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Game Preview: How Does Your Garden Grow?, or Cursing Raccoons While Praying for Carrots

W. Eric Martin
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Yesterday I previewed Rüdiger Dorn's Vegas Dice Game, one of nearly two dozen games that will appear exclusively at Target when that U.S. retail chain refreshes its game section at the end of July 2017. Today I'm looking at a far more typical mainstream release, one aimed at the youngest of players and one that exemplifies the constant challenge of getting people to enjoy playing games.

How Does Your Garden Grow? is from designer Gina Manola and U.S. publisher Mudpuppy, which previously had produced only public domain titles such as dominoes, bingo, and chess. This design features all the tropes that one might expect of a game aimed at four-year-olds: bright colors, call-outs to educational benefits ("Color Matching", "Strategy"), and an oddly-shaped box complete with a handle. As for the gameplay, here's an overview:

Quote:
In How Does Your Garden Grow?, players want to tend to their garden, avoid pests that will eat their crops, and plant one of each of the six fruits and vegetables in the game. Whoever does this first wins.

To start the game, each player draws six seeds from the seed pouch at random and places them on front of the six slots on their 3D game board. On a turn, a player draws and reveals the top card. If it's a fruit or veggie and they have the matching colored seed, they can place this card in their game board in the slot next to the seed. If they lack this colored seed, they can swap one of their seeds with a seed drawn at random from the bag; if this now matches the card, they can plant it; otherwise they must discard the card.

Players might also draw a "Pick it!" card that allows them to steal a card from another player's garden, a "Pest" card that eats one card in your garden, or a "Helper" card that allows you to draw two cards, after which you play both.

Players continue taking turns until one of them has all six fruits and veggies in their garden, winning the game instantly.




All that seems straightforward enough, but the rules don't reveal that one important detail — needing all six fruits and veggies to win — until the final line when previously the object of the game was stated as follows: "[P]lant 6 fruits/veggies in your garden row. The first player to complete his/her garden is the winner!" The rules aren't long, but even in this game for kids I played twice (with a four-year-old and eight-year-old) before re-reading the rules and discovering that one detail I had missed earlier. Even in a game for children with almost no rules, the rules were initially unclear because the winning condition was stated two different ways. Sigh.

In our first games, we played until someone placed six cards in their garden, then called it. The four-year-old had fun with each revelation of his cards (and with winning the first game), while the eight-year-old was filled only with sighs. (A two-year-old observing the game had fun stealing seeds from the bag and playing with them on the remaining game board.)

Once I discovered the correct rules, I coerced the eight-year-old into playing again in order to check whether that color restriction would bog down play. What if you drew two tomatoes to match the two red seeds on your board? Would you then need to cycle through cards until you finally drew a pest so that you could discard one of them, then keep cycling until you drew the missing color? In two games, neither of us had this issue as drawing new seeds from the bag is optional, and both of us drew until we had all six colors, then stopped drawing and just let the deck do its thing.

As you can tell from the description, there's not much to the game itself. You shuffle the deck, then (for the most part) things happen without you having a say in anything. The extra complication of needing a rainbow of produce might cause games to go longer than they would if you needed only to fill your board, and you'll need to judge the patience of your young audience to see whether the complication is worth the trouble. As a designer of kids' games recently told me, sometimes you don't worry about the rules, but just put the components on the table and see what happens...


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Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:05 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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Game Preview: Vegas Dice Game, or Looking to Score at the Tables (and Shelves)

W. Eric Martin
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Rüdiger Dorn's dice game Vegas was a departure for the alea line when the game was released in 2012. A pure dice game? That rates only a 1 on alea's difficulty scale? What's happened to our beloved alea?!

Yet Vegas is tremendously entertaining. This game about gambling actually feels like gambling because you're placing stakes on casinos in the form of dice that you roll, and sometimes you increase your stakes (by adding more dice to the casino later) and sometimes you lose your wager, ending up with nothing but broken dreams while an opponent brings home the jackpot. You're not in control of what happens because you can place dice only in one of the casinos that you roll — and when you do so, you must place all the dice of a single number — and you must place at least one die each turn. Turn by turn your die resources are allocated until it's the end of a round and you're hoping against hope to roll the one number you need with your lone remaining die in order to break a tie in that casino and go from bupkis to a huge payout. The odds are against you, but it could still happen!

