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BoardGameGeek News

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

Archive for W. Eric Martin

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Crowdfunding Round-up: Fishing for Adventure from an Infected Treehouse

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• Let's kick off this crowdfunding round-up with a different kind of project — one that still rewards backers with games, mind you, but one that originates from different purposes than most.

Patrick Nickell of Crash Games has two games on offer: Brett J. Gilbert's Fish Frenzy and David Short's Backyard Builders Treehouse, this latter title being a revamped version of Yardmaster Express with new art courtesy of licensee holder IELLO. While Crash Games ran its earlier titles through Kickstarter for funding, Nickell had sworn off crowdfunding after connecting with a business partner in 2015, but that partnership has fallen through and Nickell himself has had medical issues that kept him away from the business for many months. (His 30-minute explanatory video on the Kickstarter project covers this latter issue in detail, and having talked with Patrick many times at conventions, I wish that I could comfort him with more than a few kind words.)

The games have already been manufactured, but due to the combination of issues above, Nickell was unable to do anything with them. Now he's trying to get them out to the public in order to pay both the bill for publication and royalties due to the designers, with Crash Games getting nothing in return except (ideally) a clearing of its debts. Nickell notes that these two games won't be available through distribution, and he mentions that if at all possible, he will still find a way to bring a new edition of Finca to market, something he had announced in May 2016. (KS link)

• Adam Glass' Life & Legend from Lost Age Games is an interesting sounding project, mostly because I have no idea what to make of the game. (Perhaps if I had watched the playthrough video I would know, but I'm preserving the mystery right now.) In this "game of existential adventure", players acquire traits, exceptional traits, and traumas while revealing new worlds and attempting to complete adventures. (KS link)

Sector 6 from Jaime González García and Draco Ideas falls into the category of "build a tile-based labyrinth before play, then run around said labyrinth". More specifically, players have two prisoners that are racing through the labyrinth to scoop up oxygen. I see no reference to this oxygen serving as anything other than points, which is unfortunate as I would expect you'd need to use oxygen during play in order to stay alive and do more things, prisoners dropping as their supply ran out and leaving the victors to wheezily celebrate from their tanks ran dry as well. (KS link)

Infected: The Board Game is from first-time Mexican publisher GZRI Games, and the game has a board with embedded magnets along with magnet sticks that allow you to move virus balls about and a picture of a rulebook (without the rules themselves being available) and these worrying sentences — "Infected: The Board Game is not like other games. Here, players don't start in the same place each game played." — which suggest that the designer/publisher is not familiar with modern games. (KS link)

• The holidays are over, but if you want to prepare for Hanukkah 2017, Eric Pavony would like to introduce you to Spinagogue, which he dubs the first-ever dreidel-spinning stadium. (KS link)

• Nick Case founded A-Muse-Ment to publish his golfing game The Front Nine, but now he has a new offering: a worker-bee placement game titled Nimbee in which you want to collect the most nectar so that you can become the Queen's favorite. (KS link)

• In just a few hours from the posting of this item, Mayday Games will have finished a KS project for a budget Crokinole board that's coming in waves of 450 copies at a time. (KS link)

• Also ending soon is a project for dice coins from J.M. Ward of Ultimate Custom Coins, and while the concept of "dice coins" might seem bizarre, the explanation of them will only solidify that feeling. To use a dice coin, you spin, place a finger on it, then look to see which number on the edge of the coin to the left of that finger is fully visible. That number is your die result. Available from d4 up to d20 for all your dice coin needs! (KS link)

Button Shy continues to expand its line of tiny wallet games, and that phrase works whether you have a tiny wallet or are interested in tiny games. John du Bois' Avignon: Pilgrimage is a standalone expansion to the earlier Avignon: A Clash of Popes, with two players again battling to be Pope by using the powers of six new characters. Mix and match characters from the earlier game to Pope-battle in many configurations.

Find Your Seats from Mitchell Shipman posits players as competitive party planners who are apparently working the same event and trying to best seat their guests amongst everyone else in order to score points from their satisfaction.

On a turn in Rob Cramer's Turbo Drift, you choose a row or column of cards or one single card from a 2x3 grid, then use those cards to maneuver your car around obstacles. Once per game, you can go turbo and use all of the cards, hoping not to mess yourself up while burning rubber. (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 Jan 8, 2017 5:31 pm
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New Game Round-up: Spelling for Fame, Spelling for Shame

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• The German branch of Mattel will continue its practice of adding hobby games to the market once per year with the late 2017 release of Wizards Wanted from Nick Hayes, with art by Djib. (Nick said the cover art is preliminary, but it looks ready to roll to me!) Here's a summary of the setting with only a hint of what's involved with the gameplay:

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Enter the magical workforce as a nomadic wizard, wandering the fields and valleys to complete spell jobs. What is the ultimate goal? The greatest reward of all: fame.

As one of these enterprising wizards in Wizards Wanted, you must gather magical experience and coins for your work. Resourcefulness is essential as you pick up helpful mushrooms, buy magical dust from tricky pixies, and navigate the twisted paths and teleportation stones. But don't meander too much. You need to be in good standing with the Royal Palace and earn your Spell License by the end of the game, so get to work!

