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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

Archive for Industry News

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Links: North Star Games Wants Your Ideas, Wil Wheaton Guest Stars Again & an Origins Award Reboot?

W. Eric Martin
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• Gen Con, LLC has announced that actor/gamer Wil Wheaton is one of three Media Guests who will be present at the convention. From the press release: "Wheaton will sign autographs Thursday through Saturday, August 16-18 at the Autograph Area of the Exhibit Hall at Gen Con Indy 2012. Gen Con will announce its two remaining Gen Con Indy 2012 Media Guests of Honor in the next two weeks."

• At Go Forth and Game, Tom Gurganus interviews 5th Street Games' Phil Kilcrease about how he started working in the industry, what's coming out next, and which games he had to kill.

• As of July 1, 2012, the MSRP for Days of Wonder's Memoir '44 will be $60.

• U.S. publisher North Star Games is encouraging Facebook users to submit suggestions for special limited edition promo packs for its line of party games: Wits & Wagers, Say Anything and Crappy Birthday. Your prize if you win? More time on Facebook.

• ICv2 interviews FRED Distribution's Keith Blume, new head of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, which oversees the annual Origins awards, about what went wrong in 2012 that led WizKids to pull two items from the ballot before voting took place at the Origins Game Fair and how he hopes to change the award process for future years.
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Sat Jun 30, 2012 6:30 am
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Links: Austrian Award Winners, Challenging Fonts & Gaming in Tents

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• The 2012 Austrian game awards have been announced by the Games Committee of the Viennese Games Academy, with the Spiel der Spiele – the game of games – being Marcel-André Casasola Merkle's Santa Cruz from Hans im Glück. Other awards from committee are divided into four categories:

Spiele Hit für Experten (Game Hits for Experts)
-----Das letzte Bankett (GameHeads)
-----Mage Knight: Board Game (Pegasus Spiele)

Spiele Hit mit Freunden (Game Hits with Friends)
-----Africana (ABACUSSPIELE)
-----Die Gulli-Piratten (Heidelberger Spieleverlag)
-----Pictomania (Pegasus Spiele)

Spiele Hit für Familien (Game Hits for Families)
-----Baobab (Piatnik)
-----Indigo (Ravensburger)
-----Kalimambo (Zoch Verlag)
-----Takenoko (Bombyx/Matagot)
-----Würfel Bohnanza (AMIGO)

Spiele Hit für Kinder (Game Hits for Children)
-----Captain Kidd (Beleduc)
-----Monstertorte (HABA)
-----Ubongo Junior (Kosmos)

• Maybe Valley Games has the right idea after all with its new look for Die Macher. Daniel Oppenheimer, an associate professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, has published a study showing that "[p]eople recall what they've read better when it's printed in smaller, less legible type". From an interview in the Harvard Business Review:

Quote:
When people first hear about this work, they're surprised. The findings are counterintuitive. Why should making something harder to read make it easier to remember? But the findings are more intuitive if you reframe them. For instance, we've all skimmed through text, got to the end, and realized we didn't process the information very well. Making text harder to skim prevents that from happening. So it's not terribly surprising that causing people to slow down and read more carefully improves their recall. Of course, we don't want to make material so hard to read that people can't understand it. There's a happy medium here.

• To promote Wits & Wagers Party – the latest version of North Star Games' Wits & Wagers line, due out on August 1, 2012 – the publisher is running a live game in which several well-known game bloggers will participate. Well, I guess that should more accurately say that The Dice Tower's Ryan Metzler will run the game since he's the host and the event will run on his YouTube feed. Bizarre.

• French game site Pépites Ludiques has posted an image-filled report of the late June 2012 "Paris est Ludique" convention – but to be honest the look is more county fair than game convention. Could this type of convention work in the U.S.? Perhaps as part of an actual county fair? "Step away from those balloon-popping, milk-jug-ball-tossing hucksters and check out this little finger-breaking eye-gouger called Jungle Speed!"
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Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:30 pm
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Fantasy Flight and Stronghold Resolve Their Merchant of Venus Imbroglio

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• On October 20, 2011, at the annual Spiel game convention in Essen, Germany, U.S. publisher Stronghold Games announced that it had signed a deal with designer Richard Hamblen for a new edition of his Merchant of Venus. The following day, U.S. publisher Fantasy Flight Games announced its own new edition of Merchant of Venus, noting that it had "signed an exclusive licensing contract with Wizards of the Coast, LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc." – with Hasbro having purchased Merchant's original publisher Avalon Hill. (Additional background from the competing dual announcements in a Nov. 1, 2011 BGGN post.)

