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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

Archive for W. Eric Martin

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Spiel 2015 II: My Village, Porta Nigra, Mombasa, Rome: City of Marble, Face Chase, GobbleStones & Panda Head

W. Eric Martin
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• Designers Inka and Markus Brand and publisher eggertspiele won the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2012 for Village, a game in which your playing pieces aged and died over the course of the game — ideally dying in a place that would net you legacy points at the end of the game. For 2015, the Brands and eggertspiele have released My Village, which resembles the original game in some ways while also standing on its own.





• Designers Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling have worked together on a number of well-regarded designs, including the 2000 Spiel des Jahres winner Torres. The plastic pieces from Torres have now been incorporated into a new large design from the K&K team: Porta Nigra, with eggertspiele and Stronghold Games debuting the design at Spiel 2015.





• Not content to release two involved strategy games at a single con, eggertspiele — in association with U.S. publisher partner R&R Games — released Alexander Pfister's Mombasa. I had previously recorded an overview of Mombasa at Gen Con 2015, but somehow R&R Games' Frank DiLorenzo snuck onto our camera once again to talk about the game.





• Brett Myers' Rome: City of Marble was another title from R&R Games that we previewed at Gen Con 2015, yet still allowed on camera at Spiel. In general, we told publishers to aim for a five-minute presentation for each individual game since (1) we wanted to feature as many games as possible and (2) people tend to watch short videos far more than long ones.

If nothing else, this video at least shows the final look of the rhombus tiles, now in fully playable form!





• A game publisher told me in early 2015 that designer Martin Nedergaard Andersen has licensed close to one hundred game designs in the past couple of years, and after seeing his name on many titles released in 2015 — including the quick-playing, face-matching card game Face Chase from R&R Games — I'm finding that claim easier and easier to believe.





• Stephen Glenn's fantastic abstract game Lumis: Der Pfad des Feuers appeared from KOSMOS in the first half of 2015, and now his GobbleStones has appeared from R&R Games in the second half of the year. This one's still a mystery to me for now...





Cucumber is a public domain card game in which players try not to take the last trick. Friedemann Friese published his own version of the game — Fünf Gurken — through 2F-Spiele in 2013, and now R&R Games has published a version from Aaron Weissblum and Norman Woods with a few special cards as Panda Head.

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Tue Oct 20, 2015 1:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 I: 504, Automania, Cornwall, Completto, Team Play & Power Grid: The Stock Companies

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• Let's start the individual game demonstration videos from Spiel 2015 with one of the most anticipated titles out there: 504 from designer Friedemann Friese and his own 2F-Spiele.

One game publisher I spoke with at Spiel 2015 dismissed the design as being 504 mediocre games and wondered why anyone would pay attention to what seems more like an experiment than a finished design — but I'd argue that the experimental nature of the design is one reason why people are paying attention to 504 in the first place. Creating a game from what's akin to a child's flipbook each time you play is a cool concept, akin to the cut-up writing technique of dadaists and William Burroughs in that you're never sure what the output is going to be until you're experiencing it firsthand. Such work isn't going to be to everyone's tastes, sure, but I've enjoyed my first encounter with the game and am eager for more.





• Friese and 2F-Spiele also had the far more conventional Power Grid: The Stock Companies at Spiel 2015, with this expansion adding three new ways to play Power Grid or Power Grid Deluxe, all of which involve shares.





• Each year at Spiel we vacillate between having a strict policy of reminding publishers of their demo appointments in the BGG booth shortly before they're due to appear and assuming that they'll remember to appear given that it's a nice bit of publicity for their publication. We vacillate not because we think reminders are bad, but because we're often short of runners at the time that we'd want to send someone.

In this case, however, I was headed to the press conference early on Wednesday during the final set-up day, so I stopped at the booths of the first half-dozen speakers on the way in order to remind them of their demo slots — which was a good thing for Aporta Games with its Automania title from Kenneth Minde and Kristian Amundsen Østby as Østby was already in the press demo room since he thought his demo time was later in the day. Crisis averted!





• As happens all to often at Spiel, I recall a game that I wanted to investigate further only after the fair is long over and I'm posting a video about it, the game in question this time being Completto from Heinz Meister and Schmidt Spiele as it sounds like a good intro game for casual players and unsuspecting parents of children who come for playdates with my son. Oh well...





• Designer Johannes Schmidauer-König debuted in 2012 with Dog Royal, a new take on Schmidt Spiele's Dog, and he and Schmidt have since published a few other titles, including the decently received Vienna in 2014 and now Cornwall in 2015.





