Posted on

Games News! 28/05/18

Paul: Hello, everybody, and welcome to this special Bank Holiday edition of Games News! For those of you who aren’t from the UK and not familiar with the concept, bank holidays are special days when banks are allowed to close, lift themselves up out of the ground and stride down to the beach, shedding bricks and mortar as they go. Each year, thousands are squashed by buildings stomping their way toward the sea. You might call it madness, but I call ittradition.

Anyway, board games, eh? They holiday for no-one. Let’s talk about the sudden explosion of board games from video games publisher Paradox Interactive!

Paradox have a long and storied history of making complex strategy games and, while their portfolio has expanded over the years, they’ve always kept epic games of war, politics and empire management close to their hearts. After taking more than a sprinkle of influence from the tabletop world (their Europa Universalis series is based on the board game of the same name), they’ve decided they can do it just as well as anyone else and have teamed up with Tales from the Loop publisher Free League to launch a Kickstarter for the Crusader Kings board game, with the game of medieval strategy and scurrilousness already galloping past its modest goal.

But! That’s not all, as they have plans to publish a new Europa Universalis, a game based on their World War II series Hearts of Iron and something to do with their hit city-builder Cities: Skylines (a bit like the last Sim City, except without the mad bugs). It’s an interesting direction to take and one I was pretty sure they’d try sooner or later (in the last few years, Paradox have dipped their toes into book publishing and also bought White Wolf and their World of Darkness license). That said, in my old life as a games journalist, I was pretty good at making predictions and spotting hits before they landed. Someone should pay me for that stuff.

So shall we cling onto video games, like Hans Gruber on to John McClane’s watch, for just a moment longer? Shut Up & Sit Down megahunks Quintin “Hot Sauce” Smith and Matthew “Juicy” Lees will be visiting strategy developer Creative Assembly tomorrow to stream some board games and show those folks how war is really done. They’ll be playing 878 Vikings at 6PM BST, getting some good streaming practice in before… Oh, I can’t let too much slip yet. Let me just examine my nails in silence.

Hey, board games! How about ‘em? You should absolutely check out BoardGameGeek’s news blog this week, as they’re once again revisiting the Tokyo Game Market, which this year features everything from the village-drawing game Alpenzian to something called Marching of Crabs. While a lot of card games and small box games seem to dominate, there’s a few larger and heavier titles in there too.

Japan’s tabletop scene is remarkable and we always have to stare at it longingly from afar, with only a rare handful of titles getting distribution in the West. Perhaps we can look forward to a future where this happens more often, and where more of us can enjoy games like Babel, a hidden-role building game where everyone is trying to construct a tower, but saboteur players keep providing less-than-helpful pieces for the next level. Oh, and there’s a game mode where you all have to babble in your own languages.

It would be physically, mentally, cosmiscally and ethically impossible for us not to mention that Next Move are advertising a monster version of Azul on their blog right now. Look at what they’re doing, with their cute expansions, flashier components and GIGANTIC REINVENTION. ”Azul’s components have been enlarged by 200% providing players a unique play experience,” they say, and this “unique experience” includes the game having to BE A BRIEFCASE, an object I haven’t seen since the 1980s. In my experience, the only things that come in briefcases are microfilm and sniper rifles.

And yes, that’s for sure a briefcase, not a suitcase, don’t try and tell me that’s something you can fit all your possessions in before you go on holiday. Unless all your possessions are Azul. And your holiday is Azul. Ugh, is this such a good idea? Those pieces are so big. Imagine the thud of each one hitting the table, or how your arm snaps off when you try to lift the bag.

WHAT ELSE? Aha! Kickstarter is kind to us this week, offering up the interesting double release Dream Askew // Dream Apart, two accessible roleplaying games about “belonging outside belonging,” or telling the story of marginalised people and outsiders. Designer Avery Alder is already celebrated for her work on the influential Monsterhearts and The Quiet Year and these games, twins of a sort, once again shake up roleplaying conventions. One set in the far future, the other in fantasy-history, and both are diceless, co-operative affairs that are very broad in scope.

And I guess we just have to mention how strange it is that Warhammer Adventures has been announced. This very kid-friendly, cartoonish collection of stories from the Warhammer 40,000 universe is designed to appeal to “boys and girls aged 8-12 years old,” with “younger protagonists having thrilling adventures and facing off against dangerous enemies.” The idea is to get more younger people interested in Warhammer and, I suppose, make it more accessible, but… wait… did you need Warhammer to be any friendlier or more accessible when you were eight? No-one I know did.

First, I like seeing anyone featured in Warhammer (40,000 in particular) who isn’t a white man, so that’s a pleasant change, but also, well, that’s almost what Warhammer is all about anyway: space fascism. It’s a future of eugenics, militarism and religious intolerance. It has murderous white guys with huge guns waving banners with eagles on them. Is a more accessible, cartoonish route into Warhammer either necessary or even appropriate?

