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GAMES NEWS! 24/02/20

Matt Lees36 comment(s)

Tom: Where are we going today Ava?

Ava: It’s a whole new world! A new fantastic point of view! We’ve got street magic, unionised superheroes (real and fictional), smells you can touch, sand enthusiasts, at least one very bad joke and games that ask you to escape from both Nottingham and your very own kitchen table.

Tom: I think you’re slightly misremembering the plot of Aladdin.

Ava: Get back in your lamp, evil Mr Jaffa Cake!

Tom: Does that count as one of your wishes, or is that for me to decide?

Ava: Hang on a moment, I need to find my union rep.

Ava: Huzzah. After a media blackout of a couple of months, Kickstarter United has been officially recognised as a union.

Kickstarter’s new union had a rough ride, but a lot of support from creators, backers and media. This led to a media shutdown while the company and union campaigned internally, and a vote on union recognition that was narrowly won. This is being hailed as a big step for Silicon Valley tech unions in general, and will hopefully make it easier for workers across large tech companies to come together in solidarity.

At the very least, we know that workers at Kickstarter have a strong collective voice. It’s unclear if the people who allegedly lost their jobs for union organising will be brought back. The union has said its first job will be to fight for equal pay and inclusive hiring practices, which sounds like a good start.

Tom: I can’t wait for someone to bash Mister Kickstarter right on the head with a ferociously oxymoronic oversized miniature.

Ava: That’s not quite how unions work.

Tom: Very well. I shall continue this quest on my lonesome.


Ava: There’s an absolute glut-load of movie and comic tie in games being announced in time for the New York Toy Fair. Prospero Hall have announced a Wonder Woman game and a Back to the Future game.

Tom: There’s little in their descriptions aside from references to the media they’re based on, so if you’re a real fan of ‘accelerat[ing] the DeLoreon to 88 MPH down Main Street before the clock tower strikes 10:04 pm!’-based games, then I’m sad to say the Wonder Woman game is probably not for you.

Ava: One tie-in announcement did stand out a little bit though. Scooby Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion sounds a little off the beaten path, promising a one off escape room vibe that the publishers are calling a Coded Chronicle (with a little ™ beside it, so you know it’s fancy). With clues scattered across the board, cards and secret envelopes you’ll be solving a shared mystery with the actual Scooby gang.

There’s a fair few of these escape room tabletop things available now, and I’ve not made the leap. Will this one mark itself out? The branding promises a unique code breaking system that could see this being the first of many. Colour me curious, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you pulled the mask off this and just found a caretaker trying to pull yet another insurance scam.

Tom: Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava. What did the Scooby Doo villain say when he overpaid for the fusion power plant in Power Grid.

Ava: I don’t know Tom, What did the Scooby Doo villain say when he overpaid for the fusion power plant in Power Grid?

Tom: And I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for your pesky meddling bids.

Ava: MOVING ON!

Ava: Meanwhile, in Kickstarter cash-ins, we have Marvel United, sadly not a unionised force of superheroes (though I would love to see it).

Marvel United promises cute anime miniatures of some of your favourite comic book characters and has already made a bucketload of dosh. Tiny miniatures and an excessive amount of stretch goals are the order of the day here. The game asks you to build a timeline of hero cards to make moves against a supervillain with their very own masterplan. It could be great, it could be nonsense!

Tom: To me, this just looks like a way to push (admittedly wonderful) miniatures onto Marvel fans. It’s fitting that a robot relays the rules of the game to you in the video, because it feels to me like a bloodless, plastic collectible.

Matt: Sorry Tom exactly how much blood do you expect?

Tom: That’s a great question, and one I’m going to ignore. I must say though, even if stuff like this  floats your boat there are so, so many KS exclusive miniatures that all have names and faces and are presumably important in some Marvel films sometimes. My favourite is MODOK. What is it? It’s cute by way of horrifying. I’ve not watched a Marvel film since one of the Thors. Please someone help me I’m awfully lost.

Ava: There’s a lot of Marvellous options out there right now, with Quinns reviewing the Fantasy Flight’s Marvel Champions card game recently and Atomic Mass’ Crisis Protocol miniatures game out in the wild. The licensing love has certainly been spread around a bit, I do wonder which will come out on top.


Ava: Friends, Romans, Countryfile, lend me your ears! Except don’t, lend your money to this kickstarter, and hopefully get a great game at the end of it. But only if you want to, I’m not the boss of you.

Gladius is new on the colosseum block, with cute art, a woman-led design team, and a promising mix of gambling and fighting. Players will choose from five spectator characters, and throw a deckful of gladiators into randomised line-ups of events. Each player will be able to bet on the winner, as well as throw in influence cards to throw the game. So a mix of betting, bluffing, battling and shenanigans. There’s some intriguing stuff here and it might be nice.

Tom: A $32k stretch goal promises an official Gladius song, no less! I also took the ‘Which Gladius Character are you?’ quiz at the bottom of the page, which was a fun little diversion.

Ava: Ooh, what did you get?

Matt: I’m “Mr Gladius”. I don’t need a test to tell me that, and you can’t make me take it.

Tom: I got BIGGEST FAN. ‘You are boundlessly enthusiastic about your favorite things!’. This is an unprecedented level of positivity for a Monday morning and has made me Gladius’ BIGGEST FAN.

Ava: I got the same, but in the process crashed a billion browser tabs and generally got in a bit of a mess. This feels like the correct amount of positivity for a Monday morning.

My new favourite genre of Kickstarter is one that immediately launches into telling you that it isn’t what I thought it was when I clicked on it.

Choss is NOT a chess rebrand, and I am mildly disappointed, but it makes up for it by being something quite lovely. Choss is Japanese for touch, finger or feel and the game is played with eyes closed, using only your touchy feely fingers. A fairly simple pattern matching puzzle built from tactile pieces designed to be recognisable by touch, levelling the playing field for players with visual impairments. The pieces can be used in other games that require a distinct range of pieces, making them more accessible too. It doesn’t look like the most thrilling game, but it still looks like a nice thing! I particularly like the option to build your own version using bottle caps and a few ceramic ornaments they’ll post you. A Pop and Play, if you will.

Ava: This week’s ‘game that’s making the news because I love the name, even though it feels a bit ill-suited to the game’ is a stonker.

I’m sorry, did you say street magic is an absolute belter of a name, and promises a vignette based story game, about building a mystical city together. The game doesn’t need a GM, and allows you to build cities of any kind of genre you please. You could be building castles in the sky, boulevards under the sea, or you could be building an alternate Eastbourne. The choice is yours, and your table will overflow with note cards representing buildings, places, people and stories that are taking place in your every growing world.

It sounds lovely, but I can’t help but read the title in the voice of GOB Bluth.

Tom: This has weirdly made a connection in my brain to the upcoming not-at-all-board-game ‘Tales From Off-Peak City’ from Cosmo D, the latest in a series of delightfully surrealist explore-em-ups set in cities made from jazz. If this is a tabletop version of that game, then colour me interested, but most likely I’ll get all excited about it – only for my friends to drag me straight back to ‘Bogtown’, our much-maligned Quiet Year world. We promised we’d never go back on account of the bog, and what lies therein.

Ava: What’s in the bog that you’re so scared of?

Tom: Big Lizard.

Ava: Good to know.

Ava:Here’s a curious oddity that tickles my bolter.

Tom: Ava! This is a family show!

Ava:Don’t worry. It’s a news bolter.

Escapogic have built a Warhammer 40,000 escape room in Nottingham. If you’ve ever wanted to get trapped in a space hulk with an inquisitor then your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay, and now achievable, provided you can get to Nottingham (good trams, weirdly oversized train station, some nice parks). In Immaterium you will be playing pilgrims on a trading ship, getting into some deep warp trouble, and trying to find your way out. The room has been designed in collaboration with the neighbours, actual Games Workshop, so should at least be satisfyingly on brand.

Tom: This room promises players that they will be able to ‘touch, smell and feel all areas of the ship and everything on it’. With two of those being functionally identical, I can’t wait to experience first-hand what scents they’ve cooked up just for this experience. Will it be the invasive tang of blood and oil? The reek of mutated, scorched flesh? Or will it be more true to my Games Workshop experiences, and smell of solvent and the subway nextdoor? One only needs to make the trek to Nottingham to find out.

Ava: In the grim darkness of the far future there is only touch. And a little bit of feel. And maybe a smell sometimes.

Matt: There will always be a smell, I’m afraid. I can’t get rid of it.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Tactics & Tactility #6 – Caverna’s tiny architectures

Matt Lees8 comment(s)

[Tactics and Tactility is our column about the feelings, details and pleasures of tabletop gaming. This week Ava is looking at Caverna, and the gentle joys of piling up rocks.]

In front of me is a little board. Half of it is forest, half of it is mountain.

I do not understand the intricacies of the game I’m playing, Caverna, but I do understand that this tiny cardboard fiefdom is mine. Within the context of the rules, I can do what I want with it.

The game in Caverna comes from competition for the best spaces, picking the right order to do things in, making sure you can be as efficient as possible, and always having a back up plan. There’s a load of clever decisions to be made on the central board, and a few on your player board. Where you put things matters, but not as much as how quickly you got there, and just the simple binary question of whether you have enough space or not.

That’s the game. That’s the puzzle. That’s the beating heart of the design.

But that’s not what makes me love my time with it.

Caverna is a treasure trove of little wooden objects. Animals and resources all come in tiny wooden images. Rooms and fields are little cardboard tiles. You lay the tiles out, you find the right spaces for things, and then you’ve built a thing.

A home.

Caverna has a whole page full of rules for what animals can be kept where, and doesn’t really care about where you keep your raw materials.

I follow the rules to the letter, but then make my own rules for everything else. My rocks end up in a little stone circle deep in the forest. A pile of rubies sits in my cave. An entire forest of woods shoots up along the edges of my fields. The dogs can go anywhere, provided they aren’t looking after sheep, so they run free, along edges and corners, darting in between the strictures and structures that tie other animals down.

It’s a simple, physical joy. To take a break from the mental labour and lay out my pieces in a way that pleases me. Caverna knows this, and gives you lovely objects to play with. Pieces to pile up and places to put them. Your board fills up with rooms and fields and tunnels and caves and pastures. All of those fill up with the very specific pieces of wood that the rules permit.

