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News Bits: 9/3/2013

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I hope you had a good holiday. Here is the NEWS:

MeepleTown’s Gen Con recap looks at 7 Wonders: Babel [Link] This was not out on the main floor at Gen Con, as far as I’m aware, so I was glad to see someone’s take on the expansion. (First, a quick note: the author is absolutely right that Asmodee was on the ball with both great games and great people to show them off. They almost sold me several games…and made me wish I had indeed bought them. Kudos to Asmodee!) I had said before that I probably wouldn’t buy any more 7 Wonders expansions, but this one might change my mind…

Jamey Stegmaier (Stonemaier Games) interviews Daniel Solis and Chris Kirkman about Belle of the Ball [Link] This is an excellent interview, showcasing both the design process of Daniel and the graphic design know-how of Chris. I’m not really involved in either area, so I found their perspective fascinating. I trust you will as well.

R&R Games prepares four new Essen releases [No link] R&R Games contacted me to announce four new games that will be released at Essen: Coal Baron, New Haven, Plunder, and Unnatural Selection. Coal Baron and New Haven look like typical Euros, though with a few twists in the way player actions are carried out. Plunder is a piratey deduction card game for 2-6 players that has players hiding, discovering, and stealing–you guessed it–plunder. And Unnatural Selection looks like a party game in the vein of Apples to Apples, with players playing monster cards and beefing them up with various abilities to please the all-powerful judge, who chooses which monster wins the fight. More info on each of these games is available on Board Game Geek, of course.

Bruno Faidutti (Citadels) discusses Poker and its influence on his designs [Link] This is very interesting to me. I especially like his sidetrail into the question of what a game is. For me, Poker has never been about money–and that’s probably why I’ve never really enjoyed the game. (I come from a strict no-gambling background.) I do, however, enjoy the bluffing element present in Poker, so I appreciate it when designers can make a compelling game focused around this element. Probably my two favorites in this genre are The Resistance and Coup. What are your favorites?

Days of Wonder: the Porsche of the board gaming world [Link] There have been lots of articles in recent months on Days of Wonder, and I find each of them fascinating. This one is especially well written and explores the Days of Wonder approach–and reveals that monthly sales of Ticket to Ride have now overtaken monthly sales of Settlers of Catan.

NSKN Games on thinking inside the box [Link] In preparing the second edition of Exodus, NSKN Games has been reconsidering every component of their game–including box size. Personally, I love their approach (both in terms of boxes and component control). I’ve mentioned elsewhere that non-standard boxes are hard to organize. In fact, this was one of the few negatives I mentioned about Viticulture–I put up with a non-standard box size because it’s a good game, but I’d much prefer conformity. (As it is, I have a shelf for “misfit” games, on which Viticulture occupies a prominent place.) I know standard sizes are something we have to consider in books as well. Sometimes our designers want nonstandard book sizes to make a book stand out–and the bookstores we sell to almost invariably force us to change the trim size or they won’t carry the book. I’m not sure game sellers have the same clout, but really: standard box sizes are a win for everyone.

John Moller steps down from Unpub [Link] John is handing over the reins to Darrell Louder (Compounded), who has been involved in the program since its inception. Unpub, for those not in the know, has been a force in gaming the past few years, especially as more projects have been published via Kickstarter. As far as I’ve been able to tell, it’s a great source of energy, playtesting, and feedback for independent designers.

Grant Rodiek (Farmageddon) examines what makes a Euro [Link] I think this is a good list. I added in a comment that I think another distinctive in Euros is that there are multiple good things for players to do, but they cannot do all of them. (I think this is an offshoot of both “multiple paths to victory” and “optimism,” though it has a different emphasis.)

Skip Maloney calls for a rulebook manifesto [Link] I can certainly relate to what he’s saying here, as I’m often the one tasked with learning the rules from the rulebook. There are definitely winners and losers in the world of rulebook writing. In my experience, Tasty Minstrel has been the best for both clarity and organization. Independently published games have been among the worst. Rio Grande Games has been a mixed bag: their older titles have excellent (albeit dry) rulebooks, but some of their newer ones have been harder to parse. In any case, as my group’s game explainer, I’m all for clearer and better rulebooks.

Last week on iheartprintandplay [D&D/Pathfinder Map – Ruins of a Forgotten OutpostThese forgotten ruins dare you to explore them! (This free PDF map comes in full color, light color, and line art versions.)

