News Bits: 3/10/2014


This is another big week for the NEWS:

Kickstarter raises $1 billion in pledges [Link] Last Monday Kickstarter announced that they’ve raised over $1 billion total for all projects launched using the platform. Board games certainly played a role in this (especially minis games?).

Stuntkite Games opens Patchistory preorders [LinkThe price ($60) is a little steep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this game sold out of its initial print run, given the buzz it received at Essen. Also, preordering, at this point, is the only means by which to secure the included promo cards.

Cryptozoic prepares Portal board game [LinkAnd this article discusses the process that Cryptozoic and Valve used. Portal is one of the few modern(ish) video games I’ve played extensively, and I love it. I wish the board game resembled the puzzle aspect of the video game more.

Z-Man Games joins Twitter [LinkAdmittedly this might not be a big deal for some of you, but as a Facebook abstainer, I was glad for this development. (Also, they’ve been very active so far, so here’s hoping.)

Osprey Publishing establishes game division [Link] Osprey publishes books of history, and now board games. And they’re hiring a developer, if that sounds like your bag. 

Horrible Games becomes offshoot of Cranio Creations [LinkI’m not sure what this means exactly (as the two still seem tightly related–maybe it’s like a publishing imprint?). Cranio Creations is responsible for such hits as Dungeon Fighter (our review) and Steam Park (our review), both of which will now fall under the Horrible Games umbrella. Along with this announcement, Horrible Games has announced a coming expansion for Steam Park and a new, undisclosed game (mutter mutter). 

 Stronghold Games announces Panamax [LinkA new board game to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal’s opening is scheduled for Essen 2014. For those who care, it’s by the same designers as Madeira.

Mars Needs Mechanics hits the App Store [LinkThis app was developed by friend of iSlaytheDragon Josh Edwards (of Board Game Reviews by Josh). It’s reasonably priced, and it’s a good game. (Here’s our review.)

WizKids provides closer look at Avengers vs. X-Men Dice Masters [LinkI’ll admit that this one has zero appeal for me. I didn’t like Quarriors, and I’m not interested in a collectible model in the least. Still, I know this will find fans. (For example, The Dice Tower.)

Slate history blog unearths Colonialism [LinkThis was interesting to look at. It’s a board game from the 1940s designed to teach students the basics of colonialism. It looks like an early Euro game.

Grant Rodiek (Farmageddon) questions troll-proofing designs [LinkThis is a good discussion of the question of just how much designers are responsible for guarding against trolls who don’t play in the spirit of the game. As usual, an interesting read.

Mark Jackson considers “broken” vs. “fragile” [LinkI for one like this distinction. I dislike the tendency to call something broken out of hand. I think “fragile” much more often describes the situation–a game that works, but only works well if the metagame situation is balanced, so to speak. (Another topic in the troll-proofing vein: how much are designers responsible for guarding their games against poor players?)

Last week on [News Bits, X-Wing/Attack Wing comparison, IndyCon wrap-up, Manifest preview, Star Realms review, Why board game expansions are bad, War of Kings previewWow, last week was packed. This week will see more reviews and discussion. Keep slaying!


