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W. Eric Martin
• The tabletopping of video games continues with the announcement of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare by James Sheahan and Modiphius Entertainment, with this minis-heavy game being due out in November 2017. Here's the game info that's been announced so far:
In Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, players build their own crew from a wide range of factions, allies, and iconic characters from the Fallout series, then play in apocalyptic games of 3-30 high-quality 32mm scale resin miniatures through a huge variety of iconic scenery and settlement buildings, from the Red Rocket to Sanctuary Hills, Nuka-Cola vending machines and wrecked vehicles. Settlements include buildings, defenses, and resources that impact the crew's army list and abilities in the wasteland.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare includes an entire narrative campaign arc as well as unique random missions with narrative-style objectives, and crew caps recovered in missions can be used to improve the crew's perks, weapons, gear, and upgrades for the next encounter. In either player vs. player or tournament mode, players try to survive the tabletop wasteland.
The game also comes with a customizable solo-play AI deck to control enemies that play to their strengths and replicate a faction's tactics while attempting a narrative mission or perfecting settlement-building strategy. Players can also team up with a friend to defend a larger settlement or explore narrative missions in cooperative games against AI forces or the post-apocalyptic dangers of the wasteland.
• Aron West from Elzra Corp. has passed along a few updates about game availability and future plans. To start, reprints of both Catacombs (third edition) and the Cavern of Soloth expansion should be available "very soon". Second, West will be at Origins 2017 in June, and while he's not exhibiting, we are arranging to demo Catacombs & Castles (on a production copy of the game) and the Catacombs: Wyverns of Wylemuir expansion on camera. Notes West, "I was going to run a Kickstarter campaign for the Wyverns title, but decided to release it directly to retail." Both Wyverns and Catacombs & Castles will be released in German by Schwerkraft-Verlag.
Third, Elzra Corp. no longer uses Impressions for distribution, but instead uses both Alliance and ACD in the U.S., Lion Rampant and Universal in Canada, and Brave New World in Germany, with talks underway for distribution in other European countries as well.
Finally, says West, "We have a number of titles in development, including a card game set in the Catacombs world, an entry-level Catacombs title, and a new dexterity-based game line in conjunction with Jasco Games." Should you want to check out their offerings new and old, Elzra Corp. will have a presence at Gen Con in the Jasco Games booth and at SPIEL 2017 with Schwerkraft-Verlag.
• Designer Tom Lehmann says that the next Roll for the Galaxy expansion will be titled Rivalry — and that's all that he says. No other info for now.
• German publisher franjos will release a new edition of Sid Sackson's Can't Stop in June 2017, with this edition being (I think) its fifth version themed around mountain climbing. And why not given how well the gameplay fits in this setting?
W. Eric Martin
• In 2001, Canadian company Guardians of Order co-published a standalone expansion for James Ernest's Button Men that featured characters from the Sailor Moon anime. Guardians of Order had previously released a Sailor Moon RPG in 1998 and the Sailor Moon CCG in 2000, so the partnership made sense, similar to how AEG partnered with DC Comics license holder Cryptozoic Entertainment to produce Love Letter: Batman in 2015.
Fast forward to 2017: Cheapass Games has just launched a Kickstarter for a new button-free version of Button Men, now titled Button Men: Beat People Up, which is due out in October 2017. Guardians of Order's Mark MacKinnon is now president of Dyskami Publishing Company, which has just announced a "North American licensing arrangement with Toei Animation Inc. to design and distribute a line of tabletop board games based on the popular Japanese animation series Sailor Moon Crystal", an anime series based on the original Sailor Moon manga.
The first such title coming from Dyskami, due out Q3 2017, is Sailor Moon Crystal: Dice Challenge, a 2-8 player dice game based on — wait for it! — James Ernest's Button Men. Dyskami also plans to release the tile-passing-and-bluffing game Sailor Moon Crystal: Truth or Bluff in late 2017, with more SMC games to follow in 2018.
I think it's fair to point out that Guardians of Order went out of business in 2006, with many freelance creators accusing MacKinnon of using their work in GoO publications without paying them, then continuing to sell works following the closure of the business, again without paying them. MacKinnon presented his version of what happened to GoO in 2013 when starting Dyskami and attempting to fund Upon a Fable on Kickstarter, with many of those freelancers responding in that same BGG thread.
• One of the many titles distributed by Japon Brand at SPIEL 2016 was Yoshiyuki Arai's Defense Three Kingdoms, a solitaire game in which a player had to defeat an invading army while losing defense forces to attrition in each combat and taking damage when avoiding combat. That game included a competitive two-player mode in which one player would take charge of the attacking forces to make the game's AI a little less A.
Now Sweet Lemon Publishing and Mandoo Games are partnering on a new version of the game titled Fantasy Defense, with the game featuring new artwork by Yann Tisseron, a new cooperative two-player mode, a new setting (with humans and elves now partnering to defend against orcs), and a new "campaign" mode that unlocks new cards after meeting certain criteria in the game.
• To stay with Japanese games this post, let's look at Alicematic Heroes, a new game from Kuro that will be co-published by Japanime Games and his own Manifest Destiny. The game debuts at Tokyo Game Market in May 2017, with Japanime demoing the game at Origins 2017 in June ahead of its U.S. release. Here's an overview of the gameplay:
The Queen of Hearts has summoned Alice to rebuild Wonderland, which has been devastated by an invasion of Nothing, which is devouring the dreams of all in the land — but the Queen has mistakenly summoned whole armies of Alices! Dozens of Alices abound, and now they're taking sides and forming teams to see who can put the land back together best.
