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Links: Nominees for the 2019 Origins Awards, and Voting for the 2019 Deutscher Spielepreis

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• The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design has announced the nominees for the 2019 Origins Awards within a variety of categories, with the winners of each category scheduled to be announced on June 15, 2019 during the 2019 Origins Game Fair. Attendees at the fair can try out the nominees in an area devoted to the nominated games, and they can cast ballots to determine a fan favorite winner in each category.

Some of the nominee categories are:

Board Games

Brass: Birmingham, by Gavan Brown, Matt Tolman, and Martin Wallace (Roxley)
Chronicles of Crime, by David Cicurel (Lucky Duck Games)
Cryptid, by Ruth Veevers and Hal Duncan (Osprey Games)
Everdell, by James A. Wilson (Starling Games)
Gizmos, by Phil Walker-Harding (CMON Limited)
Pulsar 2849, by Vladimír Suchý (Czech Games Edition)
Rising Sun, by Eric M. Lang (CMON Limited)
Root, by Cole Wehrle (Leder Games)
Space Base, by John D. Clair (Alderac Entertainment Group)

Family Games

The Climbers, by Holger Lanz (Capstone Games)
Echidna Shuffle, by Kris Gould (Wattsalpoag Games)
The Mansky Caper, by Ken Franklin (Calliope Games)
Pantone: The Game, by Scott Rogers (Cryptozoic Entertainment
Spy Club, by Randy Hoyt and Jason D. Kingsley (Renegade Game Studios)
Strawberry Ninja, by Chris Castagnetto (Strawberry Studio)
Super Kitty Bug Slap, by Sam Mitschke and Randy Scheunemann (Steve Jackson Games)
The Tea Dragon Society Card Game, by Steve Ellis and Tyler Tinsley (Renegade Game Studios)
When I Dream, by Chris Darsalkis (Repos Production)

Card Games

Anatomy Fluxx, by Andrew Looney (Looney Labs)
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, by Prospero Hall (Z-Man Games)
Dark Souls: The Card Game, by David Carl (Steamforged Games)
Get the MacGuffin, by Andrew Looney (Looney Labs)
Maiden's Quest, by Kenneth C. Shannon III (WizKids)
The Mind, by Wolfgang Warsch (Pandasaurus Games)
Villainous, by Prospero Hall (Ravensburger)

Miniature Games

Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, by James Sheahan (Modiphius Entertainment)
Kill Team (Games Workshop)
Kings of War: Vanguard, by Matt Gilbert (Mantic Games)
Necromunda, by Andy Hoare (Games Workshop)
A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game, by Michael Shinall and Eric M. Lang (CMON Limited)
Star Wars: Legion, by Alex Davy (Fantasy Flight Games)

As with any set of award nominees, you can find oddities once you start looking at the lists in more detail. I'm not sure why Villainous qualifies as a card game, for example, whereas Space Base counts as a board game. Seems like they should both be in one category or the other together. Keyforge: Call of the Archons, by the way, was placed in the collectible games category, along with the X-Men Xavier's School expansion for HeroClix, the Dominaria expansion for Magic: The Gathering, the Legacies expansion for Star Wars: Destiny, and six other expansions for more traditional "collectible" games.

Voting is open for the 2019 Deutscher SpielePreis (DSP), with games released in the second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019 being eligible. You can vote directly here, listing up to five family/adult games in the order that you prefer them, along with a single children's game.

Merz Verlag, which oversees both the DSP voting and the annual SPIEL game convention, is giving away more than a hundred games to voters, as well as prizes that award the holder free entry to SPIEL '19. After voting, you'll receive a message via email that you must click to confirm your votes, after which you'll be entered into the prize drawing.
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Wed May 1, 2019 6:05 pm
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Take a Slow Trip to SPIEL '19 for Fast Sloths from 2F-Spiele

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Are you planning for SPIEL '19 yet? Even if you aren't, game publishers are, with German publisher 2F-Spiele announcing its main title for that show: Fast Sloths, which will be titled Faultier in the German edition, "Faultiere" being German for "sloths".

Fast Sloths is, as you might expect, from designer Friedemann Friese, and this 2-5 player game will be released in English by Stronghold Games. Let's start with the publisher's description:

Quote:
You are sloths — cuddly, lazy, and, oh well, slothful.

All animals (including humans) like to take vacations, so everyone is together at a country resort. We sloths are sitting around, of course, while all the other animals are running throughout the resort. We want to look around, too, and traveling around the resort to pick up tasty leaves would be great — but running around ourselves is just too tedious. All the other animals are having fun, and we want that, too, but...we are so slothful.

And then we have an idea: We'll let ourselves be carried around by the other animals, thus getting around nicely. The others animals have so much energy that they'll even gladly carry us. They aren't slothful! Which of us sloths will be the first to get through the entire country and be victorious? We are ambitious, but so lazy!