Now the Merchant of Venus situation has been resolved, according to both parties involved, with the Fantasy Flight version of the game proceeding and the Stronghold Games one cancelled – but not really, as the "classic" Stronghold version will now be included with the re-imagined FFG design from Rob Kouba. (The game board will be double-sided with the new version on one side and the "classic" version on the other. A breakdown of the components and what's different in the Kouba version has not been revealed.)

More on the resolution from a press release from Stronghold Games:

Quote:
Today, FFG and SG jointly announce that FFG will proceed to publish its new edition of Merchant of Venus, while SG's version of the game will be cancelled. SG will act as a consultant on FFG's version of the game, bringing some of SG's creative vision to the final release.

"This was a difficult and confusing situation," said Christian T. Petersen, CEO of Fantasy Flight Games. "All parties involved clearly had the best intentions in mind for the game, and none sought to cause damage to the other company. After a period of discussion and discovery, I'm thrilled that all parties now have clarity on the situation. I want to express my gratitude to WOTC for their assistance in this matter, and especially to Stephen Buonocore, the President of Stronghold Games, who has been both professional and practical in untangling this issue."

"While this was an unfortunate situation for all parties, everyone is a winner in the end," said Stephen M. Buonocore, President of Stronghold Games. "Fantasy Flight Games and Stronghold Games have forged a great bond that will last long after this event. In the face of crisis, Christian Petersen was a true leader who worked tirelessly to resolve the matter, and I am very thankful to him for that. The WOTC team was also instrumental in getting this done smoothly, and they too should be lauded. And above all, gamers worldwide are the biggest winners, since they will have this great game back in print, published by a great company, Fantasy Flight Games."

FFG is planning to release its new version of Merchant of Venus in Fall 2012. The new edition will feature both the classic game design by Richard Hamblen, as well as an updated game inspired by the original, designed by FFG's Rob Kouba. Stronghold Games is in discussion with Richard Hamblen with regard to other game designs, both old and new ones, which they hope to publish in 2013.

(As noted in an April 2012 BGGN post, Stronghold Games filed for trademark registration of the name "Magic Realm" in October 2011. No announcement for a new edition of Hamblen's Magic Realm has been made, however.)

Both Petersen and Buonocore appeared in episode #262 of The Dice Tower to talk about the resolution of the conflict and how the now two-for-one Merchant of Venus game will debut at Spiel 2012.
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Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:45 pm
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Links: Faidutti Starts Blogging, Rosewater Explains Game Explanations & MIT Reinvents Sand

W. Eric Martin
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• Designer Bruno Faidutti, who announced in May 2012 that he planned to shutter his website and launch a new blog, has indeed launched that blog, but his Ideal Game Library and the rest of his old Faidutti.com website is still around – at least for now. In his initial blog post, he writes, "The old website will stay online for a while, but I'll probably end up removing it in a few months or years, when it will have become completely obsolete, after copying and pasting here the best parts, mostly a few editorials."


Goodies on his blog already include this pic of a playtest version of Bauza and Maublanc's Rampage, due to be published by Repos Production, from his 2012 Ludopathic Gathering (complete game board image here); links to photo albums and reports from the Gathering; and this list of upcoming releases from Faidutti labeled "in the pipe so far for 2012 or 2013":

-----Formula E, with Sergio Halaban and André Zatz
-----Mascarade
-----Raptor, with Bruno Cathala
-----Speed Dating, with Nathalie Grandperrin
-----The Big Movie

(HT: JohnnyDollar)

• In his June 18, 2012 "Making Magic" column, Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater uses the launch of Duels of the Planeswalkers to explain what goes wrong when you try to teach a novice game player how to play Magic and what you should do to make the experience as enjoyable (and hopefully as repeatable) as possible. To summarize:

