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

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New Game Round-up: Fantastic Four Head Back to Print, Andor Keeps Expanding, and Tomb of Annihilation Welcomes Visitors

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• A reprint of Legendary: Fantastic Four — which quickly went out of print after its initial release in 2013 and which has sold for up to $200-250 on the BGG Marketplace and eBay — is coming from Upper Deck Entertainment, with this $20 MSRP expansion likely to hit the market once again in August 2017. As UDE's Jason Brenner notes on ICv2, this item's previous non-availability on the market was due to a "licensor-controlled issue", namely Marvel Entertainment or its parent company not authorizing a reprint.

• How the years fly by... To celebrate the fifth anniversary of Michael Menzel's Legends of Andor, in Q4 2017 German publisher KOSMOS plans to release Die Legende von Andor: Die Bonus-Box, which contains additional legends, bonus material of an undefined nature, and a soundtrack CD for use with the base game (and possibly the expansions as well).

• Speaking of KOSMOS, whether or not the publisher takes home the Kennerspiel des Jahres for 2017 for the first three EXIT: The Game titles from Inka and Markus Brand, the line is clearly a success, with three new titles — Die Station im ewigen Eis, Die verbotene Burg, and Die vergessene Insel — hitting retail stores in Germany in early June 2017 and four additional titles — Das Haus der Rätsel, Die unheimliche Villa, Der versunkene Schatz, and Der Tote im Orient-Express — following in Q4 2017.

• Yesterday I posted about the announcement of Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, a Dungeons & Dragons-themed take on Betrayal at House on the Hill, but a couple of other game announcements took place during Wizards of the Coast's "Stream of Annihilation", a special event to announce its new D&D storyline "Tomb of Annihilation".

On Saturday, June 2, WizKids announced Dungeons and Dragons Dice Masters: Tomb of Annihilation, with this being another entry in the sprawling Dice Masters line. One new element for this expansion is the release of draft packs; you need at least one D&D Dice Masters starter box and one draft pack per player, with players drafting one card and two matching dice from each pack until they both have twelve cards, after which they must choose eight for their team.

In addition to that, in August 2017 WizKids will release Tomb of Annihilation Board Game, a 1-5 player cooperative game by Kevin Wilson that's part of the publisher's Adventure System Board Games line. As with WizKids' Assault of the Giants, released in early 2017, Tomb of Annihilation Board Game will be released in two versions, with the premium version having pre-painted miniatures.

You can watch the announcements during day 1 of the "Stream of Annihilation", starting at 4:29.

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Mon Jun 5, 2017 1:00 pm
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Dungeons & Dragons + House on the Hill = Betrayal at Baldur's Gate

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On June 3, 2017, during its "Stream of Annihilation" — a special event to announce its new Dungeons & Dragons storyline "Tomb of Annihilation" — Wizards of the Coast revealed a separate D&D-related item that will be of interest to board game fans as well: Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, a 3-6 player game based on Betrayal at House on the Hill that's due out November 15 October 6, 2017. (You can view the announcement in this video starting at 2:38:20.) Here's a game overview from the publisher:

Quote:
The shadow of Bhaal has come over Baldur's Gate, summoning monsters and other horrors from the darkness!

As you build and explore the iconic city's dark alleys and deadly catacombs, you must work with your fellow adventurers to survive the terrors ahead. That is, until some horrific evil turns one — or possibly more — of you against each other. Was it a mind flayer's psionic blast or the whisperings of a deranged ghost that caused your allies to turn traitor? You have no choice but to keep your enemies close!

In Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, you'll return to Baldur's Gate again and again thanks to the fifty included scenarios only to discover it's never the same game twice. Can you and your party survive the madness, or will you succumb to the mayhem and split (or slaughter!) the party?

We have an appointment with Avalon Hill on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EDT (GMT-4) during our Origins Game Fair livestream to show off the game in some detail.

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Sun Jun 4, 2017 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Tile Your Way to Dragon Island, Expand Magic Maze, and Prepare to Say F*That!

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• BGG's Gen Con 2017 Preview, which will go live on Monday, June 19, now has more than one hundred listings on it, with the latest being Dragon Island, an explorations game from Mike Fitzgerald and R&R Games. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
In Dragon Island, you and up to three other players take on the role of wizards cast away onto a seemingly deserted island. Players compete throughout their journey to gain as much treasure as possible, building up the island tile by double-sided tile. Discover exotic terrains, build special structures, manage your magical energy, and tame dragons!

Once the entire island has been discovered, your quest is over, and whoever has accumulated the most treasure wins!

• U.S. publisher Mattel is joining the R-rated party game bandwagon with the Q3 2017 release of F*That!, which means "Forget that!" or possibly "Forgo that!" or something friendly along those lines. As for the gameplay, it goes like this:

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In F*That!, the active player each round is presented with an uncomfortable or unusual situation (e.g., You've just gone to the bathroom only to discover afterward that no toilet paper is available. What's an acceptable substitute?) along with five possible solutions for this situation (e.g., fashion magazine, pile of leaves, etc.). The active player tells everyone how many of the solutions they find acceptable, then everyone else simultaneously guesses which solutions that player might pick.

