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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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New Game Round-up: Gloom Beyond Earth, Balloons Beyond Their Capacity, and Grossness Beyond Belief

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• Time and space mean nothing to the power of gloom as is evidenced by Atlas Games' plan to release the latest addition to Keith Baker's Gloom empire — Gloom in Space — in January 2017. Yes, with Gloom in Space, which is both a standalone game and an expansion to any other Gloom title, now you can take familiar SF characters to the stars where they will suffer and perish just like everyone else in life.

• Tim Puls' The Colonists, which debuted at SPIEL 2016 in October from Lookout Games, will be available in the U.S. on January 12, 2017, according to co-publisher Mayfair Games.

Mercury Games expects to have the new version of Martin Wallace's Princes of the Renaissance out in U.S. stores by December 21, 2016, but notes Mercury's Kevin Nesbitt, "Because of an under-production error at the factory, we ended up with only half as many copies as we expected for retail." Nesbitt says that more copies of the game should be available in early 2017, but if you want one now, you had best preorder to reserve one.

Board&Dice plans to release a deck-building, area-control card game from Tides of Time's Kristian Čurla at SPIEL 2017. No other details announced right now.

Balloon Pop! from Andy Van Zandt and Tasty Minstrel Games is a press your luck dice-roller due out in early 2017. Here's how to play:

Quote:
In Balloon Pop!, each player has a scoresheet with six columns on it. On a turn, you roll three dice, with each die face showing a balloon color and a shape, then record the results by circling numbers from the bottom of the column, going up. The highest number you circle in a column equals the points that you score.

Not happy with your results? Then roll again with any number of dice — but you have to roll an additional die as well, which means you'll circle more results on your scoresheet. You can reroll a second time as well to add a fifth die to your results. This (possibly) gives you better control over the results, while helping you ascend the columns more quickly to higher potential scores.

However, at the top of each column is a different colored number that's much lower than the numbers immediately below it. Hit this number, and your balloon's popped because it went too high. What's more, this popping triggers a scoring break that occurs at the end of the round, with everyone scoring based on their current heights in the columns. You want to go high, but don't trigger the break or else your points will plummet right before scoring.

After three breaks, players total their scores to see who wins.

• Tasty Minstrel Games has announced December 7, 2016 release dates for four titles that it debuted in its line at BGG.CON 2016: The Oracle of Delphi, At the Gates of Loyang, Ponzi Scheme, and Ars Alchimia. The TMG version of Reiner Knizia's Amun-Re is due out in early 2017, with Kramer and Lübke's Colosseum due to hit retail in Q1 2017.

• What's the hottest and most repulsive trend in the game industry? Games in which players stick in a mouthguard, then attempt to say things and have others guess what they're saying. As a long-time opponent of advertising that features people with food in their mouths — for goodness' sake, people, chew with your mouth closed! — I must register my disappointment, although I expect the lifespan of these titles won't last three weeks beyond the 2016 holiday season, so they should vanish from shelves before too long.

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Tue Dec 6, 2016 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Jeju Island, or Walking the Beach and Picking Up Souvenirs

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I first saw Jeju Island, then called only Jeju, in 2014 in a crowdfunding campaign on Korean site Tumblbug, with designers Gary Kim, Yeon-Min Jung, and Jun-Hyup Kim trying to fund the publication of this game and two others — Bigside and Alice's Mad Burger Party — at the same time.

I wanted to back the project, partly because I love Gary Kim's Koryŏ and partly because I love getting something that's a mystery to me when I open the box. I almost never want to pick up games set in space or in fantasy worlds or in the Wild West, for example, because I already have a pretty good idea of what those games will feature. Sure, those fulfilled expectations are a plus for most people, but I like being surprised. When a new movie is announced by a director I enjoy, I avoid previews and read nothing about the movie because I know that I'm going to see it and I want to experience the newness of the movie in the theater itself rather than seeing bits of film repeated over and over again, then seeing them in context and going, "Oh, yeah, that bit."

But I wasn't sure whether the games would include English rules or how to pay in won, so inertia won out and the project ended and that was that — until Happy Baobab picked up the now-titled Play Jeju and released it at SPIEL 2015, where I recorded an overview video. Australian publisher Grail Games then picked it up for wider release in English, and now Jeju Island is everywhere, while of course still being in Korea as an actual place that folks can visit to carry out this game's actions in real life.

My Korean exchange student was quite surprised when I showed her the game as she had not expected to see Korean games or games showcasing parts of Korean life while visiting the U.S. It's nice to think about such things making their way around the world, giving us all a taste at home of places we might never see otherwise.

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Mon Dec 5, 2016 1:00 pm
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Plans for 2017 — What Do You Want to See?

