Maven Games

Maven Games is a boardgames publisher, based in Nottingham, UK, and built up around the community at the The Dice Cup (a boardgame cafe). It is linked with the Boardgame Opinions YouTube channel and is run by Jonathan Hicks. The blog contains articles on a wide variety of topics, from gaming to publishing to living in community.

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How to Vet a Kickstarter Project – Part 2

Jonathan Hicks
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Last week we looked at the importance of checking the start and end dates of the project, the funding goal, the number of backers and the history of the project creator.  Today we consider the contents of the Kickstarter page itself.

Assuming everything else checks out, what should you look at next?  In an ideal world, you would carefully read through the entire page, watch all the videos and then make your decision.  However, in practice very few people have the time to do that (I certainly don’t!).  So which bits should you focus on?  The project video?  The what’s-in-the-box photo?  The rules?  Let’s have a look…


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Fri Feb 16, 2018 9:22 pm
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How to Vet a Kickstarter Project – Part 1

Jonathan Hicks
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I back quite a lot of Kickstarter projects.  Since the New Year, I have backed four boardgame projects, so not an insane number, but it probably averages out to between 20 and 30 projects per year.  I find I can decide fairly quickly these days whether I want to back a project or not.

When I first looked at Kickstarter though, I couldn’t work out how people knew whether or not to back a game.  I had heard horror stories about projects taking people’s money and never delivering anything.  How could you tell which projects were safe bets and which ones would be risky?

Although I back 20-30 projects per year, I probably look at 2-3 projects per week to work out which ones I want to back and I feel I have a good handle on how to vet a Kickstarter project accurately now.  So I’d like to share with you a few tips on what to look for if you’re new to Kickstarter.


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Sat Feb 10, 2018 6:50 pm
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Rising Sun

Jonathan Hicks
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Rising Sun is the latest dudes-on-a-map game from CMON.  It was designed by Eric M. Lang, the designer of Blood Rage (among many other games), who is now CMON’s resident designer.  It was on Kickstarter last year where it received a staggering $4 million in funding from over 30,000 people.

While it didn’t make my personal list, it is easily one of the industry’s most anticipated games of 2018.  CMON have a reputation for delivering high quality miniatures in their games and looking at the Kickstarter, you could tell they weren’t going to disappoint on that front.

Well, the game has started arriving at people’s homes all across the world, and the big question is, ‘Does it live up to the hype?’  Is the game actually that good or were people overawed by the miniatures?  Let’s have a look…


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Mon Feb 5, 2018 8:47 pm
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Myth: Dark Frontier

Jonathan Hicks
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Myth is one of my Top 10 Games of All Time.  So when Myth: Dark Frontier was announced, I was very interested, assuming it was an expansion for Myth.  Not so, however.  Dark Frontier is actually a standalone game set in the Myth universe.

Myth is a dungeon crawl, but Dark Frontier is a co-operative tower defence game of sorts: a kind of sophisticated Castle Panic set in the world of Myth.  The nice thing for those people who already own Myth though is that you can use all the miniatures from Myth in Dark Frontier.

The game comes with miniatures for the heroes, but all the monsters who are attacking the city in the middle of the board are represented by tokens.  So you don’t need to own Myth in order to enjoy Dark Frontier, but being able to re-use the miniatures is a great idea.

Dark Frontier was on Kickstarter last year and was one of my Top 10 Anticipated Games of 2018.  It arrived last week and my son and I broke it out immediately.  Is it as good as Myth?  Can you really compare the two?  Let’s find out…


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Fri Feb 2, 2018 10:40 pm
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I'm the king of the castle!

Nathan Cooper
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In Castles of Mad King Ludwig players each assemble their own castle from a set of room tiles that they will buy and add to their castle throughout the game. Much like real builders throughout history, most of them will run out of money and leave half the rooms uncompleted. Fortunately, on this occasion, there is a dungeon that they can be thrown into if they fail to achieve the required standards…


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Tue Jan 30, 2018 8:47 am
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Classics: Pandemic

Jonathan Hicks
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Once upon a time, co-ops were virtually unheard of.  No really.  As hard as it is to imagine in our modern world where every other game seems to be a co-op or have a co-op variant, there were remarkably few of them before 2008. When Reiner Knizia’s Lord of the Rings came out in 2000, it’s big selling point (apart from the fact that it was Lord of the Rings) was that players weren’t competing against each other, they were actually working together to defeat the game!  Mind blown.

