Cult of the New in Board Games

Cult of the New (COTN) in the Board Game world!

Big week on Kickstarter with the recent launch of several high expectation campaigns. The current successful theme seems to be projects continuing to hit specific niches within the board game community.

CROM!!!

Conan: Going on strong over a week into the campaign, already easily surpassing the $1.1 million dollar mark and escaping the gravity of the plateau/lull between opening and closing days that many high funded projects seem hit. Definitely strumming the strings of the nostalgic license market and two million doesn’t seem to be out of the question. More focus/scrutiny has come on the stretch goals with concerns about shipping/additional scenarios but that hasn’t slowed backers.

Tiny Epic Galaxies: Another multi-hundred thousand dollar hit from Gamelyn Games, emphasizing again their Tiny (pocket) empire as their corner of the market. Definitely continuing to strike while the iron is hot especially with end of year 2014 awards give more accolade to Tiny Epic Kingdoms. Not having played the game yet, is over 30 type of one card (planets) now achieved by stretch goal too much, not enough, or just right?

Cheesey puff colored explosions!

Exploding Kittens: The surprise of the week in the online community and not without its detractors or concerned citizens. The Oatmeal has marketed and manipulated its fan base into support this card game to heights that no other card game has been able to reach, however you feel about the game itself. Plus, who doesn’t like being able to put “NSFW” in their Kickstarter?

D&D character sheet in a deck

Epic PvP: Fantasy: It’s a game that takes character creation and melds it with deck building. Definitely going after the RPG market in the tabletop/boardgame world. Not overcomplicating it and adding decks with stretch goals, but I feel spoiled by other games and wish there were more decks being added for the price point. 5th edition what? (**Boston Globe article highlighting D&D’s resurgence due to increasing diversity)

Dice Dice Tower’ed

The Dice Tower 2015 Season 11: Overshadowed by the timing of the launches of the previously mentioned wallet-eaters, it has still managed to hit $160K+ as it nears closing time. Heavily promo based rewards with an arguably too high price point ($60 for one set), but the span of their reach to get as many from so many different games is impressive nevertheless.

Cones of Dun(ce)shire: A funding debacle from the usual sense, hitting at only 14% currently of their supposed paltry $300K goal. While I’m all for satire, I wonder how thought out this (alleged) PR stunt was.

Suppose you make even a semi-reasonable level for backers to buy the game combined with a reachable realistic funding goal. Mayfair and et al got their 15 minutes in the sun from this campaign from the Parks and Rec base and the mainstream media, but could they have managed to milk it for even more with a campaign that was actually designed to succeed?

Even with a limited supply, the thought behind this could be to create “grassroots-like” demand for a product on a show that likely could become revered about like Freaks and Geeks or even Community; one never given enough support by the parent company and critically acclaimed but never achieving mainstream popularity. Analyze the now success of shows like Firefly, Veronica Mars, etc. that now have a swelling resurgence within the next wave of consumers post cancellation. Why not play more to that strength instead and burn like a candle instead of a sparkler only to flame out quickly?

GAMING RELATED :

•With new BoardGameTables now coming to the dance with gaming tables at a price more can afford, how will this affect the perceived stranglehold GeekChic has on that corner of the market? Starting at roughly 1/3 the $price$ has to open some eyes to an alternative one would think…

COTN Question: How do you feel about incorporating board games + technology?

First was the innovation from Kickstarter funded Golem Arcana’s. With subsequent launches of big titles like Alchemists and X-COM (app based?) and their incorporation of apps/tech, which way will this trend go? Is this the evolution of where games are going to take us?

There’s been talk and discussion about why the “golden age of board games” is upon us; highlighted by the fact that people are trying to disconnect from the technology and reconnect in person in a culture that has rampantly diminished or destroyed our attention span (cell phones at stop lights anyone?). I know that some game groups even go as far as banning phones during game times. Your thoughts?

Specter Ops from Plaid Hat Games
-Potential hybrid of Letters from Whitechapel and Fury of Dracula from the recent hit publishers.

XCOM: The Board Game from FFG
-Based off the critically acclaimed video game series, will it be the crossover often desired but too infrequently capitalized upon?

Predictions? What do you think the next COTN games will be around the community? What am I missing?

Next issue I’ll hope to have a meta (re)view at the board game community’s 2014 games of the year selections.

“Excellent! I cried. “Elementary,” said he. — A review of “I Say, Holmes”



      Though first said by Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, the phrase “The Game is afoot” was made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary literary sleuth. It rings true here as well with the latest tabletop offering featuring the intrepid Sherlock Holmes in “I Say, Holmes” from Victory Point Games. This game is currently funding on Kickstarter, and with still 10 days left, they’ve hit over 300% of their original goal with over $31K raised. They were nice enough to provide me with a prototype copy for this board game review as Sherlock Holmes is probably one of my most beloved fictional characters, and it always gives me trepidatious goose bumps when a beloved character or series is used for commercial purposes.

      The Basics:

      Though a competitive game, it informally feels more semi-competitive as it uses a turn based card play strategy to ultimately arrest the reprehensible villains or allow them to escape into the night. The game itself is a deck of a hefty 125 cards belaying the artwork of our noble story’s heroes, villains, locale, and tools of the trade. Obligatory main character cards a la Sherlock’ian files are present, but the majority consists of location, travel, suspicion, or clue-like cards in order to progress to and facilitate end game objectives.

