Interesting Games from Small Publishers and Less Prolific Designers
United States
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Kentucky
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Hobby gamers are a fickle bunch and are always eager to try out the latest release. To stay viable, prolific designers and larger publishers maintain a catalog of games to support their brand and livelihood. Each year the major publishers release a new crop of games at major conventions like Essen, Origins, Nuremberg, and GenCon.

Although there are some notable exceptions, I believe that this business practice breeds a degree of mediocrity. Rather than take risks and blaze trails by releasing unique products, publishers and designers often rehash ideas, mechanisms, and themes of previously successful games. After a breakout hit, we’re bound to see a number of similar games or expansions hit the market shortly thereafter.

Fortunately, small publishers and less prolific designers provide an alternative. Since they’re not constrained by the same business model, they're more likely to take risks, innovate, and/or provide lavish production values. In recent years, a number of unknown designers and publishers have been responsible for some of the most interesting, original games.

Please add games created by small publishers and less-prolific designers that interest you or that you enjoy. Perhaps this list will help their games gain greater exposure and recognition.
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151. Board Game: Tornado Alert! [Average Rating:5.54 Unranked]
Ilmo Nurminen
Finland
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Propably the first ever Storm Chasing themed game(?)

Tornado Alert! is an unique mix of reaction speed and risk taking.
Players play cards to central pile and there isn't any limitations for what card to play on your turn. Players are lurking for the best moment to capture photos before round ends.
There is 12 different locations from where to shoot and they're numbered from 1 to 6. The higher the number is , the more dangerous the place is. There's also special cards numbered with value of zero. Most of the special cards can be good or bad depending from situation. Gameplay depends a lot from players and ranges from thinky and slow to mean and fast. Recommended for two players also but then there's no speed element and tactical playing has biggest role.

Tornado Alert! is published by Hyptic and is sold at their website www.hyptic.net and can be found at Essen Spiel 2010.
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152. Board Game: MUNERA: Familia Gladiatoria [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:5548]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Designer: Matteo Santus
Publisher: Albe Pavo

Munera: Familia Gladiatoria puts you in the role of Ianista as the head of a Gymnasium of Gladiators. You will take care of all aspects, hiring personnel, gladiators and have them fight the arenas all over Italy.

Lead your Champions to Glory and become the most glorious Gymnasium of the Ancient World.
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153. Board Game: Inevitable [Average Rating:5.83 Unranked]
Jonathan Leistiko
United States
Austin
Texas
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Designers: Jeremy Bushnell and Jonathan Leistiko
Publisher: Dystopian Holdings

Inevitable is a "raise your stats," quest-oriented roll-and-move game with a play feel that's similar to Talisman, but a radically different theme and significantly more player interaction. The darkly comic nature and themes of the game make it appropriate for role-players who like to play board games and cut-throat board gamers. During play, you adopt the role of a group's champion, running against HappyCOM-9 (a megalomaniacal supercomputer) in an election. The winner becomes absolute ruler of The City, the last bastion of humanity in a messed up, post-apocalyptic future that's not much bleaker than our own. As of December 2, 2010, copies of the first printing are still available.

Comments: None yet!
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154. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:87]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Don Eskridge
Publisher: Indie Boards and Cards

The Resistance is a party game of social deduction. It is designed for five to ten players, lasts about 30 minutes, and has no player elimination. The Resistance is inspired by Mafia/Werewolf, yet it is unique in its core mechanics which increase the resources for informed decisions, intensify player interaction, and eliminate player elimination.

Comments:

"If you want to know what its like to be part of a top secret sting operation planning on destroying evil Imperial bases while they infiltrate your team in an attempt to sabotage your plans....then this is your game. ... I honestly don't know if I've ever been involved in a game more intense than this."

"No moderation and no player elimination makes this game much better than Werewolf."

"Fantastic game, when you've got a reasonably sociable group this is a fantastic fit. Bluffing and deduction blend together rapidly with accusations and counter accusations flying, the only way to deduce who is spying is to translate their votes and the success of the missions they go on. Absolutely brilliant!"

"A great game. Player confrontation without player elimination and a chance to accuse your friends of being a spy!"
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155. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:206]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Carl Chudyk
Publisher: Asmadi Games

Comments:

"Like having your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick."

