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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: Giants Come on Board Dungeons & Dragons, and Players Drop Ship in Island Hopper

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WizKids Games and Wizards of the Coast are extending their board game partnership — which started in 2015 with the Temple of Elemental Evil board game — into 2017 with the announcement of Dungeons & Dragons: Assault of the Giants. This design by Andrew Parks is based on the "Storm King's Thunder" D&D storyline that starts in August 2016, but the board game, which bears a $100 MSRP, won't be available until Q2 2017. Here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
Dungeons & Dragons: Assault of the Giants challenges players to command one of the six types of giants and claim the right to rule over all giantkind. Command giants and assault settlements to score points and secure important resources, including food, treasure, ore, and runes. The game contents include fourteen giants miniatures, measuring from approximately 4" to over 5½" in height.

Tasty Minstrel Games notes that it plans to release Orléans: Invasion for the U.S. market, with the game possibly making it out in time for Gen Con 2016, but possibly not. This expansion consists of scenarios, buildings, and event cards that work with both Orléans and Orléans Deluxe.

• I love seeing Kwanchai Moriya's artwork on games, and the cover of Scott Almes' Island Hopper from Eagle-Gryphon Games seems to encapsulate the nature of this design in that one shot. Here's a more wordier description of play:

Quote:
You and your friends all make a living by selling goods amongst a chain of beautiful tropical islands. Sounds great, right? Well, there's a problem. None of you are successful enough to buy your own seaplane, so you all pitched in and bought one together, which means that each day you all have to use the same plane to make all of the day's deliveries – and some of you aren't going to get paid. To make matters worse, the plane is in such disrepair that the instrumentation is broken, the compass demagnetized, and the windshield is covered in cracks, duct tape, and the remains of a few unfortunate seagulls, so the pilot might as well be flying blind...

Each day in Island Hopper, players auction off the Captain's seat; the player who becomes the Captain is in charge of flying the plane for the day, but cannot make any deliveries of their own. To make their deliveries, the other players bribe the Captain to fly to the islands to which they need to go, thereby earning themselves cash. When it's time for the Captain to fly, the Captain must close his eyes, pick up their goods tokens, and attempt to land them in an island's harbor. A successful landing means that players can fulfill their contracts and the captain collects his bribe — but if the goods splash into the sea, you might find yourself under water...

• At Spielwarenmesse 2016, BGG recorded a video overview of Fujita, Ohki and Oikawawith's party game Imagine — which functions something like Pictionary but with illustrated see-through cards that allow you to build images or even animate stories — when Cocktail Games showed off its edition of a design that first debuted at Tokyo Game Market in 2015. Now Gamewright has announced that it will release Imagine in English, with the game debuting at Gen Con 2016 in August.

Yes, Gamewright will also be at Gen Con this year! How many publishers can possibly fit in the Indiana Convention Center? All of them?!


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Wed Jun 8, 2016 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Long Shots and Hail Marys

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• For years people wondered whether Martin Wallace's Princes of the Renaissance would ever be available again. Now Mercury Games is Kickstarting a new edition of the game, and the response has been...muted? Those annual Warfrog titles were hotly anticipated by a certain segment of the gaming community, but perhaps we're living in a different era these days — or maybe it was the same few people asking for the game over and over again... (KS link)

• Another P... R... title for this round-up comes courtesy of The Pirate Republic, a design by Tom Butler through Green Feet Games that sets players in the West Indies during the 1700s, with them trying to commandeer ships, raid towns, and otherwise do piratey things to complete missions and commandeer victory. (KS link)

• All of the other p... r...s in my inbox are press releases, so we'll have to transition instead via genre trope, in this case jumping from pirates to superheroes, with Clover Games' Central City: Heroes being a 1-4 player co-op of building superhero characters, then bashing centrally into the city to complete five missions and take out the archnemesis, ideally without having your secret identities revealed. (KS link)

• From superheroes we'll turn to the fast (and possibly furious) vehicles in Championship Formula Racing Douglas Schulz and Ultra Pro, with this Speed Circuit-inspired design recreating F1 tracks and bringing historical racers behind the wheel once again. (KS link)

• Driving junked and tricked-out vehicles in a post-apocalyptic environment is another common movie trope, but in Matthew Morris' Wasteland Justice from Madbeard Games, you aren't necessarily trying to destroy one another but instead be the first to move your vehicular mayhem across the finish line — and if no one else is mobile enough to do so, then you win automatically. (KS link)

• The hook for the trick-taking Heroes and Tricks from Eduardo Baraf, Jonathan Gilmour, and Baraf's Pencil First Games is that players add cards one at a time to a special box (which also serves as game storage) so that you know only the color and suit of the card most recently played. Clever? Annoying? That's for you to decide! (KS link)

