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BoardGameGeek News

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

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Spiel des Jahres Nominations for 2016: Codenames, Imhotep and Karuba

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In Germany, the Spiel des Jahres and Kinderspiel des Jahres juries have announced their nominations for the largest awards in gaming in terms of publicity and generated sales, and as usual the Spiel des Jahres nominations are a combination of the expected and "Really? That one?" The nominees for Spiel des Jahres, Germany's "game of the year" award, are

Codenames, by Vlaada Chvátil and Czech Games Edition (overview video with the designer on BGG)
Imhotep, by Phil Walker-Harding and KOSMOS (overview video)
Karuba, by Rüdiger Dorn and HABA (overview video)

Codenames was on every list of SdJ nominations that I saw, and given the way that this game has taken the hobby by storm — especially how players have created their own variations for the design using Dixit cards, Cards Against Humanity cards, other game boxes, and so forth — I have a hard time imagining how it won't win. Just yesterday during a game session, a single fellow and a couple told me how they had each introduced Codenames to new people within the past week, with those converts wanting to play again and again and again. The gameplay is as easy or as involved as the players make it; the design invites creativity from the players; and people can join (or drop out) of the game as needed, making it something that goes on the table while you're waiting for guests, only to absorb those guests into the game when they arrive. That said, who knows what will happen as "surefire" winners have failed to take home the red poppel in previous years...

The SdJ jury has also issued a recommended list of five titles, with those titles being:

Agent Undercover (a.k.a. Spyfall)
Animals on Board
Die fiesen 7
Krazy WORDZ
Qwinto



Nominations for the Kennerspiel des Jahres — the enthusiast's game of the year — have likewise been announced by the SdJ jury:

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, by Andreas Pelikan, Alexander Pfister and Lookout Games
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, by Matt Leacock, Rob Daviau and Z-Man Games
T.I.M.E Stories, by Manuel Rozoy and Space Cowboys

Pandemic Legacy has to be the odds-on favorite to win given how the game has dominated the mindspace of those who play it. The game is a story created by you and your fellow players, a world that you both travel through and affect with your actions, leaving you in the end with an incredibly personal experience that feels more like an event than a game. I've been a huge fan of T.I.M.E Stories since 2012 when I first played the prototype, and that game took years to come together — both in terms of assembling scenarios and figuring out how to package the experience into something that players could do easily at home — only to find itself overshadowed by Pandemic Legacy once it finally hit the market.

The recommended list for the KedJ is a bit shorter, but it contains probably the three most expected titles by the BGG audience:

7 Wonders: Duel
Blood Rage
Mombasa



Finally, the separate Kinderspiel des Jahres jury has its own list of nominations for the children's game of the year, and those are:

Leo muss zum Friseur (Leo Goes to the Barber), by Leo Colovini and ABACUSSPIELE
Mmm!, by Reiner Knizia and Pegasus Spiele
Stone Age Junior, by Marco Teubner and Hans im Glück

Hans im Glück with a Kinderspiel nom and HABA with the SdJ nom — things have flipped on their head in Germany! I've played both Leo and Mmm! a fair amount, so it's time to get to work on overview videos for those games. Mmm! already won the Spiel der Spiele in Austria in 2015, and I thought that its absence from the Kinderspiel nominations in 2015 was surprising given how well the game introduces kids to the concept of pressing their luck in games (not that they have any aversion to pressing their luck in real life, mind you), but perhaps it absence was merely a fluke of the calendar, with it being released too late for consideration.