We play games to feel clever, to compete, to tell stories, to win, to laugh, to be baffled, to talk trash and share joy.

But sometimes, I just want to make a big stack of rocks.

There’s a reason this column has tactility in the name.

Cosmic Encounter knows exactly how satisfying it is to clack those spaceships on top of each other. Games with weighted poker chips are just begging you to pile them up and tap them together.  Even simple stacks become playful skyscrapers. I often put my money into piles of what I want to do with them, each a little monument to next turn’s hopes and dreams, a memento of my mathematical margins.

Playing Imhotep recently, as one person laid out the ships and the desert and prepared to teach, me and two other players got lost in the chunky wooden blocks of our quarry. I build a flattened pyramid, Will was more ambitious and stacked tall, while Jess made a little columnated temple. Nothing to do with the game, none of us had noticed the others until we were finished, and all of us, absolutely had to build a something. We were engrossed in our edifices. The teacher waited patiently for us to be ready to start.

A beautiful thing about board games is that we can touch them. They are objects we venerate, adding the ritual of rules to give them a meaning and purpose. But there’s a more profane wonder at play: grabbing for the pieces and stacking and piling and fiddling.

We build little buildings on the outskirts of the game, and slowly dismantle them as we play. It’s not the reason why anyone’s at the table, but it’s a lovely activity to excuse. How often do we get to just play with some little wooden blocks and build something? We jump back to our childhood, to tiny towns and wooden worlds spread out on carpets.

Humans like putting things on other things. We are builders. We are destroyers. We are rebuilders. Over and over again.

Maybe it’s just a thing we do to pass time from turn to turn. Maybe it’s a sign we’ve got distracted, that the game’s not thrilling enough.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s a part of the magic.

***

So folks, what’s the biggest thing you’ve ever built out of board game bits? What game has the most pleasing pieces to play with?

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 17/02/20

Matt Lees43 comment(s)

Tom: Come one, come all! Hear two-and-a-half bundles of electrified meat ramble about board games, for exactly 1,736 words! I’ve had one coffee and now the world feels like it is made of bees and thinking.

Ava: Business as usual, then?

Tom: Bees knees as usual? Do bees have knees? How many? Ava this is too much for a Monday.

Ava: Let’s just shout lots.

Tom: GLASGOW!

Ava: New from Lookout Games, is Glasgow, a twenty minute two player roundabout of resource gathering and buildings building. Like Tokaido and Patchwork, being behind means it’s your turn, so you’ve got to weigh up jumping ahead for the best bits against giving your opponent everything you turned your nose up at. The buildings you choose to build will form a shared grid that dictates how you’ll score. It looks simple, variable and not very much like Glasgow.

Ava: I’ve visited Glasgow a lot, and the line from the description ‘travel the city (in an abstract manner)’ is fundamentally accurate. I have only ever travelled Glasgow in an abstract manner. The city centre is incomprehensible to the point of breaking the rules of geometry. ‘It’s kind of a Z shape’ says my exploratory partner, and I can only respond with ‘how is that possible, and how are we on this road again’. Lovely town. Would get lost in again.

Tom: I like the ominous threat of ‘Who has contributed more to the current state of Glasgow?’

Ava: That’s a question best left to the philosophers, the poets, the shipwrights and the people who put that traffic cone on the Duke of Wellington’s head every night.

Tom: CAPIO!

Ava: ROLL FORTY DICE TO BEGIN! I’m kind of already sold on the basis of that, Capio is a dice grabber where an enormous platter of dice are yours for the taking. Players are racing to complete their own task cards before their players, all grabbing from one enormous puddle of dice. Nice!

Tom: This is one of those games that will surely fit in the ‘prone to accidents category’. A real-time game which involves throwing forty dice across the table and racing to pick them up? What could go wrong? With an advertised age range of 8-99 years, it’ll surely begin with a pensioner crawling around under the table looking for a yellow four.

Ava: It’s certainly a game that could be made more exciting by not playing with a table, and just asking people to rush around a dice filled mansion.

Tom: Throw them into a swimming pool for extra ridiculous points.

Matt: How many times to I have to assure you that we do not have the budget for a dice filled mansion. Why can’t you trust me on this, the most basic of my many financial facts.

Ava: AZULO!

Tom: Continuing in the long line of Azul-adjacent products, we have a small, sweet card game picking up the ‘Zul mantle. This particular piece of portuguese porcelain is a reskin of 2017’s 5 Colours – and in 2019 is called 5211, for simplicity’s sake.

Here, players will take cards from their hands and play them simultaneously over a number of rounds, hoping that the cards in front of them are the most common around the table – but not too common. If there’s too much of one colour, the second most common will score instead. Unless that colour is too common, in which case the third most common will score. And so on.

This looks like a nice little game, even if it is a perhaps too abstract to explain properly – but I don’t have much to say about it. I mainly wanted to include it in the news because the first picture on BGG shows W Eric Martin setting up the game between a knife and fork, with wine glass ready and waiting to one side – confirming my long-held belief that Azul is considered a classic because everyone ‘in the know’ secretly buys it with the sole purpose of eating it. I knew those pieces were meant to be swallowed as soon as I put them in my mouth.

Tom: That’s all for Azul news this week, but stay tuned for when we’ll inevitably report on an Azul 1 remake that, akin to hollywood naming conventions, will be titled ‘Azul’. Or maybe ‘The Azul’. It’s for simplicity’s sake.

Ava: VILLAGO! Osprey games have been doing great work lately, and I really enjoy following Peer Sylvester on the old twitters, so I’m obviously going to mention their latest collaboration, especially as it gives me a chance to sing some Kinks.

Matt: God bless royal ducks, orange queens and sobriety!

Ava: Village Green promises a parochial pastoral theme, pitting players as potting-shed potterers. You’ll be building statues, flowers, ponds and putting them all in for county council competitions. Will your village be the greenest green? I don’t know, but I know there’s nobody more passive aggressive than a small town conservationist, and I feel there’s ample room for rural beef here

Tom: My village green is going to have a wrestling ring and a vape shop.

Ava: Have you drawn those onto the board with sharpie?

Tom: It’s actually crayon, but thank you – I’ve been thorough.

Tom: DINOSO!

Ava: Does anyone know how to tell if a game has too much game? Perseverance (pictured at the top of this post as today’s lead image) promises story-driven dice-drafting worker placement, with area majority city-building.

Tom: Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Ava: And survival.

Tom: Wait what.

Ava: AND DINOSAURS.

There’s a lot going on there, and there’s a lot of designers in the credits: Richard Amann, Thomas Vande Ginste, Anthony Howgego, Viktor Peter, Wolf Plancke, and Dávid Turczi. That said, Perseverance: Castaway Chronicles is actually a series of potentially interlinkable standalone games. You’ll be building a world and going on dangerous journeys with a variety of different narrative episodes of dice fiddling and resource gathering. Four games will take you on the full journey, with each one affecting the next if you choose to string them together. Apparently you’ll be going from island castaways to builders of civilisation, all under the watchful gaze of some hungry dinosaurs. It sounds weird!

Tom: Maybe towards the end of the game you’ll integrate the dinosaurs fully into your society, finally working in peace. GASP What if you could have a DINOSAUR MAYOR? My mind is running wild with the possibilities. The colour palette of this one was not what I was expecting – think Cerebria but with grey dinosaurs rather than grey emotions. I know which I’d rather have follow me around 🙁

Ava: You’d rather be chased through life by a pack of velociraptors than mild anxiety? That seems rash.

Tom: The dinosaurs are metaphorical!

Ava: In that case, I’m not entirely sure I could tell the difference.

Ava: WARO!

Tom: That one doesn’t really work.

Ava: We’re drawing the line at ‘WARO’ when ‘VILLAGO’ was totally okay?

Tom: ‘VILLAGO’ was charmingly bad, whereas ‘WARO’ just reminds me of my least favourite Mario relative.

Ava: Never mind this poorly conceived goof. I’ve come over all mimsy. Wonderlands War is on kickstarter right now, and it’s another colourful take on Reverend Dodgson’s (aka Lewis Carrol’s) gloriously out of copyright (and so somewhat overdone) surrealism. You get to be a jabberwocky! Somewhere between a wargame and a dinner party, the game sees players vying to bring whimsy back to Wonderland whilst also fighting each other for some reason?

Tom: It’s your bog-standard asymmetric bag-building area-control affair, this one. Players are visiting the various factions seated around ‘The Tea Party’, adding the corresponding poker chips to their bag of supporters, which they’ll then presumably hurl at each other in a fight to the death over various wonderland locations. I know this description is vague but I’m doing the best I can from the six gifs on the Kickstarter. The board looks like a wonderful component-salad, with miniatures and cardboard and tokens, oh my!

Ava: I’m partly just bringing this up because I want an excuse to tell everyone to read Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot’s ludicrously inventive mash up of biopic, local history, North West England rivalry and literary criticism. Find out more about Alice, Lewis, Sunderland and Bryan.

Ava: COOKO! This week’s very niche kickstarter is an imaginary cookbook!

Dragon Stew is a supplement for Dungeons and Dragons that’s all about more culinary adventures. If you want to add flavour to your campaign or spice to your backstory, or just run a dungeon crawling version of Ready, Steady, Cook, this could be the book for you.

On diving into the details, it turns out they’ve used all the same cookery puns as me, and I’m pretty bitter about it. On the other hand, they’ve added a stretch goal of a ‘War Cook’, a sub-class for the fighters.

Tom: This is fantastic. Imagine running an entire cookery campaign – it would end up looking alot like Battle Chef Brigade in tabletop form, which I am ferociously down for. This also has some adorable art for some adorable familiars like the ‘Mochat’ and a ‘Craboissant’ – creatures made of pastry that you can cook up rather than summon or tame. You can cook your own familiars!

Ava: *GASP*

Tom: Wait, no, not like that!

Ava: HISTORIO! I really enjoyed scouring the pictures from W Eric Martin’s recent tour of the Deutsches Spielarchiv, in Nürnberg. Got to love a german board game museum, and all the weird delights and oddities held within. I hope I can make a visit.

