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News Bits: 7/29/2013

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The big news this week was a failed Kickstarter campaign and the discussion surrounding it. But there’s more than that. Here is the NEWS:

Fred Hicks discusses the Doom That Came to Atlantic City Kickstarter campaign [Link] Kickstarter for board games is coming out of its infancy into the shaky years of adolescence. This kind of scenario (along with many, many, many others) has with good reason made many people wary of using the platform. I know there’s a lot of idealism surrounding Kickstarter, about it being used to fund people’s dreams, but really, I think Hicks’s advice is on the money. And because there is no great way to test first-time campaigners (to see if they’re overreaching), and since I’ve had several less than stellar experiences myself, I’m much more likely to use my money to fund Kickstarter veterans. Against the spirit of the service? Perhaps, but less risk. (Also, the game’s designer responded here. Designer/publisher relationships are complicated, to say the least.)

Mechanics & Meeples looks at the randomness in Settlers of Catan [Link] There are some neat ideas here for how to “fix” the randomness of the die rolls in Settlers of Catan. (The “food stamps” one is probably the most feasible for regular inclusion, though I’ve not seen the event deck.) Still, this was an interesting exercise.

Monopoly drops jail to accommodate busy kids [Link] Okay, not all versions of Monopoly, but Monopoly Empire did. And really, what’s truer to life than vicious tycoons making cutthroat deals with one another, amassing as much money as they can, and never hearing a whisper of the pokey? I do think the author of this article is unfamiliar with newer hobby board game designs, as he defines “the whole notion of board games” as “bonding and silly fights about whether the ‘bank’ is stealing money or if ‘knifes’ counts as a word.”

Tasty Minstrel Games branches out with Paradise Game Labs [Link] Michael Mindes, in response to the failure of the Doom That Came to Atlantic City Kickstarter, has decided to start a company with $1,000 1) to show it can be done and 2) to make games not suitable for Tasty Minstrel. Interesting concept. While starting the company seems to have been in the works anyway, pairing it with the Doom… campaign seems a bit tone deaf to me. Still, we’ll see how this goes.

Hyperbole Games offers free Kickstarter advice
[Link] Yes, lots of people were talking about Kickstarter this week, given the “doom” talk. Here Grant Rodiek offers his perspective as someone who has mostly observed (but also participated in, with a publisher) the Kickstarter process. This is good advice–and I second the endorsement of Stonemaier Games’ Kickstarter lessons.

Derek Thompson (MeepleTown) interviews designer Andreas Steiger (Targi) [Link] This is a great interview, particularly if you are interested in two-player games and their design.

Game Bugle publishes results of gamer survey about Kickstarter [Link] Some interesting information here. For example, 43 percent of respondents said they planned to use Kickstarter less (and this, again, before this week’s “doom”) due in part to component discrepancies, shipping delays, or project abandonment. Alien Frontiers was named as the best Kickstarted game, and that by a large margin. Anyway, the full report is informative, if you care about this sort of thing. Check it out.

Boards & Barley discusses forming a concept and symmetry in game design [Concept, Symmetry] Some good game design articles here from Ed Marriott.

Daniel Solis on ideas and work in board game design [Link] This post reminds me a lot of that “You Are Not Special” commencement speech, only the game design edition. Really, this is applicable to any publishing endeavor (I work in books and see a need for this kind of corrective quite a bit). Basically, ideas are cheap: what’s important is the work it takes to make an idea into a good reality. Good games aren’t born fully grown. As this post attests, there’s a lot of crying before that.

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Island Fortress review, Guide to gaming outdoors, Space Alert review, Ace of Spies review] Coming up this week we’ll have the news, a guide, and three (p)reviews (Daft Dice, Viticulture, and Voluspa). Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note
Lots of stuff launched this week. Here’s what looks interesting to me:

  • Frontier Skies: Are airships and zeppelins the new Cthulhu and zombies? Maybe it just seems that way. Anyway, this one is another in that vein. $39 looks like a decent price.
  • FrogFlip: This is a micro dexterity game from Jason Kotarski (The Great Heartland Hauling Co.) and his daughter. Looks interesting, albeit simple. ~$14 for the game (funding is in GBP).
  • Scopa: Gamer’s Edition: The Spiel podcast is printing its own Scopa deck with the customary suits replaced with gamer icons. $12 for the custom deck.
  • Casual Game Insider: The first year of the magazine was Kickstarted last year; now it’s seeking funding for its second year. It seems like a good resource particularly for publishers and retailers. Various pledge levels
  • PigPen: This is a family game by Kevin Kulp of penning pigs (and messing with your neighbors). We interviewed the designer here. $20 nets the game.
  • Codename: Oracle: I love the premise of this one, of CIA and KGB agents waging a psychic battle to win the Cold War. (Reminds me a little of The Men Who Stare at Goats.) This two-player card game looks interesting. $23 for the game.
  • Daft Dice: Custom dice and other gaming supplies (including dice business cards–very cool). These look awesome. Various pledge levels.
  • Byzantio: A neat-looking game that plays in less than an hour. I love the look (and setting) of it at least. $38 for the game.
  • The Agents: This one has been getting a lot of buzz (everyone, it seems, is talking about it), and after looking at it, I can see why. The game uses a pretty cool mechanic where players play double-benefit cards, keeping one benefit for themselves but granting the other one to all other players. I’m intrigued, and the game has already way, way surpassed its funding. $18 for the base game.