The recommendation list for KidJ consists of the following:

Burg Flatterstein (a.k.a. Flutterstone Castle)
Burg Schlummerschatz (a.k.a. Sleepy Castle)
Die geheimnisvolle Drachenhöhle (a.k.a. The Mysterious Dragon Cave)
Dschungelbande
Harry Hopper
Mein Schatz
Sag's mir! Junior (a.k.a. Time's Up! Kids)



The Kinderspiel des Jahres winner will be announced on June 20, 2016, while the SdJ and KedJ winners will be revealed on July 18, 2016. Should you be at BGG.CON Spring on Memorial Day weekend (May 27-30, 2016), four members of the SdJ jury will be on hand with all of the nominees so that you can try them out. How this will work for Pandemic Legacy will be interesting to discover!
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Mon May 23, 2016 10:34 am
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"Full Distributor Support" for Privateer Press' "Free Rider Policy"

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At the end of March 2016, Privateer Press announced a new sales policy aimed at eliminating "free riders", the company's term for deep discount online retailers. From an ICv2 article on the announcement:

Quote:
"Over the last eleven years...online retailers with nearly no overhead and very little meaningful contact with our audience have been undermining the stability of the market by selling product at discounts well below retail value, depending solely on the efforts of our brick and mortar partners who offer services that nurture our audience and grow the market to move their product," [Privateer Press President Sherry Yeary] wrote. "This model of business is widely recognized by experts and the justice system as 'free riding.' While this can be a viable business model for many mainstream products, it is common knowledge that in our industry it's crippling and anticompetitive."

Privateer plans to create a list of retailers that it views as "free riders," which it defines as "retailers...offering Privateer Press products at an unsustainable deep discount and offer[ing] very little or nothing in the way of services" and will impose sanctions on distributors that sell to those retailers. The list will be updated by adding or deleting retailers as needed. Distributors that sell to retailers on Privateer's "free rider" list will have their shipments of Privateer product, including new releases, delayed. The new policy goes into effect on April 4 [2016].

"We do not condone the free riders' parasitic business model and elect to both continue and enhance our partnerships with those distributors that share our point of view and actively work in the best interests of the brick-and-mortar retailers," Yeary continued. "While we cannot and would not dictate to our distributor partners who they can or cannot sell to, we believe free riders are eroding the foundation of our industry and hurting our business; only with the cooperation of our distribution partners can we prevent that."

Now Privateer Press has followed up that announcement to champion "full distributor support" for this sales policy change. Here's the text of its May 11, 2016 press release:

Quote:
Privateer Press Announces Full Distributor Support for Free Rider Policy

Privateer Press is pleased to announce that all of its North American distribution partners have signed Privateer's new distribution contract and agreed to support the company's new free rider policy, which seeks to discourage high-volume online retailers that do not offer meaningful services from undermining the growth and sustainability of the industry.

Privateer's free rider policy discourages the sale of products to a category of online retailers recognized as harmful to the industry. Thanks to the universal support of Privateer's North American distribution partners, the policy will help ensure that honest, hard-working retailers — including online retailers that are not in violation of the policy — will be able to compete fairly and without the predations of crippling and anticompetitive practices. In doing so, the policy also safeguards the brick-and-mortar retailers' role in providing players with access to the worldwide community of players who enjoy the friendly competition, hobby experiences, and casual and competitive organized play for which Privateer Press is a recognized industry leader.

Privateer's North American Distributors consist of ACD, Aladdin, Alliance, E-Figures, Gamus (GTS), Golden, Lion Rampant, Peachstate Hobby (PHD), Southern Hobby, and Universal.

"We greatly appreciate the support and commitment to the health of brick-and-mortar retailers shown by our North American distribution partners," said Sherry Yeary, president of Privateer Press. "Change won't happen overnight, and eliminating free rider practices will be an ongoing issue that will take time and a united effort between publishers and distributors to overcome, but we have already seen the positive effect of instituting this policy, and we remain committed to its success, no matter what it takes."

Since Privateer announced its new free rider policy, over 200 brick-and-mortar stores who do not currently stock WARMACHINE and HORDES have committed to carrying the new editions of the games because of the policy. All launch kits for the new editions of WARMACHINE and HORDES are sold out at the manufacturer level through presales to distributors.