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I had originally intended to publish my SPIEL 2016 unpacking pictorial today, but I forgot to move its publication date when I queued the recent links round-up, so instead I double-posted on Saturday and have nothing for today. Helaas, pindakaas.

Rather than leave this calendar slot empty, however, let's make something out of nothing, specifically by looking ahead to 2017. December has no gaming events (as far as BGG coverage is concerned), so I'm using this month to clear out still-unpublished pictures and videos from the 2016 conventions I attended (assuming these items are still relevant), stockpile new game overview videos (while trying to improve my presentation and editing skills), plan for convention coverage in 2017, and figure out how to cover what needs to be covered without going loopy.

These latter two items are the hardest since the number of games keeps escalating each year. Chad Krizan and I have been pondering since at least 2014 when the bubble will break, but that's a conversation for another time — and even if the number of new titles were cut in half, I still couldn't cover all of the games that I'd want to feature. We live in an age of rich gaming choices, with more to play than we can get to the table, and while that's good for us as players, I can't just work faster to cover more games in the same amount of time. Instead I need to determine what deserves the most attention from me, while trying to enlist help to make sure that the database entries and convention previews are still taken care of.

We're already planning our usual trip to Spielwarenmesse at the start of February in order to film 80-100 game preview videos. Two weeks after that I'll hit NY Toy Fair for 1.5 days to fly through the Javits Center and pick out titles from the mainstream offerings. One week after that, I plan to visit Festival International des Jeux in Cannes, France to see what that show is like. We've never been to Cannes, so I have no idea what to expect, making this a scouting expedition to discover what's there and see whether we should bring more BGG bodies in the future. Two weeks after that is the GAMA Trade Show, and by that point we'll be starting to think about Origins, Gen Con, and SPIEL in more detail.

With that in mind, what do you want to see more of in this space? What can you do without? What would you want to see from our convention coverage that we don't do now? What can you tell me about Cannes? What do you want to see from me?

I already have a long list of suggestions for the convention preview format, both from users and from my own experience in creating the previews, so I don't need much to think about along those lines. That said, if anyone is interested in helping to assemble convention previews or submit material for this space, please let me know — preferably via email at the address in the BGG News header. Otherwise comment below and help to shape the future!
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Sun Dec 4, 2016 1:00 pm
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Links: Taking Stock of CMON Limited, Flattening Cards, and Reviewing the Women, er, Woman of Conan

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Wow, I haven't done one of these in a long time! Too many games swirling around us, each pecking our eyes for attention and keeping us from looking at other things — until now, that is...

• As of December 2, 2016, CMON Limited is now trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange's Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) with stock code “08278” on Dec. 2, 2016. From the press release announcing this development:

Quote:
Current employees, decision making, and management at the company remains unchanged. The controlling shareholders of CMON also remain the same and are steadfastly committed to the company. Chern Ann Ng, CEO of CMON Limited, explains, "We began laying the groundwork for this to happen in 2014, and this monumental achievement would not have been possible without the herculean efforts of the CMON family and outstanding support from the tabletop gaming community at large."

CMON remains dedicated to giving fans the highest-quality gaming experiences through its retail and distribution partners, as well as Kickstarter. The increased capital from the Public Listing will allow CMON to grow an already amazing team, expand into new geographic markets, and acquire new titles, licenses, and properties that fit into CMON’s growing catalogue.

• Former Asmodee North America employee Cynthia Hornbeck's essay about the Conan board game and the election of Donald Trump — "Grab 'Em by the Board Game" — made waves on Kotaku in an article titled "Former Conan Rep Calls Out Hit Board Game's Depiction Of Women", in which author Cecilia D'Anastasio interviewed Hornbeck and representatives from publisher Monolith. From Hornbeck's essay:

Quote:
This cover, I believe, represents a scene from one of the game's scenarios, in which Conan and his friends must rescue a princess who is about to be sacrificed by the Picts. In that scenario, the princess token/figure is treated exactly as if she were an object. She has no abilities. You can even toss her across the board.

But there's a playable female character in the Conan core set, you say. There’s Belit! Well, her mechanical function is to make the men better. That's literally all she does is follow Conan around and boost his abilities. Because that's what women are good for in this world: being fucked by men and making those men feel good. That's the world that you're choosing to have fun in.

• In an article about overfishing in The National Interest, author Claude Berube uses Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback's Fleet from Eagle-Gryphon Games in his lede:

Quote:
The game ends when there are either no more fishing licenses to distribute or no more tokens of fish to extract from the ocean. Whomever has the most points from licenses, ships and fish, wins. The lost message in the end game is that, contrary to the adage, there are not plenty of fish in the sea. Fleet demonstrates the issue global overfishing, the potential for conflict over diminishing resources, and how non-state navies may have the answer to this security issue.