Fast Sloths is a race game that at its core is a classic pick-up-and-deliver game — except that we ourselves are the cargo being delivered. We are being carried along the whole way and never take a single step on our own!

You always play with six out of twelve different animal species, and you can place the giant game board in four different combinations. On a turn, you draft 2-3 cards of different animal types from the top of their face-up decks, then you play as many animal cards as you like of a single type. Each animal provides a different type of movement or interaction with you, with ants carrying you along in a chain and the elephant throwing you with its trunk.

Fast Sloths is a game free from randomness that evolves only through the interaction between the players, doing so without any "take that" mechanisms — except for you snatching an animal from under the other players' noses because you need to use it yourself...

As mentioned above, you use only six animal species in each game, so by swapping animals in and out, you vary the possible actions available to players. The Power Grid-sized game board comes in two pieces, so you can arrange the segments in four different ways, varying the types of landscapes on the map. 2F-Spiele says that it's already working on new game board configurations and additional animals, and given the long life of Power Grid, I have no doubt that Friese could take this game in all sorts of directions. It all depends on the game's sales, of course, so for now I'll just note this future possibility and move on.


Designer Friedemann Friese with a mock-up of Faultier


I've played Fast Sloths once with the suggested starting set-up, both for the game board and for the six animals in play. For your introductory game, you place the animal tokens on specific spots on the game board, but after this first learning game, the rules suggest that during set-up players take turns placing animal tokens on the board one at a time. Players then choose starting locations for their sloth.

On a turn, you draft 2-3 animal cards from the face-up decks. Each animal card in a deck indicates the types of landscape on which the animal can move as well as its special ability, and the cards are stacked in order from lowest movement value to highest, which means that when you draft, say, a unicorn card, you might be exposing a better unicorn card. Cards played or discarded are placed under the decks in a specific order, so in theory you could track all of that information to know which cards are where in each deck and in each players' hand. I will not be doing that, but the possibility is there should you desire to do so.


Mock-up cards


After drafting, you play one or more cards of the same animal, trying to move your sloth from its current location to one of the many leafy lunches awaiting you. The numbers on a card show how many spaces an animal can move, and if you play multiple cards, you can sum the numbers. If an animal is next to you, it picks you up, then you can ride it up to its maximum movement value, then it can drop you in an adjacent space.

Some animals are straightforward to use, and some less so. A donkey just picks you up and moves you on roads (but not on bridges) and through three types of landscape, while the alligator moves only in water and on certain spaces adjacent to water. The unicorn has fabulous movement values compared to the other animals, but (1) you can play only one unicorn card on a turn and (2) only one unicorn token exists, so you can't rely on constant unicorn travel since someone else might take it in a different direction and leave those cards useless in your hand. To use the eagle, of which only one token exists, you need to play at least six movement points at once, after which that lone eagle will swoop down from wherever it is on the game board, pick you up, then move you up to six spaces.

Ants allow for movement in a chain, and moving from an empty space, then across the backs of one or more ants, then onto the ground again counts as only one movement point. Ideally you can move individual ants to create a chain or a series of space-ant-space-ant-space-ant-space in order to cover lots of ground quickly. (Of course if you do so, someone else can use that chain later, so you want to dismantle the chain behind you, if possible. In most cases you pull the rug up behind you, so to speak, but with the ants you need to do a little more work.)


Sloth standings after the first turn


Fast Sloths falls into an interesting category of games in that it's pitched as a family game, with cute artwork, friendly animals, and a 45-minute playing time, yet the game is luck free and could be a "deep thought" strategy game depending on the willingness of players to track cards drawn and played and anticipate who might be doing what where. You might think of it as the game adapting to the players. If you want to focus solely on your own cards and do stuff from turn to turn, that's possible; if you want to plan multiple turns ahead, you can do so since you draft multiple animal cards each turn, but can play only one type of animal; and if you want to create an overall strategy for how you'll visit eight of the nine leaf locations before anyone else, you can do that, too.

As you collect more leaves, you draw fewer cards each turn, or must discard a card after drawing. In addition, your hand size starts shrinking, so you become pinched for options, which requires greater focus in the endgame when you're trying to collect one of those final leaves. Everyone knows where you need to go, and they might know what's possible for you as well, so you'll need to be a smart sloth in order to stay one step ahead of everyone else — a step taken by someone else, of course, since you'll never step anywhere on your own!
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Tue Apr 30, 2019 5:00 pm
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Game Preview: Wacky Races: The Board Game, or Riding Nostalgia to the Finish Line

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My lack of video game knowledge has bit me once again. In my overview video for Wacky Races: The Board Game, an Andrea Chiarvesio and Fabio Tola design that was released on the U.S. market on April 26, 2019 by CMON Limited, I wondered how large the nostalgia market might possibly be for an animated TV series that debuted in 1968 and lasted only one season.

