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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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New Game Round-up: Arkwright Returns, Temporum Expands, and World War I Moves Underground

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Capstone Games is a new U.S. publisher founded by Clay Ross, and it's debuting at the 2016 Origins Game Fair with the release of a second edition of Stefan Risthaus' Arkwright, first released by Spielworxx in 2014.

• Jay Tummelson from Rio Grande Games notes that artwork for an expansion to Donald X. Vaccarino's Temporum is in the works, and he expects the expansion to be available in Q1/Q2 2016.

Heroes and Tricks — coming from Eduardo Baraf, Jonathan Gilmour, and Pencil First Games in 2016 — is a four-suited trick-taking game in which players try to win as many tricks as possible, but each trick is lead by a hero card that defines the target suit and color — and while playing, each player can see only the card most recently played, so they'll need to use deduction in addition to hand-management to get the job done.

Perepau LListosella and Looping Games have an odd couple combo at works in Topoum, due out in 2016. An overview:

Quote:
1916, Europe: The Great War has ravaged the land. Only one fertile ground remains and it is strongly disputed...by moles?

In Topoum, you control an army of moles that are fighting for control of a piece of fertile land in the middle of the Great War. Moles are well known for their blindness and, for this reason, you'll earn badges (points) if you can form uninterrupted lines of sight between your soldiers.


!!! Lines of sight for blind moles! What a concept! As for the gameplay, Topoum includes four categories of cards — combat, movement, expansion, and special — and the playing deck is constructed each game from seven types of cards, which therefore changes the playing experience you'll have directing the little mammals.

War for the White House from John T. Douglas, John Kaiser, III and GPAC comes with a shotgun-to-the-face style of presentation:

Quote:
Launch a military style campaign to capture 270 Electoral College votes by using power and influence to sway the voters, turning hot-button political issues into weapons of mass destruction. Shock and awe your opponents with a devastating arsenal of lethal ordnance to capture Primary and Secondary Objectives and earn the 270 Electoral College Votes needed to win the White House.

Whoa, role-playing a military coup in Washington? Sounds intense! Wait — this game is for ages six and up. Let's look at another part of the description:

Quote:
Shuffle and deal out all cards evenly to all players. (Players do not look at their cards but keep them in a stack FACE DOWN on the table.) During each round, players take turns drawing and playing their top card. Cards are placed FACE UP on the table. When a player draws a PRIMARY or SECONDARY OBJECTIVE, the player continues to turn over cards until an ORDNANCE card (a numbered card) is drawn. The player with the highest card wins and captures all cards in play.

Ohhhhhh, that kind of war. Well, something new for the kids then...
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Thu Dec 3, 2015 1:00 pm
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For 2016 IELLO Teases Pigs and Rats, Candy and Cats, and Bunnies, Buildings and Pirates

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Typically I don't feel like I finish my coverage of Gen Con or Spiel, but simply run out of time and need to transition to whatever the most recent event is. To wit, at Spiel 2015 I took many pics of IELLO's upcoming line-up, but I don't think I've done anything other than tweet a few images, so now it's time to correct the situation.

To start, IELLO will continue to add titles to its Mini Games line, with all of the games in the line being released (and numbered) in French while only some of them appear in English due to the licenses not being available. (The English-language games aren't numbered, and I'm not sure whether that's a blessing for OCD gamers who like organizing such things, but there you are.)

Mini Games title #7 is Masao Suganuma's Candy Chaser, a bluffing game originally published in Japan by Grounding in which players try to raise the value of candy that's being smuggled. Each player is smuggling only one type of candy, though, and once any candy reaches the top price on the market, everyone gets one chance to accuse a player of what they're smuggling — and if you're caught, you're out of the game. The player with the highest priced candy who is still in the game following the accusations wins. Candy Chaser is due out in both French and English by the end of January 2016.




Tout là-Haut, Mini Games #8, is a French-only version of David Short's Yardmaster Express. Short helped develop Yardmaster for Crash Games, then put his own spin on the mechanism within that game to create Yardmaster Express. While Crash published both titles with a noirish feel and a train-based setting to emphasize their relationship, IELLO has gone in the other direction.

"Even if there's a few similarities in the rules (matching values or colors to connect), both games are quite different," says IELLO's Matthieu Bonin, "so we quickly decided we wanted a different theme from Aramini Circus [IELLO's version of Yardmaster], to emphasize what's different rather than what's similar. We thought we could go vertical (with trees) rather than horizontal (like the trains in the original version)." Thus in Tout là-Haut players now draft cards one by one from a shared hand in an attempt to build the best and tallest treehouse in the neighborhood.




Kuraki Mura's Taiwan Snackbar is being reborn under two names as Mini Games #9: Wa-Chat-Bi in French (wasabi + chat/cat) and Tem-Purr-A in English, with both versions due out before the end of Q1 2016.

In the game, players are trying not to overeat by playing cards to a shared discard pile. If you can't play, then you must eat the cards before you by drawing the appropriate number of cards from the deck; if you draw a "No more!" card, you receive a negative point, then all played cards are set aside while the "No More!" cards remain in the smaller deck, thereby increasing the odds of someone drawing one in the future. When a player has three points, the game ends and whoever has the fewest points wins.



"No more for me, thanks!"


• IELLO also plans to release a new version of Reiner Knizia's Schotten-Totten in its Mini Games line, with versions in French and English (but only for Europe with the latter item). Says Bonin, "We'll keep a similar theme, with probably a new name and new art by Djib (a.k.a. Jean-Baptiste Reynaud)." Bonin notes that IELLO plans to release 2-3 other Mini Games titles in 2016.