Okay, so, there’s a far more rounded and coherent discussion of this than I can provide courtesy of this Twitter thread from game developer Ben Scerri, while this Twitter parody is a good reminder that bridging Warhammer’s tone is, uh, at the very least a difficult and tonally bizarre thing to do. I have to admit to just being left a bit baffled and with just one question: Does everyone know that Warhammer is satire?

I ask because I didn’t. It never really occurred to me. I was about twenty-three when someone else pointed that out to me and, believe me, I was Warhammering since the age of about… nine? I can’t say I ever idolised its vision of the far future or wanted to live there, but I also did not think about it that way at all for almost fifteen years. Did you?

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

Posted on

Our convention schedule for 2018: Come see us!

Photo courtesy of photographer Ben Broomfield.

Quinns: Hi everybody! You know what’s better than watching Shut Up & Sit Down on a screen? Watching us live, or actually meeting us. Did that handshake linger a little longer than it should have? Were we… flirting with you? Was it just a dream… ?

In chronological order, here are all the conventions you can see us at in 2018.

Coming up just next week is the UK Games Expo, where we’re doing a live podcast on Friday, another podcast on Saturday, Paul’s doing an on-stage interview with designer Martin Wallace, and we’ll also be appearing as guests on the Sunday show of Knightmare Live, though for that you’ll have to buy tickets in advance. Also, we’re hoping to do a meet-and-greet and hopefully have merchandise for sale at our booth. Keep your eyes on our Twitter for the when and the where!

In August, we’ll be returning to Gen Con in Indianapolis. On Thursday at 10am we’ll be kicking the convention off with a live show in their grand 1200 person ballroom. It’s a big responsibility, and we’re planning on making it our best live show ever. We’ll also be the hosts of the What’s New at Asmodee Digital event, so come along to that if you want to watch us try, and fail, to be professional.

In October we will of COURSE be doing more than a dozen shows at SHUX ’18, our very own Shut Up & Sit Down convention. If you’re still on the fence about attending, don’t worry! We’ll be doing an update in the coming months about all the guests, publishers and events we’ve confirmed so far. Or you could just buy a ticket right now, because that update is gonna be awesome.

Finally, at the end of November you might be able to catch us at PAX Unplugged, depending on whether the organisers decide to again invite us as special guests. We’re hoping that they will, since we had a great time last year, but we’ll let you know on Twitter as soon as we’re invited.

Thanks, everybody!

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

Posted on

Review: The Mind

Paul: The Mind is one of the very best games that I have played this year. In the last twelve months. In the last twenty-four. Brace yourself, plant your feet, tense your muscles and tug that timeline back as far as you want and I think The Mind is still one of the very best games I have played between now and whenever. I have written so much about it and yet I still can’t communicate its gentle brilliance.

It’s also barely a game, not so much a skeleton of rules as a single bony finger, the sort that would be tentatively and timidly excavated, brush by brush, by archaeologists baffled by both its simplicity and its profundity. How, they might ask, could something so simple be so magnificent?

BUT FIRST, while your eyes were on that paragraph and your thoughts were lost in abstractions, I slipped a tether around your waist. HOLD ON, because I’m going to bungee us back to the distant date of May 2nd, 2018, to land right on top of my Decrypto review. Once again, I’m trying to explain how a game so simple is so terrific. Do I succeed? Not everybody thinks so. There’s a belief that seeing the game played would make it easier to understand. I wonder if this might be the case with The Mind, also a game of guessing, but also of one of entirely unspoken communication, a game of only expressions and exultations, of fidgets and feints. Maybe not, because so much of this game is played inside your head.

It presents two problems. The first is THE PROBLEM OF THE INTERNAL. The second is THE PROBLEM OF THE EXTERNAL. Imagine me stood in front of you, a blackboard behind me, onto which I have chalked the words PROBLEM OF THE INTERNAL and PROBLEM OF THE EXTERNAL. I am furiously tapping at them with my wooden pointer and I am also eyeing a boy that everyone knows is chewing gum right now. I push up my glasses. That boy has no idea what he’s in for. (And yes, you are still wearing the bungee cord. We’ll use that again.)

IT GOES LIKE THIS: Up to four players (and four is the magic number) are dealt one card per number of the round that it is, so one card in the first and two in the second and so forth. The cards are from a deck numbered from 1 to 100 and which has been shuffled into so much disorder. The players are not allowed to talk to each other and not allowed to show the numbers on the cards they hold, though they are free to stare at them, or at anything else, with as many of their eyes as they’d like. Someone has to go first.

The only thing the players need to do is lay all these cards down in numerical order, from lowest to highest. This would be easy but for one plain and simple fact: It… isn’t easy.

My pointer swishes across chalky text EASY to ISN’T EASY and raps angrily. A popping noise comes from the boy’s sagging mouth. A fly buzzes in the window. Are you paying attention? I push up my glasses again. Here is THE PROBLEM OF THE INTERNAL.