"This game is very innovative. There, someone had to say it. I did it, now it's out of the way! Moving right along... Seriously, this is a great game that is volatile, interactive, creative and just plain fun. People who do not enjoy tactics and demand long term strategy may not like this one, but if that doesn't bother you, this game is a heck of ride!"

"Apr 2010 Absolute brilliance. My feeling after five plays is that this is the best game since Race for the galaxy. Incredibly fun Civ game. If you like games with special powers, you will love this. I often dont like games with direct player interaction, this has some direct (but somewhat controllable) player interaction...and it totally works. Tons of combos and ways to make you feel clever."

"As a 2-player game, this is a complex and fascinating game. We love it!!! The cards and the other player's powers can ruin your plan, but you must -- and yes, you can -- come up with a new plan. Every turn is a complex new puzzle, but you must also think about your medium-term plans. A slightly-better player will win 8 out of 9 times, so do not fear the chaos."
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156. Board Game: Blockade Runner [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:3211]
patrick stevens
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Numbskull's winter 2010 release. An economic game set in the U. S.Civil War. Very tight play and quite different than anything else out there.
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157. Board Game: Bisikle [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:2004]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Tonton Z
Publisher: Cepia Games

Comments:

"Very much like Pitchcar, except for two significant differences:

1) the base set includes a LOT of material (jump, tunnel, etc) to provide more interesting track options than vanilla Pitchcar can provide.

2) The nature of the Z-ball allows for some real skill and manipulation to the roll of the ball. You can turn corners. You can navigate up a hill. But its not easy and some experience will pay off. Despite that, you can open the box and everyone can be playing in moments....with no real learning curve to actually playing/enjoying the game.

I'm happy to own both games. I'm impressed with the production quality and support Bisikle is receiving. I foresee pulling this one out from time to time for quite a while. Set-up and take-down are MUCH easier than Pitchcar, which I can't ignore."

"The fact that you can put "english" on the ball and make it stop abruptly through back-spin and curve around corners, places it above Pitch Car for me. I really need to get this."

"Players race bicycles around a pre-constructed modular track. Ingenious flicking game, very similar in concept to Carabande/Pitchcar, where players take turns to flick their piece around the track. The difference here is the piece is a "Z-Ball" - a small plastic ball filled with metal ball-bearings to give it some heft and control. After a frustrating first hour, you can suddenly spin the ball around corners, make it stop on slopes, provide backspin for more control. Amazingly clever game, with fantastic components. Downside? Veterans will absolutely smash beginners which can kill the fun. Other than that, superb."

"Played once, found it a clever Carabande-like game. The interaction of gradients with the ball-bearing-weighted balls is especially interesting. I also like that it's got some inertia, so moves tend to be shorter and a little more tactical, and less likely to be blown out by a lucky shot, as can happen in Carabande. Also, the plastic playing surface and round ball are less likely to be impacted by seams and other track imperfections, which could be a hassle in Carabande. While the ZBall does have some interesting potential for spins and such, it's also still light and seems like it can be a little finicky, so we'll see if the game has staying power. But initial impressions were favorable, and it's very nice that that they give you get a little bit of everything (tunnel, jump, risers) in the base set."

Here are videos of the game:





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158. Board Game: BattleCON: War of Indines [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:546] [Average Rating:7.81 Unranked]
Ettore Gislon
Italy
Milan
Lombardia
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This one looks really promising, it's a one-man company and it's in backer status right now.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/level99games/battlecon-...

You can go to the game's website to download a demo version for PnP purposes

http://www.battleconnection.com/
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159. Board Game: TactDecks [Average Rating:6.57 Unranked]
Justin Robben
United States
Spring Hill
Florida
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Designer & Artist : Eric Etkin

This is a fantastic, somewhat unique take on the cards as minis concept.

A very stream-lined rules system that allows for plenty of strategy and tactics and options.

Quite an impressive back-story and some new unit types (at least new for me) make for a living, breathing world.