• Another KS trick-taker of sorts comes courtesy of Sunish Chabba, who is dressing up the traditional Indian game of Ganjifa as Guru Ganjifa, while also including rules for a few other games that can be played with the same ten-suited deck. (KS link)

• Staying in Asia (sort of) we have Anthony Burch's World Championship Russian Roulette from Two Rooms and a Boom publisher Tuesday Knight Games, a press-your-luck bluffing game in which you try to be the last one alive (since you can also shoot at others!) or the first team to collect 15 VP. You can even pocket your bullets to increase your odds of survival — as long as you don't get caught. (KS link)

• You also duel in an untraditional way in Kettou from Thomas Song and Table Forged, with an audio track (or a designated reader for the round) calling out the desired target, then players racing to slap the right card to score a hit. Players also use special abilities on their samurai cards while loading combat cards into bushido slots to further damage their opponent. (KS link)

• Duels also take place in the dice-rolling design Garden of Bees from Eoin Costelloe, Ciara Costelloe, Brian O Moore, and Decking Awesome Games, with players amassing an army of bees in order to take out one another and have the garden to themselves. (KS link)

• Armies come in a more traditional form in Days of Ire: Budapest 1956 from Katalin Nimmerfroh, Dávid Turczi, and Mihály Vincze and the publishing partners Cloud Island and Mr. B Games. Built around the history of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, this card-driven board game allows players to compete in a one vs. many mode with one player controlling the Soviet invaders, a co-op mode in which you fight against the game itself, and a solo mode. (KS link)

• If you prefer more cartoonish battle, turn to Ryan Boyle's self-published PWNs: A Game of Strategic Mayhem, with players using terrain effects, ability counters, and card effects to knock others out of the game, with you trying to have the most members of your team still active when one team succumbs. (KS link)

• Cartoons are also at the heart of Knuckle Sammich from Daniel Landis, Christopher O'Neill, and Ninth Level Games, which uses the characters from Kobolds Ate My Baby! in a Love Letter-style microgame that first appeared in 2013 in a POD edition. (KS link)

• The prize for most unusual setting for a game this week goes to Newton's Noggin from Bill Morgal and Worthington Publishing, with players using think cards to manipulate ideas in Isaac Newton's head Tetris-style to create the concepts at the heart of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. (KS link)

• I recall asking Ludocom for info on Vignobles in 2012, but no, the game wouldn't be ready for Spiel 2012, so onto the back burner it went — and there it sat for years. Now, though, Fabrice Arcas and Guillaume Peccoz's hand-management game about life as a wine merchant in southwest France is finally nearing completion. Has the design improved with age? Can you detect elements of oak and special actions in the tasting? (Ulule 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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Tue Jun 7, 2016 4:00 pm
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Links: DaVinci's BANG! Lawsuit Shot Down, Gender in Munchkin & Mark Rosewater on Twenty Years of Magic

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• In 2014, DaVinci Editrice — which publishes games as dV Giochi — filed suit against Yoka Games and ZiKo Games. DaVinci, which has published Emiliano Sciarra's BANG! (along with many expansions and spinoffs) since 2002, alleged copyright infringement based on the publication of 三国杀 (San Guo Sha) in English as Legends of the Three Kingdoms (LOTK) in 2012 by ZiKo Games, with Yoka Games having been the publisher of that game in Chinese since 2007.

As noted by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas in 2014, "The parties agree that Bang! and LOTK have nearly identical rules for playing the game." What differs is that BANG! is set in the U.S. wild west of the 1800s and features characters and artwork typical for that locale, while LOTK has artwork and characters based on the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which dates to the 14th century. The court denied Davinci's request for preliminary injunction, which would have prevented ZiKo Games from further distribution of Legends of the Three Kingdoms, but it allowed DaVinci to pursue its claim that ZiKo and Yoka "improperly copied protected features" of BANG!

In late April 2016, the court ruled against DaVinci, noting in its summary that "Bang!'s characters, roles, and interactions are not substantially similar to those in LOTK. The aspects of the roles, characters, and interactions that are similar are not expressive, and aspects that are expressive are not substantially similar. ZiKo and Yoka are entitled to summary judgment of noninfringement."

The ruling makes for fascinating reading, and you can download a PDF of the ruling here. Some excerpts:

Quote:
Unlike a book or movie plot, the rules and procedures, including the winning conditions, that make up a card-game system of play do not themselves produce the artistic or literary content that is the hallmark of protectable expression. See Boyden, 18 GEO. MASON L. REV. at 466. Instead, the game rules, procedures, and winning conditions create the environment for expression. Id.; see also Nat'l Basketball Ass'n, 105 F.3d at 846 ("Unlike movies, plays, television programs, or operas, athletic events are competitive and have no underlying script.").