• In addition to those smaller titles, IELLO plans to release Happy Pigs from Kuraki Mura in Q1 2016. To repeat what I wrote in Feb. 2015 when IELLO first announced its version of this 2013 release from Mura and Swan Panasia, "I've played this game a handful of times, and while I didn't expect much from the initial looks of the game, it's proved to be great fun."

As hinted at in that earlier post, IELLO has widened the range of animals you'll see on the farm, with cows, sheep, roosters, ducks and penguins(!) also needing to be fattened up for sale at the market.



• Also due out in Q1 2016 is English is Tales & Games: The Pied Piper, the sixth Tales & Games title from Purple Brain Creations, with IELLO serving as co-publisher on the English edition. This is designer Agnès Largeaud's first release, and I know nothing about the game other than it contains small wooden rats. (The French version debuts at the end of February 2016 at the game festival in Cannes.)




Sea of Clouds is a card from Shinobi WAT-AAH! designer Théo Rivière, with Miguel Coimbra providing artwork.




Bunny Kingdom is a drafting game of some sort from Richard Garfield that's due out in May 2016.





• Finally, to circle back to Spiel 2015, IELLO had a great set-up at the convention to reward buyers, specifically a huge book that represented The Big Book of Madness, which was being demoed at the show (and has a U.S. street date of Dec. 10, 2015). The book weighed fifteen pounds, I'd guess, and when someone purchased an item at the IELLO booth, the buyer could open the book to a random page to see what their reward would be: a discount on the purchase, free buttons, promo items for a game, artist prints, or a free game. Very thematic, and therefore something that you wouldn't find in any of the other hundreds of booths at Spiel!


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Wed Dec 2, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Steve Jackson Games Looks Back to 2014 & Game Designers Complain About Things

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• Each year since 2003, Steve Jackson Games has released a "Report to the Stakeholders", and these reports always make for fascinating reading as they're one of the few windows offered into the financial doings of a decent-sized U.S. game publisher. In 2014, for example, SJG CEO Phil Reed reports $8.5 million in gross income, with "Zombie Dice alone account[ing] for 7.4% of our distribution sales for the year" and placing third in its list of products sold behind Munchkin Deluxe and Munchkin. (In past reports, sales of Munchkin and the many Munchkin spin-offs and accessories have accounted for three-quarters of SJG's sales, but a percentage for 2014 isn't given in this report.)

As for new projects coming from SJG in 2016, Reed writes, "we're already hard at work on games that will ship in mid-2016. The first quarter projects are completed and at print, and we're planning announcements for new Munchkin games, something new for Ogre, and the new edition of Car Wars" — that is, Car Wars Sixth Edition, with 2016 being the 35th anniversary of the game.

• On Games Precipice as part of its series on "early game structures", Alex Harkey writes about decisions, ranking Catan, Carcassonne, 7 Wonders and Hanabi on four "characteristics that can lead to interesting decisions": transparency, energy, metamorphosis, and perspective.

• In its game guide for the holiday season, Gear Patrol recommends "seven board games released in the last five years that have gotten great reviews, but aren't as financially successful as the old classics", which somewhat amusing given that all of the games released in the last five years, great reviews or not, aren't as financially successful as the old classics. Still, kudos to GP for spotlighting modern games on its site.

• On his blog, designer Bruno Faidutti objects to the use of the word "test" when others write about games that he's designed or co-designed, crediting his fellow designer Bruno Cathala with the following argument: "The games we publish work as we have tested them ourselves. Players can enjoy them or not, but it's not up to them to test them." In more detail:

Quote:
If we are indeed "game authors", and if a game is a cultural creation (we also say in French "œuvre de l'esprit", which is untranslatable because it's based on the ambiguity of the meaning of "esprit", which means both "spirit" and "brain"), then our games must be reviewed and not tested. The world "test" is disparaging for designers but also, and more importantly, for the games themselves, which are considered as mere technical items.

• For his part, designer/developer Seth Jaffee objects to people claiming that they "designed a game last week", stating that they did no such thing. An excerpt:

Quote:
People who say things like that are conflating "designing a game" with "conceiving a game". If you tell me you had a game idea last week, fine. If you tell me you started designing a game last week, we're good. If you tell me you wrote a preliminary rule set for a game last week, I'm with you. But when you talk about designing a game (in the past tense), it becomes much too easy to confuse "I started designing a game" with "I finished designing a game, and anyone who knows anything about designing things will tell you that those two are very, very different.
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Tue Dec 1, 2015 1:00 pm
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The Infinite Board Game Is Now Available in Finite Numbers

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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:

Quote:
"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...



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Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Re-Escape from Colditz, Await This War Of Mine, and Ponder a Frozen Tide of Iron

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• 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:

Quote:
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."

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Mon Nov 30, 2015 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Fantasy, Fascists and Frozen Faces

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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
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Sun Nov 29, 2015 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Migraines, Thievery, Limbo, Killer Candy, and Drunk Uncles

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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:

Quote:
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:

Quote:
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:

Quote:
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.
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Sat Nov 28, 2015 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Avoid a Cat, Stretch the Animals, and Clear Your Name

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• 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:

Quote:
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.

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Fri Nov 27, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Efficient Production, Forgotten Games & Better Terminology

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• On League of Gamemakers, designer/publisher Christian Strain gives examples of how to design "board games efficiently for cost". An excerpt:

Quote:
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.
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Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:00 pm
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Game Preview: Glaisher, or Parting Hex By The Numbers

W. Eric Martin
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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:


Starting set-up


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...

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Fri Nov 20, 2015 2:03 pm
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