Vegas went on to be nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, Germany's game of the year award — after which it was renamed Las Vegas — but it lost out that year to Kingdom Builder. In 2014, Dorn and alea released Las Vegas Boulevard, an expansion that consists of several individual modules that can mix up gameplay in multiple ways, from larger bills to more players to large dice that count as two normal dice to a new seventh casino that works differently from all the others.




Now Vegas is being repackaged again, this time as Vegas Dice Game, with this new version being available from Ravensburger solely through the Target retail chain in the U.S. A game buyer from Target contacted me a while ago about taking an early look at this game and several others that will start appearing in stores and online at the end of July 2017, and I said sure for two reasons. First, I want to preview games in this space, and here was an opportunity to do so — although I initially had no idea what I might be previewing. Roll those dice and see what turns up! Second, I want to help more gamers discover BoardGameGeek, and having previews of games that will appear solely at Target might lead them to discover BGG when searching for more information. We'll see whether that actually happens in the months ahead.

Seeing Vegas Dice Game as one of the titles headed to Target shelves makes sense to me. I've brought Vegas to picnics and gatherings of "regular" people — you know what I mean, people who play games but aren't obsessed by them — and they took to Vegas immediately. The game takes at most a minute to learn, and it plays in game space that's familiar to most people. After all, more than 75 million people visit U.S. casinos each year, and they're all comfortable with rolling dice and trying to work the odds in their favor. Heck, most of us do that every day of our lives — just without rolling actual dice.

We played the game over burgers and chips and sodas and beer, players coming and going throughout the evening with new people picking up the game immediately by watching others. That's a gaming success — but whether it will translate directly from the store shelf is another matter. I worked in a game store in the early 1990s, and I learned over and over again that you can put a game out for display on a table and sell dozens of times more than you can from a game sitting on a shelf.




In any case, here's a video overview of Vegas Dice Game for those who haven't already played the game or those who want to see what this new version looks like:

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Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:05 pm
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Kingdomino Wins 2017 Spiel des Jahres; EXIT: The Game Escapes With Kennerspiel

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Nearly two months after announcing its nominees, the jury for the Spiel des Jahres — Germany's annual game of the year award, which is the game industry's largest prize as it typically leads to additional sales of hundreds of thousands of copies — has proclaimed Kingdomino from Bruno Cathala this year's winner, beating out Magic Maze and Wettlauf nach El Dorado. Kingdomino is published by Blue Orange Games, with Pegasus Spiele being the German licensee.




Minutes before announcing the Spiel des Jahres winner, the jury gave the 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres — an award aimed at enthusiasts who already have some familiarity with modern games — to EXIT: The Game, specifically the first three titles in this series: The Abandoned Cabin, The Pharaoh's Tomb, and The Secret Lab. These titles were all designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by KOSMOS, and three more titles in the EXIT series have already been released in Germany, with even more on the way. The other two nominees for KedJ were Raiders of the North Sea and Terraforming Mars.




The Kinderspiel des Jahres —the children's game of the year in Germany — had been awarded on June 19, with Brian Gomez' penguin-flicking game Ice Cool, published by Brain Games, taking home the prize over Captain Silver and The Mysterious Forest.


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Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:26 am
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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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Game Preview: Codenames Duet, or Searching for Agents in All the Right Places

W. Eric Martin
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We've already published two preview videos about Codenames Duet: one from the 2017 GAMA Trade Show when the game was still being developed, and another from the 2017 Origins Game Fair when the design was pretty much complete and just waiting to be sent to production before the game's debut at Gen Con 2017 in August. Thus, I thought I'd avoid creating another video about the game and instead write something up.

Vlaada Chvátil's Codenames is only two years old, but the game already feels like an established classic, something that will be with us for decades. The game design is so minimal — teams take turns trying to identify their hidden secret agents, which are known only by their visible codenames — that its framework can be filled with almost any content, and the gameplay itself will still work just fine; designer Bruno Faidutti, for example, has noted that he's played the game with people guessing rubber ducks, empty beer bottles, board game boxes, novels, Dixit cards, Cards Against Humanity cards, Unusual Suspects cards, and actual people. Multiple versions of Codenames exist or have been announced, and many more are sure to come in the years ahead.