• Oh, hey, here's Schmidauer-König again with another Schmidt title: Team Play. You might begin to think that "Johannes Schmidauer-König" is a pseudonym for one or more editors at Schmidt, but he also had Die Portale von Molthar released by AMIGO Spiel at Spiel 2015 so that seems unlikely.

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Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:00 pm
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Spiel 2015: Hall 7 Walkthrough

W. Eric Martin
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Spiel 2015 featured four halls of stands from game publishers and other vendors, and our fourth walkthrough video samples those vendors in hall 7, which was newly added to Spiel in 2015 — albeit used to some degree prior to 2014.

In 2014, fair organizer Merz Verlag filled only half of hall 4, with the area being poorly visited compared to halls 1, 2 and 3; for 2015, more than one hundred exhibitors filled every available meter of hall 7, with many of them being newcomers to the Spiel experience. If nothing else, this experience might be a good lesson for other con organizers: If you're going to spill out into previously unused territory, don't do so in a minor way, but do so on a large enough scale that people will have to pay attention to what's being featured there.

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Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:12 pm
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Spiel 2015: Hall 3 Walkthrough

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Hall 3 at Spiel 2015 features the largest game publishers and the largest booths, with the space occupied by Asmodee and its Days of Wonder brand on its own being roughly half the size of Halls 1, 2 or 7 in their entirety.

In this video, Beth and Katherine take a run through hall 3, starting with a glimpse at the crowd waiting outside the doors. (Each day at Spiel, the doors opened at 9:45 instead of a 10:00. This was understandable on Thursday as rain was falling and they probably didn't want too many people crowding inside the entrance area before the doors opened, but I'm not sure what happened the other days.)

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Fri Oct 16, 2015 1:00 pm
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New-ish Game Round-up: Brick Party, Amphipolis, Saving Time, Villages of Valeria, London Dread, Don't Get Eated & Something with Bunnies

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Yesterday while clearing out my inbox, I ran through a handful of old forwarded messages that contained still relevant game-related articles. Today I'm going to revisit game listings in the BGG database that interested me enough on first glance to forward to myself — but which I then left to die in my inbox. Which of these titles have you heard about, and which should have stayed buried?

Luca Bellini's Brick Party from Post Scriptum, which I wrote to myself about on July 28, turns out to have been a Spiel 2015 release and thankfully I caught it in time to add to the Spiel 2015 Preview.

Brick Party features LEGO-style bricks, and each round of the game you play with a partner, either giving or receiving instructions on how to build the item depicted on a card in hand with 5-8 bricks. The architect of each team chooses the level of difficulty for their associated builder, and every team must operate under a randomly drawn handicap, such as giving instructions only by using the words "yes" and "no", or having the builder hold the item card (and thereby having only one hand with which to build). Whoever has the most points after completing as many rounds as the number of players wins.

I tried Brick Party as a 4p game at Spiel 2015, and it worked fine, other than having the usual problem that occurs in a party game when the player with the most points in the final round is paired with someone else, which was me in this case. I can try to win, which will also give the leader more points, thus ensuring that I'll lose — or I can tank the round, thus ensuring that I'll lose. I'm not sure what the solution is for this design problem — and I still made an effort to win this demo game — but I'll just point it out for others bothered by such things.

Amphipolis from Reiner Knizia and Desyllas Games is another July 2015 note about a Spiel 2015 release. Someone who bought the game in Essen gave a single line summary of it as being "Ra without auctions".

Saving Time is a cooperative time travel game due for release in 2016 from Richard Launius, Mark Zoghby and 8th Summit in which 1-6 players try to correct historical aberrations. Clearly they've succeeded or else we'd have ceased to exist. Therefore don't bother playing because you know that you're going to win!

Villages of Valeria shares the setting of Isaias Vallejo's Valeria: Card Kingdoms, with co-designer Rick Holzgrafe and publisher Daily Magic Games coming in on this village-building game in which a player takes one of five actions on each turn, with all other players also taking this same action, but in a worse way (e.g., discarding two cards to get a resource instead of one).

• Victorian England is the setting for London Dread from Asger Johansen and Grey Fox Games, with the investigative players planning, then playing out their efforts to uncover story-driven plots.

T. C. Petty, III and Dice Hate Me Games have the social strategy game Don't Get Eated on the docket for Q1 2016, with players being presented with a numerical challenge each round, e.g., play below a certain number, then simultaneously playing a number from their hand. All players who play the same number are on a team, and their played number is increased by the number of players on their team. Fail the challenge, and you're wounded; take enough wounds, and you get eated.