Check out more here! http://www.tactdecks.com/
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160. Board Game: Organized Chaos [Average Rating:5.93 Unranked]
PK WADDLE
United States
Austin
texAS
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Ever wish for a card game that had some of the wild unpredictability of Fluxx but had SOME strategy possible in its gameplay?

Perhaps, a more ORGANIZED kind of CHAOS?

This exciting game indeed combines unpredictability ( your entire hand and card set up could be turned over to someone else at anytime) with actual planning ( situations where you can see what cards other players might be about to play) and binds it all together for an incredibly unique mechanic--you have to be the player to NOT get rid all of your cards !! A great new game I can't recommend highly enough !

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161. Board Game: Auction Junktion [Average Rating:6.64 Unranked]
PK WADDLE
United States
Austin
texAS
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If you take the out loftiness of games like Masterpiece and Modern Art and bring the play down to earth to the world inhabited by the guys on Storage Wars, you get Auction Junktion. This clever game mixes auction mechanics with bluffing as you try to get rid of sets of items that may hold worthless junk and try to bid for valuables !! Adding to the interesting mix is each player having a character that gives a special effect as to what KIND of valuables he or she is looking for.
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162. Board Game: Trade Fleet [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked]
PK WADDLE
United States
Austin
texAS
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A beautifully crafted card game riding the " wave" as it were of shipping-themed games. This game is a wonderful and atmospheric addition to this genre and has started becoming a word-of-mouth hit after being shown at a number of Game Cons.
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163. Board Game: Click Clack Lumberjack [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1100]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Justin Oh
Publisher: DG Games, Gemblo Korea

"Quite a fun dexterity game, sort of a cross between Don't Break the Ice and Jenga. I believe the second edition was the one I played. Very clever design, plays quickly and quite addictive. Yes, it's a kid's game, but a quality example of such."

"Silly but very addictive dexterity filler."

"Silly fun. Hit the tree with an axe to collect bits of bark without causing the core of the trunk to come crashing down. Nice (plastic) bits, and it's surprising how out of joint you can smack the tree without it actually toppling."

"Quite a fun dexterity game, sort of a cross between Don't Break the Ice and Jenga. I believe the second edition was the one I played. Very clever design, plays quickly and quite addictive. Yes, it's a kid's game, but a quality example of such."
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164. Board Game: Hanabi & Ikebana [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Antoine Bauza
Publisher: Les XII Singes

This is actually a pair of games. The first game, Hanabi, has players cooperating to create fireworks. The second game, Ikebana, has players competing to create bouqets. Note that most ratings and comments refer to Hanabi.

"I love this game. At first, it appears to be a co-op deduction game, which got me really excited. But the more I dug into it, the more I realized it's a communication game. It's like bridge if you got rid of all that dull card playing and just did the fun bidding part. (Tongue-in-cheek there, but it's an apt comparison.) I'm relatively certain this is the best twenty dollars I have ever spent."

"Co-op deduction simplicity minus the chrome makes for a super simple game that is easy to teach, learn and play in minutes but the subtle nuances make for a game that I feel will last a long long time."

"Hanabi is not going anywhere. It's quick, it's the best memory and deduction game I've ever played (two mechanics that I generally loath), it's easy to teach, it takes coops in a completely new direction..."

"Hanabi has been getting much more buzz than Ikebana. That is due to it feeling more original than its brother. The game is tense, requires good use of resources, and has a nice learning curve"
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165. Board Game: Barons [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:3535]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Thomas Colthurst
Publisher: Cambridge Games Factory

More card game goodness from the folks who brought us Glory to Rome?

"There are certainly different strategies to explore, by building around certain cards or colours. It also has the advantage of scaling well as a two-player game, and plays quite quickly - so you can play a couple of games back-to-back. I've played it close to 20 times so far, and am very impressed and long not sick of it. The alternate victory condition from the expansion cards makes a fun challenge too.

Don't make the mistake of judging this after just one or two plays! There's more to the game than meets the eye, which will only become evident with repeated play, so don't conclude too quickly it's boring or simple."

"I've found that more plays=more fun with Barons. This game has really caught my interest as I've played it more, and while I enjoyed the first couple of times that I played it, I'm really loving the plays after that, once I had a better understanding of what was in the decks. This game is great, 2 players especially shines, when you consider that it can play up to 6 players."