Codenames Duet already functions as another version of Codenames. The box contains two hundred new double-sided word cards, so even if you ignored the new way to play the game, you'd have four hundred new words to use when playing Codenames. (You're on your own when it comes to acquiring rubber ducks as publisher Czech Games Edition doesn't sell them!) These words are a bit more out there than in the original game, with "Joan of Arc" and "Hercules" showing up amongst more common words like "soup" and "hose". I've spoken with CGE's Josh Githens at multiple conventions this year — including at PAX East, where we played a still-in-development Codenames Duet — and he said that they tried to assemble a mix of words in which some serve as hubs (with tons of potential connections) while others have a smaller range of connections.




In practice, some of those more limited words can still be guessed the old-fashioned way: creative clue-giving combined with the process of elimination. In one game, my partner gave the clue "queen - 2", and it was easy to guess "King Arthur" as one of the two words matching "queen", but I scanned fruitlessly for its partner — until I suddenly realized that she probably meant "Joan of Arc", simply because this card was the only one in play with the name of a female human. Success! (After the game, she confirmed that line of thinking. Joan of Arc wasn't a queen, but that clue would likely get me to that card, and in the end that's all that matters.)

Codenames Duet differs from Codenames in that this new game is fully cooperative instead of being played with competing teams. You lay out 25 word cards in a 5x5 grid like normal, but you place a double-sided code card (one side shown at left) between the two players. I see the nine agents (shown in green) that I want my partner to guess and three assassins that I want my partner to avoid (in black). Either player can give the first clue, then players alternate after that, trying to identify all fifteen agents within nine turns.

The tricky part is that my partner's side of the card also shows nine agents and three assassins, and of those three assassins, one of them is an assassin on my side of the code card, one of them is an innocent bystander (shown in tan), and one of them is an agent. This last one is a double agent, I suppose, since I'm trying to get my partner to guess this card, yet if I choose the card on my turn, we lose the game.

Thus, Codenames Duet often puts you in a bind. You know that at some point you'll need to correctly identify one of the three assassins you see as an agent — but which one? The cool part about this bind is that once you do guess the right assassin, you know that the other two assassins shouldn't ever be guessed since they're worthless to you. Your partner doesn't know that you know this since you're not supposed to share info, but you can feel satisfied internally and leave it at that.




You each have nine agents depicted on your side of the code card, but three of those agents are shared; each of us knows those three agents, but we don't know that we both know. This (unwitting) sharing of information gives you another chance to interact in subtle ways. Your partner gives a clue that might work for a few different cards, but one of them is an agent on your side, so that gives you an incentive to choose it — although one of those agents is an assassin, so hmm...

Another challenging aspect of Codenames Duet is that you want to track guesses and information in a way that records who did what. We place the agents and bystanders on the cards so that they face the person who guessed them. If someone is facing me, that means I discovered their identity on my partner's side of the code card; my partner, however, knows nothing about their identity on my side of the code card. Is this revealed agent also an agent on my side? I know it is, which means I have one fewer agent to clue, but that's my info, not theirs. The person I see as a bystander might actually be an agent that they have to guess.

I've played more than twenty games so far on four-fifths of a copy that Czech Games Edition gave me after the 2017 Origins Game Fair. One strong difference from the original game is that Codenames Duet is a lot quieter. When playing Codenames, teams trying to guess words tend to discuss things openly, which gives information to both cluegivers as well as the other team, but in Codenames Duet you know information that the other player doesn't, so you can't say, "Well, it can't be 'scarecrow' because that's an assassin on my side and I've already guessed the 'fog' assassin." You just sit and stare and eventually guess.

And sometimes you die. In Codenames when a team guesses the assassin, the other team breaks out in huzzahs and cheers; in Codenames Duet, you both slump in the chair, defeated. If Codenames were Star Wars, with two factions facing off against one another with one sure to win in the end, Codenames Duet is Rogue One, with the two of you in a race against time, often cowering on the beach as the world blows up around you.

Then you flip over the word cards and try again.

•••




One new addition to Codenames Duet — something not in the original design from Scot Eaton (which was heavily developed by CGE) or in the original Codenames — is a campaign mode that allows you to increase the difficulty of the game. In my 20+ playings, we've won only 3-4 times, with two of those wins coming in sudden death. (If after nine rounds you haven't identified all fifteen agents, then you enter sudden death. Either player can finger one of the word cards, and if it's an agent from the other player's perspective, then you mark it as such and continue or win; if it's not an agent, then you've lost the game.) Thus, we've stayed away from the campaign mode so far.