-----Lesson #1: Teach As Little As Possible
-----Lesson #2: Above All Else, Make The Game Fun
-----Lesson #3: New Information Has To Be Carefully Ordered

While Rosewater is discussing Magic, the lessons can be applied to anyone teaching any game – well, teaching almost anything really. In general, I think I do a decent job teaching games to newcomers – although I'm out of practice from not hosting a weekly game night like I used to – but one area in which I fail completely is the part about not rushing new players, especially when I'm playing a game for the first time, too. I find that I learn better by doing and seeing the results rather than trying to puzzle through everything that might happen for each of the possible actions I might take. I get antsy when I sit and watch others ponder choices A or B endlessly, so I don't want to be the guy putting others through the same silent drama. I'm happy to take the 90% best option and not worry too much about whether I'm missing out on something slightly better. Plenty of time for self-flagellation later!

• The monopolization of U.S. culture continues with the release of Monopoly: The Godfather – Collector's Edition, a game which a press release notes "celebrates the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the most seminal films of our time". Also from the press release:

Quote:
Travel the board with one of six game tokens: the horse head, cannoli, Genco Olive Oil tin, the Don's limo, a dead fish or the tommy gun... [T]he game features new "Don" cards allowing each player to align with a particular family and employ a potentially lethal strike. The Corleone card, for instance, entitles the bearer to a kidnapping of an opponent while the Tattaglia card affords its owner a single money laundering opportunity.

Next on the agenda, Godfather milkshakes from McDonald's...

• Scenes from a game designer's studio in 2025: The aspiring designer-to-be wants to use multiple miniatures with game-specific features in his design, but doesn't want to go through the work of creating each miniature by hand. Thankfully, he can turn to the "smart sand" that originated in 2012 in MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory. As described in a Popular Science article from way back in April 2012, these grains of smart sand are "imbued with a small amount of computing power and covered in magnets on the outside... An object – a scaled-down version of whatever the user wishes to create – is placed into a container of smart sand granules. The sand runs an algorithm that allows it to sense the shape of the object and map it in 3-D. The user specifies how big he or she wants the final product to be beforehand, and the grains simply scale the map of the object up to the desired size." (Psst, don't let Games Workshop know about this stuff, seeing as it already objects to gamers using 3D printers.)

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Tue Jun 26, 2012 6:30 am
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Links: Unexpected Victory, Unexpected Packaging & an Unexpected Publication Offer

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• In his BGG blog, designer Ignacy Trzewiczek offers a fun anecdote of pulling a win out of nowhere by discovering things hidden in his own game Witchcraft that he never imagined existed.

• Video game site Kotaku features a video of Jane McGonigal, author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, answering a question often presented to gamers: "When we are on our deathbeds, will we regret the hours we spent playing games?" She points to research conducted on people who were on their deathbeds that seems to suggest otherwise.

• U.S. publisher Gamewright has interviewed Laurie Keller, author of The Scrambled States of America, which was later turned into a game of the same name by Gamewright when Keller couldn't do so. An excerpt:

Quote:
How did you decide to turn your book into a game?

It had never occurred to me to turn The Scrambled States of America into a game but Gamewright contacted my publisher, Henry Holt, and said that they were interested in doing so. They asked me if I had any ideas for a possible game and unfortunately I didn't. So they came up with the entire concept themselves and I was blown away! They made it fast-paced and fun and even added more educational elements than were in the book.

Book authors relish such rare opportunities: "Transform my work into another medium with me having to do nothing more than cash royalty checks? Well, I guess I could do that."

• Anthony Simons is back in his Pawnstar blog with yet another theme-based round-up that reaches back further in time than is normal for such things. This time he looks at town planning and building, with both aspects of theme being included in the games featured.

• The history of Abe and Rena Nathanson's Bananagrams was featured on the CNBC program "How I Made My Millions" in the U.S. The first publication run for this now ubiquitous game? Fifty copies. Total number of copies sold to date? Five-and-a-half to six million copies.

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Sun Jun 24, 2012 6:30 am
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News from Italy: A Sheepland Preview, Clips of Winter Tales & PLAY in 2013

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Hi, gamers! I've received a preview copy of Sheepland, so let's start with a quick preview of that July 2012 release; my full review will appear later on Opinionated Gamers.