In Alicematic Heroes, you take charge of one of these teams, and you'll have a handful of Alices to use in your efforts. Alices come in five colors, with each player having a set of player boards in these five colors. On a turn, you first summon an Alice to your kingdom, playing that card from your hand onto the player board of the same color, but only if you can pay the cost in dream power; each Alice has a cost, and you must have at least this many dream cards (yellow) or be able to make up the difference by paying dream tokens. If you can, you immediately use the power — or Megalomania — of that Alice; if you can't, choose another card or lay an Alice face down as a commoner. Playing a commoner doesn't cost anything, lets you draw another card, and builds up the power of one of your five colors, but you don't get a Megalomania bonus and your turn ends immediately.
If you played an Alice, you can then invade a territory in the playing area, which is composed of modular hex tiles. To conquer the territory, you need enough military power (red cards) or supplemental military (red) tokens, and if the territory is not on a hex where you occupy a city, you must have enough food (green cards) or food tokens to reach that space. If you conquer it, you receive a bonus based on the territory's color: military, food or dream tokens; Alice cards; or points. If you conquer a city, you score points and now have a foothold on that hex.
If you lack enough military and food, you can still place the territory under attack and finish it off on a later turn, but another player can potentially conquer it in the meantime.
Mystic forests cannot be conquered until they're surrounded by player-controlled territories, and only the player(s) with the most controlled surrounding territories can then capture the forest, which has a toughness and point value equal to the number of surrounding territories.
The game ends after fourteen rounds, then players score points for having the most or secondmost territories controlled in each hex and for having the most Alices in any of the five colors. Players can also score points for Alice Megalomania effects, and whoever has the most points wins!
W. Eric Martin
• Hasbro has issued a revenue report for Q1 2017, noting that revenues are up 2% — $849.7 million vs. $831.2 million — compared to Q1 2016. Net earnings compared to Q1 2016 are up 41%: $68.6 million vs. $48.8 million. These increases follow Hasbro's record-setting 2016, the first year that it topped $5 billion in net revenues. From the press release:
"Our first quarter results are in line with our previously communicated expectations and we are well positioned to execute against 2017's rich content slate and diverse new initiatives," said Brian Goldner, Hasbro's chairman and chief executive officer. "Revenue grew in the quarter and we drove strong consumer takeaway at retail, both compared to a robust first quarter last year and with a shift of Easter into this year's second quarter. Over the coming quarters, we are supporting significant new initiatives including major theatrical films for both Franchise and Partner Brands."
Hasbro Gaming posted 43% revenue growth to $142.9 million driven by Hasbro's diverse gaming portfolio. The strong revenue increase was led by several new games, including SPEAK OUT
, TOILET TROUBLE
and FANTASTIC GYMNASTICS
, digital gaming, and several other gaming brands, including DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
. Hasbro's total gaming category grew 10% to $253.3 million.
Hasbro divides its products into four brands — Franchise Brands, Partner Brands, Hasbro Gaming, and Emerging Brands — and some of its game sales hide in the Franchise Brands category, as noted elsewhere in the press release: "Hasbro's total gaming category, including all gaming revenue, most notably MAGIC: THE GATHERING and MONOPOLY, which are included in Franchise Brands in the table above, totaled $253.3 million for the first quarter 2017, up 10%, versus $231.1 million in the first quarter 2016. Hasbro believes its gaming portfolio is a competitive differentiator and views it in its entirety."
• To take advantage of its "competitive differentiator", in mid-2017 Hasbro will debut the Hasbro Gaming Crate. Four times a year, Hasbro will ship subscribers who pay the $50 fee either a party or family-themed game crate that contains three games. An excerpt from a Fortune article:
"We've seen the subscription trend and how strong it has become outside of our industry and we thought 'Gamers are into their games and they want to try new games all the time,' said Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of marketing for Hasbro Gaming, in an interview with Fortune
. "It is a perfect marriage for the gaming category." ...
Berkowitz explained that the party themed boxes will incorporate more "edgy" games that are ideal for adults, while the family crate is for all different ages and more inclusive. Hasbro built a new separate team within the broader Hasbro Gaming segment that will focus exclusively on the Hasbro Gaming Crate service. The idea is that all the games that will be shipped will be new — so consumers that order the crate won't be getting boxes of Candy Land
shipped to their homes.
The service is also a way for Hasbro to innovate at a faster pace than is typical for the industry.
In an interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer, Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner referred to the Hasbro Gaming Crate as "profitable experimentation" since those who buy the Crates are encouraged to give feedback on the titles, which might then make it into general distribution depending on the results.
What might you find in these new games? Nothing has been announced, but the Fortune article includes this paragraph about how Hasbro turned around its games division after initially trying — and failing — to incorporate "tablet functionality" into its existing game brands:
One critical source of inspiration has been viral videos. Hasbro saw the web-driven buzz around the Pie Face game and bought the rights to manufacture and distribute the game after it became a viral hit. Other games that have been inspired by viral videos have included Egged On (based on a gag utilized by late-night host Jimmy Fallon), Flip Challenge (inspired by the bottle flipping trend on YouTube), and Speak Out (also inspired by viral web videos).