Without knowing what cards anyone else is holding, it’s impossible to know if you’re holding the lowest and should make the first move. Impossible, that is, unless you’re holding the number 1. Of course, if you’re holding the number 2, and particularly if it’s the first round and everyone is only holding a single card, you should probably go first. That’s only logical. Right?

Now, dear readers, I want you to extrapolate. Extrapolate far into the future, like a wiggly-headed Star Trek character with a name like Commander J’Pec. It’s round three, you’re holding a 6, a 17 and a 75. Is the 6 the lowest card anyone has been dealt, the card you should lay first? I’m going to introduce you all to a new word now, a word which bounces around your head like a squash ball in a salad spinner every time you play The Mind. That word is… Probablyyyyyy?

After all, you should probablyyyyyy lay your 17 after your 6, since the odds are that you probablyyyyyy have the two lowest cards that have been dealt, right? Yes? What would Commander J’Pec do? Probablyyyyyy the same thing. Anyway, it’s your decision. It’s not like you can talk about it.

Now here’s THE PROBLEM OF THE EXTERNAL, the conundrum presented by the existence of other people. All of those other people playing with you, right there, right then, are doing their own probablyyyyyy at the same time, staring at cards you know nothing about and, like the free-thinking actors they are, they’re all behaving independently! Oh no! Someone just laid a 2! But that’s okay! A 2 comes before a 6. They were right to rush in.

Extrapolate, Commander J’Pec. It’s round seven and we’re so much further in the future. You’re married now, with two kids and a mortgage that hangs over your head like a sagging shelf. But never mind that, you’re also holding the 34, 55, 61, 63, 88, 95 and 99. There are three others players holding a total of 21 other cards. Holding that 34, you can’t possibly have the lowest. You can’t play first. No. That would be madness. Surely someone’s going to drop a card. Any moment now. Any moment. What would the odds be that NOBODY ELSE is holding anything lower than 34? They’re… infinitesimal? Probablyyyyyy?

Bungee again with me back to the basics. Remember how I said The Mind insists that players do not talk? You have probably gathered by now that they also don’t play in any particular order. There is nothing to stop the person opposite you trying to go four times in a row, something that is probably a VERY FINE IDEA if they’re holding four sequential cards, but something universally regarded as NOT SO COOL if they’re laying down the 55, the 56, the 59 and the 61 while you’re fumbling the 58 and trying to force that thing into the playing order as if it were a pin back into a grenade.

How do you work out how to play The Mind effectively? That’s on you. That’s down to whatever non-verbal tics and twitches you can all express to one another, each one a hint that you think perhaps you should be going next, hints sometimes ignored by those rushing to lay because they’re so sure they have to go next, that they’ve got to act before someone else will beat them to it and wreck the order. A 28 should definitely be played after a 25, right? Probablyyyyyy…

Something happens to you all. You have all been transported to a strange space somewhere between hedonism and hesitation, a place where words have no meaning but where the tiniest of gestures suddenly start to communicate profound things. Someone lays a 30 and someone else leans back, their way of suggesting all of their cards are much, much higher and they won’t be laying any time soon. Probablyyyyyy. Suddenly, two players somehow mesh together perfectly, like titanium cogs, laying an almost sequential series of six cards. Or maybe you all silently orchestrate the card equivalent of a four-way tennis rally, card after card dropped with just the right amount of urgency and timing and on-the-fly probability calculations. It’s marvellous. It’s magical. It’s almost a mystery how you even did it.

Of course, you don’t get it right all the time. If someone lays a card with a higher value than one or more cards still held, those cards are dropped and a life is lost. Lose all your lives and the game is over. However, after completing some rounds, you’re awarded more lives and occasionally also shuriken. Shuriken, named for reasons that aren’t at all clear, are the cards that can save your neck.

Shuriken are played by mutual consent. If a player raises one hand, it means they want to use one and, if everyone else raises a hand in agreement, they all stop play and then each discard their lowest card. This is both a pause from the constant pain of everyone internally probablyyyyyy-ing to themselves and also a vital source of information. A shuriken lets you know just a little more about where everyone might need to be in the playing order and also shows you outliers. That person dropped a 90 while the rest of you were still in the 20s and they still have five more cards in their hand, so you know that they’re going to drop and end-game flurry and you’ll have to time your 95 with the accuracy of an atomic clock.

All right then, you can take off the bungee. I know you may have questions, the first of which might be “How is this a game?” I can only answer that it barely is, but it is exactly as much game as it needs to be and no more. It is the very simplest of exercises, governed by the thinnest of rules, and it’s smart and savvy and sublime. It creates a weird kind of telepathy that I’ve seen brew impossible chemistry between strangers and cause the closest of friends to be confused by one another’s actions. Or inaction.