The Colonists designer Tim Puls is playtesting a cooperative two-player scenario in which you defend against zombie intruders. Do you want to see zombies in this world? Puls is polling BGG users on what they want to fight in their newly created villages. Leeches is not an option.

• In more definite happenings from Lookout Spiele, for SPIEL 2017 the publisher will release Riverboat by Michael Kiesling and an expansion for Isle of Skye from Alexander Pfister and Andreas Pelikan that currently bears the working title The Wanderer; Pfister notes that the expansion has both more of what's already in the game thanks to new landscape tiles and new scoring tiles, as well as a new game board element that provides a new way to score. He says, "With four people, it increases playing time by about ten minutes."

• To continue with the teasers for SPIEL 2017, Sit Down! has posted the following for Spiel des Jahres-nominated Magic Maze:
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Sat Jun 3, 2017 5:28 pm
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Asmodee North America to Go Exclusive with Alliance Game Distributors

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In December 2015, Asmodee North America announced a plan to reduce the number of distributors that it deals with for the hobby game market to five: ACD Distribution, Alliance Game Distributors, GTS Distribution, PHD Games, and Southern Hobby Supply. As of August 1, 2017, that number will be reduced to one, with Alliance Game Distributors signing a multi-year agreement with ANA that's "aimed at broadly increasing support for U.S. hobby games retailers", to quote from the press release. Here's the rest of it:

Quote:
This includes the creation of a large, dedicated Asmodee Specialist Team at Alliance, significant updates to Asmodee's sales policies, and a number of upcoming retailer initiatives designed to support and grow the market.

More information on updated Asmodee sales policies and details about upcoming retailer initiatives will be made available in late June.

"This is an amazing and transformational deal," said Christian T. Petersen, CEO of Asmodee North America. "We at Asmodee have long enjoyed a terrific and productive relationship with the great people at Alliance. This deal joins the combined experience of both organizations to craft a communications and distribution infrastructure that we believe will positively affect both retailers and consumers in the hobby games market."

"We are truly honored to be part of this historic agreement," said Daniel Hirsch, president of Alliance Game Distributors. "Alliance has enjoyed a very close relationship with the companies that make up Asmodee North America for over 20 years. We are both proud and grateful that Asmodee has placed its trust in us for the stewardship of its brands."

Asmodee has declined to participate in interviews about this deal until late June 2017 when it announces the new sales policies. It has noted that new releases and restocks will be available from the five currently authorized distributors until August 1, 2017, after which Alliance will be the only source for such items in the hobby game market.

In some ways this is a return to old habits for parts of ANA as design studio Days of Wonder was exclusive with Alliance for many years and remained exclusive for a period after being purchased by Asmodee in mid-2014. Z-Man Games was exclusive with Alliance until January 2016 when it opened distribution to four other companies, namely the four non-Alliance companies listed above. (Asmodee subsequently announced negotiations to purchase Z-Man owner F2Z Entertainment in July 2016, completing the deal in October 2016.)

So what now? The four non-Alliance distributors will lose some percentage of their business, and whether they survive or not will depend on what that percentage is and what they do in response to this loss of revenue. Hobby retailers who previously dealt with a non-Alliance distributor for titles that originate or are distributed by Asmodee North America must now deal with Alliance — unless they purchase directly from ANA, of course, which might be where this path leads to in the end. After all, ANA has gone from a dozen distributors to five to one in a couple of years. Why stop there?

At the same time as the December 2015 announcement about its distribution, ANA made changes to how it interacted with online retailers, both prohibiting general retailers from selling ANA titles online and lowering the discount at which online retailers could purchase games, thereby effectively raising prices of games sold through those outlets. This change to a single distributor will give ANA still tighter control over its inventory, better allowing them to know who sells what and for what price.

As for what happens with other publishers in response to this, specifically CMON Limited, which is positioning itself as the Avis of the hobby game industry, we'll have to wait and see...
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Thu Jun 1, 2017 6:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Claim Crystals, Crush Kaiju, and Compete to Be a Superpower

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Crystal Clans from newcomer Andrea Mezzotero seems to tick some of the same boxes as Plaid Hat Games' Summoner Wars — with each player take charge of one of six clans to summon units on a landscape, move them around, and attack one another — but in this game players are racing to claim four crystals first.

To claim a crystal, you must occupy two of the three crystal zones without the opponent being there, which means you need to coordinate your actions so that you can score on your turn before the moment is lost. The action system is somewhat open, with one player taking actions as they wish — with each action having its own cost — until the initiative marker is moved into the opponent's half of the initiative track, after which the opponent starts fighting back. English rules are already posted (PDF) should you want more details.




