Time to follow-up on this Feb. 15, 2011 post in which I laid out the release schedule for Mayfair Games and its new FunFair brand for much of 2011. I've now received the 2011 Mayfair Games catalog, which includes descriptions for all of the games listed in that post, so I've created game entries for the following titles:
For now most of these game pages contain only a publisher's description of the game, which skews toward the thematic and hyperbolic while avoiding any description of the actual mechanisms of game play. (That's not what catalogs are for, so no surprise there.)
That said, me adding these game pages to BGG doesn't represent a change in policy toward what constitutes an acceptable game submission. Part of my job as BGG News editor is to get games into the database more quickly so that users can ask questions, report on prototype play sessions, add details to the listing, and so on – while also tracking these games in the future in order to update their descriptions once more information is available. When a BGG user submits a game for addition to the BGG database, both theme and the mechanisms of play need to be included as in many cases the game description will not be updated to include more details. I'm updating game descriptions as I can when I run across skimpy write-ups – mostly on 2011 releases – but there's a limit to how much I can do, which is why in general we'll aim for more comprehensive descriptions. Thanks!
Lots of info about new games in this round-up, some items referencing material already talked about on BGG and some not:
• Designer Tom Lehmann gives an overview of Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, the next story arc in his RftG universe. More comments from Lehmann about the expansion's setting and other details in this BGG thread.
• Claude Leroy's Gyges is being released in a new edition from French publisher Gigamic, matching the style of Quoridor, Quarto and the other abstract classics in that game line. Due date is June/July 2011.
• Two Age of Steam expansions from Eagle Games/FRED Distribution should be available in U.S. stores before the end of February. The first, Age of Steam: Mexico & China, pairs half of one Steam Brothers expansion with half of another, with the maps being hard-mounted instead of sealed in plastic. The second, Age of Steam: Time Traveler, is a new expansion from Charlie Bink and Sean Brown in which players travel from one "era" (i.e., game board) to another through portals on the edges of each board.
Brown notes that the Mexico & China expansion is slightly too big for the AoS box, akin to what happened with the 2010 release of AoS: Germany & France, but both maps fit in the Time Traveler box, a box added to present gamers with a solution for this problem. What's more, the next Age of Steam expansion from Eagle – AoS: Moon/Berlin Wall, pairing two of Alban Viard's previous creations and due out Q3 2011 – will be packaged in a similar box.
• Old news, but better to publish than delete from my files, I think. Repos Production has released "The Cursed Children", a scenario for Ghost Stories: White Moon, on its website in English, French and German. In this scenario, the children of the villagers are most at risk of being killed by the forces of Wu-Feng; if one does fall, instead of being placed in the cemetery, the token occupies a ghost space on a monk's board. The only way to bring peace to the child's troubled soul – not to mention free up the space so that Wu-Feng doesn't overrun you – is to visit the cemetery tile. Visit one of the three pages to download the game board and rules for this scenario.
• Finally, games recently added to the BGG database that might merit a look or two include Québec (which has been kicking around from publisher to publisher for years and is now at Le Scorpion Masqué), Pamplona (Ghenos Games), Conquest of Nerath (Wizards of the Coast), Guards! Guards! (Z-Man Games), Princes of the Dragon Throne (Clever Mojo Games) and Atlantis Rising (Z-Man Games), with designer Galen Ciscell writing a designer diary on the game page.
• As noted on ICv2, Games Workshop has acquired "exclusive worldwide rights to produce tabletop games based on" The Hobbit, which builds on the publisher's six-year agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. (HT: vandemonium)
• German publisher Hans im Glück has posted a short video of its experience during the Nürnberg 2011 Toy Fair, complete with a soundtrack straight out of Ocean's 11 and a shot of an enormous Carcassonne 10th anniversary cake. If only all trade fairs could be so hip...
• If you're looking for more video explanations of board games, 5 Minutos por Jeugo has a fun approach, with lots of music and graphic effects in their creations – all of which are available in Spanish and some of which are available in English and French. Not an approach for everyone, but for me more interesting than "Hi there! This is a game..." presentations.