What We’ve Been Playing

  • Medici: I got Medici in trade a while ago (the ugly, first edition), but Friday was the first chance I’ve had to play it. We had a six player game, and despite all players being new and a few players being late, we were able to finish the rules and game in just a few minutes over an hour. Medici is an auction game in which players are trying to balance winning big temporary gains (most valuable ship) with incremental winnings (most commodities shipped by type). I didn’t do so well in this game, but I had a great time anyway. I hope to play more. (FarmerLenny)
  • Toc Toc Woodman: This Friday was Wolfie’s big game night, and after opening with Hanabi, we played two seven-player games of Toc Toc Woodman. This game is so stupid, in the very best of ways. It was hilarious to see seven guys leaning over a table, using a tiny axe to very gently nudge bark off of the tree. I won the first game handily (the product of experience). The second game I tied with two other players, and the tiebreaker is seeing who can balance the axe on the palm of their hand the longest. I lost this tiebreaker but had a great time anyway. (FarmerLenny)
  • 7 Wonders: I forget that Wolfie has this game too, and he brought it out for our seven-person group. There were only two complete newbies, but there were a few others who were inexperienced, and then three of us who have all played a good amount. It was probably a good thing that the experienced players were sitting in a row to balance things out, but the three of us had the highest scores. In fact, there was a tie for first place (a spot I thought I had secured uncontested) between another experienced player and me. Thankfully, I was Ephesus (money, money, money!), so the tie was broken in my favor. It doesn’t matter how many times I play this game (over fifty now), or even whether expansions are thrown in: I love this game. (FarmerLenny)
  • Hanabi: My second outing into Hanabi, this time with five players instead of the original two, was interesting. Cooperation is key, and you definitely have to rely on other players giving good clues. We had a few newbies and some poor clues were given and some unlucky discards were made, and we ended with a poor mans 16. It’s an interesting game when you play with a new group, although I could see it growing stale if you played with the same people all the time. It’s a great filler, though, that doesn’t have to grow stale ever if you don’t overplay it. (Futurewolfie)
  • Cosmic Encounter: It’s not often I can coax FarmerLenny into playing Cosmic Encounter, but we had the people and the time at game night, and it was only fair that we didn’t play all Euros, so he grudgingly obliged. With six players, we used the Team Cosmic variant, in which you pair up with another player and you both have to meet a win condition to win the game. My partner and I pulled rather opposite powers; his received bonus cards whenever winning on offense, and I was the Masochist, who wins by losing. A lot. We started off slow with my tendency to lose bouncing significantly off of my partner’s need to win, but at some point we turned it around. With a sweet compensation draw that landed me two Moebius Tubes cards (the cards that free ships from the warp, the ultimate bane of the Masochist, who needs all his ships to stay destroyed), I was able to eventually lose all of my colonies, and my partner was able to catch up in colonies from behind, and we pulled out an epic win with a quashed deal that destroyed my last two ships for the WIN! (Futurewolfie)
  • Viticulture: My first foray into this wine-making Euro from Stonemaier games, and it’s always great to learn a heavy euro after 10 p.m. My brain was glazing over during the explanation, but as we played, everything soon fell together, and I was able to formulate a strategy. The game ended two hours later as FarmerLenny broke the 20-point mark to trigger the end game, and the rest of us realized… there was no way for any of us to score any points. While the mechanisms were enjoyable, the action cards in the game felt a little unbalanced, and it seems there really is only one path to score points, unlike most worker placement games that give you a few branching options. I’m willing to give this game more tries if the opportunity arises and explore the game a bit more to see if I’m wrong, but it is what it is. (Futurewolfie)
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I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. I would love to read a full review of Viticulture. I kickstarted Stonemaier’s second game Euphoria, and I’m interested to see how their first kickstarted game looks in detail. I’ve played the PnP of Euphoria, and I’m optimistic the final game will be fun and polished, but right now it feels like there are too many fiddly mechanics and avenues for points, and only one or two are worth pursuing.

    • I’m posting my full review on Wednesday. My opinions, by the way, do not necessarily match those of Futurewolfie (who wrote the play blurb for this week’s news), but I thought it important to include his perspective, which is not unfounded.

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