One moment, it grants you strange new insights into people: Do they lay cards with timidity, or slap them down with all the confidence and panache of a luchador? Do they wait to watch their fellow players or do they throw caution to the wind? The next moment, it reduces you to animalistic utterances that transform you into a team of cavepeople as you “Ah!” and “Ooooh,” and “Urrrggh,” your way through another round, grunting and staring each other down as you reach for cards like cowboys for guns. It creates moments of soundless synchronicity unrivalled in gaming that make you feel like a ninja. Perhaps that explains the naming of the shuriken.

Does Shut Up & Sit Down recommend The Mind? I flip the blackboard. I lean forward. I push up my glasses and I point to a conclusion that causes the boy’s jaw to drop, his gum to slide out and his arse to fall off the chair: Honestly, I think everybody should play this. I think it’s both so simple and so smart that it will not so much smash language barriers as slide under them, unnoticed. I think it will take a lifetime to master. I think it’s a gateway game for newcomers to the hobby and something even the most crinkled of cynics will enjoy.

Somehow, there are few things in life more satisfying than laying down cards in the right order, something that gets the blood pumping through your veins in a way nothing else quite can, something that gives you the feeling of being a true hero, a feeling that you know few others will ever really experience in their lives. The Mind is one of the purest, simplest and best games I have ever played.

Two postcripts! One: At higher, harder levels, The Mind makes you lay cards FACE DOWN, meaning that you can’t see what anyone has laid until the end of the round, after which you hope you all did it in order. It sounds like it should be impossible and yet it isn’t… quite. Not least because the human brain has considerable capacity to probablyyyyyy its way through problems.

Two: We began every game of The Mind with a gesture. Nothing could start until we’d all placed one hand, palm down, on the table. That was our cue for silence and our cue to begin. Like everything about The Mind, it sounds simple and even insignificant. Also like everything about The Mind, its simplicity makes it wonderful.

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

Posted on

Games News! 21/05/18

Images from MojoNation.com

Paul: This year’s Spiel Des Jahres nominees are coming at us like hail in a windstorm. That’s to say SIDEWAYS and KIND OF PAINFULLY. Like HARD RAISINS. A HARD RAISINS’ A-GONNA FALL.

Quinns: Well said, Paul! I can hardly tell you just had a big coffee.

If you’re not aware, once a year this prestigious German prize is awarded by a jury of critics for “excellence in game design”. Because the winner of the Spiel des Jahres can sell up to half a million copies, it’s basically the only prize in board gaming that matters. You can see the past winners here.

It’s now also tradition that every year Shut Up & Sit Down looks at the nominees and contort our faces into the kind of expression you might wear when checking if you’ve broken a toe.

Paul: It’s not because we’re bad people (I mean, we are, but the connection isn’t causal and don’t you dare use that post hoc reasoning on me), it’s because the nominees are so often kind of… mild?

The stuff we get excited about and the stuff the judges get excited about usually intersect about as much as the orbits of Mars and Mercury, with Spiel nominees often been very broad in appeal, which isn’t bad at all, but can mean some of them lack a certain spark.

THAT SAID, this year one of my favourite games of 2017 is up, Azul, and we’ve been having an absolutely fantastic time playing the devilishly simple The Mind recently. How can a game so simple be so good? Pure genius, that’s how. And that does deserve recognition.

Quinns: Yeah, it’s a good crop of nominees for the main prize this year! Although all three of the heavier Kennnerspiel (or “Connoisseur prize”) nominees are German games of middling acclaim. Of those we’ve played Ganz Schön Clever, a sweet little roll-and-write game, and it was good! It was nice. It was fun. But I think the board game scene might do well to admit that the Spiel jury are biased towards games of German origin, as well as that the nomination process is eccentric to the point of being inscrutable.

Paul: Ganz Schön Clever was a neat dice-rolling game! It also came out the same year as Fugitive, if they want to celebrate smaller games (though, yes, I know that’s not made in Germany), or Bärenpark. OR SO MANY OTHER MIGHTY AND WONDERFUL THINGS LIKE TWILIGHT IMPERIUM 4 and GLOOMHAVEN and AAAAA.

Quinns: Mm. It’s not exactly the Cannes Film Festival of board games, much as we all wish it was.

Paul: AAAAA. More like the… can’t film a good documentary about this because… it is far too mild?

Quinns: I’m reminded of the Goodness Gracious Me sketch where a bunch of Indians go to an English restaurant and bravely ask for “The blandest thing on the menu.

Chair of the awards Tom Felber published this article on why the games were chosen, which is enlightening and maddening in equal measure. Many games were eliminated for having a shoddy manual, which sounds like a smart way to go about things. But he also mentions that the profoundly average Memoarrr! was chosen because players will need a good memory, distinguishing it among the nominees.

Paul: AAAAA.

Quinns: LET’S MOVE ON.

Paul: In other news, a reprint of the condensed, two-player version of Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola known as All Creatures Great and Small is about to be birthed out of the braying stables at Lookout Games. A “Big Box” edition is coming that contains both expansions and… you’re actually really keen to try it?

Quinns: It might be the tightest, most distilled incarnation of Agricola! And it should be at the UK Games Expo! And you know what else is at the UK Games Expo? Us!

