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

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Game Overview: Las Vegas Boulevard, or Upgrades on the Strip

W. Eric Martin
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Las Vegas Royale revamps 2012's Spiel des Jahres-nominated Las Vegas from Rüdiger Dorn by drawing in elements from the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion, but also by making small tweaks to the design as a whole.

For those who don't know, Las Vegas is a dice-based, area-majority game that no one outside of BGG would described as an area-majority game. You play multiple rounds, and at the start of each round, you lay out money next to six casinos. On a turn, you roll all the dice you have, then place all the dice of one number in the casino that matches that number, taking back the remaining dice to roll on your next turn. Once everyone has placed all of their dice, you payout the money in each casino, with the player who has the most dice in a casino getting the largest denomination bill in that casino, then the player with the next most dice getting the next-largest bill, etc.

The twist is that before divvying out the money, if you have the same number of dice in a casino as someone else, then you must remove your dice from that casino. Open that collar because ties are worthless in Vegas!

Las Vegas is brilliantly simple, with rules that get people playing within a minute. I've had great success over the years teaching it to casual players because all of them got into the gambling aspect of the game immediately, especially since you feel like you have staked a claim on a bill as soon as you place dice in a casino. You're invested in the game. Hands off my bucks!


Camera-shy opponents let the game stand on its own...


Las Vegas Royale changes the base game in small but meaningful ways, such as giving players two chips each round that they can spend to place no dice in a casino after rolling; this lets you pass after terrible rolls or delay placing dice so that you can see which casinos have the most competition, but at the end of the game each chips is worth $10,000, so you have to weigh whether the cost is worth the potential of a better payout down the road. Each player also now has a giant die and seven small dice instead of only eight small dice — a change that originated in Las Vegas Boulevard — and that giant die counts as two dice when determining who takes home money from a casino. It feels good to have that giant die amongst all the others, the threat of it in each roll, with you being able to swing a casino into your column quickly.

The third main change is how money is placed at the casino at the start of each round. In Las Vegas, you dealt bills — which were valued from $10-90,000 — one by one until a casino had at least $50,000, which meant that many casinos had only a single bill or lots of little bills; in Las Vegas Royale, the bills are valued from $30,000 to $100,000, and at the start of each round you deal out six pairs of bills, then you arrange those bills at the casinos from high to low in the 6 to 1 casinos. Now two bills are in play at each casino, which changes how desirable those casinos are: two big bills will make you happy for second, and the two players with the most dice try to play nice; one big and one small creates a king of the hill feeling; and two small bills has the feel of a wasteland, yet one you're okay competing for only a die or two. Small bills are still better than no bills, after all.

The "Royale" part of Las Vegas Royale comes from the expansion tiles, with the game featuring eight double-sided tiles. The rules suggest playing with tiles on the 1-3 casinos, juicing up those casinos with a poor payout by giving players something else to fight over. Each of the sixteen tile sides has different rules, with some of them adding mini-games to the main game (which means more ways for you to win chips or money), some of them adding tools to thwart others at casinos, and some of them just being a way to grab more bills.

The base game of Las Vegas continues to dazzle as one of the best quick-playing dice games on the market, and the expansions — should you choose to use them — beef up the gameplay with twists that allow you to reclaim dice or gamble on the side apart from the main action at the casinos.


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Game Overview: Undo: Curse from the Past, or Rewrite History for a Future Perfect

W. Eric Martin
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Some people hate the one-and-done nature of escape room games and legacy designs, viewing them as wasteful, antithetical to what games are, or both. I can appreciate the first concern, although I don't view such games as necessarily more wasteful than other designs, but in a grander sense, each playing of a game is one-and-done. Yes, some game designs invite and allow for repeated playings with the same components, but that quality isn't inherent in determining what is — and what isn't — a game.

Following the success of the escape room game genre that launched in 2016, designers Michael Palm and Lukas Zach have created a twist on the genre with Undo, a concept that currently exists in three titles launched in early 2019 by German publisher Pegasus Spiele: Undo: Cherry Blossom Festival, Undo: Blood in the Gutter, and Undo: Curse from the Past, the title I focus on in the overview video below, mostly due to the strong typeface on the clue cards that make them easier to read on video.