      In a sense, this game plays out like a Victorian Holmes’ian themed Uno. Each player is a dealt a 6 card starting hand, and in some sense tries to whittle it down as the game progresses to help achieve the arrest or escape conditions (more details regarding those in a little bit). Hand cards played are placed in front of adjacent player in a clockwise manner. The subsequent player then lays a card that matches the “story sequence” square(s) (by either name or type) located near the bottom of the card, as able. The “London” location card pictured below means that any of the those 4 named cards are acceptable to be played as well as either of the types of movement cards.

      These squares are color coated to match the border of the cards in the deck, similar to color based matching in Uno. If players are unable to play, similar to Uno, they must draw 1 card (which can be played immediately if usable). Otherwise, the previously fielded card passes to the next player.

      The introduction of the “I Say” cards, which conveniently are the named non-villain characters, are the exception. These have their own spots in the sequence but act more like wild cards, usable when no other option is to be had. They’re quite strategically strong so players must not waste them carelessly as their timing becomes an important aspect to triumphing.

      As bonus, when played during sequence, they earn you 3 venerable clue tokens, which provide potential victory points. Of note in an antagonistic sense, villain cards are unplayable; think of them akin to the “Old Maid” or the Princess in Love Letter; not necessarily bad to have, can even be used to win the game, but if someone knows you’ve got it, then that’s when difficulty arises.

      The Purpose (i.e. How do I win?):

      End of round/game occurs in one of two ways previously mentioned; via an arrest or escape. Arrests occur after playing the not so subtly named “Arrest” card during sequence but also can happen as an “impromptu” arrest event. This is triggered when a player runs out of cards in their hand. The player “arresting” accuses another player whom they think is holding a villain card. The accused is then forced to show the accuser their entire hand. If a villain is found, the round ends and “Case Closed” scoring occurs.

      What’s to prevent an imbalance in gameplay and potential mass accusations? Counteracting this, the game has introduced “Alibi” and “Mastermind” cards. These cards act as “interrupts” to negate negative actions that target you, whether that involves drawing extra cards, revealing card(s), or being accused/arrested. Certain few specific cards cannot be alibi’d out, but the rarer Mastermind card acts as a more powerful trump able to neutralize anything. Along with these cards, the institution of a penalty for false accusations acts as a deterrent. A player who accuses an innocent player (i.e. without a villain card in their hand) must add all of the accused player’s cards to their own hand (thus potentially increasing their hand size substantially) while the innocent player then draws new cards from the deck in the same amount they previously held.

      Escaping as a villain is the other option to bring about the end of a round and occurs if at any time your hand is left with only a villain card &/or additional “interrupts” (i.e. alibi/Mastermind). The round ends immediately and the winning person gets the corresponding villain victory point token to the one that “escaped.”

      In an arrest situation that ends the round, the scoring system awards the winner a “Case Closed” book token, each one thematically named for Holmes’s most infamous cases. They each have sequential point values on their front side, and the one awarded depends on the sum of card values (found in the upper left corner of each card. The London card previously shown has a 1) remaining in all the players’ hands at the end of the round. To determine how to use this number, the “Case Closed” token with the highest point value that does not exceed the summed total is given to the winning player.

      Let me clarify.

      For example, the Case Closed tokens (as seen above) display a range of points including 0, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 75 points. If the total of the all the cards was 45, then the winner would get the token with the 40 on it. The catch here is that the game ends whenever the 0 point token is awarded. This happens if all the other Case Closed tokens have been previously given out (i.e. a maximum of 6 rounds) or if the sum of all the cards left in players’ hands is less than 20. This means it’s possible for the whole game to end in even 1 or 2 rounds if the total is low and/or the other lowest tokens values have already been awarded.

      So how does the actual victory point scoring work? Clue tokens, telegram tokens, Case Closed, and villain tokens have various victory points on the back side of them that is only revealed at the game’s conclusion, so it’s only possible to imprecisely tell who’s in the lead until the final reveal.

      What I enjoyed:

      The aesthetics were basic but clearly influenced and portrayed well the theme of the Victorian era setting matching its style and color schemes. The best and most notable cards were the main protagonist character cards that stood out due to their differing background structure and more detailed features setting them apart from the rest of the cards in the deck.

      Once gameplay was sufficiently understood by all, the actual rounds themselves were smooth. At no point does the game suffer from analysis paralysis. The cards themselves and their actions are for the most part easily understood and not at all text heavy. The element that elevates this game beyond being merely enjoyable was the ability to card swap and trade hands. For example, one card causes players to contribute a chosen card from their hand into a central pile and subsequently those cards are randomly distributed back to each player, effectively potentially swapping randomly one card within the group. Other cards allow for two players to swap hands, or even cause the whole group to pass their hand to the adjacent player to their right.

      The inclusion of these tactics creates tension where it would otherwise be absent, potentially allowing victory to be snatched from the jaws of defeat or vice versa. This also subtly allows for passing of otherwise non-usable villain cards as a strategic move in order to know who to arrest in future turns. In one round, I actually ended up losing because I had to pass my soon to be only remaining card (a villain) just as I was about to win.

      A problem often seen with card games where the goal is to (potentially) want to get rid of cards is that there is a tendency to draw and accumulate multitudes of cards and more so can bring it to a point so that it becomes not feasibly possible to catch back up when only 1 card per go-round is played. The addition of the Holmes’ian “Deduction” facet accounts for this and allows for two cards to be played during your turn anytime you find yourself with 7 or more cards in your hand on your turn thus trying to restore competitive balance.

