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Friese Facilitates Fast Forward Franchise Featuring Flee, Fear & Fortress

W. Eric Martin
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If I've learned one thing about designer Friedemann Friese, who publishes his designs under the 2F-Spiele label in Germany, it's that he loves to experiment with game design simply to see what's possible. You can see this experimental nature in a GeekList he created to detail the origins of some of his games (a list unfortunately not updated since 2011). Foppen came about from thinking about trick-taking games and the notion of someone losing their ability to play each round. Fische Fluppen Frikadellen was born from the notion of having people play multiple games at the same time on different tables. A children's flip book in which you assemble a creature with mismatched head, body, and feet provided inspiration for what became 504, which meshes rule segments from different types of games into a single game.

In 2016, he released Fabled Fruit, which functions akin to a legacy game in that new elements are added to play over successive games, with players saving their place after each game — using a bookmark, as it were — in order to start with the "right" set of cards next time. You have lots of individual games which last only twenty minutes that collectively form the larger game of Fabled Fruit, which Friese dubbed an example of a "Fable Game" — that is, a game that changes over multiple playings, but one that you can reset at any time in order to start over with a different group or just explore again.

Now for 2017, he's gone even farther with the Fable Game system, introducing three new titles that will debut at SPIEL 2017 in October under the label "Fast Forward". These games are all Fable Games in that they start with an ordered deck of cards, with which you'll play multiple games — saving your position when you stop should you want to start in the same place next time, while also having the option of starting over from scratch — but beyond that, Friese has embedded the rules within the deck itself. You read nothing prior to play other than perhaps an instructional card that tells you not to shuffle the deck. You place the deck on the table, read the top card, and begin.




Fast Forward title #1 is FEAR, which is for 2-5 players and plays in 15 minutes. The description on the BGG page is brief: "Do you fear ghosts? Or are you confronting the danger and scaring your opponents? FEAR is a fast-paced and straightforward hand management game of tension-filled ghost chasing."

Thankfully I played the game in prototype form, so I can fill in a few more details. (Please note that all of the games described in this post might have changed since I played them.) Your goal in FEAR is twofold:

1: Don't make the total of cards in the middle go over a certain number because if you do, you lose the game.
2: If you didn't lose, have the highest total of cards in your hand because then you win!

On a turn (at least initially), you either draw a card from the deck or play a card to the center of the table. If you have three cards in hand, then you must play something. Gameplay is super simple, and the turns fly by. When someone loses, their cards are removed from play, then all of the other cards are shuffled and placed on top of the deck. Thus, you shrink the deck by a few cards each game, which means you'll start digging into new cards as each game progresses — and as you dig, you discover new cards with different numbers and (more importantly) new rules! When you uncover a rule, you read the card, set it aside, and the rule immediately takes effect, both for the current game and any subsequent games — until that rule is replaced, as might be the case.




I don't want to detail any rules, partly because I don't want to spoil the fun and partly because I played the game three months ago and might misremember things. If you've played games — and you probably have — then you can likely imagine what some of those rules (and numbers and effects) might be.

I played FEAR twelve times in a row at a convention with designer Joe Huber and 2F-Spiele's Henning Kröpke, and I loved every minute of it. I already dig playing short games multiple times in succession to see how gameplay evolves as players learn how to play better and how to react to opponents, but now the game was changing as well. It was like rearranging the furniture in a room that spontaneously changed in size, then grew new windows. And if I recall correctly, Kröpke said that after you finished the deck, you could keep all the existing rules in play, shuffle only the number cards, then play the game that way.

Ta-dah! A new way of learning how to play a game, something perhaps akin to placing a video game in a console, then mashing buttons to figure out what you're doing on the fly. I've often said that the need to learn rules is the biggest obstacle to people playing games. You, that person out there reading BGG, are probably comfortable reading rulebooks and teaching others how to play a game, but much of the general public hates doing that, which is why retreads of old games continue to dominate mainstream retail shelves year after year. People want to grab something they're pretty sure they already know how to play, so they grab a spinoff, figure out what's new this time, then start playing. FEAR and the other Fast Forward title try to short-circuit that nervousness about learning rules by giving them to you one card at a time.

Whether that nature of these games is transmitted clearly on the box — and therefore to potential players — is unclear at this time, but that's my hope. Why? Because I want more people to play games. Why? Many reasons, but mostly because it increases the odds of me finding others to join me in a game.




FORTRESS is title #2 in the Fast Forward series, and this 15-minute game for 2-4 players is "about taking risks and out-witting and bluffing your friends to become the dominate ruler of the kingdom", and (initially) you become dominant by possessing the lone fortress.

Each game, you build a hand of cards, and (if I recall correctly) on a turn you either draw a card or attempt to claim the fortress by playing one or more cards onto the table. If no one owns the fortress, then it's yours and those cards represent your strength; if you're attempting to take it away from someone else, they look at your cards and either hand over the castle (which is occupied by your cards) or shake their head disdainfully, keeping one of your cards as their prize. You've now gained information about what's in the fortress, but can you make use of that info before the round ends?

As with FEAR, some cards are removed from play each game in FORTRESS, which therefore introduces new cards and new rules, which again I'll leave you to guess. You can probably guess the obvious first twist, but what next? I played FORTRESS a few times before being stopped by dinner plans, and the game is partly about reading others (a skill that eludes me) and partly about the luck of the draw and partly about throwing yourself at targets because that's the only way to score in the end. Take chances! Take action!