Tom: I especially enjoyed reading about the prototype of Ketchup, which eventually became the industry classic and household name Jagd Der Vampire in 1991. If you haven’t basked in the glow of this absolute essential, you play as a vampire who has given up blood for ketchup, and throughout the game you’re trying to traverse the board on a search for the great tomato. Board game historians like myself note that this was the first game to feature a hidden onion mechanic, with four of the cheeky chaps hiding in the game’s plastic towers. Of course, the hidden onion mechanic has been re-implemented by many games since…

Ava: Such as?

Tom: Uhhh…

Ava: Hold on, you’re not a board game historian at all! You’re just two dice inside a trenchcoat!

Tom: THAT’S HOW I ROLL!

Ava: That’s so bad I’m going to do a little cry.

Tom: Aha! The hidden onion mechanic!

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 10/02/20

Matt Lees47 comment(s)

Tom: In today’s news we’re heading to the NEWS FACTORY WHERE NEWS IS MADE. I guess? What’s the introductory goof here? We’ve got to have that sweet  narrative wrapper or else people will think we’re really boring.

Ava: I’ve got no idea today. Though maybe news factory is a bit overdone? I certainly know I’ve said ‘news-spigot’ far too many times.

Tom: Damn. I guess we’re not doing a theme this week then. Does today’s news exist in a joyless void?

Ava: I’m definitely team joyless void.

Tom: That makes two of us!

Ava: When I say Joyless – you say Void! JOYLESS! …

Tom: … that’s already too much joy for me, I’m going to crack on with the news. This week, it’s The Roxley Round-Up! Gorilla Marketing is their first offering, slated for a March 2020 release – and we’ve got an exclusive SUSD scoop on this one, as I played it LAST NIGHT.

Ava: You’ve finally accrued enough journalist points to get your hat with a ‘press’ tucked into the brim. (We’ve no brim-budget left though, so you need to provide your own.)

Tom: Gorilla Marketing is an advertising simulator where players take it in turns to roll dice to make acronyms for various kinds of products. These then get placed into different judging categories like ‘made with least child labour’ or ‘most frightening side effects’ – with the victor gaining precious, precious bananas. Having given it a whirl at the pub last night, this one is a pretty good light party game for people who enjoy a slice of wordplay – I especially enjoyed the second round, where you make up acronym-based taglines for the products you designed the first time round.

Ava: Next up from Roxley is Skyrise, a remake of Sébastien Pauchon’s Metropolys. Skyrise promises an intriguing spatial auction system. You’re bidding to build in a particular lot, but each bid has to be placed on the board where you want to build. The twist is that new bids have to be placed on new places, so you’ve got to balance bidding to raise the prices, with leading the bidding towards the place you actually want to build. It sounds weird? And maybe annoying? Time will say whether it’s annoying in a good way or annoying in an ‘I’m bored of this’ way.

Tom: And lastly, we’ve got a standalone expansion for Steampunk Rally coming out – Steampunk Rally: FUSION. This will add new TRACKS, new ‘PART ABILITIES’ such as OVERCHARGE and GEAR UP, SECRET PROJECTS and FUSION ENERGY. IS MY ENTHUSIASM HIDING THE FACT THAT I HAVEN’T PLAYED THE ORIGINAL?

Ava: NO! You just included this so you could use the phrase ‘Roxley Round Up’!

Tom: You can’t have a ‘round-up’ that only features two games!

Ava: You want to know four words I didn’t expect to see together today? Reiner Knizia Legacy Game. But that’s right folks, it’s happening.

Ava: My City is a game of twenty four linked scenarios, where players will lay tiles to build cities. Depending on whether you win or lose, you get to add stickers to your board to make your city easier or harder to build in the next game. It looks pleasingly light, and comes from the most prolifically inconsistent designer in board games. Judging from his classics this could be a nearly perfect work of ludic art. Judging from his misses, this could be utterly forgettable.

One nice touch is that the game has alternate maps on the back of the player boards, that leave you with a standardised, non-legacy version of the game if you just want to give it a try, or want to play with a mixed bag of players.

Tom: You know, as a competitive legacy city-building game, this might end up scratching the itch I hoped Charterstone would when I naively bought it over a year ago. That game managed to hook in some of my less cardboard-inclined housemates, but My City’s promise of progressing through the ages could manage to hook in my more cardboard-inclined housemates – i.e: me. I think I want this game.

Ava: Sticking with the Big Kniz, we’ve got a new edition of one of his older games, Times Square, with a new box art that’s lovely lovely lovely.

Royal Visit sees two players taking opposite sides of a tug of war over six colourful characters. Playing coloured cards pulls the matching piece towards you, but you’ve got to stick within the restrictions about where those pieces like to hang out. One piece can only move in between its guards, whilst another is good at summoning other pieces, and the such.

Honestly, I’m partly here because before it was called Times Square, it was called ‘Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb zwei’ and the characters were called things like Brilli-Lilli, Blond Hans and Schampus Charlie. I just love saying German words. I might see if I can dig up an old edition at some point. Brandishing it up to the table whilst yelling ‘it’s nachts um halb zwei, let’s gehts auf der Reeperbahn’.

Tom: The names from Times Square are wonderful too though – Saucy Sue, Handsome Hal and Champagne Charlie. Let’s hope Royal Visit brings even more delightful nomenclature to the table.

Ava: I like that Champagne Charlie encourages you to maintain the alliteration by pronouncing either Champagne or Charlie ridiculously.

Tom: Completely irrelevant news to add here – near where I live there are two rival businesses – ‘Champagne Charlie’s’ and ‘Charlie’s Bargain Booze’. After what the owner of the latter has described to me as ‘underhand tactics’, they’ve had to change their name to Charlie’s [REDACTED] Booze. I’m not making this up, I swear. I’ll go out there today and whack an image in the comments.

Ava: None of this is news.

Tom: The people need to know.

Ava: [REDACTED]


Ava: Promising another colourful puzzle are Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen, a double barrelled double act I keep seeing attached to intriguing ideas and strong games.

Fringers is a co-operative puzzler that features players rooting around in a bag for rings of a variety of colours, then trying to arrange them in a particular pattern, while only able to put rings on the fingers of the player on their left. It looks simple, silly and unique.

Tom: It’s real time, to boot! Or to glove, I suppose.

Ava: And what’s not to glove?

Matt: My brain will only read the name of this game in the voice of Steve Brule. Is this a feature or a bug?

Tom: Dodo! We have to talk about Dodo! WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE IDIOT BIRD.

Ava: Sigh. Okay, Tom, Let’s do this.

Dodo is the perfect combination of real time gaming and the latest innovation in eggs. And I’m not even joking. Featuring a deftly designed egg that steadily rolls down an incomplete mountain path, players will be scrabbling in a puddle of face down tokens, looking for the components they need to build the next bit of the little ramp. If you complete every section of the mountain in time for the egg to roll safely down to the ship waiting at the bottom, then you win, if you don’t, you’ve got egg on your face.

I’m not sure the game itself looks particularly rich, but I am genuinely impressed by the ability to make real time drama ever more real by adding a slowly rolling egg to proceedings. What’s more nerve-wracking, a countdown timer, a sand timer, or a big blue egg rolling down a mountain.

Time will tell which time teller truly terrifies and whether one weird egg is enough to carry a whole game.

Tom: I will give you my word that egg game will be the finest game ever released.

Ava: Why have you given me an egg with the word ‘NICE’ written on it.

Tom: It’s all I had on me.

Matt: It’s understandable that Tom – that newest addition to the SU&SD team – is immediately optimistic about a game that includes A Physical Egg. I’m personally still psychologically scarred by the intensive games of HABA’s Dancing Eggs that we played at a conference one year, until we eventually had to ban the game when it became clear that several adults accidentally smashing through a glass balcony to their deaths was at that point more of an eventuality than a possibility. Still, I too am All For Egg.

Tom: Whatever you do, don’t watch the video on the Kickstarter for Frutticola.

Frutticola looks pretty sweet on the theming front. Players are harvesting adorable miniature fruits to squeeze into adorable miniature jamjars to make adorable miniature money. You’ll be choosing where to send their limited workers and farmers while balancing an economy of development, fruit-processing, digging and warehousing with cardboard trees and plastic fruits watching on in abject horror as their eventual fate unfolds slowly in front of them. You know, I’m ashamed to admit that the theme is basically all that’s captured me on this one. Who gave me the keys to the newsvoid?

Ava: No, really Tom, what did I just watch? Why are trees vomiting fruit to the sound of mild electroswing?

Tom: I explicitly said not to watch the video on account of the little jamlets.

Ava: Everyone knows it’s impossible to resist forbidden fruit preserves.

Tom: You can’t make a jamlet without breaking a few…

Ava: Of the rules laid out in the garden of Eden leading to mankind being eternally born into sin?

Tom: …jams?

Matt: Jameggs

Ava: Meanwhile, tucked in an even weirder corner of kickstarter, we’ve got a solo rpg zine that’s not about people, but objects.

The Artefact will have you sitting alone, going through a zine and answering prompts about a storied magical item of your own imagining. You’ll tell the story of its origins, and the people who wield it over the course of its life. As much an exercise in creative storytelling and reflection as it is a game, this looks sweet, and I’m glad to see it doing well.

Tom: This is wonderful, and reminds me of the many many hours I spent with The Quiet Year – a fantastic ‘cartography RPG’ for any budding worldbuilders out there. You could almost certainly combine the two games to create the most decadent of worlds for your interested, but ultimately baffled friends.

I’m super excited for this one both because I love anything that pushes me into creative-writing territory (the english graduate is alive in me, somewhere), but also because I can add it to the small collection of games that are totally fine to play sitting in bed on a Sunday morning. It’ll fit right between A Distant Plain and Cash and Guns.

Ava: This bedroom counter-insurgency is a glimpse into your lifestyle that the people did not need to know.

Tom: [REDACTED]

Ava: In other ancient item news, we’ve found out that Vikings invented stretch goals, and not the huguenots, as previously believed.

Matt: I’m just jumping in here to drop the same joke I made in the SU&SD Slack channel: “Cool Mini or Norse”. I’ll let myself out.

Ava: Archaeologists on the Scottish island of Lindisfarne have uncovered a particularly fancy carved glass piece from a game of Hnefatafl, and are speculating about what this means for the history of the island and the folk who lived there.

Were the Viking invaders actually really fancy? Were the anglo-saxon monks prey to the trendsetting of Viking influencers? We don’t know! It’s all really interesting guesswork. History! It’s complicated!

