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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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Crowdfunding Round-up: Impulsively Rise to Peak Apocalypse

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• Here's an odd situation to lead off this crowdfunding round-up: Polish publisher Czacha Games, which released a Polish edition of Carl Chudyk's Impulse in 2016 with fan-created art by Zak Eidsvoog, is now releasing an English-language edition of their version of the game, along with two expansions — All Your Base and Brake for Launch — that have never before appeared in print. (KS link)

Original publisher Asmadi Games is dropping Impulse from their line and won't release the expansions in a style compatible with the first edition of the game, according to Asmadi owner Chris Cieslik, who later wrote, "The point at which it made sense to start considering printing the expansion is right about when they decided to go forward with a Polish version of the game with the fan-made artwork. It made it no longer worth pursuing for us, so we let them do what they wanted to." Did the publication of fan artwork on its own kill sales of the original release? Or was it the appearance of a non-English version with this artwork, similar to how people lavish praise on the Polish edition of Castles of Mad King Ludwig and complain that Bézier Games won't release a version with this artwork. Perhaps there's a lesson in here for publishers about what licensees are allowed to do with new editions of games...

• Speaking of Asmadi Games, they're on KS with a project of their own: Invasion of the Garden Gnomes, a revamped version of Reiner Knizia's majorities-based card game Vampire that now contains 100% fewer vampires — so maybe I should have gone with "devamped" instead. (KS link)

• Another new title emerging from old is Hardback, a "pre-quill" to Tim Fowers' deck-building, word-building game Paperback, and that pun makes sense only when you look closer at the game to discover that you're playing as 19th century author Penelope Quill. In any case, this game, co-designed with Jeff Beck, is both playable on its own and an expansion for Paperback, and like most titles from Fowers Games, it will not be available in regular retail stores. (KS link)

• Tobias Gohrbandt and Heiko Günther's Peak Oil from Spanish publisher 2Tomatoes puts you in charge of a petroleum corporation that's trying to squeeze out as much profit as possible from the world's dwindling supply of oil, then plowing that money into new industries to exit the oil market while the getting is good. (KS link) We shot an overview video of the game while at the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes, France if you want to see the game in more detail:




• Worker placement and resource management combine in King's Champion from Jason Washburn and Talon Strikes Studios, a 60-90 minute two-player game that's all about improving your knights so that you can outjoust the other guy. (KS link)

• Before you can joust, though, you might need to visit Smiths of Winterforge so that you can have the right tools in hand. This design by Dylan Shearer, Aaron Sparke, Rule & Make, and Table Tyrant Games pits dwarven guilds against one another to get components to complete crafting contracts. (KS link)

• Mike Gnade of Rock Manor Games is following up his 2016 debut title Brass Empire with Maximum Apocalypse, a "cooperative roguelike adventure game for 1-6 players" in which everyone needs to avoid monsters, collect gas, and drive to safety before another scenario begins. (KS link)

• What do you get when you a cross a Norseman with a pirate? Vikingar, a joke that makes sense only when said aloud in the right way, in addition to being a plundering/fighting/trading game from Jean-Thomas Rioux, Étienne Rioux, and JackBro Playful Creation that will have you throwing runes on the way to Valhalla. (KS link)

• Emanuele Santandrea's latest title from his VentoNuovo Games is Bloody Monday, which recreates the Sept. 7, 1812 Battle of Borodino, which the publisher dubs "the single bloodiest day of the entire Napoleonic Wars period". (KS link)

• Are you looking for a game that contains "an educational workbook about stellar evolution and the history and mythology of constellations"? If so, then Constellations from Dante Lauretta, Ian Zang, and Xtronaut Enterprises might be your thing. Word is that it also contains a game in which you collect different star types to complete constellations, which will then tile the night sky. (KS link)

• "This could be the hottest dice/worker placement game in 2017!" That teaser pull-quote leads off the KS project for Rise to Nobility from Vojkan Krstevski and Final Frontier Games, and while that tagline must appeal to some — given this project's $124k take in its first five days — I feel somewhat like we've fallen down a hole if that jargon is meant to appeal to people at large. Then I look above at some of the descriptions I've used to describe these games, and I see that I'm in that same hole. How about this instead? "Become a lord and take your seat at the Stone Council of Caveborn." (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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Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: A Renewed Five-Year Mission for WizKids, and A Second One Deck Dungeon

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• U.S. publisher WizKids has announced a "renewed multi-year license with CBS Consumer Products", and accompanying that announcement comes word of a wave of Star Trek items, such as card packs and faction packs for Star Trek: Attack Wing, with the former debuting in mid-2017 and the latter coming in Q3 2017. As for what they are:

Quote:
Each Star Trek: Attack Wing Card Pack will include cards, token sheets, and the necessary dial connector pieces. Most of these cards and tokens will be brand new content, while some cards in each pack will be reworded versions of existing cards. Each Star Trek: Attack Wing Card Pack now has a lower price point than previous expansion pack releases, and will point to at least one existing release for players to acquire the correct ship sculpt, if they don't already own a copy.

Each Star Trek: Attack Wing Faction Pack will include four pre-painted plastic ships with cards, token sheets, dial connector pieces, bases, and pegs to accompany them. Many of the cards and tokens in these faction packs will be brand new and will allow a player to field a never-before-seen fleet from right out of the box.

For those who want to paint their own minis for Attack Wing, in mid-2017 WizKids will launch Star Trek: Deep Cuts Unpainted Miniatures, and for those who want different painted minis from those included in Attack Wing there's Star Trek Tactics: Series IV, which I believe is the fourth series of ships for the Star Trek HeroClix line. From the press release: "Play with fan-favorite classic factions such as the Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Dominion, and Borg as well as the all new Xindi and Andorian factions! Unlike previous Star Trek Tactics sets, all ship sculpts are used only once within the set! That's right, Series IV brings 28 unique dials and sculpts to the Milky Way!" Who knew that WizKids was producing dials and sculpts with materials acquired outside the Milky Way?! Seems cost prohibitive, but perhaps that's why I write about games instead of manufacturing them.