Pencil First Games' Unkindness of Ravens is a 2018 release — yes, we're looking to next year already — from Eduardo Baraf and Thomas Denmark in which players lay down letter cards in order to spell UNKIND, with each letter having a different effect when you play it. Corvid tokens allow you to block empty spaces in another player's word or increase the value of your played cards for various purposes.

• Another forthcoming title with unpleasant animals in the title is Trash Pandas from Michael and Lisa Eskue and their own Red Rook Games, with the players being raccoons who are pressing their luck to dig things (cards) from the garbage cans (via die rolls) so that they can collect shiny objects (which are worth points).

• In mid-2017, CMON Limited and Spaghetti Western Games will release Kronia from Halaban, Zatz and Seadha, with the design feeling similar in spirit to a different game designed by the first two-thirds of that team, Sheriff of Nottingham — not because of any specific gameplay actions, but more the atmosphere of trying to outthink and outbluff opponents as to what you're trying to do:

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It's time for a new leader to be selected by the gods to lead the nation. To help sway their decision, players must make offers to win their favor.

In Kronia, favor tokens are placed in three different temples, then players will make secret offers to these temples over the course of twelve rounds. Everyone starts with the same offer cards, so they must anticipate which Gods other players want to please. Deciding when to spend the more appealing offers and when to hold off can be the difference. In the end, the player with the most points from their favor tokens will be chosen to lead the nation into the future.


Non-final version shown at Gen Con 2016
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Fri Jan 6, 2017 1:00 pm
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Roll-and-Write-and-Write Again with NSV's Twenty One and Qwinto: Das Kartenspiel

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• German publisher Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag releases family-friendly games that tend to have few rules, with their best known game being a toss-up between Qwixx and The Game, two Steffen Benndorf designs that each landed a Spiel des Jahres nomination. Thus, it shouldn't be a surprise to see another Benndorf title among its early 2017 offerings, this being Twenty One, which is co-designed with NSV developer Reinhard Staupe.

Like Qwixx, Twenty One is a roll-and-write game, with dice being rolled during play and players marking things off on a personal score sheet. Here's a rundown of the gameplay in detail:

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Each player in Twenty One receives a different score sheet at the start of the game; each sheet has five horizontal rows with six colored dice pictured in each row, and while the numbers are identical in each of the rows on each sheet, the arrangement of colors differs.

To score points, a player needs to fill these dice with numbers, but they have to fill (or mark off) all six dice in a row before they can move to the next row on their score sheet — and to write numbers on their sheet, they'll have to depend (at least somewhat) on the luck of the dice.

On a turn, the active player rolls six colored dice that match the colors depicted on each score sheet. They must keep all 1s that they roll, but they can choose to reroll all non-1 dice twice. After the second roll, all players can use the rolled dice to fill one or more of the dice on their sheet — but only if the die of the matching color shows a value equal to or less than what's on the score sheet.

For example, if your row shows a yellow 6, blue 5, white 4, etc., and you or the active player rolls yellow 3, blue 6, white 4, etc., you can choose to write "3" in the yellow space (earning yourself 3 points at the end of the game), but you may choose not to since you could score up to 6 points for that space. You can't write anything in blue since the die is higher than the number shown. You definitely want to write 4 in the white space since 4 is the most points you can score there. What's more, since you had an exact hit, you "x" the box as well, and you score bonus points in a row for the number of "x"s that you have.

If you can't or don't want to fill in a number, you must cross out the leftmost space in your current row, earning no points for this space. As soon as all spaces in a row are filled or crossed off, you start the next row with the next roll of the dice. The game ends the turn that someone completes the fifth row, after which everyone tallies their points to see who wins.




• Another roll-and-write game in the NSV catalog is Bernhard Lach and Uwe Rapp's Qwinto, and as with Qwixx before it, Qwinto has been transformed from a dice game to a card game, with the gameplay being the same, yet different, as one might expect. Here's what's going on in Qwinto: Das Kartenspiel:

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Players each have an individual score sheet, and they're trying to use numbers (1-18) to fill in the empty spaces in three rows, which are colored orange, yellow and purple. Within a row, lower numbers must be placed to the left of higher numbers, and no number can be repeated. In the two- and three-space columns formed by the rows, no number can be repeated, but numbers can be in any order.

Aside from the score sheet, the game includes 32 cards, with the cards numbered 0-6 and -2 in four colors (yellow, orange, purple, gray). Each player starts with a random hand of three cards, then four cards are laid in a 2x2 square. On a turn, a player lays a card from their and onto one of the cards in the square, then sums that card and the two adjacent cards, stating this number and the color of all non-grey cards out loud, e.g., "13 in purple and yellow". Each player can then write a 13 in either the purple or yellow row on their score sheet. If the number is less than 1 or all the cards are grey, then no one can write anything; if the active player can't write anything on their score sheet, then they must mark a penalty box instead.

If a player has two cards with the same number, they can lay down one of them, then the matching number in an adjacent space, thus possibly changing the sum drastically. A player refills their hand to three cards to end their turn.

When a player has completely filled two rows with numbers or all four penalty spaces on their score sheet, the game ends. Each player tallies the points for each of their rows: 1 point per number if spaces are empty, or as many points as the rightmost number if the row is full. For each three-space column, if all spaces are filled, then the player scores points equal to the number in the pentagon. For each penalty point, the player loses 5 points. Whoever has the highest sum wins!




