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Donate to India Covid Relief for a Chance to Win Games

W. Eric Martin
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Beneeta Kaur livestreams game demos and playthroughs on Twitch, and on Sunday, May 2, 2021, she's running a charity event to raise funds for COVID-19 relief for India. Here's a reposting of info from her initial posting on BGG:
Quote:
For the past month or so, my co-host, AnnaMaria [Jackson-Phelps], and I have been going through the BGG Top 100 and discussing them. It's been a lot of fun whilst often fostering serious discussions. This Sunday, we will also be raising money to benefit India's Covid situation. For those unaware, the situation in India is dire and there is a lack of oxygen and hospital beds.

The board game community has come together and I am excited to announce that over 50 companies have pledged a free board game or accessory. Any donation over $3 will be entered into the giveaway. Any donation over $25 will be entered into the big ticket item giveaways (ie. Tidal Blades Deluxe, Too Many Bones, etc). If you donate $35, AnnaMaria will send you an original watercolor piece of art, and those over 100$ have the option of appearing in a future stream with us to play a game. Please join us for a lively discussion and to help raise funds and awareness for this important cause

The stream will be on Sunday, May 2nd at 7pm ET, 4pm PT, and 11pm GMT. Join us here.
From gallery of Kaur

From gallery of Kaur

And here's a more detailed list of companies and individuals who have donated items for this event:

From gallery of Kaur
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Sun May 2, 2021 6:44 pm
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Unveiling 7 Wonders Mystery

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Board Game: 7 Wonders
Board Game: 7 Wonders (Second Edition)
7 Wonders, old and new
On April 12, 2021, Belgian publisher Repos Production introduced something titled "7 Wonders Mystery" with the following minimalistic tweet:


Over the subsequent week, Repos has been tweeting more teasers about...whatever this is, and things are now starting to come into focus with this announcement from April 19, 2021:


Yes, in fact 7 Wonders Mystery is not an expansion for Antoine Bauza's card-drafting, civilization-building game 7 Wonders, but instead a series of puzzle-based challenges based on the seven wonders in the game. Here's an overview from the publisher's press release of what's going to happen:
Quote:
Starting on April 26, 2021, Repos Production, the studio behind 7 Wonders, the board game with more awards than any other game in the world, will offer everyone a brand-new adventure themed around the 7 Wonders of the World.

Each week, for two whole months, a new puzzle will be introduced, with prize sets offered for the cleverest among you. This great investigation game will allow both curious and hardcore fans to test their sense of observation and thought to solve the mysteries of the 7 Wonders. This is a chance to while away the time, alone or with your family, all while furthering your general culture knowledge.
For eight weeks from April 26 to June 20, 2021, a new puzzle will be released at the 7 Wonders Mystery website, with these puzzles being created by various game industry professionals under the supervision of Cyril Demaegd, creator of the Unlock! series of escape room games from Space Cowboys. The puzzles will have multiple difficulty levels, and you can play them with or without clues depending on how much of a challenge you want.

A Repos representative mentioned to me that while the puzzles can be solved by anyone, the prizes will be available only to participants in France, Germany, Belgium, and the U.S., presumably for legal reasons. Another announcement I received notes that "Everyone has a chance to win!", so perhaps we'll have to wait until April 26, 2021 to know for sure.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Purposefully blurry teaser image

Note: I don't normally post about contests in this space, but I saw many people speculating that "7 Wonders Mystery" would be a new game release, so I wanted to pass along clarifying information.
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Tue Apr 20, 2021 3:23 pm
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Grail Games Changes Direction

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Board Game Publisher: Grail Games
In an April 17, 2021 editorial following the close of a Kickstarter campaign for a new edition of Franz-Benno Delonge's game Fjords, Grail Games' David Harding gives a recap of the publisher's history and talks a bit about a new direction.