Vital Lacerda's Kanban: Automotive Revolution will be available in a new edition in October 2017 from Stronghold Games with no changes other than differently-shaped cars for each color and a double-sided game board "to help newcomers to understand the board in an easier way", according to Lacerda.

Martin Wallace's The Arrival, a reimplementation of Mordred released by newcomer Game's Up at SPIEL 2016, has been picked up by Cryptozoic Entertainment for release in English in Q4 2017. The publisher's Dekan Wheeler mentions that this edition will feature "new art, slight rules adjustments, and an advanced mode of play".

Iron Curtain is a two-player microgame from Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen, and Ultra PRO that challenges players to dominate battlegrounds — majorities, area control and domino effects — to assert their influence in the world. Iron Curtain is due out in August 2017.

• In November 2017, Fireside Games will release Kaiju Crush from Justin De Witt and Tim Armstrong, with players crushing city tiles and marking those spaces with territory markers to complete secret objectives and satisfy their lizard brains. You can fight each other, of course, with each kaiju having special abilities layered on top of a five-fold RPS-style combat system.

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Wed May 31, 2017 10:12 pm
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Games Played and Seen at BGG.CON Spring 2017: Wettlauf nach El Dorado, Ethnos, Kreus, Mini Rails, Pulsar 2849, Tokyo Highway, Downforce, and Terraforming Mars

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The 2017 BGG.CON Spring convention took place this past weekend, and I attended for 1.5 of the four days given that I only recently returned from one trip and will be heading to the 2017 Origins Game Fair in a couple of weeks. Trying not to burn out on travel, while still doing a fair amount of traveling!

As was the case at BGG.CON Spring in 2016, I played a small number of games multiple times while sampling a few other titles, most of which I had brought with me. We once again had all of the Spiel, Kennerspiel, and Kinderspiel des Jahres nominees set up for sampling in a special part of the main room, and as soon as I walked in and saw folks looking over the SdJ-nominated Wettlauf nach El Dorado, I knew that I had to jump in and teach them — and play in the third seat, of course — having already played a half-dozen times and recorded an overview video about the game.




Immediately after this game, I played with others on a medium-difficulty set-up, and I inserted myself in multiple other game sessions over the next thirty hours to correct rules that folks were getting wrong. No, you don't keep the barriers between tiles face down. Yes, you can remove a barrier during your turn and continue moving. No, you don't put two explorers on the board unless you're playing with only two players. Yes, you can use a card with a higher number to move across multiple spaces. I'd say that playing games at a convention invites such rules confusion and the potential to have poor outings due to confusion, but plenty of people mess up rules at home as well. I know that I have more than once, but at least in this case I could catch mistakes on the fly and (ideally) allow players to absorb the game as intended.

I played twice more on Saturday night with Lincoln and Nikki from Game Night (since they intend to play all the S/Ke/Ki nominees on camera and wanted to get experience with the games ahead of time) and with one of the members of the Kinderspiel des Jahres jury. Fun times, and in one game I even managed to strip my deck down to almost nothing, snagging two "Wissenschaftlerin" and managing to strip nearly all the gold from my hand by the time I was a tile-and-a-half away from the goal.


My entire deck


Seikatsu from Matt Loomis, Isaac Shalev, and IDW Games is a tile-laying game that plays in a few minutes, with players laying down one of their two tiles in hand each turn to score points immediately by matching nearby birds and to score points at the end of the game by placing matching flowers in the rows that a player sees from their perspective. Belying the prettiness of the design, you need to embrace your inner jerk to block others from nailing down high-valued flower rows, ideally scoring something for yourself in the process.


What green sees, others do not


BGG owner Scott Alden was interested in playing Paolo Mori's Ethnos, and despite the sour taste left after my initial playing in April 2017 (or perhaps because of it), I wanted to play again to see what would happen.

The gameplay is straightforward: On a turn, either pick up a card from the draft pool or top of the deck, or play a band of cards that feature the same race or color, discarding all other cards in hand. I asked not to have both centaurs and elves in the game since in that initial playing, the powers of those races — centaurs: play another band after the first, and elves: hold onto X cards with X = size of the band played — led to few cards being discarded into the draft pool, which led to us top-decking for three-quarters of the game.

Thus, we ditched the elves and played with centaurs, giants, trolls, wizards, halflings, and skeletons — and wouldn't you know it, the exact same thing happened again. Perhaps not nearly as often, mind you, but we were top-decking roughly half the time, which led me to wonder how this game is getting as much love as it is. The owner of the game, who didn't play with us, said that he thought it was a fine design while admitting that they top-deck a decent percentage of the time as well. As before, I like the idea of Ethnos more than the finished product, but I'm game for more playings to see whether my opinion changes.




Following that, Scott was eager to teach Julien Prothière's Kreus from Sweet Games and CMON Limited, a cooperative game with Hanabi-like elements that Scott has fallen in love with, playing it ten times in one night.