The first round of judging is complete with the following ten advancing to the semi-finals:
Al-Kimia Card Farm Dinner with Sir Edward Lindsey Mission Control Mow Money Oracle Safe House Venesia Vaudeville Wacky Stacks
These entries will be judged for Enjoyment (0-10 pts), Easy of play (0-5 pts) & Originality (0-5 pts). The four top scoring games will go to Protospiel 2011 (July 8, 9 and 10 Ann Arbor, Michigan) for final judging.
Thanks again to our sponsors: Alliance Game Distributors, Delano Services, and ElfinWerks.
• Finally, passes to Gen Con 2011 were part of a prize package on long-running daytime game show The Price Is Right. Details of this odd and misplaced promotion on LivingDice.com.
Canadian publisher Filosofia – which publishes games in French and licenses editions in English, German and other languages – has released a publishing schedule for 2011. The titles are a mix of new and new-to-French. Here's the breakdown, with info on the new titles when possible:
March 2011 • Spring Fever, from Friedemann Friese – here's a summary of the game play as described on TricTrac: The game consists of a deck of cards with flowers (valued at 3) and snails (valued -1 to -10). The first player draws four cards, keeps what he claims is the lowest valued card, then passes the cards to the left. This player draws a card, keeps the lowest (wink wink) card, then passes the rest. If a player believes his neighbor cheated, he calls him out; if correct, the liar gets all the snails in the card going around, while losing his best card to the accuser. Most points wins. (3-6 players, 8+, 20 minutes)
September 2011 • Bratva – described as follows in the Filosofia catalog: "Take control of neighborhoods in Moscow in fights without mercy or without a care for where your shots fall. Secret agents, car bombs, internal crises – lying is your best weapon." (3-6 players, 8+, 30 minutes)
December 2011 • El Grande: La Totale – a French version of Rio Grande's "Decennial Edition" that contains all the expansions to date.
Games without dates • Equilibrion – described as follows in the catalog: "In this game full of poetry, you must find the best balance possible in the different quarters of an imaginary city – but beware of the impending chaos that could turn everything upside-down." (1-2 players, 12+, 90 minutes) • Les Piliers de la Terre: Le Jeu de Cartes • Panthéon – the new Bernd Brunnhofer design from Hans im Glück (2-5 players, 12+, 90 minutes)
So I'm still not at NY Toy Fair this year, but my in-box continues to overflow with material from publishers who are at the show, so I thought I'd post another round-up column of what we're all missing by me not freezing my heinie off on the streets of Manhattan.
• Winning Moves has a new version of Pass the Pigs that packs more pig in the box than ever before: Pass the Pigs: Pig Party Edition includes four pairs of pigs, along with target cards that players try to match in order to score points. Soon we'll all have pig-loaded shotguns that blast tiny plastic projectiles across the table, with you trying to arrange the pigs artfully in an opponent's chest. Looking forward to it.
• Winning Moves is also releasing a new version of Big Boggle with a new "double letter" cube that is supposed to allow for longer words and therefore higher scores. And WM has a new version of The Game of LIFE, which is subtitled It's A Dog's Life Edition. Everything is dog-themed, and you can customize a game token by uploading a picture of your dog. What career choices are open to dogs in this game? I'm almost curious enough to look at the box and find out. Almost.
• Zobmondo!! Entertainment will demo Party Gras, a game likely built around a name. Players start with equal numbers of beads around their necks and two challenge cards. Find someone – or coerce someone into – doing or matching what's written on your card (ask me to lower my voice, or spot someone texting), and you get to take 1-2 of their beads. I'd lay money on "Lift up your shirt" not being among the challenges.
• Dutch publisher Identity Games is showing the Living Board Game, a combination game board/electronic gadget with a sleeve for an iPad and hook-ups that allow the iPad to monitor game play and interact with what's happening on the board.