This general rule is consistent with the decision in Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879), in which the Supreme Court ruled that a particular bookkeeping system was not copyrightable. The language and illustrations that the plaintiff had used to explain his system were copyrightable, but they did not protect the system itself from use by other parties. The Copyright Office has applied the rule that copyright does not protect a system's operation method to games. The December 2011 fact sheet for Copyright Registration of Games states:
Quote:
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

Quote:
In Bang!, the Sheriff and Deputies are pitted against the Outlaws and the Renegade. Other than these alignments, the events in a Bang! game are not predetermined because the interactions between the roles have no underlying script or detail and are not fixed. Making certain roles aligned and others opposed is part of the game's winning conditions, but these determine little about how players will progress through the game. See Boyden, 18 GEO. MASON L. REV. at 466 (copyright does not protect systems that set the stage for expression to occur). Like basketball, Bang! has created a number of roles, defined their alignment with and opposition to other roles, and created rules for their interaction, but has not created a scripted or detailed performance for each game. Using Spry Fox's example of Gone with the Wind, Bang! identifies characters analogous to Scarlett O'Hara's two romantic interests, Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler, giving them names and appearances consistent with their setting. Unlike Gone with the Wind, however, Bang! has no specific plot or detailed information about the characters that tells us what these characters will do or how they will interact with other characters.

Quote:
The character content found protectable in Capcom is distinguishable from the character content in Bang! The Bang! characters' abilities are largely drawn from stock-character abilities. Like a punch or kick in a karate game, Bang! characters' abilities are common in games in which the object is to kill the other players, such as enhanced attack ranges and strength. These abilities are neither original to DaVinci nor as imaginative as the moves found protectable in Capcom. The other similar characteristic between Bang! and LOTK is the characters' life points. The court in Capcom specifically held measures of player viability to be commonplace and not protectable, and this court agrees.

Even if the Bang! characters' abilities were not stock, they are still not expressive because they are essentially rules of game play. The character of Rose Doolan, for example, has the ability to strike opponents from a longer distance than other characters. (Docket Entry No. 61, Ex. 6 at 110:6-10). This ability is no more expressive than the ability of a rook in a chess game to take an opposing piece from all the way across the board, as opposed to a pawn that may attack only from the next square. The rook's ability affects other characters or roles in the game because the attack range increases the queen's and king's exposure. But this special ability is neither literary nor artistic. It is an aspect of game play, a subset of the rules that make up the game system.

Quote:
DaVinci argues that because each Bang! player is assigned a character and a role, the alignment of the roles combines with the expressive elements of the characters to create protectable expressive content. This argument fails because any character can be assigned to any role. In one game, Rose Doolan could be the Sheriff who works with one of the Deputies, Slab the Killer, to kill the Outlaws and Renegade. In the next game, Rose Doolan may be the Outlaw who must kill Slab the Killer, who is the Sheriff in that game. The characters' interactions change from game to game. See Nat'l Basketball Ass'n, 105 F.3d at 846 (basketball is not protected because the action is not "scripted"); Boyden,18 GEO. MASON L. REV. at 466 (copyright does not protect systems that set the stage for expression to occur). The combination of roles and characters also adds little to the overall expressive content of the game, given that the content of the game itself is not fixed. It is the equivalent of casting actors to roles in a movie that has no detailed script, no specific plot, and no detailed information about the characters.

• In May 2016, Steve Jackson Games surveyed Munchkin fans about their personal background and experience with the game line. Now SJG's Andrew Hackard has posted findings from the survey on Medium, including an overview of why the survey asked about users' genders in the way that it did:

Quote:
Gender is a specific mechanic in most Munchkin games. Some treasures are better or worse (or completely unusable) depending on your gender, and some monsters get bonuses or penalties when fighting a character of a specific gender. The Munchkin rules say that gender is dual; a character is either male or female, no other options (with a very few cards that cause exceptions, often by removing a character's gender altogether). Starting in the very first Munchkin game in 2001, changing gender resulted in a one-time combat penalty "due to distraction." This idea comes from early fantasy roleplaying games, many of which had effects that would involuntarily and permanently change a character's gender. Munchkin was originally designed as a parody of D&D and similar games, and this was one of the tropes that was brought over for the sake of that parody.

It's not 2001 anymore, and we now have thousands of people who play Munchkin and have never seen games such as D&D, much less explored the history of those games. We occasionally get social media comments, emails, and even physical letters taking us to task for belittling transgender players. Some of them are heartbreaking.

Speaking on behalf of the entire Munchkin team, it is not and never has been our intent to poke fun at the struggles faced by people who don't match society's gender norms. It has always been our view that the penalty for changing gender in Munchkin derived from its involuntary nature, not the gender change itself, and we have encouraged people to remove the penalty  —  or the entire effect  —  if their group found it problematic.

Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater appeared at the Game Developers Conference in March 2016 and gave an hour-long talk titled "Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons Learned" that provides a ton of material for designers of all types of games to consider. (For those who don't like video, Rosewater has started to post the material from his talk in his weeky column on the M:TG website.)