FLEE differs from the first two Fast Forward titles in that it's cooperative (for 1-4 players) and it bears a listed playing time of 75-90. This is not the time needed for a single game as those take only 5-15 minutes (based on my experience), but perhaps for the entire experience to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Here's the short description:

Quote:
"Quickly, we must flee!", you tell your companions. "THE MONSTER is almost upon us! Look to all sides for help as you never know where it will be!" Can your team survive long enough to finish all chapters of this exciting story?

FLEE is a cooperative game of escaping for ambitious puzzle solvers.

I played FLEE in less than ideal conditions, with Friedemann walking into a convention at far-too-late in the morning and asking whether I wanted to play a game. Instead of going to sleep as I should have, I gathered a couple of other people and we played. We lost, so we played again, then we lost — over and over again. Either we weren't thinking clearly, or the lateness was hitting us hard; I'm still not sure which is correct.

In FLEE, someone gets a monster card when you start going through the rules, then players take turns drawing cards and doing things and if the active player has the monster in front of them, then you all lose. Initially the choices are straightforward. I can play this card to make someone skip their turn, so clearly that's Paul with the monster card — but things quickly start getting tricky, with cards that move things and reverse turn order and much more, with all of you continually trying to figure how to keep that monster out of the spotlight. The description mentions multiple chapters in the game, but we never made it past chapter 1, so I can restart this game anew once it becomes available in October 2017, with each of these three games being released in English, German, Dutch, French, and Spanish. How fortunate!
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Sat Jul 22, 2017 1:05 pm
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Two Robotech Board Games Prepare for Launch in 2018

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Strange Machine Games was founded in 2011 as a publisher of role-playing games and print-on-demand items, launching with the crowdfunded RPG Age Past.

Today at San Diego Comic Con, SMG announced that in partnership with Harmony Gold, it will release two Robotech board games in 2018. On the smaller side is the dice-based Robotech: Ace Pilot from SMG's Jeff Mechlinski, a 2-4 player game that bears this short description:

Quote:
The Zentraedi are attacking! Quick, grab the nearest crew member and destroy the enemy. Using luck and skill, you can become the SDF-1's ace pilot.

Robotech: Ace Pilot is a small area, fast-playing, competitive dice-based game. The game takes minutes to learn and can be played almost anywhere. Your favorite Robotech heroes help you destroy the Zentraedi Threat!




The other game is a much larger design, a cooperative game for 1-6 players that's titled Robotech: Attack on the SDF-1, with Mechlinski and SMG's Darius Hambleton handling the design, which works like this:

Quote:
In Robotech: Attack on the SDF-1, you play heroic characters of the venerable Super Dimension Fortress One, also known as the SDF-1. Players are thrown on a chaotic path as alien forces, known as the Zentraedi, attack without warning. You must defend the SDF-1 against continuous waves of Zentraedi attacks, unexpected disasters, and treachery. As a hero, you are forced to battle vicious enemies, repair damage, and manage resources. Tough decisions and sacrifices are required for you to reach home safely.

If the Heroes can keep the SDF-1 from being captured by the Zentraedi and make it to the end of the Scenario, they win. Beware as there are many ways to lose, and the Zentraedi will not give up...

SMG will be demoing both titles at Gen Con 2017 in the Indie Game Developer Network booth (#2437), so check them out during that show or watch for more details from those who have.


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Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:18 pm
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New Game Round-up: Produce Cloth in Florence, Chase Rabbits in the Field, and Roll Dice in Hexes

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• Gen Con is the next big convention in the offing, with SPIEL following two months after that, but in many ways the conventions have an increasing amount of overlap, with designers and publishers (and therefore games) showing up at both conventions. Even when games aren't publicly available at both shows, though, one convention can still feed into the next. Case in point: Developer Uli Blennemann with ADC Blackfire Entertainment GMBH will be on hand at Gen Con 2017, so he's going to present an overview of Fabio Lopiano's Calimala on camera in the BGG booth ahead of the game's debut at SPIEL 2017. (In general, we demo only released games at Gen Con, but I'm making an exception in this case.) Until then, here's a rundown of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
The "Arte di Calimala" — the guild of cloth finishers and merchants in foreign cloth — was one of the greater guilds of Florence, who arrogated to themselves the civic power of the Republic of Florence during the Late Middle Ages. The woolen cloth trade was the engine that drove the city’s economy and the members of the Calimala were the elite of Florence.

Throughout its long history, the Arte di Calimala supervised the execution of artistic and architectural works. Most Florentine guilds performed such activities, but the Calimala distinguished itself from other guilds through the number and prestige of the projects and the sites administered, including the construction and decoration of some of the major churches of the city.

Players of Calimala are cloth merchants in medieval Florence, with a number of trusted employees that they assign to various streets within the city to carry out actions. (Each street connects two places where particular actions can be taken.) While taking these actions, players produce and deliver cloth and contribute to the construction and decoration of various buildings across the city. Employees stay on their assigned places for a while, carrying out their actions whenever the street is activated, and eventually are promoted into the city council, triggering a scoring phase.

Depending on the number of players, each player has a number of action discs. In turn order, they can put one on a space between two actions, performing both actions and activating all other discs on the same space. When the fourth disc is placed on an action space, the lowest one is promoted to the city council, which triggers a scoring. After the last action disc is placed or the last scoring phase in the council is triggered, the game ends. The positions of the action spaces and sequence of scoring phases vary from game to game, making each game very different. Secret scoring objectives and action cards add uncertainty.