• CR Magazine has ranked Hasbro first in its annual list of the "100 Best Corporate Citizens", with the companies being ranked in these seven categories: environment, climate change, employee relations, human rights, corporate governance, financial performance, and philanthropy and community support. The "CR" in the magazine's title stands for "corporate responsibility". (ranking PDF)
• By chance, I recently ran across a 2016 article in The Times, a UK-based newspaper, that detailed how "women housed by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Waterford packaged board games for the global toy franchise Hasbro in return for 'pocket money' as recently as 2012". Excerpts from the article:
"In the 1980s, Hasbro entered into an agreement with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Waterford to provide materials for packaging by our residents," said the Good Shepherd Sisters in a statement. "The residents who participated in this activity were regularly given what was then known as their 'Hasbro money envelope'."
The Good Shepherd Sisters said that the order "in no way profited from this commercial relationship with Hasbro, which ended in 2012".
A former factory employee from Hasbro Ireland said her mother had been housed by the Good Shepherd Sisters and had also packaged Hasbro toys, but for "pocket money rather than wages".
The former employee, who asked not to be named, also claimed that the women who worked on the site of the Good Shepherd convent in Waterford worked longer hours than employees in Hasbro’s Waterford factory
When asked about its business relationship over three decades with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Waterford, [Hasbro] said that it had no direct commercial involvement with the order. Instead, the company said, it had a business relationship with Rehab, a charity that aims to help those with a disability in the workforce.
Julie Duffy, a spokeswoman for Hasbro Inc, said: "Rehab in Waterford, many years ago, approached Hasbro to provide small work tasks for the clients they serve. Hasbro viewed this as a community service."
Duffy said that, between 1999 and 2008, Hasbro paid Rehab approximately €25,000 a year.
What are you doing!? I don't even know you!
As Latin American games are still fairly unknown outside their countries of origin, I have decided to do a Latin American new game round-up once in a while. If you have any news to share, please contact me (here or at gamenews at lidude dot net). Let's see how much interest there is for it.
The Geek Out Festival in Buenos Aires on the May 6, 2017 is the launch date for Corona de Hierro ("Iron Crown").
In this game by Franco Toffoli, the players assume the roles of nobles in the days of Charles III, last emperor of the Carolingian Empire. They try to extend their power bases in the battle for succession. Power in this card-based board game is gained by laying siege to castles, sending emissaries to the Pope or foreign powers, or controlling important prisoners. When somebody reaches for the crown, the most powerful player wins the game. The game was illustrated by Luis María Dumont and Emiliano Mariani and will be published by El Dragón Azul.
Another last minute announcement was made for the festival; it will also be the launch date for Geek Out! Masters by Matias Saravia, who was one of those geeks who triggered my interest in Latin American games. Geek Out! Masters is a press-your-luck game using the dice from the Geek Out! logo. The goal is to roll the number 42 (which is a die face) as often as possible. Other results can make this difficult by removing dice, flipping others over, or making you lose your entire score from the turn if you cannot remove them.
In the meantime, the three finalists for the Premio Alfonso X have been announced. Aside from the well-received Conejos en el Huerto and Mutant Crops, La Macarena made it into the finals. The judges had a lot to say about every participating game, and I agree to their assessment that La Macarena's main drawback is its length (which my family has house-ruled a little), while they suspect that Conejos en el Huerto might look deceptively like a children's game (not something that would ever have bothered me). I am certainly curious who will come out on top.
Brazil has its own game award as well. It's called Prêmio Ludopedia and there are two categories, one for the game of the year in general and another one for domestic games. In each category, there is a jury vote and a public vote. For the most recent awards this didn't matter as the jury and the public were in agreement. In the general Category, Terra Mystica won — I guess most of you are familiar with it — and the domestic prize went to Space Cantina by Fel Barros und Warny Marçano. Both designers have cooperated before, for instance with Sapotagem which I had the pleasure to play last year (a similar concept to Pi mal Pflaumen).
In Space Cantina, which was illustrated by Lucas Ribeiro and published by Ace Studios, the players try to successfully manage a restaurant in a giant space station. Planning your menu can't be all that easy when your next customer might very well be a robot...
A much noted new release is D.50: Las Redes del Reich ("The Network of the Reich"), a partly cooperative game about Nazi spies who infiltrate Chile during WWII. One of the players is playing such a spy, while the others represent the police unit D.50 and try to put a stop to the spy's evil plan. The game is based on historical events and was sponsored by the Fondo Nacional para el Desarrollo Cultural y las Artes (FONDART), which could be translated as "National Foundation for Cultural Development and Arts". In Chile, the release date (April 15th) seems to be eagerly awaited. Publisher Cuatro Quesos ("Four Cheese") consists of three people (Diego Aravena, Isadora Cárdenas and Wladimir Gárate) as well as "fun and creativity".
Careta ("Mask") is a game by Nico Valdivia Hennig, released by Niebla Games on March 30, 2017. Niebla Games is currently working on a computer game named Causa, and Careta is set in the same fantasy universe. Says Valdivia:
was born with the desire to simulate the experience that traditional games are known for. This is why we’ve drawn inspiration from traditional games such as Truco
, and Liar's Dice
to create a game that, despite its novelty, gives a sensation of an ancient tradition.
