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News Bits: 6/23/2014

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Here we are. This week’s NEWS:

Oliver Kiley (Hegemonic) discusses schools of design [LinkA fascinating (and fairly comprehensive) look at various schools of game design. I hadn’t thought of separating German family games from Euro games, but after reading his rationale, it makes total sense. My favorite games probably fall somewhere in between those two schools. This long article is worth the read.

Asmadi Games and Carl Chudyk (Glory to Rome, Innovation) release Red print and play [Link] This is in conjunction with the preorder of Impulse (which is fantastic, by the way). I’ve read the rules for Red, and it looks like a super simple card game that, like Chudyk’s other games, is a complete mind bender. I look forward to trying this out, probably when it’s available to buy–I don’t really do print and plays, unless it’s…

Portal Games posts new Henry Livingstone scenario for Robinson Crusoe [Link] And, oh boy, is it involved–in an awesome way. This scenario, more than any other, is a choose your own adventure, where it should play out differently every time. The scenario uses real news stories from the time when Livingstone went missing for six years. I can’t wait to get this to the table. Also, major kudos to Portal Games, who continues to support their game with free scenarios even after the game has been purchased. Wow.

An introvert’s guide to a successful convention [Link] As an introvert who is overwhelmed at even smallish parties, conventions are…scary. Gen Con has almost done me in the two times I’ve gone, and I’ve needed significant time to recuperate afterward. This list of con advice is an excellent resource for reducing some of the stress of being around a large group of people. Highly recommended.

Diplomacy: board game of the alpha nerds [Link] I didn’t read the whole article yet, but this is one I plan to savor. I thought I’d share sooner so you can partake in the delight of when good writing comes to bear on board games.

Reiner Knizia (Ra, Lost Cities, and almost every game) talks mobile gaming and the superiority of physical dice [LinkAn interesting article on Knizia, apps, and his real passion for board games. Knizia is a genius, and his thoughts are worth listening to. It’s also interesting that, for as many apps as he has signed his name to, he thinks there’s still something to physical dice. (And I agree wholeheartedly: a random number generator is not the same as a dice or a random chit pull. Raaaaaaaa!)

Kevin Nunn (Rolling Freight) continues his discussion of integrating Friend or Foe mechanics into games [Part 2, Part 3This picks up on the article I shared last week. Still great thoughts.

Grant Rodiek (Farmageddon) diagrams diagrams [LinkThis is a good post on effective ways to use diagrams in rulebooks, but it lacks a diagram for when to use diagrams. A shame, really.

Spielboy tracks market prices of board games [LinkNot really news, but I found out about Spielboy this week. This is an excellent resource that tracks actual sales in the Board Game Geek marketplace to show what a game is truly worth. As a frequent trader/seller, this is an excellent resource. (Sorry I had to shoehorn it into the news post, but seriously: you need to know about this.)

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Damage Report review, Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp review, Jason’s Origins recap, Andrew’s Origins recap, Gaming with a KindergartnerLots of good stuff last week, including effusive praise for Asmodee (Andrew and Jason worked their booth at Origins). More great stuff coming this week. Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • BattleCon: War of Indines Remastered: Board games simulating 2D video games are all the rage right now, but BattleCon is rated one of the best on Board Game Geek. It has garnered lots of praise, and even though it isn’t my kind of game, I’ve been interested in checking it out. This is a revised reprint of an earlier version of War of Indines. $50 (although there are various other options available).
  • The Amberden Affair: A game about butlers, one of which is out for blood. Looks interesting, and it was one of the finalists in Cards Against Humanity’s Tabletop Deathmatch. $47.
  • Ortus Regni: All I know about this one is that the art is beautiful and the game is baffling. $45.
  • Beowulf: No, this isn’t one of the Knizia Beowulf games from Fantasy Flight. Rather, this is a super thematic literary game from the same company that successfully funded the Moby Dick card game last year. Doesn’t look like my thing, but I’m a huge fan of the theme and look. $45.
  • AV Ghost: This game isn’t the kind of thing I usually go for, but it looks pretty cool. It’s a board game you play in the dark. It’s a supernatural horror game in which players are solving a mystery in the dark. Looks very thematic and atmospheric (and it comes with minis with flashlights). $75.
  • Penny Press: A game about putting together front pages in the age of yellow journalism. This game just won Cards Against Humanity’s Tabletop Deathmatch, and it’s coming from Asmadi Games. The game looks so, so, so good, it’s already funded, and it is reasonably priced. $40.
  • Ophir: This game looks simply beautiful. It’s a game about merchants, but the setting is absolutely gorgeous. $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.