How campaign mode works: If you've won the normal Codenames Duet set-up, which starts with nine bystander tokens on the side of the playing area with players having nine rounds, then you can mark off Prague on the map and travel to an adjacent city. Maybe you'll go to Moscow where you start with only eight bystander tokens and have only eight rounds in which to identify the fifteen agents. If you survive Moscow, you can travel to Bangkok where you have only seven of each — or you can head to Yakutsk, where you have eight tokens, but only four bystanders.

During the normal game, if you voluntarily stop guessing after one or more successes, then you take one of the bystander tokens and flip it over to show a file. (Thus, whether you hit a bystander or stop on your own, one token is removed from play.) The number of tokens thus indicates how many turns remain in the game. If you go to Yakutsk, then you start with four bystanders and four files. If you stop voluntarily, then you take a file; if you finger a bystander, then you place a bystander; if you can't place a bystander token (because you've already placed them all), then you must take two file tokens, flip them to the bystander side, and place both of them on the word card. Boom — two turns lost in one go.

Maybe I'll get to travel the world of secret agents at some point, but I need to improve my clue-giving before that can happen!
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Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:30 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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Game Preview: Sentient, or Dieing to Assemble Awesome AIs

W. Eric Martin
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Renegade Game Studios had advance copies of a number of upcoming releases at the 2017 Origins Game Fair — Flip Ships, The Fox in the Forest, and the game I'm talking about today, J. Alex Kevern's Sentient.

As I note in the video below, Sentient feels like one-third of a Stefan Feld game. It features a solid drafting and dice-manipulation system, with each player drafting four AI cards each round, with each card being placed between two dice on your individual player board. The values of those dice determine whether you score points for the card, but the cards themselves often change those values unless you spend one of your handful of assistants not to make that change.

As you use agents to draft cards, you're also trying to use those agents to gain control of investors that will (possibly) give you extra points at the end of the game. Can you combine the right investors with the right AI, while also triggering all of the AI to score? Sometimes things just fall into place for you — the perfect AI triggering massive points while you simultaneously sway just the right investors — but that's the beauty of the future. You never know exactly what will happen...


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Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:00 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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Game Preview: Skyward, or Reaching for the Heavens One Card at a Time

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Gen Con 2017 is only five weeks off, so I plan to start posting several individual game previews in this space for titles that will debut at that show or otherwise be more widely available than they are now. Some will be written, some on video — depends on whether we already recorded videos at recent cons and whether I have more to say or show!

I will still be posting game round-ups and updating BGG's Gen Con 2017 Preview during this time, so if you know of upcoming games that aren't listed on the preview — or are publishing games that aren't listed — please contact me with that info via the email address in the header above. I plan to start contacting designers and publishers the week of July 17 to arrange demo time in the BGG booth during Gen Con 2017. Lots to do before that show opens, including more preparations for the Hot Games Room!


•••

Everyone is familiar with the concept of "I cut, you choose" in the real world, but few games have made use of this concept. Alan R. Moon and Aaron Weissblum's San Marco might be the best known example, with players splitting cards into piles as they fight for control of districts within Venice; the related Canal Grande card game ditches the game board, but retains the "I cut, you choose" mechanism. Jeffrey D. Allers' …aber bitte mit Sahne places the mechanism in its anticipated habitat as players split cakes and tarts onto different plates; as with San Marco, that game has similarly been reborn, with New York Slice now challenging you to slice pies of a different sort: pizza pies.

Brendan Evans' Skyward from Australian publisher Rule & Make, which will be distributed in North America by Passport Game Studios, takes "I cut, you choose" and makes that cutting and choosing the heart of the game. Each round, one player takes the role of the warden, then splits cards into as many piles as players (with the warden being added to one of the piles), then players choose cards and launch buildings into the stratosphere, trying to put together strong scoring combinations from whatever they manage to scrounge together during the game.

I've played thrice thanks to a review copy from Passport at Origins 2017, and in this video I show off several of the cards and share some of the challenges of the game.

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Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:36 pm
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