Turns out that the nostalgia hook isn't reaching back that many decades as Wacky Races appeared as an NES game in 1991, followed by several more such titles on various game systems from 2000 to 2008. Everything old is new again, especially when you can possibly entice players familiar with one game into another one a decade later.

I've neither seen the animated series nor played the video games, so all I can do is evaluate the board game in front of me. Wacky Races: The Board Game is for 2-6 players, with six race cars on the track at all times no matter the player count; after everyone lines up at the starting line, you add neutral cars as needed until all six starting positions are filled.




On a turn, you must play a terrain card from your hand, advancing to the next empty space on the track. You can then optionally play up to two more terrain cards, but you can do so only if the terrain on the card matches the terrain of your current location (except for a few special spaces). If a space already has two racers on it, you skip that space and land on the next one. After you move, Dick Dastardly and Muttley — the series' villains — advance down the middle of the track to the next empty space of the terrain card you last played. If their car is now ahead of all others in play, you place a trap card face down on that space, then move their car to the back of the pack. As soon as someone hits that trap, that player reveals the card and carries out its effects — unless they have a special power that cancels that particular type of trap.

In addition to a trap-cancelling card, each player has three other special power cards, and you can use them at any point during your turn, with those powers allowing you to draw extra cards, steal cards, swap places with other players, and so on. You get to reclaim a power once the last racer in the game reaches the gas station at the halfway point on the track, but otherwise they're usable only once.

Neutral cars move after everyone else has moved in the round, with these cars moving one space, then 0-3 more spaces depending on whether they are on the three terrain cards revealed at random from the deck. Beep beep! Google-assisted self-driving car coming through!

After three games on a review copy from CMON Limited, I can say thatWacky Races: The Board Game feels the same from start to finish: Play 1-3 cards, move 1-3 spaces or possibly more if a space ahead of you is occupied, after which you're probably creating a block that someone else will leapfrog. The first player to reach the finish line wins, but you have almost no opportunity to create a breakaway moment or plan for future turns or surge to victory with a last minute burst of energy. Belying its own title, the game doesn't feel much like a racing game as everyone kind of moves in a group bit by bit, then the game ends. The design has a great look to it, with miniatures that match your expectation as to what CMON would deliver, but beyond that the game doesn't move far past the starting line...


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Mon Apr 29, 2019 8:07 pm
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Links: AEG Publishes Less, Hasbro Earns More, and Asmodee Preps Paperbacks

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Alderac Entertainment Group's John Zinser has stepped away from his role as the company's CEO to become its Director of Development, and in this new position he's started a blog on the AEG website to talk about (1) his gaming past and his new role that will focus more on games than business; (2) the gaming house AEG has set up in southern California for playing, playtesting, designer meet-ups, and other fun stuff; and most relevant for us given recent discussions on the topic (3) AEG's decision to publish fewer new titles. An excerpt from that third post:

Quote:
It's no secret that AEG has in the last few years sold a couple of our premier product lines. And we have also launched Thunderstone and Edge of Darkness on Kickstarter, something we would have never done 7 years ago. I realize that people have strong opinions on both these topics, so I will be doing a deeper dive into why we made these decisions and our opinion on how companies can become their better selves when the market changes and still take advantage of new opportunities.

For now we can say that AEG is using the sales of those games to make the goal of doing fewer games a reality. It would be nearly impossible to make this change without cash reserves. To make this work you must invest more in your games up front and take a bigger risks, all of which are not possible if your product decisions are affected by the cash flow monster we were talking about above.

We have not set a hard target on the number of games we will publish in a year. Who knows? Maybe the Holy Grail is ONE NEW GAME. That seems crazy, especially to us since we love games so much, but who knows. We have gone from as many as 20 new titles down to five or six.

For now we are happy with the idea that every game we decide to publish will be a game that we think has its best chance to succeed. And rather than looking on to the next product, we are going to give every game its chance to find its place in the sun.

Aconyte is the newly founded fiction imprint for Asmodee Entertainment, with Aconyte planning to publish "novels based on many of Asmodee's best game properties". An excerpt from the press release:

Quote:
Aconyte are also actively pursuing licenses for third-party tie-in fiction, with the first of these at the contract stage. Aconyte will start a monthly publication schedule from early summer 2020, producing paperbacks and ebooks for the US, UK and export trade.

To helm the imprint, Asmodee has appointed Marc Gascoigne, lately publisher & MD of award-winning global scifi imprint Angry Robot. He's hired assistant editor, Lottie Llewelyn-Wells, and publishing coordinator, Nick Tyler, to join him in new offices in Nottingham.