Mayfair Games has announced two titles for release in September 2017, with one of them being an English-language edition of a game that first appeared in Finland in 2015. Run Bunny Run from Kees Meis and Dennis Merkx pits one rabbit against a pack of wolves, with the latter trying to catch the former, and the former trying to make it home in one piece. Gameplay is akin to Wings of War as the wolves lay down cards on their turn that show where they must play a card on the next turn, giving the bunny a chance to move in response to their intentions.

The other Mayfair title is Food Chain from Kevin G. Nunn, with each player having a set of critter cards — worms, birds, cats, dogs, and fleas — and with players laying down cards simultaneously to try to eat opponents while not being consumed themselves. Nunn dropped by the BGG booth at the 2017 Origins Game Fair to present an overview of the game:



• Belgian publisher Flatlined Games will Kickstart a new edition of Mark Gerrits' SteamRollers in late August 2017. Flatlined originally released SteamRollers in a hand-assembled edition of two hundred copies in 2015, and now this dice-based, network-building game will be available once again — sort of. In a newsletter about the state of the business and the game market at large, Flatlined's Eric Hanuise explained that he's looking for a different way to release games:

Quote:
A new business model is required for me to stay in operation in this changing market. Manufacturing games, placing them at a distributor warehouse and relying on them to do sales and solicitations requires a sizeable amount of cash on hand to start with, and is a very risky proposition. It also requires marketing and promotion efforts at a scale well beyond my reach. With the current quantity of new releases each week, no distributor can effectively promote each of my games to their retailer clients. Even them must make choices to face this flood of releases. But then what with the games that are not picked for the spotlight? Is the publisher expected to just write them off and have them destroyed? This is of course unsustainable, and more like playing the lottery than actually managing a business.

Thus, Hanuise plans to Kickstart games, selling directly to both gamers and retailers that want to carry the titles in their shops, then only if demand still warrants it, reprint the game for conventional distribution outlets. With that plan in mind, for a period of twelve months SteamRollers will be available solely via the Kickstarter campaign, from stores that back that campaign or buy directly from Flatlined, or from Flatlined itself at conventions. Writes Hanuise, "This should make SteamRollers a sought-after game, while avoiding some of the darker effects of current exclusive propositions such as overpriced resales. The one-year period should allow us to establish SteamRollers as a game worthy of a wider audience for distributors or foreign language partners."

• Oh, and here's another tease at Gen Con 2017 for a game due out at SPIEL 2017, this time from Pandasaurus Games, with this tweet actually being a tease before the announcement. This game will be available for demo at Gen Con, and I can't wait to try it out...

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Thu Jul 20, 2017 10:30 pm
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New Game Round-up: Drafting Garfield's Monsters, Reissuing Clowdus' Small Boxes, and Importing European Dojos

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• To encourage retail stores to sign up for CMON Play and hold gaming events for its titles, CMON Limited has put together two new "game night" kits that each contain exclusive material for the games featured. The Zombicide: Black Plague game night kit, which becomes available on July 28, 2017, contains a three-part mini-campaign called "Nightmares", 14 figures and ID cards of a new hero named "Bruce" (?!), and 26 custom dice. The Blood Rage game night kit, due out September 29, 2017, includes upgraded Clan, Age, and Valhalla game boards, first player horn tokens, and plastic clan tokens that replace the card tokens in the base game. Retailers are free to distribute these materials as they choose.

• In addition to these titles, CMON Limited plans to release a new edition of Roberto Pestrin's Dojo Kun, which first appeared in 2015 from Italian publisher Yemaia. In this game, due out Q3 2017, players manage a personal dojo and train their athletes to prepare for combat with those from competing dojos.

• Along the same lines and also in Q3 2017, CMON Limited will release a new edition of Max Valembois's Meeple War, which French publisher Blue Cocker Games released in 2016.



• In 2017, Spanish publisher Meridiano 6 plans to release Bedouin from Fernando Chavarria and Judit Hurtado, with the action in this game apparently taking place on some alternate Earth:

Quote:
The discovery of the Z10 gas put the planet's spotlight on all the corporations of Earth. The treasure that hides under the sand changed the peaceful lives of the bedouin tribes that inhabited the planet. Used to the hard life of the desert, these tribes soon became the most valuable allies in the gas-extraction business. You are the new leader of your tribe and must guide your people to find the gas wells and to build extraction ducts that will reshape the landscape forever. Use your people wisely to control the most strategic places on the map and keep an eye on the movements of rival tribes. Don't forget that the powerful and greedy corporations of Earth pull the strings in the shadows and are capable of helping you...or making your tribe disappear between the dunes.

Bedouin is a strategic game whose main mechanisms are area control and hand management. There is a high interaction between players as they collect the tokens of the gas fields that their tribe controls; these tokens are worth different amounts of victory points, and their value can be modified by different actions during the game. The modular construction of the desert guarantees that you will not find two games the same. Every action counts under the burning sun of the bedouin's planet!

Carnival of Monsters is a new card-drafting game from Richard Garfield and (unexpectedly) German publisher AMIGO Spiel. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
Carnival of Monsters is a card-drafting game in which players collect sets of land cards that allow them to capture and display strange and exotic creatures, hire talented staff to help run their enterprise, and pursue their own secret goals.

Okay, not much to go on for now, but I got a chance to play a round at the 2017 Origins Game Fair, and it was intriguing to know that this design is coming from AMIGO, which typically publishes quick-playing games with few rules. In the game, you need to manage your money in order to pay for new land cards of various types, with these land cards then supporting various creatures that give you points or powers in various ways. You see what everyone else drafts each turn (assuming that they play the card instead of holding on to it), which gives you information for future turns since you're all drafting from packs of cards that are passed among one another each turn

What's especially odd about this project is that AMIGO Spiel is taking Carnival of Monsters to Kickstarter before the end of 2017, with the goal of funding additional art for the game. The more funding the project receives, the more individual pieces of art will be used for the landscapes and creatures, with a different artist handling each environment.