Your path to victory is relatively clear: Form a planet, and supply it with one of each of the four elements. To do this, though, you first need to play a comet and atmosphere and supply them with elements, after which you can play a rainbow, mountain, river, or wind, with those also needing elements to exist. Complete three of those and ideally you can move down to the next level — fish, bird, flower, tree — with those allowing you to complete the planet.

All the cards are in players' hands at the start of the game, including aggression cards that can sack elements on incomplete nature cards or prevent elements from being played, and on each turn, each player must choose a card and put it before them face down, after which cards are played in clockwise order. Scott describes this as a "smoke signal" game in that you need to read the players before you and after you in turn order to determine what they might be playing because — and this is the important thing — you are not supposed to communicate at all! The game does include a number of tokens, which varies as you play from 3-6 players, and you can use these tokens to reveal a card or swap a card (blindly) with another player, but you must use them sparingly and you recover them solely when a nature card is played.

Despite the restriction, we communicated all over the place, something essential in your first games as you often have no clue over what a legal or smart play might be, why player A is revealing to player B, why someone wants to swap cards, etc. You need that first game under your belt to start having a clue how to play, and even then we were still giving hints and conducting meta-talk about why you might have done such-and-such. We played twice on Friday, then four times more on Saturday with player counts of four, five, and six. As I tweeted at the time, this game is delightful and frustrating magic, and I hope to record an overview video soon as I think you need to see the game in action to fully understand it. I know that I didn't grok it following an explanation at the 2016 Origins Game Fair...



The closest we came to victory


I should have gone to bed at that point — or perhaps three hours earlier — but instead we had five people for Mark Gerritts' Mini Rails from Moaideas Game Design, which turned into an epic exercise in hate-drafting.

In each of the six rounds of the game, each player takes one share in a company (starting that share at $0) and places one track (adding that colored disc to the network of the same color, with everyone who owns that share either raising or lowering the value by the amount indicated on the cover space. You can take those two actions in either order, with you choosing a disc from those laid out in a path and with the player choices determining the player order for the subsequent round.

The one disc not chosen each round is placed on a separate track, which represents that company paying its taxes. Yay, now it won't be confiscated by the government and its shares (if positive) will have value at the end of the game! If a company doesn't pay taxes, then positive shares are worthless and only negative shares will be counted in your final score.

We tore each other apart and possibly made many bad choices in the short time that we played, with the final scores being 5, 4, 0, 0, and 0. I was tanking similarly in a three-player game played during Tokyo Game Market, so perhaps the margin for victory is slim in all games.




After breakfast and sleep, I headed to the exhibit hall to see whether I should take pics of anything, despite this being a fun trip and not a work trip, and I had to snap a shot of Pulsar 2849, coming from Vladimír Suchý and Czech Games Edition at SPIEL 2017. Here's a high-level description of the game:

Quote:
Draft dice to explore the universe in Pulsar 2849. Each round, roll dice based on the number of players, sort them based on their values, then draft dice to take actions, such as adding another spaceship to your fleet or visiting (or flying through) an unexplored star system or tagging a pulsar with one of your identity rings or advancing on your personal tech track, which differs from those of other players. At the end of the round, the turn marker advances based on the dice rolled that turn, and when the market reaches the end of the track, the game ends.

Players score points each round based on what they've discovered and explored, and everyone has hidden goals that they want to achieve, while also trying to claim the right to public goals that supply additional endgame scoring.

We'll have a more detailed presentation of Pulsar 2849 during the livestream from Origins 2017 in mid-June, but in general (1) this game is still being developed and CGE won't stop developing until it goes to print roughly one week prior to SPIEL 2017 and (2) after two years of Codenames fever, this design is a more typical CGE release, with a million things to consider all at once.

(Note that Codenames fever will continue through at least Gen Con 2017 with the release of Codenames Duet, a game that we previewed in March 2017 at the GAMA Trade Show and a game that now differs greatly from that preview. The design had already changed from PAX East and GAMA, with barely a week between those cons, and now it's changed even more, with a campaign system of some sort being introduced. Again, more details at Origins 2017 when the design might finally be solidified.)




Catan Studio has a nice playmat for Klaus Teuber's Rivals for Catan that it uses at conventions and that might make its way to retail shops at some point.




Nearly a year after the game's debut, I finally tried Terraforming Mars, the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee from Jacob Fryxelius and Stronghold Games. I used to play more games at this level of complexity, but I'm a fan of lighter games these days, mostly because I'm unable to get games like these to the table consistently, and if I can't play something multiple times, then I prefer to skip it entirely and focus on games that I will play multiple times. In any case, Lincoln and Nikki wanted to play as part of their Game Night preparation, so we joined another newb and one experienced player and dove in — and yes, I realize that starting a heavy game with a full boat and four new sleep-deprived players at 11:00 p.m. might not be the best idea, but we did it anyway!