The gist of each episode of Undo is that someone has died. People die all the time, of course, but for some reason you and fellow players, Weavers of Fate that you are, have taken particular interest in this person, so much so that you will revisit past events and meddle in those happenings to try to prevent this death.

You're not all-knowing, however. The past is laid out in eleven story cards (as well as one story card that takes place after the person's death), and over the nine rounds of the game, you encounter nine of these twelve story cards, piecing together what's happening so that when you're confronted with the A, B, and C choices of what should happen at the end of each story card, you make the best decision possible.

Based on my experience with each of these titles on review copies from Pegasus Spiele, each mini-scenario on a story card and its related choices spur lots of discussion among players, then you look at the fate card associated with your choice, e.g. 6C, to discover whether you've been assigned a 0 (meaning that you changed nothing about the person's fate), a positive number (which suggests a positive change), or a negative number (which suggests that you shouldn't meddle with such things because you're just making the situation worse).

After visiting nine locations in time, you sum the points on the fate cards, then look at the concluding elements to determine whether you saved the person. You also get to read a summary of events that brought the person to that critical moment as well as the most important elements in their past, the ones that ideally you will have switched onto a new track to undo the past.


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Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:34 pm
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Fight in Worlds Above in Yggdrasil Chronicles, Then Revisit Underwater Cities

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• In 2018, French publisher Ludonaute released a final printing of Yggdrasil from designers Cédric Lefebvre and Fabrice Rabellino, noting at the time that a "revamped version of the design" was in the works for 2019.

That revamped version is Yggdrasil Chronicles, a game solely by Lefebvre for 1-5 players that keeps the co-operative nature of the earlier game, while adding a campaign mode with a fifty-page saga book. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
In Yggdrasil Chronicles, each player takes the role of a Norse god and attempts to keep evil forces from devastating the nine worlds, destroying the world tree Yggdrasil, and surviving the onset of Ragnarök.

To set up, each player takes one of the seven Norse gods, 5-9 life points (depending on the player count), and a set of cards showing the six enemies who are attacking the nine worlds; you shuffle these enemy cards and place them next to you. These nine worlds are represented on a three-level, 3D game board, with the board having locations for artifact cards, creature cards, hero pawns, elf pawns, anonymous pawns, and more. Each level of the board depicts three worlds on it, and the middle board rotates.

At the start of a round, each player places the top card of their enemy deck on the "Wheel of Enemies". Players can take turns in any order. On a player's turn, they first reveal their enemy card. If this is the first appearance of this enemy this round, the player continues their turn; if not, then the enemy is activated, typically moving to a different world, then taking some action. If the enemy can't move, e.g., Surt is supposed to move up a level, but is already on the top level, you lose the game. If the enemy can't take its action, e.g., Loki needs to place an Iotunn pawn, but none remain in Iotunheim, you lose the game.

While normally you hope to avoid duplicating an enemy, you want to double up on Nidhögg as that enemy starts on the leftmost space in your saga book, and if Nidhögg moves all the way to the tree icon, you win the game. (Nidhögg might also trigger effects when moving to a new location.)

If an enemy moves to where another enemy is located, that world is devastated and no action is possible there except for healing the world tree.

Whether or not an enemy is activated, you can then move — either to a different world on the same level or a different level above or below your current location — then act, either performing the action of the world in which you're now located or fighting. Powerful god that you are, you always win a fight, but you suffer "risks" equal to the strength of the enemy. You can sacrifice heroes in Valhalla to remove risks or make saving throws on dice, possibly with an elf assist, but each risk you don't prevent costs you 1 life point — and if any god runs out of life points, you lose the game.

As for performing world actions, you can collect elves, heroes, artifact cards; remove Hel's anonymous minions or Surt's fire giants; or receive help from worldly creatures. If another god stands in this world, your action is improved; if an enemy stands in that world, then your action is penalized.

In addition to that base game, you can play Yggdrasil Chronicles on the hard mode, which increases the challenge of gameplay while giving each god unique powers. The game also includes a six-saga "Ragnarök campaign" that begins with Baldr's murder, then carries on from there.

