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BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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Links: Wizards of the Coast Gets Sued, Refugees Get Games, and Carcassonne Gets Tabled

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• Four judges of Magic: The Gathering tournaments have sued Magic publisher Wizards of the Coast in United States District Court as they claim that they have been employed as judges by WotC but not fairly compensated for their work. From the lawsuit (PDF):

Quote:
Plaintiffs and the putative class hereby seek compensation for unpaid minimum and overtime wages, missed meal and rest breaks, failure to timely pay wages, failure to furnish timely and accurate wage statements, failure to maintain accurate payroll records, unreimbursed business expenses, for interest and penalties thereon, and for reasonable attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938...

Wizards of the Coast has responded by stating that "These lawsuits are meritless." More fully:

Quote:
With the exception of the Pro Tour, the World Magic Cup, and the Magic World Championship, Magic events are run by tournament organizers and local game stores who directly engage judges. But these lawsuits claim that Wizards runs all events and that the people judging those events are Wizards employees. Anyone who has played at their local store knows this simply is not true.

Magic: The Gathering is fortunate to have the greatest community in gaming. Fans choose to become judges out of a sincere love of the game and as a way to enjoy their favorite hobby. They ensure events are fair and fun, and we appreciate everything they do.

On the "Legal Solutions" blog run by Thomson Reuters, Jeremy Byellin writes that "It's difficult to envision a scenario wherein a federal judge...somehow determines that these judges aren't employees of Wizards of the Coast" given a 2015 Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc. (BFI) ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Writes Byellin:

Quote:
Wizards undoubtedly controls the terms and conditions of the employment of these judges – even through the intermediaries of local tournament organizers – such that it would be considered an employer of Magic judges under BFI. Trying to redirect employment responsibilities onto local gaming stores simply won't work in court...

The problem for Wizards is that there is no way that judges would ever be legally considered "volunteers." There is a lot of regulatory guidance on this matter. Volunteers are those "who perform[] hours of service for a public agency for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered." Neither Wizards nor its local tournament organizers are public or non-profit organizations. And judges usually expect some kind of compensation for judging at events (although it's usually in the form of Magic products).

Kniziathons have been a thing for a while now, including a big one in 2015 for Reiner Knizia's 30th anniversary as a published game designer, and now Ward Batty has decided to do something similar for designer Wolfgang Kramer, with the first Kramerthon! taking place at Batty's Game-o-Rama event in Atlanta, Georgia on May 26-30, 2016. Lots of Kramer designs will be on hand for attendees, and prizes await both the person who plays the most different Kramer titles and the person who wins the most different games.

• Voting is open for the 2016 Deutscher Spiele Preis and all gamers are welcome to submit their votes here. You can vote for five games in the adult game category (with your #1 game receiving 5 points, your #2 game 4 points, etc.) and one game in the children's category. Whichever game receives the most points wins, with the winner being announced during Spiel 2016 in October. Voters can receive prizes based on being correct or through random draw.

• Germany has accepted more than a million refugees from Syria since 2014, and while the political fallout from this immigration is still ongoing (and beyond the scope of this blog), I can mention two game-related developments. First, designer/publisher Steffen Mühlhäuser of Steffen-Spiele has successfully crowdfunded a games project titled FIVE! (or Give Me FIVE!) to the tune of €38,000, with this being a collection of five games that can be played with the two sets of included tokens, with rules in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Tigrinya (in addition to German and English). The crowdfunded games will be given away to refugees and refugee centers — not sent to backers — and the sale of a copy through the Steffen-Spiele website funds the giving of another copy.

• For its part, AMIGO Spiel says that in response to a growing number of requests, it has created rulesheets in Arabic for a number of its games — such as Halli Galli, Klack!, and Ring L Ding.

• In late April 2015, German publisher Hans im Glück celebrated a world record game of Carcassonne in which three gamers from Sweden laid out 10,007 tiles in 25 hours. Here's a shot of the full layout, followed by a pan-and-scan video for those who prefer the eroticism of a slow reveal:


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Wed May 4, 2016 1:00 pm
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Thieves Join Five Tribes, and SeaFall Prepares to Set Sail

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Bruno Cathala's Five Tribes debuted at Gen Con 2014, then The Artisans of Naqala expansion joined the game at Gen Con 2015.