I can understand why people like the game — revel in tons of choices! find those combos! — but I feel like the design and production are only 80% complete. When you pick up those initial ten cards, your head is spinning at the possibilities with no clue as to what's good and bad; sometimes you can eliminate cards from consideration since the conditions aren't right to play them — not warm enough, too little oxygen, no cities yet, etc. — but that's a mixed blessing when you stare at a hand of seven of those cards(!) as one player did. That player felt like they started with one hand tied behind their back as nearly everything was expensive or literally unplayable. I'm baffled as to why the game lacks starting hands a là Race for the Galaxy, groups of ten cards that give a helping hard to new players in the first few turns, that give some direction instead of allowing new players to flounder. As is, you feel like you're walking into a firehose, making no progress and finding it hard even to consider what you might want to do. Not the experience I think the SdJ jury would want folks to have when buying a Kennerspiel winner...

The styling of the card art is all over the place (and not in a good way), the font is too small on the cards, the graphic design does nothing to assist gameplay, and the player mats actively hinder you from having a good experience since it's critical to track your production level in six areas and you will undoubtedly hit that mat several times during the game, knocking your cubes higgledy-piggledy and cursing whoever decided not to make these mats out of thick die-cut cardboard. Maybe I'll wait to pick up the deluxe fifth anniversary edition of Terraforming Mars in 2021 when all these issues will have been taken care of.





BGG admin Chad Roberts had asked me to bring Tokyo Highway, a game from Naotaka Shimamoto, Yoshiaki Tomioka, and itten that I had bought at Tokyo Game Market, so I did and we played in the early hours on Sunday.

In this game, you're trying to place all ten of your cars on your highway, and the only way to place a car is to build part of your highway either above or below a section of the opponent's highway that currently has nothing higher or lower than it — but for the most part (1) you're building your highway solely as an extension of what already exists, which means you have to snake in and out of the loops with all highway sections being the same length and (2) when you build a new column to support that highway piece, the column must be one token taller or shorter than the column from which you're building.

Three times during the game, you can create a column topped with a yellow piece, which allows you to both violate the "one higher/lower" policy and fork your highway either immediately or on a later turn. You continue play until someone places all ten cars (winning immediately) or someone runs out of pieces, in which case the other player wins.

We built tight, spiraling loops, which might have been a mistake as we were burning through column pieces quickly without placing many cars. Then Chad Godzillaed some of my highway, for which the penalty is handing over column pieces to the opponent and soon he ran dry. The game includes tweezers for both players, but I don't know whether using them would make the game easier or harder!





My final game of BGG.CON Spring 2017 was Downforce, the latest take on Wolfgang Kramer's card-based racing system, which was present in his very first release Tempo, which is more than four decades old!

In the game, players receive a hand of cards, with those cards having one or more colored lines on them; those colored lines represent potential movement for the race car of the matching color. The game starts with players bidding to control one or more cars, using the cards in their hand to bid for cars. This system cleverly eliminates the need for money in the game as you're not going to bid for a color if you have none of that color in hand; at the same time, you reveal a bit of information about your hand to others. Each car comes with a driver who has a special ability, and that ability applies to all cars that you acquire.

Each player must acquire at least one car during the first phase of the game, after which you race, with players playing one card from hand and moving the cars in order from top to bottom of the card they played. You try to choke off movement of cars don't own while ensuring that your cars always have free lances ahead. It doesn't always work out, of course, and the game board is double-sided with a chokier set of lanes on the side not shown below. Good to see this game returning to print!




The Hyatt Regency had a giant version of Jenga in the lobby, along with the beanbag-tossing game Cornhole, which served to cue hotel visitors in to the goings-on in the basement.




Someone had created a giant-sized version of Jun Sasaki's Deep Sea Adventure from Oink Games and set it up in the common area of the basement. The psychedelic ocean might be the result of nitrogen narcosis, so take care when diving.




On Friday evening after dinner, we drove to Madness Games & Comics in Plano, Texas. This is a phenomenally good shop, with a huge selection of titles new and old — sometimes really old due to the purchase of another store's stock! — along with multiple employees who are circling the floor, asking whether they can help, and actually providing help because they know what they're talking about. Highly recommended should you be in the area!





Having enough games on hand for the moment, I bought the book below as I thought my son would enjoy it. Success, with him already having read it to my wife and his grandparents after I first read it to him. Good to see that I can still pick out things for him at this age, but the teenage years await...

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Tue May 30, 2017 4:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Delve and Loot Manhattan, Untold Minutes to Halloween

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• After an intense dose of combat-driven games in the c.f. round-up last week, let's see whether we can find games featuring other subject material this time around, starting with Hand of Fate: Ordeals from Barantas and Australian publisher Rule & Make, with this being a tabletop version of the digital deck-building game of the same name from Defiant Development. In this game for 1-4 players that can be played either competitively or cooperatively, players roam the land to gather new equipment and increase their abilities while fighting minions and overcoming ambushes before going after the bosses. (KS link)