Grail Games was founded in 2014, and Harding released a handful of titles annually until he found himself burning out in 2018/2019. To excerpt his post:
Quote:
This has been my downfall: I know what games I love and I want everyone to have a chance to love them, so I kept churning them out. On average, I released 5 titles a year — mostly working on my own at nights and on weekends. If a Kickstarter campaign allowed me to print 2000-3000 copies I was excited as I was able to fulfil my dreams. Unfortunately, printing that number of copies each time does not offer a publisher the best cost-per-copy rates, nor will it give a publisher enough profits to make a living. Short of striking lightning in a bottle, a small publisher will almost never make enough to pay the bills. Grail had no marketing department, no advertising budget. Being in Australia there’s almost no conventions to attend, and flying to Essen or Indy is SO freaking expensive.
Board Game Publisher: Matagot
In September 2019, Grail announced a partnership with publisher/distributor Surfin' Meeple that would be "focused on facilitating manufacturing and distribution services with the goal of introducing Grail Games classics to more homes around the world", then in 2020 Grail Games officially joined the Matagot family of companies run by Arnaud Charpentier, with Harding overseeing all editorial decisions, while Matagot would handle marketing, finances, distribution, and production issues.

This support will allow Harding to focus on Grail Games on a full-time basis for the first time in the company's seven-year history starting in June 2021 — but it also entails a change in focus, one that mirrors a March 2021 announcement by Z-Man Games that it was ending its "Euro Classics" game line that consisted (at that point) solely of new editions of five classic titles by designer Reiner Knizia. Here's another excerpt from Harding's post:
Quote:
I am immensely proud of Grail's editions of Yellow & Yangtze, Medici and Stephenson's Rocket, but these reprints and revisions, while great at getting BGGers to notice what one is doing, just...haven't sold well. And not only are we not going to take over any of the games Asmodee [i.e., Z-Man Games] let go, but our Medici Reformation project (although it was almost ready to go) is now cancelled. The 10 games by Renier Knizia that Grail released (Criss Cross, Medici, Medici: The Card Game, Medici: The Dice Game, Yellow & Yangtze, Circus Flohcati, King's Road, Stephenson's Rocket, Whale Riders, and Whale Riders: The Card Game) will not be printed again by us and will be leaving our catalogue at the end of 2021. Allow me to say it: Grab those leftover copies while you can.

Board Game: Yellow & Yangtze
Board Game: Medici
Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket

I personally hope that Reiner Knizia will find publishers for these games that suit him better and sell more copies.
Given what a huge fan I am of his designs, I feel let down by the dual announcements of Knizia titles not being strong enough on the market to maintain a presence there, but maybe this is simply another way of recognizing that the market sees hundreds of new releases annually, so it can be tough to gain traction given all the competition. Alternatively, perhaps my taste in games is somewhat old-fashioned given that I got into hobby games in the early 2000s during an era of regular releases from Schacht, Colovini, and Knizia.

What comes next for Grail? Well, that path has already been started, as is evident in the company's two most recent Kickstarter projects: Hibachi, this being a new — and far more light-hearted — version of Marco Teubner's 2010 release Safranito and the aforementioned Fjords, which was given an expanded player count, five new expansion modules by Harding's brother Phil Walker-Harding, and a modern look by Beth Sobel. In Harding's words:
Board Game: Safranito
The original
Quote:
We still want to reprint classics and games that feel like classics, but these two games (and the ones coming up) are all games that I have been able to put a ton of myself into. We were free to make these games according to my vision. In this new chapter that is about to open for Grail, I will be moving forwards by selecting games that I both love personally, and that I can work on freely. I'll always have my Palastgeflüster, my Finca, my Thurn and Taxis, and my scuffed copies of Carcassonne and Catan. But as a publisher, while I've loved giving older games a fresh coat of paint, I have learned that I enjoy even more when the canvas is bare, or can be stripped bare before I get to work.

Moving forward, with the support of a team of helpers, you will see me have a hand in games more like Hibachi where (dare I say it) a dry game about trading spices with an amazingly fun dexterity element may actually end up on a game table down the road from your house. I mean, just look at that cat chef.
Board Game: Hibachi

Other non-Knizia titles coming from Grail Games were covered in this October 2020 BGG News post that highlighted announcements from Harding during SPIEL '20. (I will confess that Harding's taste in games aligns with mine, so I pay attention to all that he's doing.) These titles include:

• Tom Lehmann's two-player game ChuHan that I first wrote about in 2019.
• Scott Almes' Silicon Valley, in which 1-4 players hire staff for their start-up company to put out new products, with the nature of the products being determined by patterns that you build with polyominoes.
• Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert's The Gardens, which Harding described to me as "my magnum opus" in terms of how he's been able to shape the entire package. Here's an overview of this 2-4 player game:
Quote:
Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden holds a special place in the hearts of locals. World renowned for its location, beauty, and historical and scientific significance, each of its 29 hectares are not only stunning, but a calming retreat from the city's streets.