Kolossal Games is a new U.S. publisher launched in 2017 with Travis R. Chance, formerly of Action Phase Games and Indie Boards & Cards, in charge of finding and developing titles. At least I think that's what Chance is doing. We spoke with him briefly about the founding of the new company at the 2017 Origins Game Fair, and I've included that video below.

What I do know about Kolossal Games is that the company has hired John Clowdus of Small Box Games to be a contract designer. To quote from Clowdus' announcement of the deal:

Quote:
Kolossal Games now owns all of Small Box Games' back catalog of games. This is amazing news for me, and for you as a Small Box Games fan. But what does all of this actually mean?

Kolossal Games will likely be releasing some of my previous designs under a broader release, with updated and upgraded components, themes, graphics, and rules. This is extremely exciting, and I can't wait to see what Kolossal does with some of my designs. Small Box Games, as a company and publisher, will continue to exist, with a focus on card-only games.

Additionally, I will be designing bigger games for possible publication through Kolossal, something I couldn't have reasonably done through SBG — but I will also continue designing card only games as well.

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Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:05 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Legendary Ascended Cats of the Serengeti Realms: Thy Will Be Done

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White Wizard Games debuted in 2013 with Star Realms, and it's been making small, addictive, quick-playing card games ever since. Now it's launched a new standalone expansion for that game line — Star Realms: Frontiers — that allows for play with up to four players at once, along with eight expansions that can be used with this new release, the original Star Realms, or Star Realms: Colony Wars.

Six of these new expansions — The Alignment, The Alliance, The Coalition, The Pact, The Union, and The Unity — are command decks that include a custom twelve-card starting deck that uses cards from two of the four factions so that you can take on the role of a legendary commander. The final two expansions are another command deck (The Lost Fleet) and a multi-faction expansion pack (Stellar Allies), both of which are sort of Kickstarter exclusive, although excess stock will be available at conventions and they'll be reprinted later with different art. So many realms in which to star! (KS link)

• Svavar Björgvinsson's Ancient Aliens: Creators of Civilizations from Gamia Games gamifies Erich von Däniken's theories of aliens from the stars shaping the future of mankind on Earth — and now you get to be one of those alien races. Funqqqwick!, as they might say. Each player has their own power and deck of cards, and you're trying to advance humans enough that they can build monuments to your awesomeness. (KS link)

• Each round in Legendary Creatures, from Eduardo Baraf, Christopher Hamm and Pencil First Games, players draw four creatures from their individual decks, send one on an expedition, then use the other three in one of the realms on the game board to generate resources, cast spells, and more. (KS link) BGG recorded an overview of the game with Baraf when it was titled "Fantastic Creatures":




Seth Jaffee's Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done is the latest "deluxified" title from Tasty Minstrel Games, this being a Kickstarted version of a game that includes fancy metal bits and fancy wood pieces and fancy gold trim on the box and other fancy things in a fancified format. As for the game, you are not crusading in the Middle East, but rather running an order of Templar knights and trying to train troops and construct buildings to gain influence. (KS link)

Steve Jackson Games is running a short KS campaign for Munchkin Special Delivery, which might instead be called Munchkin Warehouse 23 Clearance as this mystery box contains "a core Munchkin game, a combination of expansions and/or boosters, and cool accessories and swag". (KS link)

Action News: The Game of Television News from John Teasdale and Justin Robert Young is a set-collection game in which you assemble news stories from different cards, possibly using sources on the original story in new ways to provide further commentary. (KS link)

Firelight: The Questing Card Game from HobbyHorse Games is a card-based tabletop role-playing game that allows 2-4 players to "tell complete, five-act stories with only five minutes of set-up time", according to the publisher, and its introductory nature made it seem like something appropriate for a round-up like this on BGG. (KS link)

• Nemo Rathwald's Overworld from Magic Meeple Games is self-described as "heavily inspired by the 16-bit era of role-playing and adventure video games of the 1990s". Players place double-sided tiles to create the world, with land not able to touch water except for coast spaces, and as empty spaces are create, players compete to occupy them with dungeon doors. In the end, whoever has doors that are the farthest apart wins. (KS link)

Action Cats! is a storytelling game from Keith Baker and Twogether Studios that's "made with 100% crowdsourced cats". Thankfully the game itself is not made from processed cats, but rather it contains crowdsourced images of cats, with players in the game being presented with one of these images, then challenged to create a story about it from cards in their hand, after which a judge determines which story is best. (KS link)

• Rogue Marechal's Serengeti: A Race for Life from GCT Studios is a head-to-head deck-building competition to save life in the African savannah, with players needing to manage their resources and threats to wildlife to gain majority control of the land. (KS link)

Spookre (think Euchre) from David Sheppard and Twitch Factory is a trick-taking game with players trying to grab ghosts from the graveyard, and when any played ghost has the same aura as the target ghost, then their abilities trigger. (KS link)

The Stonebound Saga, previously known as Land of Zion, has funded on its third go on Kickstarter, showing the value of persistence, branding, marketing, and who knows what else. Maybe it doesn't show the value of anything; I should let others worry about such things. In any case, this game by Eric Bittermann and Sky Kingdom Games has each player control and train three characters on their way through a valley to a final battle against an alien force. (KS link)

