Issue #128

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Jan 31, 2014 – Issue #128

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Mage Wars

In Mage Wars (from Arcane Wonders) each player takes on the role of a powerful mage and squares off in the arena head-to-head against their opponent. While Mage Wars borrows a common theme among games it adds a unique element in that each mage assembles a custom spellbook before the match, and is able to draw upon any spell in their book as the game progresses. Mages summon powerful creatures, conjurations, and enchantments as they attempt to drive their opponent into oblivion. Mage Wars features deep strategy and tactical planning and is a true gamer’s game.

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DESIGNER’S MIND

By |January 31st, 2014|Issue|Comments Off on Issue #128

Interview with Nicholas Yu designer of Eternal Dynasty

Today’s interview is with Nicholas Yu designer of Eternal Dynasty which is on Kickstarter now.

Ad_300x300Give us an overview of your game and how it’s played. Eternal Dynasty is, at its core, a territory control game. The base game-play is deceptively simple. On your turn, you either play one Influence token or play a card in your hand. The goal is to control more Provinces than any other player by having more Influence. Each round of play, known as a Generation, you’ll select a Ruler with unique abilities to represent your family for that Generation. At a more advanced level of play, players will also be able to call and pass Votes which can affect the state of the game.

What innovative mechanic or creative idea distinguishes your game from others? Eternal Dynasty is a different kind of territory control game. You don’t wage outright war on the other players as in other area control games. It’s not a game of armies directly removing each other from play. Influence tokens stay from Generation to Generation, so it’s a lot about out-maneuvering other players. Also, the game shifts immensely each Generation when you select a new Ruler with different abilities, so you have to be very adaptable.

Voting is also a unique and political process, something you rarely see in the more war-like territory control games. Votes in Eternal Dynasty are decided by secret ballot, but, and here’s the great part, you can discard any unused votes to reinforce your position, so you can mortgage your future to help ensure that a particular motion passes or fails. Votes are also incentivized, so it’s not always clear-cut on how each player will vote.

Tell us about the spark or inspiration for this game. My greatest inspiration for Eternal Dynasty was the old Koei Romance of the 3 Kingdoms video games. I loved the idea of trying to forge an empire over the long course of several generations of diverse rulers, and I had to make a board game with that as its core.

Let’s talk about the design process. Tell us a bit about the iterations the game has gone through and the refinements you’ve made along the way. Eternal Dynasty has been in development for a little over a year. I was fiddling with it for about 6 months before I decided it was ready to show to others. The first public version had potential but was deeply flawed. Votes were part of the primary deck, so you’d draw them along with your normal cards for the round, but my friend Josh rightly convinced me to split the decks into separate ones.

At first, we were making changes every couple of days after we played a few games, but, as time passed, the revisions were less frequent and less drastic. Some things, though, haven’t changed at all, such as the Ruler system.

Ad_175x150What has been your biggest challenge in designing this game? Getting the balance between all of the Rulers just right has definitely been the biggest hurdle. As anyone who’s played Cosmic Encounter can attest, variable player powers are fun, but you also want to make sure that they’re balanced. It’s a tricky tight rope to walk. Sometimes when you balance things too well, you end up sucking out some of the flavor and fun out of the design. You can let some things be a little more powerful, but you want to make sure that it’s situational and not just better all the time.

Let’s shift gears and talk about you. How did you get into game design? Like most gamers, I’ve always had an interest in game design. But when I turned 35 last year, I decided to make a real and professional attempt of it in the greatest mid-life crisis ever. I coerced several of my friends into play-testing the Hero Brigade prototype. I ended up being so convinced of the design, that I started commissioning art for the game. Once I felt I had enough material, I cobbled together a Kickstarter campaign page, and the rest is history.

What is your greatest moment as a game designer? This is a toss-up between successfully getting my first game design funded through Kickstarter and also landing the attention of a publisher. I went into my first crowdfunding campaign on a wing and a prayer, but things definitely worked out. In a couple of weeks, Hero Brigade should be shipping out to backers, and my next greatest moment as a game designer is going to be walking into a local game store to buy a copy of my game.

Tell us a little bit about your life outside of game design and gaming: family? Work? Other interests? I have a wonderful and supportive wife without whom I couldn’t do any of this. We also recently had our first kids, twin boys! I’ll be tackling full-time Daddy duty and working on game design in whatever little spare time I’ll have! I love movies and games of all kinds. I’m equal parts video gamer and tabletop gamer.

Do you have any works-in-progress or game ideas you would like to share? After the Eternal Dynasty Kickstarter hopefully wraps up successfully and is sent off to the printer, we’re going to move into heavy play-testing of Hero Brigade 2. I hope to have that ready to present to the public by the middle of the year.