I’m left wondering whether in a few hundred years there’ll be an archaeologist digging up my board game collection and saying ‘“the sheer quality of this piece suggests this isn’t any old gaming set. Someone on the island is living an elite lifestyle.” Little do they know, I’ve eaten nothing but cheese on toast and stale crumpets for days. ‘Elite lifestyle’ indeed.

Tom: It’s time to return to whence you came, Ava. The void is calling. Do you hear it? Echoing across space and time. A call that reaches out from long before, a cry without an answer, a neverend-

Ava: VOID!

Tom: Hey! That was my line!

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

GAMES NEWS! 03/02/20

Matt Lees40 comment(s)

Tom: See Ava, I told you that a board game camping trip would be a valuable team-building exercise for the two of us – isn’t this wonderful? The great outdoors, a roaring fire –

Ava: This isn’t anything to do with camping or board games. We’re just sitting in an underpass throwing dice into an empty KFC bucket.

Tom: Look, it might not be ‘fun’ or ‘a game’ but I’ve got to playtest Bargain Bucket Quest before it hits Kickstarter. Fancy a s’moredgame?

Ava: That’s just a marshmallow wedged between two Catan hexes.

Tom: Fine, if you’re going to smash my dreams one-by-one, then at least have the decency to do so whilst telling me about the latest board game news!

Ava: First up is the news that Castles of Tuscany is a thing that exists. This is a follow up to Stefan Feld’s Castles of Burgundy, but we have yet to see how similar it is, or how different it is, or just about anything about how it is. It’s coming soon from Alea, and I’ve rarely been so excited by simply the NAME of a thing.

Tom: I’ve never played Castles of Burgundy!

Ava: Second up, there’s a big box new version of Hansa Teutonica, which has always felt to me like the archetypal German-style box of beige historic passive aggression we tend to call ‘eurogames’. I’ve not actually played it, but I’ve always been a little curious, and when ‘the boys’ discussed it in a podcast recently, I was like ‘oooh, that sounds nice’.

Matt: It was nice! It’s one of those games that I specifically remember a handful of the mechanics for, but the rest is just a warming glow of probably monk-related theme.

Ava: Wait, Tom – did you say you’d never played Castles of Burgundy? You’ve never known the sweet agony of being just one worker short of the perfect move? Never puzzled over the arcane science of its rule-bending iconography? Never felt the power of getting to roll the white die because you’re first in turn order? How did you get here?

Tom: No idea! It’s almost definitely a mistake! Let’s keep going before anyone notices!

Ava: Finally in this whirlwind expansionebruary roundup, we’ve got ‘the photogenic one’, the imaginatively titled Era: the Medieval age expansion. You guessed it, it’s an expansion for roll and build, clip it together, medieval city builder Era: The Medieval age. Why is that exciting? Well LOOK AT THAT BRIDGE. Like a bridge over troubled waters, I would play that game. The base game was a re-imagining of Roll Through the Ages, with players rolling dice to acquire buildings to slot into their big plastic player board. There’s something of a mismatch between depth and price, as a result of all the big chunky lumps of plastic, but I’ve heard good things about the game itself. Maybe an expansion can add the chewiness it needs (although of course, it’s raising the price even further, if that is the case).

Matt: This is the Catch-22 we talked about on the podcast we recorded just the other day (online next Friday) – it’s not even nearly grand enough to justify the pricetag, and yet it’s hard to see how much it can meaningfully expand on that without ramping up the costs to new levels of discomfort. Having said that, the transparent plastic rivers are making me feel nice and gooey in my brain – so anything is possible in boardgame world. Can I just point out too that it’s amazingly amusing that the 3D mock-up they’ve shown so far doesn’t model any of the marks engraved into the game’s pegboard? It’s funny you see, because the marks on the actual game board aren’t visible at all in the actual game – and here through omission they are now literally invisible. It’s funny, Ava. You’re supposed to laugh – it’s funny. Why are you looking at me like that.

Ava: Something hot is coming out of the brain of Győri Zoltán Gábor, and that’s a bluffing card game called Spicy. If I was a tabloid headline writer, I’d be leading with HOT STUFF BLUFFS TOUGH. Spicy gets into the news on the back of a bizarre conceit and some delightful art. Players take the role of rival big cats, who have given up on mauling each other in favour of holding a deceitful spicy food battle. You’ll be playing wasabi and chili peppers and other hot stuff face down, and making claims about what hots they actually are, at permanent risk of getting called out as some kind of big cat hot sauce fraudster.

Tom: Get this to the top of the BGG Hotness ASAP.

Ava: As Spicy As Possible?

Tom: Here’s hoping.

Ava: I find it genuinely weird that the appropriate term for big cats is just ‘big cats’. I really want there to be a proper collective term for lions and tigers and panthers and such, and not just ‘oh yeah, they’re cats, but big’. It’s possible a board game news column isn’t the right time to figure this out.

Tom: I want the opposite – more ‘BIG’ as a prefix please. Oil tanker? BIG BOAT. Giraffe? BIG DOG. Dinosaurs? BIG FROG.

Ava: Okay, we definitely need to talk about this outside of the news.

Tom: Ava, do you reckon one day we’ll be able to do….BIG NEWS?

Ava: We can dare to dream.

Matt: You are both contractually obligated not to dream.

Ava: Retiring to the garden of a local monastery, we’ve got a contender for ‘most parochial theme of the year’ coming in with Genotype, an exploration of Gregor Mendel’s monastic allotment, and the discovery of genetic inheritance.

Ava: In Genotype, players will be placing workers into a shared garden and arguing about which particular peas get planted where. This dictates the outcomes of what happens when you watch the peas grow and roll the offspring dice to see where their genes land. You’ll then be drafting those dice to try and meet the goals laid out on cards, representing the empirical proof for the concept of genetics you and Gregor have been looking for.

It took me a while to work out why it might be worth having to explain punnet squares to your fellow players, but as soon as I saw that you could overlay the edges of the matrices with your own genetic hooha, it clicked. There’s some clever probability bumping going on here, and it could be interesting.

Tom: I’m on a bit of a nature-themed high after playing the Evolution sequel-em-up Oceans the other day and being suitably charmed by the way the game really does feel like a delicate ecosystem that you’re all collectively trying to nurture. Hopefully Genotype will stir up some nice thematic feelings as you roll your ‘offspring dice’; echoing the real-life way that babies are made.

Ava: Can’t make an omelette and/or baby without rolling a few dice. Also on Kickstarter, but with less points for originality, yet another mission to Mars is being mounted.

Migration: Mars combines resource gathering and hexagonal habitat building. A pleasing grid and some lovely little plastic lumps are the core of this latest Mars maker. Plenty of people will be put off with what appears to be a roll and move circuit of the board as players move their rover around the outside of the board, gathering resources to help them build enough habitats to house six people and win the game. There’s some curious touches here, but I’m struggling to see what will make this stand out on an increasingly crowded red planet.

Tom: I was also struggling to see the appeal of this one – it looks like pretty light fare to me, and I was ready to dismiss it as kickstarter bloat. But then I realised: it has impact resistant domes, Ava! Don’t you just hate to see it when the plastic domes in your mars colony games just haven’t got the bulk, the grit, the chutzpah to resist a good whacking? Migration Mars is promising to have the strongest domes in the bizz. It’s huge.

Ava: The Biz.

Tom: It’s short for ‘the business’.

Ava: No, Tom, I was singing in a Batman style deep, gravelly voice, in honour of a nineties kids TV show I doubt anyone but me can remember.

Tom: Nobody is the same age as you, Ava. You’re basically a temporal anomaly.

Ava, sadly: The Biz.

Ava: Also taking flight on Kickstarter currently is Rocketmen, sadly not a game about competitive Elton Johnning.

Tom: Oh no. I need to rescind my pledge immediately.

Ava: Martin Wallace’s Rocketmen is another space race simulator, with players vying to be the first to be the most space. Rocketmen sees players buying cards, adding them to launch pads, and eventually sending missions to low-Earth orbit, the moon, or Mars. The game includes a lunar hodge-podge of mission bonuses, secret goals, saving the planet from asteroids or pandemics, variant rules, and an optional miniatures set.

Tom: I’m sad to say that in my patent-pending Kickstarter goodness-ometer, Rocketmen failed with flying colours. 30 scrolls of the mouse to get to the gameplay, and 16 mentions of the word ‘exclusive’ or ‘deluxe’ before that point, giving it a rough score of 3.26/10.

Ava: What kind of maths is that?

Tom: It’s not maths, it’s mathscience. The two greats, married at last: a match made in heaven.

Ava: You know what else is a match made in heaven? The contrast of soft marshmallow filling and crisp, wholesome cardboard. These ‘s’moredgames’ are really tasty.

Tom: Thanks Ava, I really appreciate the honest feedback from your real human voice. Thank god I’m not fooling myself into thinking we’re on a camping holiday together. It would be awful if i was just projecting an idealised version of this conversation as I sit alone in an underpass shovelling cardboard and marshmallows into my mouth.

Matt: Do not worry Tom, I am here.

Ava: I too am definitely here. And just to let you know, I’d back Bargain Bucket Quest as soon as it hit Kickstarter, such is my faith in its brilliance as both a design and snack. You’re my hero, Tom.

Tom: That’s exactly what I wanted to hear! I’ll start working on the grease’n’gravy expansion immediately!

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

GAMES NEWS! 27/01/20

Matt Lees35 comment(s)

Ava: Tom, Tom, bring me a mug of hot lemon and ginger, a feather boa and five microphones.

Tom: Oh no.

Ava: That’s right! It’s time for BOADGAMESMNEWNS KAKAOAROAKE

Tom: Those aren’t real words!

Ava: When you flick at a fox and you write in a box

Tom: THAT’S SO-NO-RA!

Ava: Sonora is new from Pandasaurus and does mark itself out from the crowd, promising an unholy mix of crokinole and a roll and write. With gorgeous desert theming and a ‘flick and write’ structure, I’m excitedly baffled. You’ll be flicking pieces onto a central board, and where your piece lands decides which quadrant of your own little sheet of options you’ll be scribbling something in. Each quarter-page of the write-y bit is named after a different desert animal, and promises its own little lump of game: we’ve got something looking a bit like a crossword, a route builder, and two different flavours of numberwang?