• Not so much a game as a teaser for a game that's still yet to be announced from IELLO, even though this teaser image — described as Paul Mafayon artwork "for Richard Garfield's next game with IELLO" — dates to April 2015. (I found out more about this game at Spiel 2015 and will post more later.)

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Wed Oct 14, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Dealing Death, Designing Responsibly & Dumping Ideas

W. Eric Martin
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Each week I receive hundreds of email messages about game announcements, distribution deals, rulebooks being available, and the latest blitz of Kickstarter campaigns — and to make matters worse, I typically send myself a few dozen email messages each week. Why? Because I'm surfing on my phone late at night or in a waiting room and want to forward myself a list of game release dates from a distributor, a game theory article that popped onto my RSS feeder, or (most often) new game listings in the BGG database. I see these things writ small and unusable on my phone, so I forward them to future Eric with the intention that he'll do something with them later.

That guy's a jerk, though, and he never gets through these messages at a decent pace, leaving them to compost in the inbox under yet more messages. In an effort to shovel out that material before it gets too ripe, here's a bunch of quick hits from slow Eric:

• Designer Tom Jolly catalogs different types of puzzle games on League of Gamemakers, pointing out the following about the relation between the two: "Note that in all the games listed so far, the foundation of the game is racing to find a solution to a single puzzle. This is the most common theme in puzzle-games and obviously the easiest to implement. You can take any solitaire puzzle, give a copy to two players, and say GO! Whoever solves it first wins the game!"

• In another article on that site, designer Seth Jaffee, developer for Tasty Minstrel Games whose most recent release is Eminent Domain: Microcosm, contemplates the designer's responsibility for good and bad play experiences. An excerpt:

Quote:
Sometimes, while playing a game, you find yourself in a very bad spot. Perhaps you find yourself bankrupt, dead, or otherwise out of the game altogether. Or worse, you're NOT out of the game, but you cannot make any progress! You sit there helpless watching your friends having a great time. Often the only way to get stuck in that bind is by making a bad play – a mistake, an ill-advised move, or possibly a calculated risk that doesn't pan out. Even if it's rare, whenever this happens, it usually means a miserable experience for the player.

As a designer there's a temptation to accept this dynamic in your own game, and to defend your design choice by saying "yeah, that would suck... don't do that." And to some extent maybe that's ok... The question is, what's that extent? Is it the designer's responsibility to ensure bad play doesn't ruin a player's enjoyment of a game?

Jaffee wants to take on that responsibility: "[O]ver time I've realized that, with such a wide range of players, these poor play situations will come up more often than I might have expected at first. And frankly the thought of any player having a bad experience – even if it's their own fault – is unacceptable to me."

For my part, I'm fine with a player getting tanked through their play behavior. In my first game of Age of Steam, which was possibly my first train game played, I created two networks on opposite ends of the board, so I couldn't deliver goods for enough income to dig me out of the debt hole. No one else had suggested that I create a single network because they either assumed I knew what I was doing or were happy to see me take myself out of the game. I learned and went on to play the game better in future sessions.

Along the same lines, I'm a fan of most Leo Colovini designs, and he often allows players to walk themselves into a corner. I still need to record a video about Hot Tin Roof, so perhaps I can dig into the topic more at that time.

• On Boing Boing, Ferdinando Buscema explains how and why he created a Memento Mori from decks of playing cards.

• On The Washington Post, Ana Swanson highlights "The mathematically proven winning strategy for 14 of the most popular games", with "popular" meaning well-known among the public at large. Don't expect Terra Mystica advice is all I'm saying.

• On his blog, Stinker designer Nick Bentley details his 100:10:1 method for game design. An excerpt:

Quote:
Step 1 – I quickly write 100 short game concepts in a notebook. In less than a week. Even in one day. I don't give much thought to quality; I include whatever comes to mind, even if it's dumb, incomplete or violates physical law (I do include good ideas as well). I keep spitting out ideas especially after I feel "spent".

Step 2 – Based on some selection criteria (which depend on my design goals and which I discuss below), I pick 10 of the 100 concepts and try to turn them into actual games. Just crude working versions. I work on all in parallel. This usually take six months to a year.

Step 3 – I pick the most promising game of the 10 I've developed and playtest+polish it till I'm sure I can't improve it. Then I make a list of its weaknesses and improve it more. Then I'm done.
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Tue Oct 13, 2015 1:00 pm
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Spiel 2015: Hall 1 Walkthrough

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Time for another overview of one of the four halls used in the Messe Essen for Spiel 2015, the annual game convention in Essen, Germany that attracts tens of thousands of gamers who want to check out the hundreds of new games on display.