Minus points, though, for the use of "whomever" and the comma before "wins".

Gavan Brown and Roxley Games are featured in city lifestyle magazine Avenue Calgary:

Quote:
Together with a small team of like-minded board game enthusiasts, Brown and Roxley Games have so far created three high-quality, engaging games, spawning a loyal fan base that put their money where their "meeples" (pieces that represent the player in-game) are. Through Kickstarter, Roxley's second game, Steampunk Rally, raised $237,215 on a $42,000 goal, and their latest, Santorini, raised more than $700,000 on an $85,000 goal...

Santorini, a strategy game where gods compete to get their followers first atop their temple, is set to launch in early 2017, and has already caught the eye of major retailers. Roxley's Steampunk Rally, a machine-building tile and dice game, is now sold in more than 600 Barnes and Nobles stores in the U.S.

• What happens when you apply 90,000 pounds of pressure to a deck of cards? You cut the deck — into tiny, tiny pieces.

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Sat Dec 3, 2016 1:00 pm
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Unpacking from SPIEL: How to Double Your Games in Minutes!

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After SPIEL 2015, I posted a video that showed how I had nested boxes inside one another to save space when shipping them back to the U.S. I had shipped games home that year since I was traveling in Europe after the convention, but following SPIEL 2016 I brought (almost) everything home with me, which meant that I needed to nest and nest again in order to make them fit. I did ship a few games to Dallas for pick-up at BGG.CON 2016 as I still couldn't fit everything into two suitcases and one backpack, but I did a decent job of it, so I thought I'd share a few pics in case you want advice for your future convention trips.

To start, here's the initial stack of games that I took out of my suitcases and backpack:




Some publishers make it easy for you to pack because they're also making it easy for themselves. What I mean by that is that larger publishers typically use standard box sizes for their game titles: all card games come in this box, all €10 games come in this box, all €20 games in this box, and so on. They standardize their packaging for multiple reasons, such as making it easier for retailers to display certain games together.

One benefit of this, as shown here, is that the small rectangular Pegasus Spiele box fills exactly half the space of a medium rectangular Pegasus Spiele box. Once I punched the components of Chariot Race — thereby lightening that game's weight — I had plenty of space to fit those two smaller Pegasus games inside.




Dicetree Games' new version of Winner's Circle features a perfectly organized insert (as shown at right) that holds every item in a separate space to keep stuff locked into place during shipping and later travel.

Naturally I threw it out. When I can either pay €100 to ship an extra bag home or throw out an insert, the insert is finding a new home in the plastic-recycling bins that are ever-present in Germany. I'll manage just fine with baggies later, thank you very much.




You have a few basic tenets when Tetrising games following a convention:

• Punch out and baggie all components. You might not save much weight with each individual game, but when you have several dozen games, you'll reduce the weight by a non-negligible amount — and should you be bringing home something like A Feast for Odin, you might knock a kilogram out of your bag via that box alone!

Aside from the weight, you also regain volume; four punchboards might be reduced to a couple of bags that will fit on the side of other games in the available space, as seen here with the bits from Pecunia non olet nestled up against at least three other games.




• Large square boxes, a.k.a. your typical KOSMOS box, can be a bane or blessing. Zoch Verlag's Kilt Castle requires a large box due to the game board, components, and retail price, but once you punch the tokens and ditch the insert you have a lot of space in which to nest other games. The only problem is that sometimes you'll find yourself with a half-dozen large square boxes, and you can't do anything about fitting them inside one another.




• Organize your games by size, then start with the smallest games: punch bits, pitch catalogs, throw out rules in languages that you don't need. Yes, that might make it more difficult to resell your games in 2021 to that Finnish guy who's desperately seeking an out-of-print and quite pricey Honshu, but so be it. I'm not thinking of resale value when I bring games home; I'm thinking of how they'll play, not to mention not spending more money now to get those games home!

Once you've prepared the smallest games, start with the next smallest ones, tucking the small ones inside where possible. As you fill these medium-ish boxes, set them aside in a "full" pile; place any other medium-ish boxes in an "empty" pile. Maybe you'll pick up a tiny filler tomorrow that will fit perfectly inside that Justice League: Hero Dice – Flash box.

Keep working from small to large until each box is as dense as possible. In my experience, volume is typically more of a problem than weight (although you do want to be mindful of weight at the same time), so maximizing the density of a game will allow you to pack more games in the same space.




Oh, hey, here's another larger square box. What's inside this time?




