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

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Links: Nominees for the Diana Jones Award and the Deutscher Lernspielpreis & Games Workshop vs. 3D Printers

W. Eric Martin
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• Nominees for the 2012 Deutscher Lernspielpreis – an award meant to highlight the best games for children to both play and learn – have been announced, and the nominees in each category are:

For three-year-olds:

-----Die verrückte Tierparty (IQ Spiele)
-----Lagoona (Beleduc)
-----Rally Fally (Oberschwäbische Magnetspiele)
-----Flossen hoch! (Zoch)
-----Twiga Trick (Edition Siebenschläfer)

For six-year-olds:

-----Monsterfalle (Kosmos)
-----Mausgetrixt (Ravensburger)
-----Knotenspiel (goki)
-----Paletto (Clemens Gerhards)
-----Sokieba (sportyGames)

For nine-year-olds:

-----Familiengeflüster (aktuell-spiele-verlag)
-----Blockers! (Amigo)
-----Uluru (Kosmos)
-----Pictomania (Pegasus)
-----Siebenpunkt (Fata Morgana)

And those non-linked game names above await your attention if you feel like submitting game entries to the BGG database. Many BGGers don't pay attention to games for youngsters, so they're not entered as encyclopedically as games for older players.

• The nominees have also been announced for the 2012 Diana Jones Award, "an annual award created to publicly acknowledge excellence in gaming", with individuals, products, or any other thing or movement in the game industry being eligible. For 2012, the nominees are:

-----Burning Wheel Gold, an RPG system designed by Luke Crane and published by Burning Wheel.
-----—"Crowdfunding" – yes, the entire practice of raising funds from buyers for items to be published later. Why? "Forward movements in art forms have always depended on the opened purse strings of a few key patrons. By democratizing patronage and widening the field of opportunity for all game designers, this broader market transformation well deserves recognition as a cauldron of present and future gaming excellence. Within this recognition comes an acknowledgment of the movement's dominant force, Kickstarter."
-----Nordic Larp, written by Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola and published by Fëa Livia, which is described as "a history of the Nordic larp scene, from its inception in post-D&D fantasy through experimental drama, historical recreation and far freaking weirdness, done as a massive and profusely illustrated coffee-table book".
-----Risk Legacy, designed by Rob Daviau and published by Hasbro. Here's why Risk Legacy gets the nod: "One does not expect to find ground-breaking innovation in a revamp of a classic family game from a market-leading publisher, but Risk Legacy produces not just one but three startling leaps forward. It is a board-game designed for campaign play; it does not allow players access to all the components, units and rules at the start of play, instead having in-game events unlock sealed sections of the cleverly built box; and it demands that the players permanently change the game, putting stickers on the board to alter it, and destroying other components. The game-world reacts to victories and defeats, and the game becomes a permanent record of its play, different for every group. Risk Legacy combines these ideas into a brilliantly playable whole that’s recognisably Risk, yet something brand new. Rob Daviau and Hasbro must be applauded for such a risk."
-----Vornheim, designed by Zak S. and published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, an RPG supplement that "radically strips the fantasy RPG city supplement to its foundations and erects dizzying Gothic buttresses of pure playability".

The winner will be announced August 15, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the day before Gen Con opens. (Disclosure: BoardGameGeek.com won the Diana Jones Award in 2010.)

• Another sales stat for those interested in such things: In its May 31, 2012 Illuminator post, Monica Valentinelli at U.S. publisher Steve Jackson Games revealed that it has "sold almost 50,000 copies" of Cthulhu Dice since the game's debut in 2010. How many of those copies were bought by a collector who's gotta catch 'em all? No telling...

Wired's Clive Thompson reports that UK publisher Games Workshop has issued DMCA takedown orders to Thingiverse, an online site that lets users share digital designs for 3D objects, over Warhammer 40K-like figures posted by user Thomas Valenty.

From the article: "[D]isputes over copies of physical objects are often fought using patent law, which is far less strict than copyright. For example, patents last only 20 years, which means many cool everyday objects (Lego bricks!) are long out of patent. What's more, patent law generally governs only a complete assembled product, so creating replacement parts — a thriving pastime among hobbyists — is probably legal." Not to mention, of course, that Valenty supposedly designed his own figures and did not directly copy Warhammer figures... (HT: ICv2)

• Is the 2012 Origins Game Fair a ghost town? On Friday, June 1, aspiring game designer Corey Young tweeted the following pic, commenting, "Not an optical illusion. ‪#Origins2012‬ is actually this sparse. Kinda breaks my heart."


On Saturday, June 2, Young followed up by writing, "Crowd looks much better today." That same day, Seth Hiatt of Mayday Games noted on BGG, "Yes traffic in the convention hall was much better today than Thursday/Friday but still below prior years."
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Sun Jun 3, 2012 6:30 pm
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Links: Dungeon Twister on Playstation, Très Belle Notre Dame & Good Game Endings

W. Eric Martin
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Dungeon Twister will arrive on Playstation 3 "this summer in the USA, Europe and Australia", according to a press release on DungeonTwister.com. Here's the launch trailer for the video game, which does not feature designer Christophe Boelinger dancing, alas:



• Dan Misener at Gizmodo explains "How Kickstarter Hides Its Failures from the Internet". The short answer: Commands to search engines not to catalog pages for failed projects. As Misener notes, based on the advice of an expert, "if you're going to use a crowdfunding service like Kickstarter, it's important to figure out what's worked for others in the past, but also to figure out what hasn't worked for others in the past. If you hide failure, it's hard to learn from others' mistakes."