• NSV has a third title in its early 2017 line-up as well — Tembo, about which we know nothing other than this completely unbiased description that might have originated from the publisher:

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It is one of the Earth's most breathtaking natural spectacles! Every year millions of gnus, zebras and antelopes pass the Mara River in Africa. Water means life — but it also holds danger as crocodiles and lions lie in wait. What luck that there are tembos (elephants) who will help the animals to get safely to the other shore.

Tembo is an awesome game, as exciting and wonderful as Africa itself!

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Thu Jan 5, 2017 1:00 pm
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Stack Numbers, Collect Antiques and Avoid Chickens, Courtesy of ABACUSSPIELE

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• German publishers have returned from holidays and have started pouring out information about their releases, with ABACUSSPIELE announcing three new titles as well as a German edition of the BANG! The Dice Game – Old Saloon expansion that dV Giochi debuted at SPIEL 2016.

The biggest release from ABACUSSPIELE is Peter Wichmann's NMBR 9, the title of which immediately makes me want to step away from the computer and start reading David Mitchell's number9dream again. Such a good book!

Ahem, NMBR 9 is chock-full of tiles numbered 0-9, and each player will get their fair share during the game, with everyone trying to build up these numbers — or at least certain numbers — as high as they can. In more detail:

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The game includes twenty cards numbered 0-9 twice and eighty tiles numbered 0-9; each number tile is composed of squares in some arrangement. After shuffling the deck of cards, draw and reveal the first card. Each player takes a number tile matching the card and places it on the table. With each new card drawn after that, each player takes the appropriate number tile, then adds it to the tiles that they already have in play, with each player building their own arrangement of tiles.

The new tile must touch at least one other tile on the same level along one side of a square. A tile can also be placed on top of two or more other tiles as long as no part of the new tile overhangs the tiles below it; new tiles placed on this same level must touch at least one other tile, while also covering parts of at least two tiles and not overhanging.

Once all the cards have been drawn and the tiles placed, players take turns calculating their score. A tile on the bottom level — the 0th level, if you will — scores 0 points; a tile on the 1st level above this is worth as many points as the number on the tile; a tile on the 2nd level is worth twice the number on the tile; etc. Whoever scores the most points wins!





Michael Schacht has two releases with ABACUSSPIELE, with the core gameplay of the card game Das Vermächtnis Des Maharaja ("The Legacy of Maharaja") being similar to his California from 2006. Yes, Schacht and ABACUSSPIELE have a long history together, so it's no surprise to see them continuing to collaborate. Here's an overview of play:

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You need to collect antiques in Das Vermächtnis Des Maharaja, a.k.a. Maharaja, but more than that you need proof that those antiques form a collection and aren't merely a hodgepodge of old trinkets.

To set up the game, shuffle the 36 antique cards (six types in six colors), lay out four on the table, give each player 4-5 rupees (depending on turn order), and lay out the fifteen collection cards. Place the trade cards — numbered 4-3-3-2-2 in a four-player game — on the table in a row, then place a gold coin worth 3 rupees on each trade card.

On a turn, a player either takes the leftmost gold coin from a trade card or pays the cost shown on the leftmost trade card bearing a coin to purchase one of the antique cards on display. After doing either of these, the player can claim a collection card as long as they own the antiques depicted on that card; many collection cards force you to discard one of the antiques depicted, which then sets you back toward claiming other collection cards. To end your turn, pay taxes so that you have at most 8 rupees. As soon as all the gold coins are claimed or the antique cards purchased, the round ends, after which you refill the trade cards and lay out four new antique cards.

Once the antique cards run out, the game ends and players discard any antique cards they hold if they have only one card of that color. Then they tally their scores based on their collection and antique cards and the money they still hold. Whoever has the most points wins.

Blindes Huhn extrem is a new version of Schacht's twenty-year-old card game Blindes Huhn from Berliner Spielkarten. Perhaps chickens should be the avian symbol for eternal rebirth instead of phoenixes...

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In the card game Blindes Huhn extrem, players must do their best to avoid taking the blind chickens home with them. Who wants a blind chicken, after all? They just peck at things randomly, making a mess of the house.

The game consists of fifty number cards (0-49), seven penalty cards, and three reward cards. Adjust the number deck based on the player count, then deal cards evenly to all players. After receiving their cards, players order the cards in their hand however they wish, but then cannot change the order during play. Each round starts with the active player playing the leftmost or rightmost card in their hand, then everyone else does the same in clockwise order, again playing only their leftmost or rightmost card. Whoever plays the highest valued card takes the trick, then leads to the next trick. If you take a trick with more than one chicken in it, you take a penalty card equal to the number of chickens you took; if you take a trick with exactly one pig in it, then you receive a reward card that gives you a bonus in the next round, such as playing your card face down or playing from any spot in your hand.

Once all the cards have been played, players tally their scores: each chicken claimed in -1 point, penalty cards are -3 to -15 points, and reward cards are +3 points. Whoever took the last trick can choose to ignore all chickens they took or all penalty cards they took other than those taken on the last trick. If someone uses the 0 to beat the 49 in the last trick, then they can alternatively erase the entire score from a previous game.