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Sun Jun 5, 2016 1:00 pm
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King of Tokyo Scrubbed Clean, Dressed Anew for Fifth Anniversary

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For the fifth anniversary of Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo, a.k.a., Yahtzee King of the Hill, which has had editions in thirty languages and has racked up more than 750,000 copies sold, French publisher IELLO has decided to do what it does best: Throw money at artists to create a huge portfolio of enticing fantasy illustrations.

Yes, as you can see at right, IELLO has given King of Tokyo a new set of clothes, starting with the cover by King of New York illustrator Régis Torres and carrying through to almost every flat surface associated with the game. Four of the six monsters from the earlier editions of King of Tokyo have been buffed, chromed, and made ready for their close-ups, as with Gigazaur and Alienoid below.

IELLO notes that these new illustrations will be used in the digital version of King of Tokyo, the development of which demanded a makeover for some parts of the game, as Matthieu Bonin has explained on BGG: "...the art we had were not compliant to that [digital version], both esthetically (take a closer look at the art on the cards — it's fine when it's printed in small, but not as quite when displayed on a larger screen...) and technically (we missed most layers to fully animate the monsters, for example...)."





Two of the six previous monsters (Kraken and Cyber Bunny) have been sent to the bench, with them being replaced by Space Penguin — previously available only as a KoT tournament prize — and Cyber Kitty, the driver of which has some big ears to fill in the cyber department.




The power cards have also freshly illustrated, with the text being rewritten for clarity and to incorporate a more consistent use of icons and keywords. Why create 66 new pieces of art when you see only a dozen or so each game? Why not?! IELLO receives a subsidy from the French government to ensure that native illustrators are supplied with a steady flow of work, and that subsidy won't spend itself. (Also, it might not exist.)

The backs of these cards used to bear the cover artwork, and since that's changed, the backs have changed as well, with IELLO noting that it plans to produce KoT card sleeves in the future for those who own promo cards or the King of Tokyo: Halloween expansion.

As for the evolution cards from Power Up!, those can be used as is since those cards are kept in their own decks and not mixed with cards from the base game. IELLO says that a new version of Power Up! is also in the works, and King of New York: Power Up! — which contains evolution cards for both KoT and King of New York — is now due out in October 2016.




IELLO has also overhauled the rulebook (English, PDF) to make the game easier to learn, and it plans to release this new version in France on June 17, 2016 and in English in North America on July 14, 2016 (with brick-and-mortar stores that participate in its preorder program receiving English-language copies on June 30). Other English-speaking regions will receive this new edition in the weeks that follow, and by the end of 2016 it will be released in an addition fourteen languages: German, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish, and Swedish.




And continuing a trend that I've been seeing from a number of publishers, IELLO also has a separate new edition of King of Tokyo coming out that will be exclusive with the U.S. retail chain Target. This edition is the same as the new one described above other than Gigazaur being replaced with Baby Gigazaur, with IELLO noting that this toddling terror will be exclusive with Target for one year, after which it "will be available to the owners of the other versions of the game".

As for the new parts added and old parts removed, IELLO notes that it's working with its two dozen-ish publishing partners on the "possibility of offering Cyber Kitty and Space Penguin as a mini-expansion" so that current KoT owners can add these monsters to their game. Kraken will be replaced with a new tentacle-bearing monster, complete with evolution cards, while Cyber Bunny is gone for good, with Bonin noting that "We chose to discontinue Cyber Bunny for legal technicalities". Clearly a lawyer monster should be joining the game in the future...

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Sat Jun 4, 2016 6:00 am
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New Game Round-up: Revisiting Hogwarts, Making Fake Art, and Going Loony in the U.S.

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• For the most part, USAopoly has released themed versions of existing games — Clue this, Monopoly that, Yahtzee the other thing — but the company has taken efforts to expand its product line, as with its new version of Nefarious in 2015, the impending release of Star Trek Panic in June 2016, and now the announcement of a cooperative deck-building game titled Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle.

I got a first look at the game during NY Toy Fair, but details were scant at the time. USAopoly was unsure whether to label the game "deck-building" given that the casual gamer would not know what that means, but the parallels between deck-building and spellbook-building — think of Harry and friends advancing over the years from Wingardium Leviosa and Expelliarmus to Avada Kedavra and Obliviate — seem obvious once you start thinking about the two, so apparently USAopoly has now embraced the term.

Here's an overview of the game, which I believe is due out at Gen Con 2016 in August:

Quote:
The forces of evil are threatening to overrun Hogwarts castle in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, a cooperative deck-building game, and it's up to four students to ensure the safety of the school by defeating villains and consolidating their defenses. In the game, players take on the role of a Hogwarts student: Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville, each with their own personal deck of cards that's used to acquire resources.

