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Archive for W. Eric Martin
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W. Eric Martin
If you'll indulge me a self-centered post on Cyber Monday, I'd like to announce that The Infinite Board Game — a collection of piecepack games that includes a snazzy piecepack set — is now available from Workman Publishing.
In August 2014, I had announced a deal with Workman to bring this piecepack book to life. The piecepack, for those who don't know, is a board game analog to a deck of cards that James Kyle created in 2000, then released to the public domain. In his words:
"The grand hope is for ubiquity," says Kyle, "and although I don't expect it, that's the only thing to shoot for. Every house in the world has a deck of cards, and the only way to potentially match that with the piecepack is through a distribution model similar to that of a deck of cards. If one company manfactured it and didn't make money, that would have been the end of it."
Now, says Kyle, "I don't have to worry whether I'm making money on it or coming up with cash for the next print run. I get to watch people who are inspired create games just for fun without the commercial overtones."
For more on the origins of the piecepack, head to my announcement of the book deal, which includes a reprinted article on the game system that I originally wrote for the July 2004 issue of GAMES.
The components of The Infinite Board Game are shown below, and I've included an unboxing video (from someone other than me) below that. Workman Publishing is offering a 20% discount with the promo code "HOLIDAY" through December 15, 2015 on this title and many others when purchased directly through its website. If you buy on Dec. 8, you can also get free shipping for your purchase.
I'll now return to the regular less self-centered posts...
W. Eric Martin
• UK publisher Osprey Games has announced a 75th anniversary edition of Escape from Colditz, designed by Pat Reid — a British officer who escaped from the prisoner-of-war camp in Colditz, Germany during World War II — and Brian Degas, who wrote a television series based on Reid's escape. The 75th anniversary doesn't correspond to the release of the board game, but to Reid's actual escape from Colditz.
Osprey Games notes that this edition, due out in October 2016, will have wooden bits, new artwork by Peter Dennis, and replicas of POW artifacts from Degas' collection.
• Anders Fager, co-designer of The HellGame, has joined the
design team of Siege of the Citadel, which Modiphius Entertainment plans to debut at Spiel 2016. Update, Nov. 30: I've now received a note from Modiphius clarifying that Fager will not be part of the design team, which is what seemed to be the case in the original announcement, but will be contributing in-game fiction for the Siege of the Citadel project.
• Spielworxx has signed a new game from Stefan Risthaus with the working title Gentes for release in 2017. (Spielworxx released Risthaus' Arkwright in 2014.) Publisher Uli Blennemann describes the design as belonging to the genre of civilization games and having some interesting twists in the field of time management.
Prototype of Gentes
• U.S. publisher 1A Games took over the Tide of Iron line from Fantasy Flight Games in March 2013, with the Kickstarted Tide of Iron: Stalingrad being its first release in the line. (HT: atraangelis) In a Nov. 24, 2015 update on that KS, Chris Williams from 1A Games has announced the end of its involvement with ToI:
It has been jointly decided by both 1A and FFG that the time has come for the two companies to part ways. As a result, FFG has taken back all of the inventory and all the control of the ToI property effective immediately.
FFG has given us no direct information about what their plans for the future of the line may be. Any questions concerning Tide of Iron which do not regard this kickstarter — rules interpretations, future expansions, replacement parts, etc... — should be directed at FFG. 1A Games is no longer able to sell, produce, develop, or market anything to do with the Tide of Iron game. The files currently available for download on our website (which will remain there for the foreseeable future) are our final offerings to the line.
• Neuroshima Hex! designer Michał Oracz is partnering with Jakub Wisniewski on a board game version of the wartime survival video game This War of Mine to be titled, appropriately enough, This War of Mine: The Board Game. In its announcement, game developer 11 Bit Studios states that the game will include a solo variant, allow for play with up to six players, and be playable out of the box without reading the rules thanks to a companion app, notes Polygon.
"The boardgame significantly broadens the original game's universe and emphasises the depth of the plot, yet its main focus will be on human interactions driven by survival instinct and group decision-making," states the press release. "You will be able to play as the well-known characters from the electronic version of the game and face hundreds of new challenges and difficult choices."