Tom: Having the numbers printed on the discs you’re flicking is a fun way of tempering the randomness that can put some people off these games – if you’re good enough at the flicking minigame, you could provide yourself perfect ‘rolls’ for the writing bit. Well, until your friend pings your nice discs into other sections of the board, leaving you stuck playing owl bingo instead of sweet, sweet lizard tetris. Ugh. I hate nature.

Ava: Roll and writes tend to be pretty inscrutable at a distance, so it’s really hard to say whether this one will sing, but it does promise something unique. I’ll be keeping an eye to see if that’s ‘uniquely great’ or ‘uniquely rubbish’.

Ava: Cut my cards into pieces.
This is my last game board.

Cutterland’s press release really labours the pun of its ‘cutting edge mechanics’. I recognise I should be here for that sort of funny business, but ouch. It’s not even the first game we’ve covered about slicing up paper and divvying them up amongst the players. That’s what’s on offer here, with the cards themselves being chopped up and distributed, whilst everyone tries to build their own 8 bit inspired landscape.

Tom: It’s the Kingdomino: Legacy that no-one asked for! Except the Legacy element isn’t a legacy element at all – it’s just pure, untempered destruction.

Matt: I don’t plan on leaving behind a legacy that stretches much further beyond untempered destruction? I mean, if you’re lucky I might also leave behind a really quite high quality non-stick pan?

Tom: Going back to the game – I like the way that the drafting mechanic of the snipped-up pieces reminds me of the way I share things with siblings; I’ll divide – you choose.  Although it’s pretty worrying to see the rough rules explanation wrongly asserts that ‘nobody likes frogs’.

Ava: RUDE! Frogs are great.

Matt: I literally only chipped in to this bit to pop up and say how much I like the smug ‘n’ cheeky frog.


Tom: Oh! You city thing!

Ava: (Oh you city thing?)

Tom: Don’t you know you’re tiny and driving kickstarter insane!

Matt: I feel I should step in at this point at make it clear that a lot of these don’t scan terribly well, and are arguably “A Crime Against Music”. I won’t be taking action at this point, but the Bassoon of Damocles is hanging above the pair of you.

Tom: Micro City looks cheap and cute as all cut-price heck. A new edition of the original 2018 title, players take the role of architects building a miniature metropolis out of cards, dice, and one trusty engineer – with the twist that they can play this game in whatever small space they deem suitable. Airplane tray table? Sorted. In the cupboard under the stairs? Sure thing. Amongst a half-eaten breakfast burrito, three crushed cans of special brew, and a small pile of board game manuals? I really ought to clean my desk, but we can make it work, darling.

There’s a print and play version for just £2 if you want to dip your micro feet into the tiny waters before going all in. Mint Works feels like the microgame for me after playing it a tonne on a holiday a few years ago. I’m curious to see if this fresh challenger can take the throne.

The game is so small that the higher Kickstarter reward tiers are just… more copies of the game? The top tier is 20 copies of Micro City – which you could distribute to your friends, family and foes like business cards, or perhaps throw them from the top of a bus like a cardboard philanthropist. It’s your cardboard, baby, make it rain.

Ava: Shut Up & Sit Down does not endorse the hurling of microgames from heights into crowds.

Tom: I am the mayor of this [micro]city, I do as I please!

Matt: The last mayor of microcity went to jail for 12 years.

Ava: Cash rules everything around me. BEEZ! Get the honey. Stripey stripey bee y’all.

Tom: You know you could have done ‘Wu-Tang killer beez, we are the swarm’ there, right?

Ava: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Beez is new from Next Move games, publisher of the superlative Azul. You’ll play as the titular bees, finding routes to bounce from flower to flower and storing nectar in your hive. Details are scarce, but art from Chris Quilliams is a good sign, and the flight of the bumblebee is a pretty adequate soundtrack.

Tom: Ava, we know so little about this game that W Eric Martin referencing the designer saying ‘your movement dial also controls how you store nectar and affects how you score points’ is actually the most detailed information available.

Ava: I know Tom, but from now on every time I hear one of my favourite raps my brain is going to shout bees. I think spreading that particular neurosis is worth a little vagueness.

Matt: Cutting through your vagueness like a hot spoon through honey, I actually played a prototype of this game in Denmark last year – it’s a nice and sweet little thing. For the record, this is also the only time within 2020 that I will tolerate the usage of a Z in a place where an S should be, thanks.

Tom: Oh oh here she comes.
Watch out boy, she’ll code you up.
Oh oh here she comes.
She’s an Enigma.

Ava: It’s genuinely painful how heavily you have to stress that en to make it work.

Tom: Always happy to make you suffer for my art.

Matt: I’m not sure why you’re acting as if you won’t be both be facing the consequences for all of this?

Ava: Enigma: Beyond Code wins some kind of prize for most elaborately misrepresenting the goings on of Bletchley Park during World War Two. One player will be trying to break the Enigma code while everyone else is just pretending. Oh, and it’s all haunted and monsters and stuff.

I’m intrigued by the promise of 5-10 minute games of deduction, bluffing and puzzling, so long as it squeezes some depth into that short play time. Players will explore the mansion and reveal details of the items held in the room they draw from a random deck of rooms, except they might be lying to hinder you, while they attempt their own secret objective.

Tom: The description seems to have nothing to do with cryptology or codebreaking – just a bunch of dudes stumbling around a mansion whilst trying to put a stop to ‘a non-measurable force lurking beyond the boundaries of our world and eager to consume all its flesh’. Perhaps the “yes, and…” impulse ran unchecked with this one, or maybe a creative hijacking similar to that sketch from ‘I Think You Should Leave’?

Matt: I was utterly bamboozled by everything about this, right up until the point I started taking a good look at the box art for the game? Now I’m 100% sure that what we’re looking is literally just a dream someone had that’s been sucked into reality because of bad, weird magic.

Ava: I’d be interested to see if this game can avoid just being roundly frustrating, because ‘one person trying to take their job seriously while everyone else just mucks about trying to look busy’ is a pretty accurate description of every office environment I’ve ever worked in.

Tom: Were you ever the one taking the job seriously?

Ava: No comment.

Ava: The Shareef don’t like it [plonky plonk plonk plonk] Clash of Cultures, Clash of Cultures.

Tom: ….

Ava: That’s a double one, because it’s by the Clash, see.

Matt: Ava, I’m going to need your badge and your pun.

Ava: Clash of Cultures is a game I played once a very long time ago and can’t remember what I thought about it, sorry. Somebody must have liked it, as it’s getting a new ‘monumental edition’ from WizKids, with the core game and all the expansions wrapped up in a monolithic box. It’s a fancy civ game with some pleasing streamlining and quite a lot of interaction, although I remember it suffering from being a bit of a ‘how well have you grokked the tech tree’ take on the civ genre, rather than one where you feel like you’re ruling an actual civilisation. That said, I do love hunting for combos.

Tom: The BoardGameGeek description of this game literally made me fall asleep in my chair.

Ava: But Tom, you can ‘Grow your civilization, advance your culture and tech, and leave your mark by building wonders!’ It’s what board games are made for. I’m going to leave Vice’s recent criticism of the civilisation video game genre’s approach to history right here. Not because it’s necessarily relevant to Clash of Cultures, but because I’ve been looking for an excuse to link to it for weeks. It works as our ‘and finally’ link to something that isn’t just a game being announced.

Tom: Well, thank goodness that’s the end of board games karaoke. I feel a deep seated embarrassment about my performance and it’s only Monday. Next week I get to choose where we go for the games news, okay?

Ava: Oh no. Why have you got a mallet?

Tom: That’s right Ava, we’re going camping!!

Ava: Cripes Tom, it’s the middle of winter!

Tom: Don’t worry. I’ll bring a thermos of hot, hot news.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

GAMES NEWS! 20/01/20

Matt Lees22 comment(s)

Ava: Sit down, esteemed guests, grab a stool and join us for the launch of the Literary Review of Games News. The place to go for the wittiest, smuggiest, and dare I say the most Lacanian dissection of play this side of Freud’s own daycare centre.

Tom: Brace yourselves for some nuanced analysis, enlightening discourse and an intellectual rigour that hasn’t been seen since my failure to get into art school.

Ava: I mean we’re just going to name drop a bunch of fancy theorists, talk in a haughty voice and smoke French cigarettes, right?

Tom: Don’t tell them that! The important thing is that we’ll feel superior.

Ava: We will. Let’s get to the news, dear friend.

Ava: It’s been a big week for big kickstarters, with the most inevitable of them all kicking our start first.

Return to Dark Tower is Restoration Games’ take on Dark Tower, a 1981 Milton Bradley fantasy adventure game with an ominous electronic tower and a gadget for inputting your moves so the tower can respond. Return to Dark Tower updates the electronics, adds an app, and is designed by Isaac Childres and Rob Daviau, designer and co-designer of the top two games on BoardGameGeek. They’re the very definition of a safe pair of (pairs of) hands (of hands?). The game’s been in development and hype-generation for over two years. So it’s no surprise this has garnered well over two million dollars in support.

Restoration Games’ approach of ‘try to remake something as exciting as you remember it, not how it actually was’ is such a strong approach to quasi-curatorial nostalgia-mining. I’ve got a lot of trust in what the designer of Gloomhaven will do with a fantasy battle, and I think while Rob Daviau’s back catalogue is a little inconsistent, he’s also an incredibly experienced curator, adapter and restorationer.

I don’t remember the original, and I can’t see much to get excited about, or at least not 100 bucks of excited about. But this is partly because my passion for Mage Knight runs so deep that I tend to look harshly on anything that’s ploughing a similar adventure furrow. I do the same thing with area control games and El Grande, if I’ve seen a perfect iteration of a genre, I struggle to get excited by anything close.

Tom: The Kickstarter video is something else. How can you not be excited when we’re getting the collaboration we’ve all been waiting for – between ‘TOWER, APP AND TABLE’? Will a combination of three inanimate objects create one palpably alive experience?

Ava: ‘THE APP IS THE GAME’S SOUL’ bellows the earnest narrator. I would like to see more games promising ephemeral sentience from components. We just don’t see enough cardboard Carthesian duality.

Ava: I feel a bit naughty having snuck this into the games news twice before, on account of the excellent design diaries, but now the Kickstarter is officially online, it would be rude to turn down a chance to talk about Oath.