Anyone want to take a crack at calculating whether board and card game projects on KS beat the 44% success rate mentioned in that Gizmodo article?

• BGG user Timothée Licitri has posted numerous pictures of what might be the most elaborate 3D recreation of a game ever, a recreation of alea's Notre Dame from designer Stefan Feld. Licitri notes that the game boards are wood with Styrofoam layers on top of them, while the buildings were first sculpted in polyurethane foam, then cast in polyurethane resin. Time elapsed since the start of the project: two years.


Better prepare a price list, Timothée, in case someone wants to throw a huge project your way...

• Riffing on an article I linked to in March 2012, designer Jeffrey D. Allers writes about how to design game endings in his Berlin Game Design blog. An excerpt:

Quote:
[W]hen we test prototypes, if the thing works but still isn't great, it's usually the end of the game that needs work. It drags, it's the same-ole same-ole, or there's a convoluted scoring system created in the name of balance that makes the final math exercise anti-climactic. There have been times when we've intentionally tried to create a scoring system that avoids "adding up victory points."

Designing a satisfying end to ones game really is the hardest thing to get right. If a designer is looking to separate his or her work from the increased competition, this seems like one of the best ways in which to do so.

One thing I've noticed after describing many, many games over the years is that all competitive games can be divvied into three categories:

-----• Whoever has the most victory points wins.
-----• Whoever is first to some goal wins.
-----• The last player standing wins.

Since I prefer to launch a game description with the goal of the game in order to let people have that in mind for everything that follows, I always find myself leading with one of these three statements. (In the first category, you can replace "victory points" with "money" or some other countable unit, while in the second the goal can be either a physical location or a VP/money/unit total. And just as some players and designers contend that every game is an auction game in disguise, the third category above could be recast as either of the first two categories.)

When Jeff talks about "a convoluted scoring system", he's talking only of the first category since the other two are immediately recognizable: Am I the only one still in the game? Did I reach the finish line first? Bam, I win! Resolving the first category, on the other hand, can be as simple as looking at a score track or counting money or as laborious as the 7 Wonders and Agricola tally charts I mentioned in my original post.

Any other victory conditions I missed for competitive games?
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Thu May 31, 2012 6:30 am
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Links: Uwe Eickert and Jerry Hawthorne Talk About What They Do, How to Fix Origins & The Long View

W. Eric Martin
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• Uwe Eickert of Academy Games was interviewed in late May 2012 on The Wargamer. An excerpt: "We have a unique [design] process, I believe, based on our engineering backgrounds. Every game must begin with a solid game engine – the mechanics that make it run. This is the most important part of the game and has nothing to do with the game theme. Only after the engine is solid do we add the game theme on top of this. Then we begin the refinement process." Who knew that theme was pasted onto designs at Academy Games?

Eickert is incredibly excited about Gettysburg: The Bloody Crossroads, due out October 2012, and gives a quick overview of the game. Best of all is his answer to this question:

Quote:
10.) In closing, what can Academy Games offer to the wargaming market that other developers cannot?

Nothing. We are part of a very creative, diverse, and growing market segment. Other developers are publishing incredible games that I love to play and often recommend to others. What Academy Games can offer is to be part of the driving force that is expanding this wonderful hobby of ours.

Modesty and truthfulness combined – very classy, Mr. Eickert!

• Designer Jerry Hawthorne talks about Mice and Mystics in an interview conducted by BGG user "dustinthewind". Here's Hawthorne explaining the origins of the game: "A couple of years ago, my daughter was struggling with learning to read. I was convinced that she just didn't understand how imaginative books could be. Her reading was labored and robotic. I wanted to create an activity to accompany reading that would help her somehow. At the time, mice were her most favoritest of all animals. I started working on a story that could be played like a game. Later we discovered that she has a learning disorder similar to dyslexia, but the game had already taken on a life of its own."

• If you're interested in the "Voice of Experience" game review challenge being run on BGG, you might want to check out "The Long View", a new podcast on 2D6.org that "is designed to provide a critical and in depth look at a specific game each episode", according to podcast host Geof Gambill. "The games we feature in our discussions will be more than just a few months old! Many will have been released in the past one to three years. New enough to not be old, but not old enough to have already been designated as classic or clunker."

As Joel Eddy notes in the comments section of The Long View's first podcast, which covers Thunderstone, the guest panel will vary each episode depending on the game being discussed.

• In a timely post – well, timely for preparations in 2013 – someone at the Games & Grub blog asks "Can Origins be fixed? Does it need to be?" An (edited) excerpt:

Quote:
GAMA's use of web 2.0 and social media is simply laughable. The Facebook page was updated at the beginning of the month (May 5th), but its Twitter account hasn't been updated since Summer of 2011. Gen Con, in comparison has a BOT account dedicated to retweeting anything with #GenCon. The official Gen Con Twitter account also updates almost daily. Gen Con also works with the surrounding businesses, frequently tweeting and providing information about hotels, restaurants, etc. in the area. They are a well oiled machine. And it isn't just Gen Con who has a significant voice on social media. ForgeCon, a first-time convention taking place in May is quite active on Twitter, as are lesser known cons such as NeonCon, Denver ComiCon, etc. I don't know if Origins thinks something like this is out of their budget or if it's simply unneeded, but they're shooting themselves in the proverbial foot every day they don't proactively interact with fans and potential customers.