Play as many games as the number of players, then whoever has the highest score wins!
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Wed Jan 4, 2017 4:10 pm
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New Game Round-up: Anniversaries for Beans and Fruit, Abstract Dragon Conflict, and Knizia's Khans

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• German publisher AMIGO Spiel is celebrating a couple of anniversaries among its early 2017 releases, with Uwe Rosenberg's Bohnanza turning twenty years old. Twenty years of bean farming, with more than two million copies sold over that time — who would have guessed? To release something new for the occasion, AMIGO and Rosenberg have Bohnanza: 20 Jahre, which features new artwork, a new card back, and (most importantly) a new type of bean. The spring bean appears on six cards, and when you harvest two of them, you draw cards from the deck equal to one more than the number of players. You plant one of these cards for yourself, then pass the cards around the table so that each other player can do the same. The final card is returned to you, which you convert into a Taler.

• Similarly, Haim Shafir's Halli Galli turns 25 in 2017 (which suggests that our version with a 1990 release date is incorrect), so bring on the Halli Gally Party. Instead of simply counting fruit and slapping when the time is right, you now must look for fruit, color, and musical instrument and slap when two of them are identical in order to collect all the revealed cards. Or slap when the singing plum is on stage because, seriously, a singing plum? Everyone knows that plums can't carry a note.

• In sum, AMIGO Spiel will release eight new titles in the first half of 2017, and you can find the remainder of them here in BGG's Nürnberg/NYC/Cannes 2017 Preview.

ThunderGryph Games debuted in 2016 with a new edition of Overseers, and in 2017 it will release the two-player game Tao Long: The Way of the Dragon from first-time designers Dox Lucchin and Pedro Latro. Images would likely clarify the description below, but perhaps this is enough to give you a toehold for now:

Quote:
Tao Long: The Way of the Dragon is a circular abstract-like game in which each action taken leaves different options for your foe. In it, each player controls a dragon striving to diminish the other whilst bound together by the Tao; you manipulate tokens on a special board in order to activate your dragon, leaving that same board to be manipulated by your opponent on their turn.

• Australian publisher Grail Games has already released two titles from Reiner Knizia (fab-looking versions of Medici and Circus Flohcati) with another on the way (Medici: The Card Game), and now it's announced yet another: King's Road, with this being a reimplemented version of Imperium, which first appeared in 1994's Neue Spiele im alten Rom before reappearing in 2001's Rome: Imperium, Circus Maximus, Hannibal vs Rome. Here's an overview of gameplay:

Quote:
In King's Road, the players are nobles who are attempting to gain power and influence within the king's many provinces. As the king travels along the road that connects all the major landmarks within his territory, he will allow the most influential noble in each region to govern in his stead. Over time, the most favored noble will win the game.

King's Road is an area-majority game. Each player has identical decks of eleven cards. On a turn, players simultaneously select the three cards they will play, and in what order. To win, players not only have to influence the king as he traverses the land, but attempt to read the minds of their opponents.

• Speaking of Knizia, in what has to be one of the oddest combinations in recent years, Chaosium Inc. will release a Knizia design titled Khan of Khans that is set in Greg Stafford's mythic world of Glorantha — the same setting as RuneQuest and Glorantha: The Gods' War — with artwork by Ian O'Toole.

In the game, players try to raid as many cattle as possible from the ten locations. Each location deck features the same eight cards: four worth 20-100 cattle, and one each of "Stampede!", "Enemy Magic", "Tribal Champion", and "Waha's Blessing". On a turn, you choose to reveal the top card of one location, use a saved "Waha's Blessing" to steal someone's cattle, corral the cattle you have so that they can't be lost, or use your unique khan ability. The game is all about pressing your luck (while watching what everyone draws from where so that you can turn luck to your side) and timing when to use one of your few corral tokens to lock in your holdings.

Khan of Khans hits Kickstarter on January 10, 2017 with a scheduled release in October 2017.


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Tue Jan 3, 2017 2:44 pm
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Asmodee Absorbs Heidelberger Spieleverlag, EDGE Entertainment and Millennium

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With a new year comes the announcement of new mergers in the game industry, with Asmodee acquiring German publisher and distributor Heidelberger Spieleverlag, Spanish/French company EDGE Entertainment, and Spanish distributor Millennium.

Here's a translated press release on the "fusionieren" of Asmodee and Heidelberger Spieleverlag, which was leaked on Dec. 31, 2016 when a letter from Asmodee Deutschland was accidentally sent out ahead of the official announcement (and which seemed like a possible prank until confirmed today):

Quote:
Asmodee and Heidelberger Spieleverlag are proud to announce their merger. Since both publishers have worked closely together in logistics since August 2015, this merger is the ideal step to further expand the joint success.

Through the merger, the respective strengths of both companies in marketing, events, sales, service and logistics can be excellently combined and further improved. The range of products from both companies also complement each other perfectly, allowing customers to offer an even wider range of games. Dixit, Codenames, Zombicide, X-Wing, and new hits like Star Wars: Destiny, Final Fantasy Trading Card Game, and Runewars are now coming from a single house.

"I am very pleased that Heidelberger Spieleverlag is now part of the Asmodee family," says Carol Rapp, Managing Director of Asmodee Deutschland. "As a result of the merger, Asmodee not only gets fantastic new games but also great new colleagues. Both of these factors will help us to exceed the success of the last few years. "

"We are starting together in a future that is profitable for all," says Petra Hofstetter, Managing Director of Heidelberger Spieleverlag. "Not only both publishers, including our employees, but also our partners and especially our customers will benefit from the great experience and strengths of both sides."