Oath: Chronicles of Empire and Exile is an incredibly ambitious pitch from Cole Wehrle and Leder Games, with art by Root’s Kyle Ferrin. Cole promises an ongoing emergent campaign, where each game’s winner becomes the chancellor and founder of the next game and generation. Players either take the side of the chancellor as citizens of the commonwealth, or skirt around the edges as exiles. Exiles have more flexibility, but have to win alone, the commonwealth can win as a collective, with final victory going to citizen with the best reputation. With dramatic combat and political nuance agogo, I’m really quite excited, but then Cole’s wargaming background and taste for the unusual is exactly what gets my thrills blazing.

That said, I think it’s a tough pitch to land. I’ve read about twenty bazillion words about the game now, finding out about its six suits, its closed economies, its landscapes, the way you store a game between sessions, its combat and its victory conditions, and I’ve still very little idea how it actually plays. I’m thrilled by the possibilities though, and I suspect it’s going to do big business purely on the basis of being the same designer and illustrator and publisher as Root.

Tom: I feel like Oath might land in a similar place to Root, in the sense of being a game that’s more fun to think about than it is to play. And that’s… kind of okay? I half remember hearing Cole talk about this approach to design on the ‘Space Cats Peace Turtles’ podcast and it’s altered my perceptions of his games. If Oath can spur Root-esque discussions about design, balance, winning and fairness within my group of relatively ‘casual’ gamers, then it’s a game that’s achieved its intention, and is therefore good? This is all getting a bit Barthesian.

Ava: Please don’t kill the author, Tom.

Tom: They were dead from the start.

Ava: Roland would be rolling in his grave.

Tom: It’s what he wouldn’t have wanted.

Ava: Not every massive crowdfunded box is full of battles, some people just want to build.

Foundations of Rome looks like a cross between Lords of Vegas, Bingo, and Stanley Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, only the empire is rising and inclining, and actually mostly just a load of columns.

Players start with a full buffet of buildings, and a few cards that grant them ownership of vacant lots in the Roman city centre of, erm, Rome. Players will hustle for points while they build a classical metropolis. Absent the barracking and bartering of Chinatown or Lords of Vegas, this looks a little on the thin side, but designer Emerson Matsuuchi (Specter Ops and the Century series) has a strong eye, so this could be one to watch.

Tom: It took me fourteen scrolls of the mouse to crush the dense plastic shell of the Kickstarter page so that I might feast upon the gooey rules within; the sheer number of tiny plastic buildings in this one could fuel an entire Matmos album with room to spare. Rome might not have been built in a day, but it was completely funded in one hour.

Ava: When the Music Plastique hits the Music Concrete, you know you’ve got a winner.

Tom: Wait, is that the victory condition.

Ava: No, Tom. We’re being pretentious remember?

Tom: Moi????

Ava: One final Kickstarter for today, on a slightly different scale, because I like it.

Last Fleet is a new roleplaying game from Josh Fox. It promises to take players on the classic sci fi adventure of being the last remaining humans, in a ragtag fleet of spaceships, running from some ominous awful. Yup, that’s right, It’s a Battlestar Galactica simulator (but also not). In a pleasing nod to that series, Last Fleet offers character archetype playbooks based on the star signs of the sidereal zodiac. It’s ‘powered by the apocalypse’ which means it should share some of the simplicity, ruggedness and ethos of Apocalypse World and its vampiric sibling Monsterhearts.

My most unfashionable opinion (and I’ll be honest, there’s some stiff competition) is that Caprica was better than the show it spun off from, but I still think the last surviving exiles is such a classic sci-fi trope that I’m really excited to see this in action.

Tom: According to the Kickstarter, you’ll ‘fight space battles, search for enemy infiltrators, tackle supply shortages and navigate faction politics’ – so far so sci-fi, I’m hoping for some big stompy robots and slimy aliens and perhaps a Star Wars reskin and and and

Ava: Is this all not a bit, well, obvious?

Tom: Oh, *ahem*, sorry, I meant that I uh, wish that the sci-fi genre returned to its origins of examining sociopolitical struggle through a lens of magical realism, making traditionally obscurant discourse more available to the ‘average’ consumer.

Ava: Exemplary.

Ava: in what might just be a soft launch for a new edition.

Cosmic Encounter: Duel is a new two player variant of Fantasy Flight’s infamous wild ride of asymmetrical bluster, Cosmic Encounter. The stripped down game sees players battling over a series of planets, trying to be the first to land five ships in a series of space duels. For each battle players decide whether to attack or defend, what tactics to use, and how many ships you’ll put on the line. And of course, it wouldn’t be Cosmic Encounter without each player starting off as some kind of game breaking monster. You also have the opportunity to make friends with non-player aliens to pull off even more bold maneuvers

A lot rides on whether Cosmic’s well known unevenness can be made to feel fair in a two player game without completely removing the ridiculousness that makes the bigger game such fun. Without allies and enemies to tilt the game away from an over-powered alien draw, it’s a much tougher pitch.

On the other hand, the new art is gloriously bright and cheerful, and if a new edition is coming, I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted. There was always something a little odd about an absurdist piece of ludic theatre having alien illustrations that were often actually terrifying.

Ava: I’ve fallen quite hard for Imhotep in the last few months. It’s a ruthless, spiteful, simple game that elicits groans of grump and precise passive-aggression pretty efficiently. So I’m excited that it too is getting a duel variant.

Imhotep: The Duel, from Phil Walker-Harding will have players sending people into a kind of noughts and crosses shipping district. Once a row or column is filled, the boat at the end will be sent off, with the goods on board distributed to the people sitting in the relevant spots. This means that when you’re placing your initial people, you don’t know whether they’ll end up collecting the row or column bonus. It’s an intriguing take on Imhotep’s core decision: whether you’re willing to cede control of what you get in order to get more of it. It might just work!

Tom: In these last two pieces we’ve seen the inherent duality of dueling duels. The Manichean desire of publishers to restructure every form into a struggle between dialectical forces. Darkness and light, Us and the Other, the phallocentric obelisk against the yonic cosmic void.

Ava: Are you trying to say Cosmic Encounter and Imhotep have done the dirty and had little dueling babies?

Tom: No, Ava, I’m IMPLYING that.

Ava: Ah, good good. This is a family show, after all.

What’s a whatnot? Well. I’ll tell you what a whatnot was not, and that’s a game. Except now it is.

The Whatnot Cabinet is coming soon from Steve Finn, Eduardo Baraaf and Beth Sobel, the card game hit squad that bought us Herbaceous and Sunset over Water (although I still think Biblios is Dr Finn’s finest hour, even with the dourer art) alongside Keith Matejka and Kim Robinson. The Whatnot Cabinet is a game of set collecting and tile laying about building collections of whatnots, doohickeys, thingummies and oddments.

Once again we’re seeing something making the news just because I just love words. Although I think they missed a trick. As I was looking this up, someone leaned over my shoulder and asked if by whatnot they meant the piece of furniture. I had no idea what they meant, and googled it, and it’s true! A whatnot is a tiered shelving unit for storing your whatnots on. They could have called this game the whatnot whatnot and they didn’t.

Disappointing.

Tom: Ava, you’ve definitely gone more Dr Seuss than Doctor of Philosophy here.

Ava: It all depends on what whatnot you put on the whatnot, my dear. As you can no doubt see, this is actually Rene Magritte’s very own pipe.

Tom: No it isn’t.

Ava: Precisely.

Tom: In slightly news-adjacent news, this article from France24 about ‘Kapital’, a board game that mysteriously sold 10,000 copies in three weeks, has captured my attention. Dare I suggest that a Marxist reading of the board would suggest an implicit commentary on class struggle and social injustice – thus explaining the widespread popularity of the game in a time of immense social upheaval?

Ava: It literally says that in the article.

Tom: My thesis! It’s ruined!

Ava: Kapital!, designed by husband and wife duo Michel and Monique Pinçon-Charlot, has one player start in a far superior position to everyone else around the table, simulating lines in the inherited sand between rich and poor. Every player’s goal is to eventually drag themselves into a central ‘tax haven’, but of course the game is rigged from the start – it’s like Monopoly but without even the suggestion of being entertaining.

Tom: And that’s all for the games news this week – there’s no required reading for next week, but doing some of your own research may be useful for the upcoming assignment.

Ava: Wait, we’ve been in an educational establishment this whole time?

Tom: Let’s face it Ava, no-one outside the lit-critosphere truly cares about any of this. Ultimately the work done in the theoretical space struggles to drive real change of thought outside of its own narrow sphere of interest. We’re trapped in an echo chamber of our own smug intellectualism.

Ava: No, YOU’RE trapped in an echo chamber of your own smug intellectualism. I’m just smoking this pipe I stole from a dead Frenchman.

Tom: Magritte was Belgian actually.

Ava: Then whose damn pipe am I smoking?

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 13/01/20

Matt Lees28 comment(s)

Ava: Welcome… to the Newsdome! And welcome our latest challenger, Tom Brewster, despoiler of news.

Tom: I WILL RIDE THE CARDBOARD CHARIOT OF NEWS INTO THE SUN.

Ava: Okay Tom, calm down a second, this is just what we call a riff.

Tom: TWO NEWS ENTER! ONE NEWS LEAVE!

Ava: *pinches nose* That’s not how this works! Not to mention I’m definitely Tina Turner in this situation. Let’s just write about some games.

Tom: MEDIOCRE.

Ava: Pick a film that you’d least expect to ever be made into a board game. No, not that one, a different one. Yup. That one.

The Shining is coming out soon from Prospero Hall, and honestly, I’m still reeling from that announcement. It promises a three to five player semi co-operative game of rushing about a haunted hotel and trying to build up the willpower to resist the gushing blood, weird twins, creepy bartenders and god I really love the carpet actually. As if that’s not enough, one of you might secretly be Jack Nicholson with an axe and a limp.

I’m speechless. And it only took me twelve goes to figure out how to spell Jack Nicholson’s name.

Matt: Jack Nichololson, more like.

Tom: I suspect this might have a feel akin to other licensed games that promise to ‘rewrite the show/film’ etc in your own terms; but will actually feel like misremembering the events of said film after a few pints. Having said that I have been playing an awful lot of Awaken Realms’ ‘Nemesis’ recently, which is basically one phallic symbol away from a lawsuit with Ridley Scott, and it is a blast. I’m not sure if the semi-cooperative aspect will gel as well with the theme in this game, but I suppose we’ll wait and see.