Rio Grande Games has a second printing of Vladimír Suchý's Underwater Cities heading to market, with this version now including the Biodome promo that was originally released separately (and that's still available via the BGG Store). This edition also features an extra sheet of single resource chips, cardboard player boards instead of a paper ones, and a reinforced box bottom to keep all this stuff in place.

Ken Hill, production manager at Rio Grande, notes that while an upgrade pack is available via some European retailers to make the original English-language release from Delicious Games match the production of the first printing of the game from RGG, no upgrade pack is available for earlier editions to match the new edition coming from Rio Grande. "There was no real practical way to make this happen", says Hill. That said, "Current plans from Delicious Games include even better player boards to be made available in the expansion which will be out at SPIEL '19." Rio Grande Games will distribute that expansion in English for those not making the trip to Essen.
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Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:00 pm
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Buy Pappy Winchester's Land, Then Go Boat Hopping in a Dragon Market

W. Eric Martin
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• Every year ahead of Gen Con and SPIEL — the two conventions with the most new game releases — I discover that we've added lots of new titles to the BGG database in the early months of the year that I thought would have been fleshed out by the time the convention opens, but they haven't been. When possible, I poke publishers to see whether they can provide more game details or pass along the rules so that I can do the fleshing.

With that in mind, here are detailed descriptions of two titles from Blue Orange Games that will debut at Gen Con 2019, with one of them being the 2-5 player game Pappy Winchester from Jérémy Pinget. Turns out that Pappy Winchester is an auction game through and through, with 19 nineteen plots of land being auctioned over the course of the game and with the winning bids being distributed among the other players a là Traumfabrik. Here's a detail description of the game:

Quote:
Pappy Winchester has kicked the bucket! Poor thing, he was the king of swindlers and everyone knows he was filthy rich! His final wish was that his descendants would share his fortune and the plots of his ranch, with the richest becoming the new head of the family. After all, for him the most important thing was that his money stayed in the family! Pappy thought of everything and left an outline of his belongings. In Pappy Winchester, you and the other heirs are now assembled around this map to divvy up Pappy's possessions...

The game board features 19 plots of land, divided into seven desert plots, six prairie plots, and six forest plots, with train tracks and a river running crossways through the land, and a saloon set apart from everything else. To set up play, give each player $8,000 and two secret objective cards, then place a bonus token face down on each plot of land.

On a turn, the active player draws a plot token at random, then players hold an auction for that plot, with the winner marking it with one of their tokens, then revealing the bonus token and carrying out its effects. This token might let you look at the face-down mine or ranch cards to determine the value of those plots; move the train or boat along the tracks or river, with players owning properties adjacent to this vehicle's location earning money; or collect funds from the saloon. The winner of the auction then divides their bid as equally as possible among all other players, with any remainder being placed on the saloon.

Each player starts the game with a duel token, and when a player is involved in an auction that's down to them and someone else, they can decide to sped that token. If they do, a third player shuffles two duel cards — one showing a gun being fired, and the other not — then each bidder takes one of them, with the player holding the firing gun winning the auction.

Five piles of banknotes are laid out at the start of play, with a different shared objective card placed on each pile. If the completion of an auction allows a player to meet one or more of the objectives, such as owning one of each type of land or having three plots that don't touch the river, then that player claims the banknotes under that card. After the 19th auction, players reveal their secret objectives, earning money for how well they've met those goals, and whoever owns the most plots of land receives $5,000. Whoever now holds the most money wins!

• The other title coming from Blue Orange Games is Marco Teubner's Dragon Market, which is for 2-4 players. We recorded an overview of the game at Spielwarenmesse 2019, but now we actually have a full game description in place:

Quote:
In Dragon Market, players attempt to manipulate boats on a river in order to pick up the items they need to complete objective cards.

In more detail, each player starts the game with their figure on a pontoon in the corner of the board, and they take turns placing boats on the board, with each boat taking up three spaces; some boats have a sailor in the center space, while others have a sailor in the end seat. Each of the two empty spaces of each boat are then filled with two identical merchandise tokens, with the game including twenty types of merchandise. Each player starts the game with an objective card showing four different types of merchandise.