By gaining influence, players add more cards to their deck in the form of iconic characters, spells, and magical items. Other cards allow them to regain health or fight against villains, keeping them from gaining power. The villains set back players with their attacks and Dark Arts. Only by working together will players be able to defeat all of the villains, securing the castle from the forces of evil.

Space Cowboys is known for arty projects like T.I.M.E Stories and Elysium, and its next release — Final Touch from Mike Elliott — takes a far different approach to art, with players trying to make their own, sort of:

Quote:
To earn your living as an artist — that would really be something. But what can you do if you're not creative?

In Final Touch, players hire themselves out as art forgers willing to copy the masterworks of great artists, with all of them competing to create — or rather, re-create — the same image. But only the player who uses the right colors to finish the image will receive money for their work, and this skill is sure to reveal the best painter...or the best bluffer...

In more detail, players play "Touch of Color" cards from their hand to either improve or smear the forgery, working both together and against their fellow painters. The first player to put the final touch on any forgery in the making earns the money for that forgery, while smearing pays out to their opponents and moves them on to the larger paydays. The first artist to earn $25 by putting the final touch of paint on a forged painting wins!

• Speaking of T.I.M.E Stories, Space Cowboys estimates that the fifth scenario for that game — T.I.M.E Stories: Expedition: Endurance — will now be released in Sept. 2016 in France and in Q4 2016 in the U.S.

• Laurent Escoffier and David Franck's Loony Quest from Libellud has been unavailable in the U.S. since its debut in 2015 due to Blue Orange Games' development and publication of their Doodle Quest in 2014. Both games feature the same elements at their core, but were developed for different audiences by their respective publishers. Now Asmodee has cleared the way for distribution of Loony Quest in the U.S. and expects the game to be available in August 2016.

dV Giochi has picked up Jim Henson's Labyrinth: The Board Game for release in Italian in late 2016.
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Fri Jun 3, 2016 4:00 pm
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Mayfair Games Acquires Twilight Creations

W. Eric Martin
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In January 2016, Asmodee announced that it had acquired the worldwide English-language rights to Catan from U.S. publisher Mayfair Games, leaving some to speculate that Mayfair would die off soon without its cash cow.

If Mayfair has died, however, it's at least chosen a suitably undead partner for the future. Five months after the Catan deal, Mayfair Games has announced that it's purchased "a controlling interest" in Kentucky-based Twilight Creations, best known for its endlessly-shambling game series Zombies!!! and other horror-themed games.

Twilight Creations was founded in 2002 by Kerry and Todd Breitenstein, the latter of whom died in 2013; Kerry Breitenstein has continued to lead the company since that time, and she will "remain an integral part of Twilight Creations, overseeing the creative side of the company as the Vice President of Design and Production", according to a press release accompanying the announcement. Mayfair Games's Loren Roznai will serve as President of Twilight Creations and run the company's day-to-day operations.

A further excerpt from the press release:

Quote:
All logistical operations for Twilight Creations are being moved to Mayfair Games in Skokie [Illinois]. All sales and distribution inquires will be handled by our Sales team in Plant City, FL. All distributors will remain the same.

Twilight Creations wasn't scheduled to have a presence at the 2016 Origins Game Fair, which opens June 15, but thanks to this acquisition Mayfair Games will now feature the Zombies!!! line at that show. Mayfair and Twilight Creations will each have their own booths as scheduled at Gen Con 2016 (since those spaces were already paid for), with them sharing a combined space at conventions in 2017.

The press release ends as follows: "We are both excited about the possibilities ahead of us and we hope you'll join us in this Zombie adventure. Stay tuned for BIG Zombies!!! announcements in the coming months!" In April 2016, I posted about the forthcoming Zombies!!! Ultimate Collector Set, Zombies!!! Ultimate Upgrade Kit, and Zombies!!! soundtrack being created by Midnight Syndicate; Twilight Creations had posted about those items solely on Facebook as far as I can tell, so I don't know whether those items are what's hinted at or perhaps other things. Either way, no word yet on when Agrizombies!!! might be released...
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Fri Jun 3, 2016 2:00 pm
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BGG.CON Spring 2016: Games Played — Guilds of London, Imhotep, Karuba, Sea of Clouds, Codenames: Pictures & Simon's Cat: Card Game

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BGG.CON Spring 2016 isn't quite over as I write this, but since I'm at the DFW airport waiting for a flight home, the con is over in my eyes.

For the first time in a long while, I mostly stuck to playing games at a convention instead of interviewing designers and publishers about their new releases, and this was a welcome change from my normal experience of being surrounded by games for days but playing not even a handful of titles — and with the titles that I have played being embargoed since they haven't yet be announced. Instead of trying to dip into every new thing at BGG.CON Spring, I reverted to my con habits of old, that being to play only a few new games but to play them multiple times to try to internalize the nature of the gameplay and build on what I learned with each play. Sometimes I even succeeded at that goal!