Ava: Odds on there’s a ‘Here’s Johnny’ card.

Tom: I’d say about 237/1.

Ava: If anyone wants to start a pool about the least likely films to be made into games, I wouldn’t stop you.

You know who (I’m pretty sure) won’t chase you with an axe and then freeze to death in a hedge maze? Why, it’s Elizabeth Hargrave, still flying high on the wind beneath her Wingspan, the game that won last year’s kennerspiel des jahres and wowed the world with a deckful of beautiful birdies. If you were wondering how you follow up a game about bird habitats, now you know. Different flappers, and this time they’re migrating.

Ava: Mariposas is Elizabeth Hargrave’s new game, about butterfly migration up and down the east of North America. The game will imitate the movements of the titular flutterbys and take place over three seasons. In Spring you’ll head north, in the Summer you’ll breed like the brightly coloured bugs you are, and in the Autumn, you’ll head back down South. Just like real life, at the end of each season you count up points based on what exactly your butterflies have been doing.

Tom: Dang, all my butterflies have taken up arson, hard drugs and littering, meaning I get… 100 points?

Matt: Mine are just into hard littering, what does that mean

Ava: Details of the scoring system and just how delinquent you can get the pretty little insects have yet to emerge. We’ll keep you updated, and we’ll keep Tom well away from any lepidopteraria, just in case.

Tom: RESPONSIBLE.

Ava: So. Two games I don’t know much about are getting a big box new edition, and I’m moved to write about it. Why is that? Well, in ‘new lows for shallow reasons Ava selects a bit of news’, it’s because I can’t say the word Rococo without singing it five times to the tune of that Arcade Fire song. Maybe we can do a newscorcism?

Economic heavyweights, Rococo and Kanban are both getting new overhauled editions, with fancier arts, bigger boxes, and a few expansions thrown in. 

Rococo, a game of making fancy frocks for palace dwelling French wig-wearers has the honour of being a game I’ve been told I’ll like but always irrationally turn my nose up at. The first time I saw Rococo was when I got to a boardgame night late, and had to watch people play their final turn and do all the scoring. Oh my word, there’s nothing more off-putting about a fairly convoluted system of bonuses, efficiencies and other crunchy decisions points, than watching people agonise over it completely devoid of any context. I love that stuff when I’m in it, but watching the economic sausage get calculated is…not the best.

I know even less about Kanban. I was going to say ‘but I bet there’s not been any over-emotional indie song about it.’ But I googled it, and I was wrong. Thanks for ruining my joke, earnest songster Gudmundur Runar.

The latest edition of Vital Lacerda’s game will be called Kanban EV. Producing electric cars this time, you’ll be building machinery on enormous production lines and pushing for efficiencies and the prestige of being the best employer.

Tom: It’s a game where the theme is the engine behind it, akin to my recent favourite euro-em-up Pipeline. This also has artwork from Ian O’Toole, so perhaps we’re seeing the pieces of another winner slowly come together?

Ava: I believe this is the game with the mechanic where you only get points for things if you do them while the boss is looking? That’s all a little bit too realistic for my tastes, but it must be doing something right to exist in three different versions.

Tom: Ava. Ava.

Ava: What?

Tom: There’s no bosses here today. It’s just us!

Ava: WHAT!! WHY ARE WE EVEN WRITING!?

Tom: We’re doing it for the news, Ava. Think of the news.

Matt: You do both realise that I edit the news and upload it after you’ve written it, right? And that I’m then able to throw in comments before it goes online, and appear to be joining in with conversations that – in actuality – took place more than six hours ago? Hello? HELLO? ANSWER ME

Ava: Kemet’s an absolute fave around these parts, with the punchiest punching, the pointiest pyramids and the most extensive wine list. Matt recently delved into both expansions, and reviewed them both just to give more coverage to the game. Will Kemet end up being the game we review three times? We’ll find out soon, apparently.

Matt: It’s the Stargate / Groundhog Day crossover that the world’s been patiently waiting for.

Kemet: Blood and Sand isn’t a Playstation game about 50 Cent, but an updated version of pyramid bopping Egyptians-on-a-map game of the slightly shorter title. New artier art, nebulously improved gameplay and a rulebook overhaul are promised. I am very unclear on how much difference these will make, except perhaps giving conniptions to people with an old copy wondering if it’s worth upgrading.

Tom:The game also features a redesigned map with a twist, bigger and more detailed figurines, and other surprises’. So mysterious, Jacques Bariot and Guillaume Montiage! I’m excited about the last part of that sentence. Perhaps this edition will come with real sand and real blood?

Ava: It is always disappointing when you have to provide your own components.

Ava: It’s been so long since I last shouted about how much I love W Eric Martin’s Japanese game round-ups (last week), that he’s only gone and done two more!

Check them out for such delights as Hyper Super Yoga, a game of hyperextensible limbs, or Rolling Shibahama, which requires you to be successful fish merchant without succumbing to alcoholism. It’s all just a bit too real. Or too unreal. I don’t really mind which, I just hope more of these games make it across the oceans and onto my table.

In pretty bleak news, just a little late for last week’s news, it was announced that Fantasy Flight have closed their interactive and RPG departments. Loads of people have lost jobs, so it’s pretty hard to make jokes here. Two presumably slightly less profitable departments have been sloughed off, possibly to make the parent company more attractive for sale. It’s a real shame, and that’s all I can say, really. 

Good luck to everyone who has lost work at the hands of this.

Tom: I’ve waited long enough, can we please talk about COSMIC FROG? A game of STRATEGIC GLUTTONY?

Ava: Take it away, Brewster. 

Tom: Several things leap out at me when stare deeply into the eyes of ‘Cosmic Frog, a game of collection, combat and theft on a planetary scale’ from Devious Weasel. First, it’s called Cosmic Frog. Second, the publisher’s description features the line:

Once on the Shard, you harvest land and store it in your massive gullet. When your gullet is sufficiently full, you leap into the Aether and disgorge your gullet contents into your inter-dimensional vault for permanent storage’

Lastly, the box art. I need it. It looks like… well it looks like a cosmic frog, if I’m being honest.

Ava: It’s hard to parse the fluff to work out what you actually do in the game, but there’s some set collection, some psych-rock box art, and the subtitle is ‘World Eaters from Dimension Zero’, which sounds like the villains from a Saturday morning cartoon. 

Tom: The game could be terrible – you’re right about the fluff making it almost impossible to understand the actual mechanics of the game. But if it is terrible, at least it’s a weird crazy theme that’s coming to a shelf near you, taking up space that instead might have gone to ‘Planet Combat 3: Dudes doing Space’.

Ava: Apparently, you have to worry about how you’re going to deal with Aether Flux AND Splinters of Aeth? It’s going to be a bumpy frog-rodeo, if you ask me.

Tom: DID I WIN THE NEWS? AM I THE CHAMPION OF THE NEWSDOME?

Ava: There is no winner, only news.

Tom: WRONG FRANCHISE, AVA. WRONG FRANCHISE.

Ava: Damn. I think you won the news, Tom.

Tom: MAD MAX JOKE

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 06/01/20

Matt Lees22 comment(s)

Ava: Oh my word, would you look at that, a whole fresh new year, hot out of the oven, gently cooling on the windowsill. The year is 2020, and I’m still hungry for news. Let’s cut a slice off the still-warm year, and spread some tasty melted news all over it.

Fort, coming soon from Leder Games, is an update to fellow four-lettered card game SPQF, with cuddly classical empires swapped for rival neighbourhood tree-forts. I skipped over this when it first got announced, but artist Kyle Ferrin has been posting some really lovely pieces of art and it gives me an opportunity to right that wrong.

In Fort, you will build a deck of friends, pizza and toys to try and build the fanciest fort on the block. Each turn players get to play a card for its action and buy another one from the market. So far so deck-bulder, but where this game holds promise is in the added interaction and ‘deck decomposition’. Some of the actions you take can be boosted by playing extra matching cards. But it’s not just you who can get those bonuses, as all your rivals can jump in and do the same. After that, any card you don’t use on your turn gets put out to pasture for the rest of the round, and can be purchased by any other player. Thematically, this is your friends not hanging out with you if you don’t bother to play with them. Heart-breaking stuff!

Having heard good things about SPQF (Senatus Populusque Forest), I’m gently curious about this.

Casting a long shadow over the games news today is this terrible pun about the latest game from Daniele Tascini and David Turczi: dice drafting sun-blocker, Tekhunu.

Tekhunu: Obelisk of the Sun is something of a successor to Tascini’s Teothihuacan. Replacing that game’s central temple-building doodad with a large obelisk, casting a literal and ludic shadow over the board. Tekhunu uses dice drafting to let you thread a route through the various actions offered by the Egyptian pantheon. You’ll be spending those dice to hold festivals for Bastet, build farms for Osiris and draw cards for Thoth, all in the hopes of getting the most points at the end. To make sure that’s no easy decision, the ever shifting shadow of the obelisk dictates which dice are pure, tainted or forbidden. Forbidden dice! You have to maintain a careful balance between purity and taintity, lest you end up distressing the gods with your rudely chosen dice.

There’s a thrill and excitement about this sort of table presence, and I’m sure this is going to draw attention. But I can’t overstate how much I hate it when the focal point of a game turns out to be a tiny wrinkle instead of the actual core of the experience. That was my beef with Teotihuacan, which turned out to be hiding nothing in its satisfyingly chunky temple but an extra point or two if you were lucky and/or could be arsed to spend a minute out of the game thinking about how to rotate some tiles optimally.

Matt: Ah, yes. I had a similar problem with the obelisk of emotionz in our recent review of Cerebria – centerpieces are hard to land!

Ava: Hopefully I’m just being a grumplehex and Tekhunu’s rotating sunny side will be a bit more intriguing. We’ll have to wait and see.

I’ll tell you what doesn’t make me grumple, that’s an expansion for Treasure Island, one of the uniquingest games of the last few years.

Treasure Island: Captain Silver: Revenge Island, when not drowning in a tide of colons (eww), is going to add two maps to the game of compasses, pens and furious logic. There’s also a bundle of new powers on offer for the unscrupulous subtitular treasure tucker.

