In its own article on the stunt, The Chicago Tribune notes that in 1994 the pop band The KLF burned nearly one million pounds in cash, royalties for its work, as part of an art project. (Wikipedia has details on the project and resulting film, Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.)
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Sat Dec 26, 2015 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: CMON to Distribute Krosmaster, Japanime to Serve More Maids, and Queen Games to Revisit Marshlands

W. Eric Martin
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Cool Mini Or Not has picked up the U.S. distribution rights for Krosmaster items from original publisher Ankama Products, starting with the fulfillment of Kickstarter rewards for backers of Krosmaster Quest as noted in a press release from CMON: "All existing pre-orders of Krosmaster: Quest will be fulfilled by CMON Inc., including all promotional items promised with the pre-order of Krosmaster: Quest."

• In a separate press release, Japanime Games states that it "will continue to be the exclusive worldwide distributor of English-language Krosmaster products that were previously released". In addition, "Organized Play will be taken over in a smooth transition to CMON Inc. and further information will be available shortly."

Japanime Games also notes that in Q1 2016 it plans to release the long-awaited Tanto Cuore: Oktoberfest and to conduct a Kickstarter campaign for an English-language version of the deck-building game Heart of Crown, which debuted in Japan in 2011. (Publisher FLIPFLOPs has released multiple expansions for Heart of Crown, and the line for Heart of Crown: Path Before Heaven at Tokyo Game Market in Nov. 2015 was far longer than for anything else at the show.)

In 2016, Japanime Games also plans to release a new English-language edition of God's Gambit from Seiji Kanai, which was previously available only through a Kickstarter campaign, and Panic High School, a quick-playing take-that card game available from Japon Brand at Spiel 2015 as Pani-High!

In the second half of 2016, Japanime Games plans to crowdfund Tanto Cuore 5: The Maid-ing Game, which introduces butlers, "fun relationship cards and love triangles" to this deck-building game. At the same time, Japanime will crowdfund different language versions of the first four Tanto Cuore games, with each language featuring new promo cards.

Queen Games has resolved its issues with designer Donald X. Vaccarino, and as a result Vaccarino has signed a new contract for Kingdom Builder: Marshlands — which had a Kickstarter project for it cancelled in mid-2015 when contract problems came to light — as well as a fourth KB expansion. As a result, Queen has launched a new KS for Marshlands that's already funded twice over.

• Ralph Anderson from Eagle-Gryphon Games notes the following on BGG: "As of December 7, 2015, Martin Wallace is the sole owner of the rights to Brass. Martin Wallace and FRED Distribution, Inc. dba Eagle-Gryphon Games, have formally ended their contract for Brass, which began in 2008."

• As is his custom at the end of the year, designer Michael Schacht has released a mini-expansion for one of his designs, in this case scoring variants for Zooloretto Mini and Zooloretto Junior.

Wait a minute — what's Zooloretto Junior? According to Schacht, it's a reworking of Zooloretto Mini that's due out from ABACUSSPIELE in February 2016: 2-5 players, ages 7+, playing time 30 min. I know nothing more about the game right now — and German publishers seem to be waiting until the new year to drop info — but here's a pic of the Taiwanese version of Zooloretto Junior (along with other 2016 releases) from publisher GoKids 玩樂小子:

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Fri Dec 25, 2015 9:00 pm
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Asmodee Clarifies Its Changes for 2016: Online Sales Will Continue, No Price Floors Will Be Imposed

W. Eric Martin
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The North American branch of Asmodee announced major changes to its business model that will take place on January 1 and April 1, 2016 — a change of name to Asmodee North America, a reduction in the number of U.S. distributors carrying its products, the elimination of online game sales of Asmodee products by brick-and-mortar stores, and a reduction in the number of online retailers of its products. (For more details on these announcements, head to this Dec. 19, 2015 BGG News post.)

Now Asmodee has issued a follow-up press release to clarify what was previously announced, and I present that release in its entirety:

Quote:
To Whom It May Concern,

Related to our recently announced wholesale terms and policy changes, some questions have been raised by stakeholders such as yourself. On behalf of Asmodee North America, we're happy to provide you some additional context to those changes and clarify several areas.