Heidelberger Spieleverlag will remain at the Walldürn location, and as Studio Heidelberger will develop outstanding games under the renowned logo of the bear and continue the localization of the FFG games. The logistics and the warehouse will continue as before and offer the usual fast service. The combined company will be managed as Asmodee GmbH, and Carol Rapp will continue to function as managing director of the company.

And now a separate English-language press release covering the other companies being absorbed, along with more history on Heidelberger:

Quote:
The Asmodee Group announced today its acquisition of Heidelberger Spieleverlag, EDGE Entertainment and Millennium, German, French and Spanish board game distributors and publishers.

Founded in 1991, Heidelberger Spieleverlag publishes and distributes board games with a unique link to the German hobby shops and has been a long-standing partner and distributor of the Asmodee Group studios Fantasy Flight Games and Plaid Hat Games.

The Asmodee Group is present in Germany since 2008 with a local distribution business unit. The synergy between Asmodee's expertise in the broad market and Heidelberger's historic link with the hobby shops will make of this new entity one of the leading actors of the German board game across all channels. This acquisition is the natural next step of a partnership initiated in 2015 when Asmodee and Heidelberger started distributing each other's catalogue in their respective sales channels.

Founded in 1999, EDGE Entertainment is a board game publisher with presence in Sevilla (SP) and Toulouse (FR). Amongst other games, EDGE holds the rights to the Citadels game in French and Spanish and has been a long-standing partner of the Asmodee Group studio Fantasy Flight Games. EDGE will continue developing new games. Gilles Garnier, co-founder of EDGE Entertainment, is appointed head of EDGE.

Millennium is a Spanish board game distributor specialized in hobby games and retail channels. The Asmodee Group is present in Spain since 2008 with a local distribution business unit. The synergy between Asmodee's expertise in the broad market and Millennium's historic link with the hobby shops will make of this new entity one of the leading actors of the Spanish board game distribution across all channels. Jose Manuel Rey CEO of Millennium and co-founder of EDGE Entertainment is appointed head of Asmodee Iberica.

"We are delighted to integrate three great board game companies with the acquisition of Heidelberger, EDGE and Millennium. Throughout the past years they have demonstrated high skills in terms of game publishing and distribution that will now strengthen our position in France, Germany and Spain, that are key local markets." said Stéphane Carville CEO of Asmodee Group.

"Joining forces with Asmodee, we are building a strong catalogue, an efficient offer of service and support for the broadest audience. We are very happy and are looking forward to the exchange of expertise and knowledge from both sides," said Petra Hofstetter, manager of Heidelberg Spieleverlag.

"In Spain, Asmodee and Millennium are complementary both in terms of catalogue and access to retail channels. I am very proud to have the opportunity to lead this combined entity," said José Manuel Rey, CEO of Millennium.

"EDGE is a studio that has a natural place in the Asmodee Group. We have been long-time business partners of Asmodee studios like Fantasy Flight Games and will continue developing new games within the Group," said Gilles Garnier, co-founder of EDGE Entertainment.

I'll note the following from my November 2014 post following Asmodee's acquisition of Fantasy Flight Games:

Quote:
But what about FFG's products in other languages? Right now Fantasy Flight Games licenses titles to Edge Entertainment for release in French and Spanish; to Heidelberger Entertainment for release in German; and to Wargames Club, Game Harbor and Swan Panasia for release in Chinese. The Asmodee Group has multiple subsidiaries around the world — Asmodee GmbH in Germany, Asmodee France, Asmodee China, Asmodee Ibérica in Spain, Asmodee US, etc. — with those subsidiaries releasing titles in those very languages, so what's the future of those existing relationships? Petersen says that Heidelberger and Edge Entertainment "will continue to localize and represent FFG" for those markets and "will work with the respective Asmodee divisions to increase marketing and organized play support for those countries". Heidelberger, for example, will "work hand-in-hand with Asmodee to increase FFG's marketing presence in Germany, such as greatly expanding FFG's visibility at shows like Spiel in Essen"...

Petersen added this note about these publishing companies: "The questions regarding partners like Edge and Heidelberger are actually very pertinent. FFG could not have been the company we are today without the work, support, collaboration, and friendship of people like Harald, Heiko, Gilles, and Jose. It was vital to me that those partners find a positive place and future in the context of this merger. I believe we've achieved this." (My translation: Don't be surprised should Asmodee acquire Edge and Heidelberger in the near future. Again, speculation, but I will point to this line in a January 2014 Reuters article about Eurazeo's acquisition of Asmodee at that time: "The acquisition debt was provided by European Capital and Tikehau, which have also made a dedicated debt facility available to the company to finance its external growth." That said, I put the question to Asmodee and company rep Kevin Brown reported the following answer: "For the foreseeable future, it is anticipated that current and upcoming FFG products will continue to be localized and sold by FFG's existing international partners. Asmodee intends to work with those same distributors to broaden product availability, marketing presence, and organized play support where possible.")

So now Asmodee has followed through with the acquisition of those publishing and distribution partners, which makes sense given their long-standing relationships. Why continue the dance externally when you can marry your partners and bring them even closer?