W. Eric Martin
• NSKN Games has gone back to the crowdfunding well for Simurgh: Call of the Dragonlord, a modular expansion for Pierluca Zizzi's Spiel 2015 release Simurgh that adds new tiles of existing types, new Leadership tiles, a second game board, and more. (KS link, Giochistarter link)
• The second edition of REDIMP GAMES' The Lord of the Ice Garden is also on Giochistarter, with backers receiving Italian rules with a copy of the game. Interesting to see this type of approach to wedge the game into a new market. (Giochistarter link)
• We previewed Daryl Andrews' and JR Honeycutt's Fantasy Fantasy Baseball from CSE Games at Gen Con 2015 (video), and now the game is looking to fill its roster of backers on KS. In FFB, you draft fantasy creatures, then compare stats, cast spells, and otherwise do whatever is needed to score. (KS link)
• Jeffrey Lai's Draconis Invasion is a deck-building game that gives each player secret campaign quests at the start of play, thereby providing some mystery as to who might win once someone takes down their seventh invader or the deck of event cards runs dry. (KS link)
• Who is Secret Hitler? Only the fascists know for sure. That's the basis of Secret Hitler from Max Temkin, Mike Boxleiter and Tommy Maranges, a hidden role game that pits liberals against fascists in 1930s Germany, with the liberals trying to enact five liberal policies or find and assassinate Secret Hitler before the outnumbered fascists can enact six policies of their own or elect Secret Hitler Chancellor. (KS link)
• Laurence Humier's Smart Money Maker is a semi-cooperative card game in which 2-6 players must pay off their debts, taxes and loans in order for someone — the player with the most money on hand — to win; if anyone still has unpaid debts, though, then the game wins. (KS link)
• Dan Chou's Security Council from CHOU! Games gives players the power to nuke the world and possibly survive afterward in order to rule over the bits that remain. (KS link)
• Leonardo: The Game of Art and Death — Plague Edition sounds intriguing, but a closer look at the game, the second Leonardo-based item kickstarted by Dent-de-Lion du Midi, shows more than a few similarities to Monopoly underneath the polished da Vincian finish. One player can become Death, though, and claim money from the owners of the spaces on which it lands, so I suppose that's something. (KS link)
• Treatment: A psychiatry card game from Markus Takanen was demoed at Spiel 2015 at the Sierra Madre Games stand, and now the game and its quirky cute(?) illustrations in which players represent psychiatric diseases are nearly funded. (KS link)
• The party game Why the long face? from Penelope Taylor has you trying to recreate the faces of depicted taxidermied animals. To quote the creator, "Why the long face? is a face charades game where players bring taxidermy to life!" I can imagine someone creating a taxidermy-based game that I'd want to play, but this isn't it. (KS link)
• Deer Lord is a party game along the lines of J'te Gage Que..., a.k.a. Bluff Party, with players trying to do something during the turns of other players (while not getting called out for it) in order to claim credit for that something on their turn in order to score points. Deer Lord does add duel cards to its deck, so that's one new element, I think. (KS link)
• Breaker Blocks from Jacob Vander Ende and his Spriteborne brand is a two-player battle over circuits using laser-cut action and power tiles. (KS link)
Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
W. Eric Martin
Time for another go at cleaning out the inbox, specifically checking out new game links that I had forwarded to myself for investigation but then forgot to check out. Let's sample what I thought was of interest in the past six months:
• Let's start with Hannah Shaffer's 14 Days, which bears the subtitle "A Game About Life With Migraines" and which originated from the designer's own experience: "I didn’t know how to talk to the people around me about how migraines were impacting my life. This game exists to help break through some of the silence and stigma around migraines, as well as other types of chronic pain." 14 Days was funded on Kickstarter in July 2015 and due out before the end of 2015.
• Somewhat along the same lines is Feelings from Vincent Bidault and Dixit designer (and child psychiatrist) Jean-Louis Roubira, with this game originating from a request by the city of Poitiers, France for ways to combat discrimination.
• Designer Dave Chalker already dealt with shady characters in Heat, and now he's doing it again in Thief's Market from Tasty Minstrel Games, in which players divvy up loot dice, then purchase henchmen, plans, and tools to gain notoriety.