On a turn, the active player rolls the dice to determine how many actions they can take; they can spend 1-2 coins to add to this number of actions. Actions are:

—Slide a boat: You can move a boat any number of unoccupied spaces either forward or backward; a boat cannot move sideways.
—Rotate a boat: You can rotate a boat 90º around its sailor through unoccupied spaces.
—Move your figure: You can move your figure one space from a pontoon to a space on the boat that's empty or occupied by merchandise tokens or from one boat space to another or from a boat to a pontoon; you cannot move your figure over a sailor. When you move your figure onto a merchandise token showing on your objective card, you can pick it up.

If you don't spend all of your actions, take coins equal to the number of unspent actions to bank them for later. As soon as you have all of the merchandise needed for your objective card, return to your pontoon. Once you do, you draw a second objective card, and whoever completes two objective cards first wins.

Dragon Market also contains advanced objective cards that show 3-4 types of merchandise as well as a bonus. At the start of the game, each player draws two cards and keeps one of them. As soon as the player returns to their pontoon with the depicted goods, they reveal this objective card, then have access to this bonus, which provides either a one-time effect or an effect that can be used once each turn. They also draw two new objective cards and keep one of them. Whoever first completes three objective cards wins!

The game also includes team rules for both the regular and the advanced objective cards.

Okay, that's two more games detailed for our Gen Con 2019 Preview, which recently topped five hundred listings. Far too many to go...
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 1:00 pm
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Take a Trip to Wonderland for Hats, War, Gears, and the Ever-Present Alice

W. Eric Martin
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• Rather than talk of a game's theme, I prefer to talk about its setting — that is, the environment in which the action of the game takes place. When you have an understanding of that environment, you can then imagine your role in it and make sense of game actions in those terms. I realize that one meaning of "theme" is "setting", but if I can use the word "setting" instead, then why not remove that additional mental step and be more direct in what I'm saying.

One of the most common go-to settings for game design is Wonderland, as in "Alice's Adventures in". Lewis Carroll's novel is a fixture in cultures the world over, and the book provides a multitude of fanciful environments, conflicts, and characters that designers and artists can draw on when deciding on a setting for their own creative works.

One such upcoming release that draws on that setting for source material is Gabriele Bubola's Hats, which ThunderGryph Games will debut at Gen Con 2019. In this 2-4 player game, each player starts with a hand of nine hat cards. On a turn, either you place a card face down in front of you as a "black hat" for 1 point, or you swap a card from your hand for a card of the same type (color) from the tea table board or a card of any type but of a lower value, adding this newly acquired card to your collection. At the end of eight rounds, the final card in your hand earns you points for all collected hat cards of the same type, while losing you points for the value of that particular card, and the placement of cards on the tea table board determine the value of matching cards.

Hats doesn't need to feature the Mad Hatter, of course, but the character and world of Wonderland provide material upon which to draw for imagery. I've played the game twice so far on a review copy and will post an overview video ahead of Gen Con 2019. ThunderGryph plans to release the second title in its "Made in Wonderland" game series — Tuned — at SPIEL '19 in October.


Victory for meeeeee!


Druid City Games and Skybound Games have announced a 2019 Kickstarter campaign for Wonderland's War, a design by Tim Eisner, Ben Eisner, Jonathan Gilmour, and Ian Moss for 2-4 players that features art by Manny Trembley. Here's a short take on the game:

Quote:
War is on the horizon for the future of Wonderland. Gather the resources you need to build legendary items, gain strange tactical advantages, and recruit the infamous denizens of Wonderland to fight for your side. Each Wonderlandian you encounter offers a unique ability to help you further your goals, but will you be tempted to turn on them to push yourself ahead of your enemies? Gather your army and take them through the looking glass and onto the field of battle. Unleash your soldiers with all the fiendish tricks, powerful items, and recruited Wonderlandians to gain control of the realm and seize your destiny in Wonderland's War!

Alice Assemble, a.k.a. アリスアセンブル, is a puzzle-y card game from designer Hakushi and publisher Kuuri Keikaku that was released in 2018. Players build automatons by drafting cards that depict gears, trying to connect their gears to make patterns and score points.