Kickstarters of Note

  • Equinox: This is the new, published version from Asmadi Games. The game looks like a cross between Innovation and Hive (and seems similar to, albeit more complex than, For the Win). This is an abstract, and so it will have limited appeal, but it looks really cool. $25.
  • Pairs: This is a new game from James Ernest (Kill Doctor Lucky), and it looks super simple to play. It’s a press-your-luck game that he’s pitching as a pub game (and that, from the looks of it, easily supports gambling, if such is your bag). This is already funded and reaching stretch goals (new decks). $16.
  • Greed: A new game from Donald X. Vaccarino! Greed definitely has an adult theme, but it looks like a fun drafting game. The pledge levels are confusing, but the game looks good. Not sure this one is worth buying in advance (Kickstarter-only reward is wooden dollar markers vs. cardboard ones, and the game appears to be in the Queen card game box, which suggests a $29.99 MSRP), but obviously, I’ll let you be the judge. $35.
  • Character meeples: has become known for their custom bits, and they’re Kickstarting funding to create new meeple designs. The campaign has already reached many stretch goals, unlocking new meeples. (Here’s our interview with Cynthia Landon, one of the founders of Meeple Source.) Various pledge levels available.
  • Let Them Eat Shrimp: This is a new game from Stephen Finn. The campaign also includes options for Biblios (getting reprinted) and some of his other games.  $32.
  • Tokaido collector’s edition: I’ve not played Tokaido because the game looks a little simple for my tastes. So I was especially surprised to see that this game is being given the deluxe treatment with minis and so on. Looks beautiful, but maybe a tad overproduced. (Then again, what do I know? I’ve not even played it.) $75+.
  • Tiger Stripes: This is a children’s game from Isabel duBarry, daughter of designer Philip duBarry (Revolution!, Kingdom of Solomon). It looks simple, but it could be just what you’re looking for. $35.
  • Hoyuk: This is a tile-laying game that has won some awards and looks beautiful. $50.
  • Lineage: The Martial Arts Strategy Game: This one looks very nice. You’re a martial arts master trying to pass on your knowledge to your student to preserve your lineage. $39.
  • Cheesonomics: A Euro game about cheese! I love the look and design of this one. $29.
  • Manifest: This game looks simply gorgeousThe art is by professional Franz Vohwinkel, and the setting and theme look great. Jason wrote a preview of it. ~$58 (the campaign is in NZD).
  • The Ancient World: Andrew has been involved in the playtesting of this game, and it looks stunning (as is usually the case from Ryan Laukat). $50.