To accomplish this, it was decided to set the game in the vast universe of our most ambitious project: Causa, Voices of the Dusk
. Within the world of Causa
is one of the greatest legacies of the Rumah culture, an ethnicity loaded with mysticism that is known for its cleverness, seafaring mores, and their aptitude for business. Due to this, Careta
holds this mystic character of the Rumah, serving not only as a game, but also a tool for divination and narration of their most ancient traditions.
Careta was illustrated by Thomas Heim, Víctor Peña, Julio del Río and Sebastian Rodriguez.
Another recent release is Los Tesoros del Rey Pirata ("The Treasures of the Pirate King") by Pablo Céspedes and Víctor Hugo Cisternas. Players are moving across an archipelago and collect treasure maps, which should ideally be as valuable as possible. Since the other players try the same, it is advisable to challenge them to duels or open fire outright (in order to be able to steal hand cards or treasures). To execute an action, you need a number, with the numbers being printed on the cards. If you need a specific number, you can discard a hand card with that number. If you are somewhat more adventurous, you may as well just draw a card from the stack and use whatever number comes up. Illustrations are by Dan Rodriguez, and the publisher is Ludoismo.
There She Is!! is the name of a mini-series of five short Korean films about the love of a rabbit and a cat who try to overcome the resentment and racism of society at large. (You can watch it here.) Strange stuff, but it's got its fans; in Costa Rica, for example, where iN'sanity Games has dedicated its second game to the series. Players cooperatively try to help the unusual couple. A Kickstarter campaign is being prepared for it. As until a few days ago, I had never heard of the films, I cannot judge the size of the target group, but the looks of this are so unusual that I'll keep an eye on it. It will be published in Spanish, Korean and English. The designer is Yo Leiten.
W. Eric Martin
• At a recent gaming event, I ran into Christian Lemay of Le Scorpion Masqué, and while I suppose we could have, you know, actually played games, instead we talked about art, French literature, and one forthcoming game release: Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance's Decrypto, which Lemay anticipates releasing in early 2018 (although there's an outside shot of the game seeing publication in late 2017). Note that the cover artwork shown isn't final.
On later days at this event, I did see others playing Decrypto over and over again, with some saying it was their favorite game of the show. Here's what I missed out on and what we all can now anticipate:
Players compete in two teams in Decrypto, with each trying to correctly interpret the coded messages presented to them by their teammates while cracking the codes they intercept from the opposing team.
In more detail, each team has their own screen, and in this screen they tuck four cards in pockets numbered 1-4, letting everyone on the same team see the words on these cards while hiding them from the opposing team. In the first round, each team does the following: One team member takes a code card that shows three of the digits 1-4 in some order, e.g. 4-2-1. They then give a coded message that their teammates must use to guess this code. For example, if the team's four words are "pig", "candy", "tent", and "son", then I might say "child-mouth-tail" and hope that my teammates can correctly map those words to 4-2-1. If they guess correctly, great; if not, we receive a black mark of failure.
Starting in the second round, a member of each team must again give a clue about their words to match a numbered code. If I get 2-4-3, I might now say, "sucker-finger-grass". The other team then attempts to guess our numbered code — not the hidden words themselves, only the numbers! If they're correct, they receive a white mark of success; if not, then my team must guess the number correctly or take a black mark of failure. (Guessing correctly does nothing except avoid failure while giving the opposing team information about what our hidden words might be.)
The rounds continue until a team collects either its second white mark (winning the game) or its second black mark (losing the game). Games typically last between 4-7 rounds.
• U.S. game publisher and manufacturer of other things Mattel will be at Gen Con 2017 in August. Yes, Mattel! "As you know, the hobby market has really begun to grow recently", game designer Nick Hayes, who develops titles for Mattel, told me. "It's an exciting time for the gaming community, and we'd like to be a part of that." Mattel will debut Hayes' Wizards Wanted at Gen Con, while also featuring Marc André's Sail Away (which debuted in German at SPIEL 2016) and Brian Yu's Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters, with a new mini-expansion for GFTH being available at the show. Yu also designed this mini-expansion, which consists of four new gameplay variants that can be added to the base game.
• On May 25, 2017, Fully Baked Ideas — the adults-only imprint of Looney Labs — will release Stoner Loonacy, a marijuana-themed version of Andy Looney's real-time card game Loonacy. In the game, everyone has a hand of cards with two images on them. One or more face-up discard piles are started based on the number of players, then everyone free fires cards from their hand onto a discard pile as long as one of the images on their played card matches one of the images on the card on top of the discard pile. The first player out of cards wins.
Obviously the particular images in Loonacy don't affect the gameplay, so you could make a version of the game with anything you like on the cards. On its website, Looney Labs has a page for what it calls "Game Store Loonacy", with game stores being able to order custom copies of Loonacy that feature the game store logo as one of the 22 images in the game, with the other images being somewhat generic game bits. These games could be used as giveaways during an event or a freebie if someone spends $X in the store. I'm confident that if you approached Looney Labs with 22 custom images, you could probably get them to manufacture an entirely custom version for you. Create your own wedding favors!