      The scalability of the game is a nice feature in that it plays all the way up to 8 players but for a typical session, my estimation is that 5 people would be an optimal size to provide adequate game length, social interaction, and depth. Having played with 4, the game was on the shorter end of a medium length tabletop game spectrum. The KS mentions 30 minutes per round (which is probably generous) but ours were typically about 10-12 minutes per round with that many (4) players. The game definitely has a playtime curve; the more comfortable you become, the faster it plays, similar to a 7 Wonders-type vibe of play speed minus the simultaneous analysis paralysis.
      Another genuinely positive surprise was the victory point system. Those tokens I mentioned earlier? Every single one has a hidden value on the backside only revealed at game’s end. And there’s more than decent variability between values, with negative values, zeros, and even points given to adjacent players available. Winning players had only low single digits or barely reaching double digits, so parity was present regardless the length of the game.

      Criticisms:

      The rulebook was muddy in a few select areas, mostly dealing with wording of in-game terms. The rulebook tries so hard to stay true to the theme throughout, trying to stay consistent and “in-character” which is a very nice effort but pays the price by making it a little wordy frustrating in parts. For example, “Story sequence” is a bit confusing at first but ultimately just means that you can almost “follow suit” (i.e color/card name) in this case. It’s definitely not a game breaker but makes going through the first time not nearly as intuitive as other card based tabletop games with similar complexity.

      The most notable other criticism also regards the rulebook. While it may have due to not being familiar with the original, several rules and terms seem to be…incomplete in their explanation. One little spot on the back-page of the rulebook located in a “Reminder” section is the only location that states how the clue tokens are obtained (from playing “I Say” Character cards, but only in sequence). An additional but important caveat that each player can have only one of each of the three different clue tokens total is similarly seemingly only present in that location. A mention of it earlier would undoubtedly make it clearer. The rule itself is vastly underrated in importance as it keeps point piling from occurring due to repeated “I Say” card use because it keeps in check the randomness of the draw for those cards. This fact did leave our group a bit of confusion at the beginning about how and when they are actually are obtained.

      Final Thoughts:

      A potential issue I want to discuss that was noticed and it relates to my point earlier about scalability. Although the game plays 3-8; with 4 players we had end of round totals that were relatively low and never more than ~35-40 (on the high end). Now that might seem like plenty until you remember the end of round scoring/game ending decider. If the round goes relatively easily without too many additional cards drawn, you could find yourself at the games end after 1-2 rounds with sums never breaking 20. While that might not seem to be that big of deal, it changes what the game is essentially at its core.

      This can be seen either as strength or a liability depending on what you’re looking for out of this game. To provide a medium(ish) length tabletop game, it means realistically needing 5 people to obtain the interaction, depth, and length that 3 or possibly even 4 players probably can’t produce as reliably on a consistent basis. In contrast, if you only want a lighter filler version, the option to play with 3 or 4 is definitely still fun and worthwhile, and also definitely makes the game have a quicker turn-around time.

      I think that this final point is the probably the most telling on whether or not you would feel comfortable pledging to back it. The game itself lighthearted and entertaining but isn’t going to provide a depth of narrative (i.e. Myth) due to being a card-based game that some might otherwise hope for due to the Sherlock Holmes branding. That being said, I don’t think that missing that detracts at all from how it plays and how much fun it actually was on the table. It easily makes up for that with enjoyable and entertaining gameplay with game-length adaptability. I would argue that the best praise I can give “I Say, Holmes” is that it has great gateway game potential for the introduction of tabletop gaming to non-gamers without alienating its core demographic at the same time.

      They’ve hit a bunch of their stretch goals already including this:

      So if this sounds like something you’d like, whether you’re looking to add something card based to your collection that works as a clever entertaining gateway game, a Holmes fanatic, or just looking for a worthwhile quality game, I would seriously consider supporting this game on Kickstarter here. Pledges for the base game are $35 and estimated to be sent to be sent backers in July 2014, which again shows how much foresight and time has already gone into making this project a reality (and means you’ll actually get to play it sooner than later…).

Eggs and Empires Review



      Eggs and Empires — Small card game with eggcellent gameplay

      Currently funding on Kickstarter right now, 83% of goal with 21 days left
      Created by Matthew Riddle

      First impression

      Maybe you were like “Eggs? Who wants to play with eggs? What is this? The poultry card version of Game of Thrones?”

      I assure you, the name is a misnomer and the game plays more like a tactical Love Letter than a trumpeted up cock in chainmail. The alliteration of the title is of a similar draping to that of Cutthroat Caverns in the sense that it had as much to do with caverns as this really has to do with empires.

      I’m the guy in the group, you know, with my family and friends who is “The Rule Guy”; responsible for the knowing them and explaining it (usually at least 3 times) to everyone else. Unfortunately for them, I’m also sort of a “read it through once or twice and then wing it as we go” sort of guy as well. So, I did my usual ho-hum read thru and then a quickie again, and dove right in with my group of 4.

      Eggs & Empires is a 2-6 player card game that does a lot of things well in a little amount of time and with a minimal amount of stuff. That being said, don’t discount the junk in its trunk. Each player has a deck of 10 character cards that are used to collect victory point Egg cards from the community pool. Each turn only a limited number are put out, usually around 1-2 less than the total number of players.

      Art – Aesthetics/Functionality

      Above is a larger sample of the art by Cristian Chihaia, the illustrative hand behind the art on the game cards. I wanted to see his other work after seeing the art on these cards. The meticulous detail and shading of each character and the background that he has done shows the effort and the skill behind the artist in this case. It provides that element that allows the nice falsity layer of theme to work in this case.

      Granted, PnP doesn’t look nearly as gorgeous but especially from what I’ve seen from the prototypes, it translates very well onto actual quality card stock.

      Gameplay: Simplicity/Decision Making

      The game itself is relatively straightforward; think of more like Love Letter draped in a Game of Thrones mask with spoils (both senses of the word) in the community pool for players to collect each turn. Rules were only two single sided pages long, making it a quick learn.