Ascended Kings from Jason M. Allen, Dylan Pierpont, and Incarnate Games is another KS reboot, with the 2-4 players in this game fighting one another again and again, even after death, to gain four bloodstones, then attempt to claim the Omega Stone. (KS link)

• Still another second run feature on KS is Illuminatus from Nick Crones and Dark Mushroom Games, with this title seeming like a 1980s-style game in which 2-6 players go after one another with all the conspiracies they can muster in order to complete their hidden agendas first. (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 Jul 16, 2017 9:56 pm
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New Game Round-up: Campaign for The Grizzled, Lay Palace Tiles in Azul, and Speak English in Kashgar

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• Australian publisher Grail Games has announced that it will release an English-language version of Gerhard Hecht's Kashgar: Händler der Seidenstraße in Q1 2018 under the name Kashgar: Merchants of the Silk Road. Kashgar was first released in 2013 by KOSMOS in a German edition, and while the game received a fair amount of praise, the cards contain a lot of German text, so folks in other countries decided to wait for a release of the game in their language — after which no one else released the game. *sad trombone*

Now Grail Games is stepping up to the plate, licensing a game that one might have expected to appear in English from Thames & Kosmos, the U.S. branch of KOSMOS, but representatives of T&K have told me (in the past and not related to this announcement) that they have a huge number of titles available to them in the KOSMOS catalog, and they can't possibly do everything. As for the gameplay in Kashgar, here's an overview:

Quote:
Kashgar is a deck-building game in which players build three, "open" decks at the same time. The card at the front of each deck (or caravan) determines which actions are currently available for the players. Cards let you acquire spices or mules, make deliveries for points, or acquire new cards for your caravans.

CMON Limited was already publisher of the English-language version of The Grizzled from Fabien Riffaud and Juan Rodriguez, but in late June 2017 it bought all rights to the game from original publisher Sweet Games.

So what's next for the World War I game? The Grizzled: Armistice Edition, which includes a campaign mechanism to give "more structure to the story of friends surviving World War I", to quote from CMON Limited's press release. I tweeted a pic of this game's prototype in February 2017 after meeting Riffaud and Rodriquez at the Festival International des Jeux, but apparently I forgot to also mention this item in this space until now. Oops.

The press release describes The Grizzled: Armistice Edition as an expansion, but Riffaud and Rodriquez had told me this would be a standalone game, something that essentially starts with everyone meeting at training camps, then learning how to rely on one another to survive all the travails of war. The game is still under development, of course, so things might have changed from that earlier description. They also mentioned that this would be the final Grizzled title since original artist Tignous died in the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015, the year that the original game debuted, and no more art from him exists for the game.



• At SPIEL 2017, Plan B Games will release its second title following Century: Spice Road, a tile-laying game from Michael Kiesling titled Azul. According to Plan B's Mike Young, "It's a fantastic follow-up to Century (easy to learn, full of clever strategic decisions, and addictively fun!) and helps confirm Plan B's line." Here's a short description:

Quote:
Introduced by the Moors, azulejos (originally white and blue ceramic tiles) were fully embraced by the Portuguese when their king Manuel I, on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Southern Spain, was mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the Moorish decorative tiles. The king, awestruck by the interior beauty of the Alhambra, immediately ordered that his own palace in Portugal be decorated with similar wall tiles. As a tile-laying artist, Azul brings you to embellish the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora.

In the game, players take turns drafting colored tiles from suppliers to their player board. Later in the round, players score points based on how they've placed their tiles to decorate the palace. Extra points are scored for specific patterns and completing sets; wasted supplies harm the player's score. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

• In 2018, Alderac Entertainment Group plans to release a second Smash Up expansion that contains factions submitted by and voted upon by fans of the game — but to do that, AEG first needs to receive your submissions, so they invite you to submit faction ideas for "Oops, You Did It Again!" before the end of July 2017. Voting on these nominees will open August 1, 2017.

• At San Diego Comic Con, which runs July 20-23, 2017, Renegade Game Studios will debut Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game, a Keith Baker deck-building design that features artwork by Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O'Malley. What's more, copies at that show — which are limited to fifty per day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday — feature a convention exclusive variant cover. After all, what's a San Diego Comic Con release with some exclusive element?

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Fri Jul 14, 2017 4:04 pm
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New Game Round-up: Donning the Mask of the Pharaoh, Investigating Arkham Noir, and Exploring Cosmogenesis

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• In April 2017, I wrote about the Hasbro Gaming Crate, a quarterly release from Hasbro that would contain three party or family-themed games (depending on which you choose) for $50. My write-up included this line: "Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner referred to the Hasbro Gaming Crate as 'profitable experimentation' since those who buy the Crates are encouraged to give feedback on the titles, which might then make it into general distribution depending on the results."

Given the recent emphasis by Hasbro on viral video-inspired releases such as Pie Face, Egged On, Flip Challenge, and Speak Out, I didn't expect much, but some details on the first two crates have now been released, and some of the items are completely unexpected. To begin with, the main title of the Family Crate is an English-language version of Takashi Hamada and Kenji Shimojima's Mask of Anubis, which debuted in 2016 from GIFT10INDUSTRY before being brought to SPIEL 2016 by Japon Brand. This new version is renamed Mask of the Pharaoh and will reach subscribers in August 2017.

For those not familiar with the game, here's a short description:

Quote:
Mask of Anubis is a mixture of "VR (virtual reality)" and a board game, with a free application included that converts your smartphone into VR goggles!

The purpose of the game is for players to cooperate to create a map of the maze. On a turn, one player lands on one point of the maze and gets a 360º view of the maze by wearing VR goggles with a smartphone inserted. This player explains to the team members what they see and their teammates attempt to use this description to create part of the map of the maze.