• Late news here, but in February 2017 Pegasus Spiele announced that it would release select titles from Finnish publisher Lautapelit.fi in German in addition to now handling all distribution of Lautapelit.fi titles in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Rustan Håkansson's Nations: The Dice Game will be the first such release — as Nations: Das Würfelspiel naturally — in June 2017, with German-language versions of Eclipse and Nations due out before the end of 2017.
• In vaguely game-related news, in August 2017 Oni Press will debut the first issue of Dead of Winter, a comic book based on the Plaid Hat Games title, with the comic featuring the exploits of Sparky the Stunt Dog. From the press release:
In the pantheon of heroes, none are more lovable and loyal than everyone's beloved good ol' dog, Sparky. Surviving in the wintery apocalypse of the undead, this former TV star turned zombie killing machine just wants to make friends and be a good boy. As his fellow survivors scavenge for supplies in the frigid wasteland, will Sparky be able to protect his companions from threats both undead and not yet undead?
W. Eric Martin
• Phil Eklund's Bios: Genesis from Sierra Madre Games debuted at SPIEL 2016, and now he's on Kickstarter for the first time ever to fund a second edition of this "gaming from the dawn time" creation, which now features revised graphic design on the cards, placards, and rulebook, as well as "4 extra bionts" _ and who couldn't use a few more bionts now and then? Aside from a reprint of the "only board game recreating current scientific evidence behind the origins of life", Eklund offers word of his plans for 2017, mentioning that a new edition of Bios: MegaFauna and Bios: Origins (a reworking of Origins: How We Became Human) are due for release in 2017, and the revised rules in Bios: Genesis include a campaign mode that "allows you to start from the origins of life in Bios: Genesis all the way to interstellar travel in the reprint of Bios: Origins". (KS link)
• To continue our trip through human history, we jump to Enemies of Rome from Grant Wylie, Mike Wylie, and Worthington Publishing, which allows you to relive six hundred years of history in a couple of hours, with players leading Roman legions around Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East to become Caesar and have people eat salads in your honor. (KS link)
• Paul Ali's Capere from Playford Games offers a far different take on the topic of Roman legions, presenting a seeming abstract strategy game that is actually driven by random card draws that determine the movement and abilities of your pieces, with you trying to capture opponents or reach their side of the board in order to score. (KS link)
• Columbia Games' Combat Infantry from Leonard Coufal and Tom Dalgliesh is a fast-paced World War II tactical level game that uses Columbia's hallmark wooden blocks and has been in the works for at least six years under various names. (KS link)
• Jumping to the future, in 2050 (Humans, We Have a Problem...), Alan Gallart of Fiction Non Fiction presents players with the challenge of sourcing renewable energy, changing business practices, and developing better environmental policy so that they can have better ice cap and glacier coverage on their place on Earth than any other player. (KS link)
• Brent Povis of Two Lanterns Games is funding an expansion for his well-regarded two-player game Morels — now five years old! — with Morels Foray, which includes rules for three- and four-player games, new components for use at all player counts, and fancy handcrafted bits that have not yet caused Povis to lose a finger, but with your support, it could still happen. (KS link)
• Another expansion in the offing comes from Vesuvius Media, which released Constantine Kevorque's cooperative 4X science-fiction game Centauri Saga in 2016. Centauri Saga: Abandoned (which is subtitled "Season 1") is a legacy expansion for that game in which a number of scenarios can be played together in a larger campaign with the results of one game having ripple effects on future scenarios. Once you finish the campaign, two additional scenarios can be played on your legacied game board. The publisher emphasizes that the legacy element applies only to the expansion materials, not the components in the base game. (KS link)
• I like to feel that I'm on top of things and have some idea of what's going on the game industry, but I receive daily reminders that I'm missing out on many things, such as not knowing about the existence of Sam Coates' Dungeon Dice, which Potluck Games released in 2014. (The Dungeon Dice I know about was released in the 1970s and my brother and I played that game at least one thousand times.) The more recent Dungeon Dice is an adventuring game in which everything you do involves dice in some manner, with players acquiring lots of dice during play. Potluck is running a crowdfunding campaign for The Lost King expansion, which it calls the final expansion, with the base game and the entire line also being available. (KS link)
• Mark Major's Chimera Station — a worker-placement game in which the workers are aliens that you can modify during the game by combining different plastic bits — is on Kickstarter...again. Tasty Minstrel Games funded an edition of the game in October 2016 ahead of a planned release in June 2017, and now Belgian co-publisher Game Brewer is trying to fund additional versions of the game in European languages beyond English, French, German and Dutch. (KS link)
• Button Shy is back on Kickstarter with another trio of tiny games: Mint Julep, a racing-and-betting game from Dan Letzring; That Snow Moon, a Dave Chalker design in which rebel troops try to assemble forces on the table while the evil Dynasty tries to drop cards on the rebels to expose and remove them; and Circle the Wagons, a design from Aramini, Devine, and Kluka that has you overlaying cards divided into four sections to build your own boomtown. (KS link)
• Daryl Andrews, J.R. Honeycutt, and CSE Games are following the release of Fantasy Fantasy Baseball with Fantasy Fantasy Football, a game in which players serve as team managers who fill their roster with fantasy creatures, then hit the field. (KS link)
• Ben Mora's Wages of War: The Uncooperative Siege Game from Mora Games gives you the five-second summary in the title: Players are collectively sieging a castle, but they want to individually cause as much damage as possible since that's all the matters in the end — yet you can benefit from the actions of others along the way since you're all sieging elbow to elbow around the castle. (KS link)
• Petrichor might have you searching for a definition in order to determine what the game might be about, but publishers Cloud Island and Mighty Boards have made things easy for you by placing the definition on the box itself: the pleasant earthy smell after rain. In this design by David Chircop and Dávid Turczi, you are the one responsible for that pleasant earthy smell because you are a cloud, and you want to float around, make more clouds, and rain on things to grow more plants than any other cloud. (KS link)
• Desginer Mitsuo Yamamoto of Logy Games creates abstract strategy games from ceramic and wood in small print runs — typically with multiple versions so people can choose the images they want on the pieces — and his latest offering is a new version of Safari-Dual, a two-player game in which players try to remove the opposing lion from play or else move their lion into the opponent's den. During play, you remove opposing animals by sandwiching them between two of your animals of the same type, with their animal becoming the meat in your sandwich. Yum. (KS link)
Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
W. Eric Martin
• Games cycle on and off the market quickly these days, with many games then returning to the market in a new form. One example of this phoenix-like rebirth is Chimera & More, a new version of Ralph H. Anderson's Chimera, which was published by Z-Man Games in 2014.