Basically, you know that thing in Uwe Rosenberg games where you put two of the same animal in a pen and then a turn later you add a third animal, and then the next turn you have another animal? I think that’s magic.

Paul: Do you mean you really like the mechanic, or-

Quinns: I mean it’s like a magic trick. Where do the extra animals come from? Nobody knows. Not even Uwe.

Paul: Not even the animals.

Well, speaking of two-player experiences, the prolific Reiner Knizia is building upon what is considered one of the best 2 player titles out there, his well-loved Lost Cities. Enter Lost Cities: Rivals, which will transform that sacred duet into one that involves up to TWO MORE players. Unlike the passive aggressive Lost Cities of old, this is all about the selfish rush for fame, with everyone trying to become the best archaeologist and doubling down by putting wagers on their expeditions.

I’m not quite sure how excited I am about this. Is it an unnecessary sequel to a popular classic? I can’t say I’m inspired as I read through the manual but, then again, some of Knizia’s is found in his apparently innocuous designs.

Quinns: I’m going to cruelly bundle these next two game announcements together. Portuguese designer Vital Lacerda, creator of such heavyweight table-busters as Vinhos, The Gallerist and Lisboa has announced On Mars, a game where up to four players will operate humanity’s first Martian settlements.

Meanwhile, Vladimír Suchý, Czech designer of such curious pieces as Last Will, The Prodigal’s Club and Pulsar 2849 has announced Underwater Cities, a game where up to four players will operate humanity’s first underwater cities.

Paul: Are you excited for either one?

Quinns: Hmm. I guess between The Martian, First Martians, Terraforming Mars and seeing Mars in The Expanse I could use a break from Mars.

Paul: But a Mars a Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play.

Quinns: Oh wow. With hindsight, what an ominous advertising campaign that was.

Paul: You could optionally just have a third of a Mars and it’d just help you Rest. I think all the Mars Bars I’ve ever eaten were all made up of just those thirds.

Quinns: While you were wittering just now I decided that I am kind of curious about Underwater Cities, but that’s a dull name. Also, the main board look quite bland. Are we ever going to get a Vladimír Suchý game that looks nice? Maybe the finished production of Underwater Cities will look nice.

Paul: I like the idea of building a city underwater if exciting things might happen. Like crab attacks or invasions by bears in diving helmets with big harpoons.

Quinns: Here’s a story we always meant to get around to and for which we had a terrific tip-off last year from reader Steve Dee. Yarn Quest is a… wait for it.

Paul: I’m waiting.

Quinns: Wait for it.

Paul: I can see what it is because we are editing the Games News file and I don’t have to wait.

Quinns: A KNITTING ROLEPLAYING GAME. Created by Tania Richter, Yarn Quest isn’t even the first example of this! A knitting GM sends out charts to players, which instruct them to knit based upon the stats of the characters they’re playing,

Paul: Right after JRPG comes KRPG. As the knitting continues, players end up with scarves that are almost like Bayeux tapestries, a visual record of their adventures. It’s both a journey and a prize, all at once. Above you can see one of the scarves from the 2017 quest.

Those yarn specifications read like weapon statistics. Needle Size. Yardage. Effective Stopping Power. This kicked off at the start of the year. I wonder how it went?

Just before we get into the Shut Up & Sit Down carriage, to ride off together to our very own Royal Wedding, from which we will gesture ambivalently towards the tumescent crowds of obsequious revellers who fawn endlessly over our lackadaisical procession, we should link you to what I guess must be The Official Shut Up & Sit Down Soundboard. YES, THAT’S RIGHT. Good work, hamiltonianurst.

Quinns: Paul this is some swears.

Paul: It’s not all swears. The ones that people click on the most get pushed to the top. So the swears get pushed to the top. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

Quinns: Like capitalism.

Paul: Our viewers just have very rude taste.

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

Posted on

Review: Bargain Quest

Who’s ready to make a sale? Bargain Quest is a game about running a shop in a fantasy world, and figuring out the best way to empty the pockets of doomed heroes. Though if they actually manage to slay the dragon? Well, that’s just free marketing.

Better yet, Bargain Quest is Matt’s new favourite way to get newbies involved in the joys of board gaming. But will he sell Quinns on it? That boy’s a famously tough customer…

The Sushi Go Party! review mentioned in the review can be found right here. Thanks to Dice Saloon here in Brighton for letting us film. They’re an awesome, friendly shop with a ton of free play space, and locals should check them out.

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

Posted on

Games News! 14/05/18

Paul: Hello and welcome to another fresh and frothy Games News (the last one written by me on the Western side of the Atlantic for a little while yet). We have all sorts bubbling up this week, from interesting new releases to controversial accusations, but we can’t possibly lead with any other story but this one:

It looks like publishing giant Asmodee are up for sale.