• Okay, that was a failure. How about Dark Dealings: Dwarven Delve from Peter Gousis, Michael D. Kelley, and Nevermore Games, with this being an expansion to Dark Dealings, a game in which you're an evil overlord under siege by heroes. The expansion moves the action underground, with you now trying to ward off eviction by dwarves through the use of "goblin- and troll-powered defenses". (KS link)

War of the Nine Realms from Robbie Munn and Wotan Games is unlikely to be combat free unless someone has grossly miscalculated what to title their game, and indeed this tile-based game pits players against one another in tactical skirmishes, with players using the powers of different realms, each with their own characters and abilities, with each realm also having a choice of heroic (raw power) and epic (tactical advantages) play styles. (KS link)

• Hey, here's a combat-free crowdfunding project! Hang 12 from Tim Roediger and Grail Games is a press-your-luck party game in which during each round you're presented with a question about one of your fellow players. You answer this question with "true/false" or "A/B" depending on the type of question; if you guess correctly, you start a scoring wave of 1 point or increase the value of your current scoring wave, while if you guess incorrectly, your wave crashes and you'll have to start surfing anew. Instead of answering, you can score your current surf, and whoever scores 24 points first wins. (KS link)

• Another party game looking for funding comes from Andrea Meyer of BeWitched Spiele, who has a new expansion for her singing-based game Hossa! titled Hossa! Lobgesang (translated as "Hossa! Canticle"), with this consisting of cards that depict 64 items and categories from the world of religious songs. Meyer notes that in response to requests from choir leaders, she's printing the material on postcard-sized cards and laminating them so that they can be used outside by large groups. (Startnext link)

Loot & Recruit from Derek, Justin, and Stephanie Lynch and Vile Genius Games is a deck-building design in which players acquire action cards and goblins, then attempt to stack goblins and defend said goblin stacks while knocking down the stacks of others. (KS link)

Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama marries the look of Daniel Solis' Kodama: The Tree Spirits with the gameplay of Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Østby's Avenue, which was released by Aporta Games at SPIEL 2016. This design features the same gameplay as Avenue on the A-side of its game board — with path cards being revealed turn by turn so that players can attempt to connect buildings on the board, with each path needing to be more valuable than the previous one so that you can continue scoring — while the B-side has a variable set-up that gives you new starting configurations. Additional scoring tweaks come through decree cards that have been added to the game. (KS link)

• Brandon Tibbetts' The Manhattan Project from Minion Games has been well-received, and now the design team has moved the action forward two decades with The Manhattan Project 2: Minutes to Midnight, with players representing superpowers that need to develop deployment systems for their nuclear weapons. Scoring takes place four times during the game, with players needing to manage strategic bombers, ballistic submarines, ICBMs, and short-range missiles deployed to third world nations. (KS link)

Rory O'Connor of The Creativity Hub has been publishing Rory's Story Cubes for more than a decade, with the dice meant to encourage and develop storytelling skills in whoever picks them up (assuming that picking them up is followed by rolling them, then telling a story). Now O'Connor has teamed with John Fiore on Untold: Adventures Await, a larger storytelling game in which you can use any and all Story Cubes to tell a grand story that goes through the highs and lows of classic stories. (KS link)

• In the more traditional dice-based game Project Nos from Peter Newland of Mind the Gap Studios, players draft modification dice and cards, then compete in a real-time drag race — on their table, mind you. (KS link)

• Dutch publisher Quined Games is crowdfunding the SPIEL 2017 release of Angelo de Maio's Halloween, a game that challenges you to be the best demon lord that you can be, with that task requiring you to make use of ghosts in the best ways possible. (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
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Sun May 28, 2017 1:05 pm
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IELLO Adopts Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy, While CMON Limited Updates Theirs

W. Eric Martin
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On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, CMON Limited announced a new unilateral Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy (MAPP), and here's the announcement in full:

Quote:
Today, May 24, CMON, Inc. announced it has adopted a unilateral Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy (MAPP) that will go into effect on June 1, 2017. Along with the new policy, CMON has restructured its existing hobby distribution network in the U.S. effective immediately. By unilaterally imposing restrictions on minimum prices advertised by CMON's new distribution network and retail partners, CMON products' perceived value in the customers' eyes will be enhanced, which is in the best interest of consumers and CMON's partners.

With the adoption of the unilateral MAPP, CMON has restructured their U.S. hobby distribution network to ensure efficient and effective distribution of their products to consumers in accordance with the new policy. As of May 24, 2017, the current hobby distributors CMON is working with include Alliance Game Distributors, ACD Distribution, and Peachstate Hobby Distribution (PHD).

The CMON MAPP will only apply to CMON branded products within the U.S., and products with a Minimum Advertised Price will appear on the current MAPP price list hosted on CMON.com. Adherence to the MAPP is non-negotiable for CMON product resellers, and will be strictly enforced by CMON to ensure the CMON brand maintains a high value in the consumer mindshare.

A copy of the CMON MAPP will be available at CMON.com/mapp and the CMON MAPP price list will be available at CMON.com/mapp-prices.

Those latter two URLs don't lead anywhere at this time.