• In a tweet chat the other day someone asked my view of the Brazilian game market, and I had to confess to knowing little about it. Now I run across the intriguing-sounding Limbo from designers Davi Lessa and Paulo Luvizoto and publisher Monst3r Factory, but I can't track down whether this game has actually been released. Here's an overview of the game:
Limbo is a board game for 2-4 players, based on the universe created by Neil Gaiman. Players face each other for eight rounds (the eight hours of the child's sleep), trying to influence the movement of the child in main board. To do that, they should put their cards on individual boards, forming combinations of runes, skills and summoning creatures to chase the little one. Players actions must be scheduled, and the cards and creatures can be positioned in future rounds, creating a system that must be planned and thinking beyond the present moment.
• Dennis Bennett's Badger Deck, available through DriveThruCards, is an expanded deck of playing cards, with 22 cards in the traditional four suits (0-10, Ace, Jack, Queen, King, Fool(Joker), Wizard, Sorceress, Princess, Hero, Mythical Creature, and Castle). Six additional suits of cards are also available, as are cards numbered 11-20 in the ten available suits. In Bennett's words, The Badger Deck is "suitable for prototyping new games or for playing a whole range of already available (but possibly out of print) games".
• Games by Play Date always uses unusual settings for its games, and in May 2015 it released Drunk Uncles, which bears this description:
As idiot uncles attending a family gathering in Drunk Uncles, a press-your-luck card game, you must get as many of your terrible opinions off of your chest as possible before you wear out the welcome of your fair-minded family. Players draft dice to determine their tolerance level and carefully play from their hand hoping to duck under the judgement of their family.
• Another 2015 release from Games by Play Date is The Show Must Go On!, a design for 4-10 players who perform an included play ("Covet Thy Neighbors' Asses!") in teams, with each actor's teammates trying to guess the occupation, motivation or affectation that an actor is attempting to exhibit during their performance.
Games by Play Date has a Patreon page for those who want to receive a short-run copy of each title it releases.
• Sweet Nose, from Jason Lin, Frank Liu, and Taiwanese publisher MO ZI Game, is a title that I couldn't help but investigate as I had no idea what to expect. A description:
Welcome to ancient China city! You are a group of tourists interested in its delicious and huge variety of candies. You cannot wait to eat them all. However, legend has it that a guy named Sweet Nose, who also enjoyed the candies of this city, was killed by the thunder. The reason for his death was because he ate too many sweets. Although the legend makes no sense to you, you do not really want to be the one who eats too many sweets. Because the sky of the city is always cloudy, none of you wants to become the next legend.
Sweet Nose is a game of exciting interaction. You will try to eat most types of candy through trading your candy with other players. However, the sweetness of each candy is different for each player. Therefore, to keep yourself from being the one who eats too many sweets, you need to be careful when trading and observe the reaction of other players. In addition, different shops provide different surprises; you also need to take those shops' candies into your consideration. The one who eat the most sweets loses the game, and the winner is the one who eats the fewest sweets.
W. Eric Martin
• Have you seen Simon Tofield's animated shorts of Simon's Cat on YouTube? I have not, but millions of others have, including Samuel Mitschke and Randy Scheunemann from Steve Jackson Games, who have now designed Simon's Cat: The Card Game, due out in 2016. In this simple card game, you try not to catch Simon's attention in order to avoid Blame. That is all.
• Upper Deck Entertainment has published a long illustrated preview of Legendary: Secret Wars – Volume 2, due out Dec. 9, 2015, that highlights a new mastermind, two villains who can become a mastermind, new heroes, new keywords, and a fluffy pink cat.
• We also have some details of Ryan Miller's Pack of Lies from Upper Deck, which was announced at Gen Con 2015 and is described somewhat below:
Pack of Lies takes place in a "noir fantasy" world that is based around lies and deceit. Each player is on a grim quest to clear their name. They must gather a gang of characters that will either use treachery and deceit or bash some skulls until they get to the truth.
The gameplay of Pack of Lies lets players choose to either work with or against other players to clear their name throughout the game; whatever best suits their purpose at any given time. The characters in the game can also help out a number of players at once. Be careful, though — the fate of a character within the game is sure to affect multiple players in the game.
Work with or against the different factions within the city including The Church, The Cops, The Syndicate/Mob, Enchanters, and Dragonclan.
• Portal Games has picked up the English-language rights for My Happy Farm, a game about feeding ever-lengthening animals from Mysterium designers Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko that first appeared in English in 2013 from the now-defunct 5th Street Games. For this edition, due out Q1 2016, Portal has tweaked some of the rules and artwork.