According to news agency Reuters, the story came from sources who requested that they not be identified, with the sale valuing the company at around €1.5 billion. Current owners Eurazeo paid just (!!) €143 million when they began to acquire Asmodee in late 2013, but the publisher has grown enormously since then, its probing polyps extending to seize and swallow all sorts of studios and assets, from Fantasy Flight Games to Plaid Hat Games, F2Z, Days of Wonder, Z-Man, Mayfair’s catalogue and… oh, this just in, Z-Man themselves have just snapped up perennial Shut Up & Sit Down favourite Love Letter. The Katamari rolls on.

So it’s no wonder its value has grown so much, but what might a sale mean, if one goes through? We’d hope that any purchaser would not want to rock the boat too much, as Asmodee already earns so much selling everything from Ticket to Ride to all of Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars and Game of Thrones titles. It’s also a clear sign that board games are mightier than ever: a bigger hobby, bigger earners and a better business proposition, so my hope is any buyers will simply want to spread them further and wider, improving distribution and availability. Still, that’s just speculation. We’ll just have to see what happens in this EVER-EXPANDING WORLD OF GAMES.

Would you like to hear about more of those games?! Yet another classic Reiner Knizia title is up for reprint very soon, with the bidding and set collection game Dream Factory due for a re-release as Hollywood Golden Age, but still a game about collecting casts and crews together to make the best possible movies. Listeners to our recent podcast will have heard that I enjoyed the venerable Knizia set-collector Medici and I also love Modern Art, so this could well be my kind of jam.

Another game enthusiastically pinging our sonar this week is the gorgeous Tang Garden, which puts players in the roles of Imperial Garden Designers, a job that sounds like community service punishment the Death Star but which in fact involves a kind of outdoor feng shui. There are beautiful tiles to lay, tree standees to plant and ponds to dig, as well as upright panoramas to erect and AAAAAHH. I know I’m barrelling toward middle age because UGH this just looks gorgeous and I immediately want to make my pretty garden and then sit in it and complain about how it’s too hot today. Because it is too hot today, isn’t it? Hot and yet also great. Look at this!

How do you feel about another Werewolf game? One Week Ultimate Werewolf arrives on Kickstarter today and promises to take you and your deceptive friends “into the special rooms of Ludwig Castle,” melding the social deduction of One Night Ultimate Werewolf with the curious collection of spaces found in tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Each room grants a particular power, so now you can be a Villager in a Sitting Room (but thinking that you’re really a Tanner).

It’s a strange meeting of ideas and I think it’s appealing, but I’d be a heck of a lot more interested if I didn’t feel the world didn’t already have more than enough variations on the Werewolf theme. We’ve got Werewolf Legacy recently on Kickstarter, we’ve got One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Vampire, plus Daybreak, plus Inquisition, plus traditional Werewolf going strong, plus Werewords. It’s werewolves all the way down and all this makes me want is to tell “It’s been ONE WEEK” jokes. I GOT WEREWOLF FATIGUE, BABY.

A less hairy Kickstarter comes in the form of Martin Wallace’s Lincoln, a card-driven wargame set in the American Civil War with mechanics that bring back pleasant memories of Wallace’s fantastic A Few Acres of Snow. While A Few Acres was about deck-building, with armies represented by ever-growing decks of cards and resources, simultaneously growing stronger but also slower and more unwieldy, Lincoln is a speedy game of “deck destruction,” where the army cards in your deck can be burned or recycled depending on how you use them. Deploying army cards costs other cards, Race for the Galaxy-style, so which do you keep or spend?

There’s lots of details here I like, such as the Union naval blockade affecting the Confederate player’s hand size, and the Union also being forced to apply constant pressure and score a certain number of points by the end of each cycle of their deck, or lose outright. The Confederates start in a stronger position and can win by capturing Washington, but they can also do so by simply holding out as the tide turns and the Union strengthens.

Another story impossible to ignore this week is much-loved Scythe artist Jakub Rozalski being accused of copying or, more specifically, of photobashing. It began last month, with an image posted to reddit that contained dozens of examples of what looked like Rozalski mimicking or, as the accuser said, “tracing” reference photos. Furthermore, said the claims, Rozalski had retroactively created tutorials to explain how he created this work, refused to acknowledge apparently obvious influences and his portfolio pre-2013 did not seem to reflect the slow and steady growth of an artist. If Rozalski wasn’t outright tracing, was he at least photobashing, cutting and pasting other people’s work and then copying the result?

Last week, Scythe designer Jamey Stegmaier posted a response to the accusations, in which he said he’d not been aware of any tracing, photobashing or plagiarism of any sort, reminding readers that Rozalski had talked about “track[ing] photo 1:1 for some elements” years back, and stated that the accuser gave no evidence showing that Rozalski’s tutorials are faked. It doesn’t seem to have cooled the debate all that much, with research and discussion ongoing on reddit, BoardGameGeek and even YouTube, and this is little surprise, given the profile of both Scythe and of an artist many board gamers hail as one of the best in the business.