Board Game: The Gardens
Non-final cover

In The Gardens, players draft cards depicting different features of the Gardens, using them to build their own portion of it in front of themselves. Players then score points based on what their visitors see as they walk past the Gardens' various flower beds, ponds, native trees, and statues. The tableau you build will have three rows — waterside, grass, and cityside — and you add one card a turn until the area is filled.

Board Game: The Gardens
Non-final player tableau

The game is accessible and simple to learn, yet offers strategic choices. Its included modules add variability and depth for experienced players, with landmarks such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge that players can gain for extra points or special abilities, so join the picnickers, joggers, lorikeets, and bin chickens, and enjoy your day in the beautiful Botanic gardens.
Finally, Harding closed with a final teaser about future plans:
Quote:
Thanks to all my experiences and hardships running a publishing house, I felt the urge to give back to the community and we'll soon share news about how Grail will be helping another small publisher's beloved titles to carry on... It will be a fantastic project.
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Tue Apr 20, 2021 1:00 pm
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Industry News: New Hires for Arcane Wonders, Pandasaurus Games, and Renegade Game Studios

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Arcane Wonders
In case you hadn't noticed, in March 2021 BGG expanded the credit section of game listings so that we can highlight more of the people involved in making the games that you play. If you look at the full credits for Lost Ruins of Arnak, for example, you'll see this:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Obviously most of these credit fields will be blank on most game listings until folks start submitting corrections for past work, but in the spirit of highlighting extended credits, I thought this post could highlight some of the folks in new positions behind the scenes.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• In April 2021, U.S. publisher Arcane Wonders hired Nicole Cutler as its Director of Projects — a title that is admittedly not on our list of credits, but "Editor" might be the equivalent. Hmm, maybe we need one more credit, something we've been saying to ourselves internally while working this out.

Thankfully, Arcane Wonders has its own job description:
Quote:
Nicole will be responsible for developing and implementing new systems for tracking and communication between Arcane Wonders' partners both internally and externally. With her breadth of experience in different roles within the industry, Nicole will work interdepartmentally to expedite projects, resolve problems, and help make our games the best they can be. Additionally she will assist the sales & manufacturing directors in the acquisition, execution, and logistics of our international partnerships.
Cutler previously worked as Operations Manager for Jellybean Games and Production Manager for Pandasaurus Games, and not too long before this pandemic started she and her husband moved to my neck of the woods, so with vaccines now rather plentiful in the U.S. perhaps we can finally play a game together before too many more months pass. We'll see...

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• U.S. publisher Renegade Game Studios has brought several people on staff over the past six months, starting with the hiring of Elisa Teague in October 2020 to serve as Senior Producer for Renegade's role-playing line-up, which will include titles set in the Power Rangers, My Little Pony, GI Joe, and Transformers universes following a September 2020 deal with Hasbro. (Teague designed Renegade's D&D 5E-compatible Wardlings Campaign Guide, which was released in 2020.)

In January 2021, Renegade hired Matt Holland as Sales & Marketing Program Manager to "oversee new community oriented projects". Holland was previously Community Coordinator at Fantasy Flight Games, where he helped manage organized play for games such as X-Wing, Star Wars: Destiny, and Legend of the Five Rings.

Along those lines, in February 2021, Renegade announced an organized play program for its Vampire: The Masquerade – Rivals Expandable Card Game, with small kits for stores and in-home use and community kits "slated to begin in late 2021 or early 2022".

From gallery of W Eric Martin
From left: Holland, Fox, and Le

Also in February 2021, Renegade brought on Trivia Fox as Associate Producer: Roleplaying Games and Jimmy Le as Associate Producer: Board & Card Games.