Unpainted minis


The HeroClix line will also see the release of Star Trek HeroClix Away Team: The Original Series, with this Q4 2017 release featuring "the most iconic characters from Star Trek: The Original Series with Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and more".

Finally, in August 2017 Star Trek: Frontiers will get bigger with the release of The Return of Khan Expansion Set, which boosts the player count to five and which features "Khan's Jem'Hadar Battle Cruiser, 'The Pequod', and a new playable ship — the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A", according to WizKids, which describes this expansion as equivalent in size as The Lost Legion expansion for Mage Knight Board Game.

• U.S. publisher Asmadi Games has announced a Q3 2017 release date for One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows, a standalone expansion for the 2016 release One Deck Dungeon from Asmadi owner Chris Cieslik.

As with the original game, One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows is a dungeon delve, with each card in the deck depicting both an obstacle to overcome and the potential rewards for doing so. This release, which will hit Kickstarter in April 2017, contains new heroes, new dungeons, new perils, new foes, and new mechanisms (Poison and event Perils), and its heroes and dungeons are compatible with the original game should you want to combine them or mix-and-match in some way.

Asmadi Games plans to talk about this title, along with Mottainai: Wutai Mountain, Invasion of the Garden Gnomes, and Innovation Deluxe, during a Twitch presentation on Thursday, April 6 at 13:00 EDT (GMT -4).

Renegade Game Studios has announced many titles for release in 2017, and while we briefly covered J. Alex Kevern's Sentient in a video overview of five upcoming Renegade titles at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show, but I thought I'd highlight it here as well, mostly so that I can show off the striking cover by Chris Ostrowski. As for the game, here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
The next great technological revolution is here. Sentient robots for information, transportation, industry — all at our fingertips. Building them is now the easy part. Programming them has proven to be more complicated. A handful of companies have emerged claiming to pull it off, but only one will win out. Your mission is clear: Procure valuable bots and plug them into your network. They'll have an effect on your systems. Anticipate it correctly, program your bots effectively, and attract the right investors to win and lead the sentient revolution.

In Sentient, players are tasked with choosing from available robots to program in their factory. Each robot that is added modifies your board and attracts the interest of investors for your company. Program your bots efficiently and collect the support of your patrons to build the most formidable operation.


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Thu Apr 6, 2017 1:10 pm
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New Game Round-up: Going Deep with Leder Games, Gardening in Japan, and Moving Brass to New Cities

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• U.S. publisher Leder Games has announced what might be considered a spiritual successor to 2016's Vast: The Crystal Caverns, a cave-crawling adventure for 1-5 players in which each player had unique attributes and goals. Now you get to try something similar in the stars in Samuel Bailey's Deep: Enemy Frontier:

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For a thousand years the Empire of Humanity has grown, conquered, and ruled with strength and order, but now resources grow scarce and unrest mutters under the thin veneer of tranquility. Out in the distant void, ancient enemies sense weakness and band together to bring down those who defeated them and sent them running. Humanity's only hope is to reach once more for the furthest stars, discover new worlds rich with resources, and build an new Empire that can survive for another thousand years.

Deep: Enemy Frontier is a highly asymmetric sci-fi strategy game for 2-4 players. Each player takes a unique role during a period of intense conflict in our quadrant of the galaxy. The Empire seeks to shore up its weaknesses and once more establish itself as the dominant force in the galaxy. The Usurper threatens to bring the Empire down from within and establish a free and open society ruled by the people rather than a dictator. The Rival sweeps in from the remote edges of the galaxy, a coalition of aliens burning with revenge against an Empire that conquered and harried them over the past hundreds of years. The Captain throws himself out into the stars, to explore and have grand adventures, his exploits broadcast to the entire Empire; perhaps his fame will lead him one day to sit upon the throne of all humanity...

Osprey Games has been doing a fantastic job with their revamped editions of older games — Odin's Ravens, The King Is Dead, Escape from Colditz, The Ravens of Thri Sahashri, and more — and Samurai Gardener is the latest example, this being a new edition of Hisashi Hayashi's Edo Yashiki, first released by his own OKAZU Brand in 2013. Okay, all we have so far is a cover, but it's impressive. As for the gameplay, here's a summary:

Quote:
Samurai Gardener is a tile-laying game with an historical Japanese theme in which players try to construct as impressive gardens as possible.

Each card consists of six sections of several types of areas (pond, floor, garden, etc.). Players lay the cards side by side or overlapping in order to create long rows of the same area type. Each round, rows/columns of the same area type are awarded points, and the player with the most points when all building cards are depleted wins.

If you want to see the gameplay in practice, here's an overview video of the original game that I recorded in 2014:



• In January 2016, Gavan Brown of Roxley Games announced that it had signed a deal with Martin Wallace to release a new version of his 2007 design Brass. What's more, Roxley was developing a new map with Wallace that would essentially create a second game from the Brass game system.

Roxley has now revealed some details of both games, along with two of the most eye-catching covers of the modern day — which each cover working beautifully on its own while pairing to make something bigger. Brass has been renamed Brass: Lancashire, and aside from new artwork and components, Roxley has made these small-ish changes to the rules:

—The virtual link rules between Birkenhead have been removed.
—The three-player experience has been brought closer to the ideal experience of four players by shortening each half of the game by one round and tuning the deck slightly to ensure a consistent experience.
—Two-player rules have been created and are playable without the need for an alternate board.
—The level 1 cotton mill is now worth 5 VP to make it slightly less terrible.

"Slightly less terrible" — that phrase always look great in marketing copy!