      Three rounds made up of 9 turns each for players is the complete length of the game. Sounds long until you realize the turns feature simultaneous lay down and reveal similar to 7 Wonders but much quicker decision making and resolution. This keeps the game speeding along and without analysis paralysis. As I mentioned, each player has a deck of 10 cards; each with a number 1-10 in the upper left corner. One card played per round and the number determines initiative order, highest selecting first. First initiative person then gets their pick of the “Egg” cards in the middle. Players are required to take these cards unless otherwise specified by a character ability (more about this in a little bit). These Egg cards are each worth a certain number of victory points.

      Rinse and repeat? Easy right? So high card wins? Nothing to it. Mama taught me that with War.

      Hold on a second

      Here’s where strategy comes in. Egg cards aren’t limited to positive values; no, a good third of them are actually negative victory points. Me no likely high cards anymore. The cards vary from +15 to -9(ish) and a lot in-between. In our game, there were many turns where only negative value Eggs were present in the collection pool. Adding to that element is that each card has a special ability that interacts with the selection process. For example, if the Shepherd (3) gets played at the same time another player plays the Blacksmith (8), the Shepherd goes first ignoring their usual initiative number. Or, if more than one plays the Dark Priestess (9), then anyone who played it doesn’t collect an Egg card at all. Like they say, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

      Other useful abilities include The Mage (7) has a fail-safe with the ability that doesn’t allow for you to take any face-up negative Egg cards period, and the Courier (4) who when he collects a card, may give any Egg card to another player. Another nice caveat is that the collected Egg cards players get each turn are also placed face down, which doesn’t others to keep track as easily to in game scores .

      Did I mention that you can only have three cards at a time in your “hand”? Well, now you know. Three cards per turn with a one card draw in-between turns. You’ll also notice that there are nine turns for ten cards. This means one card doesn’t get used every round.

      Games are quick to the draw and especially as abilities get used more effectively. The Courier is a useful as a limiter as it can quickly become a negative victory point dumper on the leader during rounds. Obviously I’m not speaking from experience here or anything, although I might have accomplished the only pure negative round of any of the players during any game. That being said, games are still quite competitive and even in that game I still only lost and was separated from the winner by less than 20 points. The fact that it remained this close throughout and no one really knew who won until the last tally was done shows that Matt has put in the time not only designing this game but also balancing it out to the point where avoids becoming chase the runaway leader.

      Criticisms

      The biggest letdown for us was the tie-breaker system. Referred to in the rules as something akin to “the last person to have been eaten by the dragon gets the tie-breaker marker” followed by The closest person to the left of the person with the tie-breaker marker” wins any ties between players playing the same number card. Clear as mud to anyone else? We thought so too. We actually just MacGuyver’d it for our game and used a D6 to determine ties. Work well and didn’t end up detracting at all from the gameplay.

      I’d also think that maybe in the future adding a few more elements, even 2-3 more character cards in order to facilitate a small amount more of strategy that goes into choosing which characters you don’t get to use during the rounds. This might add to the replayability down the line for many gamers.

      I only had a print and play version of Eggs and Empires, which, obviously has the limitations based on the printer used. But more importantly in this case to this reviewer, the group of guys I played with aren’t board gamers at all (until I slowly started corrupting them months back) but really lapped it as well. This was a group who’s never played Love Letter, couldn’t spell Resistance, and had never heard the words Coup uttered outside the context of being a cage for chickens. By the middle of the second round, you could see strategy starting to seep in and third round was over in a matter a minutes with discussion of moves and analysis remaining for minutes afterwards.

      Final Thoughts

      All in all, definitely worth the investment if you enjoy this genre of card game or you’re looking for another Love Letter-isk game. It’s currently funding on the Kickstarter for the low price of $16. It definitely has found a way into our rotation of more filler type games like the ones I previously mentioned and it is more than different enough, and yet friendly enough to non-gamers, I would continue to use as also an introductory game as well.

      So go here if you’re interested in checking it out more or pledging.

Kickstarter Tabletop Games Spotlight #4



      Its time for my fourth look at the those tabletop games or designs on THE Kickstarter that caught my eye this week. Sorry for the hiatus, but life happens to the best of us. Let’s get right into it.

      Pixel Glory: A Deck Building Game

      Another in the line of pixel orientated games that tries to capture our nostalgia for the old-school RPG, Pixel Glory brings the combination of deck builder with dungeon exploring thrown in as your wizard character tries to wipe out dungeons with aid of the other players, all while trying to be that lucky wiz that gets that fatal blow in order to score the fame and glory that goes along with it.

      This game actually tried and was canceled at near the end of 2013 after only hitting about 16% of its goal. So its back and it caught my eye for having a good deal of potential table time.

      The game mixes it up as the creation of the player’s decks is via an auction mechanic, allowing players to try to outbid each other for spells used to demolish the monsters in the dungeon. With 26 monsters in total, and the use of 15 per game this increases the replayability as well. I think honestly though, if you’re going to use that many per game, my initial impression is that this total number should be even higher.

      Players get a glimpse of what monster(s) they will be facing in the upcoming dungeon, so the bidding for spells often reflects the strategy needed for the upcoming battles. The number of spells each biding round equals the number of players

      Bidding for initiative is done in secret each round, the highest bid having the first initiative. These cards are then discarded, and not used again. The strategic element comes into play as players are only given numbers 1-9, which obviously can only be once each. So why go last? The person that bids lowest each round is provided a token that allows them to break ties in future auction rounds if they bid the same initiative as another player. Spells also provide magical essences used for extra damage later on during the dungeon fights.