I have to admit to being entirely naive about this sort of thing. Clearly, there are many connections and similarities, but Exactly where is the line drawn between inspiration and plagiarism, between reference and copying? Has Rozalski been deceptive, or merely enormously derivative? I guess there’s both the court of public opinion here and, if anyone has grievance enough to sue, also real court rulings about copyright and credit. I suppose the verdicts in at least one of these could seriously affect Rozalski’s future.

Just before the Games News ends (and I turn back into a pumpkin), our expansion for The Metagame is now available for ordering through Backerkit! We had a big response to the Kickstarter, but a lot of people have been asking since how they can get a copy. Your cries have been answered, answered by our own, equally ululating jungle screams.

(Today’s header image is courtesy of picturesofmoney.org, a site “100% dedicated to pictures of money and other money related information.”)

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

Posted on

Review: 878 Vikings & Viking Age expansion

Who remembers Quinns’ anciente video reviewe of 1812: The Invasion of Canada? Well, today we’ve got a redux for you! It’s our review of the latest game in that series, 878 Vikings, as well as the Viking Age expansion.

And boy, those mechanics have stood the test of time. It’s still tons of fun to invade a country with a buddy, rolling handfuls of dice together and stretching your armies too far, too fast. Click play and find out why Quinns calls this series the mac & cheese of wargaming.

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

Posted on

Review: Space Base

Quinns: Ever since team Shut Up & Sit Down first borrowed a camcorder and began proselytising and/or squawking about board games, we’ve been borrowing a line from designer Sid Meier. “A good game is a series of interesting decisions.”

But is this true? Six year later, I’m pretty sure that sometimes a good game is one where you roll dice and then nice stuff happens, or perhaps you own a spaceship(!).

Well HOLD ONTO YOUR PANTS, because in the newly-released Space Base all of these things are true. Each player starts with 12 ships that are straining at their docking clamps like greyhounds before a race, and you’re going to be shrewdly dispatching them across the galaxy for profit and points.

What you’re really doing, though, is designing a slot machine. Won’t you listen to me squawk about Space Base? I really like this game.

So, the winner of Space Base is whoever gets to 40 “Influence points” first, but you won’t need to worry about that for a while. Let’s take a look at your personal player board.

As you can see, it is very long. Let’s zoom in a bit. Nobody wants to see my socks, even though they have parachuting Army Men on them.

(They are my second favourite socks.)

Your board has slots numbered one through twelve and a cute little ship card in each one. Each ship card you collect has a power displayed in its blue box, from the above cargo ships that say “Gain 1 credit”, to expensive ships with truly devious powers (one rare gunship simply reads “Win the game”).

On your turn you’re going to be rolling two sparkly dice. Let’s say you roll a 2 and a 5. Now, you have a choice. You could use those numbers to activate the ships in your 2 and 5 slots, OR you could add those dice together to activate the big ship in your 7 slot. Generally, the harder it is to roll that number, the sweeter the payday (the “Win the game” gunship demands you roll a double 6).

Finally, on your turn you can buy a new ship card from the ship shop in the middle of the table. You spend your money, and you grip that ship from the ship shop and swap it with the old ship in that ship slot, you slip out that old ship, flip it, and pop it under the spot.

(Boy am I glad I didn’t have to deliver that line in a video review.)

In other words, the new ship you bought sends the old one blasting off into the distance (so if you buy a “3” ship you dispatch your old ship in the “3” slot), and you’re then left looking at your old ships’ red boxes, as if you were looking out at a growing array of interplanetary brakelights.

As I just said, the blue boxes are the reward you get if you roll that number on your turn. The red boxes on your dislodged ships are the reward you get if your opponents roll that number on their turn. After your first few turns, you might be gaining 1 credit every time your opponents roll a 3, 4 or 5. Cashback!

Veteran board gamers in the audience might tuck their punchboard-calloused thumbs into their belts and say that this sounds just like Machi Koro, the little Japanese game of building a small town. And they’d be dead right- the foundation of Space Base is 100% Machi Koro, but Space Base is Machi Koro packed full of fun decisions, where the players are in control.

And I liked Machi Koro OK as mellow time-wasting game of building bakeries and swearing at two dice that steadfastly refuse to roll a 4, but – as I said before – I really like Space Base.

Part of that’s because Space Base is relentlessly generous. As a game that hinges on the gentle satisfaction of “Players will roll dice and get things”, you seem to get credits or influence or special abilities with every clatter of the dice. After 5 minutes, every player will be rewarded with every roll, it’s just a question of how much you all get.

This is a design that effortlessly barrel-rolls away from the single biggest problem a dice game can have: That players roll the dice, and are bored by the results. It’s why I never really liked King of Tokyo- sometimes I’d spend 5 minutes waiting for my turn to roll the dice, and I’d be disappointed by what I rolled. In Space Base, whenever you roll the dice, the decision space ahead of you expands like an open road.