Brass: Birmingham adds a new action to the game (Scout) and three new industry types (brewery, manufactured goods, pottery), while requiring beer for certain things to happen in town: "Brewing has become a fundamental part of the culture in Birmingham. You must now sell your product through traders located around the edges of the board. Each of these traders is looking for a specific type of good each game. To sell cotton, pottery, or manufactured goods to these traders, you must also "grease the wheels of industry" by consuming beer. For example, a level 1 cotton mill requires one beer to flip. As an incentive to sell early, the first player to sell to a trader receives free beer."

Roxley plans to launch a Kickstarter funding campaign for both titles on April 17, 2017.


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Wed Apr 5, 2017 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Stop Greedy Cytosis to Dragoon a Dicey Thief Warp

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• Designer John Coveyou of Genius Games has previously released games titled Covalence: A Molecule Building Game, Ion: A Compound Building Game, Virulence: An Infectious Card Game, and Peptide: A Protein Building Game. You might think that he designs for a certain niche, and you would be right, with his latest offering being Cytosis: A Cell Biology Game, a worker placement game that takes place inside a human cell. (KS link)

Arclight and Japanime Games are publishing Sword Art Online Board Game: Sword of Fellows, an adaption of the Sword Art Online anime by designer Seiji Kanai with players rolling dice and working together to take down enemies. (KS link)

• Another co-op game looking for funding is DiverCity from Maxime Tardif and Sphere Games, with the scuba-diving players trying to save species on a coral reef to ensure diversity (wink, wink) in undersea environments. (KS link)

Dragoon got a lot of love at Gen Con 2016, and now designers Jake Given, Zach Given, and Jonathan Ritter-Roderick are raising funds for a new printing of the base game as well as Dragoon: The Rogue and Barbarian Expansion, which adds two new human characters to the game and allows for play with up to six at the table. (KS link)

• The driving mission behind Restoration Games is to take well-loved games from past decades, remove all of the bad stuff about their designs that nostalgia has made you forget, then return them to market. They plan to debut three titles at Gen Con 2017 in August: Indulgence (previously Dragonmaster), Downforce (previously Daytona 500 and many other iterations), and Stop Thief!, with this latter title being the only one to hit Kickstarter. The funny thing about this design is that the most loved element of the game — at least by me, who played it frequently with my family — was the electronic noise gizmo, and a large percentage of the population now carries something far more advanced than that electronic noise gizmo on them at all times. (KS link)




• Another nostalgic blast in game form is Greedy Claw Crane Game from David Sheppard and Twitch Factory, with players rolling dice to "claw" toys from the 6x6 field that creates the floor of the claw machine. Dig in to grab the toys you want for the best sets. (KS link)

Warp Speed from Andresakis, Cimino, Mamouris, Seretis and JAM Games is a new design, but the look of it strikes the same 1980s note as Lazer Ryderz from Greater Than Games, another 2017 release. In Warp Speed, players use their spaceships to sweep asteroids from play(!), discover planets, and complete objectives in order to score fame. (KS link)

• A similar-sounding project is Zebulon: Galactic Control from Jacob Hardin, Brandon Monahan, and Apocto Games as the description highlights your efforts to zip through space on a modular board while picking up fuel, battling others, and completing missions. (KS link)

Magmeda Monsters designer André Forsblom of Rapid Leaf Productions says that he first started working on this two-player card-driven battle game when he was twelve, which means that at age 25 he's spent more than half his life with this game bopping around his head. Now he's trying to bring it to life to share with others. (KS link)

• Frequent Kickstarter participant John Clowdus of Small Box Games has a trio of projects underway on a ten-day project that celebrates the ten-year anniversary of SBG. Hard to believe that a decade has passed since he started releasing tiny self-published games, but we're staring at the proof in front of us, so I should start believing. The three games in question — Cartouche Dynasties, Hemloch: Dark Promenade, and Seii Daiymo — are all updated and revised versions of earlier SBG releases. (KS link)

• Another frequent Kickstarter inhabitant — this being designer Scott Almes — has created an uncomfortable-sounding environment for himself this time: Dicey Peaks from Calliope Games, with these peaks being of the Himalayan variety and with players needing to roll their way to the top of the mountain before they freeze or have their arms yanked off by a yeti. (KS link)

• Frank West's The City of Kings from publisher The City of Games is a cooperative tactical roleplaying board game for 1-4 players that features tons of choices:

Quote:
You start by choosing one of seven stories, then select your hero, with each of the six heroes featuring twelve unique skills and nine customizable stats that allow you to specialize in attacking, healing, tanking, worker management, or whatever you desire. Aside from your hero, you need to manage your workers, who must gather resources in order to trade for new items and build structures to gain powerful bonuses.

You explore across the Ageless Realms by turning over tiles, discovering resources, side quests, hazards, building sites, traders and creatures as you continue to power up whilst preparing to enter Azure Rise.

At its heart, The City of Kings is a complex puzzle featuring endless strategic battles. Each creature is generated from a pool of spells, characteristics and stats offering over 10,000,000 unique battle situations. There are no dice, damage is persistent, it’s up to you to customize your characters and work together to come up with a strategy to defeat whoever stands in your way.

More than ten million unique battle situations! Sounds like a fine weekend project to try them all out. (KS link)

Level 99 Games has taken an interesting approach with the second set of games for its EXCEED fighting system, with the sixteen characters in these four games all coming from L99's forthcoming game Seventh Cross, a huge design in the works for release in 2018. Level 99 is effectively advertising for a future release, while giving you the chance to fight now with the characters outside of the alternative-Earth 1920s era that forms the setting for Seventh Cross.(KS link)

I'm also enamored by the cocky arrogance of the aggressive limbo-er in the EXCEED cover image: "Look at me, man. I've got this even while wearing my favorite hat!"