      Fighting in the dungeons is after the completed auction phase and consists of fighting 3 face-up monster cards at a time, each with variable elemental weaknesses and hit points. Essences themselves do 1 damage in their own right. Timing of the use of your spells powerful spells becomes all the more critical as everyone is trying to land that death blow in to gain fame (victory points).

      So crap, you didn’t kil a monster on your turn. Its ok! That gets you a combo point, and a total of three combo points allows you to insta-kill a dungeon monster (or draw 4 cards from your deck…pssht). In addition, killing a monster allows you to take your discard pile of used spells and reshuffle them back into your deck, so that’s a huge advantage.

      So why buy this game? Well, if you love the throwback art of the pixel age (see Pixel Lincoln, Villages the card game, etc), its another well put together game that utilizes it’s minimalist style. Its also affordable. $17 gets you a copy of the game, which, all things considered is a reasonable price especially nowadays on the kickstarter market. I think that this game allows for a little bit of all styles of play that could attract a wide crowd, whether they prefer dungeon crawling, auctioning, or just the Final Fantasy style spell casting element.

      Should I fund?: Replayability. Only three types of elements and 26 monster cards. I’d have love to seen some amount of extra elements allowing for rotation of a type or two out each game to keep it a little more variable between games. Also, the fact that the dungeon deck uses over 60% of the monsters in one play thru makes me worried that I would get tired of fighting the same bad guys again and again. Last, more about the production itself, the game is listed as a delivery date of February 2015. I’m not a game designer or anything but for a solely card based game with pixel graphics, I’m not sure why such a big delay from funding date to delivery date, and that worries me a little bit from a backer standpoint.

      Go here to take a look.

      Currently at $2940 of its $15000 goal

      Custom Game Dice

      I actually ran into these guys online a couple weeks ago and saw their draft version of the kickstarter page. Even at that time, I thought that this idea was really going to catch on and hit a niche in the gaming community. Their product is allowing gamers and game designers alike to submit their own designs or choose from previous sample dice, or whatever your mind can come up with.

      The really unique aspect is that they’re basically make it an “open source” model as well. When anyone that creates a design and submits it, anyone else can take it and use it as well or modify it to their convenience. This opens up the possibilities to be practically endless in the type and scope of what you can put on your gaming dice.

      Want Elvish script? Done.
      Scimitars with math constants? Done.

      They’re also allowing for 6 different colors and 10 colors to fill in the designs on the dice. Not sure if your combination of colors is ridiculous or ridiculous? They’ll have pictures of the color of dice prior to your order so you can make sure your dice don’t look like they belong playing My Little Pony instead of Pathfinder. Don’t like/thought you could do better or want your King of Tokyo dice to be unique? This is for you.

      One unique feature that I kinda like is a “Roll it Forward” option. For $2, they allow you to design a D6 to be randomly included into someone else’s order. They’ll send you a picture to let you know where and how it ended up. Don’t know about you guys but prank dicing is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear this. Imagine getting your custom Cthulhu dice, all Lovecraftian and whatnot and then pulling our three dice with Barbie or My Little Pony designs. Talk about custom game play there.

      Should I fund?: This game is scheduled for a May 12 fund date and already has almost $16K of its $20 goals. So as popular as the RPG designs and books are on this website meeting funding goal is not going to be an issue. With the ability to easily create custom dice for those campaigns and or customizing/pimping out your games that already use dice as a mechanism, this is a no-brainer. Head on over and check it out for yourself.

      KS link here again – Custom Dice

      Aetherium

      Kickstarter page found here

      The last game that caught my eye was Aetherium by Anvil Eight Games. These guys have set out to create a “skirmish level miniatures board game set in a cyber-mindscape where the world changes with the will of the players.”

      Let’s break that down to see what this actually entails.

      It throws the players in the middle of the struggle between the Axiom and the Nanomei for the cyber world and freedom itself (or so you’re to believe). The Axiom faction depicts the every present evil 1984ish totalitarian government bent on oppression thru control and uses the tagline “Order is freedom, obedience is salvation.” These guys are your typical Big Brother in all the manners you would expect portrayed in a game.

      Their nemesis, the Nanomei, are your potential liberators or those who bring the chaos to the party. Your typical underdog; undersized but with talent oozing out of their pores to make up for the lack of infrastructure and backing.

      The game itself uses miniatures and an actively changing/rotating interactive interlocking puzzle-like board that is able to be manipulated by the players and the system itself throughout their game. They call their style “fluid and turn-less” that uses a separate deck call the PAD — program activation deck (think environment deck) — that describes the interactions between the players and the game itself. This is where the majority of the strategy I would guess comes in because they make it clear that it will require planning more than several moves ahead for your characters in order to deal with the opposition let alone the changes that the board will inevitably bring.

      Downside is at this point there isn’t a ton of other information on the basic gameplay on the website. I think that how the game board actually changes as well as examples of strategy with this chess like planning would actually be really helpful to see. Without that, potential backers are left, stating the obvious, without a clue of how well the gameplay seems to work and whether or not its something that they would enjoy. I would venture that it reminds me something more like a miniature version of Android Netrunner, the same way that Sentinels Tactics is to the Sentinels Card game (though obviously different companies in our case). There are some really great looking miniatures and the even advertise that they are having custom D12s made for the game (although I still don’t know what you roll them for).