In case you're not familiar with Asmodee Entertainment, here's a self-description from this branch of the Asmodee octopus: "Asmodee Entertainment is a newly formed platform of games publisher and distributor Asmodee. Its mission is to extend Asmodee's leading intellectual properties into TV/film, book and comics publishing, location based-entertainment, and consumer products, working in parallel with sister platforms Asmodee Boardgames and Asmodee Digital. Asmodee Entertainment will reach many new audiences and further delight existing fans through the creation of compelling story and character content set in Asmodee's vibrant game universes. By establishing best-in-class partnerships across the full spectrum of opportunities, Asmodee Entertainment aims to create truly global intellectual properties and brands."

• On April 23, 2019, Hasbro reported its first quarter earnings for 2019, with its overall revenue up 2% to $732.5 million, with its "Hasbro Gaming" division up 2% as well, and with its "total gaming category" up an astounding 20% to $243.4 million compared to $203.5 million in 2018. In press release speak: "Hasbro believes its gaming portfolio is a competitive differentiator and views it in its entirety."

What that sentence refers to is the difference between "Hasbro Gaming" and Hasbro's "total gaming category", and this difference results from how the company categorizes products internally. Product lines such as Magic: The Gathering, Monopoly, Transformers, and Play-Doh are classified as "Franchise Brands", and revenue in this category stands apart from that of Hasbro Gaming. (Within the category of Hasbro Gaming, Hasbro notes that "DUEL MASTERS, CONNECT 4 and TWISTER were among the games contributing to revenue growth for the category.")

Revenue from Beyblade is included in the "Partner Brands" category since Hasbro is not the originator of such items; Hasbro notes that "Revenue growth continued in BEYBLADE", but these gains were offset by sales declines in other brands within that category.

• While searching for something else, my wife ran across a short article from 2008 from AI researcher and theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky that challenges people to use the concept behind the party game Taboo to reconsider how you would present thoughts and arguments, partly as a way to resolve conflicts and partly to more specifically state what you actually think. After presenting these two sentences:

—Albert: "A tree falling in a deserted forest makes a sound."
—Barry: "A tree falling in a deserted forest does not make a sound."

Yudkowsky writes:

Quote:
Clearly, since one says "sound" and one says "not sound", we must have a contradiction, right? But suppose that they both dereference their pointers before speaking:

—Albert: "A tree falling in a deserted forest matches [membership test: this event generates acoustic vibrations]."
—Barry: "A tree falling in a deserted forest does not match [membership test: this event generates auditory experiences]."

Now there is no longer an apparent collision — all they had to do was prohibit themselves from using the word sound. If "acoustic vibrations" came into dispute, we would just play Taboo again and say "pressure waves in a material medium"; if necessary we would play Taboo again on the word "wave" and replace it with the wave equation. (Play Taboo on "auditory experience" and you get "That form of sensory processing, within the human brain, which takes as input a linear time series of frequency mixes...")

More generally writes Yudkowsky:

Quote:
When you find yourself in philosophical difficulties, the first line of defense is not to define your problematic terms, but to see whether you can think without using those terms at all. Or any of their short synonyms. And be careful not to let yourself invent a new word to use instead. Describe outward observables and interior mechanisms; don't use a single handle, whatever that handle may be.
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Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:00 pm
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The BoardGameGeek Show: The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth, Black Angel, and Origins 2019 Preview Preorders

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Scott Alden, Steph Hodge, Lincoln Damerst, and I are back in a new episode of The BoardGameGeek Show, with all of us talking about somewhat long games that we've played in the past couple of weeks.

Scott and Lincoln dove into The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth for five hours (after starting play at 11:00 p.m.), while Steph played Escape Plan and I played Pearl Games' Gen Con 2019 release Black Angel four times in two days, with all of those games lasting 2-2.5 hours. I kept teaching the game to new players, so I was the only one with experience, which made the games last longer as you have a lot to consider in your first playing. You're attempting to put together long-term plans without having an idea of how the game flows from beginning to end, so initially you're kind of taking actions at random, then the lightbulb goes on halfway through the game. (I played game #5 of Black Angel a couple of days after recording this episode, and I now feel ready to record an overview video once I try the solo game once or twice. So much preparation...)

Near the beginning of this episode of The BGG Show, Scott reveals a new initiative we'll debut with the Origins 2019 Preview on Monday, May 6, this being the ability for publishers to take preorders for their new releases through the Preview for pick-up at that convention. I've already showed off this addition to BGG convention previews to more than a dozen publishers, and I'll send out details about this system to publishers on Monday, April 29 along with my RFI letter for Origins 2019. Once the Origins 2019 Preview goes live the following week, I'll post details about the program for you, gentle reader. For now, I'll just say that I'm excited we finally have this system in place!