As an example of how the device works, Identity transmogrified its WildLife DVD board game into an iPad app that interfaces with the game board. LaptopMag.com has a video from Toy Fair demoing the system and a bizarre comment on why the system might be appealing: It "achieves that nice blend between gaming on the iPad and gaming with friends or family. Games will be for 2-4 players, and everyone will have to gather around the iPad instead of going off into isolation." Wha? Can't I just game with friends or family not in isolation anyway? (HT: Erwin Broens)
• Hasbro featured one of the loudest and most annoying games of this or any Toy Fair with Battleship Live:
The demo is almost a parody of a marketing pitch, with the presenter coming across more like someone interviewing for a job for which she's not really qualified but which she needs in order not to lose her Subaru Impreza due to missed payments.
• Monopoly is also being "enlivened" through the use of an all-seeing tower that tells you what to do, and The New York Times covered Monopoly Live in an article on Feb. 15, 2011. An excerpt:
Hasbro is aiming at luring 8- to 12-year-olds back to these board games. Its executives say this age group, accustomed to video games, wants a fast-paced game that requires using their hands. To move forward on the new Monopoly board, players cover their game piece with their hands, and the tower announces how many spaces the player can move. Players also hold their hands over decals to buy or sell properties, insert "bank cards" into slots to check their accounts, and send a plastic car moving around a track to win money or other advantages (only when the tower instructs them to, of course).
Hey, Hasbro executives, have you heard of Jungle Speed? Fast Food? Le Passe-Trappe? Lots of fast-paced games out there that fit the bill without inviting Big Brother to the table. (HT: Dale Yu)
• Another title coming from Hasbro – but pulled from Toy Fair demoes according to a note from a PR rep – is Battleship Galaxies.
• Discovery Bay Games has – well, let me copy the marketing text so you can read it for yourself:
Discovery Bay Games has secured worldwide rights for the digital version of Saturday Night Live – The Game through an ongoing partnership with Broadway Video Enterprises. This will allow Discovery Bay Games to create multi-activity tablet games, which will be launched in conjunction with a new tablet game accessory in fall 2011.
Text like this is unfortunately what Toy Fair is all about, at least in New York. The game is nothing more than product, one of "SIX MAJOR LICENSING DEALS" Discovery Bay Games is highlighting at the show, licensing deals meant to translate into widgets that move into customers' hands like magic, without regard to artistry – or even novelty – in terms of what the game does. Another example:
Discovery Bay Games has partnered with Highlights for Children to bring this beloved brand to life in a new way. The Highlights' product line will include three physical games and three digital tablet games, which will work in conjunction with new or existing tablet game accessories.
"So you retailers all remember Highlights, right? Goofus and Gallant? The terrible jokes? Mom sure remembers it, which makes this game the perfect gift to suggest when she comes in looking for something for little Sue's birthday party. The magazine's cross-promotion hits in Q3 and Q4 with bonus codes for use in blah blah blah."
• Mark Rosewater, who is a Wizards of the Coast employee and head designer of Magic: The Gathering, writes a weekly column on Wizards.com called "Making Magic" that focuses on design issues related to M:TG. Often Rosewater's columns are relevant to the topic of game design period, no matter what game or genre might be under discussion. In a February 2011 column about combat mechanisms, for example, he segued from combat mechanisms to the topic of player choice in game design, a section that deserves quoting in full:
The trick I always use when I consider adding choices is to question if the choice is doing good things for your game:
* Does it create decisions that are fun to solve? Players tend to enjoy a choice between two good things more than a choice between two bad ones. Picking out your flavor of ice cream is fun. Choosing how someone gets to punch you is not. We do make some "damned if you do, damned if you don't" griefer cards, but we are careful to keep them from being too easy to play.
* Do the players have all the information to make the choice? A common design mistake is to give the players a choice but not provide the information they need to be able to make the choice. This makes the players feel helpless and tends to frustrate them.