Note that this isn't the first MAPP from CMON, which in mid-2014 introduced an agreement that retailers had to sign in which they agreed that their minimum advertised price "for all CMON Box Games shall be no less than 80% of the MSRP provided by CMON", with that policy applying to "all CMON Box Games released during the preceding 12 months", which at that time included Zombicide: Prison Outbreak, Zombicide: Toxic City Mall, Rivet Wars, Kaosball, Dogs of War, Xenoshyft and Arcadia Quest.





IELLO — or at least the U.S. branch of IELLO — introduced its own MAPP in May 2017, with that policy going into effect on May 15, 2017. An excerpt from that policy:

Quote:
IELLO acknowledges and understands that its current and continued success is directly related to the success of its network of authorized dealers (including without limitation all IELLO distributor, wholesale, and retail customers that resell IELLO products to consumers, known herein as "Vendors"). IELLO also recognizes and understands that its Vendors take great pains to deliver a first class experience to their customers, and IELLO desires to support its Vendors in furtherance of achieving their goals by protecting its image and reputation, promoting its brand and providing excellent resources that are key to maintaining the hobby culture for game enthusiasts. Therefore, it is in the interest of both IELLO and its Vendors to protect the Vendors’ ability to continue to provide an outstanding experience and exemplary service to their customers. In furtherance of the aforementioned dual interest, IELLO believes that it is also in the best interest of both IELLO and its Vendors to discourage advertising practices that would be detrimental to the service and support efforts of our Vendors. As a result, IELLO has developed and put into force this Minimum Advertised Price Policy ("MAPP") on a UNILATERAL BASIS. This MAPP shall in no way be considered or construed to be an agreement (or to create any contract) with or between any Vendor or other person or entity, and shall only apply to advertised pricing. It is in no way meant to regulate actual sales prices whatsoever.

Both IELLO and CMON Limited adopted "unilateral" policies, which means that the companies introduced their policies without prior and explicit agreement with those who retail their products, and while retailers are free to ignore these policies, they do so at the risk of not being able to carry these titles in their retail outlets in the future. From the IELLO policy:

Quote:
The decision to comply with this MAPP is left up to each individual Vendor, and if they choose to comply, all such Vendors are solely responsible for maintaining compliance with IELLO's MAPP. IELLO reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to suspend or discontinue selling Products (and otherwise discontinue doing business with) any Vendor that: (i) advertises any Products covered by this MAPP at a price in contravention of this MAPP; or (ii) takes any other action whatsoever in contravention of this MAPP.

The MAP for IELLO titles, by the way, is 80% of the title's MSRP, which matches CMON's earlier stated MAP and which is the same as Mayfair Games' MAP when it was introduced in 2007. (That MAP was later changed to 90% of a game's MSRP. I've written a lot about MAPs, both in 2007 when the policy was introduced and in 2016 when Asmodee changed its distribution structure to charge higher prices to online retailers.)
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Fri May 26, 2017 4:17 pm
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Game Overview: Wettlauf nach El Dorado, or Racing for the Golden Poppel

W. Eric Martin
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When I started recording this overview of Reiner Knizia's Wettlauf nach El Dorado, a Ravensburger title recently nominated for the 2017 Spiel des Jahres, I did not expect to go on for more than twenty minutes. Apparently I had a lot to say about this deck-building racing game that feels surprisingly old-school, that feels like it could have come from a parallel Earth in which deck-building was never a thing and this design instead represents an evolution from older racing games of the Ave Caesar and TurfMaster variety.

At heart, Wettlauf nach El Dorado is a racing game in which deck-building is just a fancy way for you to adjust how you make your way through the forests, over the waterways, and across the villages that separate you from the fabled land of El Dorado — although anyone who knows their Donald Duck will recall that El Dorado actually refers to a golden man, not a golden land.




Many modern games take longer than the listed playing time the first time you attempt them because you're trying to fit together all the rules in your mind and are stumbling around unsure of what to do. If you charted the playing times over multiple sessions, you'd have a decreasing graph that flatlines at a certain point once everyone is familiar with the rules.

For me, Knizia games follow a different pattern, with the initial gameplay going quickly because it feels like not much is going on, but as you go through the game again and again, you find the possibilities of gameplay opening up to you, realizing that more opportunities exist for clever plays than you initially realized. If you charted out those playing times, you'd have a bell curve representing the simplicity of the rule set in the early stages, the rising middle of "a-ha" moments as you discover how to think ahead more and play better, then the decreasing section when the game is familiar and comforting, one more classic that you anticipate playing for years.

Wettlauf nach El Dorado falls into that category of Knizia classics for me. As much as I enjoy Kingdomino, which I've played a fair amount with my son and others and which gives a quick burst of thinky puzzling and playing the odds, and Magic Maze, which is a heady group experience but not one I anticipate playing with the same people over and over again in the years ahead, Wettlauf nach El Dorado is what I'd choose for Spiel des Jahres, for a game to introduce to others to challenge them and give them something that they'll want to return to over and over again.