• In February 2021, U.S. publisher Pandasaurus Games brought on Anne Kinner, formerly with Asmodee North America, as Production Coordinator and Mike Young, previously in charge of communications with Plan B Games, as Project Manager.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
From left: Kinner and Young
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Sat Apr 17, 2021 1:00 pm
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Industry News: Ensemble in North America, Fluxx in Wonderland, and Luma to Sit Down

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Board Game: Ensemble
Ares Games has signed a deal to publish and distribute original games from Italian publisher Ergo Ludo Editions in English, starting with the Q4 2021 release of the co-operative game Ensemble from Luigi Ferrini and Daniele Ursini. Here's an overview of that title:
Quote:
All players must vote — without communicating — on one of the cards on display that they think best matches a card in the middle of the table. Communication is allowed only once all the players' votes have been revealed, and if all players have voted the same way (with a small, variable tolerance depending on the number of players), the group moves on to the next level. Otherwise, they lose a life.

The goal of the game is to win level 9 — and once the game is won for the first time, the first scenario deck (of three) is unlocked, with new rules and cards being available for future games.
Following that, Ares will publish an English language version of Ergo Ludo Editions' Cangaceiros, with this game being "inspired by the outlaw gangs of Brazil's Northeast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries".

Here's more on this late 2021/early 2022 release from the press release:
Quote:
To counter the overwhelming power of the large landowners called "Coronéis", armed gangs were created to oppose these despots and the government, fighting for survival, freedom, and revenge. Players are bandits trying to become the most famous gang of the Cangaço, surviving in the impervious hinterland, hunted by military units sent by government to capture or kill them.
From gallery of W Eric Martin
• Luma Imports, a subsidiary of Canadian distributor Luma Games, has signed a deal with Belgian publisher Sit Down! for "exclusive English-language distribution" of its game catalog, starting with the upcoming releases Dive (covered here) and Rush Out! (covered here) in the first half of 2021 and continuing with reprints of Magic Maze and Magic Maze Kids. Here's an excerpt from the press release announcing the deal:
Quote:
Didier Delhez, co-owner of Sit Down!, said, "We are very happy with this new partnership with Luma Imports. Our games will now be able to largely reach the American public, thus responding to the many requests that we have received. We know the effectiveness of Luma Imports and are excited to start this new partnership!"
• Eric Hanuise of Flatlined Games has started a YouTube channel titled "Board Game Publisher" in which he promises to "publish videos about all aspects of the board game publishing trade: sourcing, development, manufacturing, logistics, marketing, regulations, DTP and Pre-press, the list goes on." If you've thought of taking the plunge — or have already plunged — perhaps these videos will be of interest to you. Here's one to get you started, focusing on why you might not want to do this:


From gallery of W Eric Martin
• Spielwarenmesse — the annual toy and game fair in Nürnberg, Germany — has cancelled its 2021 event (previously rescheduled from Jan/Feb to July) and announced that the next fair will be held February 2-6, 2022.

• To increase availability of its games in Canada, Looney Labs has signed a deal with Universal Distribution that goes into effect as of April 14, 2021. An excerpt from the press release: "Universal Distribution has been a long-time industry friend and brings strong insights into the game and hobby market in Canada. With three shipping locations across Canada, they are more convenient for some retailers. This addition of Universal as a distributor does not replace any existing channels for obtaining Looney Lab games but rather adds opportunity for specialty retailers to get our games at their convenience."

Board Game: Wonderland Fluxx

Speaking of which, Wonderland Fluxx is a short-run release from Looney Labs for which retail preorders end on April 16, 2021. The short story behind this title: U.S. retailer Books-A-Million was interested in an "Alice in Wonderland" themed Fluxx, and designer Andy Looney had one on hand, so it's now going into production primarily for BAM!, while also being available to other retailers who want to carry copies.
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Links: Changing Times in the Game Industry

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From gallery of W Eric Martin
• On March 15, 2021, Z-Man Games' Head of Studio Steve Kimball posted an article titled "An Ode to the Euro Classics", which simultaneously announced the end of the "Euro Classics" game line that (to date) consisted of new editions of Reiner Knizia's Tigris & Euphrates, Ra, Taj Mahal, Through the Desert, and Samurai; teased a new edition of The Princes of Florence from Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich (cover art at right) that will now not be released; and expressed a few sour grapes about the current state of the industry. An excerpt:
Quote:
Third, the industry had massively changed — even in the short 5 years since the new version of Tigris launched the line. Crowdfunding is a force to be reckoned with, and it is the ideal place to relaunch new versions of beloved classics. The gorgeous reimaginings done by Roxley, Grail Games, Restoration Games, and Burnt Island Games are all living testaments of that truth!