I imagine the next question for many people is not what Asmodee will acquire next, but whether the company is now large enough to attract the attention of Hasbro or Mattel. Maybe so, but I'll wager that being acquired is the goal of neither the Asmodee Group nor Eurazeo. Yes, Eurazeo is an investment company that wants a return on its investment, but it's already getting that return in spades, noting on its website that Asmodee's revenues in 2015 rose 55% over the previous year, with its EBITDA rising 92%. That figure will only continue to rise in the coming years, not simply due to the acquisitions that put more money directly under its belt, but due to the continued growth of the hobby game industry as a whole and the increased presence of hobby games in the mainstream market.

BoardGameGeek has seen similar growth on its own end, with 9.5 million unique visitors in Q4 2016 compared to 8.6 million in Q4 2015. In 2016, we registered 250,000 new users — 17% of our entire userbase — and accordingly when we look at the statistics of which games were added to user collections in 2016, seven of the eight titles at the top of the list are owned by the Asmodee Group (Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1), licensed by them in English and possibly other languages (Carcassonne, Catan), distributed by them worldwide (7 Wonders Duel, 7 Wonders), or distributed by them in Germany (Codenames). Go down to the thirtieth spot, and you'll add Splendor, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, Ticket to Ride, Small World, Mysterium, Star Wars: Rebellion, T.I.M.E Stories, Ticket to Ride: Europe, and Takenoko to the list. (Editor's note: I've fixed this section twice while trying to accurately represent Asmodee's involvement or ownership of these titles. Sorry! —WEM)

I'm not saying that a quarter-million people started playing hobby games this year and all joined BGG; rather I'm noting the growth of those who care enough about categorizing themselves as gamers to join a site like BGG. Hundreds of thousands more people who play games still don't know about BGG or about modern hobby games in general. That market of gamers is what the Asmodee Group is aiming for, and with the studios and licenses under their belts, you'll likely see Ticket to Tatooine and Carcassonne: Game of Thrones and other such titles come to market in the near future to continue to push their expansion into mainstream markets such as Target and Walmart. Hobby games are already normalized this way in Germany, appearing in many department stores, but the room for growth is still huge in the U.S. and elsewhere and the Asmodee Group thinks it can capitalize on that growth for many years to come.
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Mon Jan 2, 2017 7:24 pm
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Preview Now Live for Nürnberg, NYC, and Cannes Conventions

W. Eric Martin
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As I've mentioned already, I'm attending the trade shows in both Nürnberg and New York City in February 2017, but I'm also hitting the show in Cannes for the first time, so I've converted our early year convention preview to cover games that will be shown at all three events.

Note that Spielwarenmesse in Nürnberg and the NY Toy Fair are both trade shows, which means that publishers are showing games to retailers, distributors, licensors, and other buyers without the product being available for purchase. Heck, the general public isn't allowed into either show, so there's no point in having copies for sale anyway. In most cases, the games shown will be released in the first half of 2017, so think of this preview as a guide for what's to come. Note that most of the games listed on this preview will be from larger publishers (relatively speaking, mind you, given the size of the hobby industry), so not all games forthcoming in 2017 will be included.

Festival International des Jeux in Cannes, on the other hand, is open to the public, with French publishers both demoing upcoming releases and debuting titles at the show. I have no idea exactly what I'll find there, but I've reached out to many publishers that I expect will be there and will keep my eye out for announcements wherever I can.

With that preamble out of the way, I encourage you to visit BGG's Nürnberg/NYC/Cannes 2017 Preview, where you will see the huge SF game Seeders, Series 1: Exodus from Sweet November that will be the first in a series, the transformation of yet another board game to a card game in Scotland Yard: Das Kartenspiel from Ravensburger, the newest iteration of Grzegorz Rejchtman's creation with Ubongo Junior 3-D from KOSMOS, two new editions of old Feld games from alea, and (most exciting to me) the newest game from Kris Burm, LYNGK, which HUCH! & friends won't debut until SPIEL 2017. The preview is relatively short right now, but the 2016 edition topped two hundred games by the time I finished, so it will be sure to grow substantially by the end of February!

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Mon Jan 2, 2017 1:00 pm
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What's Happening on the First Day of 2017 and Beyond

W. Eric Martin
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In early December 2016, I asked what people wanted to see in this space in 2017. Many of the answers were "more of the same" or "focus on new game releases", with lots of support for "more written posts instead of videos" and some support for "more videos", "more general articles" and "come to UK Games Expo" among other, more varied responses. (Many commenters wrote about things that are not my responsibility, such as the remainder of the redesign, so I have nothing to say along those lines.) I'm still trying to work out a weekly publication plan, but I do hope to satisfy most of the desires expressed.

I have started convention plans for Spielwarenmesse, NY Toy Fair, Festival International des Jeux (a.k.a. Cannes), GAMA Trade Show and PAX East, with more to come down the line. Still need to find hotels and by tickets in some cases, but progress is happening. UK Games Expo is probably still a miss this year as I'm already adding a couple of shows and my wife doesn't hate me so much that she wants me away from home all the time.

The convention preview for those first three shows will debut Monday, January 2, 2017 — with another post later the same day sure to produce more immediate excitement and feedback — and I thank Chad Roberts for help with additions to the BGG database to help prepare this preview. I've started a Slack group in which I share raw information early so that others can add game listings to the BGG database, similar to what I have done in this Geeklist; by doing this, I hope to get games into circulation on BGG and in convention previews more quickly. If you want to join the Slack group and help submit game listings to the BGG database, please write me at eric@boardgamegeek.com and let me know. With a dozen or so people in the group, each person would have to take charge of only one or two publishers in order to knock everything out far more quickly than I could on my own.