You would expect that after its success, we would have seen a plethora of co-ops being released, but no.  I suspect many put the game’s success down to the license, rather than the quirky mechanisms – it’s not an especially well-regarded game by today’s standards, although I enjoyed it at the time.  Knizia’s timing was also positively prophetic as The Fellowship of the Ring came out in cinemas the following year.

It took a full five years before we saw another truly successful co-op in the form of Arkham Horror.  Incidentally, Shadows over Camelot also came out in 2005, birthing the semi-coop genre.  Arkham Horror, although long and unwieldy, captured people’s imaginations in a way no other game had before though.  The sense of teamwork in the face of overwhelming odds was euphoric at times.  Despite its flaws, the theme and epic sense of adventure endeared it to many, including myself – it is still one of my top 10 games of all time!

These seeds worked their way through designers psyches in the next couple of years and then in 2008, the co-op genre really took off and has never looked back.  We saw Ghost Stories from Antoine Bauza, Space Alert from Vlaada Chvátil and Battlestar Galactica (implementing another popular licence with semi-coop mechanisms).  However, all of these were eclipsed by the co-op to define all co-ops thereafter: Pandemic.


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Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:01 pm
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Eclipse your opponents!

Nathan Cooper
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A slightly late post from 15/01/2018:

As a game that involves both fighting and space, Eclipse is the perfect game for people who think that Agricola is too long and boring. Lasting only about eight hours and with a focus on the fun and trendy areas of resource management and statistical probability, Eclipse is a great light filler game for people who want to have a quick blast at each other with a plasma cannon and roll lots of dice.


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Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:47 pm
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Top 10 Anticipated Games of 2018 – Part 2

Jonathan Hicks
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Last week we looked at numbers 10 through 6 of my Top 10 Anticipated Games of 2018. Today, we finish the list and look at the Top 5. You might wonder where people hear about these games though, so I thought I’d chat about that briefly before resuming the list.

People hear about upcoming games from different places. Kickstarter is a big one, as games that people backed in 2017 will gradually be delivered in 2018 (in fact I received one this week!). Backers potentially know quite a lot about these games if they’ve been following the updates and took the time to vet the project properly when they first backed.

The other main source is publisher announcements of course. These are a little trickier to gauge, as you often know very little about them apart from the designers, the theme and a smattering of artwork. Nevertheless, some designers have a very good track record and seem able to consistently deliver the goods.

Finally, I should mention that there is a helpful geeklist on BoardGameGeek that allows people to vote on their most anticipated games. There seem to be far too many categories (Grognard?!), with the same game appearing in multiple categories (7th Continent, I’m looking at you!) and publishers have been getting all their followers to vote for their games, which distorts the accuracy rather, but it’s still an interesting read.

Alright, let’s get to the Top 5…


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Mon Jan 22, 2018 4:10 pm
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Top 10 Anticipated Games of 2018 – Part 1

Jonathan Hicks
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It seems to be doing the rounds.  Everywhere you look, someone is doing an Anticipated Games of 2018 list.  I’ve watched or read a few and I’ve actually found them quite interesting.  It can be remarkably difficult to work out which games to look out for as there’s no centralised place where you can see all the upcoming games.

At least, not where you can see all the good ones.  Ah, but here’s the rub.  How do you know which ones will be good and which just have lots of hype?  In all honesty, nobody does, but people usually have reasons for looking forward to one game rather than another so I think it still has value.

Most of the games in my list are Kickstarters, as I follow and back a lot of projects on Kickstarter so these feel like more reliable picks than “the artwork in this game looks pretty”.  Without further ado then, let’s jump into my Top 10 Anticipated Games of 2018…


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Fri Jan 19, 2018 4:15 pm
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The Year Ahead 2018

Jonathan Hicks
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2017 has been a year of investing in projects behind the scenes.  From the Boardgame Opinions channel to the development of new games, we have been working hard to improve the quality of what we do and provide some foundations for the future.

2018 holds great promise.  It’s the year when we ought to see the fruit of our labours.  Today I’d like to give you a rundown of where our various projects are up to and what we have planned for the year ahead.  I’m super excited!


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Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:02 pm
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