What We’ve Been Playing

  • Dominion: After last Friday’s game at Wolfie’s, the Dominion bug has caught me again. Unfortunately, the game has become harder and harder to transport as I’ve added expansions. No matter–I wanted to play this week at work, so I threw some cards in my bag and wrangled my coworkers. We played two games over lunch this week, both with a heavy mix of Guilds cards (the set was new to them). In the first game, I was too heavily attracted by the wiles of the Baker, and I didn’t switch to buying victory cards until it was too late. (I lost by 3 points). In the second game, I was the only player to buy a Doctor–and boy, did it pay off. I was able to thin my deck while also using a Baker and Butcher to set up a decent engine. With some Heralds in the mix, I was drawing most of my deck each turn. The other players played damage control, doing whatever they could just to end the game faster. It was satisfying to see a plan come together, and also to see renewed interest in this game. (FarmerLenny)
  • Polterfass: I placed my first order in January, and one of the items in the shipment is this game from Zoch Verlag. Polterfass is a dice/wagering game. The conceit of the game is that there’s a generous innkeeper who likes to share (non-alcoholic, according to the rules) ale with customers. But if his customers are overly greedy, his goodwill shuts down. It’s an interesting push-your-luck game that cuts two ways. On each turn one player is the innkeeper. He rolls dice, and the other players secretly bid how many drinks they want to be served (from 0 to 13). The innkeeper has to guess how the other players have bid. If he rolls higher than their order, the other players get their bids and he gets the excess. If he rolls lower (i.e., the players were too greedy), he gets all the drinks for himself (and the greediest player gives points to the least greedy player). But in the midst of this, the dice are shaped like barrels and are somewhat unreliable. If the innkeeper keeps rolling and doesn’t get a barrel to stand, he gets nothing and the other players get their bids. The decisions here are fascinating, and after a single game, I’m still not sure I’ve wrapped my mind around them. All I know was I was the greediest player (I lost points three or four different times), and I didn’t win. I’m eager to play this again. (FarmerLenny)
  • Paperback: I Kickstarted this game. It’s a cross between Dominion and a word game like Scrabble or Quiddler. In the game, you buy letter cards, each of which is worth a certain amount of money, which you can use to acquire new cards (including paperback novels–worth points at the end of the game) if you can use them in spelling a word. My wife and I like word games, and she was willing to play a game this Friday, so we gave it a try. I wasn’t sure what to expect–the card acquisition in this game was as meandering as in Salmon Run, where you’re just not sure the relative value of the cards you put in your deck. My wife didn’t say much during the game, so I wasn’t sure if she liked it, but when we finished, she said, “That was really fun! Let’s play again.” Always a good sign. I liked (but did not love) Paperback, but my affection might grow with further plays. (FarmerLenny)
  • Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island: I’ve been playing this game solo for a while, and I’ve been stuck on the Cursed Island scenario (which has player[s]building crosses on a mysterious island to stave off a curse). I had been playing a much harder version of the scenario for a while; this was my second game playing by the easier, legitimate rules. I had some lucky tile draws, and I’m happy to say that the island has been exorcised. Even with “lucky” draws, the game was still tense, and it came down to round 9 of 10 before I was able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This game is incredible solo, and I can’t wait to introduce it to other people. Even if I can’t, the solo  experience has been worth it so far. Four more scenarios to go! (FarmerLenny)
  • Hegemonic: Space, if you haven’t noticed, is kind of my thing. Especially epic space. I think my group finally figured out Hegemonic with this latest play.  Each player’s network was much more focused on one of the 3 branches (martial, political, industrial) making for some very powerful forces and a lot of back-and-forth conquering going on. One player pulled an early lead with a quick spread of forces while I battled with my neighbor until we made a truce; then I managed to build up a nearly indestructible martial force that was, unfortunately, mostly contained in my own sector of the galaxy, preventing me from really scoring a ton of points. In the last round I made a bid for victory by suddenly spreading my political embassies into another sector, but alas, I was shy of victory. Hegemonic definitely has its interesting elements, but it’s a little more euro than I prefer my space epics. Still it was a pretty epic game; expect a review soon (futurewolfie).
  • Quantum: Since receiving this game, I have been frantically unable to pull a decent group together for this (game nights kept having too many people or not enough time) but I finally got a group (the players willing to stay after Hegemonic). I knew Quantum was a streamlined game with easy rules, but I was surprised at how easy it was to pick up, and how fast the game played – yet it was still a satisfying experience. Even though it’s definitely more abstract than thematic. Still, in my first game, I was able to deftly maneuver my ships into placing half of my quantum cubes; then, with some speedy attacks against my opponents timed with another planetary conquest,  I managed to place my last two cubes in one turn, sealing the victory! It was very enjoyable, and the ship powers let you do some really fun, cool-feeling maneuvers.  My second game on another day did not go so well for me; I spent too long squabbling back and forth with attacking, unable to boost my Domination for very long, and another player managed to swoop in with a decisive victory.  I look forward to many more plays of this game, because it is fun and it feels like it has a lot of strategic depth to explore; plus it fits in a lunch period easily, which means I need to start up a lunch game sometime very soon. (futurewolfie)
  • Voluspa: Order of the Gods: I really like Voluspa and despite getting my preorder copy early I haven’t gotten to try it out until now due to my lunch gaming crew having a particularly busy month.  The new tiles (including a Thunderbolt promo) are all really interesting and change the dynamics of the game similarly to how the expansion tiles from the base set do.  Unfortunately I found the combination of two tiles from this set (Raven + Freya) led to disproportionately high scoring turns so I will probably avoid playing with those two tiles together again.  Fortunately you can play with any combination of 4 expansion tiles from between the sets so I’m excited to try out different mixes that avoid a charged up Raven from dominating the game. (Andrew)
  • Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin: My wife suggested that we play this one and I was very happy to take her up of her offer since I haven’t played it in over a year.  I focused on attacking the lower ranks of the dungeon with a Caliginite hero (attack bonus with darkness), Falcon Arbalest weapon (high attack at rank 2+), and Royal Summons to have someone to hold the Arbalest without clogging my deck.  My wife started attacking very quickly and racked up a ton of XP which gave her a jump on the level 3 heroes.  Her deck got a little clogged near the end and the Thunderstone bearer ended up being the very last card so I made a come back as she struggled to draw efficient hands.  By the end of the game I remembered why we hadn’t played this in a while, it goes a little long for my wife’s taste so we tend towards Ascension for our deckbuilder of choice.  I enjoyed it immensely as  I have in the past and will definitely suggest it the next time I visit my family and have more willing players.  Hopefully it won’t be another year before I get to play it again. (Andrew)

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

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