      My other big concern is the pledge levels. I really like the infographic that their KS page displays letting you know all of the various miniatures and components that are included in the base game and stretch goals but I have concerns about how this correlates to the price-points. The pledges begin with $100 for a “starter” set jumping all the way next to $240 for the starter plus only 1 of the two required factions. Both factions will set you back $400. I’m sure the price of miniatures and such is expensive, but with other games out there currently i.e. Recon, Super Dungeon, etc that are offering considerable amount more for a much lesser price comparatively, the judgment of these levels brings a mild concern. $240 and still not be able to play the game against the other faction? That’s….expensive.

      Should I fund it?: It looks nice and shiny on the outside, but I have my concerns based off the thoughts above especially considering the price-points. As of now it’s nearly at goal with over $15K of the $20K raised. However, interesting to note that there is only 1 backer total at the $240 level and only those at the $400 seem to be carrying the majority of the funding so far. Should it prove to be funded (and I would expect so given still 17 days to go), it has a delivery date actually earlier than Pixel Glory, with stated goal being in November 2014.

      That should make me concerned about either the preparation of Pixel Glory prior to coming to Kickstarter or the potential of a realistic delivery date for Aetherium, but I could be wrong. I just know that there are still people out there dealing with games that are more year in the coming already so I know that there’s always that concern no matter how pretty or prepared these games look on a fancy graphic. I’ll leave that interpretation up to you guys.

Kickstarter Tabletop Games Spotlight #3



    Extra! Extra! Read all(ish) about them!

First up this week on the docket is the vampire’s wet dream of sleeping local with “Till Dawn Tabletop Game.”

If nothing else, hop over there to look at this seriously beautifully designed case to hold the game in its entirety.

I’d not heard of their name initially but these you’ve probably heard of these fellas from their other titles; these are the same guys over at 8th Summit Games who produced the popular Agents of SMERSH and Run, Fight or Die. But don’t the cool case fool you, the game has a life (pun intended) of its own. Designed to initially be a 4-8 player game and only at 20-30 minutes per game, it fits the bill for gamers and non-gamers alike.

Its initial impression reminds me of Ultimate Werewolf meets “press your luck” but with super detailed (read: better) artwork and selectable vampires characters for players. It also allows for customizable number of rounds which means the game length is in the hands of the players, so whether you’re only up for a quick 20 minute stretch between campaigns or a 45 minute filler till the next table over finishes, you’ve got your game.

Basically the rounds consist of mass group hunting followed by a decisions phase, then the interlude in-between to bridge to the next round. All players are active with simultaneous actions during the decision phase which prevents the dreaded paranlysis (analysis paralysis) and keeps the game speeding along. In addition, each vampire has a unique ability bestowed upon them per round, and this plays into the PvP element which allows lending of abilities allowing for politicking between players. These powers often allow for continued round play, allowing players to continue gathering the all important blood tokens needed for endgame victory.

Rounds go until everybody is “dead”…“deader?”….right…or has to retire back to their sarcophagus.


Were-Hulkamania! Hulka-werewolf?

Make sense? No? Ignore my scribble then and go check it out yourself. This game has been extensively played at conventions already and a 20% discount off the MRSP on Kickstarter never hurts either. Plus, did I mention the artwork?

This game already has completed initial funding goal of $8,000 (over $14K currently) so if you’re in it only to win it, head on over and show it some love.

Funding is until April 13

Full rules are located here

Number 2 this week (Who does number two work for?) is Capes and Villains which is reminiscent of what I imagine the illegitimate offspring of Sentinels of the Multiverse and Heroes Wanted would look like. Unique to this entry in the hero-genre is the combination of cards and dice to go with abilities. It is more designed for the base game to be played as a one versus one style, mano-a-mano, with alternating turns between offensive and defensive maneuvers.

I think what Henry Lam (without putting words in his mouth) was going for in Capes and Villains is was what the DC deck building game should have been if more based on our fanboy imagination. A PvP style ability based game where dice rolling (watch out eurogamers) decides the amount of energy available each turn to cards from a drawn hand and thus determines what/how many actions each hero can take. These same energies can also be used to in multiple other ways including combining specific roles for special ability use or adding “momentum” (i.e. Super saiyan’ing) either attacks or defensive tactics.

Got more than 1 friend (for those lucky few) that don’t like you’ve beaten them repeatedly and now they want to get back at you? There’s a mode for that too! Two and three versus one styles of play are available as Villain cards have flip sides allowing for the solo person to allow “Overpower” mode to be active to compensate for the additional heroes they arch against.

The goal of this project is $25,000 and is already over 60% of the way there. Again, I think this game has the elements that lend itself to replayability similar to Sentinels with so many combinations with the additional direct PvP element.

If only DC or Marvel had opted to go more this route with direct confrontation and fighting between players, I think we’d be talking about them as more of a mainstay to the table play charts instead of referring to them as the “Wow, setup took that long for that” Legendary and “Dominion Junior” DC game.

As you might say on Reddit:

TL;DR:

Highest upside if executed well to make up for what everyone wished DC/Marvel licensed games actually could have been potentially.

Full rules and description here

Funding is thru April 8

Catacombs

To our good ole north, those Canucks at Elzra games have done their homework and brought to us an offering of a remake of the old in an updated dexterity based game called Catacombs.

Confession time of the week: another sweet spot of mine are dexterity based games. Wifey got me a fancy shmancy Crokinole for Christmas and it always hits the spot with company as a gateway drug for assimilation into the world of tabletop gaming (see: my wife’s family for proof).

Did you ever feel like Crokinole wasn’t RPGish enough for you? Not enough fantasy dungeons or equipment upgrades to get your D&D juices flowing?

Well, have I got the game for you. In Catacombs, players control a set of heroes (discs) as they “fight” their way through a set of rooms (i.e. the board remade with various obstacles) and the vile evil aligned monsters impeding their progress towards knocking off (another pun!) the final end boss.

