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News Bits: 2/24/2014

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This week’s NEWS:

Stonemaier Games unveils results of moneyback guarantee [Link] Cast your game upon the waters, and only two will be returned to you, at least in Euphoria’s case. Much of this is due to backers liking the game (confirmation bias or otherwise). But part of this, I think, is because Euphoria, regardless of its status as a game, is a fantastic product. It’s not something that has no resale value after being published (a fate that, sadly, many Kickstarters share–some are untrade- or salable). Instead, the product is selling for more than backers paid in the aftermarket. So backers of the project have won either way: either they have a game they like enough to keep, or they have a product with a high after-market demand. I think this is a good example of a company standing behind their product from start to finish.

MeepleTown interviews Kristian Amundsen Østby (Escape: The Curse of the Temple) [LinkAs usual, an excellent interview from MeepleTown, this time with the designers of one of my favorite real-time games, Escape, which will see a new spin-off zombie game soon. Østby talks about the new Escape game in this interview, which actually sounds quite different from the parent game. The theme is a turn-off for me, but I’m guessing not for the bulk of Kickstarter, where Queen Games will likely seek funding for it. 

Fantasy Flight Games previews the Tantive IV for X-Wing [Link] All of these announcements amount to one big -yawn- from me, but I know at least one of our contributors and many readers are a fan of this game, so, this is for you. Personally, even if I were a fan of X-Wing, I’d have a hard time 1) paying this much for one piece of gaming equipment or 2) introducing a bulky capital ship into a dogfight. Okay, I’m done with the commentary now.

Grant Rodiek (Farmageddon) releases Wizard Poker print-and-play [LinkThis is actually a very simple game to print and play, since a standard deck of cards comprises most of the components. I’ve not had a chance to try this yet, but it looks fun and interesting. And who knows? Maybe there will be a Maginoker tournament and prize giveaway someday!

 Crash Games discusses its true pay-what-you-want campaign [LinkDuring the holiday season, Crash Games ran a brief Kickstarter campaign for Where Art Thou, Romeo? a very small micro deduction game that was originally printed and funded with Council of Verona. Patrick Nickell discusses this campaign and what the (somewhat disappointing) results of it were. (Note before we begin: I did not back this campaign.) Honestly, I have a hard time seeing how the pay-what-you-want model will bear out over time. I’ve backed a few of these, and with one exception, I backed at the absolute lowest entry point. And with Tasty Minstrel’s recent flurry of activity on Kickstarter, I don’t think I can muster any more enthusiasm for the genre. The pay-what-you-want updates for these campaigns seem to be trying to guilt me into paying more than the bare minimum, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my Kickstarter philosophy is not one of generosity. I’m not on Kickstarter primarily to make people’s dreams come true; I’m there to get a good product for a fair price to compensate me for speculating on the market. (Of course, I’m guessing I’m fairly alone in this.) And for these pay-what-you-want games, the truth is, I don’t know how good the product will be or how much use it will see. I’m still of the opinion that microgames are a fad, soon to pass away. At the very least they are niche games. There are some exceptions (I like Coup quite a bit), but even the exceptions reveal the problem with microgames: they’re often too small for their own good. Coup is great–for a few hands, then it’s time to move on. Even a game like Coloretto or For Sale–also small on components and gameplay but with arguably too many components to bear the microgame moniker–can sustain longer sessions and aren’t that much more cumbersome to carry with you. (In fact, Coloretto, Sushi Go, and others come in smaller boxes than some microgames, though perhaps not the newest batch of pay-what-you-wants.) So why pay extra in a pay-what-you-want microgame campaign when you can buy a more satisfying (and complete?) filler for just a few dollars extra? I’m willing to pay for value in a game; I’m just not sure it’s there in microgames. Diversions? Yes. Good investment? To be determined. Am I wrong?

Kevin Nunn reviews Rules for Classic Games [LinkIt’s not often that as I scour the Internet for gaming news I find a book report, but here’s one on an old book on game design. Nunn presents several of the points from the book as well as what he likes about it. One of the takeaways for me here was how he described his first experiences with game design as tinkering with classic designs. Not a bad way to begin (says the game reviewer who has done the same…).

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Interview with Seth Robinson (War of Kings), Yomi review, Interview with Cynthia Landon (MeepleSource.com)Spyrium review, Space Sheep review, A progressive top ten to introduce war gamingLast week we posted a lot of great stuff, including two interviews of Kickstarter creators, as well as three reviews. This week we’ll have more great reviews (including a new Shelf Wear retrospective) as well as a look at a local con that’s near and dear to at least one of our hearts. Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • Bigfoot: This is a deduction game from Scott Almes (Tiny Epic Kingdoms) about finding Bigfoot. $15.
  • Province: This is a Euro resource management microgame with a super micro price. $5.
  • Alchemy: This is a game about making potions and being a cool alchemist. (We also previewed it here.) $25.
  • Games of Art, Fantastiqa, Petite Pastiche: Eagle Games is running a Kickstarter (preorder?) for three rerelease games. These all look like decent new editions. Various pledge levels available.
  • oddball Aeornauts: Perhaps the most portable card game ever? Quick playing and fun for two players.  (Here’s our preview.) $25.
  • Kingdom Builder: Big Box: Does a Spiel des Jahres-winning game really need to be Kickstarted? Probably not, but that isn’t stopping Queen Games. The price is steep, but there are Kickstarter-exclusive player tokens, if that’s worth the extra cost/prepaying. (Also, here’s our review of the base game.) $85.
  • Mob Town: This looks like a nice, lighthearted family game…about animal mobsters. $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.
  • Character meeples: MeepleSource.com 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.
  • 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.

What We’ve Been Playing

  • Star Realms: This week I realized one day at work that I had talked to no one in the office for a day and a half, and I was going a little stir crazy, so I initiated a lunch game. Only one person responded, but I was almost grateful, since two-player game sessions are scarce and I’ve been dying to get Star Realms back to the table. We played three games over the lunch hour (one was truncated), and it was a very satisfying back-and-forth, with the games being split 2-1. This time my opponent and I both tried new strategies, building our decks using different combinations of factions. The first game I went heavy Star Empire and Blob, which gave me a good deal of firepower. Unfortunately, my opponent went for the Trade Federation’s healing abilities and was able to replenish his authority almost as quickly as I took it away. Note: almost. I prevailed in the end, but just barely. The second game I decided to go heavy Machine Cult for its deck-culling abilities, paired with a smattering of other bases and ships. The strategy might have borne out had the game lasted longer, but my opponent made fast work of my authority, and I was left with a heap of scrap. In the final game, I decided to go almost completely Trade Federation in my deck-building, and after a few unlucky draws (no ally abilities!), I realized that while I was playing good defense, I had almost no offensive ships to attack my opponent. I changed this by an aggressive Blob buy, and with the two factions in tandem, I was able to eek out a narrow win over my opponent. The lunch hour was a blast, and I am almost wishing for more of these “I’m-too-busy-to-play” days… (FarmerLenny)
  • Libertalia: This week’s Friday lunch game was Libertalia. We had a full six players, two of whom were new to the game, and…we played so slowly, so we were only able to complete 2/3 of the game in the lunch hour. I had forgotten that the game has a little bit of a learning curve if you haven’t played (you have to read every card to know what it does), and I was thrown off in the game explanation by some interruptions. In any case, the game was still fun, and I won very narrowly by being the least bad in a bad second campaign. This game won our 2013 Game of the Year, and I still love to play it. (FarmerLenny)

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

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