News Bits: 6/2/2014


Here it is, what you’ve been waiting for. This week’s NEWS:

Joe Huber examines the development of Acquire [LinkI’ll admit that I haven’t read this yet. I’ve looked at it in brief, but I have been saving this that I might savor it (something I wasn’t able to do over vacation last week). Acquire is one of my favorite games of all time, and the more games I play by Sid Sackson, the more convinced I am that he was an absolute genius. So…rather than put this off until I had read it, I thought I’d give you all the chance to read it now. You’re welcome.

Stronghold Games previews 2014 release schedule [LinkEleven releases are slated between now and the end of the year, and each release has a corresponding preorder window (with discount). Among the new titles are the Stronghold edition of Among the Stars, expansions for Space Cadets and Dice Duels, and a new Core Worlds expansion. 

Z-Man Games posts Origins releases and others [LinkMost of these are more or less expected if you’ve been paying attention (Enigma and Chinatown are the Origins games), but I hadn’t heard anything about Pandemic: Contagion, a new game in which players are viruses trying to destroy humanity. Not exactly something I’m interested in, but hey! You might be.

Kevin Nunn (Rolling Freight) continues his look at player order advantage [Part 2, Part 3] This continues part 1, which I linked to in last week’s news. As always, fascinating discussion here.

Games Precipice examines the learning curve [LinkOnce again, a fascinating (albeit somewhat abstract) discussion of learning curve in games. Thankfully, the article makes liberal use of examples, which helps to clarify the points.

Mechanics and Meeples looks at the development of real-time games [LinkI’m a big fan of real-time games in general. This is an interesting list, although it ignores Escape and the Space Cadets series of games, which seem to be a bigger deal than some of the other new releases mentioned. Oh well. This is still an interesting examination (especially his look at Mad City).

Grant Rodiek (Farmageddon) compares Dune and Rex [LinkHe uses this as a case study to see the development of a game from its first edition to an updated edition. (We reviewed Rex here, and we also chose it as our 2012 Game of the Year.)

Grant Rodiek discusses trimming the fat in game design [LinkTwo links in one week looks like favoritism, but this article is too good not to share. Especially on the heels of a discussion of a Fantasy Flight game…

GamerChris lists his top ten worker placement games [LinkI admitted in my Spyrium review that worker placement as a mechanism just isn’t enough to get me excited. Yet looking at this list, I can get behind a lot of these choices, especially Spyrium (which is my favorite) and The Manhattan Project. And Robinson Crusoe, I guess, but I don’t love it because of its worker placement.

iheartprintandplay offers a new poll, survey, and drawing [LinkThere’s a whole bunch of stuff going on at iheartprintandplay this week. Check out the link for details!

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Playing not to lose, Under the Table episode 2, Unita review, Mound Builders reviewLast week was a short week because of the holiday; this one will be full of new stuff. Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • Thebes: I’ve been looking for a copy of Thebes for a while. I’m not sure whether I’ll jump in on this Kickstarter, but I’d be a fool not to: Thebes, Thebes the card game, and Maharani, all for one low price. ~$50.
  • I Say, Holmes!: This is Victory Point Games’ first Kickstarter project, and the game looks really cool–a storytelling deduction game set in the world of Sherlock Holmes. The game comes with some neat upgrades, including an across-the-board increase in card quality. $35.
  • 12 Realms: Ancestors Legacy: This is for the expansion and reprint of 12 Realms, a cooperative game set in a storybook world. (We interviewed Alex Argyropoulos of Mage Company here, and we reviewed the first edition of 12 Realms here.) $45.
  • Heat: Asmadi Games has a new Kickstarter for Heat, and it looks awesome. The game is from designer Dave Chalker (Get Bit!), and it involves simultaneous action selection as players try to make heists and avoid the police. The art is fantastic, and Asmadi makes great games (and delivers Kickstarter campaigns on time). $19.
  • Evolution: This campaign is for North Star Games’ first strategy game for gamers, and it’s a revamp of an older design. (We reviewed the old version, but the new one looks nothing like it.) The art looks great, and the gameplay looks interesting. $50.
  • Luchador: Mexican Wrestling Dice: I’ve seen lots of great comments about this game after last year’s Essen, but it hasn’t really been available stateside. Game Salute is working to bring the game to the US with upgraded components in a fancy second edition. $35 (or $25 if you’re upgrading your first edition).
  • 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).