A Korean game, another Japanese game, and the ship/bowl goodie for The Oracle of Delphi. (Are those bowls even useful? I've played Delphi twice, and I'm not sure why I would need them or how I would use them. I typically just pile stuff on the table and don't worry about sorting everything out. At right, for example, is how the contents of Delphi currently look in my box.)

But wait — there's more!




Yes, another Justice League: Hero Dice game awaits inside Animal Auction, with MathTornado inside that. Gameception!




And once everything was unboxed, I had twice the volume of the earlier stacks. Yes, you can rail against publishers being wasteful and using boxes that are too big, and I won't fault you for doing so, but most publishers do so for specific reasons and aren't likely to change in the future. At best, you can rebox games in your own containers or stack expansions inside the base game or cut down boxes to the size that works for you or, you know, get fewer games.




Thanks to all of these weight- and space-saving efforts, I had plenty of room to bring home from Germany the most important things available there...


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Sat Dec 3, 2016 1:00 pm
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Game Preview: Pandemic Iberia, or Riding the Rails to Research Disease

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Matt Leacock's Pandemic is one of the four cornerstones of the modern game industry, the others being Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride.

While the original Pandemic design might not have been thought of as a formula or framework for future designs, Leacock and others have transformed it into one, with the heart of each Pandemic game being the brilliant use of the infection deck. Whenever an epidemic strikes, you inject a new location on the game board with something terrible, then you shuffle all of the revealed location cards and place them back on top of the infection deck, ready to be revealed again to escalate your current woes. You know where bad things will happen; you just don't know when and in which order. That simple mechanism mimics the behavior of actual epidemics, not to mention other catastrophes, to present players with a challenge that's simultaneously frightening and manageable.

Pandemic Iberia, co-designed with Jesús Torres Castro and published by Z-Man Games, uses this familiar formula, while adding historic twists appropriate to the game's setting in the mid-19th century. Air travel is out, while travel by train is in — assuming that you build the rails first, that is. You're not able to cure diseases outright, but you can at least research these diseases and lay the groundwork for future creative efforts by others, similar to how the original Pandemic has laid the groundwork for this creation, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu, and other titles still to come.

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Fri Dec 2, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Escape the Goblins, Direct the Dwarves, and Commandeer a Crew

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• Designer Dennis Hoyle has released The Princess and the Goblin through his own Bellwether Games. Here's an overview of this tile-laying game for 1-4 players:

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When the young Princess Irene noticed her special golden thread led straight into the goblin kingdom under the mountain, she did not hesitate, but followed it at once. There in the dark she discovered her friend, the miner boy Curdie, who had been trapped while searching for clues to the goblins' evil plans. Now together, they must make a daring escape. Can you retrace Irene's steps through the dark maze of caverns, using only her special golden thread as your guide?

In the tile-laying game The Princess and the Goblin, you explore the goblin's vast underground cave network in search of clues. When you think you've discovered enough clues to save the kingdom, flip all of the tiles of your escape path in the correct order to find your way home. You win if you can escape the mountain and find more clues than any of your opponents, but take care the goblins don't catch you!

• In Q1 2017, Toy Vault will release Kevin G. Nunn's Outlander: Destiny Dice, which is based on the televised adaptation of the Diana Gabaldon book series. Each player uses the dice and action cards to move main characters Jamie and Claire closer together. Ergo, it's not destiny, but the result of actions taken by outside forces. Jamie and Claire were never really meant to be together, after all.

• Not sure how I missed this earlier, but in Q1 2017 GameWorks plans to release Jamaica: The Crew, an expansion for the decade-old Jamaica from designers Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, and Sébastien Pauchon. Why would you want to add this to your game? Here's why:

Quote:
Jamaica: The Crew is a set of characters, each with a special power, that add flavor to the game without any big changes in the rules. The characters may be hired when you're able to pay for the fee of a harbor, and they are "loaded" like any other resource, following the same rules.

You might find it enticing to add several characters to your boat — especially since most of them earn you additional gold at the end of the game — but with fewer holds dedicated to the regular resources, navigation becomes more dicey.



Pegasus Spiele has signed a deal with What's Your Game? to release Railroad Revolution in a German/English edition in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in November 2016, with other WYG titles also being available via Pegasus.

• In 2017, NSKN Games plans to release what it calls the final expansion for Exodus: Proxima Centauri, this being an Andrei Novac and Rainer Ahlfors design titled Exodus: Event Horizon that consists of ten(!) expansion modules that can be used independently or in various combinations.

• If nothing else, Mine All Mines is an incredibly clever name for a game about dwarven mining. In this design from Adrian Adamescu, Daryl Andrews and IDW Games, each player has a team of specialist dwarves, with each dwarf having a friend (who provides a bonus when working together) and a foe (who robs the dwarf). Using these dwarves, you need to collect gems and metals to create jewelry, fulfill orders, and win the game.