• Tony Boydell's Guilds of London was the biggest success for my tastes, with my summarization of the gameplay being "card-comboing area control". In order to move your liverymen into guilds and elevate them to the position of guildmaster, you employ cards that can be used three ways:

1. Discard any card to add one of your liverymen to the guildhall.
2. Discard a card to move one of your liverymen to a tile bearing the colored guild symbol on that card.
3. Pay the costs on a card San Juan-style to take the action on the card.

After everyone has played cards for the round, you resolve guild tiles that have enough tokens on them, granting rewards to those with the most and secondmost tokens on the tile, then placing one of the majority tokens on that tile as a master — with those masters being required in order to use some cards. Throughout the game, your hand of cards ebbs and flows as you put together combos for maximum impact, and everyone dances through the challenge of determining what to score when as turn order depends on your current score, with those at the back of the line acting last during a round in order to best punch those bullying frontrunners.

I've played three times, but I still want/need to play Guilds with two players as that set-up features a fixed playing area instead of one that grows during the course of the game. Once I do, I can then feel comfortable squawking about the game on camera. Experience matters...


Early stages of a three-player game

Finished!

Four-player game; note how many more guilds have been mastered


• Phil Walker-Harding's Imhotep from KOSMOS was nominated for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres just prior to the opening of BGG.CON Spring.

As SdJ jury chairman Tom Felber told me at the show, the 2016 nominee list was a bit unusual as six of the nine nominees were released in the latter half of 2015, which means that many people have already tried them out. Even so, the SdJ jury had brought three copies of all Spiel, Kennerspiel and Kinderspiel nominees to Dallas to make them immediately accessible to all — and this included Imhotep, which debuted in Europe in March 2016 and which won't be released in the U.S. until June 21. All three copies of Imhotep were occupied much of the show, but Thames & Kosmos had rushed me a review copy as well, which meant that I could still play despite this.

After five plays with three or four players, my quick take on Imhotep is "meaner chicken Splendor" — not that the game plays anything like Splendor, mind you. Rather, like that earlier game, Imhotep features four micro-actions that don't seem like much when you view them individually. Once you interlace those actions with those of opponents, however, the competition heightens and you're rarely sure that you're doing the right thing, especially in the early game.

In short, you take blocks from the quarry, load them on boats, then deliver the boats to ports that provide either different scoring opportunities or cards that give you (1) an action-plus on a subsequent turn, (2) an immediate play elsewhere, or (3) an endgame scoring bonus. The gameplay feels somewhat like a truncated Medina in that timing is everything; you want to stuff boats full of your blocks in order to maximize scoring at one location or another, but anyone can move any boat as long as it has enough blocks on it — which means that as soon as you load that triggering block, you might find yourself shunted somewhere useless.

Yes, hurting you costs someone else an action, which might make them less inclined to do so, but they might also be protecting their own scoring opportunities in the same turn. Each round you try to suss out who might be a great hook-up partner for the round, but almost inevitably they disappoint you, leaving you to wait for the next round of boats in order to try, try again.


First game, first round

I like big blocks and I cannot lie

Trying the B-sides, which have different scoring conditions and more to think about

Victory via tiebreaker!


• I taught Rüdiger Dorn's Karuba, another of the 2016 SdJ nominees, to at least six different groups during BGG.CON Spring, and I played another four times myself. (I had already recorded an overview video of Karuba in Sept. 2015.)

Karuba is a SweeTarts game, something you race through quickly before grabbing another and doing it again. For the most part, you focus solely on what you're doing as you lay down paths through the jungle in order to move colored explorers to color-coded temples. Only after suffering a few disappointments do you pay attention to the progress of others and try to keep pace with them in order to break the temple tape at the same time.




• The final SdJ nominee at BGG.CON Spring was Vlaada Chvátil's Codenames, but since I've already played that game a ton, I instead indulged in Codenames: Pictures, which was present in prototype form courtesy of Joshua Githens from Czech Games Edition.

Codenames: Pictures plays the same as Codenames, but with the cards showing images instead of words. Simple, yes? As in the earlier game, the spymaster gives their teammates a single word clue along with a number, then those teammates try to identify the spies on their team. You can now say any word you like, even something like "window" when the card in question clearly depicts a window! Such a clue isn't very helpful, after all, since you want your team to identify several cards each turn, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Convention goers disagreed on whether Pictures was harder or easier than Codenames, and I think such disagreements relate to temperament as much as they do experience. One fellow walked away as soon as he saw the image cards, for example, but after listening to us play, he admitted that using them might not be as impossible as it had originally seen.

According to Githens, the images are black, white and gray in order to avoid clue-givers being able to use color words as easy clues. The image layout is now 4x5 (as opposed to 5x5 in the original game) in order to make more stuff happen; you're more likely in this situation to hit something positively or negatively instead of whiffing on a bystander. You can easily make this change in Codenames by using the spy layout cards from Pictures (or play 5x5 in Pictures by using the original cards).