I also have two different ideas for co-op games in the works. One is fully cooperative and the other is semi co-op with elements of a traitor mechanic. I haven’t decided which one I want to fully pursue first, but whatever project I select will likely by my first game of 2015.

Ad_468x60What games have you been playing lately? What have you liked, what have you disliked, and why? Outside of Eternal Dynasty, our local play group has seen a lot of Suburbia. It’s just such a well-design game. I recently just got my copies of Euphoria and Tasnia through their respective Kickstarter campaigns, so I hope to enjoy them soon.

I’ve played a bit of Hearthstone and Hex, and I have to side with Hearthstone. While neither is exactly revolutionary, Hearthstone is more innovative and definitely more refined at this stage in their development. Hex relies too heavily on established CCG conventions, especially Magic’s tried-and-true land resource mechanic. Cryptozoic is a terrific company, and they had a chance to do something really new and different, but I think Hex is currently an uninspired design. The MMO elements are certainly going to add spice to the experience when they’re implemented but that won’t fix what I consider a broken core engine.

Share your favorite game you haven’t designed and why? Dominion. Man, I wish I had come up with the idea of deck-building. Of all tabletop games, I have a particular fondness for card games. When I first played it, Dominion blew my mind. There was a cartoon explosion with thick black lines and a floating “Bang!” inside a puff of smoke that emerged out of the back of my head, it was that good.

A word of advice to your fellow game designers? Have realistic goals. I talk to a lot of first-time designers who are trying to make the next big CCG. If you are a one-man team, you are not going to make a splash in the CCG market. At all. And definitely not with a Yu-Gi-Oh knock-off. Anytime I see a new CCG design where the hit points are in the hundreds or thousands, I die a little inside.

It’s okay to base some of your ideas on what’s come before. Game design is mostly iterative, but you still have to add something new and unique.

And you need to play-test, play-test, play-test. I’ve had a ton of ideas that I thought were great but ended up being total stinkers when I started running through solo play-tests because the ideas just end up being too clunky or not well-executed.

Also, no established game designer or company is going to steal your idea. Your game is only going to get better with feedback. Established designers have enough of their own ideas that they’re actively developing, they don’t need yours.

Anyone you’d like to give a shout out to? (playtesters, design mentors, your friendly local game store, etc.) My wife, first and foremost! Also, my friend Josh who helped work on Eternal Dynasty, particularly with the aforementioned Voting system, and all of our loyal play-testers. Jason Glover, for being incredibly patient and helpful when I was first starting out. Jamey Stegmaier and James Mathe for being tremendous community resources. Travis at Millennium Games and Jeff at Pair-a-Dice Games (both in Rochester, NY). Everyone who pledged or helped spread the word for Hero Brigade and Eternal Dynasty.

Tell us how (and where) we can find you (social networks, BGG username, website, cons you plan to attend). 

Cyberpunk

birthCyberpunk Soundtracks for tabletop gaming hits Kickstarter.

Cyberpunk Soundtracks, a collection of retrofuturistic soundscapes to help enhance the sci-fi tabletop gaming experience has recently launched on Kickstarter. The extended collection includes up to 100 tracks of music, background ambience and sound effects for a total of 7 hours. The music is designed to complement tabletop gaming in futuristic settings such as Shadowrun, Android Netrunner, Cyberpunk 2020, etc. Sample audio snippets of all 100 tracks are available on the official Kickstarter page: http://kck.st/1bvlMyR

The tracks will be delivered in a wide choice of formats including lossless FLAC files, or as standard MP3s to be cued up in a soundboard app by the gamemaster or players during gaming sessions. The tracks are also being released under a royalty-free non-exclusive license to allow Kickstarter backers to use them in commercial or creative projects like a podcast, video game, app, audio drama, movie, etc.

Cyberpunk Soundtracks is produced by Strangelette, an avid gamer and electronic music producer from Orlando Florida. She has been creating electronic music for almost a decade and has been preparing the tracks for this Kickstarter for the last year.

ghost

If you would like more info about the Cyberpunk Soundtracks project, please email Strangelette:cyberpunksoundtracks@mail.com

By |January 31st, 2014|Press Releases|Comments Off on Cyberpunk

Dice Tower News – Episode #213

Dice Tower News is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday podcast and is part of the Dice Tower Network. Today In Board Games provides a short segment for each episode of the latest news across the board game community. Links to the articles discussed in today’s episode are below. News items are taken from recent issues of Today in Board Games. For more news subscribe to the Today in Board Games newsletter. For great podcasts on all aspects of the board gaming visit the Dice Tower Network.