As for publishing all of the videos and images that I took during 2016 before the end of the year, well, I made progress, but that plan took a tumble when a full glass of ice water tumbled across my laptop in the final days of December. It's hard to work with a blank screen and a non-responsive keyboard! I'm now back in business and hope to finish everything off in the next week or two.

Aldie, Lincoln, Stephanie and I will livestream a chat about gaming in 2016 on Thursday, January 5 at 9:00 p.m. EST (GMT -5). Not sure what channel we'll be on, but I'll tweet a link once we're close to going live.

I did achieve one solid goal: Inbox Zero. I often get behind on responses and news and other things due to messages piling up during conventions and just through my non-responsiveness while I do other things. Now I've cleared the docket and intend to keep it clear, with Chad Krizan acting as my patron saint of inbox cleanliness.

Aside from that, my 2017 patron badge is now in place. AdBlock is active for another year, and it's time to move on to other tasks — or perhaps even play a game...

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Sun Jan 1, 2017 7:06 pm
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Ludonaute's Luma Looms Large on the 2017 Release Calendar

W. Eric Martin
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• French publisher Ludonaute appeared at SPIEL 2016 with Marshal & Prisoners, the newest expansion for Colt Express, but its booth featured something else as well: a tropical-ish atmosphere and the promise of adventures with Legends of Luma.

What is Legends of Luma? That's not exactly clear at the moment. On September 15, 2016, Ludonaute published a cryptic video on Facebook that shows a mysterious figure writing a message, stuffing into a bottle, then tossing it in the ocean — with someone else, perhaps you, finding the bottle before jumping to a "2017" closer. Here's the message that awaits inside:




At SPIEL 2016, Ludonaute gave out passports to Luma, each with an individual number, and invited people to find out which team they'll belong to in this land. (I'm on Team Knowledge; even without a passport, you can discover your team info here.)

How does this all relate to games? Legends of Luma is a series of board games that depict the adventures of a group of heroes while on a journey. Each game can be played separately, but it's suggested that they're linked together into something larger. The Legends of Luma website has a countdown that ends at the start of the game festival in Cannes, France on February 24, 2017, so you can expect to hear more then, but until that time I can share short descriptions of two games that appear to be part of the line, starting with Oh Captain! from newcomer Florian Sirieix, which is due out in Q2 2017:

Quote:
Our intrepid adventurers have sailed on a journey, finding the hidden cave of a mythic monster. There are so many strange things there! The Captain allows the crew to search through the place and bring back to him what they have found, but by bluffing the Captain, they will try to keep the best part of the loot for themselves...

In Oh Captain!, an asymmetric game of changing roles, an adventurer must offer the loot cards they draw to the Captain, telling the Captain something about what the cards contain but not necessarily speaking truthfully. Indeed, some cursed objects can't be spoken of at all by the adventurers.

The Captain, who is safe from being attacked by objects, decides whether the crew member can keep the loot or not, and if the Captain turns down the offer, the crew member can decide to use an object against another adventurer. The latter player can overcome this by calling out a lie, winning or losing a coin based on who is right. The role of the Captain can be claimed by any adventurer who is richer than the Captain, and in the end the richest adventurer wins the game.

The second title is the tile-laying game Nomads expected out in Q3 2017, which bears an even shorter description:

Quote:
Our intrepid adventurers are living with a nomad tribe during their travel through the desert. At night, they set up the camp and fires, then it is time for the stories to be told.

By walking from one campfire to another in Nomads, you collect parts of various stories and try to gather them to form the largest legends.

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Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:00 pm
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Throwback Thursday: What Fresh Alchemy Is This? Element to Return in 2017

W. Eric Martin
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Kalmbach Publishing Co., which acquired Rather Dashing Games in January 2016, plans to release a new edition of Mike Richie's Element on March 1, 2017.

In this game, first released in 2008 by Mindtwister USA, players place element stones on the game board and use the power of those stones to move and create walls, with the goal of immobilizing the opponent. When first released, Element was for two players only; this new version modifies the rules of the original game, with slightly different powers for earth and wind from what I recall, in addition to allowing for games with up to four players. With more than two players, your goal is now to trap the player to your right. Trap anyone else, and you have made them the victor!

I reviewed the original version of Element on Boardgame News on March 4, 2009, so I thought I'd share that piece to describe the original gameplay in detail, after which I'll note changes in the 2017 edition:

•••


Let's kick off this review with two confessions:

1. I know game designer Mike Richie personally as we used to attend the same karate dojo in Rhode Island. I even attended his wedding reception when he married his beautiful bride, Holly. And while he participated in a few of the game sessions that I hosted in the early 2000s, I don't recall him expressing an interest in game design. Apparently I had blocked out sour memories as in one email note late in 2008 he wrote, "Thanks for playing that awful game of mine at your party." No problem, Mike, although I haven't the foggiest idea what your design was.