This sales policy change works along the same lines as that of Asmodee North America — something I've described in detail on BGG News: Reduce the ability of online sellers to move product at prices nearly equal to the distributors' costs so that brick-and-mortar stores will more readily champion and promote that publisher's games. Why? Because these publishers believe that over the long term they will benefit more from the promotion of their games to new audiences through B&M outlets than through immediate sales to existing buyers through online outlets.
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Thu May 12, 2016 4:00 pm
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Links: Wizards of the Coast Gets Sued, Refugees Get Games, and Carcassonne Gets Tabled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wed May 4, 2016 1:00 pm
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Links: Making a Fortune While Going Broke, Crowdfunding as Art, and the 2016 Dice Tower Award Nominees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:00 pm
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Links: Tabletop Season 4, Gaming in the Bookstore, and More Hasbro-Inspired Crowdfunding

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• Wil Wheaton has announced the game line-up for the fourth season of Tabletop, an online series showing games being played by Wheaton and others. The titles being featured include Eldritch Horror, Codenames, Mysterium, Flash Point, Star Realms, Champions of Midgard, Steam Park, and Star Trek: Five-Year Mission. I'd expect a bit of role-playing in that last one, assuming they use The Next Generation role cards, which seems like a must. Filming begins before the end of April, and Wheaton expects to start publishing episodes in June or July 2016.

• As I noted in March 2016, U.S. bookstore chain Barnes & Noble held "Casual Game Gatherings" in 56 B&N stores each Thursday night during March 2016 to introduce one "light strategy game" to newcomers and established gamers. Now B&N has announced that it will hold a "Tabletop Gaming Meet Up" at all 640 of its stores in the U.S. on Saturday, April 30, starting at 4 p.m., with these events featuring the following five games: Machi Koro, Munchkin, Qwirkle, Superfight, and Ticket to Ride. (April 30 is International TableTop Day, so many brick and mortar game stores will be holding their own events that same day.)

The press release notes that "Participants will have the chance to play against each other to win prizes, including a Machi Koro Diamine Promo Card Pack, a Qwirkle Brainteaser Book, Superfight Promo Card Sets, and more. Customers should contact their local store to find out the full list of prizes available." A further excerpt from the press release:

Quote:
"Seeing our customers respond so positively to the game gatherings we hosted at select stores was not only rewarding, but it crystalized what we believed all along: customers in local communities are looking for an alternative evening out. For so many, Barnes & Noble is already a place to meet up, socialize and spend quality time together. Our Tabletop Gaming Meet Up is designed to do all that and more," said Kathleen Campisano, Vice President, Toys & Games at Barnes & Noble. "We will feature a unique array of games that celebrate collaboration, encourage strategic thinking and even provide a little healthy competition."

"The tabletop gaming industry has always had a wide appeal to Americans as a fun, engaging pastime, but we see Barnes & Noble's entry into events and gatherings as a game changer," said Andrew Lupp of the gaming industry organization, PSI. "Few retailers can offer a store environment that's already tailor-made for gaming. Barnes & Noble has always had a fantastically curated selection of games. Now they're creating the social experience and building new communities to bring these games to many more gamers around the country."

For those who don't know, PSI helps game "manufacturers to optimize their presence in the mass market, book trade, and specialty retail channels", including Barnes & Noble.

• In 2015, Z-Man Games hosted multiple "Pandemic Survival" events that culminated in a World Championship at Spiel 2015. For 2016, the publisher has helped organize Pandemic Survival tournaments in 25 countries — with these tournaments being listed on the Z-Man events page — with the 2016 Pandemic Survival World Championship to be held in Barcelona, Spain in November 2016. The winning team can take a trip to any city that appears on the Pandemic board. For those not in the know, here's an overview of Pandemic Survival:

Quote:
Pandemic Survival is an extreme version of Pandemic in which teams of two players compete simultaneously with the same objective in mind: Be the first team to find all four cures or be the sole survivor at the end of the game. During this unique experience, each team faces the same starting situation: identical roles, infected cities, and the same player cards in the same order. Only your strategic choices will differentiate you and prove to be a winning or losing strategy! 12 teams maximum.