For Gen Con 2016, publisher Days of Wonder will debut a mini-expansion for the game — Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala — with Europe seeing the release of this $6/€5 item in June 2016. Here's an overview of how these thieves get involved in the game:

Quote:
Naqala is now a prosperous place. Gaining the favors of the different tribes was not easy, and your rivals have not been discouraged by your success. In fact, some tribes have now abandoned your cause and rallied to your rivals instead, and you'll soon discover that these tribes follow influential leaders that your rivals hired against you. Every man has his price, though, so perhaps you can return the favor to your rivals — should you have what it takes to recruit the thieves of Naqala.

Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala is a mini-expansion of six thief cards and one new djinn that introduces a new element the base game to create a real thorn in your opponents' side. The djinn is shuffled into the deck with the other djinns and protects you from the effects of thieves. One thief card is revealed at random at the start of the game, and whenever someone would buy a djinn, they can purchase the thief card for the same price as the djinn. Each thief is associated with one of the tribes, and whenever you take an action with that tribe, you can choose to activate and discard the thief. If you do, everyone else must get rid of something — two resource cards, one tile they control, even a djinn or palace — after which you get to choose to keep something from all the discarded things.

For Gen Con 2017, the Five Tribes expansion will consist of a single word that Cathala whispers in your ear. No spoilers!

Three-sevenths of the components


Plaid Hat Games has opened preorders for the long-awaited SeaFall from designer Rob Daviau, with the game to be released in 2-5 months as it's "currently being assembled by our manufacturer".

PHG notes that some copies of SeaFall will be available at Gen Con 2016 in August, most likely ahead of the preorders being shipped, but those copies cannot be preordered and they won't include a package of metal coins that will be included with preorders and otherwise sold separately.

Sample captain and leader cards


Sample treasure and damage cards


Not nearly everything in the box
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Wed May 4, 2016 12:00 am
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The Complaints in Spain Stay Mainly in Pandemic Iberia

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As I noted in April 2016, Z-Man Games plans to hold the 2016 Pandemic Survival World Championship in Barcelona, Spain, and in an entirely not coincidental turn of events, Z-Man will also release a special version of Pandemic to coincide with that event. Here's an overview of Pandemic Iberia, coming from designers Jesús Torres Castro — editor of the Spanish gaming blog Jugamos Tod@s — and original Pandemic designer Matt Leacock:

Quote:
Welcome to the Iberian Peninsula! Set in 1848, Pandemic Iberia asks you to take on the roles of nurse, railwayman, rural doctor, sailor, and more to find the cures to malaria, typhus, the yellow fever, and cholera.

From Barcelona to Lisboa, you will need to travel by carriage, by boat, or by train to help the Iberian populace. While doing so, distributing purified water and developing railways will help you slow the spread of diseases in this new version of Pandemic.

Discover a unique part of the world during a historically significant time period: the construction of the first railroad in the Iberian Peninsula during the Spring of Nations.

Z-Man Games notes that Pandemic Iberia, due out Q4 2016, is a "Collector's Edition" and as such it "will have a one-time only print run". The publisher has also released this teaser video that highlights a few differences of this design from the original game:

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Mon May 2, 2016 10:30 pm
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Game Overview: ButaBabel, or Rising to the Occasion

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Since I'm on my way to Japan at the moment to cover Tokyo Game Market, I thought it appropriate to cover one of the three games that I managed to acquire from the Kobe Game Market that took place in February 2016.

ButaBabel is a card game for 3-5 players from designer Yuo and design circle Kocchiya that consists of only a few rules and plays in only a few minutes. I'm fascinated by Japanese game design minimalism — not that all Japanese game designers exhibit this trait in their creations, mind you, but many do. The games feel like cotton candy in your mouth, almost disappearing as you play them — yet you know something's there, so you try them again and again, curious to find out how the thing works.

I know that a lot of people put an emphasis on playing games for fun, but I lean toward playing games to discover what designers have created. Fun is a good thing, sure, but my concept of fun and yours might not overlap, and in many cases I find fun in the exploration of the game as an artistic object more than an activity. The possibilities of what a game can be are huge, and I love exploring them!