"With another play (this time a 2p) I'm starting to see some interesting card synergies develop (not that I'm any good at taking advantage of them). I thought at first that Barons was simply a GtR derivative. This is definitely not the case. There's spatial manipulation, resource development and management, and a whole slew of 'take that.' As a 2-player this one really shines. Looking forward to more plays (and possibly raising my rating again)."

"great new game from Cambridge Games that is a worthy successor to Glory to Rome. I enjoy watching my barony grow and finding beneficial combinations with the various cards. Highly interactive and fun"

"I've played this extensively and like it much more than Glory to Rome. It has an engine building feel like you'd see in a game like Dominion or Race for the Galaxy. Much like Race, this game gets better as you play it more due to increased card familiarity. And also like Race, everyone tends to ignore everyone else's board in their first game. The game is (slightly) deeper and more interactive than it looks at first glance."
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166. Board Game: Medieval Mastery [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:6624]
Miles Ratcliffe
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Just stumbled across this and felt obligated to add my game to the list

Medieval Mastery was recently released at the UK Games Expo where it had an incredible response, selling 40 copies over the weekend and getting plenty of interest from retailers/wholesalers. In fact, virtually everyone who played the game bought a copy!

The limited edition copies are currently available for purchase at www.chaospublishing.co.uk - check it out!
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167. Board Game: Dragon Valley [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:2775]
Benny Sperling
United States
Arlington
Texas
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Dragon Valley is a fantastic new game from a small publisher. It shows the future potential of one of the best new designers, CW Karstens. If you're looking for great depth of play this is for you. It has some very interesting mechanism and the decisions to divide cards, units, and enemies can be completely agonizing. This makes Dragon Valley a winner in my book!
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168. Board Game: Prepotent [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
jack constance
United States
California
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Got a chance to playtest and wow, what a great game! The strategy you use for breeding comes out in the tactics of the races. I can't wait to see Tom's next effort.
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169. Board Game: Dragon Blast: Battlestorm [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Eriberto Rodriguez
United States
Putnam Valley
United States
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Dragon Blast is a Super Powered, Martial Arts Combat Card Game AND Board Game! In this hybrid game, the players battle to see who will be the last one standing. You must use your cards strategically to attack and defend against the other players as well as move your character around a tactical game board. Battle to knock out your opponents while powering yourself up to unleash incredible, legendary attacks!

But you must beware, there are other incredible warriors with other super-powered attacks! You can play as one of six legendary combatants each with their own powers and style of fighting.

To be successful you must learn to use and master a variety of attacks and defenses! Punch, Kick, Block, Dodge and Blast your way to victory!

You can play this game in a two player duel or up to four players in a free-for-all brawl! Don’t like to be alone? Team up with a partner and play two versus two teams!

Choose from two different Battlefields to wage your destruction on!
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170. Board Game: Omen: A Reign of War [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:641]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: John Clowdus
Publisher: Small Box Games

Comments:

"This game came out without much press, but WOW it's going to be quite a hit once some folks start to take notice. Without a doubt the best game released by Small Box Games to date. Easy to learn, fast-playing, action-packed, and addictive. I'll be playing this for a very long time."

"Dear Hype: I have seen your expectations and they have been met. This is simply a card game that feels like an Ameritrash boardgame. The depth of strategy available is quite impressive as well. If that appeals to you, get this game."

"Maybe the best game he's done yet. This rating is dependent on playing the "advanced" version so keep that in mind. Once you start drafting a lot of strategies are available and the depth really pops out at you. It's quick, strategic, good looking, and reasonably thematic for a card game."

"An excellent 2 player game combining resource management, area control, set collection and variable powers. Each player uses his available actions to draw "money" chips and "minion" cards (Soldiers for special one off abilities plus power, Beasts for power or discard them for special one-off abilities and Oracles for power and ongoing special abilities) in order to put minions into play to dominate one or more of the "cities" or achieve a common set of "feats". Domination of the cities provide spoils cards which give the player powers as well as VPs and more VPs are earned by achieving the feats. Rules are very well written and laid out although a player aid summarising the game phases would have been handy. Card quality is excellent and the card art is outstanding. Great."
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171. Board Game: Potion-Making: Practice [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2613]
Ivan Tulovskiy
Russia
Moscow
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Russian board game.
Publisher - Rightgames LLC
Author - Sergey Machin

«Potion-making. Practice» the board game – created in 2005.
It has quickly become a Russian bestseller.
In 2010 it was chosen as the “best Russian board game in the last 5 years” by www.boardgamer.ru portal. In that same year it was also chosen as one of the TOP-10 best board games by Forbes Russia magazine.