Chimera is a shedding card game along the lines of Tichu, but for precisely three players, and in each round players will bid for the right to be chimera, with the other two players then teaming up to try to keep the chimera from exiting the round first. The game has lots of possible card combinations — pairs, triples, sequences of pairs or triples, triples with one attached card, etc. —and for more details, I refer to this preview I wrote in April 2014.
Chimera & More includes the basic Chimera game for three players, but it adds two additional suits of cards so that the game is also playable with exactly five players. Players bid to be chimera as before, but then the chimera will choose a partner, and this pair of players then competes against the remaining three, with the goal again being for the chimera to exit the round first or to keep this player from doing so. In the five-player game, each non-chimera player additionally receives a Q — a messenger bird — and once during the round a player can play their Q to throw the lead to any other player; alternatively, the Q can be played as any ranked card from 0 to 12.
Chimera & More will be co-published by Eagle-Gryphon Games and Anderson's own Flightless Goat Workshop, with the game hitting Kickstarter for funding on April 18, 2017.
Prototype components and box, showing some of the new cards
• In early April 2017, Rio Grande Games released Jeff and Carla Horger's Orient Express, which was announced in early 2016. Scott Tepper of RGG says that Joshua Gerald Balvin's Oktoberfest, Kris Burm's LYNGK, and Donald X. Vaccarino's Temporum: Alternate Realities should also hit the retail market before the end of April 2017, along with a restocking of Mac Gerdts' Concordia.
Adds Tepper, "We are (slowly) working through the Dominion expansions to update them to go along with the second edition base game and second edition Intrigue. This has meant rewriting the rule books, and we're also updating the copy on all the cards to unify the text. We have already updated Hinterlands and Prosperity. The next one in the queue to be updated is Seaside, which we should get in late May."
• A Ravensburger representative in Germany tells me that an English-language edition of Reiner Knizia's deck-building/exploration game El Dorado will be released in the U.S. No word on a release date yet, but the German version was released in early April 2017 should you care to dive into the game now rather than later.
• On its website, Mayfair Games has posted "The Imperial Post", a solitaire scenario for Tim Puls's The Colonists focusing on the Envoy Colony. In more detail: "Your goal is to establish relations with it and fully develop the relationship over the course of four eras, while also completing specific objectives in each Era."
• I've already shared a video overview of Codenames Duet, a cooperative version of Vlaada Chvátil's hit party game that will debut at Gen Con 2017 in August, but Czech Games Edition has a number of other titles in the works as well.
That's a Question, which is not the final title, is another party game from Chvátil, and the game takes the familiar format of challenging others with questions, then voting on what they'll say. In more detail, each player has a hand of hexagonal cards, with words or phrases in three color blocks on the card. On a turn, you choose a player that has a token in front of them, take that token, then present them with a question by choosing one of the three question prompts (which are all color-coded), then choosing two cards from your hand and adding the properly-colored section of those cards to the question. In the pic below, for example, the player has been presented with this question: "What would you miss more if it ceases to exist: Facebook or doors?" That player secretly votes on A or B, while everyone else but the questioner secretly votes A or B depending on how they think the person will answer; a voter can optionally add their 3x scoring token to their vote.
Once everyone votes, you reveal the tiles. Everyone who voted correctly moves ahead one or three spaces on the scoring track, and the questioner moves ahead one space for each person who voted incorrectly. If you pass a certain space on the scoring track, you retrieve your 3x token (if you've used it). Since you can ask a question only of those with a token in front of them, everyone is asked roughly the same number of questions, and whoever has the most points after a certain number of rounds wins.
Other titles in the works from CGE include:
—A science-fiction Eurogame tentatively titled Pleiades that features an "interesting dice mechanism".
—An expansion for Adrenaline that adds components for a sixth player, character-specific weapons, and rules for team play to the game.
—More leaders and wonders for Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization.
—A new player deck for Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends based on time travel.