• If you're a publisher who used Kickstarter – or just a curious fan who likes to poke your nose into various things – check out Kicktraq.com. You can paste in a Kickstarter URL and see the number of backers and amount of funds gained each day during a project, as well as the projected total for the project based on current projections. Did you know that the Ogre Kickstarter project picked up $200k in its final two days? Or that the gobsmackingly stupid STAX, marketed by showing headless women and their cleavage, is trending toward a two-month total of $610? Well now you do.
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Sat May 26, 2012 12:20 pm
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Links: The History of Dice, Behind the Scenes at Zoch & Faidutti Packs It In?

W. Eric Martin
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• Kevin O'Sullivan interviews Albrecht Werstein, CEO of German publisher Zoch Verlag. A (lightly edited) excerpt:

Quote:
Germany was one of the biggest markets for board games in the 1980s and 1990s and so having a games company over that time has been a wonderful experience. However the rest of the world has woken up to this so there is a bit of a crisis in Germany. Everybody is seeking to sell their games into the German market with some great games coming out of the Czech Republic, Italy, Korea, and Brazil amongst other countries, and the number of games being produced is just not sustainable given the current levels of demand.

Over the years the German games publishers have had a convivial rivalry with it being like a big family where everybody is doing their own thing but we all know each other. Increasingly though the smaller retail outlets are not taking games, and whilst the big chain stores do, they don't have staff that understand the games and can demonstrate them. We are also increasingly seeing companies coming into our market with games very similar to ours and or with very similar artwork but ultimately nothing new, other than at a lower price point!

Werstein notes in the interview that the 2011 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner – Carmen Kleinert's Da ist der Wurm drin – "sold over 200,000 units last year", that is, in 2011.

• The Wheaton Effect, cont.: On Friday, May 18, 2012, the day that the Ticket to Ride episode of Wil Wheaton's TableTop debuts, the game sits at #41 on the Toys & Games best-selling list on Amazon.com. Come Monday, May 21 and a 103,000 views later, the game sits at #22. Two days later, the view count stands at 130k and TtR's sales rank on Amazon is #16.

• Designer Bruno Faidutti has posted dozens of images on Facebook from his annual Ludopathic gathering in Étourvy, France. He typically posts a full write-up of the event on his own website, but his latest post indicates that (1) he's exhausted from the gathering and not up to posting anything soon and (2) he's overhauling his website. More specifically:

Quote:
This website was originally designed like a small game encyclopaedia, and this concept has become largely obsolete, for at least two reasons. First, there are more and more new board and card games every year, and I play fewer of them every year, which makes the ideal game library much less relevant. Second, the internet also has changed, and encyclopaedias are now collective stuff. There is more even about my own games on the Boardgamegeek than on my own website.

This is why, in a few weeks, I plan to shut down this website and replace it with a more modest, more standard, but also more actual blog, with only short descriptions of my games and the occasional op-ed, not necessarily always about games.

To which I say, noooooooo! Bruno, please don't eliminate all the write-ups you've done over the years. Your personality comes through well in the reviews and your point-of-view as a designer and player is not well represented elsewhere.

• For a game-related Kickstarter project that's not itself a game, let's take a look at Curtis Lacy's effort to fund Global GameSpace (KS link), a set of open source online tools that could be combined to, in his words, "[c]reate a shared gaming area, provide graphics and rules, then use online matchmaking to find playtesters and set up a game". Designer Lewis Pulsipher talks up the project in his blog.

• The Awesome Dice blog features an illustrated history of dice, along with linked sources for each detail and a few myth debunkings. (HT: Purple Pawn)

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Thu May 24, 2012 6:30 am
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News from Italy: Aztlàn, Micro Monsters, AstroNuts, iPad/iPhone news and Italian Master

Andrea Ligabue
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Here I am with another round-up of news from Italy:

Ares Games: Aztlàn, an Euro-style game from Leo Colovini

Ares Games announces its debut in the Eurogame category with the upcoming board game Aztlán, created by the Italian game designer Leo Colovini and scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The game had previously been announced in 2010 as the second title in the "Designer Series" from Nexus Games, following Faidutti and Laget's Ad Astra.

Aztlán is a strategy game with bluffing and challenging mechanisms, for 3 to 4 players, set in the mythical land of Aztlán, ancestral home of the Nahuatl (Aztec) people. In Aztlán, four tribes strive to survive and prosper under the scrutiny of the Aztec Gods themselves.

From the publisher's game description: The game develops over five different epochs, with each divided into four phases. Players try to conquer the largest realm, using an intriguing and highly interactive mechanism. In each epoch, the tribes have uneven and secret strengths, so a player's strategy must be based on intuition and bluff. When winning a conflict, you are faced with the difficult choice between eliminating your enemies, or deciding to co-exist with them. Peaceful co-existence brings the opportunity to develop your own civilization and gain future advantages, but can you trust your opponent?