• While Hasbro reported strong sales and earnings for Q1 2016 — $831.2 million in revenues (up 16% from 2015) and $48.8 million in earnings (up 83% from 2015) — the games category stayed the course from the previous year. (HT: Dan Bray) From Seeking Alpha:

Quote:
Games category revenues declined 2% for the quarter to $231.1 million. Pie Face continued to be a strong contributor to growth, along with growth in Yahtzee and Duel Masters. Growth in these brands was more than offset by declines in other gaming brands for the quarter. The Games category was flat absent the impact of foreign exchange.

• Speaking of Hasbro, the company has launched its second crowdfunding-based game design competition, following on its first such campaign in 2015 which will lead to the publication of The Mr Toast Game in 2016 (as detailed here). This time Hasbro is searching for "face-to-face games" (as opposed to face-to-butt games?), and it's accepting submissions through the Hasbro Gaming Lab website from designers in the U.S., the UK, Canada, France and Germany through May 15, 2016.

• Gift site Vat19 has posted the following educative missive, which prompts the question: Which other games might be enhanced by a showering of devil's blood?

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Sat Apr 23, 2016 3:00 pm
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Links: Nominees for the 2016 Origins Awards, Mensa Select for 2016, and Ernest and Peterson's Game Golem

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• On April 15, 2016, the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design announced the nominees for the 2016 Origins Awards, the winners of which will be revealed at the 2016 Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio in June. Attendees at that convention can vote on the nominees as well to determine a fan favorite in each category. The nominees are:

—Board Games: Champions of Midgard, La Granja, New York 1901, Orléans, and Star Wars: Imperial Assault
—Card Games: 7 Wonders: Duel, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, The Grizzled, Medieval Academy, and Welcome to the Dungeon
—Collectible Games: DC Comics Dice Masters: War of Light, Force of Will, and Yugi's Legendary Decks (in case you're as baffled about that as I am, it's three TCG-exclusive sets released to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Yu-Gi-Oh!)
—Family Games: Codenames, Co-Mix, Dohdles!, Fuse, and Me Want Cookies!
—Miniatures Games: Frostgrave, Guild Ball, Star Wars: Armada, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, and Wrath of Kings

• The Mensa Select winners of 2016 have been determined by the attendees of the annual Mensa Mind Games event, which was held April 15-17, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The winners are:

Circular Reasoning
Favor of the Pharaoh
The Last Spike
New York 1901
World's Fair 1893

Image: American Mensa

• The U.S. branch of IELLO has announced a new release policy in which preorders of their games by brick-and-mortar stores will be shipped to those stores two weeks before online retailers and mass market stores receive their copies. This policy starts with its release of Sea of Clouds, Candy Chaser, and Kenjin, although due to shipping delays those titles will have an April 21, 2016 street date at B&M stores, only one week prior to their release at other locations.

• Television station KARE in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota shared the "board games are booming" trend with a story of a British family that traveled to the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville, Minnesota instead of Walt Disney World. (The TV host goofed, though, as the games are designed, not manufactured, in that part of the world. Anyone who shows up at the Games Center expected to see X-Wings rolling off the production line like Krispy Kreme donuts will be extremely disappointed.)

• Designers James Ernest and Paul Peterson showed up on Twitch channel Hyper RPG!'s show "Grab Bag" to take parts from Tsuro, Loot, and Mage Knight Board Game, then design a new game with them. What did they come up with? A co-op game called Mr. Dragon Bro!