That's a Question, with prototype components and name — an easy question in this case
W. Eric Martin
• Games come and go for any number of reasons, but sometimes they come back, whether through deep love for an out-of-print classic or through the fortunate juxtaposition of design and marketing, the latter of which is the case for Super Mario: Level Up! Board Game. USAopoly has taken Stefano Luperto's King Me! — first published in 2004 by dV Giochi, which was called "daVinci Games" at that time — and married it with the world of Super Mario, which makes perfect sense given that players each have secret candidates that they're trying to move up the charts, and these characters level up during the game in order to score you more points. When a character reaches the top of the charts, everyone votes on whether that character can stay or not; if it does, the round ends and players score points based on where their characters stand.
Interesting to see a game more than a decade old that will be new for most people who play it, but that's pretty much the case for all hobby games that reach the mass market...
• In a mid-April 2017 post, I mentioned a forthcoming expansion for The Voyages of Marco Polo that Hans im Glück intends to debut at SPIEL 2017 in October. Folks asked in the comments about availability of the base game (and other HiG titles) in English, so I reached out to Steve Kimball, head of the Z-Man Games studio within Asmodee North America. Kimball says that a reprint of the Marco Polo base game has been ordered and it should be available no later than October 2017 when the expansion is scheduled to debut.
As for other titles, Kimball says, "Stone Age is reprinted fairly regularly, and it looks like the next print run should arrive in Q3 ." For Russian Railroads, the news is not so good, and Kimball provides back-up detail to explain the situation: "In order to obtain the volume necessary to make a reprint viable, Hans im Glück obtains interest from their publishing partners about which titles are selling well enough to warrant a reprint. Once there is sufficient demand from enough territories, HiG schedules a reprint. At the moment, there is no reprint scheduled for Russian Railroads."
This explanation matches what Sophie Gravel, former owner of Z-Man Games, told me years ago about why The Palaces of Carrara never went back to print in English. Copies were plentiful in other languages, which would mean that Z-Man Games would be paying on its own for a tiny print run (with a resulting higher per copy cost), which would mean that Z-Man would need to sell a higher percentage than usual just to make back its costs — so rather than risk seeing inventory pile up in the warehouse, you express regrets to potential buyers and move on to the next thing. Witch's Brew suffered the same fate, with English-language copies selling for a mint and people begging Rio Grande Games to publish more while German-language copies were hitting clearance bins. Game publishers tend to be conservative, and the ever-increasing number of titles hitting the market will only make them more so, given that the spotlight window for new titles seems increasingly flighty.
• Speaking of flighty, I tweeted cover pics of these games at NY Toy Fair, but never covered them here in more detail. As it did in 2016, Cryptozoic Entertainment plans to release two licensed Rick & Morty games in 2017, with each game being inspired by a particular episode in the series. Matt Hyra's Rick and Morty: Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind Deck-Building Game uses the Cerebus deck-building engine seen in other Cryptozoic titles, but the hook for the game is that each player is a different version of Rick, and you'll face off against one another as in the episode. In more detail:
Each player's deck starts with the following cards: seven Genius Waves cards that give you Power, one Beth, one Jerry, and one Summer. The Beth, Jerry, and Summer cards do nothing, but can activate other cards. The "Kick" stack in other Cerberus games is now the Portal Gun stack. The Portal Gun activates the Portal deck, which transports a player's hero to a random location from the episode or other popular places from the series. That player may then utilize that location during their turn and has the option of paying the cost of the location to put it into their deck.
The other title, due out July 12, 2017, is Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park, a tile-laying game with the following description:
Based on the hilarious "Anatomy Park" episode, each player in Rick and Morty: Anatomy Park attempts to construct the world's greatest theme park inside of a homeless guy named Reuben. Players build while battling both monstrous diseases and fellow park-builders with creative differences concerning how the park should be laid out. The object of the game is to score points by placing your park tiles into the best spots within the body. Move your character pawn around the park to scout out the best locations and stay away from (or shoot) the monster diseases that will pop up and cause chaos. Whoever has the most victory points wins and is the master builder of Anatomy Park!
BGG shot an overview of this game at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show if you want to get a taste for it in action:
W. Eric Martin
• In mid-March 2017, French investment company Eurazeo posted a report (PDF) of its 2016 fiscal year, and that's of interest to gamers given that Eurazeo owns game publisher Asmodee, which itself consists of Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, Z-Man Games, and several other publishing brands. Here's the Asmodee section of its report:
ASMODEE (fully consolidated)
■ Continued robust organic growth and an ongoing international acquisitions policy
In 2016, Asmodee posted revenue of €377.2 million, up +39.5% on a reported basis compared to the previous year, and solid organic growth of +18.5% at constant scope and exchange rates.
This growth was spurred by all product lines and regions: international activities now represent 75% of Group revenue, particularly in the US and the UK. The year was marked by a particularly robust performance in the cards segment, driven by Pokémon which benefited from favorable trends in all the Group’s European countries.
The Group's EBITDA totaled €65.2 million, resulting in a 17.3% margin. EBITDA increased by +57.5% on a reported basis and +23.7% at constant scope and exchange rates.
Asmodee is also pursuing its strategic initiatives: enhancement of its editorial contents in all regions and on all media, ramp-up in new regions, primarily the US, and creation of its digital platform offering.
Pro forma of the external growth transactions carried out at the end of 2016 (F2Z, Heidelberger, Millenium and Edge), revenue in 2016 totaled €402 million and EBITDA amounted to €78.1 million, i.e. a +19.4% margin.