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Mon May 2, 2016 5:00 pm
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On the Road Again...

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I'm headed to the Tokyo Game Market once again, with this show taking place on May 5, 2016. I've created a GeekList preview to highlight some of the titles that will debut at that show or be available there (while being generally unavailable anywhere else), but I regret to say that this preview isn't up to the standard set by past TGM Previews. Travel — both for work and family — has eaten into available time, so in the time that I have had, I've focused more on posting on BGG News about games that will be available to a wider audience.

I'm taking the video camera and have already contacted some individuals about recording game overviews for titles at TGM. I'll also be posting pictures from the show, but probably not while the show is underway since TGM lasts only seven hours, and you need every minute available to photograph games, talk with people, and spot all of the stuff that you never would have imagined spotting earlier.

Following TGM, I'll be on the road for an additional nine days, taking an honest-to-goodness vacation for once — mostly because (1) I'm unlikely to have Internet access and (2) my boss has promised that I'm not on assignment during this trip. Yes, I had to get that statement in writing. I'll still be scouting for games during this trip, but just for fun — not for work.

To keep things going on BGG News since I'll have limited Internet access or none at all while traveling, I've scheduled designer diaries, game overview videos, round-ups of older (yet previously uncovered) games, and a links round-up or two. If possible, I'll jump online to post about newly announced games or round up pictures from TGM, but if not, I'll see you back in this space in mid-May. Be good in the meantime, and treat your fellow players better than they treat you!
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Mon May 2, 2016 1:00 pm
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Links: Making a Fortune While Going Broke, Crowdfunding as Art, and the 2016 Dice Tower Award Nominees

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• The old joke goes: How do you make a small fortune in the game industry? Start with a large fortune, then try to publish a game. Note that this same joke is told about the wine industry, real estate, book publishing, football clubs, and any number of other businesses in which people can burn through piles of money with little to show for it, which includes every business ever — but despite the joke's chestnutty woodiness, it still contains a nugget of truth, especially when you sabotage yourself on your way to that large fortune.

On Geek & Sundry, Ben Riggs catalogs the fortunes of Chaosium Inc., which collected more than a half-million dollars on a Kickstarter project for the seventh edition of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game — only to discover after the fact that the very success of that KS would lead to a disastrous outcome for the company. After all, when you lose money on each customer, runaway success only heightens those losses.

The problems started with an earlier KS for a new edition of the Call of Cthulhu campaign Horror on the Orient Express, which brought in ten times the $20k goal that Chaosium had established, but without covering the costs required to fulfill what was promised to backers. From the article: "The previous management only charged international backers $20 to ship a ten pound game. The actual cost of shipping was vastly higher, sometimes as much as $150 for backers in Japan. [Current Chaosium president Rick] Meints said that this Kickstarter alone likely lost Chaosium $170,000." What's more:

Quote:
The Call of Cthulhu Kickstarter compounded these problems...

The magnitude of the error can be seen in a simple glance at the shipping. At the "Nictitating Nyarlathotep" level of pledge, backers would end up having eight books shipped to them. International backers had to pay a total of $355 for all their rewards plus shipping, which sounds like a lot, until you consider that's only $15 more than customers in the continental US were paying. The idea that shipping eight books to Japan would cost a mere $15 more is a madness not even Lovecraft could have conceived.

As described in the article, in June 2015 Chaosium founder Greg Stafford and Call of Cthulhu creator Sandy Petersen took over from the former owners and preceded to shell out a bunch of their own money in order to make things right.

Bottom line: If you plan to run a crowdfunding campaign, do your homework, figure out what shipping will cost you, and account for that cost in what you charge. Don't promise the moon and a ham sandwich when you've budgeted solely for the sandwich.

• For another perspective on crowdfunding, Byron Collins of Collins Epic Wargames invites you to consider "4 Reasons Why Every Kickstarter Project Is a Work of Art". To do this, Collins applies four statements about art to the crowdfunding projects themselves — that is, the presentation of the project, not the product itself. The statements in question:

—Art ignites emotion.
—"Good" art is well thought out.
—Any piece of art has a limited time to make an impression.
—Every piece of art invites judgment.