00:20 Opening and intros
00:52 BGG Spring! Get tickets here: https://boardgamegeek.com/bggcon/spring
02:14 Origins 2019 Convention Preview Preorder Pick-Up
05:17 Very few tickets remain for BGG.CON!
05:45 What Have You Been Playing?: Lincoln - Big Trouble in Little China: The Board Game - Christopher Batarlis, Boris Polonsky, Jim Samartino - Everything Epic Games
08:06 Eric - Black Angel - Sébastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges, Alain Orban - Pearl Games
14:56 Scott - The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth - Nathan I. Hajek, Grace Holdinghaus - Fantasy Flight Games
21:47 Steph - Hadara - Benjamin Schwer - Hans im Glück
26:21 Escape Plan - Vital Lacerda - Eagle-Gryphon Games
29:41 Roll-and-writes galore
31:28 News and New Releases: Bloodborne: The Board Game & God of War: The Card Game
33:54 Mensa Select winners
36:28 Kickstarter News: Terraforming Mars: Turmoil - Jacob Fryxelius - FryxGames, Stronghold Games
38:17 Oceans - Nick Bentley, Dominic Crapuchettes, Ben Goldman, Brian O'Neill - North Star Games
40:22 Kickstarter slowing down?
43:03 Goodbyes
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Sat Apr 27, 2019 9:25 pm
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New Game Round-up: Roads and Boats and Pandas and Brains!

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• In 2017, Dutch publisher Splotter Spellen released a new edition of KIEK to celebrate the company's twentieth anniversary. In 2019, the company is publishing a new twentieth anniversary version of what is arguably its most famous game — Roads & Boats by Jeroen Doumen and Joris Wiersinga — with this version including the &Cetera expansion that allows for games with up to six players, while also adding lots of other material and scenarios to the game. For those who haven't played, here's a quick rundown on the game:

Quote:
In Roads & Boats, each player builds a civilization over a long period of time, like in many other games. Unlike most games, however, the emphasis is not on warfare, population growth, city or statebuilding, but on logistics, or rather: on transport.

Each player starts the game with three donkeys, a pile of wooden boards, a number of stones and two geese. With these few resources, you try to build such diverse things as woodcutters, roads, boats, mines, a stock exchange... but beware! There is no concept of territory in this game: you cannot own land, nor buildings, so the things you build can be used by any other player...

Splotter Spellen notes this fifth edition of the game includes no changes other than the inclusion of the &Cetera expansion, and while copies are being set aside for sale at SPIEL '19, it's also taking preorders on its website for those who (1) don't want to miss out and (2) don't want to devote half a suitcase to a single game.

Proof artwork of the new cover


• Instead of fitting Roads & Boats on your shelf, you could fit the entire publication catalog of Jellybean Games, even with the company doubling its catalog over the next twelve months. In addition to the just released Village Pillage, a simultaneous play game about raising and stealing turnips, Jellybean Games plans to release the following titles, with all of them being designed or co-designed by the company's own Peter C. Hayward:

Hidden Panda in June 2019, with 5-8 players secretly taking the roles of pandas (who want their babies back), bandits (who want to net pandas), and the keeper (who wants the pandas to be happy). If all pandas are netted by the end of the third round, then the bandits win; otherwise the team with the most panda babies wins.
Brains! in September 2019, with this 2-5 player game challenging you to play cards for either their brain value or their special ability, with everyone racing to collect 21 brains first.
Dracula's Feast: New Blood in January 2020, with this being an updated version of 2017's Dracula's Feast, with 4-8 players trying to bite one another or not get bit.
Jabberwocky in April 2020, with this 1-7 player game featuring nine different games that can be played with the same components: a mancala-style game, an area control game, a solo puzzle game, and so on. BGG user Jamie Thul has a nice overview of Joel Colombo's solo game here, and you can download the print-and-play materials from Jellybean (PDF) should you want to try any or all of these designs one year in advance.

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Fri Apr 26, 2019 6:02 pm
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Links: Kickstarter Reaches $1 Billion in Games Backed, and Steve Jackson Reports on Sales in 2018

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• Phil Reed, CEO at Steve Jackson Games, has published that company's annual "Stakeholders' Report", a summary of the year's successes, failures, and lessons learned. SJG grossed US$5.3 million in 2018, less than in 2017, but as Reed writes, a "combination of staff cuts, reducing our print runs to better suit the current market, and a focus in the second half of the year on our more successful titles put us in a stronger position at the end of the year than expected."

"Reducing print runs" is a regular theme in this report, with SJG having a greater reliance on Kickstarter in 2018 to determine print runs ahead of a game's production, while also opening a second "Warehouse 23" account on Kickstarter to handle projects that would be sold directly to gamers and not enter distribution.

Reed says that the main trend from 2017 — i.e., the game-publishing business becoming "more a periodicals business", as covered in this March 2018 BGG News post — only accelerated in 2018:

Quote:
If 2017 was the year for new games, 2018 was the bigger, louder sequel. Thousands of new titles were released in 2018, with some coming and going so fast that even professionals missed the release. Many of those games got pushed to the clearance racks faster than ever before; during the winter holiday sales, some games released as recently as September were already on deep discount.

As he writes elsewhere in the report: "This is an industry-wide issue; we've discussed the problem with several of our friends, and most of us are watching as demand for new games continues to drop."