* Does the choice matter? Another common design mistake is to give the players two choices that don't have any real impact. Players are smart and will figure out when a choice is only an illusion. Remember, gamers are intelligent (that's partly why they've chosen to game as a hobby), fooling them is a bad game design strategy because they will ultimately see through it.
* Do the choices lead somewhere? Remember that the act of making a choice is not what is fun for players. What is fun is accomplishing something directly as a result of your decisions. Having the decision mean something is what's fun, not the act of making the decision. Players enjoy looking back and being happy that they were able to make the right decision. The moment of the decision-making is not where the happiness lies.
You'll see a common thread through all the above issues. The choice has to serve the game and the desires of the player. Choosing merely for the sake of choosing isn't enjoyable and will lead to bad game play. Your job as a game designer is to use choices as a limited resource that are put strategically where the game most needs them.
• Have you participated in a Settlers of Catan tournament and been a semi-finalist in the U.S., Mexico or Canada for any North American qualifier (top 4) or World qualifier (top 16) since 2006? Then you have a chance to compete in the Catan Tournament of Masters Invitational that Mayfair Games is sponsoring at Gen Con 2011. Application details on the Mayfair website.
• Designer Frederic Moyersoenreports that worldwide sales of Saboteur have reached 350,000, with the top-selling countries being France (90k), Germany (83k) and the Netherlands (38k). Interesting numbers...
• In what should come as a surprise to no one, more and more game publishers around the world are making their way to Facebook. Surprised Stare Games (UK), Cranio Creations (Italy), and many more have shown up since the start of 2011. If you want to see what's coming from a smaller publisher, following the company on Facebook is ideal as they often talk about prototypes, playtesting, artwork and so on.
• Ludology is a new podcast from Ryan Sturm and Geoff Engelstein. The first episode, released Feb. 7, 2011, explored the topic "What Is a Game?" and episode #2, scheduled for Feb. 21, will explore the question "Why Do People Play Games?"
• Designer Bruno Faidutti and GMT's Rodger MacGowan will be the Guests of Honor at Orccon, which takes place Feb. 18-21, 2011 in Los Angeles. Late notice to be sure, but you can still make it!
The game is played simultaneously, with 2-4 players trying to create particular traffic patterns on the game board in order to score. To start the game, nine cars – three each of red, blue and yellow – are placed randomly on the board's 16 intersections.
Each player is then dealt a equal number of target cards showing three adjacent cars in some pattern. Whenever you spot one of your target patterns on the game board, interrupt play – "Beep! Beep!" – and show the card. If you're correct, you remove the card from your hand; if you goofed, the player who spotted the goof gives you one of her cards and laughs at you. (Laughing optional.)
You can move a car on the board by grabbing the green light token and placing it in front of yourself. You can either move one car one space to a vacant spot or switch the location of two cars. Once someone else takes the green light (and moves), you can again take the green light.
The first player to empty his hand of cards wins the game. For those who have played before or who have a knack for such games, Trafffic includes expert level target cards that show three cars (one in each color) along with an empty intersection. Prior to starting the game, expert players can swap any number of basic targets for these tough-to-achieve numbers to level the playing field or to allow them to strut even more proudly when they crush the competition once again...
U.S. publisher Mayfair Games has unveiled not one, but two game release schedules for 2011 – one for the Mayfair Games brand proper, and another for its new FunFair brand, which includes games aimed at the broader toy and game market.
First up is the Mayfair Games schedule:
Shipping now with a Feb. 17, 2011 street date: • Automobile
Later in 2011: • First Bull Run: A Test of Fire • Five Points: The Politics of New York • Giza: The Great Pyramid • Nippon Rails • Rivals for Catan Expansion Deck • Steam Map Expansion #1 • Urbania Redux (working title)
And now the FunFair titles scheduled for release in 2011:
• Badger Badger! – Move wily badgers move through the forest looking for tasty treats in this game of skill and memory. • Double Double Dominoes – A dominoes game where all the chips are down and playing the right tile at the right time can be the difference between victory and defeat. • Got 'Em – The game of wall building and pawn capturing that offers two modes of play: Brainy Got ‘Em and Bright Got ‘Em. • Rocket Jockey – A game of fast rockets and valuable cargo that will have players flying through the solar system. • UGH! – A quick card game of surviving the ice age by gathering sets of necessary items that every cave boy and cave girl will love. • White Water – A wild, white water river-rafting race that requires precision paddling and opportunistic team work.