• Were Airfix military models a part of your young life? They weren't a part of mine as (1) I wasn't brought up in the UK and (2) I didn't play with military toys, but Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment had a far different experience from mine, playing with them over and over again and eventually developing rules to play games with them.
Now Birch, along with Alan Paull and Nick Fallon, have designed Airfix Battles, due out April 2016, to serve as an introductory World War II game. The game includes die-cut cardboard components, giving you the option of integrating Airfix models of your own into the missions presented in the box. Modiphius plans to release additional Force Decks and the more involved Airfix Battles Collector's Edition in mid-2016.
W. Eric Martin
• On League of Gamemakers, designer/publisher Christian Strain gives examples of how to design "board games efficiently for cost". An excerpt:
Every punchboard component for every game is different. That means that every time a game is printed, at least one new die-cut tool is made for the punchboard components. The trick here is to keep it to only one die-cut.
When I was getting Evil Intent
printed, I didn't realize this. I created two different punchboard designs: one for money, and the other for markers. If I had taken the two different components and combined them on one design, then I would have only paid for one die-cut instead of two.
I thankfully learned this lesson when I printed Asking for Trobils
, making all four punchboards the same cut.
When I open a game that contains inefficiently produced punchboards as described above, I can't help but view the producer as an amateur and become suspicious of the game in question.
• In a 2,300-year-old tomb in China, "archaeologists found a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them, and a broken tile which was once part of a game board", according to Owen Jarus on Live Science. The article notes that researchers suspect the pieces are from a game titled "bo" or "liubo" that hasn't been played in more than 1,500 years.
• Following the Carcassonne tournament at Spiel 2015, Hans im Glück donated €6,000 — fifty cents per point scored, rounded up to the nearest thousand — to the University of Duisburg-Essen for projects intended to help fund creative integration projects for refugees, such as language acquisition programs.
• Speaking of Spiel 2015, NPR ran a short story on the convention on its Morning Edition program in Oct. 2015, with Tiffany Ralph, a.k.a. TheOneTAR (and now Tiffany Caires following a recent marriage), providing a few details as to why gamers were headed to Essen, Germany.
• Designer Mark Major makes a case for dumping the terms "Euro" and "Ameritrash" in favor of objective and descriptive terms that better describe the elements within a game — although his descriptions focus almost entirely on the mechanisms of gameplay, which is reductionism of another sort.
W. Eric Martin
At Tokyo Game Market in May 2015, I was introduced to many Japanese designers, publishers, and other game industry folks by Ken Shoda, who served as both guide and translator. I had met Ken at BGG.CON 2012, and both of us being huge Knizia fans, we hit it off and have stayed in touch about this-and-that since then, with our paths also crossing at Spiel each year.
Like many gamers, Ken has multiple game ideas burning in his head, and his first published design, Glaisher, was released by Spanish publisher nestorgames in March 2015. The name "Glaisher" comes from mathematician James Whitbread Lee Glaisher, and Glaisher's theorem relates to the partition of integers — that is, the separation of integers into smaller units with each of those units being themselves integers. Shoda teaches mathematics and English, and he says that the design started as a trick-taking game before morphing into its current form.
In the two-player game Glaisher, your goal is to connect opposite sides of the hexagonal playing space with a continuous chain of your pieces. Each player starts with three stacks of six tokens on the game board, with the tokens having yellow on one side and red on the other.
On a turn, a player moves one of their stacks of three or more tokens by partitioning that stack into two or more stacks — each with a unique number of tokens — and moving each of those stacks away from the original stack's location a number of spaces equal to the number of tokens in the new stacks. Since you start with three stacks of six tokens, your first move is to split a stack into two stacks (1 and 5, or 2 and 4) or three stacks (1, 2, and 3).
When you do this, if by moving you'd land a new stack on one of your own stacks, you simply place all of these tokens in a single stack. If you would land a new stack on one of the opponent's stacks, you can do so only if the stack you're moving contains at least as many tokens as the stack on which you would land; if this moving stack has fewer tokens, then you must make a different move. When you land a stack on an opponent's stack, you flip that opposing stack to your color.
After taking a turn, you take a spare token from the bag and place it on any empty space.
