News Bits: 7/14/2014


This week’s NEWS:

BREAKING: Istanbul and Camel Up win Kenner-/Spiel des Jahres [LinkIn case you were unsure whether board game media have an inside track on the SdJ awards, Splendor, the darling for the SdJ, did not win. I will say that I correctly predicted Istanbul, though, so there’s that.

The Dice Tower announces its 2013 awards [LinkThe list is, in many ways, reflective of the hype you’ve heard, but there are some surprises here, and all in all, a great list.

New time-travel game coming from Rio Grande Games and Donald X. Vaccarino (Dominion) [LinkEven though I haven’t liked Donald X.’s other designs, Dominion is so brilliant that his name attached to something causes me to pause with interest. Add to this the time travel theme (which, while lame in books is ripe for board game exploration), and this is one that I will be watching with interest.

MeepleTown interviews Ludovic Maublanc (Cash ‘n’ Guns) [LinkA great interview.

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Zombicide review, Las Vegas review, Under the Table episode 6, Desperados of Dice Town reviewA Kickstarter rant] More to come this week. Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • Ophir: This game looks simply beautiful. It’s a game about merchants, but the setting is absolutely gorgeous. We’ll have a preview up soon. $39.
  • Tiny Epic Defenders: Right on the heels of Tiny Epic Kingdoms is Tiny Epic Defenders, a micro cooperative game set in the same universe as Kingdoms. Fantasy stuff isn’t my thing, but judging by the warm response this has gotten, I am in the extreme minority. $16.
  • Antidote: This is a small box deduction game from Dennis Hoyle and Bellwether Games (Drop Site). I had the opportunity to play this one as a prerelease, and I found it to be a fun and clever take on the deduction genre. It’s lighter than most, but still enjoyable. $16.
  • Start Player Express: Bezier Games is Kickstarting Start Player Express, whose tagline is “Go first faster,” which is brilliant. This is four dice that help you determine at a glance who at the table should go first. $10.
  • Casual Game Insider: This campaign is to Kickstart the next year of Casual Game Insider magazine, a magazine for enthusiasts of, well, casual games. The magazine targets the Spiel des Jahres-loving crowd and in general is getting exposure for the hobby. Various pledge levels.
  • Core Worlds digital: Stronghold Games’s Core Worlds is being ported to iOS and Android. I played Core Worlds recently and really enjoyed it. It’s a deck-building game that’s really more of a resource management game. Feels Euroy but has a great space theme. Various pledge levels.

What We’ve Been Playing

  • Hollywood Blockbuster (aka Dream Factory): I received Hollywood Blockbuster in the recent math trade, and I convinced my lunch group to play it the next day. Dream Factory is a Reiner Knizia auction game with a completely closed money system (that is, no new money enters the game, and no money ever leaves the game): each winning bid is split between the other players. In Hollywood Blockbuster, players are movie studios trying to recruit talent to produce scripts for movies. The game is played over four quarters, and in addition to the studios making movies that people will want to see, they are trying to secure trophies during the award season. We played with a full complement of five players, so it was hard to get the materials necessary to complete scripts. I was trying to get top-quality talent for my four-star movie, but I had to pay dearly for it. I also had to pay dearly for Star Battles, my campy sci-fi flick that was competing for the Razzy. The game was a close race, but I couldn’t tell who would win. It turned out that I was able to claim worst movie and best directing in the awards season, which boosted my score, and I ended the game in the top spot–one point over second place and three points over third. The game was close, and the parody of Hollywood was genuinely funny and enjoyable. (And I don’t think it will get old since the game itself is fun.) This might also be the most thematic Knizia I’ve played. I really enjoyed it and look forward to playing again. (FarmerLenny)
  • Splendor: My family has become rather taken with Splendor, and when my sister and her family came to visit, we played four games in a row. It was fun to play against my family now that they are experienced players. The races were tense and the games were enjoyable, but four games in a row is probably more than this game can sustain. Still, I had fun, and this is my shout-out to the SdJ winner that never was. (FarmerLenny)
  • Kuhhandel (aka You’re Bluffing): I received Kuhhandel in a math trade a while back, as a sweetener for another game. I’ve had trouble getting both this and the other game (Amun-Re) to the table, the latter because of time and the former because the box is in German and the cartoony animals don’t inspire confidence that the game is fun. But while we waited for my son to fall asleep, my wife, sister, and I decided to give this one a go. And…we had a blast. Kuhhandel is a trading and bluffing game. There are ten sets of four animals, and the game ends when all of the animals are paired off, when they score their face value x the number of sets of animals you have. Money is represented on cards, and these are concealed. On your turn you can either auction animals off the top of the deck–other players bid, and you can either accept the winning bid (which the bidder pays to you) or pay the winning bid to the winner–or do a cattle trade. In a cattle trade, you make an offer on another player’s animals. (You can only offer on animals that you have.) You slide any number of cards face down to that opponent. The opponent may either accept the offer blindly and give you the animal(s) or counter offer, again, with face-down cards. The higher offer gets the other player’s animal(s). Since all offers are face-down, there is plenty of opportunity to bluff and call the other players’ bluffs. And this, friends, is an absolute riot. The game is tense and hilarious. Absurd over- and under-valued offers are prevalent, and the game is a ton of fun start to finish. Now that I’ve played the game, I will lobby for it more frequently. Absolutely cannot wait to play this one again. (FarmerLenny)
  • Puerto Rico: Opportunities to play this classic are scarce, so I pushed for it during my sister’s visit. And…it was a mistake. At least during the day, when children’s naps were not guaranteed. I tried to explain the rules, but no one could concentrate. We packed it up after one round around the table. But my wife was game to try again that night, and this time, everyone did much better. My wife went with a valuable goods/money strategy. My sister went with a primarily money strategy with some captaining. I went full captain strategy, meaning I had to produce lots of good and ship lots of goods. I had none of the big bonus buildings at the end of the game, and almost all of my points were represented on chips. But this was enough. I won by a few points over my wife and sister. I love Puerto Rico and was glad to play it. My sister liked it and I think would play again, but I’m not sure it would rank among her favorites. My wife was gracious to play, but Puerto Rico isn’t the type of game she likes. She likes games with simple rules that she can understand and play right from the beginning, and Puerto Rico’s strategy is quite opaque  your first game (and even in future games) since there are so many moving parts. She said her favorite game of the night (and weekend) was Kuhhandel, hands-down. (FarmerLenny)

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

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