In a press release announcing the title, Christoph Cianci, CEO of Ares Games, said, "We are very happy to publish Aztlán. This will enrich our catalog with a great Euro-style game from Leo Colovini, one of the most renowned Italian game designers. It's an easy to learn game system, but with a deep strategy, which will please different players' profiles."

Game development is at an advanced stage, and Ares Games plans to release Aztlán at Spiel 2012, which takes place October 18-21 in Essen, Germany.

Ares Games: Details of Micro Monsters

I was able to get a preview copy of the international edition of Micro Monsters from Ares Games, and comparing it to previous editions of the design – that is, X-Bugs and Micro Mutants: EvolutionMicro Monsters is much simpler and more oriented toward play with kids and families. The four races differ only in their graphics and in the special power that's activated by one face of the single die.

During your turn, you roll the die and move the displayed monster. You have three different kinds of pieces: small round ones, big round ones, and rectangular ones.


The game is much more of a dexterity game than it was before, but it's really fun for families and kids. (Within a few days of receiving this preview copy, I had played it more than ten times with my son and his friends!)

Mücke Spiele: AstroNuts from Angelo Porazzi

Since I know Angelo Porazzi very well, thanks to his greatest design (Warangel) and to his presence at most of the Italian gaming events with Area Autoproduzione – an area for self-publishers to show of their creations – I'm going to let him say a little about AstroNuts, an almost unknown design published by Mücke Spiele and first presented at PLAY: The Games Festival in Modena in March 2012.

Quote:
AstroNuts is a game in which you have to colonize the Galaxy to discover the "Nuts", the colored resources on the planets.

You can improve the technology of your fleet, meet Aliens, attack other players' colonies, and buy new ships...controlling the actions you have each turn.

The game art is also by Angelo, who started drawing the fighting fantasy warriors that you see in Warangel back in 1986! For the 2012 release AstroNuts, you have a more cartoonish "AstroNut" piloting his funny astroship while another ship is dogfighting as in a scene from Star Wars, a third ship is crashing in asteroids, and a mellow alien has discovered a ganja nut...


I've played the preview copy I got from the designer with my kids, and it's a real family/kids game with a lot of luck and interaction. To start your turn, you figure out how many actions you have by choosing a number from 1 to 6, then rolling the die. If you roll that number or higher, you receive two times as many action points as your declared number; otherwise you receive just the rolled number. With actions you can move, collect resources, colonize planets, attack, build new starships or research. Planets have 2-3 resources in different colors. Landing on a planet forces you to roll for a random effect on a 36-line table, something that brings to mind the random tables in the old Task Force Games.

iPad/iPhone Game News

• Designer Spartaco Albertarelli announced that he's working on an iPad version of Magnifico. More details in the next "News from Italy" round-up.

Dario de Toffoli announced that Studiogiochi and iNigma are working on an iPad version of Inkognito, which which was designed by Leo Colovini and Alex Randolph.

Game Releases

• Asterion Press released Dobble, the Italian version of Spot It!

• Giochi Uniti released Olympicards by Paolo Mori.

• Stratelibri released the Italian version of the new edition of 1830.

• Play Strong released Play Ultras, which is *ahem* "only for radicals".

Italian Masters 2012
Quote:
25.308 points, 907 minutes of play, 68 gamers, 17 team, 7 games, 6 referees, 2 games of play, 1 winner: game

That's the data from the Italian Masters 2012, Italy's greatest board game competition which qualifies the team for the European Championship. Details of the event are on the website.
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Tue May 22, 2012 12:39 pm
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Nominees for the 2012 Spiel, Kennerspiel & Kinderspiel des Jahres

W. Eric Martin
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The nominees for the most influential award in boardgaming – the Spiel des Jahres, Germany's "game of the year" award – were announced today by the jury of eleven German journalists who have sifted through hundreds of games released since the early part of 2011 to settle on the three that they think best "promote games as a cultural asset to encourage gaming amongst family and friends", as described on the SdJ website. Those nominees are:

-----Eselsbrücke, by Stefan Dorra and Ralf zur Linde (Schmidt Spiele)
-----Kingdom Builder, by Donald X. Vaccarino (Queen Games)
-----Vegas, by Rüdiger Dorn (alea)


That same jury also announced its nominees for the Kennerspiel des Jahres, an award that debuted in 2011 to honor games intended for connoisseurs and gaming experts. The introduction of that award, along with the winners of the Sdj and KedJ in 2011 – Qwirkle and 7 Wonders, respectively – signaled a shift in direction for the SdJ jury for many gamers, with the SdJ supposedly meant to highlight easy games (based on what I would say is a misjudgement of Qwirkle) and the KedJ intended for more complex games. The jury does judge Vegas a 1 on its four-level complexity scale, but the other titles are rated at 2 – and many had even suspected that Kingdom Builder would fall into the KedJ category due to it being too complicated for the "new" SdJ.