This looks like exactly the right scale of expansion for this game, adding a few bonuses for anyone who has played out the options in the base game, without necessarily making it too complicated for newbies. Most importantly, there’s a chance that they’ve fixed the most egregious problems of the game, a map that made it hard to read the pen marks that made up the core of the puzzle. One of the two maps is the same as the base game, but with new art. Here’s hoping that on this third try (the original was double sided), they’ve beaten the problem.

It’s hard to resist a bit of news about an expansion to a game with a stellar video from this very website. For that reason only, I’m going to drop in a mention for an expansion I’m slightly less hyped about.

Dune, the updated version of a table hogging adaptation of a genre hogging book, adds two new factions with the Ixians and Tleilaxu expansion. This bumps Dune’s roster of angry, asymmetrical factions up to eight, bringing in xenophobic genetic engineers and cyborg monarchists that hate each other. There goes the space neighbourhood!

Honestly, I’m already daunted by the prospect of teaching the base game’s weird intersections, so the idea of chucking two extra factions into that melange fills me with a spicy mix of dread and excitement. I may never get to the point where I’m ready to play this, but I’m curious to see what old hands make of it.

Over on Kickstarter, we’ve got an alternate history space race to contend with, new from Pandasaurus games.

Godspeed promises space-faring worker placement with lovely art and a few unusual details. The game takes place in a version of the sixties and seventies where the race to the moon was a cover up for various space agencies sending astronauts through a wormhole to a habitable planet. Each player is working with a crew of workers with different abilities and influence values. As well as sending these workers to the various action spaces to build the obligatory economic engine, each round you have to put some of them into auctions and random events, casting aside some previous flexibility.

If I’m honest, I’m only picking it out because I’m unusually hype for the little baggies with real and fictional space agency logos on. Boy, oh boy, do I love a space agency badge.

Still digging around Pandasaurus pastures, the co-owner has published a follow up to his interesting piece on the superstar effect, this time looking at the huge growth of the board game industry over the last few years.

Nathan McNair’s latest blog post argues that there’s no such thing as a board game bubble, in that so far nobody is making ridiculous investments or going into huge debts to fund imagined future value. He argues that the growth of the hobby, which is slowing ever so slightly, is built on actual demand. He also notes that discerning customers are making it hard for people to simply shovel more coal in the boiler without getting burnt. He does acknowledge that the industry might be due a ‘realignment’ which could prove troublesome for some, but he’s not hearing the drums of doom quite yet. It’s an interesting read if you like thinking about wider trends and the busyness of businesses.

Finally, I want to wrap up by linking to BoardGameGeek powerhouse W Eric Martin’s review of the decade. I think he’s got interesting perspectives, being so deep in one of  gaming’s largest institutions. Several of his picks are the sort of smaller fare that often gets lost in the excitement for all the big box excesses. He has also got me particularly hyped for co-op trick-taker The Crew, nothing like a last minute entrant into an all decade greatest hits to tickle my fanciest fancy.

I don’t really have a witty thing to add, I’m just glad he’s in the industry, and really appreciate the time he takes to highlight things that could easily drop off the radar. This round up of interesting Japanese trick taking games is a case in point. Thanks Eric! Glad to have you around!

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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GAMES NEWS! 16/12/19

Quintin Smith30 comment(s)

Ava: Twas the news before Christmas, and all through the office,
Not a creature was newsworthy, not even the…..boffice????

I should’ve thought more carefully before I started that. But it’s the end of the year, the UK election last week was horrible, and I’m pretty sure British culture is entirely built up on the principle of phoning it in on the last day at work (and failing to own up to the horrors of our colonial past).

Quinns: Ava, don’t talk about phoning it in at work while I’m here! I didn’t get you a Christmas present, but if I *had* I would now pitch it out of my window, in anger.

Ava: Let’s get this news down this chimney, and hope someone’s left us a mince pie and a carrot.

Ava: Calloo callay! Oh frabjuous day! Yes, I’ve already done the Jabberwocky in the news this year, but I am a little bit hype that a thing I’d given up hope on has happened. There’s some distinctly neutral-sounding news coming out of the nascent Kickstarter union, Kickstarter United, and hopefully it’s the start of us not having to caveat every kickstarter (except about the general unreliability of kickstarters).

Kickstarter United are going into media blackout as part of a neutrality agreement with Kickstarter management, which they think indicates a willingness to engage with a union ballot without interfering. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and sending solidarity to the workers until we hear more. Good luck! Keep it up! Get organised!

Quinns: The news that Kickstarter might be becoming a less hostile environment for its workers has arrived right on time. I feel that we’re getting our ducks in a row.

Ava: Aha, that’s a segue.

Quinns: Stephanie Kwok’s Ducks in Tow is a fabulous-looking Kickstarter that will finally let us do what we all want to do in city parks: adopt the ducks as our very own.

Players in this parochial puzzler first have to tempt ducks with colour-coordinated food, which then (through the fantastic use of some translucent plastic) sees the birds following you as you wander around the park, and finally you can finally drop them off at locations so that you can build patterns of birds on your tableau of cards.

If you’ve ever heard Shut Up & Sit Down complain about over-done eurogame themes (e.g. medieval merchants, running a small business, colonising the bejeezus out of an isolated nation), Ducks in Tow is a showcase of what the genre could be doing instead. This setting is innovative, charming, friendly and silly, and will be made that much more so with a free “Angry Goose Expansion” in every pledge.

Ava: I like how far this is leaning into the phrase ‘ducks in a row’ by having at least three mechanics based on rows of ducks. There’s some strong commitment to the bit here.

Ava: Car Wars is a very old game from Steve Jackson Games, and it’s getting an overdriven reboot in a Kickstarter for its sixth edition. A combination of the twin arts of racing and fighting, Car Wars treads familiar territory, and promises miniatures-based combat with lots of dice, guns, and sharp turns. Spruced up with lovely little cars and a little chipboard turning tool, it could be interesting. But hoo-boy is some of that graphic design looking dated. I guess that’s what happens when you’re running into a rebooted retro racecar rumble with nothing but nostalgia in the tank.

Quinns: Oof. Getting me to back this would be a tough sell when I’ve only heard great things about Gaslands, which can be neatly summarised as “The X-Wing Miniatures Game with Hotwheels cars”. We’re actually hoping to offer a review of Gaslands on the site early next year, if our excitable readers can bring themselves to wait…

Ava: I definitely slammed my brakes on this one, but as a counterpoint: I could sing ‘Car Wars Car Wars, what you gonna do? What you gonna do when the car wars you?’ to the tune of Bad Boys, and I think that would make me very happy.

Quinns: As with the arrival of bad boys, a car war is something I don’t know how to react to. It’s so true!

Ava: Okay, okay, so I wasn’t going to link this, because the bit that intrigues me most doesn’t have a picture yet, but then I found a really duff justification, and I just want to bring it up.

Coming soon from Floodgate Games and Julio E Nazario is Holi: Festival of Colors, which currently consists of a gorgeous Vincent Dutrait cover, and a few cryptic sentences about what the game will actually be like. I’m enticed by the prospect of a very colourful area control game with a three tier board, but I also have no idea what it’ll actually look like. Based on the paint covered Hindu festival, this could be pretty, but we don’t know much it’s going to explode off the table until we get more pictures.

Quinns: So why exactly are we covering it now?

Ava: Well, it’s entirely because when I went to dig up more info on the Floodgate games website, I found they had a game in their back catalogue called ‘Bad Maps’.

What a great name for a game, honestly. Bad Maps. Some kind of piratical treasure hunting programming chaos apparently, but I want it just for the name.

Quinns: Ava. This isn’t how news works.

Ava: Too late Quinns, I’ve newsed it.

Quinns: Hobby World has announced a follow-up to Spyfall, the social deduction game that could be summarised as “What if everyone in a James Bond movie had just taken methadone?”

The next game in the series, Spycon, sounds like it’ll be a much more less anxiety-inducing word game, and quite familiar if you’ve played Decrypto or CrossTalk. Players will be divided into teams, and players must cagily convey to their team which costume card they were dealt. The catch is, the other team are listening to the clues you give and are able to guess first. The /other/ catch is that your team is dealt a private keyword that you can use in your clue-giving.

Ava: I really don’t understand this.

Quinns: OK. Imagine you’re dressed as Blackbeard, and you and your team have the secret keyword “Ladder”. You might say “He used this to get to work”.

Ava: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Quinns: You still don’t understand, do you.

Ava: No. But the game won’t come out until next year, so we have about six months for you to teach me. And I am pretty tempted by a team-based version of Spyfall that might not give me a panic attack if I play more than three games in a row.

Now, tell me again what a word is?

Ava: Itten Games continues to report back from Is this a Game #2, the unusual art and games gallery show in Tokyo. Here’s some more highlights.

First off, Oink Games have dismantled a load of their games and made a series of patterned pictures out of them. It’s definitely not playable, and they’ve called it Corpse. Similarly reconstructive, Ryuta Yumada has players making aerial domino displays in Space Domino 2019.

Nilgiri’s One Year Game asks players to come up with points scoring challenges to exchange with another person, asking them to catch up one year later and see how well they’ve done. And __’s chair by Osamu Hakamada, has players taking a seat high above the gallery, and turns the whole room into a game, a different one depending on which chair you’re playing in:

That last one reminds me of the time I got a very weird gig DJing from a balcony in a museum, and spending a long time trying to get museum visitors to dance around a random collection of 20th century furniture from a high vantage point was definitely an unusual experience. I love art and games and balaconies for giving us new perspectives, and this show appears to have done just that. Well done to everybody involved.

Ava: Here’s a little oddity picked up from the BoardGameGeek news blog.

Ludocherry is a new set up offering boardgame themed, 50s inspired outfits. Using game component themed prints, and 50s style dress and shirt patterns, this looks like a slightly more upmarket way to dress as your hobby than the classic ‘t-shirt with a pun on it’. Maybe it’ll catch on.

Quinns: Hey, these are nice! I really like that Meeple Garden shirt.

I don’t trust myself to say anything more than that when it comes to fashion, but I will say the word “Nice” again, for effect.

NICE!

Ava: Nice. *grumbles under breath about not being the only one phoning it in*

Happy solstice everybody! And any other celebrations, holidays or breaks you might be having in the darkest days of the year. I recommend food, friends, fires and boardgames.

Quinns: Just be careful how you combine them.

Ava: Quite.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down