Pandasaurus Games stealthily non-announced this upcoming title in October 2016:

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Thu Dec 1, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Blue Orange Adventures, Stacked Pandas, and Z-Man Releases

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Even though I'm looking ahead to Spielwarenmesse and other conventions starting in Feburary 2017, we still have more than a month to go in 2016, so let's dig in the inbox for items that I haven't already covered:

• At SPIEL 2016, the European branch of Blue Orange released English-language versions of Captive and Knights, two solitaire, choose-your-own-adventure-style, RPG-ish games in books. In response to an inquiry, Kathryn Hill of Blue Orange Games says that the company is in discussions with BOG EU to see whether they can make these items available for the U.S. market.

• Another SPIEL 2016 update: Uwe Rosenberg's Cottage Garden, originally released by newcomer Edition Spielwiese, has been picked up for co-publication by Pegasus Spiele, with the new printing of the game due out in December 2016.

• Designer Antoine Bauza notes that Oink Games, publisher of Dungeon of Mandom (the original version of Welcome to the Dungeon), will release a Japanese version of Welcome Back to the Dungeon, which IELLO debuted at SPIEL 2016.

• Other titles coming from Bauza in 2017 include Victorian Masterminds from Space Cowboys (as previewed in this video from 2015), La Grande Evasion from XII Singes, Sentaï Cats from IELLO, Welcome from Repos Production, and Paku Paku from Ravensburger, with this latter title being a game in which you roll dice and stack plates, cups and bowls.




• At the "Darmstadt spielt" event in mid-November 2016, designer Arve D. Fühler tested an El Gaucho expansion several combinable modules, with one of those allowing a fifth player to join the game. No scheduled publication date yet, but now you know it's in the works.

Steve Jackson Games has announced another delay to the sixth edition of Car Wars due to the current playing time — 90-120 minutes for four-player games instead of their 60-minute target — so the publisher has decided to hold off on its planned early 2017 Kickstarter in order to extract the core of the game and continue playtesting.

Z-Man Games has posted updated release dates for a handful of titles, with Cacao: Chocolatl and Micro Robots being available in most locations, Pandemic: The Cure – Experimental Meds being available in some places and still waiting to be delivered in others, Carcassonne: Amazonas supposedly out by November 18 but not yet available, Merchants & Marauders: Seas of Glory due before the end of November, Pandemic: Iberia due December 2, Nautilion due December 5, and First Class due mid-December.

These release date updates come with a message that "possible shipment and logistics issues out of our control" could cause titles to be available later than anticipated, with part of those logistics issues stemming from the Asmodee Group's purchase of Z-Man Games and other parts of F2Z Entertainment. That purchase was finalized in October 2016, as noted in this post, but details of the purchase and how the F2Z studios might (or might not) function as part of the Asmodee Group has still not been made public. Given all that they've purchased in the past couple of years, Asmodee might still be figuring this out themselves...
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Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Daviau's Mountains of Madness, Burm's Growing GIPF, and Looney's Ever-Changing Math

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• I've already posted about a few titles due from IELLO in 2017 — the Cthulhu Monster Pack for King of Tokyo, the bidding-and-fighting game Arena from Maxime Rambourg, and Richard Garfield's Bunny Kingdom, which we previewed at Spielwarenmesse 2016 — but the French publisher has many more offerings in the works, such as Pyramids from the design team of Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert. In this game, 2-5 players each attempt to construct a glorious necropolis to ensure their dynasty outlasts everyone else's.

Christian Lemay's The Legend of the Wendigo, co-published by his own Masked Scorpion, is a Werewolf-style game aimed at younger players who must discover who has been possessed by the Wendigo's spirit before all the scouts have been dragged away from the campfire into the woods, never to be seen again.

Rob Daviau's Mountains of Madness is "a fully cooperative game with a pinch of real-time gameplay" with art by Miguel Coimbra that's due out at SPIEL 2017 in October.




Space Cowboys has posted a pic on Facebook showing off a Splendor expansion being playtested. Can't see anything at first glance? Notice that each player has a set of five cards that are slightly smaller than the normal development cards, with each of these cards showing either text or one or two gems. I know nothing else about this expansion at the moment, but I'll be headed to Nürnberg in February 2017 to look for updates on this item, the games listed above, and much more.