 What We’ve Been Playing

  • Medici: We had some new people start in the department this week and one of my coworkers’ sisters was coming to lunch, so he suggested we play a game. Six of us showed up (not on the usual day!), which meant we had a larger group that needed to learn a new game quickly, and this new game shouldn’t be too complicated since some players were less familiar with hobby games. I had always suspected that Medici might work as an introductory game, and I was proved mostly right in Thursday’s game. The tricky thing is that auction games (even simple ones like Medici) have a bit of a learning curve. It’s hard to know what to bid for stuff. I also didn’t realize how absolutely obscure the rules sound on a first explanation to new players. Still, with my encouragement that the game isn’t as hard as it sounds, we got going. And the new players did fine. My strategy of “fill my ship cheaply” paid off handsomely the first round, giving me the most valuable ship for a very low expenditure. In the next round, I focused on one set of goods where I was highest on the pyramid. My goal was to get into bonus territory, and I succeeded–but at the cost of being the worst ship and getting no money from that at the end of the round. Still, after the third round, I had climbed the top of the pyramid in one category, was second (and in bonus range) in another category, and was tied for second in a third. Even though my ship was, once again, the worst valued, I won the game with a 15-point margin. There was a two-way tie for second and a two-way tie for third, and there was a close spread between second and sixth places. Medici is an excellent auction game. I’ll only play it with five or six players, but it is truly brilliant and I love it when it hits the table. (FarmerLenny)
  • Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island: After seeing the new Livingstone scenario released this week, I was itching to play the game again. The last time I played, I finally defeated the “Jenny Needs Help” scenario, so this was my first attempt at Volcano Island. Volcano Island is a throwback to Fireball Island and Indiana Jones, and the scenario revolves around discovering artifacts from ruined temples before a volcano destroys the island. It seemed like everything was working against me at first, with my rolls not succeeding and Friday almost killed on his first expedition. But I was able to manage my meager resources to make it to the 7th round. The tile my camp was on was about to be destroyed by a lava deluge in the 8th round, and I had two things I absolutely had to accomplish in order to beat the scenario: I had to explore the final temple (on that tile) and explore a new tile (to move my camp to). With exploration actions costing an additional action, there was no way for me to guarantee success on these necessary actions, and I had picked up a curse that required me to reroll one success. Things were not looking good, but I rolled successfully on both tasks and the reroll–a miracle given my paltry performance in the rest of the scenario. I realized then that I also needed the materials to build my escape raft, but lo and behold, in discovering the final tile, I had revealed a wood discovery token and had just enough to build the raft on my final turn. This was my first time winning a Robinson scenario on my first try, but even though I won, I wouldn’t call it easy. I don’t usually like so much uncertainty and luck in my games, but Robinson strikes a good balance of creating a story and giving me enough control over my actions to make what I do seem important. All of this to say, this game is great. I just need to find some people to try the multiplayer game with. (FarmerLenny)
  • Bohnanza: Bohnanza used to be one of my favorite games, but it has since fallen out of favor with me. My family tends to play games to death in waves, and Bohnanza was one game they almost completely ruined through overplay. The rest of my family still plays the game, but I usually respectfully decline their invitations (not least of all because they play the game too nicely, with far too many donations). I don’t know what compelled me to suggest it, but I brought Bohnanza to work for our Friday game. I was hoping to play with 3-5 players (with the original card mix, sans Rio Grande’s included expansion), but we had a full complement of seven players. The game lasted much longer than the 45 minute playing time (given teaching time and the large group at the table), but everyone seemed to enjoy it. I came in last place, but I blame the “teacher” effect: in a trading game, players are much less willing to trade with the most experienced player. I found it hard to get the beans I wanted. Oh well. I still had a good time, and I thought that maybe it’s time for Bohnanza to come back into rotation. Although maybe with 3-5 players. Seven is a little…much. (FarmerLenny)
  • Ascension: Realms Unraveled: I’ve been really excited to try out the latest Ascension set and I got in two separate games this week, once at my game group and once with my wife.  I’m very impressed with my plays so far and there are two things in particular that stood out to me.  First off this set ramps up and plays faster than the previous sets from what I can tell.  The Multi-Unite abilities and Transforming cards are extremely powerful and let you get an engine going very quickly which is very rewarding.  I also really like the increased importance of factions.  I’ve always loved how the Lifebound faction cared about synergizing with as many Lifebound cards as possible and now all the factions encourage this.  Add in dual faction heroes and it’s really exciting to actually care about what factions are in your deck and show up in the center row.  This set reminds me a bit of Star Realms which is a great thing considering the positive response that game is getting. (Andrew)
  • Sail To India: Micro games are conceptually compelling but I haven’t really been impressed with the ones that I’ve played until trying Sail to India.  The difference here is that I would pitch it as “the euro gamer’s micro game” which is right up my alley.  You have your staple minimal components which consist of only cards (really nice big ones) and some cubes but there’s a lot of game crammed in to the small box.  I’ve only played three times so far but I’ve seen a lot of different strategies emerge and I’m excited to try out a new spin on what I did in previous games.  In this most recent game I decide to try out a trading based strategy while another player went heavy into exploring.  The game went a little long and I ended up with 4 Historians tallying all of my points, something I haven’t accomplished before.  We tied at 20 points and I lost to the ‘discover India’ tie breaker. (Andrew)
  • Istanbul: I finally got to play this Spiel nominee after hearing many good things about it from the people in my game group.  From the description I thought it might be a little to light for my taste but I was pleased to discover a really interesting game with lots of meaningful decisions.  I love race-style games and Istanbul definitely invokes this felling by having the players compete for objectives (gems) that get increasing more expensive as they are achieved.  In the game that we played I got off to a pretty good start but kept getting beaten to the key spots that I was planning on making it too expensive or impossible to follow through with my original plan.  Fortunately there are lots of good options and I liked how you could still do something useful even if you didn’t get to do exactly what you wanted.  I pursued a money heavy strategy and got distracted halfway through the game when I tried to do a little bit of everything instead of focusing on turning in my money for gems.  I’m really looking forward to trying this one again. (Andrew)
  • Sultaniya: After teaching this one many, many times at Origins I took my brand new copy to my game group to teach it one more time to some of my friends there.  I told everyone that I would go easy on them but when they started talking about how similar it was to Alhambra (it’s not) just to get my angry I stopped holding back and ended up winning by a narrow margin.  One of the players focused on using the Green Djinn which made for a quicker game while I used a combination of the Yellow and Blue Djinns to acquire fewer higher scoring tiles.  I’ve been really impressed with how much strategy there is in this one despite the relatively straight forward tile placement mechanics.  The beautiful high quality components and artwork really go a long way as well, I’m thinking it will be a great one for my family but still deep enough to pull out consistently at my game group. (Andrew)

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

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