• Alice is also a playable character in Unmatched: Battle of Legends, Volume One, a design from Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, and Justin D. Jacobson that Restoration Games will debut at Gen Con 2019, and some characters from Wonderland show up on the cards in her deck, in addition to other story actions being referenced:




Rodney Smith just posted a "how to play" video on this game if you're curious to see the game in action:


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Thu Jul 11, 2019 6:46 pm
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Game Preview: Amul, or Balancing Arabs and Mongols on the Silk Road

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Gen Con 2019 opens in just over three weeks, and I have lots to preview before that time, including the card-drafting, hand-management game Amul from Remo Conzadori, Stefano Negro, and Lautapelit.fi, with Stronghold Games serving as the title's North American publishing partner.

Amul is for 3-8 players, and the deck scales based on the player count so that you use every single card no matter how many people you have at the table. What's more, the nature of the cards in the deck change as you add more players to the game, so while in some cases you're adding more spice and silver cards so that players can create sets of them or pair them with traders to complete orders (sort of), at other times you're adding a new type of card that wouldn't make sense with fewer players or a card that plays off of all the cards already in the deck, thereby varying their values with this particular player count.

Gameplay is straightforward. Start with traders in the bazaar equal to the number of players (with these cards being specified by player count), with cards equal to twice the number of players in the palace (ditto), and with each player having a hand of five cards.

On a turn, you receive a new card from the deck, choose one card to add to the market, add 1-3 more cards to the market from the deck based on the player count, draft cards in player order (which sort of rotates), then add a card to your personal collection at the same time as everyone else. Some cards score based on you collecting a set of them, some score based on what your left- and right-hand neighbors collect, some score based on you and your neighbors, while still others score based on how many are in play overall.


End of game tallying a là 7 Wonders at BGG.Spring 2019 (pic by Steph Hodge)


You need to watch what everyone else is drafting so that you can play off of their actions for your own benefit. If lamps have been discarded a few times (as all leftover cards in the market are removed from play at turn's end), then oil becomes less attractive since you can't pair with a lamp for additional points. If the spices are being hoarded by others, then avoid collecting a trader since the contract will likely go unfilled. If you see camels being drafted but not played, expect them to trample out at game's end, lowering the value of all camels played.

In addition to their point values and other symbols, each card shows a table, a hand, or both, which tells you where the card must be to score you points. Over the nine rounds of the game, you'll play nine cards to the table (all of which better have a table icon), possibly claiming other cards from the palace, bazaar or market, then at game's end you'll still have five cards in your hand to score (all of which better have a hand icon). Thus, over the course of the game you're trying to piece together points in sets and combos, while also balancing your public and private scoring (since any table cards in hand are worthless at game's end) while also watching what your neighbors do so that you can profit from them, too.

I've played Amul five times to date on a pre-production copy from Lautapelit.fi, with three, four, and six players, and it's been fascinating to see how the gameplay changes with different player counts. One additional wrinkle: After each player has been the first drafter once, the drafting pattern changes, with whoever has the most military symbols drafting first, then the player with the secondmost military symbols, and so on. In a three-player game, the player with early military can (potentially) draft first for the final six rounds of the game — yet that's not necessarily going to be a winning strategy since you still need to pair and combo cards to get the most out of everything you grab.


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Tue Jul 9, 2019 7:38 pm
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Links: Tariff Talk, First Loves, and The World's Best Vending Machine

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• Designer Mike Selinker and publisher Scott Gaeta of Renegade Game Studios have written about the potential tariffs that the U.S. government might impose on goods coming from China, a change in economic policy that could have a huge impact on the game industry. An excerpt from Selinker's article in Polygon:

Quote:
When a company has to consider the cost of making its games, it adds all of that printing and shipping together. Then they typically multiply that price by roughly five, and that ends up being the price the consumer pays. That's because in distribution and retail, the publisher only gets about 40 percent of the retail cost. If printing and shipping their game takes 20 percent of retail, the creator of the game has to live on that 20 percent that's left from the 40 percent they receive from a distributor. It's a brutal business with the thinnest of margins.

Tariffs get imposed on the "first sale" price — that is, at the point of import, before the publisher gets the goods. So if printing and shipping what was once an $80 game takes $16, then an additional 25 percent adds $4 to the cost. Multiply that new number of $20 times five and now to the publisher it's a $100 game.