Cranio Creations: Sheepland

With Sheepland, Italian designers Daniele Tascini and Simone Luciani and Cranio Creations have gone for a "classical" Euro game, with art as usual from Giulia Ghigini. While inexplicably working in the same field, two to four shepherds try to move sheep into the right areas to score points. During a turn, you must take three actions, chosen from these possibilities:

-----• Move your shepherd
-----• Move one sheep
-----• Buy one terrain tile

You must move your shepherd at least once during your turn, and you can't take the same action twice in a row without moving the shepherd between.

Six different terrain types are available, with five tiles of each type and increasing costs (from 0 to 4 dinars) on those tiles. When you buy a tile, you're not claiming land on the game board, but rather investing in that type of landscape as that's where you expect the sheep to end up grazing. At the end of the game, you score 1 point per tile of a terrain type for each sheep in a region of this type; you also score for coins still in hand.

The map on the game board shows regions separated by roads: three regions of each terrain type for a total of 18 regions. Numbered "rest stops" lie along the roads, with each rest stop between exactly two regions. Shepherds move from one rest stop to another, with the first movement being free and all others on the same turn costing 1 coin. When you buy a terrain, you can purchase the top tile of either of the two terrain types next to your shepherd. When you move a sheep, you move one sheep from a region adjacent to your shepherd to the other region adjacent to that piece, i.e., you lead the sheep across the road to a greener pastures – well, greener for you, if all goes well.


The great idea of this game is that each time you move the shepherd, you place a fence in the rest stop from which started moving, making it inaccessible for the rest of the game. During the game some regions become inaccessible, and if they are full of sheep, naturally there's a rush for the tiles.

The lone black sheep in the game, which is worth two points, serves as a semi-random element, possibly moving to an adjacent region each turn while still being movable by shepherds as long as it's not fenced in.

After twenty fences have been placed, you end the round so that all players have the same number of turns, then you count up the points. Based on my two preview sessions – one with two players and another with three – the game looks really nice.

Albe Pavo: Winter Tales

Some more pictures and updates for Winter Tales, which will be released by Albe Pavoat Spiel 2012, but no international publishing partners have been revealed to date. The main change to the rules since my last update in April 2012 involves the modularity of the game. Beyond the base rules are modules that introduce characters skills, secret objectives, and special powers.


ILSA Magazine

Issue #16 of ILSA magazine, Italy's greatest free magazine about board games, is online now. The issue focuses on prehistory and includes an interview with Phil Eklund. The issue is available in several formats, including a Kindle version through Amazon.

PLAY: The Games Festival

Work has started on the 2013 version of PLAY: The Games Festival with the nomination of staff. Once again I'll be in charge of art direction for the event, which will take place April 6-7, 2013 in Modena. For information about the event, email info@play-modena.it.
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Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:30 am
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Links: Dorn on Goa, Results from Z-Man's Exclusivity & Psst, Hey You – Wanna See My Doodle Roll?

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• Tao Wong at Canadian online retailer Starlit Citadel reports on the state and sales of Z-Man Games two months after it went exclusive in the U.S. with Alliance Game Distributors (as covered on BGGN at the time):

Quote:
As many of you know, we don't buy from Canadian distributors. The cost is significantly higher than purchasing from the U.S. and there's a lot less breadth and width among the Canadian distributors. That means quite often we're buying direct from [Z-Man owner] Filosofia.

Here's a few things that we noticed:

• A higher cost per game of 3 – 5% due to shipping
• Increasing our minimum stock quantities by about 30% (roughly $1,300 dollars) for Z-Man Games
• More out-of-stocks for longer periods due to much slower ship times

Filosofia Édition published a short interview (in French) with designer Rüdiger Dorn about the new edition of Goa, which is due out in July 2012 in French and English.

• Are you a publisher looking for a game to publish? Designer Lewis Pulsipher wants to find a new publisher for his Britannia. As he writes in his blog:

Quote:
After sales of 16,000 the FFG version of Britannia has sold out (though it's still available in some stores, FFG has no more). I've received a notification from FFG that the contract is terminated. So I can immediately begin looking for another publisher for a revised edition.