• On April 16, 2019, Kickstarter announced that more than US$1 billion has been pledged to game projects from more than 3.2 million backers since the site's debut in 2009: "Backers like you have funded nearly 17,000 Games projects, bringing to life the beautiful, bold, and unexpected visions of creators from across the globe. We've seen projects that made us laugh, cry, shoot lasers at bad guys, and think about games in totally new ways."

Note that the games category includes video games, playing cards, role-playing games, game-related calendars, and many other items beyond board and card games.

• I thought that I had posted this video already, but alas I had only placed it in a post-to-come. I have many such incomplete posts saved in this blog, yet thankfully sometimes I rediscover forgotten material that is still relevant. In this case, we have two videos from YouTube creator Archipel, with the focus of their videos being "Japanese creators, artists, and the places that inspire them".

In November 2018, Archipel posted its first video in a new series titled "Hidengen", which apparently means something like "analog". These videos will feature graphic designer and game designer YACOYON talking about and interviewing people about the board game scene in Japan. The first video focuses on board game cafés, specifically Asobi Café (which I don't think is connected to publisher ASOBI.dept) and Jelly Jelly Café (which is related to publisher Jelly Jelly Games):




The second video, which is what led me to re-discover the first one, appeared in late March 2019, and it profiles those behind game publishers Arclight, Oink Games, and Ten Days Games:


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Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:00 pm
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Mergers, Splits, and Distribution Deals: Winsome Stops Laying Track, HeidelBÄR Leaves Asmodee, and Heidelberger Returns to Business

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• In January 2017, the Asmodee Group acquired German publisher and distributor Heidelberger Spieleverlag, with the publishing part of that company being broken out into HeidelBÄR Games.

Now HeidelBÄR Games has broken off from the Asmodee Group to become an independent company, HeidelBÄR Games GmbH. Here's an excerpt from the March 2019 press release announcing the split:

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Ownership has been transferred to Heiko Eller-Bilz, the previous studio manager. Much remains the same in other respects: the studio office will remain in Miltenberg, Germany, as will the HeidelBÄR team.

Likewise, our partnership with Asmodee will not completely end, since we will continue to cooperate with different Asmodee units internationally. Our first game TAGS will remain with Asmodee, and of course, we as HeidelBÄR Games will continue to support TAGS wherever we can.

For us HeidelBÄRs, this step is a return to our roots. As Heidelberger Spieleverlag, we had operated as an independent games studio for years, with all of the flexibility, creative chaos, personal responsibility, and long-term cooperation that comes with it. As HeidelBÄR Games GmbH, we still aim to create original games connecting geeks, non-gamers, and families alike.

The next title coming from HeidelBÄR Games is Wordsmith from designers Bill Eberle, Peter Olotka, and Greg Olotka — this being a new edition of their Eon title Runes — and you can watch a preview of the game here.

• In a related development, Heidelberger Spieleverlag has returned to business as of April 2019. How? Former Heidelberger Spieleverlag executive Johannes Kastner had launched the wholesale business JoeKas WORLD in 2018, distributing titles from Ferti Games, Jolly Thinker, Mebo, and others, but with HeidelBÄR Games now separate from Asmodee, Kastner has adopted the Heidelberger Spieleverlag brand once more, with that company now handling titles from HeidelBÄR, among others.

Whereas publishing and distribution were combined in the former Heidelberger Spieleverlag, HeidelBÄR notes that the two will remain independent in the future:

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The separation of distribution and development has proven to make sense in many respects, and so the two divisions remain separate companies as Heidelberger Spieleverlag and HeidelBÄR Games.

What used to be a company with more than 30 employees and many international partners is now a small enterprise in the process of being established. The German localization and distribution for partners transferred to Asmodee will remain there. However, further publishers are to be added as new partners. In the future, HeidelBÄR Games will also return to the localization business and release German versions of international game titles, which will then be distributed by Heidelberger Spieleverlag.

Grey Fox Games developer Josh Lobkowicz has started a new game publishing company called Travel Buddy Games, with titles from this company intended to come in a small package suitable for traveling (duh), while also being approachable by mainstream game players and tied thematically to a travel destination, both to inspire travel to this location and to serve as a reminder of the place for those who have been. Lobkowicz hasn't yet announced any titles for the line, but he lays out what he's looking for on the TBG website should you be a designer with an appropriate game.

• U.S.-based publisher Ludus Magnus Studio funded Black Rose Wars on Kickstarter to the tune of $1.3 million, but after delivering product to backers (which is currently scheduled for June 2019), LMS will let Ares Games handle distribution of the game to retailers, albeit without all the KS bells and whistles. Here's an excerpt from an Ares Games press release:

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The agreement brings to the next level the creative collaboration between Ludus Magnus and Ares, which already produced miniature crossovers between Sine Tempore and Galaxy Defenders, and between Black Rose Wars and Sword & Sorcery. Ludus Magnus also designed several of the miniatures for the new Sword & Sorcery cycle, "Ancient Chronicles"...