And an excerpt from the article on Gaeta's personal blog explaining why as a preventative measure Renegade is cutting titles from its publication schedule:

Quote:
Making hard decisions like cutting games we love isn't fun but making a business decision that assures we are a healthy company is what separates the publishing hobbyist from the professionals in this industry. It's easy to let your passion for a game cloud your judgement but even without tariffs you should not be producing games that don't make good business sense. It sounds harsh but your long-term viability depends on it. We all love what we do and want to make things we love but you can't have it both ways for long if you continue to make products that don't make sense from a business point of view. Check your P&L's (you do create P&L's for every product, right?) and be honest with yourself.

However, as of Tuesday, July 2, 2019, those tariffs are on hold according to The Wall Street Journal, with the non-paywalled Gizmodo relaying this info as follows: "The Trump administration has halted its plans to impose additional tariffs on $300 billion 'List 4' goods, which would have included a 25 percent tariff on select tabletop games and accessories, toys, and video game consoles. The tariffs were designed to escalate Trump's ongoing trade war with China (of his own making), but following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping over the weekend, he decided to postpone."

Even so, I think these two articles give an interesting window into game production, so here they are just the same.

• In April 2019, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) profiled eight game designers who have an engineering background or who current work as an engineer: Bruno Cathala, Phil Eklund, Geoff Engelstein, Scott Almes, Haim Shafir, Joan Wendland, Adam Wyse, and Tunca Zeki Berkkurt.

• In February 2019, Make magazine ran an article by Elan Lee about the making of the Exploding Kittens vending machine that has become a fixture at conventions such as Gen Con, PAX Unplugged, and the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con. I've mentioned this in passing previously, but to repeat myself: The Exploding Kittens vending machine is a work of genius and something that game publishers should look to for inspiration regarding their own convention booths. An excerpt:

Quote:
The first year we went to Comic-Con in 2016, we did what we were supposed to. Our booth looked just like everyone else's, and we got buried beneath a torrent of other peoples' plastic toys, cookie cutter games, and utterly forgettable booths. We accomplished nothing. By the time we started prepping for year two, we knew we had to come up with something better.

We started deconstructing the notion of a "booth".

Q: What does a transaction look like?
A: Give money, get product.

Q: How long is each interaction?
A: 20 seconds.

Q: What are the physical attributes?
A: Audience-facing attractors, sample products displayed, prices listed, hidden inventory.

Basically, every booth is a vending machine but designed by someone who doesn't realize they're building a vending machine. To succeed at conventions, we realized, we had to build the world's best vending machine. So we did.

And another:

Quote:
We had to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. We learned that balloon animals were a huge crowd favorite, and so we had to frantically watch YouTube videos backstage to learn how to make them. We learned that in many states you have to be a registered grocer to have produce delivered to a convention hall, so Exploding Kittens is now a registered grocer in 14 states. We learned that we could interact with the audience on a personal level, like when we spotted someone dressed as Daenerys Targaryen (the Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones) in line, we bedazzled an entire watermelon so that when she got to the front of the line, we could instantly deliver a dragon egg and blow up her brain.

We worked so hard to play with the crowd, and they played right back.

They wrote love notes to the machine, and one person actually proposed marriage (for which she received a massive bouquet of 50 red roses). People shared their stories all over the convention floor, in the hallways, and on social media. It was one of the biggest hits at every convention we brought it to.

• Designer James Hudson has launched a new video series on the GammaRay YouTube channel called "Starting Roll", with his first guests being Rodney Smith, Suzanne Sheldon, and Ivan Van Norman:



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Mon Jul 8, 2019 1:20 pm
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Getting Games from SPIEL '19, Whether in Essen or Elsewhere

W. Eric Martin
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This is the time of year to move into overdrive. With less than a month before Gen Con 2019 opens, I'm still adding titles to our Gen Con 2019 Preview, although we've hit a lull recently in terms of publishers submitting information. Summer doldrums, perhaps, or a few days of recreation before diving into final plans for the upcoming shows. I'm working on video previews for Amul, Las Vegas Royale, [redacted], the Undo game series, and many other titles. We'll see how much I can finish in the next, eep, 3.5 weeks...