The nominees for the 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres, by the way, all merit a 3 rating for complexity by the SdJ jury, and those titles are:

-----K2, by Adam Kałuża (Heidelberger Spieleverlag)
-----Targi, by Andreas Steiger (Kosmos)
-----Village, by Inka and Markus Brand (eggertspiele)


This same jury also released a list of recommended games from the titles released during this time period – roughly April 2011 to March 2012 – and unlike in 2011, when the recommended list included titles ranging in complexity from super easy to ultra-double tough, for 2012 the jury presented separate recommendation lists for the SdJ and the KedJ, and those recommendations are grouped in that order below:

New logo for
recommended games
in all categories
-----Drecksau, by Frank Bebenroth (Kosmos)
-----Indigo, by Reiner Knizia (Ravensburger)
-----Kalimambo, by Antonio Scrittore (Zoch Verlag)
-----Kulami, by Andreas Kuhnekath (Steffen-Spiele)
-----Miss Lupun...und das Geheimnis der Zahlen, by Ralf-Peter Gebhardt and Thomas Sing (Winning Moves)
-----Pictomania, by Vlaada Chvátil (Pegasus Spiele)
-----Rapa Nui, by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, (Kosmos)
-----Santa Cruz, by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle (Hans im Glück)

-----Friday, by Friedemann Friese (2F-Spiele)
-----Hawaii, by Greg Daigle (Hans im Glück)
-----Ora et Labora, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)

At the same time, the jury for the Kinderspiel des Jahres – the children's game of the year – announced the nominees for this award:

-----Die kleinen Drachenritter, by Marco Teubner (HUCH! & friends)
-----Schnappt Hubi!, by Steffen Bogen (Ravensburger)
-----Spinnengift und Krötenschleim, by Klaus Teuber (Kosmos)


The winner of the Kinderspiel des Jahres will be announced Monday, June 11, while the Spiel and Kennerspiel winners will be revealed on Monday, July 9. Congrats to all the nominees!
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Mon May 21, 2012 8:54 am
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Links: Awards in the Netherlands and Switzerland, Play the Universe & How Valid Are Game Genres Anyway?

W. Eric Martin
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• On May 12, 2012 the nominees for the 2012 Nederlandse Spellenprijs were announced:

-----Lancaster, by Matthias Cramer (Queen Games)
-----Mondo, by Michael Schacht (White Goblin Games)
-----Ninjato, by Dan Schnake & Adam West (White Goblin Games)
-----Power Grid: The First Sparks, by Friedemann Friese (999 Games)
-----Takenoko, by Antoine Bauza (Matagot)

Erwin Broens of Dutch game news site Bordspel notes that the Nederlandse Spellenprijs is now an all-jury award, with an enlarged jury of eleven members, rather than being a combined jury-plus-gamer-vote award. (Broens
was a jury member in 2011 while the Spellenprijs transitioned to a new format, but is no longer a jury member.)

• On the Dice Hate Me blog, Tom Gurganus interviews Matthew Duhan of Gozer Games, focusing on its upcoming release of Titans of Industry.

• Not specifically game-related but applicable to game design and the game industry: On Orgtheory.net, Brayden King asks "Are we in a post-authentic music world?" by building on a quote from Bruce Springsteen. An excerpt from King:

Quote:
I think Springsteen's main point is that it's no longer necessary for artists to play by the rules of a specific genre to make music that resonates with a crowd. You don't need to strive for authenticity in the same way that artists of a previous generation did because the rules for what it means to be authentic don't apply anymore. The proliferation of new genres has, in a sense, freed musicians to do whatever the hell they want. An artist doing his version of classic blues on a synthesizer is just as authentic as is a folk artist doing an an acoustic cover of "Robot Rock". What counts more than one's inclusion in a genre subcategory is an artist's workmanship and basic creative impulse.

Boardspace.net has added Alex Randolph's Universe and its two-player predecessor Pan-Kai to its online play offerings.

• Purple Pawn has revamped its "comprehensive listing of current tabletop games and related projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo" by, first of all, including IndieGoGo on the list, by dividing up the games by type (board games, RPGs, etc.), and by making the tables sortable in any number of ways. Did you know that Tress, "the Chess Game of the New Millennium", has achieved 1% of its funding goal? Well, now you do.

• In late April 2012, Inka and Markus Brand's Village won the "Mensa Preference" award from Mensa Switzerland, the first time that this branch of the Mensa organization has given such an award. From the press release announcing the winner: "[T]he game combines an innovative mechanism for a quick passage of time with a intriguingly developed theme. Moreover, the variety of options guarantees that each game provides a different dynamic. Village contains all elements to make it a crowd favorite."

Village was chosen from among six finalists announced on April 1 by Mensa Switzerland. The other finalists were Aquileia, Miss Lupun, Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan, Tschak!, and The Castles of Burgundy.

Commence complaining about U.S. Mensa's game choices......now.
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Sun May 20, 2012 6:30 am
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Links: Guess the 2012 Spiel des Jahres Nominees, The Gamer Lifecycle & More on The Wheaton Effect

W. Eric Martin
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Let's reboot following yesterday's comment onslaught and repost the non-tentacle-related items so that they can get a bit of attention:

• Writers on the Opinionated Gamers, including yours truly, have presented their educated(?) guesses for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees, which will be announced this coming Monday, May 21, 2012 on the SdJ website. My picks, for those too lazy to click the link, are Africana, Kingdom Builder and Takenoko for SdJ – with Africana taking home the poppel – and Glory to Rome, Hawaii and Village for Kennerspiel, with Village winning this award. Here's why I went with those choices:

Quote:
I've played (relatively) few new titles since the middle of 2011, so I'm blending personal knowledge, crowd observation, and wild-eyed guesses in order to make my choices.