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, 1st & Goal review, Morels review, Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures review, Guide to network-building games] This will be a short week because of the holiday, but we’ll have a review, announce the winners of our recent giveaway, and another guide, as well as an anniversary reflection from Spielemitkinder (hard to believe he joined us but one year ago!). Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • King’s Forge: I’ve not played this one, but it looks awesome…at least if you like rolling fistfuls of dice at a time. (I do.) $39.
  • Fleet: Arctic Bounty: Lots of people seem to love Fleet. I’ve not played it. The expansion is up now on Kickstarter, and you can get the base game and promos through the same campaign. $25 for just the expansion.
  • Gunship: Afterburners: Here’s an expansion to the super successful Gunship game (earlier funded on Kickstarter). $35 for the expansion.
  • Infamy: This is a cool-looking cyberpunk auction game with a great start player token. $45.
  • Conquest of Orion: I have a soft spot for card games, and this one looks good. $19.
  • Belle of the Ball: It’s always an event when Dice Hate Me Games launches a new Kickstarter, and this is no exception. The art looks great, as usual. $25.
  • Havok and Hijinks: Cute dragons and a great tagline–“Don’t slay a dragon; be one”–make this worth checking out, even if we take issue with the tagline. $15.
  • Smash Monster Rampage: No, this is not the Antoine Bauza game Rampage (coming soon from Asmodee), but this is definitely within the genre. This is a cooperative game of trying to bring down the monster. $35.
  • Fantasy Frontier: Steam airships are the new Cthulhu? Okay, maybe not. This one looks cool anyway. The artwork is phenomenal, and Gamelyn has successfully delivered other Kickstarter rewards. $45.

What We’ve Been Playing

  • Rialto: Since I brought this back from Gen Con, my lunch group has been playing this game almost exclusively (though part of this, admittedly, has been who has been available). We played a game on Friday over lunch, and I scored my first Feld win! Unfortunately, I won because of a rule we had been playing wrong, a rule I exploited to its full potential. You see, the card draft is according to the order on the doge track. We had been playing it with first choice is by doge track; the rest is clockwise from there (as the card playing happens in phase 2–at least the doge). I won by where I was sitting, next to the one who had gained the doge’s favor the most. Well, next time, we’ll play right. (FarmerLenny)
  • San Marco: I had been looking forward to this one for a while, and I finally got to bring it out this weekend when my sister visited. San Marco is an area-control game with a neat card distribution mechanism: one player distributes cards for all players (in a three-player game); the other players choose first from among the distributed piles, leaving the choosing player last pick. This was a new kind of game for me (I’ve not played anything else like it), and while it took us most of the first game to catch on to how the game works, we had fun. My wife ran away with the game (as she is wont to do when unchecked). The second game was much closer, and I was able to squeak by with the win. I’m glad I picked this one up. I’m looking forward to more plays. (FarmerLenny)
  • Coloretto: The famous Grant Rodiek talks about this one often on Twitter–so often that I finally broke down and bought it in a recent BGG auction. Coloretto is a super simple premise: each turn, a player either draws and plays a card to one of three rows, or claims a row. Each row can hold three cards, and each player will choose a row at some point during the round. The catch is the scoring: players score positive points for cards in three colors; negative points for everything else. The game was super easy to catch on and play, but the decisions were tense. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to play this one. This is an excellent filler, and one I’m excited to bring out often in the future. (FarmerLenny)
  • Spyrium: I was hoping to get a copy of this at Gen Con but didn’t end up being able to go so I missed out. At work the next week I walked by a co-worker’s desk and spotted a copy of Spyrium. “Where’d you get that?” I asked. “They gave us a free game at GenCon for doing IT support. Is it any good? Can you read the rules and teach us how to play?”. I was pretty excited at this point. I’ve gotten to play three times so far and tried to do something different each time with good results. It’s definitely any optimization Euro but after a couple of games I realized that it’s not as complicated as it first appears. For a “worker placement” style game it does a great job of making acquiring new workers a tough decision and a player with more workers isn’t at a huge advantage. If you can’t tell, I have been very impressed so far. (Andrew)
  • Guildhall: Job Faire: I taught my mom the base set of Guildhall earlier this year and she mildly enjoyed it but felt like she was always coming up just shy of winning. She was visiting last weekend and I decided to try out Job Faire to see if she would enjoy the new occupations more. After the first game she surprisingly requested a rematch despite losing and pulled off a big win in our second game. The new card mix feels really fresh despite having no new rules (impressive!) and there are fun new combos to discover. We didn’t get to mix the sets but I’m looking forward to trying it out that way. (Andrew)

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

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