This will include three new versions of the game and a slightly-revised version of the current game published by FFG. The idea is to offer games that will answer all of the major objections to the current version of Brit, and include the current version, so that the package will be suitable for a larger audience. (The objections: too long, too scripted, too much chance; and occasionally, not sufficiently realistic in one respect or another.)

• In his personal blog, Hiew Chok Sien complains about designer diaries:

Quote:
I'm getting tired of seeing so many such designer diaries being released. Sorry that this sounds negative. This is probably due to my overall jaded-ness with the quantity of new board games... I wonder whether people write designer diaries mainly because they feel these will help promote their games, or because they enjoy writing their own stories.

A bit of both from my experience, and my apologies, Hiew, but designer diaries will continue to run on BGGN for as long as I can help shepherd them to publication. Some designers approach me, and I approach others – but no matter who is approaching whom, I enjoy reading the designer's point of view about his or her creation and getting a sense of what drives that person in the first place. Some diaries are more successful than others in terms of delivering what I'd prefer to read, but at the same time discovering what designers feel is important when discussing their creations is another part of the puzzle.

• Not game-related, but I'm still sharing: Since I've attended NY Toy Fair a handful of times, I'm on press release lists for many toy manufacturers that will absorb any email address of a journalist that might possibly cover their wares. So I received a press release for Doodle Roll that included the following (inviting?) line:

Quote:
Watch this video and see why Phil Orbanes, leading toy industry expert and President of Winning Moves Games, loves his Doodle Roll!

Um, shouldn't he be sharing such things in private only with the person he loves? If you don't feel the same, feel free to listen to his confession:

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Thu Jun 21, 2012 6:30 pm
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Links: TableTop's History, Alderac's Future & Giant Kids' Games Now

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• In his June 11, 2012 "Rolling for Initiative" column on ICv2, Scott Thorne writes about Wil Wheaton's TableTop after interviewing associate producer Boyan Radakovich (who is the designer of High School Drama! and a former employee at ACD Distribution). Of note:

Quote:
TableTop originated out of Google's desire to move towards providing more professionally produced videos on YouTube, getting away from user generated and scattershot material such as "Keyboard Cat" and "Charlie Bit My Finger". While some videos racked up huge viewing numbers, millions more didn't. Google funded the project with approximately $100 million and tapped actress, writer and producer Felicia Day to create a channel.

As I've mentioned a few times in this space, Thorne notes that "The Wheaton Effect" has generated increased sales of nearly every game featured on the show, and Radakovich notes that the links to Amazon included with each TableTop video will soon be replaced, which should lead to more retailers using the program as a promotional tool within their shops and elsewhere.

• Todd Rowland at Alderac Entertainment Group talks with Tom Gurganus at the Go Forth and Game blog about upcoming releases and his personal history with the company, closing with this invitation of sorts for game designers:

Quote:
Probably the most interesting thing we're working on right now is a system that will let various designers, both known and up-and-coming, submit their game concepts to Tempest and continue the story of the world, as well as of course having their games published in this high-profile line. So if you have a game you've been working on with your friends, keep an eye on our Tempest website for information on how you can submit it for consideration in Tempest.

Tempest being, for those who don't know, a shared world in which three upcoming games – Courtier, Dominare and Mercante, all due out in October 2012 – are set, with certain characters in the city-state of Tempest appearing in multiple games. As of June 19, 2012, you can apply for access to the Tempest designer resource on AEG's website.

• Erik Wecks at Wired's Geekdad offers game suggestions for those who are puzzled "What to Do When Settlers Isn't Enough". Feel free to offer your own suggestions to overwhelm new gamers with more choices than they can possibly process.

• Since 2009, members of the "State of Seething" have gathered annually to create a giant version of a familiar children's game, starting with Mouse Trap (video on BGG), then going on to Buckaroo! (video), Hungry Hungry Hippos (video below) and for 2012 Ker-Plunk!, although video for this event isn't available yet, probably because it took place June 16-17. (HT: Purple Pawn)

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Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:30 pm
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Links: Eminent Domain Examined, Nazgul Thrashed, Scallywags Arrrrrgued Over & Bears Falling Short

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• Designer Chevee Dodd was interviewed by the podcast Perpetual Geek Machine, and in his 20+ minutes he discusses the origins of Scallywags – newly released from Gamewright – and game design in general. The site is also giving away a copy of the game should you just be looking for a freebie and not interested in hearing advice and history from Dodd.