In this video, Doug and Shelley, who host the Garrett's Games and Geekiness podcast, lead you through hall 1 at a blistering pace before it opens and becomes filled with far too many people to move about easily.

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Sun Oct 11, 2015 12:52 am
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Spiel 2015: Hall 2 Walkthrough

W. Eric Martin
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Each morning at Spiel 2015 we arrive roughly an hour before the doors open so that we have time to set up our equipment, buy games, breathe comfortably, etc., and during that time each day we've recorded a walkthrough of one of the halls in the Messe where Spiel takes place in Essen, Germany.

Hall 2 is kind of the catch-all place at Spiel, with board game publishers, RPG publishers, costume sellers, used game vendors, comic dealers, and much more. Take a look!

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Sat Oct 10, 2015 2:05 pm
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Spiel 2015: Pre-Preshow Non-Report

W. Eric Martin
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Spiel 2015 opens on Thursday, October 8, which means that many exhibitors have already spent a day or longer on the construction of their booths, especially the larger publishers that create more intricate structures, as with this playspace for T.I.M.E Stories:




I'm not sure whether they're trying to contain you from the rest of the fair, keep what you say from spoiling the game for others, or encourage you to start dancing on the tables for money.

I've posted a few pics from Spiel 2015 on BGG's Twitter feed and will do much more of that today as more booths come together — especially from the smaller publishers who tend to wait until the final prep day. What's more, Wednesday at Spiel is press day, so I'll be tweeting game pics from the press room once that's opened up following the press conference that starts at 11:00 Essen time.

•••

Despite my recent post suggesting otherwise, I've still been adding titles to BGG's Spiel 2015 Preview, such as White Wizard Games' Star Realms: Colony Wars, which will debut here, and the little known game Virus! from Spanish publisher Tranjis Games.

Maybe it seems like overkill to mention every new and new-ish title appearing at Spiel, but three hours after I had added Virus! to the preview, the publisher contacted me to say thanks and mention that they had already been contacted about the game by people who will attend Spiel. Well, how about that? I suppose that if you have only one shot of easily acquiring an obscure Spanish game about containing virus outbreaks, you probably want to take advantage of it, which is why I create the preview in the first place.

•••

Okay, time for breakfast, then on to the fair for pics, preparation, and the launching of nine hours of livestreamed game demonstrations on BoardGameGeekTV. Check out the module on the front page to follow along and see what's new!
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Wed Oct 7, 2015 6:37 am
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Spiel 2015: A Pre-Event Lament

W. Eric Martin
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Spiel — more completely, Internationale Spieltage — is an annual game convention in Essen, Germany for which I create a huge preview highlighting hundreds of new games that will debut there or first be presented in front of a large audience. This event is due to open is just a few days, and as is customary at this point, I am filled with crushing disappointment and bitterness.

That's probably not the emotion that I should be feeling on the verge of attending one of the largest game conventions in the world, but each year at this time I head to the airport seeing only what wasn't done. The Spiel 2015 Preview isn't complete so much as "good enough" as I simply have no more time to make additions or corrections; despite wanting to provide more complete descriptions for all listed games, I have dozens of unread rule sets that will now probably never be read; publishers sent me sample games in advance so that I could record previews, and I can think of at least a dozen games that I've played, yet didn't get to in time.

Sure, I've tweeted pics of most of these games or used my knowledge of the rules to update their descriptions or otherwise present them more completely to potential viewers, and I can still do more once Spiel ends because it's not like the games vanish once the Messe closes, but still — it doesn't seem enough. I always want to do more, viewing this annual preview as my personal challenge, one that I know will end in failure, yet one that I can't help undertaking with the spirit that this year, for sure, I'll do a more thorough job. Keep spinning that hamster wheel, Martin!

All that said, I'm excited to attend Spiel once again — my tenth time! — to see familiar faces, nosh on the ever-delicious crêpes, look with fear at the fried spiral potatoes, and (who knows?) perhaps even play a game or two, although I know from experience that this too almost never happens. Instead I'll be talking with designers and publishers about their plans for 2016. What's coming in the new year? Who wants to write a designer diary to explain how one of these new mysterious creations came to be? How far behind will I feel next Spiel, given the incredible volume of titles released this year compared to 2014? Only time will tell...
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Mon Oct 5, 2015 11:00 pm
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