Josh [Miller, whose picks preceded mine in the list,] has a decent list of qualifications for SdJ nominees – visually attractive, easy to learn, smooth play out of the box, and vast sales/expansion potential. Africana and Kingdom Builder have all of this in spades. (I’ve yet to play Takenoko, but Antoine Bauza won the first Kennerspiel with 7 Wonders, the components are gloriously appealing, and the game has widespread German distribution, so it seems like a solid third choice.) One element he didn’t mention, but which seems important when viewing previous SdJ winners, is that the nominees tend to straddle the family/gamer line – that is, casual gamers can play them, have fun and do reasonably well while gamers will look deeper, discover more and play better. Again, Africana and Kingdom Builder fit this qualification well. Why choose Africana over Kingdom Builder? Partly due to its contrast with 2011 SdJ winner Qwirkle in that Africana has a realistic thematic setting, and partly due to the German love of travel.

All three of my Kennerspiel nominees – Glory to Rome, Hawaii, and Village – are excellent designs, and all fit the Kennerspiel category of games for connoisseurs as they're more involved that your average game, yet not off the charts in terms of complexity or opaqueness, although GtR might have one foot across that line. Still, I think GtR is an incredible design that goes beyond what you normally think is possible in a card game, and with Lookout Games having released an attractive version in German in 2011, I think it could get the nod.

As for Hawaii and Village, both are straight-up Eurogame designs that present gamers with interesting-to-explore game systems in an inviting setting. They're not too difficult to learn and play, making them ideal for those who have played the basics and want something more. I prefer Hawaii over Village as the money management and tight competition for goods among players makes the game tougher than Village, while also providing a wider range of set-up variability, which kicks your brain in new directions each game. Village gets my vote, however, as it has the homey thematic edge, just as Thurn & Taxis had the home-turf advantage over Blue Moon City in 2006. Yes, your villagers die and sure, that could be morbid for some, but that aspect of the game also encapsulates the broader cultural outlook in Europe, with people viewing themselves as part of history-in-the-making rather than above it, as seems to be more common in the U.S.

Who knows? I could just be blowing smoke...

We'll see how well I did in a couple of days...

• In his personal blog, Hiew Chok Sien explores the lifecycle of a gamer, using himself as an example. An excerpt: "This year, it struck me that me exiting the boardgame hobby is a possibility. Not that it is likely in the near future, but this is probably the first time I considered it a possibility at all."

• To follow up on an earlier post about "The Wheaton Effect", someone at Black Diamond Games, a retail shop in Concord, California, blogs about people coming in to pick up specific titles after discovering them on Wheaton's TableTop online program: "[Fan-based] podcasts have barely moved the needle when it comes to influence, as opposed to TableTop, which can send a small legion of people to hunt for Tsuro after a positive review, an all-right abstract board game with modest reviews that made its debut in 2004."

The writer continues: "The difference, of course, is the celebrity angle.... It also goes without saying that there's a bit of geek resentment to see these kinds of vehicles move geek culture to the mainstream.... As gamers, we spent our childhoods dodging adults who thought our hobby was sinister and peers who wanted to ridicule us for it, plus it wasn't exactly a chick magnet.... To have geek celebs make your struggle popular can be viewed as a denial of that journey through the desert." Really? I haven't heard any resentment addressed at Wheaton and TableTop, other than for repeated rule mistakes and a less-than-stellar presentation of The Settlers of Catan – and that just sounds like geeks being geeks, not an angry mob marching to reclaim their previous geek cred.
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Links: Tentacle Bento Boxed by Kickstarter, Guess the 2012 Spiel des Jahres Nominees & More on The Wheaton Effect

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• In a new game round-up in late March 2012, I mentioned a forthcoming release from Soda Pop Miniatures titled Tentacle Bento, which was described as follows by retailer The Castle's Ramparts: "It's an anime-themed trick-taking card game with more than a touch of hentai to it. Each player is a monster tasked with capturing Japanese school girls, and the more girls the better. After the fourth event card in the deck turns up, the game ends and the player with the most girls wins." On May 8, 2012, Soda Pop launched a Kickstarter project for Tentacle Bento, blowing past its $13k goal in a few days and topping more than $30k after a week.

Then the project was cancelled by Kickstarter.

Why? Protests against the game by two writers – Brandon Sheffield on Insert Credit and Luke Plunkett on Kotaku – that called on people to contact Kickstarter and protest it providing a fundraising home for a game devoted to tentacle rape. (Kickstarter first removed the project from search results, making it accessible only if you had the direct URL, then cancelled it entirely.) From Sheffield's May 14 article on Instant Credit:

Quote:
The style is a cute, lighthearted, pastel-colored look at the wonderful world of forcing your way inside a female against her will. There are, to my mind, a lot of things wrong with this....