Math Fluxx is coming in March 2017 from Looney Labs, according to Kristin Looney, with Chemistry Fluxx and a new edition of Zendo both in playtesting. For those who want a peek at Zendo 2.0, here's a preview video that Looney Labs shot in August 2016 at LooneyCon and that escaped my notice until now:




HUCH! & friends, which started reprinting Kris Burm's GIPF Project series of games in early 2016, is running a Facebook contest of sorts in which people are challenged to guess, letter by letter, the name of the seventh title in this series, with this game debuting in Q2 2017. The first letter is "L", and a clue to the second letter is live now. To "assist" with your deductions, Burm posted the following picture on FB, noting that this is "an early version of a new game" from 2012. Can't wait!


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Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Body Party, or Vanishing Right Before Your I

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Body Party exists due to industry contacts and false memories.

Right after I posted a selfie with the game in August 2014, I was sorry that it had been published and wanted nothing to do with it ever again.

•••


In his book I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter proposes that consciousness is a mirage, an epiphenomenon that emerges from the countless interactions taking place at a scale below our level of perception. An example of such from his book:

Quote:
One day, many years ago, I wanted to pull all of the envelopes from a small cardboard box lying on the floor of my study and stick them as a group into one of my desk drawers. Accordingly, I picked up the box, reached into it, clasped my right hand around the pack of envelopes inside it (about a hundred in number), and squeezed tightly down on them in order to pull them all out of the box as a unit. Nothing at all surprising in any of this. But all of a sudden I felt, between my thumb and fingers, something very surprising. Oddly enough, there was a marble sitting (or floating?) right in the middle of that flimsy little cardboard box! […]

I peered in between the envelopes, looking for a small, smooth, colored glass sphere. No luck. Then I fumbled about with my fingers between the envelopes, feeling for it. Again no soap. But then, as soon as I grasped the whole set of envelopes as before, there it was again, as solid as ever! Where was this little devil of a marble hiding?



•••


My dad didn't play many games with the family when I was young, preferring solitaire puzzles on the computer such as Sokoban and Everett Kaser's Sherlock as he disliked competition, but every so often he would join us for games, such as the deduction game Alibi from Mayfair Games. For some reason he really enjoyed the challenge of creating complex questions that could still be answered with a number, as was required by the rules: "Using 1 for 'yes' and 0 for 'no,' give me a six digit binary number that tells me which character cards you've seen."

He also liked the Parker Brothers game Funny Bones — coincidentally published the year I was born — most likely because we never worried about who won when we played. Two of us tried to hold as many cards between us as we could while everyone else watched and laughed.

•••


Excerpt from a Bruno Faidutti article about reviews, slightly edited for style:

Quote:
W. Eric Martin is in charge of the news feed of BoardGameGeek. He's a really nice guy, fun, open-minded, talkative, and I always enjoy meeting him at game fairs. That's why I've always been surprised by how boring his video reviews are, until some day in a Facebook discussion he boasted about the way he could review a game without letting his personal feeling show through, so that gamers could make their own free and independent opinion on whether they will like the game or not. No wonder I don't like his reviews, since the only interesting thing would be his personal opinion on the games.

I find this frustrating and meaningless. By restraining from giving their own opinion, from telling what they have and want to tell, Eric and all the reviewers who share his approach are emasculating their own works. Like the rules paraphrases, this must be boring to write, and it's no wonder it's also boring to read or look at. Such descriptive reviews usually don't give more useful information than the blurb at the back of the box…

Reviewing a game in a cold and impersonal way, ignoring the pleasure, fun, anger or boredom one felt while playing, it's focusing on the subsidiary and ignoring the crux of the matter, the feel of the game. It's frustrating both for the reviewer, who doesn't give his opinion, and for the reader who doesn't learn anything useful. Can you imagine a book or movie critic restraining himself from telling what he thinks of a novel or movie? Where would be the point in reading his reviews? It's not different with games.

•••


Excerpt from a note I sent my then-girlfriend (now-wife) in high school:

Quote:
But what does it matter because in a hundred years we'll all be dead anyway.

•••


I've met hundreds of publishers since I started writing about board and card games in the early 2000s, and some are better than others at explaining what they want to see in a game design. Matthieux d'Epenoux of Cocktail Games is one of the best. I had met d'Epenoux a few times at SPIEL in the mid-2000s, and in 2008 he contacted me about editing English-language rules for a few upcoming titles, one of which was Reiner Knizia's Robot Master.

I edited the rules, then met d'Epenoux at SPIEL 2008 to thank him for the work and get paid. We talked about how he decides on what to publish, and he gave three rules for Cocktail titles, although plenty of exceptions exist:

• They must consist solely of cards.
• They must be explainable in one minute and playable in ten.
• They must be as fun to watch as they are to play.

He also explained how masterful Knizia is at giving publishers what they want, noting that he'll meet with Knizia at one fair, mention specific topics or types of games that he wants, then Knizia will approach him at the next fair with a catalog of designs to fit Cocktail's needs.