To make this explanation clearer, let's look at a few pics that I took today while playing against Ken, who teaches mathematics and English:
After my first turn
After Ken's first turn
One of the familiar elements of Glaisher compared to other abstract strategy games is how you can bait your opponent with a move that they'll want to counter, but which will only backfire if they do. Ken placed his single piece next to the three-stack that I moved on my first turn, and while I could split that three-stack into a 1 and 2 to capture it, he could then immediately recapture by moving his six-stack on the right-hand edge of the game board. Therefore, I needed to leave that piece alone, at least for now.
Another element that seems familiar is the need to play into the "holes" of the other player — that is, to make a move to which they can't possibly respond, such as place a stack of two tokens two spaces away from the opponent's four-stack. Since a stack can't be split into stacks of even height, a four-stack can be split only into stacks of 1 and 3 — which means that your two-stack can't be captured by that four-stack.
Many turns into the game
As the game progressed, I was reminded of wonderful games like YINSH and DVONN, games in which your progress toward victory works against you by limiting what you can do on future turns. In YINSH, for example, you need to create three rows of five rings in order to win, but each time you create such a row, you must remove those pieces from the game board, thereby weakening your future ability to create another row.
In Glaisher, you want to spread out your pieces since you're trying to create a chain of tokens that goes from one side of the board to the other (with a corner space counting for both adjacent sides), but the more that you spread out your pieces, the fewer stacks you have available to move since only stacks with three or more tokens can be split — and if you can't split and move a stack on your turn, then you lose. Progress toward victory creates a handicap toward future progress, but in a natural way that's integral to the gameplay and not tacked on as a catch-up mechanism.
Victory for red!
One other element to the game that becomes apparent only after the first few turns is that each move you make voids a space on the game board that you previously controlled. If you're trying to create a chain of tokens, but you need to remove that stack to make progress on the chain, then you've just punched a hole in that chain. Yes, you can use your end-of-turn token placement to fill that hole, but a single token doesn't provide much defense since it can be covered easily.
My thanks to Ken for teaching me Glaisher, as well as DuploHex (another nestorgames release and yet another different take on the connect-the-sides challenge of Hex), while guiding me and my wife and son around Kamakura, which was considered to be the capital of Japan for a short time in the 1100s and 1200s. Ken will be demoing and selling Glaisher at Tokyo Game Market on Nov. 22, 2015.
If I learned nothing else today, I now know that playing a game that superficially resembles Go in front of the Great Buddha is a wonderful way to catch a woman's eye...
W. Eric Martin
• Designer Kelsey Domeny explains why gamers should stop hating on Monopoly:
I think we gamers and game designers can jump too quickly to scoffing at mainstream games. But we owe a lot to them. Monopoly really is a bridge from the world of no games to the world of hobby games. If we are to grow our industry, we must be willing to sit down with people who love Monopoly and enjoy a game of Monopoly with them. When we start where they are comfortable and show them we can have fun on their turf, they will be more likely to try our "gateway games" and enter into the world of clever design and cool mechanics.
Don't dismiss people because of what they play; invite them to your table because they do play. Perhaps by playing together you can find games that you all enjoy.
• Designer Nat Levan goes through the five stages of grief after receiving feedback — and a suggested list of extensive changes — from a prospective publisher:
My first reaction was denial. They were completely wrong. I've been working on this for a year, and they've only played it for a few months. Never mind the fact that since there's a whole team playing, they've probably put in almost as much play time as I have, if not more.
• Alex Harkey at Games Precipice catalogs "early game structures" — resources, turn order, and player decisions — to explore positive and negative aspects of each, while giving examples of games that demonstrate these elements.
• When an article on board games opens with this phrase — "In a 1967 lecture, Michel Foucault stated:" — you can be forgiven for wondering whether you're being pranked, but if you're familiar with the Analog Game Studies blog, you probably expect such things by now.
In any case, Devin Wilson's article "The Eurogame as Heterotopia" makes a case for there being as much theme present in a Eurogame design as you care to discover, with such a design simultaneously being a tool through which you can see yourself, should you care to look. A long excerpt:
Existing commentary on eurogames is most often written by enthusiasts and rarely by scholars, though academic interest seems to be on the rise. What we will see is that, though all can agree that thematic abstraction is a hallmark of eurogames, there is dissent among both enthusiasts and scholars about what to do in the face of that abstraction.