Quote:
I've visited a lot of big name galleries — most recently The Met and The Guggenheim in NYC — and seen countless works of art by artists across many centuries in many different styles. But, I can honestly say I probably spent no more than 1 minute on each piece of art, if that... Some of these artists spent years creating whatever you're looking at for 1 minute.

The same is true with any Kickstarter project. Someone who clicks a link to your project page has no idea how much time went into that presentation, that work of art, but, they know within 30 seconds if they are interested enough to read more or watch your video.

• The Dice Tower has announced the nominees for its eponymous Dice Tower Gaming Awards in fourteen categories, including best game from a new designer, best artwork, best game reprint, best game theming, and best small publisher. Each category has five nominees, as chosen by a jury of Dice Tower staff and prominent bloggers and reviewers, except for the "game of the year" category, which features these ten nominees: 7 Wonders: Duel, Blood Rage, Codenames, Elysium, The Gallerist, Mysterium, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, Roll for the Galaxy, T.I.M.E Stories, and The Voyages of Marco Polo. The winners will be announced at the Dice Tower Convention in July 2016.

• In The New Yorker, Siobhan Roberts profiles "The Dice You Never Knew You Needed", i.e., the d120, which was created by Robert Fathauer and Henry Segerman of The Dice Lab and which debuted at the 2016 Gathering for Gardner. An excerpt: "The d120 is a polyhedron, more specifically a disdyakis triacontahedron, a geometric creature first described by the French-Belgian mathematician Eugène Catalan in 1865..." Ignoring the technical name, the d120 looks like a dodecahedron that has had each face replaced with an object created by ten skinny triangles that meet at a single point. A longer excerpt from The New Yorker article:

Quote:
The die's most winning property lies in its being numerically balanced: the face numbers are spread out evenly, such that any two opposing sides sum to a hundred and twenty-one. Each of the die's sixty-two corners boasts equanimity, too. (A vertex at which ten triangles meet, for instance, sums to six hundred and five, which is ten times the average of all the numbers on the die.) All this fine-tuning was courtesy of Robert Bosch, a professor at Oberlin College who uses mathematical optimization techniques to create art. Bosch spent nearly two months running various accelerated brute-force computations (a process called integer programming), trying to get everything in sync. He almost abandoned two especially tricky vertices, which couldn't be made to coöperate, but past his deadline he made one last-ditch effort. He coded a script, let the program run, and came back a few hours later to discover that his computer had stopped. "It had either crashed or found a perfect solution," Bosch said. Lucky day, it was the latter. "It was a great feeling. And it was kind of ridiculous how good a feeling it was, because it's not practical. It's just a cool object, a beautiful object. I really love it, but it's not Earth-changing."


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Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:00 pm
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Stonemaier Games Founds a Village with Charterstone

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For the most part, legacy games have presented players with extreme situations — global warfare, global pandemics, the dawning of civilization, a shortage of furry costumes — but designer Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games is taking a different approach with a legacy design of his own, one that isn't so doomy and gloomy.

In Charterstone — which carries a 20-60 minute playing time for 1-6 players — players compete to populate a village, a village that starts off with almost nothing, but which becomes larger, with more options available, in subsequent games. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
The prosperous Kingdom of Greengully, ruled for centuries by the Forever King in the increasingly overpopulated capital city, has issued a decree to its citizens to colonize the vast lands beyond its borders. For those who heed the call, the king has sent thousands of scouts into the wilderness to pick the best areas and claim each one with an iconic Charterstone. It is to one such new village that you arrive with your friends and competitors, each of you hoping to create the greatest legacy for your guild.

In Charterstone, a competitive legacy village-building game, you construct buildings and populate a village shared by all players and their workers. Buildings are permanently added to the game board and become action spaces for any player to use both in the current game and during subsequent playings. Thus, you start off with simple choices and few workers in the first couple of games, but soon you have a bustling village with dozens of possible actions.