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 Apr 2, 2017 1:05 pm
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Fragor Games Announces Wallace & Gromit License for Next Release

W. Eric Martin
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Gordon and Fraser Lamont of Fragor Games have issued this pictorial press release to announce their next title:




While a Wallace & Gromit game — or perhaps a design based on multiple Aardman Animations titles — might seem like an April Fools' Day joke, Gordon Lamont has assured me that it's not, stating that he and Fraser were at the Aardman Animations studio in Bristol to play the game on the afternoon of March 31, after which they were given the okay to announce the license. Adds Gordon, "Nearest Fragor ever got to an April Fool was to post a picture of a white box with white cards and call it 'Snow Tails: Blizzard Edition'!"

Further evidence comes from the September 2016 announcement by the Lamonts that they wouldn't have a game for release at SPIEL 2016. To quote part of that announcement:

Quote:
We got the opportunity in 2010 of working with a particular license. For reasons unrelated to us, it did not go further at that time. Now, with the advent of Kickstarting, the opportunity of using the license became possible again around last Essen. This makes a change for 2016 in how we will finance/sell the game. It means that our 2016 game will be Kickstarted rather than sold at Essen...

In the near future, we will make a major announcement regarding a license. We are absolutely thrilled to be involved with it.

This is now their 2017 game, of course, but so be it. Congrats to Jez Overton for calling it correctly, and I can't wait to see Gordon looking shifty in a giant penguin outfit at SPIEL 2017!
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Sat Apr 1, 2017 3:44 pm
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Links: Play Catan, Play with CMON, and Don't Play More Games Than You Ever Thought Possible

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Let me lead off by stating that I hate April Fools' Day, so I have nothing tricky posted below. Everything is a legit link unless someone has uploaded new pages on me after the fact. I loathe that I even have to give such warnings, but there it is.

With that anti-caveat in mind, let's get to some industry happenings, starting with the announcement of CMON Play, an exclusive promotional program for brick and mortar game stores in the U.S. and Canada from CMON Limited. An excerpt from the press release:

Quote:
This new program is designed to help promote the growth of retail stores by offering exclusive access to Game Night Kits, Pre-Release Kits, Demo Copies, and Kickstarter Retail Pledges from CMON's wide library of titles.

The board game industry and culture is here because of brick and mortar stores, and CMON wants to ensure our retailers have the tools they need to keep their businesses and communities thriving. Ruby Nikolopoulou, CMON's Marketing Director, explains, "Throughout the creation of the CMON Play program, retailers, their stores, and their customers have been front-and-center in our minds. They are the cornerstone to our industry, and CMON Play give us a chance to connect with them and support them in exciting, new ways."

Game Night Kits allow stores to run events for popular CMON games, such as Zombicide: Black Plague, Blood Rage, Potion Explosion, and Bloodborne: The Card Game. Kits will be available every two months, beginning with Black Plague in June [2017], and will offer game content that has never been available before. Running these Game Night Kits as events also allows stores to earn points that can be spent through CMON directly.

Continuing the retail-first philosophy of CMON Play are the Pre-Release Kits. For specific, high-profile games, CMON is offering retailers the ability to sell the title two weeks before any non-CMON Play store and online retailers, beginning with the highly-anticipated The Godfather: Corleone's Empire from designer Eric M. Lang.

Asmodee North America plans to host Catan Days 2017 on April 21-23 at the Fantasy Flight Games Center in Roseville, Minnesota. The event opens with a preview of upcoming titles from Catan Studio on April 21, followed by a two-day Catan tournament with up to 96 players that serves as a qualifier for the Catan National Championship to be held at the 2017 Origins Game Fair in June. Saturday, April 22 will also see a "Catan Big Game" tournament in which up to eighty players compete in the same game simultaneously. You can preregister for the event on the Catan Studio website.

Plan B Games, which will debut at Origins 2017 with Century: Spice Road (game preview and designer interview here), has been rolling out names of future design collaborators without any mention yet of what those games might be. Those collaborators include Pandemic's Matt Leacock (as announced here), Ubongo's Grzegorz Rejchtman (announcement), and Anita Landgraf from White Castle Games Agency in Austria (announcement).

Daniel Solis has designed a number of games, including Kodama: The Tree Spirits and Belle of the Ball, but he might be better known in the industry for his layout and graphic design work. He oversees a lot of different artists on these projects, and to help himself and them work toward inclusive art direction, he's compiled a number of tips, such as these two:

Quote:
Question the "default."

You know how Earth is moving around the sun and the sun is moving through the galaxy, but we don't recognize it because we are born into it? That's sort of like the "Default." My beliefs, body, culture, class, or anything else is not the "default." The "default" is just the motion we're born into and assume is the standard forever. In truth, the "default" is the inertia of history, family, and culture. If I stop putting in effort, just trying to remain "neutral," I turn into debris floating along with that inertia, harming people in my path who can't go along with that inertia. It takes ongoing effort just to keep myself standing still, holding what little progress I've made in improving myself. It takes even more effort to actually move against that inertia, to change what is considered "default."

Accept responsibility.

Sometimes I see questionable art direction justified by "It's what the market wants" or "It's historically accurate." Even granting that, which I do NOT necessarily, it is still an art director and creator's choices that rule the day. A fictional character doesn't have an ethnicity, gender, body, or pose by accident. It's a creator's choice to present a character a certain way. Even in video games with character customization, the creators set the options available. If an option is available, that's a choice. If it isn't available, that's a choice, too. Deferring and defaulting is a choice; one that I'm trying not to make whenever possible.