In the only extant monograph on the genre so far, Stewart Woods provides a history of eurogames that concludes that their thematic abstraction — while distinctive — is not of great interest.2 This postulation of eurogames' effective lack of theme is demonstrably aligned with the widespread enthusiast perspective that theme is often a negligible quality of games (even outside of wholly abstract games like Blokus
). For example, popular board game reviewer Tom Vasel said of the eurogame Vasco da Gama
, "Don't come into this looking for any kind of theme." But — far more so than with many eurogames — Vasco da Gama
is very plainly about something real: its namesake is a particular historical figure and the gameplay embodies this person's biography in non-trivial ways. Yet Vasel forbids us from looking for theme in this game, insisting that there is nothing there.
Conversely, Will Robinson describes Vasco da Gama
in far more situated terms, noting that the game's abstraction erases the violence of the game's thematic referent. Robinson looks at the virtuality of the game and subsequently directs his attention to the reality of the history depicted. He writes:
"Taking violent histories and turning them into resource management/worker-placement games for family audiences creates an ideological fairy tale. Vasco da Gama
reinforces a clean and unproblematic interpretation of the Portuguese empire with each play."
Indeed, the question of "what is being abstracted out" is vital, particularly when the theme is so specifically historical and that history's violence undermines the supposedly non-violent interactions that characterize the genre. Ultimately, in Robinson's critique of Vasco da Gama
, it's tempting to liken it to a Foucauldian mirror test at which Vasel fails by not seeing the reality of Vasco da Gama's real actions via Vasco da Gama
Wilson goes on to discuss The Castles of Burgundy from his viewpoint as an "ethical vegan":
Given Castles of Burgundy
's abstraction (which is typical of the eurogame genre), these animals can be interpreted as companions, wards, ornaments, or consumable resources. Given my perspective, I see them as more like wards or perhaps companions. The game — like much great art, and like Settlers of Catan
as described earlier — can function as a mirror: it shows me who I am in reality through the materiality of its unreality. In my case, I can clearly (and somewhat unexpectedly) see my real vegan convictions in the unreality of the game and its abstract and polysemic components.
My view of Castles of Burgundy
, like Robinson's view of Vasco da Gama
, is grounded in social critique. But the situation I find myself in when facing the abstraction of Castles of Burgundy
allows me to fill in gaps and virtually "re-theme" the game — without any physical modifications or concrete house rules — according to my politics.
W. Eric Martin
• On the opening day of BGG.CON 2015, two U.S. publishers have announced new additions to their game lines, with Stronghold Games having picked up the Village series of games from Inka and Markus Brand and eggertspiele. Village won the 2012 Kennerspiel des Jahres and has since had two expansions released for it, as well as the spinoff game My Village, which debuted at Spiel 2015 in October.
Stronghold Games plans to release Village and the first expansion, Village Inn, in March 2016 for the GAMA Trade Show, with My Village and the second expansion, Village Port, in May/June 2016 in time for the Origins Game Fair.
• In December 2013, I wrote about Jay Little's Patient Zero, which was unusual for this space as I don't normally cover prototypes that haven't been picked up, but the game sounded interesting and Little has a strong track record.
Now Split Second Games has picked up Patient Zero and will preview the game at BGG.CON 2015 ahead of a Kickstarter funding project in the first half of 2016. Here's a rundown of what the game's about:
Nearly 75% of the U.S. population is infected with an airborne disease: the Z-B13 virus. About a quarter of these people are at Stage 3 of the infection, reduced to shambling husks. The numbers of the "Afflicted" are growing by the day. Cities throughout the U.S. Midwest are emptying as healthier citizens flee for the coasts and roving gangs terrorize the highways. Today on the Internet, a madman released his manifesto, stating that he developed Z-B13 for a reason and will continue his experiment on humanity until his demands are met. He calls himself "Patient Zero".
In the cooperative zombie survival game Patient Zero, players undertake the search for the person responsible for the apocalyptic outbreak. Immune from the effects of the virus, characters band together and travel from city to city, scavenging for the clues and resources that will lead them to a final confrontation against this madman.