Tentacle Bento's Kickstarter success is the product of a society that doesn't take sexual assault against women seriously enough. It shows that enough people think it's "not a big deal". The argument comparing a game about rape to games about violence is limited by the fact that murder is almost universally penalized in our culture, meaning there is a clear line between fantasy and reality there. With rape and molestation, that line is not so clearly drawn, and it results in "cute" games like Tentacle Bento.

I have been told the game isn't overt about its scenarios, and is more about innuendo than obscenity. But there is no doubt where it comes from, and what it's drawing on. And molesting girls "just a bit" or through innuendo does not make the game much better.

Promotional image on the Tentacle Bento Kickstarter project

Brandon Sheffield subsequently posted an interview with Tentacle Bento designer John Cadice. Two excerpts from Cadice:

Quote:
The "tentacle" genre is a well known cliché in the anime/manga fan circles. This product is one of many products we have designed, or are designing to touch on interesting or odd clichés or themes in popular Asian and Japanese sub cultures that have found their way over to the US. They simple "are", and we wanted to give a snapshot that was true to the weirdness of the subgenre. A tip of the hat to one of the weirdest things I have ever seen come out of Japan, and one of the most "unspoken" of inside jokes within the US anime subculture.

Quote:
Back to our previous response, it is something that "is". The project was an interesting premise, and we test marketed that premise with our target audience with great feedback, we overcame whatever our personal misgivings were and gave it a shot. We felt we dealt with the subject in a funny way to play up the relational iconic images of aliens snatching up humans for nefarious purposes, if those purposes were for eating them up... we wouldn't be having this conversation, the natural inclination of sexualized imagery in some Japanese manga and anime lends to a more lascivious bend, and in the culture, it simply "is".

Sheffield's response: "Cadice says the game is a satire of a 'horrid genre of anime', but I simply don't see the satire. It's cuter, it's lighter, but that does not a satire make. So I am meant to believe that while the game is based on the genre of tentacle rape anime, it is not about tentacle rape. There's clearly a fundamental disconnect between our consideration of inference and implication versus intent." As further evidence of this disconnect, Sheffield points to this demo video from Cadice:


From Sheffield:

Quote:
Here are a couple of interesting quotes from his demo that seem to negate the clean image of the game he is trying to propose. At the 1:15 mark, he says, "In this case we grab poor sidney, drag her to the classroom, and we have ourselves a 'cram session'." After saying this, he suggestively bites his lip. At 1:53, he says you can "take a sexy student to the headmaster's office, and then get slippery when wet". Does this not imply sexual contact, in his own words?

After Kickstarter cancelled the project, Soda Pop Miniatures moved its funding campaign to its own website and as of this date has nearly matched the $30k total previously pledged on Kickstarter, with many supporters claiming that they've doubled their previous pledges and withdrawn all support from other Kickstarter projects. SPM has the following disclaimer on both the Kickstarter page and its own website: "A note to our sponsors. Tentacle Bento is a mature themed product not intended for sale to children under the age of 17. In the long history of horrible combinations of tentacles and school girls, we have taken a cheeky satire look at the genre to create a silly, if not innuendo rich, product. We are firmly against the depiction of violence against women in any regards."

• In his personal blog, Hiew Chok Sien explores the lifecycle of a gamer, using himself as an example. An excerpt: "This year, it struck me that me exiting the boardgame hobby is a possibility. Not that it is likely in the near future, but this is probably the first time I considered it a possibility at all."

• Writers on the Opinionated Gamers, including yours truly, have presented their educated(?) guesses for the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel des Jahres nominees, which will be announced this coming Monday, May 21, 2012 on the SdJ website. My picks, for those too lazy to click the link, are Africana, Kingdom Builder and Takenoko for SdJ – with Africana taking home the poppel – and Glory to Rome, Hawaii and Village for Kennerspiel, with Village winning this award. Here's why I went with those choices:

Quote:
I've played (relatively) few new titles since the middle of 2011, so I'm blending personal knowledge, crowd observation, and wild-eyed guesses in order to make my choices.

Josh [Miller, whose picks preceded mine in the list,] has a decent list of qualifications for SdJ nominees – visually attractive, easy to learn, smooth play out of the box, and vast sales/expansion potential. Africana and Kingdom Builder have all of this in spades. (I’ve yet to play Takenoko, but Antoine Bauza won the first Kennerspiel with 7 Wonders, the components are gloriously appealing, and the game has widespread German distribution, so it seems like a solid third choice.) One element he didn’t mention, but which seems important when viewing previous SdJ winners, is that the nominees tend to straddle the family/gamer line – that is, casual gamers can play them, have fun and do reasonably well while gamers will look deeper, discover more and play better. Again, Africana and Kingdom Builder fit this qualification well. Why choose Africana over Kingdom Builder? Partly due to its contrast with 2011 SdJ winner Qwirkle in that Africana has a realistic thematic setting, and partly due to the German love of travel.

All three of my Kennerspiel nominees – Glory to Rome, Hawaii, and Village – are excellent designs, and all fit the Kennerspiel category of games for connoisseurs as they're more involved that your average game, yet not off the charts in terms of complexity or opaqueness, although GtR might have one foot across that line. Still, I think GtR is an incredible design that goes beyond what you normally think is possible in a card game, and with Lookout Games having released an attractive version in German in 2011, I think it could get the nod.