• Travis Severance, owner of Millennium Games in Rochester, NY, invited folks from various parts of the game industry to address this topic — "The Deluge of Board Games" — and he published their essays on his blog throughout March 2017. Here's a sampling from each writer:

Designer perspective from Travis R. Chance of Indie Boards and Games:

Quote:
As a small publisher, it can be extremely tough to land games from more established designers. This often means approaching newcomers to design. This potential compounded lack of experience is very likely to produce an altogether forgettable game, one that ends up on a crowdfunding platform, funds in defiance of all logic, and in turn inspires someone else to do the very same. It is an unending process of facsimile wherein people are in such a hurry to "create" that they never stop to question if their game NEEDS to exist. Any more, this is true across most creative mediums. If you have a camera on your phone, you are a photographer. If you have a simple audio recording/editing program on your laptop, you are a music producer. People are no longer good at one thing, they are mediocre at many — but I digress!

Publisher perspective from Jeff Tidball of Atlas Games:

Quote:
[T]here's truly a game for everyone, and everybody's game is for somebody. I've seen lots of games published by all kinds of people. And I'm not shy about thinking a whole lot of them are awful. But I've seen so many people who're honestly in love with games that I think are just garbage that I'm completely convinced that every game is for somebody. Even if you push the argument to the most ridiculous extreme, consider the designer's mom. Everybody's game is for somebody.

Specifics are valuable, so here's an example: I made a game called Band or Album last year. I made it because I think the premise is hilarious, and because I wanted it to exist in the world. It's not for everybody. In fact, it's hardly for anybody. But the people who it is for think it's great. One of the ways I can tell is that since it came out, it's been featured in a short film and been directly referenced in at least two other games whose designers have approached me to make sure it's cool to do that...

I made Band or Album because I think the premise is funny and because I wanted it to be out there for others to enjoy. Markedly absent: The desire to make a buck. So to put food on the table, I work with other people to publish games other than Band or Album, which have the potential to make better money.

Quote:
I've been working on a miniatures game called Gravstrike for years. My partner and I are getting close to the point where it'll be time to release it. It'll be the first release for a new company we created specifically to publish it, and the idea that it'll come out in a marketplace that might bury it for no easily discernible reason is not pleasant.

But that same marketplace has already made Gravstrike immeasurably better than it ever would have been in a less competitive world. We've gotten great feedback from friends and colleagues, and tested the game with dozens if not hundreds of actual gamers — not to mention store owners and journalists. We've found new factories who're working hard to provide components and materials that were unheard of in tabletop games ten years ago.

If we had pushed Gravstrike out even two years ago, it would be a remarkably worse game. Flat out, full stop. So I'll realize that competition in the marketplace is making me stronger, and I'll keep in touch with actual fans, and pretty soon we'll pull the trigger.

Distributor perspective from Mike Paschal of Peachstate Hobby Distribution:

Quote:
Everything is being ramped up. More games, designers, publishers…you name it, they are joining the ranks of this industry. How does the little guy stand a chance of being noticed? Should they be noticed? Harsh reality but a fair amount of products just shouldn't have made it to market, just to be found in liquidation bins next quarter. This is something I am very cognizant of when vetting new publishers/games. Sometimes I pass on a publisher's first game as to not tarnish their company name with our customers for their second game that will be a much better product. Retailers are quick to notice dust on a product; best to not have anything to collect said dust.

Quote:
Ultimately, we are kind of hand-tied and dependent on publishers marketing correctly — not just for their 3-4 new games that month but also properly marketing their back catalog of products. We have gone from a spike in initial sales, followed by a slow decline, to now just a spike in the first few days, followed by a flat line. In the cult of the new we are in, it's hard to justify spending marketing bandwidth on last month's games when you have an abundance of new releases coming out every other week. This has been our discussion in the office as of late. How do we keep sales up for last month's games? Just like when dealing with the up-and-coming KS folks, do we? If the publisher is no longer pushing it, why should we? Do we sell out of these few cases and not reorder? At some point we are going to go from trying to market for "last month's games", to "last week's games", to "yesterday’s games."

Quote:
With so many new products releasing now, I have been a little tighter on ordering titles in the middle or lower tier of the "hype train". I am ordering less from the start and immediately adding those items to the order I have due for NEXT week's new releases. This is opposed to ordering enough to last for the lines until it's time for a normal restock. Any given month we have 200+ board games (related) and selectively we do not carry everything on the market. We have to sell 80-85% of what we purchase, just to break even. If we pay freight coming in and going out, which happens most times, it's even more we have to sell. Back when we had 20 new items a month, we could afford to take deeper stances on new releases, as they would have a longer "new release" period. The number of new evergreens coming to market remains the same for the most part, annually. The number of products that have a higher chance of not hitting that 80-85% sell through is what is increasing. The biggest risk for us in taking this safer approach is under-produced products and thus not getting enough for our demand.

Marketing perspective from Ruby Nikolopoulou of CMON Limited (her again!)

Quote:
Deciding where to invest your time

From the first time we play them, some games just strike us as total winners. We know we have something quite exciting on our hands. Every now and then we fall in love with a title, and we feel that magic will work on others. We cannot guarantee it will sell for years, but we know it will probably make the finish line of highly successful releases (however we define that). Let's assume this represents 10% of all games we see. Am I too pessimistic? Okay, let's give this category a generous 15%.

Then, one could argue, other games deserve to see the light of day, yet we are almost certain they will not be with us for long. We hope they prove us wrong, but the hunch is quite strong. Can we assume these represent 20% of the games we see?

That brings me to the third category, which includes games that may speak to us but are not compelling enough for us to jump into certainty. Maybe the game mechanics are just all right, or the theme reminds us of previous ones we've played, or they play very well but what about that cover or the price point? In brief, the proposal does not come across as a certainty. We know it could do well, but have no clear indication it actually will. If my above assumptions are correct, this category accounts for 65% of games released. In reality, even if this percentage is off a little, we are talking about thousands of games and expansions per year. It's this 65% that has us all running in circles. Is it necessarily a bad thing? Depends on how you deal with it. Some of these games will become solid contenders if they are treated right.