It is important to underscore that, above all, Asmodee and its publishers are dedicated to creating and publishing great games, and to expand the audience that enjoy these experiences. Our vision is one of mutual success of each participant: publisher, distributor, retailers (of every channel), and, most importantly, the game consumer. We believe our new business terms and policy changes are a significant step in achieving such mutual success.

Why are you making these sudden changes?
While they may appear to be sudden, these policies have been under development for a very long time, and considered carefully. They are intended to allow for success in the channels of sale where our products are represented: success that is not attained at the expense of other channels that provide crucial value to the overall health of the industry and our business.

To that end, we have decided to cleanly define and authorize the channels of sale in which our business partners (distributors and retailers) operate, so that we may a) ensure that consumers receive a quality experience in acquiring our games, and b) ensure that the risk, value, and investment of every channel, relative to others, can be successful.

We believe the current ecosystem of specialty retail and online retail is important to the health and growth of the gaming hobby. Without taking corrective action, we believe this ecosystem would be in jeopardy, which ultimately would affect the quality of game development and the investment in great consumer experiences.

Did you invent this approach?
The practice of product originators authorizing outlets and defining expected behavior in its product distribution chain is well established in many industries and common in high-end and niche product categories.

I don't frequent local game retailers, why are they important?
We believe that business partners whom provide services and investments that we value, relative to others who do not, should receive proportional value from us so that they may succeed in such activities. In comparison to, for example, the online channel of sales, specialty retailers make investments in areas we consider critical to the health and growth of the gaming hobby, such as in-store gaming events, demonstrations, tournaments, and other organized play facilitation. These outlets are a crucial part of an ecosystem that retains and generates players. In turn, this allows publishers to engage and invest in game development. As such, these services are of value to all game consumers, even consumers whom do not personally participate or take advantage of local specialty retailers.

In the future, will I be able to find products from Asmodee North America (i.e. products from Asmodee Editions, Fantasy Flight Games, or Days of Wonder) online?
We are keenly aware and we understand that not all consumers have access to, or that some prefer not to take advantage of, specialty retail game stores. Online shopping is a modern and convenient method of shopping, and Asmodee is committed to keeping this channel a viable and high-quality method of product delivery to consumers.

We intend to work with a number of exceptional authorized online dealers. We are confident that consumers will easily be able to find and acquire our products from a variety of online outlets.

Some brick-and-mortar specialty retailers also sell online, how will this affect them?
We recognize that these new policies come with implications for some retailers. One such change will be that authorized specialty retailers will agree not to sell Asmodee North America products online. That said, we hope the end result, i.e. enabling us to support them relative to other defined channels, will be a significant net improvement for specialty retailers overall.

Will Asmodee North America change any consumer engagement practices of publishers, such as the FFG World Championships, AsmoPlay, Gen Con booth and events, publisher websites, etc?
No, consumer engagement from publishers is expected to continue as has been done in the past, and all the above are expected to continue (in fact, we will be investing to make these efforts even greater). Our publishers represent different brands, gaming styles, and audiences, we have no interest in mixing them or forcing them into a single brand, message, or culture.

How will this affect mass market outlets, such a Amazon, Target, or Barnes and Noble?
We consider the mass/broad market to be its own unique channel of sale, one we want to be successful in its own right alongside our other successful channels of sale.

Many specialty retailers have in-store loyalty or volume discounts, and many online dealers discount their product. In the new policies taking effect on April 1st, 2016, will you institute or impose official price floors or "minimum advertised price" policies on your authorized retailers?
No.

Change is never easy, rarely popular, and we understand that some will dismiss such corporate change as cynical and self-serving. We believe to be making a change that will not only be positive for us, but will be positive for our business partners, for player growth, and for future development of gaming product with increasing quality and imagination.

Best Wishes and Happy Holidays,

Aaron Elliott
VP Marketing
Asmodee North America
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Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:33 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: The December Drought

Dustin Schwartz
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The number of board games on Kickstarter grew yet again this year, with 2015 seeing 850 board game projects thus far, compared to 757 for all of 2014. (Data drawn from Matt Wolfe's excellent 2014 and 2015 Geeklists.) Despite that roughly 12% growth, the month of December has been exceptionally quiet this year.

