News Bits: 5/5/2014


Another week, another NEWS:

Washington state attorney general files first lawsuit over failed Kickstarter campaign [LinkIs there a reward for first blood in this match?

Inquisitive Meeple interviews Michael Schacht about Coloretto [LinkSchacht’s design principle is to keep it simple, and that’s certainly what Coloretto does. Yet Coloretto is also one of the most compelling fillers I’ve played. The rules can be explained in a minute or two, yet there’s still good tension in every game. Brilliant. In fact, after reading this interview on Friday, I introduced my Friday lunch group to the game. Love it, and this is a good luck at it.

Mechanics & Meeples looks at Dutch auctions [LinkDutch auctions are something I’ve always loved but didn’t have a name for–until now. One of my favorite games, Spyrium, uses Dutch auctions all over the place to drive the in-game economy. I also almost bought Merchants of Amsterdam based on this post.


Couple vs. Cardboard offers a buyer’s guide for Marvel Dice Masters [LinkI think we’ll all be a little embarrassed someday at how much we’ve been drooling over a Quarriors reskin, but while we’re in this special moment, Couple vs. Cardboard offers a sane purchasing guide for getting into the game. That is, it isn’t BUY EVERYTHING THERE IS TWICE.

A guided tour of Germany for board gamers [LinkIf I had the money, I would love to go on this trip. It’s a tour of Germany that involves board gaming in each location, finished up with Essen Spiel 2014. Very cool.

Stonemaier Games shares statistics from their recent Tuscany Kickstarter project [LinkI have been very impressed with Stonemaier’s forthrightness when it comes to helping others and in sharing their own successes. And with the amount Tuscany raised, you can’t call it anything but that.

Wall Street Journal interviews Tim Fowers (Paperback, Wok Star) on digital game designers turning analog [LinkThere’s nothing too special about this piece, but hey! it’s the Wall Street Journal. Moving up? And better still, it seems  mostly beyond the “Did you know there’s this secret world where people still play BOARD GAMES? But not the games you know!” vibe.


Last week on [News Bits, Dominion: Alchemy review, Splendor review, Loonacy review, Shelf Wear #3: Dominion, Interview with Scott Kimball (Heavy Steam)Lots of good stuff last week, with more to come this week. Keep slaying!


Kickstarters of Note

  • Dragon Slayer: This new dice game from Indie Boards & Cards looks interesting. It’s a traditional press-your-luck game except that the other players can goad you with pressures in-game into pressing farther than you would like. $10 (or $7 if you backed Coup: Reformation).
  • Escape: The Curse of the Temple Big Box: Queen Games is back on Kickstarter again with another campaign for the big box of the wildly successful game Escape (which we reviewed here). Escape is good, but the big box is pricey for a ten-minute game. $85.
  • Dogs of War: I’m usually not a proponent of Cool Mini or Not campaigns (namely just because minis don’t usually do it for me), but this game looks awesome. It’s a Euro game of worker placement and area control from Paolo Mori, who designed our 2013 game of the year, Libertalia. (Also Augustus, but let’s focus on the positive.) Looks great. $50.
  • Custom dice: This Kickstarter is pretty unusual. It’s to buy equipment for a business that will specialize in creating affordable custom engraved dice. It looks legit and pretty awesome. Various pledge levels
  • Heavy Steam: This is a minis game set in a steampunk world, but it looks surprisingly Euroy. It’s intriguing, to say the least. $75.
  • Eggs and Empires: A new trick-taking game from the designers of Fleet (our review). This looks like Libertalia distilled. The wonky theme is throwing me, but the game looks decent and the theme might be okay for you. $16.
  • Flick Wars: Flick Wars is the newest Kickstarter from Print & Play Productions. It looks like Ascending Empires (which won our Game of the Year award for 2011) with a much shorter playtime. We’ll have a preview up soon. $35.
  • Pull!: A trick-taking card game about trap shooting? Looks like a decent game, and this is the kind of project Kickstarter was made for. $16.
  • Yardmaster: The hype train has been going full-steam on this 2014 Ion Award winner, and I can’t sort out whether it would be fun or too simple. In any case, if you’re looking for a family card game, you could probably do worse than this, and I love the art. $15.