•••


In the late 1990s, a short story of mine published in Speak magazine led to both an agent and a book editor contacting me to see whether I had enough stories, either already written or still waiting to be extracted from my head, to publish as a collection. I found the attention discomfiting, swearing to all that I couldn't possibly do such a thing.

•••


My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a couple of years before he died from complications following a fall. One story of his that I still remember well from his later years:

While running errands one day, he unexpectedly ran into my mother at the mall — unexpectedly as she had taken the other car to do errands of her own — and while he knew who she was, he couldn't remember her name. He figured that his brain had taken all of his "home" information and put it in a mental box to be retrieved later because he was busy with other things at the time and needed to focus entirely on current tasks.

•••


My college English professor, John Batty-Sylvan, introduced me to many great works, the most profound being Alain Robbe-Grillet's La Jalousie, a theoretically first-person narrative in which the first person must be inferred from the description presented in the text, description that never veers from what a person might directly sense, placing you directly behind the mask of the main character and forcing you to generate everything that might be happening there. ("La jalousie" can mean either "jealousy" or a certain type of window blind, a lack of distinction unfortunately lost with the English-language title.)

La Jalousie presents a narrative without a narrator, a body of text without a self. This book resonated with me, ringing hard my own empty shell.

•••


More from Hofstadter's I Am a Strange Loop:

Quote:
Eventually it dawned on me that there wasn't any marble in there at all, but that there was something that felt for all the world exactly like a marble to this old marble hand. It was an epiphenomenon caused by the fact that, for each envelope, at the vertex of the "V" made by its flap, there is a triple layer of paper as well as a thin layer of glue. An unintended consequence of this innocent design decision is that when you squeeze down on a hundred such envelopes all precisely aligned with each other, you can't compress that little zone as much as the other zones — it resists coompression. The hardness that you feel at your fingertips has an uncanny resemblence to a more familiar (dare I say "a more real"?) hardness.

•••


My memory is fairly terrible — always has been, really — and I often discover after the fact that I'm remembering something in a way that didn't happen, assigning events and quotes to different times or people than where they originated.

Games are concrete objects, with names and numbers that don't change no matter when you take them from the shelf, but I find that I'm not remembering them as well as I used to. I can partly attribute this to the sheer number of games that I see each year, that number ballooning annually beyond the ability of anyone to fathom, much less experience, but only partly. I sample and share what I can, while letting most of it pass over me like rain, content to hope that someone else finds it quenching.

•••


Despite appearing in game demonstration videos and being interviewed on radio shows and having my name in this space all the time, I'm not someone who craves publicity. I'm not interested in being famous, and I feel embarassed each time someone says something along those lines at conventions or game stores or at my house when they show up for game day.

Yes, I'm a guy who does public things, and yes, my name and face is out there, but that's not me. I'm playing a role; I step into that role at a particular time, do the thing, then retreat into privacy once again. I'm not the one who appears on camera. I just play that guy on BGG TV.

•••


Another author introduced to me in college by Batty-Sylvan was Jorge Luis Borges, and some of Borges' recurring themes in his short stories included identity and the mirroring of the world, the abstract and the make-believe being made inseparable from the real, as in this one-paragraph story "On Exactitude In Science", as translated here by Andrew Hurley:

Quote:
. . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map,inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

—Suarez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

•••


I often forget to look at myself in a mirror before going out — or maybe "forget" isn't the right word as I just don't think about looking at myself. I know that I'm there because I'm walking around and wearing clothes and eating food so that's good enough, right?

•••

One night, for reasons unknown to me now, I thought of my family and what we played in the past. I reminisced about the gloriously dark cloud at the heart of Bermuda Triangle and our dexterity version of All the King's Men. I thought about Funny Bones and its double-sided cards and its head-to-head play and the points on each side of the card, although I couldn't remember how the game ended.

In the morning, I downloaded the rules for Funny Bones and discovered that it didn't play anything like how I remembered it, so I messed around with my fake recollected game, streamlined it further so that teams competed to hold a certain numebr of cards first to win, then pitched it to Cocktail Games, knowing that the design fit d'Epenoux's criteria and that I wouldn't pitch it anywhere else if Cocktail didn't want it.

D'Epenoux agreed to publish the game, after which I immediately started wondering whether he had signed the contract because he thought I was going to publicize it heavily on BGG, after which I started hating myself for not trusting his judgment and honesty because he had always seemed like an up-front person in the past. I could barely talk to him after that, always feeling like a fraud who had snookered his way into publication. I hesitated to cover Cocktail following the game's announcement as I didn't want to come across as favoring my publisher, effectively punishing it instead. I didn't know how to relate to this experience, and I just wanted it to end so that I could retreat to what I knew and keep on keeping on.