The real question is: "Where should we devote our time as a marketing person?" The obvious answer is that we should focus on the best games. If only it were that easy! Looking at the other 65% with a critical eye to select the ones you think should be promoted is the real challenge. A choice needs to be made because marketing budgets are not infinite, neither are marketing teams or time. When finding an optimal solution is not possible, a heuristic method of decision making — call it at an educated guess or an intuitive judgment — is the approach to take. So we will invest marketing time and effort in that "absolutely sure this will kill it" category and then, with the help of our team (sales, development, marketing) we choose some titles from the "hold on, there might be something here" category. The choices from both categories become our short list of games. And we pour all our energy and creativity into this list. Of course, we then keep an eye out for any signs that validate or discredit our choices and adjust if necessary. After all, as Talleyrand would say: Only fools never change their minds!

Consumer perspective from Al Autovino:

Quote:
Is this the "Golden Age" of gaming or is it the demise of gaming as I once knew it? The answer is YES!

What do I regret about the deluge? Most games are "strangers" to me. I own over 400 games but most games have less than 10 plays. Back in the 1980s, we played Cosmic Encounter numerous times (probably numbering over hundreds of plays). We knew the game so well that we created a "Law Book" to document the decisions that we made when it came to rule ambiguities. When I played competitively at the local game convention (SimCon in Rochester NY), I would have to inquire about the differences between our group's "Law Book" and the game master's interpretation of the rules. CE was no "stranger" to me. Other games in the 1980s and 90s that were played extensively include Risk, Diplomacy, Civilization, Acquire, Conquest of the Empire, Fast Food Franchise, Kingmaker, Kremlin, Settlers, Airlines, and the early 18xx games.

In recent times, it is a rare game that gets over 10 plays. Some small and quick card game like Love Letter or Fuji Flush will get over 10 plays, but I want to focus on the board games. The most recent board game that I have gotten over 20 plays is Scythe. I love the game and think I know it well, but I still have a lot to learn. However, the honeymoon is over, and it is getting table time less and less as new games emerge to take its place. I own a copy of Scythe and its expansion, but most of the plays have been on somebody else's copy. It makes me wonder whether I needed to purchase my own copy. Being a game collector and a player made that question easy…of course I needed to own a copy of Scythe! Other recent board games that have gotten over 10 plays include Terra Mystica and Concordia. I'm sure that other games in my collection have gotten numerous plays but those plays come in spurts. Then the game may sit on my shelf for a number of months or years before the game is played again. The games become "strangers" to me once again because I have to reread the rules to be able to play the game again.

Brick-and-mortar retailer perspective from Travis Severance:

Quote:
Small publishers: You've got a lot of work to do. You can't hit a single or a double and hope to catch my eye. It needs to be a grand slam. I know that if your game is good and you make it into distribution your stock numbers are going to be wrong. You may not have the capital for a reprint. You may decide that short term gain is better than long term growth and make the decision to crowd fund the reprint. Why do I want to risk bringing in your game? There's lots to choose from.

How are you spending your marketing dollars? Oh, you don't really have marketing dollars because you didn't understand logistics and the shipping for your project is killing any profit that you would have made. That's okay. Sell me a case and I can treat this product the same way you are likely going to end up treating it, as a one and done. There's a number of smaller publishers that aren't in distribution that I buy direct from. It's pretty simple. I contact them when stock is low and they ship me a case of product. I really enjoy this relationship.

Quote:
Publishing owes me nothing. They produce games and I sell games. They are doing their best to make as much as they can. I am doing my best to help shape them in a manner where I can sell as much as I can. I don't like the direction all of them take. That's okay. They need to eat, too. They don't ever come into my store and tell me how to retail. Supply is a very real issue. They ultimately decide who gets what when it comes to product allocation. Some put their heads in the sand when it comes to this. Others are much more active and do a much better job of making sure the health of the industry as a whole is being looked after when it comes to their brand and titles. Many could be more proactive when it comes to this.

Quote:
The current issue, as I see it, is two-fold with distribution. They are buying far too wide instead of buying deep. Some distributors are putting in orders with that are far more than they have pre-orders for and when the game gets allocated and it's a flop, back-dooring that game through online vendors at an unhealthy rate before it even hits retail shelves to try to get out from under a bad purchase decision. The game hits, it sits on distribution shelves, it sits on retail shelves and we all chalk it up as a loss.

In the meantime, the publisher has no idea what hit them. They sold out, they pressed the re-order button when they did, now they are buried in cardboard. If I was a publisher and I wasn't sure who was playing this game, instead of giving a blanket percentage allocation to all distributors based on pre-orders, maybe take the time to adjust the dial per distributor a bit and see what happens.

Quote:
Consumers, when it comes to board games, go through this very unique evolution. Many times we are the first to introduce them to a game that isn't simply "You are the player, represented by this piece. Here is the method to get around this board. If you do so successfully, faster than everyone else, you are the victor. Decisions, you will make none." Introducing people to the world of board games now is an amazing experience. Being able to show them different products each time they come in is not only fun but rewarding.

It's odd though in that most cases, the better we do introducing them to the category, the more apt we are to lose them as consumers. Their purchase patterns increase and then they disappear. We see them when we have a promo. We see them when we have a game that's more expensive online. They wander over to our sale table and browse for games that they could possibly get a better trade for. They utilize our buying program for used games. We are no longer their hub for front end purchasing. It's sad when the retailer/consumer relationship gets to that point. We did our best to introduce them to this new world and they supported us during their growth. Now that they are purchasing more, our role to them changes. I understand. The volume has increased to the point where price is their primary drive. They can find it cheaper for sure. They are pledging for crowdfunding because they want that new "it" game. I don't blame them. I would likely do the same. If I could survive on smaller margins and still being you the shopping experience I do, I would.