Perhaps KS creators have embraced the collective wisdom that the period just prior to the holiday season is a rough time for cajoling dollars from backers' wallets, or maybe they're looking to be smart and avoid paying more tax than they need to on their capital gains. At any rate, let's take a briefer-than-normal look at what's going on in the KS landscape at the moment.

Dungeon Busters, from the mind of designer Tomohiro Enoki, flips blind bidding on its head. You want to bid the lowest to get the best reward, but if the collective bid total is less than a certain threshold, you lose points. This small card game originated in Japan but has become a hit in Korea. In August 2015, WEM recorded this video explaining the game in more detail. Mayday Games is printing copies for a U.S. release as it has done for so many other Korea Boardgames titles. (KS link)

• The far-future setting of Numenera, the award-winning RPG from Monte Cook Games, is now making its second foray into the board game scene by way of The Ninth World: A Skillbuilding Game for Numenera from Lone Shark Games. The game was originally designed by Paul Peterson and Boyan Radakovich, with Lone Shark head honcho Mike Selinker contributing his design acumen later in the process. They've described this unorthodox project as "one part deckbuilder, one part Eurogame, and one part RPG". (KS link)

• The mining industry is laden with good material for an economic simulation as designer Bruno Crépeault and publisher Sit Down! proved with Rockwell. Despite a successful campaign for the game in July 2013, expansion elements positioned as stretch goals were not unlocked, so now they're back for another swing of the ol' pickaxe with a lo-fi campaign for Rockwell: The Fluctuating Market. Also noteworthy is that the publisher's newer release Ekö, which has been hard to obtain in North America, is available as an add-on. (KS link)

• Sports-themed board games have never been the best of sellers, but wrestling has translated to tabletop better than most. TTCombat has entered the ring with its offering, RUMBLESLAM. Though wrestling is on the playbill, the team-based gameplay seems more akin to titles like Kaosball or DreadBall than it does to anything you'll see on WWE. Any game gets bonus points from me for including a werewolf team, especially when the creature design looks like an homage to the old Sega side-scroller Altered Beast. (KS link)

• There's an entire BGG guild for folks who play solo, and more than 25% of all solitaire games in the database are wargames. It's that audience that will be interested in Phantom Leader Deluxe from Dan Verssen and his publishing outfit DVG. This game, set during the Vietnam War, released back in 2013. The KS page is very up front (heh) about the fact that the campaign is more-or-less a pre-order window for a new printing of the game. I hear the clattering of the purists' pitchforks even now. (KS link)

• It's funny how Internet shorthand creeps into our actual speech patterns; just last week at game night I bid my friend a begrudging "gg" after an exceptional play. But now GG is actually the title of a game, to be self-published by Alican Yenidogan. It's essentially a game framework built around playing lots of mini games of Rock Paper Scissors, combined with a memory element. This "addictive 15 min strategy card game" (that’s A15MSCG to you!) also has an expansion for turning the whole experience into a drinking game. (KS link)

• The folks over at Eagle-Gryphon Games are shrewd marketers, positioning their campaign for Empires: Galactic Rebellion to draft off the hype surrounding the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Glenn Drover continues his comeback in dramatic style with this space opera sequel to Empires: Age of Discovery. If you're looking for something to justify the $95 price tag, there are 400+ plastic miniatures to slake your thirst (though consuming them is not recommended). (KS link)



Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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Sun Dec 20, 2015 9:18 pm
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Links: 1980s Video Game Flashback, Shots at Ticket to Ride, and Chess That's Less Ready to Make

W. Eric Martin
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• On Boing Boing, John E. Williamson showers love and affection on The Battle at Kemble's Cascade:

Quote:
Everything in the box is made with a love for classic games and it shows, from the manual, to the player cards, to the fake wear of the box, to the variety of enemies. Kemble's Cascade was my surprise board game discovery of the summer. If you die, you can just insert another quarter and play some more.