Before each game, one advancement will be revealed, unlocking a new rule, card type, or component for all subsequent games. These advancements are grouped into chronological eras but are randomized within each era, creating a unique storyline for your copy of Charterstone. Random events within each era require players to make group decisions that will later haunt or help the village.

A game of Charterstone ends when players have placed all of their workers, at which point end-game victory points (VP) are scored. The player with the most VPs wins.

A copy of Charterstone will net players a total of 24 games within a campaign, though the village you create remains functional for subsequent plays.

Stegmaier notes that Charterstone is still under development (so perhaps that gloom will show up after all), but the game will likely have a preorder or Kickstarter campaign before the end of 2016 for release in 2017.

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Fri Apr 29, 2016 4:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Agricola Unwrapped, From Stars to Heroes, and a Double Dose of Adventure Time

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• I'm late to the party on this announcement, but White Wizard Games plans to launch a Kickstarter project "soon" for Hero Realms, a fantasy-themed deck-building game that's based on their own Star Realms game from Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty. Hero Realms will have character-specific expansion packs and a way to play against the game in campaign mode in order to level up your character.

Adventure Time Card Wars: Doubles Tournament, due out June 2016 from Cryptozoic Entertainment, is a team version of Adventure Time Card Wars as Jake and Charlie face off against Grand Prix and Moniker with new decks and special Teamwork cards that can give you and your partner a benefit turn after turn.

• Designer MJE Hendriks, known for Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, is founding his own publishing house. While he's commissioned artwork for his initial release, he hasn't yet revealed details about it, mostly because he's still trying to nail down what he should name the publishing house. He invites your suggestions here.

• After tweeting the message below, designer Antoine Bauza noted later that Takenokids will be a standalone game for young players, not a second expansion for Takenoko. Adorable tiny pandas incoming!


• UK publisher Backspindle Games is printing a new multilingual version of Leonard Boyd and David Brashaw's Codinca to debut at the UK Games Expo in June 2016, with new publishing partner Ninja Division picking up the titles for U.S. distribution.

Agricola fanboi Tony Boydell received an advance production copy of Mayfair Games' new version of Uwe Rosenberg's industry-changing game design courtesy of artist Klemens Franz, with whom Boydell has worked on his own Snowdonia, and Boydell promptly posted many, many pictures of this new version of Agricola on his BGG blog.

Clearly this version will need a separate listing in the database after all, despite it being the same game at heart. Frustrating! We still need to figure out a way to list such new editions in a separate but equal way, despite history showing that "separate but equal" is a terrible policy that's unworkable in the long run. Its use probably isn't comparable to a situation in which you're cataloguing items in a database, but the phrase came to mind anyway. Okay, I should probably stop now.


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New Game Round-up: Scott Almes Prepares Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, and Strawberry Studio Offers Three Wishes

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Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games have created recurrent tiny, epic waves in the game industry that swell higher and higher each year, but the newest project by this pair fits only one of those adjectives. Here's an overview of Heroes of Land, Air & Sea, a 4X fantasy game that will head to Kickstarter in January 2017 ahead of a planned 2017 release date:

Quote:
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is a 4X-style board game with miniatures that tells the epic tale of orcs vs. humans, dwarves vs. elves, battling kingdoms, and the individuals who turn the tides of war.

Players control one of these classic factions, competing to expand their kingdom into new territory. Even the greatest kingdoms begin as small townships, therefore players begin with only a basic town hall, a couple of peons, and a single warrior. From there, players must explore the territory around them, build up their work force, fortify their army, and develop their kingdom — all through careful action selection, exploitation, war, and resource management.

As players reach milestones in the development of their kingdom, they gain access to many advantages. Peons become warriors, warriors become powerful heroes, and town halls eventually become castles. Players gain access to water, and even air, vessels and creatures. Boarding these vessels and creatures with your units allows for faster travel across the vast game board and for positioning armies for powerful attacks.

War in Heroes of Land, Air & Sea features a cost/reward system carefully detailed on tactics cards from which players must secretly choose. The availability of these tactics cards depends on the units participating in the war. It is here that players wage their wits and legacy in an attempt to exterminate one another. For as we all know, "history is written by the victors".