The retail version [of Black Rose Wars] to be published by Ares Games will be different of the KS edition, being adapted to distribution in the hobby market in terms of size and retail price, while still providing a fully satisfying gameplay experience.

Ares Games also plans to distribute the retail edition of Ludus Magnus Studio's Dungeonology: The Expedition, which is being funded on Kickstarter (link) through April 2019.

• U.S. publisher Winsome Games has apparently run out of track, so to speak, with company owner John Bohrer announcing — as published on BGG courtesy of Ingo Griebsch — that the 2019 Essen Set "is probably the last Essen Set we will produce".

That set consists of two games — Pennsylvania Railroad and 1836 — and while Bohrer notes that Winsome will end with a smaller production run than it had in 2018, this won't be the last time you see game designs from him: "I am 63 years old and retired. Making all these Essen Sets is more difficult than many seem to think. I will still create games and they might be licensed. There are 6 existing Winsome Games licensed to big firms that have not yet been announced by the licensees."
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Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:00 pm
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Indie Game Studios/Stronghold Games Sues Plan B Games over Great Western Trail

W. Eric Martin
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The Indiana Intellectual Property Blog serves as a marketing vehicle for intellectual property and business attorney Kenan Farrell of KLF Legal — no, not that KLF — and he notes on the blog's "About" page that it's "intended to educate, entertain and enlighten readers on Intellectual Property law, news and events, particularly focusing on stories that directly affect Indiana".

Turns out that one of those stories might be of interest to you, fellow BGG user. On April 18, 2019, Farrell wrote about a lawsuit filed by Indie Game Studios, LLC d/b/a Stronghold Games LLC against Plan B Games, Inc. and Plan B Games Europe GMBH on April 15, 2019 in which Stronghold "seeks monetary relief for Defendants' acts of trademark infringement and unfair competition under the federal Lanham Act, trademark infringement and unfair competition under Indiana common law, and common law conspiracy". Here is Farrell's initial summary of the lawsuit:

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The Complaint (below) [Ed. note: Viewable on Scribd here] references a contract by which the plaintiff, Stronghold Games, would exclusively publish a board game called "Great Western Trail" from August 3, 2016 to December 31, 2018. At that time, the game was owned by a German company called eggertspiele. The Complaint alleges that one of the obligations eggertspiele agreed to in the contract was it "will not during the term grant to any other person, firm or company any rights that would derogate from the grant made" in its contract with Stronghold Games.

Stronghold first released Great Western Trail in the U.S. in November 2016. It was very popular and quick sold out. However, while seeking permission for a second print run of the game in June 2017, Stronghold learned that all assets of eggertspiele had been purchased by Plan B Games, the defendant.

Plan B Games asserted that it had no contract with Stronghold and it did not grant reprint rights to Stronghold. Subsequently, in January 2018, Plan B Games released its own version of Great Western Trail, seemingly identical but removing Stronghold's logo from the packaging.

Farrell included this image in his post, with this image coming from Indie Game Studios' complaint:




Farrell might not realize (or perhaps simply didn't state) that this similarity of imagery and layout is often common in licensed games.


Original German/English version co-published by eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele

Current (as of 2019) German-only version of GWT from eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele

Other editions of GWT w/ 2D covers not available for all, alas


To continue with Farrell's remarks:

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I think this paragraph from the Complaint nicely sums up why Stronghold is unhappy with the current state of affairs: "Plan B was well aware of the pent-up demand for the Stronghold Version of this game in 2017, and the introduction of the nearly identical Plan B Version in early 2018 to satisfy the pent-up demand for the Stronghold Version improperly traded on Stronghold's goodwill and has led to consumer confusion."

Unfortunately, while the Complaint references the initial contract between Stronghold and eggertspiele granting publication rights, it didn't include a copy of the contract for review. Although the contract apparently included language about minimum duration and exclusivity, it's unclear whether the contract granted any property interest in the Great Western Trail trademark to Stronghold.

As general information, license agreements can give licensees standing to sue for infringement, provided that they grant an exclusive license and a property interest in the trademark. A trademark licensee's proper use of a mark benefits the trademark owner, not the licensee. This allows trademark owners to rely on use by controlled licensees to prove continuing use of a trademark. Section 5 of the Lanham Act explicitly recognises the acquisition of trademark rights by a licensor through first use of the mark by a controlled licensee.

However, in this situation, Stronghold appears to assert its own claim to property rights in the GREAT WESTERN TRAIL trademark distinct from the licensor, based on its own exclusive marketing efforts in the United States.

I look forward to reading the Answer, which hopefully will include the original contract. Stay tuned for updates.