Here is what’s going on in the board game community:

By |January 31st, 2014|Dice Tower News|Comments Off on Dice Tower News – Episode #213

Free RPG Day

By |January 30th, 2014|Press Releases|Comments Off on Free RPG Day

Issue #127

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Jan 29, 2014 – Issue #127

TOP NEWS

HOT DEALS

KICKSTARTER CORNER

Reviews & Previews

Eternal Dynasty

Eternal Dynasty is the new offering from Zucchini People Games (makers of Hero Brigade). In Eternal Dynasty players play through multiple generations in ancient China. Each generation players select a Ruler that will guide their clan. Eternal Dynasty features network building, area control, and negotiation as players attempt to wrest control of the territories. The game is currently funding on Kickstarter – $50 will get you a copy of the game.

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DESIGNER’S MIND

By |January 29th, 2014|Issue|Comments Off on Issue #127

Dice Tower News – Episode #212

Dice Tower News is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday podcast and is part of the Dice Tower Network. Today In Board Games provides a short segment for each episode of the latest news across the board game community. Links to the articles discussed in today’s episode are below. News items are taken from recent issues of Today in Board Games. For more news subscribe to the Today in Board Games newsletter. For great podcasts on all aspects of the board gaming visit the Dice Tower Network.

Here is what’s going on in the board game community (giveaways galore!):

By |January 29th, 2014|Dice Tower News|Comments Off on Dice Tower News – Episode #212

Good times for…some? Shadows over Camelot & Expansion Review

And now! At Last! Another game completely different from some of the other games which aren’t quite the same as this one is.

The tale of King Arthur, the knights of Who Say Ni the roundtable, Merlin and the black knight has been told throughout the ages and serialized not only by television, movies, and rule 34 but now is available on our tabletop for provoking discourse and aggression amongst friends and families. Shadows of Camelot is the most modern and latest interpretation of this.

Only vaguely familiar from name alone, my local gaming group had decided that this was to be (one of) the featured games of the night we met. Being introduced to it through the recent watching of Wil Wheaton running slightly roughshod over the Penny Arcade boys on TableTop, I found myself intrigued by the concept and eager to match wits with the game and my human counterparts in a game of medieval chicken.

For those not familiar Shadows over Camelot is a (semi)cooperative hand management and deduction based board game where players are knights of the Round Table trying to travel to and complete their noble quests before Camelot can fall, all the while wondering about a traitor among them…

Full disclosure: for my first game, I WAS THE TRAITOR. Upon gaining this knowledge, I immediately became inwardly giddy. Not in a Bieliber sort of way but more of a teenager with a carton full of rotten eggs on Halloween, except in this case swapping those eggs for holy hand grenades. I believe that being the traitor in and of itself change the tone for the player and the experience itself. More on that later.

To set the stage, the game was played with the base set of Shadows along with the expansion, Merlin’s Company which (as the name suggests) allows the additional gamers up to a maximum of eight, which coincidently, was the exact number of people we had participating that night. In the normal setup, players are tasked with completing various Camelot’ian quests including the search for Excalibur, The Holy Grail, and defeating the black knight and thus earning white swords for the round table. The round table itself is comprised of 12 slots for either white or black swords to be filled before the game ends. Simply put, complete good quests = white swords, fail quests = black swords.

One sword to rule them all…

Player turns are comprised of:
1) Progression of evil (aka your choice) of either drawing&playing an evil card, placing a siege engine or losing 1 health, all of which lead towards destruction.
2) Heroic Actions (good actions to progress towards completing quests) including healing, progressing a quest, playing a card, or moving.

The game itself can end in several ways:
1) 12 seige engines outside Camelot
2) 7 black swords or the roundtable completely full of swords
3) All the players die.

A really well done aspect of this game are the knight cards that players get which very thoroughly explain turn action options as well as the special ability that each knight has. Especially useful for those players easily distractible during rule explanation or the person every plays with that has to ask every turn what their options are again.

The art and the miniatures are of quality material but definitely less realism and more almost cartoonish than you might otherwise expect initially. A definite downside is there is a bit of set up that is required prior to playing including several decks, play cards, and tokens but doesn’t seem necessarily excessive.

As I briefly mentioned, it includes the traitor element, where another player make actually be acting on the side evil secretly while posing as a good knight. As BSG and Resistance with similarly antagonistic cooperative play utilize, Camelot again highlights the point of the traitor is not to blatantly flaunt opposition to the rest of the “goodie goodies.” Instead, subtly undermining their efforts without the appearance of deceit can be accomplished. In some games, feigned ignorance or incompetence can bring this bliss, while in other ways like in Shadows, a small good can lead to much greater evil down the line.