By chance, I sat with representatives from Ravensburger at a dinner during the Spielwarenmesse game fair in February 2017, and one of the many topics we discussed was the shortening of shelf times in the German and U.S. game markets. Hundreds of new games are introduced each year, and most of those games will vanish from publisher catalogs in a few seasons, replaced by other designs that aren't necessarily better than what came before but are only different and new. One of the developers explained how many hours they had put into Wettlauf nach El Dorado, hoping that it would become one of the few evergreen titles that survive in the catalog for a handful of years, but content to do the work anyway because this was a game that they were publishing for themselves as much as anyone else. We're all gamers here, he said, so sometimes you do the work and hope for the best.

Here's hoping...


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Thu May 25, 2017 3:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Monks Brewing, Detectives Chasing, and Devil Pigs Teasing

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• Apparently it's time to start covering titles that will debut at SPIEL 2017 in October as eggertspiele has revealed the final cover for Heaven & Ale, a design by Michael Kiesling and Andreas Schmidt that puts you in charge of monks in a brewery. In more detail:

Quote:
You have been assigned to lead an ancient monastery and its brewery. Now it's your time to brew the best beer under God's blue sky!

The fine art of brewing beer demands your best timing. In order to get the best results of your production, you have to provide your cloister's garden with fertile resources and the right number of monks helping with the harvest — but keep your brewmaster in mind as he is ready and eager to refine each and every one of your barrels!

In Heaven & Ale, you have to overcome the harsh competition of your fellow players. There is a fine balance between upgrading your cloister's garden and harvesting the resources you need to fill your barrels. Only those who manage to keep a cool head are able to win the race for the best beer!

• Norwegian publisher Aporta Games will debut Destination X from Bård Tuseth and Kristian Amundsen Østby, with the name calling to mind the hunt for Mr. X in Scotland Yard, although in this game it's enough to peg the country in which the spy is located in order to rack up a victory. Here's an overview:

Quote:
Destination X is a game of one-against-many: One player takes the moderator role as a spy on the run, while the remaining players are detectives who must cooperate and use their deductive skills and geographical knowledge to track down the spy and identify their secret destination.

At the beginning of each round, six destination cards are placed face up on the table. The spy secretly chooses one of the destinations, and flips to the chosen country's page in the handbook. Each detective is given three informant cards, and in turn each detective must play an informant to get information about the spy's secret destination. The spy must find the relevant information in the handbook and answer truthfully. The informants may provide information on various aspects such as population, industry, religion, history, economy, and so on. After a detective has played an informant, the detective must also eliminate one of the destinations on the table.

At any time, the detectives can decide to guess on the spy's destination. If they guess correctly, the detectives win the round; otherwise the spy wins. The spy also wins if the detectives run out of informant cards, so the detectives must manage their resources well and not spend too much time or else the spy will manage to get away. The first side to win three rounds wins the game.

• Designer J. Alex Kevern is becoming a regular with Renegade Game Studios, with his Sentient due out in Q3 2017 and the freshly announced Atlas: Enchanted Lands coming in Q4 2017. Here's an overview of that latter game:

Quote:
Atlas: Enchanted Lands is an elegant card game set in a world of fairies and magic. Play cards to reveal a certain place and time — and place your stake in one of the two. Explore a location at dawn, day, sunset, and night, or see what the whole land looks like in the dark. Each card offers two choices, and it's up to you to uncover the world that awaits.

In more detail, players are challenged to predict the time or place that will be uncovered first. Cards laid on the board will complete sets. Depending on the cards chosen by the players, sets of similar cards or numerically ascending cards will be revealed, granting points to the players that deduced the correct combination.

Fully Baked Ideas, the adults-only imprint of Looney Labs, will release Adult Mad Libs: The Game on June 22, 2017, with this design featuring the same gameplay as Andy Looney's Mad Libs: The Game but with racier or more suggestive words. Adult party games are a thing, yo!

• On Facebook, Yann and Clem from Devil Pig Games have posted the following image with no comment other than "GRUIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIK!", which is precisely the sound made by a devil pig and not at all helpful in terms of enlightening others as to precisely what deal has been made between DPG and Games Workshop. Questions have been asked; I'll let you know if responses come, but in all likelihood something will be announced during Warhammer Fest 2017, which takes place May 27-28.



Update, May 24: Devil Pig Games has now posted an overview page for Heroes of Black Reach, which bears this description:

Quote:
On June 19, prepare for war! The Heroes System Tactical Scale expands beyond the Norman bocages to the very stars into the universe of Warhammer 40,000!

On the world-hive of Black Reach, an Ork Waaagh! breaks, jeopardizing this sector of the galaxy!

You will soon be able to help the Ultramarines in their merciless fight against the Warlord Zanzag and relive the grim adventures of Captain Cato Sicarius and Sergeant Scout Marines Torias Telion!

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Wed May 24, 2017 5:05 pm
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