• In October 2015, The Economist noted that tabletop games "are booming in the video-game age", focusing on the then-upcoming Spiel 2015 for its news hook:

Quote:
Some of the games at Spiel will be aimed at children, but grown-ups are doing most of the buying. There is something for every taste, from Fluxx, a lighthearted card game whose rules change with every card played, to Power Grid, a fiendishly tricky business game featuring aspiring electricity tycoons, to all-day chin-scratchers such as Twilight Imperium, a game of galactic civilisation-building.

• Seth Rosenthal on SB Nation recounts a tale from the 2014 Settlers of Catan World Championship, covers his effort to earn a spot in the 2015 event, and details the Catan tournament that took place at Gen Con 2015.

• On Metro, George Lindsay-Watson offers an ill-thought-out list of "11 of the best board games to make into drinking games", which includes this bit of nonsense that makes it clear that G.L.W. has played few, if any, of the games in question:

Quote:
Ticket to Ride

As you hop aboard and try to lay your track across the country or continent, take a drink for every carriage you get on the board. Also drink for every route point you earn, although if these hit double digits it may be best to divide by two, old chap.

This would kill you.

• Using a photograph of Marcel Duchamp's hand-carved chess set from 1917-1918, Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera recreated the pieces, then released 3D files of them in April 2014 on Thingiverse under the name "Readymake: Duchamp Chess Set" — "readymake" being a play off of Duchamp's "readymade" — so that anyone could recreate the set for themselves.

In September 2014, however, the estate of Duchamp sent Kildall and Cera a cease-and-desist letter, despite the chess set being nearly a century old, and therefore not covered by copyright in either the United States or France. Even so, in 2015 Kildall and Cera decided to remove "Readymake" from public availability, instead releasing "Chess with Mustaches", which is the same Duchamp design with a mustache on each piece. (Wink wink.)

Also not available on Thingiverse: Nude playing against Duchamp
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Sun Dec 20, 2015 1:00 pm
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Starting in 2016, Asmodee Will Operate as Asmodee North America, Cut Off Distributors, and Limit Online Sales

W. Eric Martin
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On Dec. 17, 2015, the North American branch of Asmodee announced several changes in its structure and business model, starting with the formation of the umbrella organization Asmodee North America. As of January 1, 2016, all titles from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), Days of Wonder (DoW), and Asmodee Publishing will be marketed and sold by Asmodee North America (ANA), which will be located in Roseville, Minnesota, home of Fantasy Flight Games.

Perhaps not coincidentally, at that time FFG CEO Christian Petersen will become CEO of Asmodee North America. A press release from ANA states that this change in the overarching business structure "will have no effect" on the titles being produced by FFG, DoW, and Asmodee Publishing, a claim that mirrors those made when Asmodee bought Days of Wonder in August 2014 and acquired Fantasy Flight Games in November 2014.

Even larger changes are taking place behind the scenes, with ANA stating that as of January 1, 2016, it will authorize only five distributors in the U.S. — ACD Distribution, Alliance Game Distributors, GTS Distribution, PHD Games, and Southern Hobby Supply — for resale of its products to retailers within the country. This new distribution policy will prevent some current distributors of FFG and Asmodee titles from doing so in the future; at the same time, Days of Wonder product will no longer exclusively be available through Alliance Game Distributors, a situation that's existed since July 1, 2008. Retailers can also purchase product directly from ANA.

What's more, retailers that want to continue carrying and selling titles from ANA need to become authorized as an "Asmodee Specialty Retailer" by April 1, 2016 — and to do that they need to agree to the terms of its Asmodee North America Specialty Retail Policy (PDF).

The existence of a retail policy isn't surprising. Businesses use these to ensure that the products that they deliver to distributors aren't tampered with or represented in ways not intended by the originating business, that buyers agree to specific payment terms, and so on. What is surprising is this all-caps section of the Specialty Retail Policy (SRP):

Quote:
IV. Retailer's Conduct

A. Channel of Sale
RETAILER MUST NOT SELL OR TRANSFER ANY ANA PRODUCT PURCHASED HEREUNDER IN ANY MANNER OTHER THAN THROUGH FACE-TO-FACE COMMERCIAL RESALE EXCHANGE WITH END-USERS IN RETAILER'S PHYSICAL RETAIL LOCATION(S) OR AT A PHYSICAL EXTENSION OF THE RETAILER'S RETAIL LOCATION AT A CONSUMER SHOW/CONVENTION. ALL OTHER CHANNELS AND METHODS OF SALE FOR ANA PRODUCT IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO SUB-DISTRIBUTION, SALES OVER THE INTERNET, AND MAIL ORDER.

FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT, ANY TRANSFER OR SALE OF ANA PRODUCTS TO SUBSIDIARIES OR AFFILIATE COMPANIES CONTROLLED, OR PARTIALLY CONTROLLED, BY RETAILER OR ANY OF RETAILERS' OWNERS AND/OR SHAREHOLDERS, ARE PROHIBITED HEREUNDER.

The first paragraph bans all online sales of ANA titles, a drastic change given that online game sales represent — well, it's actually not clear what percentage of the market they represent, which means that this change is drastic or not only depending on the buyers with whom you speak. (More on this later.)

This prohibition on online sales can even outlast the contract itself, as noted in the section on "Effects of Termination":

Quote:
3. All ANA Products purchased hereunder shall remain subject to Section IV hereof, which shall survive the termination of the Retailer's active Specialty Retailer Account status until such ANA Product is sold.

4. Except for Section VII.B.3, upon termination, this Specialty Retailer Policy is no longer binding on Retailer or ANA.

The second "Channel of Sale" paragraph is meant to address the issue of distributors that act as retailers — that is, distributors that purchase goods from Asmodee, then transfer them at little or no cost to a retailer owned in whole or in part by the distributor, then resold to end-users. Goods handled in this way can be sold profitably by distributor-retailers at discounted prices that actual retailers cannot possibly match.

One way that ANA will police this policy is hinted at in another section of the SRP: "Retailer understands that ANA Distributors must provide ANA with frequent detailed reports outlining Retailer's ANA Product purchases from the ANA Distributor." In other words, ANA will know which distributors sold which products to which buyers.

In a Q&A-style press release meant to clarify the above policy, ANA wrote the following:

Quote:
Q: I sell some Asmodee North America products in my store, and some on my website (or through another online marketplace). As an Asmodee Specialty Retailer, will I be able to continue to do all of this?
A: No, as a Specialty Retailer, you are limited to the channel of sale involving resale of Asmodee North America products to end-users only, by transaction in your physical retail stores only.

Q: I want to sell products from Asmodee North America online, how do I do this?
A: We will be very selective as to which online merchants will be authorized to sell our products. To qualify as an online merchant, you will need to contribute either significant scale, unique service, or other exceptional differentiation. Most online sales activities, including sales through third party websites, will not be authorized.


Q: I sub-distribute products to other businesses, what do I do?
A: Asmodee North America will not authorize sub-distribution of our products, unless by rare and unique exception.

What will happen to retailers that violate the SRP?

Quote:
A: We reserve the right to evaluate each violation on a case-by-case basis, and we will make a decision on how to respond based on severity, intent, scale, repeat behavior, and other factors. Generally speaking, a Specialty Retail account who knowingly violates the Specialty Retail Policy will be deactivated and therefore no longer have access to products from Asmodee North America.


I sent many questions about the ANA SRP to FFG's VP of Marketing Aaron Elliot: What constitutes an online merchant of "significant scale, unique service, or other exceptional differentiation"? Will retailers such as Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble be allowed to sell ANA product online in 2016? What about online retailers such as Funagain and CoolStuffInc? What negative effects does ANA perceive as being caused by online sales of its products? What changes does ANA hope to effect with this new sales policy? What percentage of sales comes from online outlets versus physical retail stores?

Elliot initially stated that Christian Petersen would answer these questions, but noted that all of FFG was taking the afternoon off to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens — no surprise there given how invested FFG is in the Star Wars brand! However, Elliott later sent the following note: "After carefully considering your questions, along with many of the questions we've seen from others, we have decided to issue a statement on Monday [Dec. 21, 2015] to clarify a few things from the initial release."