•••


From an email I sent in 2008:

Quote:
I don't feel that I have to convince others that my point of view is the right POV, that everyone must agree with me. I'm writing as a way to record my own thoughts and beliefs and observations, to figure out what I think. Ideally the writing will interest others and make them think about things in a new way, but I have no faith that it will. People get stuck in tracks of thought, and challenging someone's beliefs is rarely enough to encourage them to look at something from a different POV. Everything gets processed through a person's skein of reality, for good or ill.

•••


While roaming the Boston Pubic Library one day, I ran across a fascinating book by Douglas Harding titled On Having No Head in which he writes about the philosophy of headlessness, what he calls "the headless way" for as he points out you can never see your own head the way that you see the rest of the world, which should give you pause as to what's really going on on top of your shoulders.

One experiment he suggests is called "Two-way pointing":

Quote:
Point with one index finger outwards at the world, and with your other index finger point inwards towards your no-face.

The finger pointing outwards points at a scene full of countless shapes and colours. It’s a complicated picture. The more time you spend looking at it, the more there is to see. And most of it is hidden — obscured by other things in one way or another.

The view in is different. Here the space is not hidden at all. You can see it all, all at once. In the photograph I can see only part of the room in the distance, but here I see all of the space. There is nothing more to view here, nothing concealed. Nor is this being that I am here — and that you are here (I suggest) — remote in any way. It is right here, it is what I am. It is the "part" of me that I can never lose. What could be simpler than seeing this — and being this? It is uncomplicated, transparent, open to inspection, nearer than near, given in its entirety…

Is this Who you really are? Are you empty of everything, and at the same time capacity for this endlessly changing view out, room for this amazing world? To find out, just look. Seeing the space here is simpler than simple.

•••


As soon as Borges had been presented to me, I read nearly everything he had written, finding multiple similarities between his work and Robbe-Grillet's — so much so that for one of my essays in college English, I "wrote" about La Jalousie by stitching together quotes from Borges' stories and essays. In the final paper, 95% of the essay was someone else's writing now repurposed, my voice clearly heard, yet simultaneously unnecessary thanks to my efforts to ventriloquize the dead.

•••


My story from Speak:

Maybe Next Time


So I see you in a cafe reading the Sunday newspaper and having coffee, and on a whim I sit down across from you so I can read a section of the paper as well, although mostly I look at you over the top of the page. I ask you questions about your weekend and weekdays and work life and home life, and I find out you don't have anyone special in your life, no lover or significant other, no partner who considers you the most wonderful person in the world, and this surprises me as you seem to be a charming and lovely person, intelligent, witty. I invite you out for a movie, dancing, a trip to the circus, a walk on a pier in moonlight. We have an evening that satisfies both of us, more evenings and weekend trips, seventeen months of sharing a bed, a kitchen, an apartment, thirty-four years of marriage before you die, leaving me and our son and two daughters to mourn our loss, leaving me without the most important person in my life, leaving me alone for three years before I die. The only thing that survives us, that shows we were together, are our children, but then our children have four children and their children have nine and those nine, fourteen. Our genes spread through the human race and would be a part of every man and woman on the planet except before that happens everyone is killed by chemical agents that leak out of forty-thousand-year-old canisters. The earth lies empty of animal life for the remainder of its lifespan, for six hundred thirty-five million years and then the sun melts the earth to nothing as it expands and dissipates its energy. The remains of the solar system are devoured one-and-three-quarter billion years later by a black hole, which is then consumed by another, and slowly the entirety of the universe is drawn to one point as one black hole cannibalizes another, then another, increasing its mass until it becomes all-devouring. The enormous and universal mass that it absorbs and contains crushes it back to a single point that explodes a nanosecond later to refill and recreate the universe. Fifteen billion years of development create thousands of galaxies and millions of stars and a million million planets and more specifically, in a galaxy which some of its residents call the Milky Way, a solar system with a plain yellow sun and nine planets, the third planet overflowing with carbon-based life. One species advances to the point that it can transmit energy through wires and double the natural lifespan of its members and send representatives of the planet into nearby areas of space. And you live now on this vast and interesting planet that has many areas you've never visited and millions of people you'll never meet and one of those people is me, who you'll never get to experience or know or care for or love; the only contact you'll have with me is reading a story that I write.

—end—


•••


From a Nov. 24, 2016 email from Cocktail Games' Matthieu d'Epenoux:

Quote:
Here is a royalty statement for BODY PARTY.

The game is not a success and I think that we probably made bad choices in terms of cover.
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