On top of that, on July 5 I sent out an RFI letter to hundreds of publishers asking about their plans for SPIEL '19, and those info forms have started to trickle in, with Gavin Birnbaum from Cubiko Games winning the No Prize for first submission. You can make plans to check out Paras in Essen, an all-wood game with a dice-based dexterity element in which you try to claim as many territories on the board as possible, but Birnbaum's creations are all handmade with no more than a couple of dozen copies on hand, so visit early on Thursday!


Launch yourself into new territories!


BoardGameGeek's SPIEL '19 Preview will go live on Monday, August 5, the day after Gen Con 2019 ends. As on the Origins 2019 Preview and the Gen Con 2019 Preview, publishers will be able to create preorders for their titles on the SPIEL '19 Preview, giving you the chance to lock in a game and not risk it selling out and giving them the chance to complete sales in advance and not have so much cash on hand during the fair.

What's more, for SPIEL '19 BGG is partnering with Funagain Games on a service we're calling Cardboard Caravan. For fifteen years, Funagain Games ran "The Essen Mule Service" in which it took orders for games available at SPIEL, bought those games directly from the publisher, picked them up at SPIEL, airshipped them to the U.S., then either delivered those games to buyers at BGG.CON or shipped those games to buyers around the world.

For SPIEL '19, Cardboard Caravan (CBC) will function the same as The Essen Mule Service of old — Funagain will buy games directly from publishers, then deliver those games to buyers — but sales of these games will take place through BGG's SPIEL '19 Preview and gamers will be able to pick up orders at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, PA (with no shipping charge), in addition to having games shipped to them (for a fee) or getting them at BGG.CON (also with no shipping charge).

As with our convention preview preorder program, signing up for Cardboard Caravan is optional, but Funagain says that 150-200 publishers have participated annually in The Essen Mule Service, so ideally just as many publishers will sign up for CBC, giving you the chance to get games you want from SPIEL '19 without making the trip to Essen yourself. We'll see who's on board on August 5 when the SPIEL '19 Preview goes live, and publisher will have two months to sign on after that time should they decide to get involved later.

We have lots of other plans in the works as well. The challenge is finding enough time and ready hands to do everything...
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Sat Jul 6, 2019 9:44 pm
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Return to the Past to Survive the Thirty Years' War, Then Battle Video-Obsessed Mutants in the Future

W. Eric Martin
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• I love the look of everything coming out of Mondo Games, with the most recent announcement from the company being Video Vortex, a 2-4 player game that will be demoed at Gen Con 2019 ahead of a planned release in September 2019. Here's an overview of the game, which only hints at the world in which this takes place:

Quote:
Video Vortex is a competitive deck-building game for 2-4 players set in a radioactive future Earth inhabited by video-obsessed mutants. Each genre-worshiping character must strategically employ their individual mutant powers while battling opponents and navigating game effects in an attempt to seize control of the wasteland.

On their respective turns, players will spend Energy to play special cards, power their deck with Rentals from the local video store, and Eject chosen cards from play to weaken foes. Runtime, the measure of mutant health, is limited and unique to each character. By advancing an opponent's runtime beyond their limit through Lo-Fi and Hi-Fi attacks, mutants collect Be Kind tokens as trophies representative of their conquest. Once three distinctive trophies have been collected, victory is declared by the reigning champion.

• The newest title from Uli Blennemann's Spielworxx is now available for preorder, with this game having a print run of only 500 copies instead of the normal one thousand. Jimmy Maas's Auf der Walz draws on an interesting and unusual inspiration for source material in the game's setting:

Quote:
Auf der Walz is a game that has the "journeyman years" as the topic. This is a tradition that dates back to medieval times and is still alive in German-speaking countries. A craftsman has to be "Auf der Walz" (roughly translated as "on the road") for three years and one day without ever getting closer than fifty kilometers to home. The young journeyman wears a traditional dress: flared pants, waistcoat, jacket, black hat (as a symbol for freedom), the "Stenz" (traditional curled hiking pole), and the "Charlottenburger" (coarse cloth to wrap up the belongings). They work (for a little bit of money but also for board and lodge) for people on their journey.

Auf der Walz is a "travel game" with resource management that takes place in the second half of the 19th century. Like life on the Walz, it includes uncertainty and random elements. Each player earns points at the end of each year on the journey and in an end-scoring after that additional one day.