• The winners of the 2012 Plateau d'Or, an annual design competition organized by the Journées Ludique de Québec, have been announced with Jean Rivière's Rome winning the public prize and Yves Tourigny's Mort ou Vif winning the jury prize. (Both Tourigny and Rivière are members of the Game Artisans of Canada, which has done a great job of getting its members into print.)

Descriptions (in French) for these two games and all other submitted designs are available on the JLdQ website. Previous Plateau d'Or winners include the now-published Québec and Richelieu, so perhaps we'll see these designs in print form down the road.

• In his Illuminating Games blog, Chris Farrell lays into The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul with a passion. An excerpt:

Quote:
The box says the game is "semi-cooperative", but make no mistake – like Republic of Rome, there can be only one winner, whether it be one of the players or the game system. All of which sounds intriguing, but the game is an epic fail. It's not clear what exactly the game is trying to say, it executes badly on its murky vision, it's not faithful to its source material, it's boring, and it's ugly.

And that's just the opening!

Designers & Dragons author Shannon Appelcline has started a new blog titled "Mechanics & Meeples" to collect previous columns from Gone Gaming, Boardgame News, and BoardGameInfo and to post new material, such as his examination of Eminent Domain from its deck-building foundation.

• In his Pawnstar blog, Anthony Simons continues to explore specific themes and how the essence of a theme has been transformed into a game, focusing this time on politics.

• To add one more Origins 2012 post to the pile, designer Justin De Witt from Fireside Games – the latest winner of the TableTop jackpot, with his co-op design Castle Panic appearing on Wil Wheaton's game-related show on June 15, 2012writes about both the good and bad of the con, including a sell-out of its 2011 dice game Bears!, an automobile break-in, crazypants, an impressively painted Dragonlord van, and clueless Origins attendees, specifically this:

Quote:
With Bears! being up for an Origins Award, we wanted to make sure everyone knew about the voting and gave all our players a "Vote for Bears!" badge ribbon. This brought up another issue with the show. This was the 37th year that the Origins Awards have been held and with only a few exceptions, none of the attendees even knew what the awards were and even fewer were aware that they could cast votes for the awards. We are very proud to be nominated, but it seems like GAMA could do a better job of publicizing the awards and letting attendees know that they are a vital part of the voting process. Everyone we told about the awards was excited to find out that they could participate.
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Links: A Village Song, A Meeple Pile & A Theory about Board Game Collections

W. Eric Martin
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• How do you get publicity for your games? Put them in front of famous people and let the media do their thing. To wit, German publisher Hans im Glück has posted a shot of Saxony's Minister-President Stanislaw Tillich and Minister of Social Affairs Christine Clauß playing Meeple Stapeln, a meeple stacking game that can be played with the bits from Carcassonne. You can download German rules (PDF) for Meeple Stapeln from the HiG website.


• And for a completely different take on gaining publicity through unusual means, here's a song about Village, created by eggertspiele's Alfred Viktor Schulz to celebrate that game's 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination.


Happy Meeple is a relatively new online gaming site that features four licensed games: Lost Cities, Finito!, Level X and Keltis: Das Kartenspiel. Or rather, it features the first two games, which you can play after going through a tutorial and "earning" your white starter meeple, and the second two games which can be unlocked by paying gold coins that you earn by selling the wares that you win by playing the other two games. Plus, you must pay food for each game you play, and you earn food based on your time online and the town structure that you build with the materials you earn. If anyone's looking for an online gaming time sink, this might suit you well!

• On the blog Games With Two, an unnamed author writes about the Cody Jones theory of game collecting and how it's applied at the GWT home. The theory in brief, with light edits:

Quote:
[Y]ou should never have more of one game of a single type. For example, you want only one deck-building game in your collection; you don't need Dominion and Thunderstone – just one of them. The idea is that when it comes to playing games, most of the time you are going to pick the game that you like more, especially if they are very similar games.
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