What We’ve Been Playing

  • Ginkgopolis: This week a coworker and I were the only ones available for a game, and he wanted to give Ginkgopolis a go. Ginkgopolis is a strange game in that there’s really no game I can think of that is very much like it. Thus, it’s a little hard to parse at first, and definitely hard to wrap your mind around. It’s also incredibly brilliant, one of the most innovative games I’ve played. I say all this to preface my comment: I steamrolled my opponent by over 50 points. The difference? I built over buildings that gave me game-end scoring cards, whereas my opponent scored lots of points in-game and zero at the final scoring. Since I scored around 50 points from these cards, this was a large experience gap. Still, he gave me a tentative “I like it,” so we’ll see if a second game sometime improves his opinion of it. My opinion of Ginkgopolis remains undiminished. (FarmerLenny)
  • Innovation: For the Friday lunch game, only three of us were available, and while I advocated for Glory to Rome, I bowed to the will of the people, which was Innovation (it’s okay; they’re both by Carl Chudyk). This game was frustrating, to say the least. One of the players was clearly in the lead in both score and achievements, yet the other player targeted me consistently with demands, effectively dismantling anything that might be worth something in the game, yet doing nothing to stop the opponent. Toward the end of the game, he was looking to me to stop the leader who was clearly going to win, and by then, there was nothing I could do about it. I’m not sure it was wise, but I called the kingmaking player out on his targeting tactics. In any case, I’m not eager to revisit this game with three players. While three-player games used to be my favorite, I think I like four players in teams the best of all. Innovation is still a great game; I just might need a little break. (FarmerLenny)
  • Coloretto: After reading the Michael Schacht interview about Coloretto (linked above), I was eager to get this one to the table again. I’d brought Coloretto down for our lunch games several times before, but no one seemed very interested. This time I pushed the game after our ignoble finish to Innovation, and we were able to learn and play a game with time to spare on the lunch clock. I played too conservatively, taking only cards that fit my strategy, but not gaining enough other cards that might have helped along the way. The two other players were novices, and I don’t think they evaluated some of the rows properly, but they enjoyed the game. (One player asked to borrow it this weekend, which is always a good sign.) Coloretto is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I really should review it one of these days (beyond saying it’s brilliant). (FarmerLenny)
  • Piece o’ Cake: I got this Jeffrey Allers “I divide, you decide” game in a recent math trade, and my wife chose it as the game she wanted to play on Friday night. It was new to both of us, but hey, who doesn’t love pie? (Yes, I know “cake” is in the title, but it’s really about pie.) The game involves set collection, but the way players get pieces for their sets is by dividing a pie into lots of one or several different slices and then letting players choose which lot they want. The game was simple to explain, yet I was surprised how engaged I was in the decision-making process. It’s really tough to arrange a pie so that you 1) entice the other player to take the piece you want them to take while 2) getting the piece you want to take while 3) not giving the other player too much and 4) accommodating for the possibility that the other player might take the piece you really want. We played twice in a row, and I thought this game was simple and clever, one I’m eager to play again. It took my favorite part of San Marco (distributing cards), but packaged it in a way that might actually get the game played. Very cool, and I can’t wait to cut the pie again. (FarmerLenny)
  • Nations: I recently realized that for all of my desire to play my copy of Through the Ages, it simply isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Begrudgingly, I looked for a trade so I could get Nations, which, if not as good, at least has a solo variant (solitaire games have been popular in my non-sleeping house these days). I wasn’t able to trade, but I did sell Through the Ages for enough cash to get a damaged copy of Nations, and I played my first solo game this weekend. Nations is a civilization-building game that’s really a resource-management game. You’re trying to arrange your workers and resources so that they produce what you need them to in order to get you the points you need to win. In the solo game, you play against a “shadow” opponent, who is usually ahead of you in military strength and stability and usually takes the cards you want. Things were looking bleak for me, as toward the end of the game I still had only 8-10 victory points in loose chips. However, I had built my infrastructure such that I had a lot of points in the end game, and I finished at 33 points (between Pericles and Cleopatra on the scoring chart). The solitaire game was fun, but not as compelling as Robinson Crusoe. Still, I think I’ll have a better opportunity at finding opponents in Nations than I did with Through the Ages, and I do like what I’ve seen of the game so far. (FarmerLenny)
  • Suburbia: I played Suburbia once last year and was quite impressed, especially with how well it played with 2 players.  I was fortunate enough to get a copy in a math trade recently and have gotten in several plays at work since then.  I’ve grown to really enjoy drafting as a mechanic recently and Suburbia fits the bill nicely with a city building theme that is fairly novel in my collection.  My initial hesitation with the game was the bookkeeping of which abilities trigger when you first place a tile.  It does become more manageable once you’ve played a couple games but I imagine there will always be a moderate amount of scanning that you’ll have to do.  It’s certainly not a deal breaker for me and I found the theme to be very well executed with locations that appropriately and humorously fit their description.  In the games that I’ve played so far I have earned a reputation for ignoring the goals and just chasing population.  I have yet to win as a result but I always have a lot of fun. (Andrew)
  • Unita: I received an advanced copy of Unita and have been really excited to try it out after reading through the rules and seeing the beautiful artwork and dice.  Even though there are dice in Unita they don’t provide randomness as you don’t actually roll them.  Instead, they are used to represent units that you control with their value indicating the unit’s strength.  Each player is marching their dice in 2×2 formations towards a portal in the center of the board along a fixed winding path.  On each side of your path is the path of an opponent who is also moving their formations along.  When formations from different players move alongside one another the dice in the front line from each side fight.  The higher value dice win and the losing dice decrease in value by 1.  After a battle the dice that were involved in combat switch positions with the ones behind them meaning that if the formations were to battle again that a completely different set of dice would fight.  There are various points along the path that let players rearrange the dice in a formation to help prepare for future encounters.  Getting a formation to the portal at the center removes it from the game and scores points equal to the value showing on the dice.  Each player controls a faction that has several special abilities (of which they can use one) and terrain pieces that they place along their path to strengthen their formations.  Unita is fairly abstract and quite a bit different than games that I normally play but I really enjoy trying out games with unique mechanics and this one has really stuck out to me after one play.  I loved moving my dice along the path and manipulating their formations to pick fights with my neighbors on my way to the portal.  Look for a review coming in the next couple of weeks. (Andrew)

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

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