Net financial debt totaled €223.6 million following the June 2016 refinancing and the acquisitions at the end of 2016, i.e. a leverage now lower than 3.0x EBITDA.
Eurazeo is a shareholder in 34 companies. (HT: Sebastian Wenzel)
• To follow up on this April 2017 post about Catan Days 2017, Asmodee North America has announced that "due to an unforeseen circumstance" Catan Days has been postponed, with a new date still to be announced at a later date.
• Phil Reed has posted Steve Jackson Games' annual stakeholder report for 2016, which always provides fascinating insight into one of the longest-lived U.S. game publishers still active on today's market. An excerpt:
2016 was a challenging time for many of us in the office. It was our second year in decline, with gross income just over $6 million. Additionally, this was the first year in over a decade that we showed a loss. Our insistence on perfection resulted in our two biggest planned releases — the Munchkin Collectible Card Game
and Car Wars Sixth Edition
— being pushed back (keep reading for more information on both of these games). That meant our time invested in both games did not benefit the bottom line in 2016, and that led to lower than expected revenue. Fortunately, our management team saw early enough in the year that these games would miss 2016 that we kept our cash flow stable and avoided potential cash crunches. Our cash flow report — first mentioned by Steve in the 2010 report — continues to protect us from unexpected harm.
• On March 31, 2017, Identity Games managing director Erik Spindler transferred his shares of the company to new owners. To quote from the press release: "With a number of global titles like Escape Room: The Game, Poopyhead and the original Mouthguard Challenge, this is a good time for Spindler to take on a new challenge. Founder and managing partner Albert Meuter and managing director USA Emile Kalis, as well the new shareholders" — Jeroen Nugteren (General Manager International) and Jan-Maurits Duparc (Chief Creation) — "are now the new management. Jelle Marcus is the new manager for tailor made games."
• Want to watch players compete in tabletop games for money? Oomba hopes so, Oomba being "a specialized social media company that is creating an interactive social network for tournaments, leagues and teams".
The specific event that Oomba has created is the Unrivaled Tournament Series, which features six games — Munchkin, Ascension, King of Tokyo, Nevermore, Villagers & Villains, and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill — for which 284 retail stores will hold satellite tournaments through June 2017, ahead of regional tournaments from July through September and the finals in October 2017 in Las Vegas. Oomba promises $250,000 in cash and prizes for those who make the grand final, with sanctioned satellite venues receiving payouts matching those of their players, thereby giving them an incentive to host in the first place (beyond, of course, simply encouraging people to come to their store).
An excerpt from a Forbes article about Oomba and the Unrivaled tournament series:
"Unrivaled is a celebration of social aspects of tabletop gaming," says [Oomba CEO Michael] Williams. The company and its partners are betting that the excitement generated by the tournament gets more people into the world of tabletop games, and generates greater outside attention to the marketing, sponsorship and engagement opportunities for organized play. If their strategy pays off, it may open a whole new field of play for the esports model and a new point of engagement for the fan economy that has taken over popular culture.
W. Eric Martin
• People have been asking for months, if not years, when Alexander Pfister's Port Royal will be released in the U.S., and for nearly as long German publisher Pegasus Spiele has answered that someone had licensed the game and any announcements are in the hands of that licensor.
Now Steve Jackson Games has revealed itself as that licensor and announced an August 2017 release date for its edition of the game, and while I can understand a publisher wanting to put its own spin on a game — doing something to make sure the game fits in their catalog — I'm baffled as to why SJG has gone with that cover art while keeping the Klemens Franz artwork inside the hood. Seems like a mismatch, but I haven't been in business publishing games for nearly forty years, so maybe I'm overlooking something that SJG knows better.
• Want to playtest a Caverna expansion? Alex Wilber, who in August 2016 uploaded files on BGG containing fourteen (!) new races for use in Caverna other than the default dwarves, says that he's now working with Lookout Games on an expansion tentatively planned for release in the first half of 2018. For details on how to get involved, head to this post on BGG; for details on the expansion itself, you must wait.
• Along similar lines, Cheapass Games has posted a rough version of Rochi, a gambling game from James Ernest and Sonia Lyris that will be featured in Lyris' next fantasy novel. Here's a short description from Cheapass: "Rochi is a gambling game for 2-8 players, played with a Tarot-style deck with six suits of different sizes. It's a new deck design for us, and it's a whole new way to think about how gambling games should work. There is no betting, very little bluffing, and six different pots!"
The window to provide playtesting feedback closed on March 31, 2017, but if you want to download the current rules and components, you can still try the game ahead of its release later in 2017.
• In mid-2017, Atlas Games will release Craig Stockwell's Witches of the Revolution, a 1-4 player cooperative deck-building game in which the player witches must play a decisive role in aiding the colonies during the American Revolution. We recorded an overview of the game during the 2017 GAMA Trade Show if you want to see it in action:
• Near the end of 2017, Level 99 Games plans to release Automata NOIR, a new version of D. Brad Talton, Jr.'s NOIR that features the world and characters from the Automata comic created by Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. The game will still be based on hidden identities and deduction, with updated versions of the "Killer vs. Inspector", "Hitman vs. Sleuth", and "Spy Tag" game modes, along with two new game modes: "Buddy Cop" and "Dragnet".
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