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News Bits: 1/28/2013

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Big news this week. Read on!

Toy Vault acquires Firefly license [Link] Geek worlds converged last week when Toy Vault announced that it had acquired the Firefly license to create tabletop games in Joss Whedon’s ‘verse. I’m not terribly excited about this news, but only because licensed games don’t excite me much. (This is the themeless, soulless Euro part of me coming out.) And I’m especially not too excited when the tabletop games announcement came in the same breath as novelty plush figures and pillows based on the characters. Still, time will tell.

Days of Wonder cancels Kickstarter, plans to respawn in March [Link] Days of Wonder has canceled their Kickstarter campaign for Small World 2 for iPad, citing confusing rewards and underestimated enthusiasm for the Android platform. They play to relaunch their campaign in March targeting Steam and Android platforms for Small World. I really respect this decision–namely because I wholeheartedly agree on both counts. (The tier levels were confusing, and it was also disappointing to be funding a game that was already happening on another platform just for the chance that it might happen on Android.) Anyway, I plan to put my money where my mouth is once they relaunch, hoping that other board game companies follow suit in Android development. 

Queen Games hosts Escape design contest [Link] One of my favorite games from 2012 (and that’s saying something, as I received it in December) was Escape: The Curse of the Temple, a real-time cooperative dice-rolling game that plays in exactly ten minutes. Well, Queen Games (Escape’s publisher) is soliciting the Board Game Geek community for ideas for upcoming expansions. The ten best ideas receive a stack of games and the chance of getting published. Now if only I had a great idea…

Tom Gurganus of Go Forth and Game interviews TC Petty III (VivaJava) [LinkThis is a good, laid-back interview, and it explores what is involved in publishing a game with a smaller publisher. An interesting read.

Ten literary board games for book nerds [Link] Some notable absences here (Pillars of the Earth), but hey, when you only have ten spots, you have to include the Christmas Carol board game. (I once thought about designing a board game based on Don Quixote, my favorite book. I still may do so. It focuses not so much on the events of the book, but on [what I deem]a funny thought experiment within the book. But I’m lazy. Maybe someday.)

James Mathe of Minion Games details the Kickstarter process [Link] Mathe calls this the “10,000-feet” approach, a bird’s-eye view, and that’s true. This was very helpful for me, someone who has zero interest in ever running a publishing endeavor, to understand what all is involved (and why so many Kickstarter projects are delayed). I also respect Mathe’s doing this, as Minion has had a number of successful products published, through Kickstarter and outside of it (and the ones I’ve played have been very good). I expect Mathe’s point about always using Kickstarter will ruffle some feathers, but when I consider what all is involved, and what the cost is for missteps, there’s certainly an argument for his view. I’d be interested if he did, as he mentions in the article, go into depth about some of these points.

Board game myths busted [Link] Okay, okay: two articles by James Mathe right in a row. I’m sorry, but this is good stuff and deserves to be shared. This is straight to the point about the realities involved with designing and shopping around a game from a publisher’s perspective. If you’re working on your own game, this is a must-read.

How Many Prototypes Does It Take? [Link] Phillip duBarry (Revolution, Kingdom of Solomon) shows the many iterations of his upcoming game Family Vacation. I’ve only kind of designed one game, and the process was enough to deter me from dabbling. Game design is serious business.

Dungeons & Dragons backlist now available electronically [Link] Wizards of the Coast has partnered with DriveThru RPG to make their backlist of D&D products available. I’m not an RPGer myself, but I’m sure that many a fanboy (or fangirl) is rejoicing at this announcement.

In case you missed it… [News, Board game glossary, Gauntlet of Fools review, Tahiti review, My year in games 2012] We had a full week on iSlaytheDragon last week. Here’s what we posted. The article that’s gotten the most traffic is the board game glossary. If you have any ideas for terms that need to be added, leave us a comment. It’s meant to be a dynamic article.

Kickstarters of Note
We’re hitting another wave of lots of good stuff on Kickstarter:

  • Formula E: An elephant racing game from Bruno Faidutti and Clever Mojo Games. This has beautiful art and really looks like a great production. The Kickstarter window on this one is short, so you should act soon. $45 buy-in ($20 if you just want the elepheeples).
  • Hegemonic: Another epic space game. This one looks pretty good, and I’ve liked Minion’s track record in the past. The buy-in is high at $69, but this includes the print-and-play files early. This has already been funded.
  • Crokinole: Wait, hasn’t that game been around for ages? Well, yes, but Mayday Games is Kickstarting their newest line of Crokinole boards. (You can read my review of their last line here, which looks much the same.) Mayday is also offering several accessories, like a carrying case and a clock (for when the board is hanging on your wall, obviously). $95-100 gets you a board; $150 gets you the whole package.
  • The Dice Tower: Season 9: The Dice Tower is looking to up its coverage of board games this year. They have some sweet swag for contributors, mostly promos and, you guessed it, dice/dice towers, but also some dinners with the hosts. Various pledge levels.
  • Compounded: This is the fourth game from Dice Hate Me Games, this one about combining elements into chemical compounds. The look, feel, and theme is appealing to me. $42 gets you the game.
  • Gunrunners: This is a new game from Stephen Finn (Biblios, Scripts & Scribes: The Dice Game). I like Finn’s other games, and I love the look of this one. $20-25 gets you the game.

What I’m Playing
@Futurewolfie had his monthly large-gathering game night on Friday. Here’s what I played:

  • Tsuro: This game was the surprise of the night for me. I’ve seen it many times on shelves, and I love the artwork and components, but it looked too simple to be any good. Shame on me for my prejudice–this game is a lot of fun. Is it simple? Yes. But it’s not worse for being that. I really enjoyed my plays of this and wouldn’t turn down another game if it were offered.
  • The Resistance: Avalon: After not playing for over a year, I decided it was time to give this another try. I’m glad I did. This update to the original is fantastic. All of the additional roles can be a bit much for new players, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. In fact, this was my favorite game of the night (we played several rounds), and there was nothing surprising about that. Also, I lost every single game of this. Oh well.
  • VivaJava: I backed this on Kickstarter enthusiastically and was very excited to get this one to the table. Unfortunately, getting eight people together who are interested in sitting through a decently lengthy rules explanation to play a 90+-minute game is a rarity (it failed to launch with my family at Christmas), so this one has been sitting on my shelf since October. The stars aligned, and we played this on Friday with the full complement of eight players. I liked the game, but didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. I think I would have enjoyed it much more with a different, more Euro-friendly group (indeed–I can imagine just the kind of group this game would be perfect for). The game likely also gets better over multiple plays, which isn’t likely at this time of my life (large groups of committed players are hard to come by). Still, I had a good time with this and l-o-v-e the theme and look of this game.
  • Glory to Rome: My Friday lunch game group chose Glory to Rome this past Friday. My first play of 2013 was a loss, but a respectable one. Two players tied for first, and one player won by the tiebreaker (more cards in hand)–just barely: he ended the game by drawing the last card. It was an excellent round of a great game. I’m glad I have enthusiastic players for this one, even if I lose.

Completely Unrelated Awesomeness of the Week
This geeklist. Similar to the Cheapass Games model, it shows you which games use common parts so you can make your own versions at home. However, while I think this is a great way to try new games, I do advocate that you buy the published version if you like it and it’s available. Most designers aren’t cashing in on this hobby, and “the one who works deserves his pay.”

But really, that’s not unrelated. This is unrelated. And awesome. (Warning: Downton Abbey niche humor ahoy!)

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

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