Alternatively, if you do attempt to re-release a game via traditional distribution channels, then you need to pray that any number of witty UK board game influencers take notice and give you coverage. Those folks hold massive sway over the current industry's focus, and without a ringing endorsement poshly articulated in the Queen's English ("Best Euro Ever" anyone?), your revised labor of love is headed for a Miniature Market fire sale.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I honestly wonder that, if Princes had launched in today's environment, would it have ever cracked BGG's Top 10? I'm not convinced that it would; not because the game isn't excellent — it truly is — but because today's conditions are so different. It made an impact at a time when only a handful of established publishers released far fewer games. Nowadays there is so much noise that it is nearly impossible to ensure that your wares are seen, heard, and given a fair chance to succeed in the market.
Board Game: Citadels
Board Game: Stolen Paintings
• In a February 2021 post on his website, designer Bruno Faidutti reflects on game sales in 2020. An excerpt:
Quote:
Old staples sold as well as usual, if not better, in 2020. The sales of Citadels, Incan Gold, Mascarade and The Dwarf King, which together make more than three quarters of my income, were good. It's really surprising since, except for The Dwarf King, they all play best with a large group of players, which is not always easy to gather in these epidemic times.

On the other hand, most new games went under radar. The sales of Poisons, Vintage, Maracas, Ménestrels and Stolen Paintings are modest, if not disappointing, even when they all got good reviews. I can understand it for Poisons, which is at its best with five or more players, or with Maracas, which looks much more fun once you've held and shaken the actual gizmo. Stolen Paintings, Vintage and Ménestrels, on the other hand, are very classic euro style card games, play really well even with only three or four players, and I thought they would be well fitted for the times. Only one of my new games, Vampire – Vendetta, seems to sell really well, and it might be in part, paradoxically, because the action takes place in a decades old fantasy universe.
Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
Board Game: Codenames
• In a separate post from January 2021, Faidutti reflects on his 35-year history in the boardgame industry, writing about how both games and game designers have become more diverse in modern times, with the games themselves being harder to categorize and far better than in the 1980s. An excerpt:
Quote:
In the eighties, the gaming world was extremely divided. Some people played party games, other played simulation games, other german games (soon to be renamed eurogames). It was also the beginning of role playing games. Even for the few people who, like me and my friends, were interested in all of these, they were still distinct genres and styles. The charm and richness of todays gaming world comes from the fact that everything has been mixed, that designers and publishers are always crossing borders. The same designer, Vlaada Chvátil, can design Through the Ages, which I find boring but is certainly a great game in its style, and Codenames, which I could play for days. This incredible culture broth also generated new genres like collectible card games, deck-building games, co-operative games, legacy games. They all made the gaming culture more rich and interesting.
• At the end of 2020 on WIRED, Matthew Gault wrote about racial stereotypes in Dungeons & Dragons, highlighting issues both within the game and with publisher Wizards of the Coast. The opening paragraph:
Quote:
Dungeons & Dragons is the oldest and most popular tabletop role-playing game in the world. As its popularity has soared, so has its player base. It's a game that was dominated by white dudes for decades and, because of that, it's got some baggage. Some of its concepts — evil races, descriptions of orcs and half-orcs that mirror racist stereotypes, and the concept of racial disadvantages — don't make sense anymore in a modern context. The game's publisher, Wizards of the Coast (WotC), knows that and is trying to move Dungeons & Dragons into the future. But many of its efforts seem half-hearted, and a lot of the work of making Dungeons & Dragons more inclusive has fallen to its fans.
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Links: Gamifying Climate Change, Priceless Reviews, and UNO on Screens Large and Small

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• On March 25, 2021, Alex Marshall of The NY Times profiled designer Matt Leacock and a game design currently in the works in an article titled "His Game Made Beating a Pandemic Fun. Can He Do It for Climate Change?"

The game in question is titled Climate Change Daybreak— as Leacock notes in this comment further down this page — and it's co-designed by Matteo Menapace (his website), with CMYK serving as the publisher. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Quote:
If the idea of making a fun game about surging diseases sounds like a tall order, Leacock said making entertainment out of climate change was even tougher. "I haven't ever tried to create a game that was faithful to science before," he said in a telephone interview from Sunnyvale, Calif., where he lives.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Image: Peter Prato for The New York Times

Pandemic was about creating a sense of tension, he said, but Climate Crisis has "higher ambitions." In addition to being entertaining, he hopes the new game can change people's actions in the real world.