As for Hawaii and Village, both are straight-up Eurogame designs that present gamers with interesting-to-explore game systems in an inviting setting. They're not too difficult to learn and play, making them ideal for those who have played the basics and want something more. I prefer Hawaii over Village as the money management and tight competition for goods among players makes the game tougher than Village, while also providing a wider range of set-up variability, which kicks your brain in new directions each game. Village gets my vote, however, as it has the homey thematic edge, just as Thurn & Taxis had the home-turf advantage over Blue Moon City in 2006. Yes, your villagers die and sure, that could be morbid for some, but that aspect of the game also encapsulates the broader cultural outlook in Europe, with people viewing themselves as part of history-in-the-making rather than above it, as seems to be more common in the U.S.

Who knows? I could just be blowing smoke...

We'll see how well I did in a couple of days...

• To follow up on an earlier post about "The Wheaton Effect", someone at Black Diamond Games, a retail shop in Concord, California, blogs about people coming in to pick up specific titles after discovering them on Wheaton's TableTop online program: "[Fan-based] podcasts have barely moved the needle when it comes to influence, as opposed to TableTop, which can send a small legion of people to hunt for Tsuro after a positive review, an all-right abstract board game with modest reviews that made its debut in 2004."

The writer continues: "The difference, of course, is the celebrity angle.... It also goes without saying that there's a bit of geek resentment to see these kinds of vehicles move geek culture to the mainstream.... As gamers, we spent our childhoods dodging adults who thought our hobby was sinister and peers who wanted to ridicule us for it, plus it wasn't exactly a chick magnet.... To have geek celebs make your struggle popular can be viewed as a denial of that journey through the desert." Really? I haven't heard any resentment addressed at Wheaton and TableTop, other than for repeated rule mistakes and a less-than-stellar presentation of The Settlers of Catan – and that just sounds like geeks being geeks, not an angry mob marching to reclaim their previous geek cred.
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Links: Glory to Rome Has Strategy?, Wil Wheaton Drives Sales & duBarry's Courtier History

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• "GeekInsight" at Giant Fire Breathing Robot answers the question "Is Glory to Rome a Strategy Game?" The answer, although written in a more GtR-specific manner than my interpretation below, can be applied to any number of games: It's a strategy game if you know how to play it well; otherwise, it's not.

• Tao Wong at online retailer Starlit Citadel writes about "The Wheaton Effect". Wil Wheaton's online boardgame-centric show TableTopavailable on YouTube, with the Small World episode boasting a half-million views and the featuring Get Bit!, Tsuro and Zombie Dice having more than 200,000 views after less than a week – has boosted sales on most games that have been featured, with Wong offering the following chart as evidence:


Why didn't The Settlers of Catan receive a similar sales bump? Wong guesses that "Settlers is such a popular, mainstream game that [it] is easy to find; it's no wonder that we don't see a change in sales. Customers don't need to come to a game shop to find it – Chapters, Amazon, B&N all have the game in-stock. The other 3 though are harder to find; and thus we receive the 'knock-on' effect from the publicity." The sales figures aren't huge, mind you, but in cases like these you don't necessarily expect them to be. (Wheaton – or someone from the Geek & Sundry crew – includes links to Amazon listings for the games, so expect Amazon to be the prime beneficiary of such sales.)

As the months pass, however, people will keep discovering TableTop, watching the episodes, and ordering the games. And folks who have bought the games will play them with others, and some of those players will become buyers as well. The road to mainstream success is paved with celebrity endorsements...

• Designer Philip duBarry has started a weekly series of designer diary postings about Courtier, due out from Alderac Entertainment Group in October 2012. Here's an excerpt from the first installment:

Quote:
Courtier began its game life as Henry the Great. This title may bring to mind Henry VIII of England, however my game was about the much-revered Henry IV of France (1553-1610). Champlain's Dream, David Hackett Fischer's engaging history of French-speaking settlements in the New World, inspired me to make a game about the complicated court intrigue surrounding Henry IV.

Fischer describes a world populated by strange but important-sounding figures such as Intendant, Chancellor, and Marshal who sought to administer the kingdom of France. Many religious groups, both Catholic (Jesuit and Recollet orders) as well as Protestant (Huguenot), and numerous artisans and businessmen all vied for the patronage of their king. Added to this web were several layers of nobility and those supporting the Queen, Marie de Medici (yes, those Medicis). In 1600, the famous Cardinal Richelieu was only a bishop, yet he had already begun to maneuver his way into the royal court. And hardly anything was done without the consent of the powerful Minister Maximilien de Bethune, duc de Sully. Champlain, the great explorer and founder of Quebec, routinely wove his way in and out of this complex mess to secure needed permissions, capital and supplies.

I admired Champlain's skill at navigating this sea of bureaucratic red tape. It seemed like a compelling setting: the kind of story that could be told by a board game.

• All of your favorite childhood games (or the games you hated) come into play, rock to the beat, then get destroyed in the video for "Get By" by Delta Heavy:


Having done a bit of stop-motion animation in the past, I'll just say, "Egads, that must have taken a long time..." (HT: Dale Yu)
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Thu May 10, 2012 1:00 pm
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