Heroes of Land, Air & Sea also boasts two economic systems, one being the risky acquisition and careful management of the resources (food, ore and mana), while the other is a twist on worker placement that requires the leveraging of peons to construct buildings, peons that could otherwise be exploring, expanding, exploiting, and exterminating! Finding this balance is crucial to victory!


Promotional artwork


Terra Nova Games has picked up Hisashi Hayashi's Trick of the Rails — an 18XX-like card game in which players collect stock certificates of railway companies and expand their networks to increase their value — for release on the U.S. market with new art and graphic design.

Strawberry Studio is a new publishing brand for NSKN Games that will release microgames suitable for families and friends, and its release in August 2016 is Chris Castagnetto's 3 Wishes, a 3-5 minute card game in which players need to balance their wishes — by peaking at wish cards and swapping cards with opponents or the table — between super powers, benefits for the world, and selfish gifts in order for the genie to dub you the winner. No actual wishes will be fulfilled.

• The second title coming from Strawberry Studio is Crazy 5 from Dennis Kirps and Christian Kruchten, with this being a dice-rolling game in which you first try to collect more than five pips on three dice before rolling other dice to match the difference between five and your sum. If you can't break the five threshold, however, an opponent can possibly strip you of points depending on how well they roll.

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Tue Apr 26, 2016 7:04 pm
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New Game Round-up: Rise from Amino Acids in Bios: Genesis, Flick Others to Death in Catacombs and Castles, & Prepare to Save Andor

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Phil Eklund's Bios: Genesis from Sierra Madre Games has been listed in the BGG database since the start of 2012, but only now does the game have a release date attached to it — October 2016 — along with a final cover that succinctly summarizes the nature of gameplay and drives the point home with the "Molecular Arms Race" tagline. Here's an overview:

Quote:
One to four players start as organic compounds shortly after Earth's formation, represented by up to three Biont tokens. The Amino Acids command Metabolism, the lipids create cells, the pigments control energy absorption and storage, and the nucleic acids control templated replication. Their goal is a double origin of life: first as Autocatalytic Life (a metabolic cycle reproducing, yet not replicating, its own constituents), and the second as Darwinian Life (an Organism using a template to replicate in an RNA world). Players can play cooperative, competitive, or solitaire.

Notes designer Phil Eklund, "This subject is the most difficult and ambitious I have ever attempted, and it has taken many years to get it to work right." With Bios: Genesis, Bios: Megafauna, and Origins: How We Became Human, Eklund takes players through almost the whole breadth and scope of life on Earth.

• Joshua Githens from Czech Games Edition posted an image of the Codenames: Pictures prototype on his Facebook feed recently, and with his permission I present it here. Adds Githens, "I'll have it on the ITTD steam this Saturday", i.e., Saturday, April 30, 2016, which is International TableTop Day.


Non-final prototype


• Canadian publisher Elzra Corp. plans to run a Kickstarter in 2016 for Catacombs and Castles, a standalone game in the Catacombs universe that pits two teams of heroes against one another. The expansion also serves as an expansion for the third edition of Catacombs thanks to the new game board included.

• Clever or crazy? In May 2016, Steve Jackson Games will release Munchkin: Sketch Edition, a art-free special version of the Munchkin base game that allows you to draw your own munchkins on the cards and make the game look exactly like you want, depending on your artistic abilities, of course...

Level 99 Games reports that Millennium Blades is sold out at the publisher level. Says designer/publisher D. Brad Talton, Jr., "We do not have immediate plans for a reprint, so players who want to guarantee their copy of the game should seek it out as soon as possible." Gas on the fire, Brad, gas on the fire!

KOSMOS has released a teaser trailer for Die Legenden von Andor: Die letzte Hoffnung, part three of Michael Menzel's Legends of Andor, which is due out in Q4 2016. Here's a short description from the publisher:

Quote:
On returning from the far north, the heroes find a devastated Andor. Conquered by the Krahder from the south and their skeleton army, many Andori were enslaved and abducted by them. The heroes are the last hope for the kingdom.

Die Legenden von Andor: Die letzte Hoffnung, the last large expansion for Legends of Andor, includes a new map of the southern regions of Andor, new legends, and more.

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Mon Apr 25, 2016 5:07 pm
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