Each city in Patient Zero has multiple locations that require a specific combination of dice to be rolled in order to clear them. In some cases, you may have to roll a set of three 5s, others may require a straight, say 2-3-4-5-6. Some locations are actually hazardous and hurt you, but since you must play a die every turn, you may have to take the hit. Every location gives you resources in the form of ammo, food or fuel. Players must also be aware of time since taking too long forces the players into the next city at night, and the nighttime side for each city is more difficult than the daylight side as more afflicted are out and ready to prey on you! Be sure to manage your resources well because even though using ammo and fuel will kill zombies and move you faster, running out means the end of the game, and everyone loses.
The Patient Zero encounter adds a twist to the final location the players encounter, and it is a fight to the death. Who will be victorious?
In a press release announcing the deal, Little had this to say about his design: "I am really excited about Patient Zero. I wanted to design a zombie game where you don't actually fight the zombies — because the survivors hope that these Afflicted can still be saved. Patient Zero's gameplay combines many of my favorite mechanics; push-your-luck elements and risk-reward decisions that will weigh heavily on the players. With clever teamwork opportunities and a crisp pace, Patient Zero keeps everyone engaged, even on other players' turns."
W. Eric Martin
As a preview for Tokyo Game Market, which opens on Nov. 22, 2015 and which I'm covering for BGG, let's take a look at Yoshihisa Itsubaki's MountTen from publisher/retailer Ten Days Games, which was released sometime after TGM in May 2015. Let's start with a game rundown, which I've written based on 1.75 plays on a review copy:
In MountTen (テンガロン), players want to rid themselves of cards in hand first in order to win the round. The deck consists of green cards numbered 1-40 and red cards numbered 10-30. Players start with ten cards in hand with 2-3 players and eight cards with 4-6 players. Set the deck nearby with the top card revealed.
The start player plays any card to the center of the table. The next player must play a card at most ten lower or higher than this card, e.g., playing 14-34 if the 24 was lead. If the second-played card is lower (higher), then all subsequent cards must be lower (higher) — but also always within ten of the most recently played card. If a player cannot or doesn't want to play, they pass and draw the top card of the deck, then reveal the new top card. If all players pass in turn, then whoever played the most recent card clears the table and leads a new card.
1. If the next player in turn can play a green card exactly ten lower or higher than the topmost card on the pile (no matter the direction of play), that player can call "Mount Ten!", play the card, then clear the table and lead a new card.
2. If any player can play a red card exactly ten lower or higher than the topmost card on the pile (no matter the direction of play), that player can call "Mount Ten!", play the card, then clear the table and lead a new card.
When one player has no cards in hand, the round ends. Each player with cards in hand scores -1 for each green card and -2 for each red card; the player who went out scores positive points equal to all the negative points scored that round. Complete as many rounds as the number of players, with the start player rotating each round. Whoever then has the highest score wins!
Superficially, MountTen brought The Game to mind at first due to the ascending/descending gameplay and the special power being triggered by a card that's ten away from the top card of the pile, but in practice the two play nothing alike. Okay, yes, in both you track which numbers have already been played in order to make better plays, but that's about it. In MountTen you try to stick others by making it impossible for them to play, which means paying attention to who's played which cards when and what someone's picked up from the deck, but you're also at the mercy of what others have played.
You're also watching the cards fly by as the design functions something like a real-time game with players trying to get something onto the table before someone else "MountTen!"s them out of turn — which in a five-player game happens a lot since forty cards start in play. (Which is why you have to say "MountTen!" in the first place as otherwise the game turns into Dutch Blitz, with people slapping out cards to beat others to the punch, bending your cards, then looking sheepish because they forgot the rule about saying "MountTen!") With fewer players, it's easier to track who's played what and make plays accordingly
Naturally you feel compelled to hold onto the red cards over the green since you can possibly play them out of turn — thereby stealing the play and getting rid of two cards in one go — but that's why the penalty for holding red cards is higher. Good and bad are merged in one element, adding a bit of tension to what you're doing on every play, which is what you want in a design. That said, you don't need to hold red cards to win a round, so you have to learn to let go based on what's actually being played.
One oddness with the cute artwork is that the cards are indexed on only a single corner, with the opposite corner having a giant number that you can see only by fanning your cards out across both hands.
Don't hold your cards like this...
Hold them like this if you want to see the numbers
The publisher labels MountTen as being playable by ages six and up, but either Japanese children have giant hands or their parents smartly bring card holders to the table to make things easier for them. Me, I didn't do that, which made things tough for my 6yo. Lesson for the future...
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