Heck, you can also mix the word and image cards however you like. We've already seen plenty of people playing Codenames with Dixit cards, game boxes, etc., and I expect the iterations will only further proliferate with this new edition of the game. Githens says that CGE also changed the layout and made the Pictures cards square instead of rectangular to show that they're not fixed on one particular way to play or one format for the components. As I've stated before, the rules for Codenames are a flexible framework that can be filled with whatever content you can imagine, so don't expect this to be the final iteration of the game...


Solver's perspective; close to victory...or defeat

Clue-giver's perspective

Trying to transmit clues psychically


• I had played Théo Rivière's Sea of Clouds from IELLO once prior to BGG.CON Spring, and I wanted to get in more plays, so I brought my copy along, playing it twice during the con and lending it to someone for a couple more plays on their own.

Sea of Clouds is a drafting game of sorts, with you taking a share of loot (which consists of one or more cards) during your turn or adding another card to the share. Some cards are poison depending on what you're trying to do in the game — rotten rum, cursed objects, relics that ruin you on their lonesome but become valuable in multiples — so the value of the loot varies widely from player to player, and even over the course of the game once someone cuts off a particular relic type or starts building up a pirate horde for the thrice-a-game boarding party, which is not a party, of course, but a chance for you to steal, swap and gain.

The gist of the game is the "bird in the hand" conundrum, with you not knowing whether the birds in the bush will taste delicious or peck your eyes out, combined with you often not wanting to leave the bird for the next sky pirate.


Sacrificial monkey on board

Final holdings: a rancid selection of rum, and a rum selection of relics


Simon's Cat: Card Game from Samuel Mitschke, Randy Scheunemann, and Steve Jackson Games didn't interest me from the initial description, but then I heard the magic words — trick-taking! — and knew that I should give it a try, especially given the game's early debut at the con.

Simon's Cat is an UNO-style rolling-trick game, with you either matching the color or number of the card most recently played or else taking the pile and starting a new trick. The number of cards that you take doesn't matter, only the number of piles that you take, with that player (or players) receiving a blame card at the end of the round. Collect three blame cards and you lose the game.

The hook for this design is a six-suited deck in which each suit has a different range (1-2, 1-4, 1-6, 3-8, 3-10, 3-12), which makes for a fun challenge when you're counting cards during play — not that I was doing that or anything. The piles that you take remain face-up, making it easier for everyone to know what you lack and play into those holes in your hand. I played twice and took home a copy so that I could lay blame on others.


Randy Scheunemann takes pleasure in my suffering


• I played a few other games as well: Deep Sea Adventure because I wanted to play with those at the table; Steam Time because I saw folks setting up to play, offered to teach, then accepted their offer to join them; I Hate Zombies because the publisher was running a special con version with lots of people and Happy Salmon because ditto; Lanterns and Isle of Skye because I just hadn't made the time before; Deception because I could get away with murder (and did); and Concordia because I knew that I'd probably love the game and someone who already did offered to teach it to me. (Success! Anyone selling a Concordia bundle cheap?!)


Every Steam Time is a good time


One game that I didn't play but plan to in the near future is Evolution: The Beginning, a streamlined standalone version of Evolution produced by North Star Games that will be available exclusively through the Target retail chain starting around August 2016. More details on this game in a future post.



Nick Bentley (l) and Dominic Crapuchettes (r) of NSG get eaten by SdJ jury member Martin Klein
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Wed Jun 1, 2016 7:30 pm
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New Game Round-up: Old Games Made New — Acquire, RoboRally, Order of the Gilded Compass & Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game

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• In what might be seen as a perfect branding opportunity, Brian Yu's Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters — the 2014 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner that's finally due out in English from Mattel in July 2016 — will also be released in a separate edition as Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game. I believe that this latter item will be exclusive to the Target retail chain in the U.S., but I'm double-checking that detail. Update, June 1: This item will be available at multiple retailers, according to designer Brian Yu. Target, which does have exclusivity on a number of game releases, has just listed the game prior to anyone else in this situation.

Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game includes four ways to play: Basic Battle, Basic Battle with Rowan, Advanced Adventure, and Advanced Adventure with Rowan. Designer Yu tells me that Rowan is a special ghost figure included in this version that cannot be killed. When Rowan's card comes up in the deck, you draw the next card, then move it to that room. If that room becomes a haunting due to the number of ghosts in it, Rowan automatically moves to the next room.