The engine of the game is a deck of cards. Each player has six cards per year (and an additional card for the last day) and conducts actions with them: traveling, working, finding travel mates, etc. as well as leisure activities: music, writing, painting.

• The Dietz Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Jim Dietz, who ran Jolly Roger Games from 1996 to 2015. The purpose of the organization "is to produce games which enhance critical thinking, the use of math, and historical knowledge with the goal of generating revenue to endow scholarships for budding teachers and current teachers seeking to bring creative new means of education to the classroom".

For its first release, which will hit Kickstarter on July 8, 2019, The Dietz Foundation plans to release Jason Little's 3 Years of War, a 4-5 player game set during the Thirty Years' War that Little describes as "The Grizzled meets Knizia's Beowulf meets... Russian Roulette?" Here's a short description:

Quote:
War is upon you. The major houses have all but forgotten you, yet your neighboring rivals have not. Be wary lest your enemies — and the crushing despair of war — destroy you once and for all!

3 Years of War is a card-based hand- and resource-management game. Through cunning card play, players vie for precious resources while making the most out of desperate situations and increasingly bleak options. The player who best navigates this barren and bitter landscape, minimizing their setbacks along the way, may have what it takes to survive...three years of war.


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Fri Jul 5, 2019 2:44 pm
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Dive Through the Deep Blue for Wealth with Granerud, Pedersen, and Days of Wonder

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Days of Wonder has announced its big box release for 2019, a game that has been in development for six years with designers Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen. The game in question is Deep Blue, and here's a summary of the setting and gameplay from the publisher:

Quote:
Buying this fabled map was a stroke of genius. The most ancient, legendary, and extravagant underwater wrecks are waiting for divers. Diving suits and oxygen tanks are aboard, and the ship is ready to weigh anchor. There's no time to lose! The increased hustle and bustle of the harbor, with ship captains attempting to hire the best divers and historians, can mean only one thing: Other captains have the same map, and the biggest treasure hunt of all time is about to begin!

Deep Blue is a press-your-luck and engine-building, family game in which players dive for wealth and may join and benefit from other player's diving fortunes. In this game, players have to collect the right crew of divers, sailors, and archeologists, race to wreck sites to claim the best spots to dive from, and scout the seas to discover new wrecks. Players have to take risks if they want to be the most wealthy diver!

I've played Deep Blue twice in prototype form, with the earliest such game being in 2017. To add more to this description, the game has a bit of a group press-your-luck element to it along the lines of Diamant, but in a grander design with lots more going on compared to the pure "should I stay or should I go" nature of that other game.




Details might have changed since those earlier games, but here's the gist of things: Players start on the game board in the same location, the dock from which each player's single ship will sail. You will travel to different locations on the map, acquiring assistants along the way, some of which can supply needed equipment at the right time and some of which can help you make a grand score out of what might otherwise be a so-so treasure haul.

Someone will dive at a location, and others can possibly join in on the dive, trying to score at the same time as that other player, but the active player is the one in charge of the dive, which is represented by the player pulling colored stones from a common bag. You can see the initial breakdown of the bag components on the player aide shown at the left below:




You have treasure in three values (1, 2, 4) as well as threats, with one of them (blue) requiring more oxygen to continue your exploration and the other one (black) requiring defenses of some type. The active player pulls stones from the bag one by one, trying for a big haul, but also trying to pull, say, blue stones if they have lots of oxygen in reserve. Other players who are mooching off this player's dive need to assess whether they want to continue the dive or bail with what they've already acquired for if they suddenly need more oxygen but don't have it in hand, they'll need to drop everything to return to the surface.

The contents of the bag change over the course of the game. You can see that it starts with no green or purple stones, for example, yet some of the assistants that you can acquire will score points for you when those colors are drawn. As you acquire these assistants, you customize your abilities in the game, which will affect where you want to dive and with whom.

Deep Blue is for 2-5 players, ages 8+, with a playing time of 45 minutes and a MSRP of US$50/€45. The game is due out in October 2019 in both Europe and North America, but the publisher says at this point they're not sure whether the game will be out at the beginning of the month or will debut at SPIEL '19 at month's end.


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Wed Jul 3, 2019 2:07 pm
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