Each player gets one minute to explain what they see, then the play passes to the next player (who will be presented a different view of the maze). Repeat this seven times, then players win the game if the complete map is connected from the entrance to the goal correctly!



Another title in the Family Crate is Leo Colovini's Leo Goes to the Barber, this being an English-only version of the Kinderspiel des Jahres nominee that ABACUSSPIELE released in 2016. The third title is Tricky Wishes, which sounds from the description like a repackaged version of Chris Castagnetto's 3 Wishes from Strawberry Studio: "To win this card game, players will need to find three kinds of wishes: one Superpower, one Gift, and one World Harmony. Players can take turns swapping, shuffling, and peeking at card wishes to collect the highest-scoring set." Amazing to see these three titles that originally appeared from publishers in Japan, Germany, and Romania be aimed at mainstream gamers this way!

As for the Party Crate, well, that one appears to be more typical as it contains Speak Out: Joe Santagato (with Joe Santagato apparently being a YouTube celebrity of some sort), Box of Rocks (this being a new edition of the Joe and Dave Herbert design released by Haywire Group in 2016), and Judgmental, which sounds familiar in a Who Would Win kind of way:

Quote:
Historical figures, fictional characters, and celebrities go head-to-head in this crazy "judgmental" tournament-style game. Choose a contender but keep it a secret, then have fun arguing who should win ridiculous contests before passing judgement! Get your contender all the way to the final round to win!

• Spanish publisher Ludonova has unveiled a pair of titles that it will feature at SPIEL 2017 in October. At first glance, Yves Tourigny's Cosmogenesis sounds and looks somewhat like Exoplanets from Przemysław Świerczyński, but the complete rules are available for download on BGG for those who want to go beyond this overview:

Quote:
In a game of Cosmogenesis, each player creates their own planet system, starting from a star and an asteroid belt. To do this, they use the elements available on the different sections of the central board. In each round, players obtain one element from each of the four sections over four turns and with these elements players form planets and moons. These then collide with each other, causing them to increase in size, develop rings, form atmospheres, and of course create life. Players do all of this in order to fulfill their own objectives, which like the rest of the elements of the game, are obtained from the central board; at the end of the game, these provide the victory points that determine the overall winner.

• The other Ludonova title is also an Yves Tourigny design, this being the solitaire card game Arkham Noir — more specifically, Arkham Noir — Case File 1: The Witch Cult Murders, which bears this description:

Quote:
Walpurgis Night, May’s Eve, is always a nightmare in witch-haunted Arkham. There are bad doings, and a child or two frequently goes missing. This year, Miskatonic University students engaged in occult studies have been turning up dead. Arkham Police, in deference to your unusual expertise, have asked for your help to get to the root of the matter. Time is of the essence because after Walpurgis Night, the trail will grow cold and the culprits will retreat to the shadows until the next Witches' Sabbat, when the next cycle of deaths will begin.

As private investigator Howard Lovecraft, you will investigate events based on the stories "The Dreams in the Witch House" (1933), "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1933), and "The Unnamable" (1923).

Arkham Noir is inspired by the interconnected stories of H. P. Lovecraft and other authors, re-imagined as noir detective stories. Each case stands alone. Gameplay consists of adding cards to open cases, creating lines of investigation in an effort to solve them. The ultimate goal is to score five "puzzle" clue cards in order to piece together the big picture before running out of time or mental stability. Each newly shuffled deck is the start of a unique challenge, with adjustable difficulty levels to accommodate all level of players.

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Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:38 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Casually Trash Lucidity in a Green Box with Short Love

W. Eric Martin
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As often happens during convention time, I've neglected to post crowdfunding round-ups for a couple of weeks, so the number of current c.f. projects not previously mentioned in this space is staggering. Perhaps I should stop being amazed by the amount of dollars being handed over to designers and publishers this way, but as long as I keep being amazed, I'll know that I'm still alive. In any case, let's look at some of these current projects:

• Designer Corné van Moorsel used to release one new title each year at SPIEL from his Cwali brand, and that was that, but over the past couple of years van Moorsel has migrated to using Kickstarter to sell games in advance to those who won't make it to the game fair in Essen, Germany (or to sell a title that otherwise might not make it to market, e.g., Factory Funner), and now he's using KS to make an out-of-print title available once again, with a second edition of his SPIEL 2016 Habitats on its way to funding right now. (KS link)

In Habitats, each player lays down tiles to build up their own animal park, ideally giving each animal the environment it prefers to make them happy and receive points in return.

• For a title coming at SPIEL in 2017, we can turn to Wendake from Danilo Sabia, Placentia Games, and Post Scriptum, with players representing the Wyandot People who lived in the Great Lakes region in the U.S. and Canada. The game is set in the mid-18th century, and players must manage all aspects of tribal life by choosing rows of action tiles in a grid, just as the Wyandot did at that time. (KS link)

• Till Engel's self-publisher Adellos is another potential SPIEL 2017 release, with players needing to manage their gold to hire twelve types of units to attack opponents and gain influence. (Startnext link)

Wibbell++ is a game system that originated with the title Wibbell from designer Behrooz Shahriari and was then expanded upon by others creating their own games from this deck with cards that each depict two letters on them along with one of six border designs. Shahriari is funding a new edition of Wibbell++ through her Stuff By Bez brand, and one of the rewards is for her to create a game with you. (KS link) For a sampling of the games playable with the deck, here's an overview video I recorded with Shahriari at SPIEL 2016:



• Similar to Wibbell++, Green Box of Games is a game system, with designer Jørgen Brunborg-Næss including 16 designs that make use of a boxed set of components that are designed to be "as versatile and flexible as a standard deck of cards", according to the designer. (KS link)

• To continue with a section devoted to solitaire-friendly games, Pepper & Carrot: The Potion Contest from Guillermo H. Nuñez amd Loyalist Games challenges 1-4 players — or more if you have additional sets — to use orders to manipulate the 18 ingredients in their 3x6 grid to complete recipes quickly. (KS link)

• Shannon Kelly's Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares from Fox Tale Games is a press-your-luck game in which dice drawn represent your entry point into a world of nightmares. You can discard two dice to guide yourself down a dream path, but then you're at the mercy of the whatever awaits on the die faces — ideally the power symbols that you need to collect before you transform into a nightmare. (KS link)

• While this next project isn't a game, I would be remiss not to highlight Geoff Engelstein's GameTek: The Math and Science of Gaming, this being a written collection of more than seventy GameTek podcast segments from the past ten years, with the book totaling more than three hundred pages. You'll just have to imagine Geoff reading them to you. (KS link)

• Year six of Casual Game Insider magazine, which is meant to promote casual gaming in mainstream outlets, is also looking for funding. (KS link)

• Also not a game is designer Kenechukwu Ogbuagu's efforts to fund a second African Boardgame Convention "to introduce people to boardgaming and break the stereotypes about general tabletop gaming in Nigeria and other parts of Africa". A 12-hour game convention that's free to the public is what's at stake in this project. (Indiegogo link)

Triplock from Adam and Josh J. Carlson and their Chip Theory Games sounds like an escape room game at first, but instead the players represent characters who are trying to manipulate tokens that collectively represent a lock box. The steampunk artwork is out of this world, and I wouldn't be surprised to find someone dressing as these characters at a future Gen Con. (KS link)



• Designer Yukinori Ohashi originally self-published Night Clan in Japan in 2014 through his Domina Games, and now new publisher Gamephilia aims to bring the game to market in a multilingual edition. In this bluffing game, players each have the same deck of thirteen cards, with which they try to use their trolls to capture the daughters and riches of the other players. (KS link)

• Similar sabotage efforts are required for Love Formula from Gwin Games and Japanime Games, with players in the role of matchmakers who want to couple up their customers to perfection while ruining the potential dates arranged by their competitors. (KS link)

• Yet more sabotage is the order of the day in Philip Loyer's Short Order Hero from Wyvern Gaming as you're working at a greasy diner with other hash-slingers and are determined to look better than them, whether through actually providing dishes that customers want or befouling the offerings of others. (KS link)

Damn the Man, Save the Music! by Hannah Shaffer is described as a "tabletop roleplaying game", but I think that's simply because you'll be playing it on a horizontal surface. No matter — this project struck a chord with me, so I'm including it anyway. The short description: "Damn the Man is a single-session game inspired by movies like Empire Records and Clerks, and by a love for bygone '90s music" in which you make "a last-ditch effort to save something you love. Play a ragtag group of underachievers, overachievers, street philosophers, and lovestruck artists united by one cause: to rescue your record store from the oppressive hand of The Man… and to keep the music playing." (KS link)

• In Rival Realms, Alf Seegert and Eagle-Gryphon Games return to the land of Fantastiqa for a head-to-head match of magicians who must summon lands, creatures, artifacts and more in order to complete quests and explore regions of the world. (KS link)

• Kwanchai Moriya has presented us with his spin on how raccoons like to party in Trash Pandas, coming from Michael and Lisa Eskue through their Red Rook Games studio. In the game, you need to tip over trash cans to try to acquire food and other things that raccoons adore, then stash them in a safe place so that no one else finds them. (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 Jul 9, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Feld Summons Merlin, Atlas Holds Court, and Carcassonne Gets Big Boxed...Again

W. Eric Martin
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• In mid-June 2017, Queen Games posted an announcement on French gaming site Tric Trac that it was returning to the French market, with Atalia and Oya serving as distributors of their games for that market. Kingdom Builder and Alhambra would be the first titles available, given that they're both Spiel des Jahres winners and well-known, to be followed by French versions of the newer titles Treasure Hunter, Captain Silver, Glüx, and two new big games: Immortals and Merlin.

We've already covered Immortals somewhat — for example, posting a game overview recorded at the 2017 Origins Game Fair with co-designer Mike Elliott — but Merlin wasn't on my radar previously, which is a shame since this will be a large game from Stefan Feld. Beyond largeness, however, nothing else was noted about the game — until Friday, June 7, that is, when Queen's Ulrich Fonrobert tweeted the following:



Okay, still not much to go on for now, but could this game look any Feldier?! People will be able to find out more at Gen Con 2017 in August, where this game will be demoed ahead of its release at SPIEL 2017.

In a separate tweet, Fonrobert mentions that Queen Games will also have an Emanuele Ornella design at SPIEL 2017, which is funny since this will be the second new Ornella title on the market this year — Okanagan: Valley of the Lakes from Matagot being the other — after an absence of five years. The Tric Trac article mentions another upcoming title — Pioneers, a "strategy game about the conquest of the Far West" — but Ornella's name isn't attached to it.

• In October 2017, Atlas Games will release Cursed Court from Andrew Hanson, a 2-6 player game in which you need to watch others to determine what you should do. In more detail:

Quote:
The intrigues and scandals of the realm's greater nobility are a subject of fixation, and even obsession, for the entire kingdom. Most especially for the minor nobility, whose fortunes can be elevated — or shattered — by what happens at court.