Number of players – 2-6
Ages – 8+. Playing time – 30-70 minutes.

Game elements: cards, player counters and point card.

Each player in the game is considered an alchemist.
He or she will need to create elixirs, potions, powders and even avatars of magical creatures. By following instructions and using spell cards each player tries to create as much potions as he can. The stronger the potion or elixir, the more points a player receives.

The game has 2 expansions: “University Course” and “The Guild of Alchemists”. There is also a gift box containing all three sets.
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172. Board Game: Evolution: The Origin of Species [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1621]
Ivan Tulovskiy
Russia
Moscow
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Russian board game.
Publisher - Rightgames LLC
Author - Dmitry Knorre

«Evolution. The Origin of species» the board game – created in 2010.
By the end of the year received 5 awards as “best Russian board game”.

Number of players – 2-4
Age – 12+.
Playing time – 30-70 minutes.

Animals of different species live and develop, receive new abilities and compete for food. To become a speedy carnivore a big water dweller, it all depends on the habitat. By trying to create a stable population of animals that will dominate in the ecosystem, players learn to understand the basics of animal evolution, the concept of the survival of the fittest.

«Evolution. The Origin of species» is a great example of a popular science game.
The author managed to combine science with great playability. This makes the game interesting for a wide variety of public.

Game author - Dmitri Knorre .

Ph.D. in Biology, graduate of the Biological Faculty at MGU, scientist at the Research and Development Establishment of psychochemical biology.

He spends his free time by popularizing his favorite science including the creation of games that show the functions of different eco systems.

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173. Board Game: Entrapment [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:3565]
Blue Mountain
Australia
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Designer: Rich Gowell
Publisher: Gowell Classic Games

The only game they have ... fun 2 player abstract in which you have to hunt down and capture your opponents pieces using well placed walls.. it has some great twists too... the main one being you can jump one of your own walls once during a game .. after jumping your own wall you have to turn it on its end and you can't jump it again.

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174. Board Game: Rigatoni Intriganti [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Pitt Crandlemire
United States
Reading
Massachusetts
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Not only was this game designed and published by a one-man shop, it has novel mechanics and superbly original components. Using a combination of auction bids and dice rolling, players compete to manufacture noodles and make money. Before the game starts, players write down 1 of 4 different winning conditions. Play includes certain actions like boycott and sabotage, and action cards like veto and spying. High quality production in the long wooden box w/ a sliding top, this game uses actual pasta pieces in 3 colors as game pieces.
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175. Board Game: Alcatraz: The Scapegoat [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1455]
Rafał Cywicki
Poland
Cracow
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You may find our game very much in the spirit of this list. It was released this year by Polish publisher Kuznia Gier at Essen fair. It was a really well received

From the Game description:

Alcatraz: The Scapegoat is a game about conflicted loyalties. On one hand, the players work together to bust out of the famous prison; on the other hand they all know that one of them will be left behind as the scapegoat.

Alcatraz is a peculiar game because while it is cooperative in some aspects, with players needing to work together to complete tasks, the game has loads of negative interaction as one player will always be the scapegoat. You don't want to be that guy. You don't "go all in", you don't always keep your promises, and you don't do "what's best for the group". Instead you do everything you can to become indispensable, and "everything" is literal here – even if it means stealing from, betraying, and blackmailing other players.

In order to escape from Alcatraz, the players need to complete six parts of a plan. Each part is a "pick-up and deliver" task requiring specific items obtained in different parts of the prison. Once each part of the plan is completed, every player but the scapegoat moves a little closer to escaping, with the scapegoat being voted on each round by all the players – most likely the player who contributed the least to completing that particular task, but you never know.
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