This game actually has quite a list of accomplishments in its past runs of publishing as well not limited to:

This newest iteration is giving it a virtual monster makeover as well. The kickstarter states that this is to go away from the former “gothic and dark” look to make it brighter but I also think this might be to broaden the appeal to younger gamers. Trying to include especially ones who understand the “shoot my disk at the bad guy” over the “roll a d6 for initiative followed by..” crowd, which I’m all for. Gotta start indoctrinating them at a young age I always say.

The artwork could be accused in this sense of playing down to a broader audience but I argue that it now reminds me more of an Adventure Time-like style. And what nerd (and geek, not to discriminate) doesn’t enjoy Adventure Time?

Currently the game is funding at about 43% of the needed $40K goal.

So if you’re a fan of the D&D genre but would like to actually put a more literal physical beat down (or shuffle off) on those wily misaligned monsters, this is the game for you.

Funding ends on April 16th

I leave you with this:

Kickstarter Tabletop Spotlight #2

Kin-aesthetic Kickstarter Spotlight #2

This week I’m taking a look at the games that don’t have the hype or the publicity. This post isn’t for those games like Gone Viking, MERCs, Tuscany, or Pirate Den (which are already getting their well deserved due with a publicity lap on the board game reviewers circuit).

I bring to you a trio of appetizers to whet your whistle, indie style. As previously, I have not been compensated by any of these games for any reason, heck, they don’t even know I’m writing about them at this point. The theme is art; there’s already the term food porn, so how about game-art porn. Because who doesn’t love…anyway (see definition of the word pun, people)

 

Apex Theropod DBG

The first is Apex Theropod DBG (if you’re reading this, I will blatantly assume you have the ability to figure this abbreviation out). Based on the title, if you’re not familiar with the theme at first read, with a tag line of “Hunt. Evolve. Dominate.” one could then make a reasonable assumption that, yes Virginia, you’ll be gaming with dinosaurs in this game. Plus, I’m mean, evolution? I personally threw in a little of my own “mecha this and “ultra-mon that” and already you’ve got me reminiscing of quality old-school Digimon/volving times . Gah, now that theme song is stuck in my head.
Anyway…

The care that Herschel Hoffmeyer, as designer and artist, has taken in its planning is evident and on display as the card art shows the care and attention that can only come from meticulous planning and thoughtfulness that looks well beyond its current funding achievement. And I don’t mean solely dinosaurs displaying their Barbie-like beauty. As a scientist myself, the world cards for viruses and infections are similarly highly detailed with nuances abound in the pictures

I honestly don’t know how it plays, but with the scale of bosses and territories customizable each game only adds to the fact that it is PvE but also PvP for those that disparage the DBG genre for its lack of player interaction. The potential replayability is evident from the description of components and cards. It’s already funded at almost 300% of its goal so now it’s easily in to its stretch period with still 19 days to go. If you’re interested already, the only limiting factor might be that, yes, this is still a deck building game at heart and if you’re not a fan of the genre in the first place, there’s probably nothing I can do to change your mind.

Watch out Newman...

I’ll leave you with this. Raptors. Veloci-freakin-raptors. Period.
**Throws down sticks and walks away**

 

The Ancient World

And I’m back. The second game deserving a little more illumination is by Ryan Laukat. And lest it go unmentioned, Ryan is a force behind other past successes like Eight-Minute Empire and City of Iron, both not small achievements on their own.

My initial thoughts based on the description:

“Fight rampaging titans and build a powerful civilization in an ancient, mythological world.” Especially when the next line goes: “In an ancient world forgotten by time, enormous titans terrorize the land…”

Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?

Two-fold:

First: What (video) gamer out there isn’t immediately thinking Shadows of Colossus?

Second: As an anime aficionado, “Attack on Titan” in board game form immediately sprung to mind. Doubly so after reading play tester reviews that describe the attacks of the titans and subsequent titan retribution on each players’ cities as the prevalent ambition of the game.

The art again is the focal point of my initial love. Minimalistic but colorful and still descriptive in nature, the kingdom and titans flow beautifully in synergy.

So what does this game bring to the table? It’s a worker placement game with inspiration from Race for the Galaxy without the guilt of Shadows of Colossus from killing titans to ultimately accomplish your goal having the most banners giving victory points. Per the Kickstarter and BGG reviews, the euro’ness in gameplay is evident throughout and balance has been emphasized and fine toned already. It seems to emphasize that are always plays yet to be made and moves left unfinished giving the feeling of constantly wanting more and accentuating the strength of varied replayability.

Again, this campaign has already gone above and beyond initial funding goals and is currently at 138% of goal with 20 days to go. I think that it suffers from unlucky timing specifically being launched in between titans of Kickstarter tabletop games like previously highlighted Arcadia Quest and now Stonemaier’s Tuscany.

 

The Nile Ran Red

Last up this week is “The Nile Ran Red” described as “1 Box. 3 Unique Games. Mythical Ancient Egypt.”

I’ll admit the least aesthetically pleasing of the three (with room for potential), by Small Box Games, it caught my eye, because well, ancient Egypt. Among the pantheon of mystical and mythological societies from our past, similar to the Greeks, Egypt is one that has always cultivated and inspired speculation and imagination based on their deities on down to pyramids. Geek culture has tapped into this often, the most prominent in mind the Stargate empire franchise and their use of Egyptian culture as a basis for alien influence on our world. The amalgam of human and animal bodies with otherworldly powers is on display once again here with 3 different mechanic based types of card games coming together in one box with a common theme.