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Mon Apr 18, 2016 2:22 pm
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Links: Delivery Troubles, Narrative Games, and Animals on Stage

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• Designer Gil Hova of Formal Ferret Games offers advice to first-time publishers — well, all publishers really — on the costs and trouble spots involved with shipping your games to backers of your Kickstarter project. An excerpt:

Quote:
The plan was to ship a few cases of the games to SFC for Asia/Australia/New Zealand fulfillment, and put the rest on the boat to go directly to the Amazon Fulfillment Center (FC). Additionally, there were two cases of promotional cards (blank Drug Cards) that were supposed to have been sent directly to me.

I didn't think this was a complex shipping plan. I now know it is. The plant put everything on the boat: games for U.S. backers, games for Asian backers, and my two cases of blank Drug Cards. As a result, any game going to backers in Asia had to circle the planet; they had to go from Asia to the U.S., and then to the UK, and then back to Asia.

In the future, for any shipping plan more complex than "put it all on the boat", I will request that the plant not ship anything until they confirm the shipping plan with me. That will hopefully prevent this sort of issue from recurring.

• Old news from the inbox: Joshua Kosman at San Francisco Chronicle weighs in with 2015's best board games for that paper's annual holiday buying guide. Which games get the "jumpy man" this year? Mysterium, Colt Express, Elysium, Mogul, Trambahn, and Isle of Skye.

• In The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Chabris delivers "The Inside Story on Narrative Games", highlighting what separates Pandemic Legacy and T.I.M.E Stories from other games:

Quote:
The legacy and narrative formats violate two familiar premises of most games: The rules never change, and you can play as many times as you want. Traditionally, a game is defined by its rules. If you don't let pawns turn into queens, you aren't playing chess, and if you make captures optional, you aren't playing checkers. The success of Pandemic Legacy and T.I.M.E. Stories shows that this rule itself was made to be broken.

• In The Seattle Times, an article by Tracey Lien is headlined "Artificial intelligence has mastered board games; what's the next test?" One answer: different types of games, namely those with incomplete information. From the article:

Quote:
"The game of two-player-limit Texas Hold 'em poker has almost been solved," said [Tuomas Sandholm, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies artificial intelligence], who described "solving" a game as finding the optimal way of playing it. "In the larger game of two-player no-limit Texas Hold 'em poker, we're right at the cusp of it. We currently have the world's best computer program, but we are still not better than the very best dozen or so humans."

• Carlo A. Rossi's Zoowaboo from Pegasus Spiele was featured on the German television show "Das Spiel beginnt!" in March 2016. In the game, animal cards are revealed one at a time after players have been presented with a raft. As long as everyone thinks that the animals can fit on the raft, another animal card is revealed. As soon as someone votes "No", then all those who voted "Yes" have a limited amount of time to make those animals fit.

On the show, kids competed against adults in eleven games, with one of them being a giant-sized version of Zoowaboo.


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Links: Funding, Broadcasting, and Designing Tabletop Games

W. Eric Martin
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• In old news that I forgot to link to months ago, tabletop games raised nearly twice as much financial support on Kickstarter in 2015 as video games ($88 million to $46 million), according to SiliconANGLE, with ten percent of the tabletop funding coming from the Exploding Kittens campaign. An excerpt from the article:

Quote:
Perhaps one of the most interesting statistics to come Kickstarter’s report is the fact while tabletop games raised twice as much money as video games and were nearly three times as likely to be funded, the total number of backers was not significantly different between the two. Tabletop campaigns were backed by 522,061 people, whereas video game campaigns were backed by 480,382 people, a difference of only around 8 percent.

• MCM Central, organizer of MCM London Comic Con, plans to broadcast the 24-hour-a-day show Strategy: The Table Top Gaming Event from the Telford International Centre starting Thursday, August 25 and ending Sunday, August 28. From the press release: "Positioned after Gen Con Indy, Strategy provides an ideal opportunity for a European platform to showcase upcoming games and new releases. The show will feature board games, card games, miniatures games and roleplaying games — plus dedicated tournament and playing space." The show will be hosted by Rob Hooley, former organized play manager for Upper Deck International and former events manager for Konami Europe's Yu-Gi-Oh! card game.