"I've got a big opportunity to come up with a cooperative game that makes a difference," he said. "I don't want to blow it."
This Climate Crisis site has several articles from Menapace about the origins of their collaborative design effort, choices that have driven the design, and an overview of how the game works. In short:
Quote:
Each player controls a world power, deploying policies and technologies to both dismantle the engine of global heating and to build resilient societies that protect people from life-threatening crises.

If the global temperature gets too high, or if too many people from any world power are in crisis, everyone loses. But if you work together to draw down global emissions to net-zero, you all win!
From gallery of W Eric Martin
• On March 23, 2021, Dan Thurot of Space-Biff! posted an article titled "Talking About Games: The Price Is Wrong" in which he explains why he no longer talks about a game's price in his reviews. A long excerpt:
Quote:
One of the most influential things I've ever read was a review.

I don't remember the author. It came from one of those tomes found way back in the university stacks, with curly golden letters on its spine and a layer of dust on the top edge. It spoke of the author's experiences with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Not in the usual way, in which the critic boasts about how everybody else is subject to doublethink, but not them, oh no, not them. Instead, the critic pointed out that Nineteen Eighty-Four didn't just talk about doublethink; old George snuck it into his readers' thoughts. The book tells you up front that its heroes Winston and Julia will be caught and broken. It repeats this fact so many times that it adopts the familiarity of a picture on the wall of your childhood home. You could identify it on sight, but possibly couldn't say where it was hung exactly. Familiarity becomes foreign. So familiar and foreign, in this case, and so bound up in the expectations of the genre and how heroes ought to behave and how good stories should conclude, that Orwell's readers often persuaded themselves that Winston and Julia could escape their fate. We knew they would not. But we also knew they would. That is doublethink. If we suffer from it reading a book, surely we all suffer from it in our real lives, especially when we're convinced we don't.

Here's the thing: I read that review so long ago that I don't remember where its author ends and I begin. I don't know if its central argument was expressed outright or only hinted at. Either way, it has informed not only my reading of Nineteen Eighty-Four, not only my reading of Orwell's broader corpus, not only my reading of dystopian literature, but also my thinking about nearly everything I think.

Regardless of the specifics, it had nothing to do with whether I should go out and purchase Nineteen Eighty-Four, or whether the book was worth $19.80 in hardback or $13.69 mass paperback or if I should wait for banned books week to grab it for free on the Kindle. Its author wasn't attempting to speak to me about Orwell's opus in commercial terms. Instead, the book was treated as a serious thing that had sparked serious thoughts, that operated in only limited fashion as entertainment while speaking plainly about cognitive dissonances and how those could be weaponized against a population's best interests.
This is the perspective that I take when writing or talking about games in reviews: I want to explore a game's structure, its feeling, how it works. Ideally that exploration has value on its own, regardless of whether you play the game, because it gives you some sense of what I think the designer was trying to do and whether it worked. Price never enters the discussion since I don't know how much money you have or what a game will cost you or whether you can borrow it — and even if I did know all that, those details would still be irrelevant since you know better than me what you value.

It would probably make more sense to talk about whether a game is worth your time (compared to your money) given how many games exist relative to the time you'll have on Earth, but even that discussion would be presumptuous given how (once again) you know better than me what you value.

Board Game: UNO
• I bookmarked a bunch of game news throughout February 2021 that hasn't yet made it into this space, so let me catch you up on two related items that you might already know about:

—In February 2021, Mattel announced that it was developing the card game UNO into a live-action motion picture — which sounds like a bizarre thing to do given what UNO is, but when you own the brand for the world's best-selling card game, I guess you want to figure out new ways to keep that brand in front of people. Here's an excerpt from the announcement:
Quote:
Mattel Films will produce the project alongside Grammy-nominated rapper Lil Yachty. In addition, Quality Control's Kevin "Coach K" Lee, Pierre "P" Thomas and Brian Sher will produce for Quality Films. Marcy Kelly penned the screenplay for the action heist comedy, set in the underground hip hop world of Atlanta. Robbie Brenner, executive producer, and Kevin McKeon, supervising producer, will lead the project for Mattel Films.