There's nothing in the world I hate more than having to say "it's out of stock/we don't carry that". If ordered every new game that comes out, I would go out of business in about a month. It's just not sustainable. I understand your desire to not want to backorder. If you wanted to wait two days, you could probably find it elsewhere. Please understand though I am trying my best to curate stock that I think will provide you with the most compelling tabletop experience you can find. If you wanna know what I find most compelling, look at my demo tables. The rent for the space of those tables is pretty significant. If the games on those table weren't good, they wouldn't be on them.

Thank you for your continued support. Without it, I wouldn't be able to keep doing what I love to do in this industry.
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Sat Apr 1, 2017 1:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Take to the Air in Scythe, Revisit the Red Scare, and Put Yourself in Big Trouble in Little China

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Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games has announced a new expansion for Scythe with The Wind Gambit including two modules that can be used independently or combined in any manner with the base game and the earlier expansion.

The airships module, which introduces a new unit to the game, originated from Kai Starck, who shared his creation in the Scythe Facebook group, after which Stegmaier helped develop it to this final form. The resolutions module throws one of eight new ending conditions into play, which will naturally have ramifications for how you'll play before that time.

Scythe: The Wind Gambit is due out Q4 2017, with Stegmaier hoping to have it ready in time for SPIEL 2017.




• In April 2017, Twilight Creations will release Zombies!!! 15: Another One Bites the Dust, with players now fighting dehydration in the desert in addition to the usual crop of zombies.

Also, Twilight Creations has noted that its original design for a Zombies!!! collector case hasn't worked the way it intended, so the company has gone back to the drawing board and expects to receive a sample of its new design in the near future.

Benjamin Kanelos' Red Scare, due out in September 2017 from Pandasaurus Games, has a great look and a great hook in this design for 4-10 players. An overview:

Quote:
The threat of Communist infiltration is at an all-time high, and red panic is everywhere. It's on you, trusted patriots of the FBI, to scour the files of any and all that may be promoting the Soviet agenda and threatening these sacred shores. The nation trusts you to detect, then publicly accuse and deport these traitors. But watch out because double agents are everywhere! Even your closest colleagues
are not to be trusted.

Perhaps even you have something to hide…

Red Scare is a hidden role/social deduction game with a delightful wrinkle; the only way to discover the truth about your friends is with a pair of secret decoder glasses! The game features no player elimination, so everyone is in on it until the end.

The "secret decoder glasses" have red plastic lenses, and when you don them, some of the material on the game components will now be invisible to you, revealing things previously unseen...

• Speaking of things unseen, somehow I've overlooked the announcement of Big Trouble in Little China: The Game for nine months, but better late than never. Everything Epic Games announced this Christopher Batarlis and Boris Polonsky prior to Gen Con 2016, and the current plan is to open preorders "soon". Here's an overview of this miniature-filled, cooperative game for 1-4 players:

Quote:
The game plays in two acts: Act One uses the front side of the game board: Chinatown, while Act Two takes place on the back: Lo Pan's lair. Players will choose from six characters, each with unique abilities, and will use custom dice for actions, quest tasks and combat. They will also be able to use the communal fate dice, which come with a fun risk/reward mechanic. After completing quests and upgrading their characters, players will move to the back of the board for the big showdown with Lo Pan! Will the heroes stop Lo Pan's evil scheme in time, or is everything gonna go to hell?

Everything Epic Games has been posting teaser pics of the miniatures, as well as other pieces of art, on its Facebook page.

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Fri Mar 31, 2017 1:00 pm
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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2017 IV: Custom Heroes, Lovecraft Letter, Sorcerer, Stronghold Games, and The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game

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Time for more game overview videos shot in the BoardGameGeek booth at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show, starting with a title that we previewed at GTS 2016 ahead of its Kickstarter campaign and which is now in the hands of backers ahead of a U.S. retail release in June 2017. That game is Eric Vogel's The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game from Evil Hat Productions, and it pits characters from the first five novels in the "Dresden Files" series from Jim Butcher against a scenario based on one of those novels.





• Some publishers brought only a game or two to feature in their time on camera at GAMA, and some brought everything and the kitchen sink. Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games is an example in the later category, with him running through nine games in less than thirteen minutes. Three of the titles were released at SPIEL 2016 — Flamme Rouge, Cottage Garden, Not Alone — so you might already know something about them, with the main takeaway from this video being that Stronghold will release this titles in the U.S.





White Wizard Games has released three successful card games — Star Realms, Epic, Hero Realms — and its next release, Sorcerer from Peter Scholtz, sticks to its card game roots while combining an RPG-type element as you create a character in the game by shuffling together different decks that will combo together in varying ways.





• The latest iteration of Seiji Kanai's Love Letter coming from Alderac Entertainment Group — their annual premium version, as it were — is Lovecraft Letter, which gives you an opportunity(?) to go insane during a round in order to make use of special "insanity" powers but at the risk of being booted out for being too mad for the table.





• AEG seems to specialize in spinoff games or games that can be iterated in multiple ways, and this specialization is evident in Custom Heroes, which takes the transparent cards from John D. Clair's Mystic Vale and uses them in a trick-taking game that allows you to level up cards during play, with those changes persisting in future rounds, thereby altering the nature of the deck from which everyone is receiving their cards.

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New Game Round-up: Whistling to the West Coast, Shopping for Accuracy, and Reliving the Wars of the Roses

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• While at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show, I noticed a second new title for 2017 from Bézier Games (aside from the recently announced The Palace of Mad King Ludwig), but we had no slots in our broadcast schedule, so I took a pic and made a note to look into it later — only to find out that Bézier's Ted Aslpach had sent me a press release weeks ago. Ha ha, so much for my tidy inbox!