What We’ve Been Playing

  • Core Worlds: I took some time off work this week, so one of my goals was to wrangle someone into trying Core Worlds with me. Core Worlds is a deck builder–kind of, but not really. I mean, I guess it is in that each player has a personal deck of cards that they use, and they add to that deck during the game, but the feel of the game is completely different. In fact, this is the most different deck-building-plus games I’ve played. Core Worlds is really more about resource management–it’s almost an economics game in the garb of a war game. Anyway, Futurewolfie came over and we tried the game with two players. My strategy was to buy the cards that had points, regardless of their worth. This strategy worked for a while until I realized that I had garrisoned most of my grunts and had very little ground strength in my deck to conquer new worlds. I had to change directions fast, and thankfully I was able to secure the Core Worlds that most reflected the composition of my deck. I was able to secure a good lead over Wolfie, but it’s uncertain how much of this lead was due to an early misunderstanding he had of invasion rules. This first two-player game took us nearly two hours to play, and I really don’t see how it could have gone much faster. We were both reading the cards, and because resources are scarce and every energy counts, it requires you to constantly count, recount, reassess, and optimize your options. For me, this was fine–I enjoy economic games, and this felt like an economic game with an interesting theme and a CCG bent. I liked the game quite a bit (although it took me a day or two after playing to realize this), but I’m not sure of its utility in my collection. Core Worlds seems like it will benefit quite a bit from frequent play–as players learn the cards, they might not spend so much time having to read and reassess their plans. But I don’t know if I (or anyone I would play the game with) can devote the kind of attention the game requires. It is certainly not a lunchtime game, which I had hoped that it would become, so this one will likely end in the trade pile, despite how much I enjoyed it. (FarmerLenny)
  • Cube Quest: After our two-hour Core Worlds game, time was running short, so I suggested to Futurewolfie that we try Cube Quest, a silly dexterity game from GameWright that involves choosing an army and flicking cubes at your opponent to try to knock their king off the board. (Imagine a mix between Crokinole and Stratego and you have some rudimentary idea what the game is like.) The first game was a landslide in my favor: Wolfie had bunched his cubes together, and a few well-aimed shots sent his armies scattering like the break of a pool game. Our second game was much closer, and it came down to each of us having our king and one unit left by the time the game ended in Wolfie’s victory. We had to play a third game at this point, and Wolfie won handily. (I was playing a little foolhardy in this round, to my shame.) Cube Quest was a blast. It’s silly, somewhat stupid fun in the vein of other great dexterity games, but it has a slightly different flavor than them, and it’s welcome. I’m already thinking expansions, and I wish it accommodated more players, but this is pretty great as it stands. (FarmerLenny)
  • Space Cadets: Dice Duels: This Saturday was also the monthly game night at Futurewolfie’s house, and I was able to attend. He has been trying for months to get Dice Duels going during game night, and we had an even number of players, so this seemed to be it. In Dice Duels, players are divided evenly into teams and handed various stations of the ship to command. The goal is to destroy the opponents’ ship, and you do this by coordinating the efforts of helm, engineering, shields, tractor beam, sensors, and weapons. I was responsible for helm, shields, and the tractor beam in our game, and my team was two-thirds new players. (I blame this fact for our demise instead of my poor helmsman skills.) The game was frantic, as we were continually passing dice around and trying to fat-finger our way around the controls for our paltry ship. I mark the downturn for my team as the point when we were tractor beamed into a mine that I laid. We weren’t really able to recover after that, and the death blow came swiftly afterward. I enjoyed Dice Duels, but it’s not really a game I’m eager to play again. I like real-time games, but Dice Duels had a little too much going on for my tastes. This may seem at odds with my loving Space Alert, but I think the difference is that in Space Alert, the malevolent presence out to destroy the ship is outside the players rather than another set of players. The frantic nature of Dice Duels mixed with competition is not something I’m super excited about. In fact, give me Escape over Space Alert and Dice Duels and I’ll be happy. (FarmerLenny)
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf: We were still expecting another person who had RSVPd for game night, so we decided to play something quick–which, as always happens with ONUW, turned into four or five somethings quick. There were several interesting games, but I’ll only describe two of them. In one game, Futurewolfie was away tending to his crying child, so the five of us who remained played a game. Through a misunderstanding of the Seer, we knew the three roles in the center, and two of us were Masons and knew we were safe. Basically, we knew that one remaining player was the Tanner, and the other was a Werewolf. You’d think that with the level of knowledge we had, we should have been able to accurately deduce the Werewolf. And yet we failed. My standing order when I play social deduction games with Bryan (one of the players in question) is that he is a spy/werewolf/what-have-you until he proves otherwise. If social deduction games are a multiple-choice test, I always vote B. Unless it matters for me to do so. In this case, probably because of the comaraderie afforded by the Mason role, I was persuaded by my fellow Mason to off the Tanner, giving him a solo victory (and lots of gloating privileges). Well, in the next game, I was determined to win, no matter the cost. Wolfie was back at this time, and I was the Robber. I decided to switch my role card with Bryan’s–and sure enough, he was a Werewolf! I kept this quiet, trying to hide behind the Troublemaker (a failed gambit), and I was believed for much of the round to be the Minion–a harmless trickster best ignored. In the last few minutes, I revealed the truth, that I was the Robber, but I claimed to switch roles with a different player, and I suggested that everyone lynch Bryan because, let’s be honest, he’s always a Werewolf. I’m not certain how it worked (there was some behind-the-scenes play from Wolfie, who was the actual Minion), but my plan worked, and he was as baffled as anyone to see that he was no longer a Werewolf. ONUW gets better and better. Is it replacing The Resistance in my affections…? (FarmerLenny)
  • Libertalia: Our seventh never arrived, so we moved into a “meatier” game of Libertalia (which won our Game of the Year last year). After a pitiful first round and a decent second one, I was ten points behind first place and eight behind second. I knew that the final round had to be awesome for me, so I did everything I could to sabotage the leader. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I ended up scoring a whopping 35 or so points in this final round (despite losing most of my coins to Beggars at the start of the round), and I scored the lead over second place by a mere two points (the player in second place was a somewhat distant fourth or fifth before his last, and amazing, final push). Libertalia is a game that I continue to love every play of. It’s hard to know exactly how to read other players, but this game is always a blast, start to finish. (FarmerLenny)

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

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