The complaint states that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has jurisdiction for this matter "because the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and this civil action is between citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state", while adding that the court has jurisdiction over the defendants "because they purposely directed the activities at issue in this case towards this District, as evidenced at least by their presence and activities at the 2018 GenCon [sic] convention that occurred in this District and the offending sales that occurred in this District".

H/T: René Raps
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Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:15 pm
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New Game Round-up: Place Animals, Collect Mana, Deliver Pizzas, Keep the Peace, and Provoke Your Girlfriend

W. Eric Martin
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• Let's check out more teasers for games that will debut at the Tokyo Game Market in May 2019, as well as games that have appeared from independent Japanese designer/publishers in the past year.

Three Magic, for example, is a card game from Kei Tsukahara and Mahoroba that's designed solely for three players. Here's all that I know about the game so far: "Your goal in Three Magic, a.k.a. スリーマジック, is to collect three cards of mana (the power of the nature) in order to create a spell; create three spells to complete your magic. Do this first, and you win."

If you speak Japanese, you can visit the publisher's blog on the Game Market website and probably get more out of what's posted there than I can. Artist Makoto Takami has also tweeted background info on the card illustrations and design.

Joraku designer Iori Tsukinami won first prize in the Board Game Grand Prix design competition for "Bird Watching", winning ¥20,000 (approx. US$200) and publication of the design by the competition organizers, online retailer Bodoge and brick-and-mortar retailer DEAR SPIELE. The design will debut at TGM in May 2019 under the name Photome's, with players now looking for cats instead of birds. An overview:

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Photome's, a.k.a. フォトムズ, is a co-operative game in which you place animals to be visible — or place 3D buildings to hide certain animals — to create your ideal city. Use your smartphone to check whether your ideal city is being built properly.

Games in the competition had to have a theme based on housing, and in the award announcement, the designer notes that this game was inspired by a favorite children's "search" picture book: "...it was conceived from the thought that I want you to create a three-dimensional cityscape and enjoy it from 360º". To do this, you fold two-dimensional cards to create that 3D city in which the animals live, whether seen or unseen depending on the game conditions.

• Although One Draw debuted Hayato Kisaragi's Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town debuted at the November 2018 TGM, the game is still new and unknown by most people, but to rectify that situation James Nathan has published an excellent introduction and overview of the game on Opinionated Gamers.

To sum up, one player is mayor of the town, creating its layout or using one of the pre-created layouts, while everyone else is a pizza deliverer who cannot see where they're going and must learn where things are by stumbling around and paying attention to what other players are doing. On a turn, a player can move one space orthogonally, attack orthogonally to attempt to banish a ghost, or use a psychic power. The mayor then resolves the action, tells the player the location of any barriers adjacent to the player, and whether or not the player senses any ghosts/pizzas/houses in any of the eight spaces surrounding the player. The players have only twenty turns to locate a pizza and deliver it to the matching house, and the first deliverer to do so wins.

にゃんこパイレーツ (Nyanko Pirates) is the second title from the father-and-daughter design team of らなとパパ (Lana&Papa), and the 2-5 pussycat pirates in this dice-based game journey along the shores of multiple islands where danger and treasures await. In the designer's words: "Will you dare fight for treasures by yourself, or will you take someone else with you? Two adventurers' worth of shields and swords might be of great help to succeed in beating the danger, but it also means sharing everything you find!" The game will have English rules on BGG at the time of its debut at TGM.

• To travel a bit in southeast Asia, I'll point out 花式自殺, a February 2019 release from Hong Kong publisher TIME2PLAY GAMES with a title that translates to something like "Fancy Suicide". The game bears the subtitle "十萬個激嬲女友的理由", which could be translated as "1001 Ways to Provoke Your Girlfriend", and someone pointed out to me that this subtitle belongs to a Facebook group "that posts dialogues of guys angering their SO with bad jokes or innocent things (to a guy)". The cover image makes so much more sense in light of this information.

As for what the game is about, well, I'll just say this is one way to provoke the BGG News audience...

• Let's close with the first title from INTELLIGENT MONKEY, a new publisher founded by someone from Taiwan Boardgame Design who would (as best as I can understand it) set up Japanese information on the TBD website ahead of that group's appearance at Game Markets in Japan. That individual has now founded a design circle with both Taiwanese and Japanese members, and its first release will be Zoomate, with the title currently undergoing funding on the Japanese crowdfunding site Campfire. Here's an overview of this game for 4-7 players:

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In Zoomate, the country of fire and the country of water — rivals who recently conducted a worldwide conflict — are in an uneasy peace thanks to a neutral third party that wants to wield power in order to maintain that peace.

Unfortunately, the central power plant has been hacked, and now all three parties are grabbing for whatever power they can in order to bring victory to their side or (in the case of the third party) lock in a permanent stalemate between fire and water. If fire or water gain control of three or more power switches by the end of the fifth turn, then they win; if neither does by game's end, then the neutral party has preserved peace and won.


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Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:00 pm
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