The press release announcing this schedule included this overview of the FunFair brand: "FunFair games are designed for family play, have easily understood rules that get you playing in under five minutes, have great visual appeal on the shelves, and usually have a MSRP price of $30 or less." More details on all of these games once they're available.
The 2011 Nürnberg Toy Fair ended last week and the games shown at the convention will hit stores over the next ten months – which might give you enough time to make it through all these Nürnberg summaries to see what will be available.
To start with, let's hear once again from Rob Harris, who earlier reported on HiG's Pantheon and the Queen Games line-up for BGG News. Rob returned to the Hans im Glück booth for a look at Marcel-André Casasola Merkle's San Salvador:
San Salvador is only on the HiG stand as a cardboard mock-up for the graphics. See photo.
It was very quickly explained to me as placing your pieces in certain areas where they might collect resources such as wood, etc. Then during the second round through card play, the location of resources is more clearly defined. Sorry there is not more info. The name was "Land In Sicht" on the box.
• German game site Die Pöppelkiste has its usual massive Nürnberg report, with each publisher having its own page.
• BGG News contributor Andrea Ligabue notes that Italian gaming site Gioconomicon.net has published a huge image gallery covering seventy games so far, each with its own folder.
• The German branch of TricTrac has covered Nürnberg 2011 in three posts: post 1, with a cover shot of Die GulliPiraten from Andreas Pelikan and Heidelberger and a layout of Michael Palm and Lukas Zach's Artefakt (Winning Moves), post 2, which highlights the puzzle-y Miss Lupun from Winning Moves; and post 3, which includes a look at Queen Games' Mammut-Jäger and Paris Connection, a revised version of David V. H. Peters' SNCF, first published by Winsome Games in 2010.
• Spiele-Akademie.de has a long post with lots of pics from the fair, including a look at Amber Road from Mindtwister.
• Das-Spielen.de has a Nürnberg report that hits most of the titles covered elsewhere, but it does have the first mention I've seen of Casa Grande, a Günter Burkhardt title coming from Ravensburger for Spiel 2011.
Phew! I'm sure I've missed a number of reports, but this should give you plenty to occupy those slow work hours. Lots for me to research as well to bring you more designer diaries and game previews in the months ahead...
Edit, Feb. 17: Here's one Nürnberg report that I had in an open tab, yet still forgot to include. (Too many tabs!) German site H@ll 9000 has dozens of photos of upcoming games, separated by publisher.
Look through the files on Ticket to Ride's game page here on BGG, and you'll find lots of fan-created maps for this Spiel des Jahres winner. Springfield, France, Mexico, South America, Africa, outer space – these locations and many others have been transformed into a spaghetti pile of twisty colored tracks.
Now TtR publisher Days of Wonder is challenging those fans – and anyone else interested in working on the railroad – to create a new map for Ticket to Ride, with the best design taking home a cash prize of $10,000! What's more, that design will become part of the Ticket to Ride Map Collection – a set of new TtR maps from designer Alan R. Moon that will debut at Spiel 2011 this coming October.
Here are the contest details from Days of Wonder:
Map designers must submit an official entry form describing their map, postmarked no later than April 15th. Submissions will be reviewed and the most compelling designs selected for further play-testing. Days of Wonder will make the final Grand Prize selection and contact the winning map designer by June 30th; the winning map will be unveiled at the Essen Spiel Fair in October of 2011. Official rules and entry form for the $10,000 Ticket to Ride Map Design Contest are available on the Days of Wonder website.
Best of luck to all who enter – even though you don't have a chance against my Ticket to Ride: Being John Malkovich entry!