Grey Fox Games plans to release a new edition of Jeffrey D. Allers and Bernd Eisenstein's Alea Iacta Est at Gen Con 2016 under the title Order of the Gilded Compass. (Note that the image at left shows only the logo for this new release.) Here's an overview of the setting for this re-design:

Quote:
Order of the Gilded Compass is a dice assignment game for 2-5 players. In this game, each player takes on the role of a treasure hunter seeking invitation to join the most prestigious of archaeological secret societies. Players scour the globe to unearth fantastic and valuable artifacts. By assigning their archaeologist dice to the right locations at the right time, players acquire treasure maps and specialists to follow them, dive for sunken treasure, acquire rare finds at the auction house, and even enlist the help of the Illuminati. The player who has the most treasure at the end of the game earns an invitation to The Order of the Gilded Compass and wins.

Order of the Gilded Compass uses a variable set-up in order to create fresh and interesting game play experiences. Each game has five locations in play to which players may assign their dice for various kinds of treasures and bonuses, and the game includes nine different buildings to allow for many unique combinations.

• I skipped ACD Games Day this year to attend BGG.CON Spring 2016, which meant that I missed out on seeing the new versions of Sid Sackson's Acquire and Richard Garfield's Robo Rally that Avalon Hill displayed at that trade show, but thankfully Josh Githens from Czech Games Edition passed along the following image to me:


I posted some details about the new edition of Robo Rally on BGG News in March 2016, but this is the first that I've head about Acquire hitting the market again, so I've contacted Avalon Hill for details and will post again if I hear anything.
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Wed Jun 1, 2016 1:00 pm
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Giochi Uniti Offers Guilds and Murderers for Your Entertainment

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• Everywhere I look, I keep coming across games that I feel I should know about, but which were announced by their publishers months ago and about which I know nothing. Perhaps this is simply the result of an ever-increasing number of games coming onto the marketplace. You cannot possibly keep track of everything coming out, much less know the rules or (heaven forbid) play the darned things. That said, I do what I can to keep up and before the game has been released sometime in 2016, I still have time to present an overview of Guilds from designer Christian Giove and publishers Giochi Uniti and Stratelibri:

Quote:
The bloody War of the Seven Kingdoms has been over for more than thirty years, and the kingdom of Anderis is experiencing a period of great expansion, thanks in part to its central position which has quickly transformed it into an important commercial crossroads. New roads have been built in the kingdom, with a new city founded at their meeting point which has grown so much that the King has decided to move the capital there and build a new castle.

Numerous corporations of craftsmen were already present in the city, but now guilds are forming, which are larger and more wide-ranging, powerful and in competition with one another. With the goal of obtaining favor with the King, the guilds will gather together the most prestigious personages within them, not to mention those who can bring the largest influx of money or useful talent.

What better place than the central square to find new members? For this reason, each guild places its tents in the central square every week, inviting the persons it considers most interesting to sign up by incentivizing them with precious gifts. This is certainly not a low-cost operation considering that it can cost many pieces of silver to put together the most convincing gift.

At the same time, each guild must build its headquarters, spending large amounts of gold to enlarge it with a range of luxurious rooms suitable for its members; if this were not enough, the guilds must also take into account the King's current tastes on what is most important for a guild worthy of his approval.

Will you manage to make your guild stand out so that it becomes the most important in the city? Which means will you be willing to use in Guilds to win the King's favor?

• Another title from Giochi Uniti/Stratelibri that I probably should have covered earlier is Whitehall from designers Gabriele Mari and Gianluca Santopietro, with this title being a thematic sequel to their Letters from Whitechapel. Here's a short description:

Quote:
October 1888: During the construction of the Metropolitan Police headquarters near Whitehall, which would later be known as Scotland Yard, the remains of a body were found. In September, a severed arm had already been discovered in the muddy shore of the River Thames.

There is another murderer roaming the streets of London in Whitehall, amusing himself by spreading the pieces of a poor woman around Whitehall, like some kind of macabre treasure hunt. The identity of this monster and his unfortunate victim are a mystery, the Whitehall Mystery.
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Mon May 30, 2016 4:00 pm
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Origins Game Fair 2016 Preview — Now Live!

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Given that BGG.CON Spring 2016 is wrapping up — and I plan to post a wrap-up of that experience in the near future — it's time to publish our Origins Game Fair 2016 Preview. Right now the preview is fairly small with only 35 items listed, but the Origins 2015 Preview grew to more than 150 titles before that convention opened, and I expect similar growth on the 2016 Preview in the two weeks prior to the opening of Origins 2016 on June 15.

In case you missed my note from mid-May 2016, BGG will be at Origins for all five days of Origins, and the current plan is to livestream game demonstrations from 10:00 to 16:00 each day. We've scheduled time with some of the publishers who will be there, and I'm reaching out to others this coming week. I plan to publish our broadcast schedule on Monday, June 13 in order to give us enough time to finalize everything, although at this point we might just be playing games on camera during the final day.

With that in mind, if you're a publisher or designer who will be selling or showing off new designs at Origins 2016, please contact me via the email address in the BGG News header and drop the info on these designs!
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Mon May 30, 2016 1:00 pm
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