But what about ALPHA players? You know, the guy who’s played the game more times than you’ve played all your games total and knows the in’s and the out’s of it; who tells everyone what to do on their turn and why what they wanted to do was wrong. Well, in this game, there’s always that thought of betrayal and this is where the game shines, especially with a group of alpha players. Is he actually arguing because it’s the best for the Good or because he knows there’s something better out there that would undermine his own job? A traitor here has to be persuasive, helpful, and a little evasive in order to be successful.

Another side note, the game does allow for minimal “table talk,” i.e. not allowing players to discuss specifics of the content of their hand. This again adds to the micro analysis of player action by the old guilty until proven innocent aspect as well as the difficulty for Good.

Particularly in our game, I luckily and relatively quickly completed the Lancelot’s armor quest, which when used allows players to draw two Evil deck cards and choose one to play. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility, and with this devastating ability in the grasp of evil, this became the crippling blow that eventually ended the game early in one fell swoop.

Admission free for the ladies

Of note, I would like to focus on the significant amount of discussion (post Evil win!!) about the overall gameplay centered with emphasis on the expansion on how it effects overall game balance. The main concern this expansion brings is twofold. The first is that game dynamics change from pure cautious suspicion and paranoia with only the possibility 1 traitor to a full blown accusatory mistrust motif now that there are at least one (if not two traitors) with a full (7-8) contingent of players. Personally, I find this level of outrageous allegations and feigned offense entertaining and adding to the enjoyment and atmosphere of the overall game. Most of our group was in agreement with this as well; except…for the other traitor who blew his cover. And in case you’re wondering, it behooves (great word) the traitor to stay hidden because at the end of the game, they can flip two white swords to black ones if not revealed.

The second issue, which works synergistically with the first, was another of the added elements the expansion brings with it: the travel deck. It was the metaphorical bane of our existence that night, foiling many an attempt to travel to quests, again playing into the suspicion. The addition of potentially limiting your movement to and from Camelot and quest zones made it frustratingly annoying to a few in our group. I would argue that it instead forces Good to tread wisely. Actions have consequences and this was the game’s way of reminding us. Rapid moving between quests is now discouraged and careful management of knights with unique skills must be coordinated and combined. While you could argue that this again shifts the balance towards Evil, I feel that this element instead demands that the Good knights to come up with a plan instead of opting to ad lib their strategy through organized chaos during game.

Especially with the expansion, I think that the balance is still shifted towards the Evil forces having an easier time to achieve their goals than it is for Good to actually win. This was where the main divide was among our table. Some argued that it shouldn’t be this way and the burden should actually be more on the Evil to have to try to win as opposed to potentially limping along depending on the deck/others misfortune to still win. Others, myself included, thought opposite this; that a game like this shouldn’t handicap itself by giving Good such an advantage and “allow” players to win more often than not. If we learned nothing else from the old school alignments, evil thrives on Chaos and Good must counter with planning, order, and discipline. To me, the expansion epitomizes and maximizes both sides nature in this way. Long story short: make me earn my win or let me die trying. You can always get better.

Level of Kickass (LoK aka fun): 4 out of 5 (or higher if traitor)
Replayability: 3.75 out of 5, mostly due only to length especially when the player count gets > 5.
Gameplay/mechanics: 4 out of 5, certainly nothing incredibly innovative but still works very smoothly with multiple options per turn for the most part
Wildcard: 3.5 out of 5, Medieval setting like in the stories but not quite fully utilized.

TOTAL : 15.25 out of 20 (coconuts not included)

She turned me into a newt!

By |January 27th, 2014|Review|1 Comment

Issue #126 – Cthulhu Wars

 

The Best in Board Games – In 5 Minutes or Less!
Jan 27, 2014 – Issue #126

TOP NEWS

  • Thanks to feedback from reader Mario C. we have darkened the links within the issue to make them easier to read. We appreciate any other feedback you may have on how to improve Today in Board Games!

HOT DEALS

KICKSTARTER CORNER

Reviews & Previews

Cthulhu Wars

Cthulhu Wars is the ultimate miniature game from Sandy Peterson (designer of the Call of Cthulhu RPG). The game features giant plastic-cast miniatures of the old gods, and each player takes on the role of one of these gods rampaging across the earth with their minions. Cthulhu Wars successfully funded on Kickstarter last July raising nearly $1.5 Million (US). It should be delivered to backers and available for retail purchase later this year.

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DESIGNER’S MIND

By |January 27th, 2014|Issue|Comments Off on Issue #126 – Cthulhu Wars

LINEAGE Inaugural board game from Gray Wolf Games

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