"At Mattel Films, we are looking to explore stories that bring our brands to life in unexpected ways," said Brenner. "UNO is a game that transcends generations and cultures, and we look forward to partnering with Lil Yachty, as well as with Coach, P and Brian Sher, to transform the classic UNO game into a comedic action adventure."

"I'm so excited to be part of this film with Mattel," added Yachty. "I played UNO as a kid and still do today, so to spin that into a movie based on the Atlanta hip hop scene I came out of is really special. It hits close to home for me."
—These news follows a November 2020 announcement, as reported by The Wrap, that Mattel landed a television deal for UNO. Here's an excerpt from that article:
Quote:
"The UNO Game Show" is described as a "larger-than-life televised competition" featuring four teams who will face off to become "the ultimate UNO champion". The planned show will incorporate audience participation, over-the-top physical challenges, and trivia.

...A previous game show adaptation was put into development in 2013 at The Gurin Company but did not move forward to series.

"UNO is the most popular game in the world and is a fixture in pop culture, making it the ideal franchise to build a reality game show around," [Mattel's Adam] Bonnett said in a statement.
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Sat Mar 27, 2021 1:00 pm
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Links: MicroMacro: Crime City Wins As d'Or, It's a Wonderful World Wins in Japan, and Elizabeth Hargrave Pins Wrestlers

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• On February 25, 2021, at a time when the Festival International des Jeux would normally be taking place in Cannes, the jury of the As d'Or — France's game of the year award — announced the 2021 winners in a Facebook post instead of during the usual ceremony at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

The winner of the main prize, the 2021 As d'Or, was MicroMacro: Crime City from Johannes Sich and Edition Spielwiese. The "Where's Waldo?" type of deduction in this design skirts the border of what I would consider a game, but if you're not familiar with it, you can check out my written and video overview here.)

Dragomino from Bruno Cathala, Marie Fort, Wilfried Fort, and Blue Orange Games won the 2021 As d'Or for children's games. (The Forts also won the children's award in 2019 for Where's Mr. Wolf?, another Blue Orange release, not to mention the 2019 Kinderspiel des Jahres for Valley of the Vikings from HABA. Cathala and Blue Orange Games won the 2017 Spiel des Jahres, along with many other awards, for Kingdomino.)

Thomas Sing's The Crew from KOSMOS (and IELLO in France) won the 2021 As d'Or Grand Prix for "expert" gamers, marking yet another award for a game that I've also praised repeatedly.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Board Game: It's a Wonderful World
From gallery of W Eric Martin
The Crew didn't fare quite as well in the 2020 Japan Boardgame Prize, placing "only" third in the rankings, with Frédéric Guérard's It's a Wonderful World from La Boîte de Jeu (and Engames in Japan) placing first ahead of Just One. Titles rounding out the top five were Rumble Nation and Gloomhaven.

Note that these winners were all in the "Voters' Selection" category in which the members of the public submitted their top five games, with these games receiving 5-1 points. The jury prize was not awarded for 2020 as the jury felt that it could not sample the field as much as it should.

• In a February 2021 issue of The New York Times Magazine, poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib wrote about playing spades with his friends. An excerpt:
Quote:
Oh, friends — I most love who you become when there are cards in your hands. How limitless our love for one another can be with our guards down. When the first bit of trash talk rattles the chest and then gives permission for more, and more, and more until the talking of trash, too, is a type of romance. Anyone worthy of being taken down is worthy of hearing all the ways they are being taken down. I meet my enemies with silence and my friends with a symphony of insults, or jokes that cut just deep enough for people to see them momentarily but not so deep as to leave a scar. Dearest siblings, even in an ass-whupping, there's no place else I’d rather be.
• Designer Phil Walker-Harding hinted at new directions in an interview with Australian online retailer Board Game Supply: "In the last year or so I have been trying my hand at some new genres – party games and kids games. None of them are out yet, but hopefully they will be received ok!"

• On March 16, 2021, designer Elizabeth Hargrave appeared on YouTube channel UpUpDownDown to play Wingspan with host Austin Creed (a.k.a. WWE wrestler Xavier Woods) and three other WWE members. Apparently UUDD had streamed the game previously and Hargrave had jumped into their chat, so they invited her on to play against them.