In Cursed Court, you must consider both public and hidden information, some of the latter shared among different pairs of players, when wagering your limited influence in each season of the year. As the machinations of the nine key nobles are progressively revealed, your fortunes rise and fall. After three years, a winner is crowned.

MAGE Company has picked up the 2-6 player dice-roller Goblin Dice from Russian publisher GaGa Games for re-release in English in Q2 2018. Your goal in the game is to reach the finish line first or avoid the giant rolling stone that will crush slow players, ideally leaving you as the lone player still fit to move.

• The sixth edition of Carcassonne Big Box hits stores in September 2017 — at least in Germany and the Czech Republic as the game has been announced in those locations so far — and this version of the game includes the Carcassonne base game, the Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders expansions, the mini-expansions The River and The Abbot now included with the base game, and the six mini-expansions from 2012: The Flying Machines, The Messengers, The Ferries, The Gold Mines, Mage & Witch, and The Robbers (which collectively include the tiles for the Corn Circles II mini-expansion).

Hans im Glück also plans to release Carcassonne für 2 in September 2017, this being a small-sized version of the famed tile-laying game with only 48 tiles and 12 tokens in a travel tin.

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Westeros Meets Catan in A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch

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Fantasy Flight Games has a long history with author George R. R. Martin, having launched A Game of Thrones: Collectible Card Game in 2002 and published the A Game of Thrones board game in 2003.

In the fifteen years since that first title, FFG has released numerous games that represent various parts of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, and now they're leveraging the power of their Asmodee parent company to do so once again, this time merging the tales of Westeros with the development of Catan, a fictional land that debuted in Klaus Teuber's Die Siedler von Catan in 1995, one year before the release of A Game of Thrones, the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch, co-designed by Teuber's son Benjamin and co-published by KOSMOS in Germany, takes the familiar elements of Catan and transports them to Westeros, with players doing the things that one would expect players to do in Catan — but now they face additional challenges in the game as well.

Here's an overview of A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch, which is scheduled for release in Q4 2017, with demos due to take place during Gen Con 2017 in August:

Quote:
The Brothers of the Night's Watch seek a new leader from among their ranks. Jeor Mormont wishes to promote one who can improve the infrastructure of the Gift, the bountiful and undeveloped area south of the Wall bestowed to the Watch by the Starks thousands of years ago. Drawing sustenance from the unforgiving landscape of the north offers enough challenges, but whomever takes up this task must also man and defend the Wall against the onslaught of Wildlings fighting their way into Westeros. Many brothers now compete to build, defend, and do what they can to protect Westeros, but only one shall rise above their brothers to become the new Lord Commander. But be wary — the north holds many dangers, and winter is coming.

In A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch, each area in the Gift supplies one of five resources: lumber, brick, wool, grain, and ore. The barren Ice Fields, however, produce nothing. Players take on the role of Brothers of the Night's Watch and use these resources to strengthen their hold on the north by building roads, settlements, and keeps; recruiting guards for their patrol; or buying development cards. Each of these acts bring players increased power and recognition through the awarding of victory points. The objective will be familiar to players of the original Catan; the first player to achieve ten victory points wins the game and becomes the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.

But this is not as easy as it sounds as the area surrounding the Gift can be treacherous. Wildings from north of the Wall have crossed over and follow their own rules of honor, which often conflict with the laws of Westeros. One of their ranks, Tormund Giantsbane, does not respect the Watch's claim to the land as he moves throughout the Gift, robbing resources from the Brothers sent to provide for their Order. While Tormund runs amok south of the Wall, Wildling forces gather in the Frostfangs, awaiting an opportune moment of weakness to breach the Watch's defenses and spread throughout the fruitful lands of Westeros. In addition to building within the Gift, players must strategically balance their resources to defend the Realm from Wildling raiders.

Each player may recruit up to seven brothers from the prisons of Westeros to don their specific color and man their section of the Wall. When the Wildings attack, each player must use their guards to fend off the onslaught. If there are more guards than Wildings, the Wall stands. If there are not, the Wildings invade the Gift and pillage the settlements and keeps therein. Yet loyalty only goes so far — guards are useless defending the Wall from Climbers who slip past them, and if they encounter a Giant, at least one guard is bound to desert his post.

Each player also has a hero to aide in their toil, based on the order of play. The first player will utilize the talents of the Lord Commander himself, Jeor Mormont, while the second player will enjoy the company of Samwell Tarly, the third will work with Bowen Marsh, and the fourth will employ the services of Master Builder Othell Yarwyck. Each hero offers a unique ability to each player which they can use up to twice during the game. Once a hero's ability has been used, players have a choice to keep that hero or choose another of the eleven heroes to aide them. Players should factor the heroes' abilities into their strategy to quickly earn victory points and gain renown within the Watch.

The Wildling invasion marks the truest test of the Brothers of the Watch and your own competency as a commander. A failure at the Wall has a devastating impact on the Gift, even if it does not destroy the players. A Game of Throne Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch has two forms of victory, though one may feel hollower than the other. Victory occurs when a player has both improved the infrastructure of the Gift and successfully kept it safe from invaders. This is shown when a player has achieved ten victory points by any combination of building keeps, roads, and settlements; hiring three or more guards to keep the Wall safe; and buying development cards to increase their prestige, all while safeguarding the Gift.

However, if the Wildlings breach the wall three times throughout the game, an alternate victory takes place. If this occurs, the game ends immediately as the Brotherhood of the Night's Watch can no longer delay their decision. The player commanding the most guards holding their posts on the Wall gains the title of Lord Commander and wins the game.

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