Similar to its predecessors on the list, with gameplay and testing already accomplished, it only lacks the execution of a successful funding to pull the trigger on production. Whether it’s playing as a god or a follower, each game utilizes specifics from the Egyptian theme to give it that nuance needed.

It isn’t anything flashy that’s for sure, and they even acknowledge that fact front and center to the backer. You’re paying for the cards and the box. That isn’t always the most appealing to a “taste with your eyes” sort of crowd that Kickstarter often attracts, but the art that they do have along with the variation in games included hopefully should attract the remaining amount of backing that the project needs at this point.

And who doesn’t like getting 3 things for 1 price?

They currently have 61% of the $10,000 goal and could use your support if this sort of thing piques your gaming sensibilities.

For more information, go check out their websites and Kickstarters.

And as always, go out and spend!?!?

P.S. Arcadia Quest ends in 48 hours, so you’re running out of time there as well..

Doc’s Kinesthetic Kickstarter Corner – Round-up 3/7/14

This is going to be a regular semi weekly(ish) select look at tabletop games that are currently being funded on Kickstarter that have caught my eye for one reason or another, popular or not.

Games that intrigue me this week: unintentional theme focusing on games that I imagined how other games were when I heard of them in the first place. Weirdly enough this week seems to focus on games that have miniatures, but never fear, there will be parity forthcoming in the future.

Fireteam Zero

Co-op survival horror. That tag line usually screams to me “Looky here! Another twist on zombie gaming!” The reason this caught my eye was that this game is what I picture if a game based on Starship Troopers were set in the WWII era (minus NPH of course, sad face). They actually use the word “badassery” while describing the context of gameplay (an adjective yours truly uses for ratings category). This strikes me as a gamer’s game. What I mean is that when your game description includes the phrase “competence is the bare minimum requirement for the job” of being a character, you know you’re talking more Dark Souls difficulty than Scribblenauts.

Something else that caught my eye is that they’re going all PC Counterstrike and allowing gamers to access source files. The ability to crowdsource your own game components and core game assets in order for gamers to develop their own mods is basically their version of the “Teach a man to fish…” adage. Not only does that allow for broader appeal to the RPG crowd, but it opens expanded replayability and hopefully shelflife as well in a genre that is a little crowded already.

Currently funded thru Tuesday, April 1; at 255% of the $50,000 goal

London 1888 – a Jack the ripper board game.

Disclaimer: I am a sucker for games that have hidden elements/agendas. Butter me up and call me bacon (insert old school Simpsons reference) but I absolutely love them. I look at this game and I see the spiritual successor to Scotland Yard and Letters from Whitechapel. More detail, depth, action, interaction, and possibilities that Letters was never able to provide to get me hooked. It reminds me more Elder Sign with Jack the Ripper than a ramped up Clue. It plays 4-8 players (woot) which allows for those of us with more than one or two friends to take full advantage. And this game isn’t one that hasn’t been tested or is hot off the new press; it has the benefit of being a second coming; previously en français and sold (mostly) overseas. I don’t know how much I am into the roleplaying a prostitute anti-Ripper role/victim necessarily; a few reviews of the original that I read thought it played (too) large a role. However, the ability to play as Jack vs. his potential captors in a game that doesn’t remind me of a trumped up version of tag appeals me on a more primal gamer level and overshadows that concern. On a plus side, English accent!

Based off of their Kickstarter page, I’m not sure besides more pieces/cards the changes are, but the fact that they were willing to do so and to add additional gameplay elements means they’ve heard critiques in the past and want to provide a better product to us as consumers. From my research on the original, many people thought the expansion of Whitechapel was less expansion and more extended necessary base game hopefully this is part of what they’re referring to as “additional components.”

Funding thru Wednesday, April 2; currently at 25% of the £20,000 goal.

Arcadia Quest

Aracadia Quest “is a lot like a World of Warcraft raid on a hapless NPC city, with Heroes working as a team, except that you’re not the only Guild after the loot!”

The thing that always gets me is that this game, like many others before it was funded, about 150% in the first 6 hours or so. The weird thing to me is that this was without any gameplay details, how it plays, if it has been tested, etc. Going along with the general response I got from my recent Kickstarter analysis article, it follows that this was one of those games that attracted the high spending mini crowd. The same crowd that may be willing to get mini’s regardless of the cost of the game or whether or not it plays to their liking. That being said, I love the look of it, especially since they finally acknowledge the elephant in the RPG room: the skimpy female body armor.

When someone first told me about the Pathfinder board game, this is the type of setup that I initially imagined. Heroes, equipment, leveling up, guilds, monsters, all the makings of classic questing smothered with a comic/toon appearance. A play time listed of 45-60 minutes makes it appealing in addition to “I don’t want to be here for 4 hours doing one quest” crowd (i.e. my wife). Bonus no GM’ing needed. It’s not that I don’t like games that require a GM, but at a group game night when there’s one person who in but also on the outs, so to speak, I always wish they were more actively involved even if they’re having a good time doing their own thing.

The painted miniatures look, well, spectacular. I’m Dutch but there’s a reason people are paying $300 ($300!?!?) more dollars to get the pre-painted ones. I think the only other serious question I have about the game itself is why only the short run on Kickstarter? I mean, this campaign could have gone on for a full 30 days and easily been one of the highest grossing tabletop games funded. I’m not really sure what the decision making behind that choice was exactly but it hasn’t hurt the demand at all.

That being said, it’s a use it or lose it situation, or in this case, buy it or be lost forever (probably more like 6 months and a slightly higher price).

Currently funding thru Sunday, March 16; currently at 733% of funding of the $50,000 goal.