Given that UUDD has 2.25 million subscribers, this is a great opportunity to introduce the game to many potential players. Here's the playthrough:

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Sat Mar 20, 2021 1:00 pm
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Gen Con 2021 Moves to September 16-19 with Both In-Person and Online Events

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Gen Con normally takes place the first week of August each year, but things haven't been very normal lately. In 2020, Gen Con hosted an online event since people couldn't gather in person in Indianapolis, Indiana. In December 2020, Gen Con noted that it was still hoping for an August 2021 event "as planned, in person in Indianapolis from August 5-8", and in February 2021 it surveyed past con attendees to measure their expectations for such an event.

As of March 17, however, Gen Con has decided to postpone Gen Con 2021 to September 16-19, with the event featuring both in-person and online experiences. Here's more from the announcement:
Quote:
By offering a flexible range of opportunities to participate, we hope to safely include the largest number of people in the Gen Con experience this year and adapt to conditions as they are in September: in-person at Gen Con in Indianapolis with capped attendance and a modified format, from home through Gen Con Online events and livestreaming, and at local game stores through Pop-Up Gen Con retail activations.

With the rollout of effective vaccines, we look forward to an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and an eventual return to normal convention conditions, but the timeline is far from certain. In consultation with public health experts and local partners, with community feedback in mind, and with cautious optimism, we are moving forward with planning while maintaining the ability to shift course as needed to meet the requirements of changing conditions.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Convention planning happens on a long timeline, and we appreciate your continued patience as we tread these murky waters. By postponing our dates and expanding our approach, we hope to provide you with the best experience we can this year. With so many pieces in motion, we aren't yet announcing dates for badge, hotel, and event registration, but we will announce those decisions soon as we advance to the next stages of planning.
If you had a badge for Gen Con 2020 and rolled it over to Gen Con 2021 but cannot attend for whatever reason, you can roll your badge over to Gen Con 2022 (where I believe hugs will be mandatory to make up for lost time) or get a credit or refund. Co-Owner and Chairperson of the Gen Con Board Peter Adkinson writes about the new plans for Gen Con 2021 here.
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Wed Mar 17, 2021 8:29 pm
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Asmodee USA to Distribute Games from ThunderGryph, Fantasia, and Tabletop Tycoon

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In 2020, the BGG team spent half its time at GAMA Expo dousing ourselves with hand sanitizer and wondering why we were there. In 2021, we've looped back around to the starting point of the pandemic for most of us in the U.S., and as with so many other events from the past twelve months, GAMA Expo will take place online, allowing "attendees" to experience all of the work of the show and none of the fun.

Before the event even starts, though, I can kick off coverage of GAMA Expo with news of exclusive U.S. distribution deals between Asmodee USA and three game publishing companies: ThunderGryph Games, Fantasia Games, and Tabletop Tycoon, which owns the brands Starling Games, Victory Point Games, Flying Meeple, Spark Works, and Polyhero Dice.

In a press release announcing the deal, ThunderGryph Games founder and president Gonzalo Aguirre Bisi said, "Asmodee has given us the warmest welcome as our new English distribution partner, and we already feel like part of the family. This important relationship will help us grow professionally as a board game publisher. We are extremely excited to unveil our plans for 2021 together." (ThunderGryph Games had previously been distributed in North America by Lucky Duck Games starting in January 2020.)

Titles from ThunderGryph Games — which include Tang Garden, Iwari, Hats, Spirits of the Forest, and the 2020 Matchbox Collection — will become available throughout 2021, with the recently Kickstarted Darwin's Journey due out in Q4 2021.

Fantasia Games has not released any titles to date, but in 2020 it Kickstarted Stan Kordonskiy's Endless Winter: Paleoamericans, and that title is due out in Q4 2021, along with the expansions Ancestors, Cave Paintings, and Rivers & Rafts. The press release announcing this deal also includes this note: "Retailers that are part of Asmodee USA's Best Sellers Program who pre-order Endless Winter can qualify for the special Mammoth Module, a limited expansion from the original Kickstarter."

As for Tabletop Tycoon, the press release announcing this deal notes that games from this company "will be available starting April 2, 2021. Future releases to look forward to include a line of beautiful Everdell puzzles, the imaginative Polyhero Dice, and new Everdell expansions currently on Kickstarter."

Board Game: Darwin's Journey
Board Game: Endless Winter: Paleoamericans
Board Game: Everdell: The Complete Collection
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Tue Mar 16, 2021 11:00 am
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