• The River Falls Journal in Wisconsin profiled Booty designer Alexander Cobian in Dec. 2015, and it's the type of local press that designers should always seek out as it introduces the idea of modern games to people who aren't already in the know, in turn creating an audience for the very thing being featured.

• I ran across a post on Facebook in February 2016 that announced a new service for Spiel 2016 that will package and ship your games so that you can avoid playing luggage Tetris or make travel easier on yourself should you be wandering around Europe — but the link that I sent myself no longer works, so we'll just have to keep our eyes out for news of this service in the future.

• I've linked to many posts from designer Grant Rodiek recently, but he keeps writing things that stick with me, so here's another article from him, one that separates flavor from theme and boils theme down into two principles:

-----—The experience has a narrative arc.
-----—Player actions are indicative of the theme, and you do things in character.

(This article is #9 of Rodiek's The 54 Card Guild series in which he writes about creating a game that consists of at most 54 cards, while inviting readers to join the process and create something themselves, too.)

• Speaking of thematic, in Feb. 2016 the Israeli game blog Pundak published a long interview with Roberto Di Meglio of Ares Games. Di Meglio details the fall of Nexus, discusses the focus of Ares Games ("create beautiful thematic games"), and tells a few great stories, such as this detail about the design of War of the Ring:

Quote:
Another key feature of the game — the original system used to move the Fellowship — started as a "crazy idea" in one of the earliest brainstorming sessions, which was immediately embraced by all the three designers. We had a very tough challenge to achieve to provide a "realistic" experience. In the books, Sauron has no clue about the fact that the Free Peoples want to destroy the Ring; in the game, the Sauron player knows this perfectly well! How to deal with such a contradiction, and at the same time create a good simulation of the books?

This was achieved through the combination of the Hunt system, the Fellowship movement system, and the action dice system in general. Sauron cannot "attack" the Fellowship; he can just "hunt for the Ring" and decide how much attention is given to that, and how much attention to the war — allocating Hunt dice. But he is obsessed by the Ring — so he does not have perfect control of this choice. And the hidden movement system (somebody says it's the Schrödinger's Fellowship — you never know where it is, until you find it) makes the Fellowship somewhat "out of sight" for both players.

And regarding the tenth anniversary edition of War of the Ring, Di Meglio says, "Warriors of Middle-earth is going to have a painted edition. And we are planning a third — and final — expansion after that, and we want it to have a painted version, too. After that, I like the idea of getting everything together in one box — but maybe such a 'monster edition' will be impossible to create and sell, so that's far from a sure thing."

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Sat Mar 26, 2016 1:00 pm
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Links: Balancing Designs, Testing Art, and Staying True to Your Work

W. Eric Martin
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• On League of Gamemakers, designer/publisher Jeff Siadek offers advice on the topic of balance in game design: "Our first task is to recognize that balance is unattainable. Our second task is to obtain it. (All right, we'll approximate it)." He then goes on to offer suggestions on how to do this.

ToyNews deputy editor Billy Langsworthy writes about designer credits on toys and games, highlighting the discrepancy that occurs between mainstream and hobby games:

Quote:
Pandemic, Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride all list their creators on the box, and sometimes even the title's artist, and it makes sense. The games are closer aligned to literature in detail and the audience for these sorts of games are passionate fans who, and I'm generalising here, are more invested in these titles than casual gamers are for something like Hungry Hungry Hippos.

• I love reading Brian Bankler's thoughts on games, such as his write-up/non-review of Food Chain Magnate. His write-ups are always engaging and personal, especially since he's not racing to cover everything in the world but instead simply digging into whatever hooks him the most.

• Designer James Ernest reminds game publishers to test their final art:

Quote:
This sounds obvious, but I think a lot of publishers don't do it. There are too many games out there where the art seems to interfere with playing the game. And sometimes you just can't see the problem on the computer screen.