Thus, we'll have to wait for further clarification of who will be affected by the SRP and what ANA hopes to achieve by adopting this policy, but that hasn't stopped plenty of people from speculating on these topics, as evidenced by this BGG thread started by game retailer Rockin B' Games.

The game industry has gone down a similar road before in 2007 when Mayfair Games announced that it would allow retailers to discount its titles by no more than 20% from the MSRP. Many on BGG stated that this policy would lead to the demise of Mayfair, and I wrote a column on Boardgame News — the site I ran at the time — explaining why such claims were nonsense. (I'll republish this column in the near future since these types of arguments are already being made about Asmodee, and they're still equally ridiculous.)

The biggest issue to keep in mind is that despite BGG having a huge readership and user base, that base in no way represents the game market at large. Days of Wonder, for example, claims to have sold more than three million Ticket to Ride games, and while the publisher doesn't state whether that number relates to sales of the base game, all of the standalone games, or every Ticket to Ride-branded product, a glance through the BGG database shows that no more than 175,000 TtR items of any type are listed as owned by BGG users. Not every BGG user uses the collection function, of course, but I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I suggest that the hardcore, price-conscious BGG user base is a tiny fraction of Days of Wonder's entire sales base.

As Mayfair did nearly a decade ago, Asmodee is willing to bet that it will more than make up the difference of lost sales to price-conscious gamers through the support of physical game stores that will have more of an incentive to market and promote titles from ANA. At least that's my takeaway from the announcements; ideally we'll see in a few days how closely they match ANA's stated reasons for the policy change...
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Game Previews: Tokyo Game Market • Nov 2015 — Balloon Challenge, TimeBomb II, Nine Tiles, and Violinista!

W. Eric Martin
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• Let's look at a quartet of game demo videos that I recorded at Tokyo Game Market in November 2015, with my wife Linda running the camera while I presented the games. (I had heard from multiple people that Japanese game designers rarely want to be photographed as they are often undertaking game design as a secondary job that they would not want associated with their main line of work, so I planned on learning the games, then demoing them — which is precisely what we did.)

Japanese game publisher Oink Games had a new title for TGM, one not from director/main designer Jun Sasaki but rather from Jean-Claude Pellin. Here's an overview of Nine Tiles:

Quote:
In Nine Tiles, each player takes nine double-sided tiles, with each side of a tile having one of six images, and arranges them in a 3x3 gird. Each image appears a total of three times on the tiles, with it being paired with a different image in each of the three instances. (The sets of nine tiles are identical, and they have 1-4 dots on them to help players sort the tiles.)

Each round, one of the thirty goal cards is revealed, then players race to rearrange their tiles — flipping one tile at a time, or swapping two tiles — in order to make their nine tiles match the image shown on the card. Whenever a player thinks they've done this, they slap the card. If they're correct, they keep the card; if they're wrong, they still keep the card, but flipped face-down. If a player collect two face-down cards, they're out of the game.

The first play to collect four (face-up) cards wins!

By combining two sets of Nine Tiles, up to eight players can compete at once. When more than four people are in a game, reveal two of the thirty cards each round. Each player can claim at most one card in a round.

Pellin has told me that this design will also be released in 2016 from Belgian publisher AzaoGames under the name Flip Hop, with the symbols being replaced with hip-hop snails. Curious. (I'll probably merge these listings once we confirm that they're essentially the same thing.)




In case you want to see Nine Tiles in action, check out the video below. I've since played twice on a purchased copy — well, two copies as we played with six people — and I crushed all comers. As with other pure speed games, if you're 10% faster than others in Nine Tiles, you're likely to win 90% of the time as there's nothing other than speed to determine who wins and who loses. Still, I'm ready to face other challengers should they want to throw down the tiled gauntlet...


Speaking of Oink Games, the publisher's Deep Sea Adventure won the first Game Market Award, with the other four nominees for this debut prize being Minerva, Princess Escort, Hitohira, and Stone Garden. Here's a pic of Sasaki accepting the award during TGM:





• Designer/publisher Kenichi Tanabe has been releasing games since 2007, and for the Nov. 2015 TGM he released two titles through his COLON ARC brand: Lisboa and Balloon Challenge. I didn't record an overview of the former, alas, but we're getting a few copies of Lisboa as well as Balloon Challenge for the Geek Store, so perhaps I'll get a chance to do so later. For now, though, here's an overview of the card game Balloon Challenge:





• I bought TimeBomb from New Board Game Party on the recommendation of a trusted source and highly enjoyed this secret-role game, despite me not normally taking to such things. (Here's my overview of the game from May 2015.)