The past aside, Richie now has a professional release from Mindtwister USA, which is surely a step up from a random prototype shown at a game night. Or at least that's the hope, which leads to the next confession…

2. When I first saw Richie's Element, I shuddered. The faux primitive art, the 1970s earthtones, the huge block of scrolling text a là Star Wars on the front cover — oh, this didn't look promising. Worst of all was the theme: Sorcerers using the four elemental powers of wind, water, earth and fire to do whatever it is sorcerers do. Gem collecting, palace building, and king replacing have all been beaten into the ground by German designers and publishers, but for sheer yawn potential, nothing beats yet another superficial painting of an abstract strategy game with the four elements.

Thankfully the game turned out to be decent and not the train wreck I had feared, with the elements proving to be more than mere coloring in the design.

Your goal in Element is to surround the other player's sorcerer and prevent it from moving. Play starts with the sorcerers nearly head-to-head in the center of the game board and a number of element tokens in their starting positions.

On a turn, you roll four dice: One side has the word "Element," one shows a wild symbol, and the other four each show one of the element icons. Each element has a different effect on the game board, and each element can replace one other: Fire replaces air, which replaces earth, which replaces water, which replaces fire. After rolling the dice, you'll place stones of the proper colors on the game board, replacing other stones as allowed and if you desire to do so. You can also move your sorcerer one space in any direction like a king in chess, with each "Element" word granting you an additional movement. As for what the elements do:

Fire spreads. If you place fire orthogonally adjacent to another fire already on the board, then the space on the opposite side of the existing fire also catches fire, assuming that space is empty or holds air.

Water flows. When you place water orthogonally adjacent to existing water, then you can make those pieces "flow" across the game board, taking right-angle turns as desired or required and putting out fires along the way.

Air enables. Air creates strong winds, so a sorcerer can travel over spaces that contain air in addition to making any other moves allowed on that turn.

Earth sits there and looks pensive. Place three earth stones in a horizontal or vertical line, and those stones can no longer be eroded by air, thereby creating a permanent wall on the game board.


Midgame on the 2008 version of Element


The game play in Element is similar to Knizia's Genesis in that a player's possible actions on a turn depend on the roll of the dice. Since your goal is to surround the other player, ideally you'll roll lots of elements that let you make such plays. At the same time, however, that player is attempting to surround you, so you might need additional movement to get out of potential traps or to create additional space around you by, say, encouraging a river to flow across the board. Over time the board becomes more crowded, with earthen walls creating spots that are permanently out of play, that block the spread of fire and prevent air from coasting you to safety. From the midgame on, you need to assess how much at risk you are each turn. Says Richie, "I've noticed that people tend to simply not notice all of the options on the board at any given time. If there is a serious discrepancy in the level of players, the weaker one will frequently not realize how close they are to being trapped."

To some degree, Element reminds me of Go, a game that I've played only a handful of times, as the game board starts in a nearly empty position. Your goal is to trap the opponent, yet he has so many degrees of freedom that you're not sure how to begin. One fire, one earth – they're meaningless on their own, but you lay them down anyway. As the turns pass, areas of the board start getting cut off. You maneuver your sorcerer a little at a time, trying to keep a path of air nearby so that you can jump to a fresh, unpolluted area as needed. In some ways, the game feels like two disjoint contests as you rarely move your sorcerer to an area where the other sorcerer is or has been; you've been trying to trap him, after all, so why enter an area that's already laced with land mines?


Playing with my exchange student Seung Chan in 2008 or 2009


While Element's game play is solid — at least for those willing to endure the capriciousness of the dice and to keep their plans flexible — the graphic design of the game is a mixed bag. As noted earlier, the cover seems like a throwback to decades past and not in a good way. The sorcerers are chess pieces, most likely used because they could be purchased cheaply, but because they're not generic like meeples and wooden cubes, their presence distracts you from the differentness of Element, from the mechanisms that make this game unique and challenging. The bags holding the glass stones are a classy touch, but they seem out of place given the rest of the graphic design. The rules are packed chock-a-block with text, using twice as many words as needed to get the rules across, so they're less clear than they could be; one plus for the rules, though, are the numerous illustrations that demonstrate the use of the elements and movement of the sorcerer.

In addition to discovering a good game, I've perhaps learned a lesson about judging titles based on their appearance and theme. As Element demonstrates, even the most tired of themes can be used in meaningful ways. Oh, who am I kidding? Down with ugly games about gem collecting!

•••


Ha, what a hater that old Eric was! He even titled this review "Fugly Fun" when he posted it on BGG back in 2009.

Aside from the change in player count, the biggest difference in the 2017 edition of Element is that players no longer roll dice to determine what they have to work with on their turn. Instead a player decides to draw 0-4 element stones at random from a bag, while being able to move their sage 5-1 spaces each turn, with the total of those two numbers equaling five. After a player draws stones, the player places stones and moves in whatever order they like.

Other changes: Earth now becomes a ridge and is therefore non-erodible by wind by placing a second earth stone on top of an existing earth stone, and if you connect this ridge to other earth stones, then those can't be eroded either, slowly creating barriers to movement as a player's sage cannot move diagonally through a pass in the mountains should one of those mountains contain a ridge.

When you stack one wind token on another — or possibly multiple tokens — you create a whirlwind that allows a sage to move multiple spaces by passing over it.

Finally, the graphics have been overhauled by RDG partner Grant Wilson, with a new cover, new component design, new game board design, and non-chess pieces for sages. Hallelujah!

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Thu Dec 29, 2016 1:00 pm
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