• Designer Grant Rodiek explores how to go from that important first step — figuring out the core gist of your game concept — to staying true to that concept as the design progresses toward completion:

Quote:
Firstly, you need to understand what your game is trying to accomplish. I think far too many designers are hyper focused erroneously on mechanism or theme. Noting you wish to make a worker placement game isn't sufficient. This is a well-established formula. A far superior goal would be to focus on a unique worker placement experience, and to hypothesize how that will come about...

Many years ago, I was trying to make a deck-building game. That was my goal. Guess what? I accomplished precisely that, and relatively quickly, too! But I also realized I had made a lousy version of Ascension.

He details this process with his current work-in-progress Gaia:

Quote:
For Gaia, I wanted to make a game about pre-constructed decks that felt satisfying in a limited card pool. I wanted a head to head experience that had a strong spatial component, particularly leaning towards tiles...

For Gaia, I needed to slowly verify the following elements:

• A limited card pool can support a variety of play styles.
• The spatial element is integral to the experience.
• There is sufficient complexity to provide legs, but not so much that people cannot dig through the pieces.
• The victory condition drives interaction.
• As a player's deck is limited (9 cards), how you play your cards is compelling.
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Sat Mar 19, 2016 1:00 pm
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Links: Hippodice Winners for 2016, Stinging Criticism & Escape Room History

W. Eric Martin
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• The winners of the 2016 Hippodice game design competition have been announced, with Fabio Lopiano taking first place for Calimala, Veli-Matti Saarinen second for Sapa Inca, and Sean Rumble third for The Ritual. While these names aren't household names, many of the designers who made it to the finals or the recommendations list are, such as Steding, Schlegel, Keller, Racky, Odendahl, Dan Keltner, and Wolfgang Lehmann. Overviews and pictures of the winning and finalist games are on the Hippodice website (PDF). Given that the judges all work for German game publishers, you will likely see one or more of these designs in print in the years ahead...

• Designer Scott Caputo encourages other game designers to remember that "your games are not you":

Quote:
[O]n some level, your worse critics are absolutely right. Unless they are insane, their anger was triggered by some real concern. If you dare, dive through the harsh language and polemic tone, and try to understand the root complaint.

In the case of my Secret Game X, I realized the players at the table didn't feel like they had enough strategic control in the game and they didn't like the lack of interaction with other players. If I thought back to my other playtests, I heard some of those same concerns before, though with nicer words. As the game wasn't published yet, I took on the challenge to answer these concerns and one year later, I can say I've made major changes to the game, adding new strategic choices I never considered. I will freely admit the current version is definitely better in every way.

• On the One Thousand XP blog, Chris Rowlands encourages game designers "to be shamelessly inspired", relaying his experience of re-using the dice-placement mechanism from Stefan Feld's Bora Bora in a design of his own:

Quote:
Whether or not Cordelia ends up using the Bora Bora dice mechanic, it was undoubtedly influenced by the mechanic. It was built to embrace the mechanic but will take those influences and become something unique on its own. I could never recreate Bora Bora. Even if I set out with the expressed purpose of remaking the game, there is a good chance I would simply fail at doing so. In the same way, I could have never created this version of Cordelia without being inspired by Bora Bora.

Scott Nicholson was one of the pioneers of using video to present board game reviews and rule explanations, and he's currently Professor of Game Design and Development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford, Ontario and the director of the Brantford Game Network game lab (BGNlab). Over the past couple of years he's spent a lot of time researching escape rooms, and in March 2016 for Analog Game Studies, Nicholson compiled an overview of six precursors of escape rooms — such as point-and-click adventure games, adventure game shows, and live-action role-playing — that have fed the recent growth of escape rooms as mainstream entertainment.
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Tue Mar 15, 2016 6:00 pm
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