In any case, Scott Caputo's tile-laying game Whistle Stop is set to debut from Bézier at Gen Con 2017 in August. Here's a rundown of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
With the driving of the golden spike in 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed in the United States — but really it was only the beginning of a rapid expansion of railways that would crisscross the entire country.

In Whistle Stop, you make your way west across the country, using your fledgling railroad company to build routes, pick up valuable cargo, and deliver needed goods to growing towns, creating a network of whistle stops that you and your competitors can leverage as you continue to expand your networks. Along the way, you gain shares in other railroads and watch your reputation soar with each successful delivery before making a final push to complete long hauls to the boom towns of the West.

This design is a new twist on pick-up-and-deliver games. As players move their trains west and pick up goods, they can deliver those goods to small towns to gain shares in railroads, or hold on to them for a bigger payout when they reach the west coast. At the same time, they try to optimize their actions (and gain extra ones), lay down new track tiles, block the other players, gather and use valuable whistles for special moves and abilities, and carefully manage their coal resources.

• Another title that's been lurking in my inbox is Shop 'N Time from Daryl Andrews and Mercury Games, with this design featuring an app that allows for a The Price Is Right-style "guess the price of this stuff without going over" game that avoids any calculation. Here's an overview of the gameplay:

Quote:
How about some nice aftershave from 1949? Or maybe you're looking for a fancy fly swatter from 2014? You just found a magical store that has all of these products and more! All it takes is a good eye and a fast hand, and these bargains can be yours!

Shop 'N Time is a real-time, app-assisted card game with simple rules. In the basic game mode, "Price Target", each player is given the same budget, then dealt a hand of seven cards. You pick one to purchase, pass the rest, possibly pick another, then pass, etc., and you keep going until you have at least three cards but think the price of those items is still within your budget. Once everyone passes, each player scans the items they've purchased to see who's come closest to spending the budget without going over.

Shop 'N Time includes four different games to play with two different playing modes: real-time and strategic.

• UK publisher Surprised Stare Games has announced a new release for the 2017 UK Games Expo, which opens June 2, with The Cousins' War from David J. Mortimer being a two-player game on a big topic that clocks in at thirty minutes. Klemenz Franz supplies the artwork.

Quote:
The Wars of the Roses were fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster for over three decades during the 15th century in England. The houses were both branches of the royal family, therefore the Wars were originally known as "The Cousins' War". Each player represents one of the houses as they fight battles and gain influence to control England.

The Cousins' War is played over a maximum of five rounds, with each round representing between five and ten years of the conflict. Each round involves gaining influence across England and preparing for a climactic battle.

In each round, the players decide where the current battlefield will be, playing action cards to deploy troops to the battlefield, while also increasing or decreasing their influence in the regions, after which they fight. Players resolve the battle by engaging in bluff and counter-bluff, using three dice, until only one side has troops remaining on the field. Winning the battle helps to consolidate your house's influence on the board.

You win The Cousins' War either by dominating all the regions of England or by controlling the most regions at the end of the fifth round.



White Wizard Games has something new in the works for its well-loved card game Star Realms. Star Realms: Scenarios is a pack of twenty scenario cards, with each card changing one or more rules — or introducing new rules — for that particular game. WWG has posted an overview of different ways you can put the scenario cards into play should you not want to opt for the simple option of shuffling the deck and revealing the top card. We talked with Star Realms co-designer Rob Dougherty about the scenarios pack at the 2017 GAMA Trade Show.

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Game Previews from GAMA Trade Show 2017 III: Munchkin: Rick and Morty, Evil Dead 2, The Terminator, Nefarious: Becoming a Monster, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – The Monster Box of Monsters

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Let's continue with more preview videos from the 2017 GAMA Trade Show. We have 32 videos in our GTS 2017 playlist on YouTube, and I haven't even finished publishing everything from day one. We sliced nine hours of video on day one into 52 videos, which seems a bit crazy, to be honest, especially since a number of the videos feature multiple games. We just jammed out as much as possible, which barely left us time for eating at the end of the day. Such is convention life.

One new title I'm happy to see announced is Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – The Monster Box of Monsters Expansion from USAopoly as my son and I have had a ball playing the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle base game. We haven't lost yet through five games — and we've come close to losing only once — but we're playing with only two players, so the dark arts events don't hit us the same way they hit people in a four-player game, which seems like a developmental miss.

I can overlook that uneven player count scaling, though, as he's a Potter fan who's enjoying himself greatly and I get to do all my silly voices while playing. Maybe after we finish, we can go through the game again with three players to up the challenge — or we can jump into this instead the material another way.





• USAopoly showed both HP:HB–TMBOME and the Munchkin: Rick and Morty standalone game (and many other things) at NY Toy Fair in February 2017, but I couldn't take photos in their booth. Such are the restrictions that come from working with licensors to transform their stuff into games. At GTS 2017, Andrew Wolf from USAopoly could now talk about Munchkin: Rick and Morty — as well as a Munchkin: Deadpool expansion — while still not revealing any of the cards themselves.





• USAopoly also teased Donald X. Vaccarino's Nefarious: Becoming a Monster, an expansion for Nefarious that existed in prototype form when the Ascora Games version of Nefarious went to market in 2011, but which never previously saw print.





• Let's make a licensing sandwich with a creamy Nefarious middle by taking a look at Evil Dead 2: The Official Board Game from Space Goat Productions. Some people have looked at this release and the next one and wondered how this company they never heard of landed these licenses (as well as one for The Howling), and the secret is that this "new" company has existed for a decade, having been founded in 2006 as a "talent management agency and production studio" for the comic book industry.





• SGP collected more than $200,000 for The Terminator: The Official Board Game on Kickstarter in March 2017, and the ideas in the game sound like what you'd want to see in an adaption of The Terminator, but we won't see what the final result is until the game hits the U.S. market at the end of 2017.

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