Thus, when I discovered that NBGP would release TimeBomb II at Game Market in November 2015, I made a note to pick it up, in addition to recording an overview video for the game. That said, I still need to get a translation of the rulebook since my overview gets me only 85% of the way through the complete rules.





• We'll close with バイオリニスタ!Violinista! — a convention-only cooperative game from Bouken Adventure Planning Service that to this untrained ear comes across as four people playing violins somewhat at random, but my ineptness at Japanese limited me from finding out about the game in detail. In any case, I wanted to share this unusual experience:

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Game Preview: The Waltzing Cat, or Picking Up Kitties, Then Knocking Them Over Again

W. Eric Martin
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Is a game preview still a preview if the game has been released but seen by only a few hundred people? I'm guessing that it does given that I chose to use the word "preview" in the header of this post, but that decision leaves open the question of exactly when something stops being a preview and instead is an overview — or perhaps just a view.

In any case, one of the hundreds of new games released at Tokyo Game Market in Nov. 2015 was The Waltzing Cat by Saien, and the four-minute video below includes rules and a complete game played by perhaps less-than-completely-aware players:




For those who prefer a written description to video, here you go:

Quote:
The Waltzing Cat is a two-player game that consists of eleven wooden blocks, with each of those blocks depicting two differently-colored cats on opposite sides. Gold cats show up five times, red and blue four times, and white, black and green three times; no color is repeated on a block with another color that appears the same number of times, e.g., red doesn't share a block with red or blue, but it does with the other four colors.

To set up, shuffle the blocks without looking at them, then set them up so that each player can see only one side of each block. The player who sees more gold cats takes the first turn. On a turn, a player pushes a block away from them (so that it falls on the table), pulls a block toward them, or declares the end of the game. If you push a block and the face that lands facing up appears on another face-up block, then you keep the block that you just pushed over. If you pull a block — thereby revealing a face that you haven't seen — and the face that lands facing up appears on another face-up block, then you keep both matching blocks.

If you declare the end of the game, the other player takes turns either pushing or pulling blocks (claiming blocks when appropriate) until no further matches can be made; the player who claimed the end of the game then takes all remaining face-up blocks.

Players then tally their scores for the face-up cats in their collection. Each gold cat is worth 2 points, while each non-gold cat is worth 1 point. A pair of one blue and one red cat is worth an additional 3 points (for 5 total points). Whoever scores the most points wins!

The Waltzing Cat resembles Saien's Katteni Shiyagare (which I wrote up in May 2015) in its components and graphic design, but the two games aren't connected except in you needing to use deduction to try to figure out which blocks might be which colors based on what you've seen so that you can make smart plays.

I've now played The Waltzing Cat more than a half-dozen times on a purchased copy — I'm not sure how many times as the game lasts only a few minutes, and we typically play a few games in a row — and find it a fascinating distillation of deduction games. You have so little with which to work, but each turn you must push or pull something, which reveals information to the opponent in the process and possibly sets them up with opportunities.

In the video above, I was wondering why the girl kept pushing tiles away from her, which revealed info to my son and told her nothing — yet she knew exactly when to call the end of the game in order to have enough points to win. Okay, perhaps that was luck, but I have no idea. Even with 6+ games under my belt, I'm not sure what constitutes good play in The Waltzing Cat!

As with many other Japanese games, this design intrigues me partly because I feel like I don't understand it, but I could if I just played it a few more times. The game tickles something in my brain; I want to figure it out and play better while also wanting to introduce it to others because it seems so far removed from most of the other games that I play. Yes, it's a deduction game, but it's not a Frankenstein's monster of designs I already have on my shelves. I'm not sure what to make of it, so I'm reduced to being a kid again, poking at something with a stick to try to figure it out...

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Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:00 pm
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