Not only are there always 18 ships in the shop, there are 12 settlement cards (pictured below) that give you a one-time influx of Influence, bouncing you up towards the winning threshold of 40 points. The problem is, they permanently disable one of the numbered slots on your board. So when should you buy them? The only answer I can offer is “Before your greedy space-friends do.”

The buying of colonies is precisely the kind of tasty, chewy decision that Space Base is always offering up. This game is like a snack bar of small maths puzzles that – like real food – you’re going to have to solve with your gut.

If you have an amazing ship that offers a jackpot of credits when you roll a total of 11 on two dice, is it worth you buying a cheeky tug vessel which, if you fully charge it by rolling 7 twice, will let you swap the jackpot ship into the slot that means it triggers every time you roll a 5 on either dice? Or should you focus on cheap ships and fast cash? Or, or, should you forget cheddar entirely and start pivoting your engine towards victory points, racing to close the game out?

And I haven’t even mentioned the income track! I love this problem. So, lots of ships increase not credits or influence but a third resource called “income,” and if your credit total is ever lower than your income after you’ve bought a card, your credit total floats back up to your income total, like a dropped wallet buoyed to the surface of a bath.

Obviously that’s great, since it’s free money. But to what extent should you be using it? If you have 7 credits, is it worth buying a 7-cost ship that you don’t really need just so you can get as many free income credits as possible?

Again: I don’t know. But I had a lot of fun guessing.

But while these decisions are unknowable, the result of all your thinking is crystal clear. The design of Space Base makes you feel like you’re an admirable admiral, a hot shooter, that you are intelligent and good at this. The fact that players can decide whether to accept each dice roll as a total or as two discrete results means those deviant combos you invented or that red-hot ship you saved up for? They’re paying off all the time, letting you feel rewarded, satisfied and smart.

And yet this game in no way feels like a stodgy puzzle. Instead, it’s defined by a constant clatter of slot machine payouts, and yet when you lose a game Space Base it doesn’t feel like it’s because your opponent rolled better. In all probability, they just built a better machine.

And yet I’m very aware that I’ve now said I “like” Space Base twice in this article, and each time I’ve been unable to type the phrase “I love it”. That’s down to a couple of small problems.

First off, it often ends up being too long. There are a lot of tricky decisions in the game, and that means individual player turns can drag on, and that means that with anything more than 2 players a game of Space Base can stretch to over an hour. That’s fine if you’re enjoying a tight race, but if a player gets a good start then you might feel that you’re lagging behind the pack for a tiresome 70 minutes. The other problem is that the manual’s unclear on all sorts of timing windows, which mean each time I’ve played Space Base I’ve found myself exhaustedly picking up the manual. Worse, it’s been a fruitless, frustrating search where the ruling I’m looking for isn’t written down.

But you know what? I don’t care! At a time when board games are getting more and more expensive, it’s a delight to find a small, pretty, £30 game that I’ll be putting in my collection as soon as I finish writing this review.

You know what I always do in combo-building games like this, or Dominion? I over-think. In Space Base, I end up building an engine where if I roll a 5, I can get a charge that lets me increase a roll, and if I roll a 6 I can nudge two spaces to the right, and if I combine THAT with the CHARGE then I can trigger the NINE, which lets me swap my TEN ship with the FOUR, which means now I can charge THAT ship, which means… which means I’ve been faffing around while my friend has won the game.

So today, I’m not gonna overthink my games criticism. Space Base is a game where you can roll dice, collect a spread of cards that feel great under your fingers, and feel satisfied with your efforts. It’s a wonderful achievement from designer John D. Clair. I think he should be really happy with it, and if you buy it, I think you might be too.

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

Posted on

Games News! 07/05/18

Paul: All right, everyone, stand back. We’ve had reports of some unexploded Games News here and so our team of experts are stepping in to carefully, cautiously and capably dismantle and defuse this thing. This is a complex process and meticulous work.

Quinns: Is it? Nah, let’s dive straight in with the story that’s impossible to avoid: There’s a new edition of X-Wing coming! It gets a wide release in September, after a GenCon reveal, but is it different enough?

Paul: Well! From launch, it will include all three factions (Rebel Bois, Imperial Gals and “Scum and Villainy,” which I think is a cleaning product), drop in special new force powers and also add Resistance and First Order ships as two new “fully-fledged” factions as expansions. Fantasy Flight say all these factions will now feel more distinct and different in how they play and that a new squad-builder app will make squadron recruitment, customisation and organised play easier. This means that point costs and upgrades are no longer listed on cards, but instead tracked by the app. I’m not sure if I like that little detail, but a tool to help you craft and customise your games does sound promising.

Quinns: Peeping closer, there’s also new mechanics for stress, for repairing damaged ships mid-battle, for turrets and and for limited use upgrades. Of course, if you’re already sunk all your space dollars into the first edition, changing up may not appeal. Fantasy Flight are hoping to turn you to their light side (Or dark side? Or soap scum/limescale side?) with conversion kits, one available per launch faction, with more planned for the Resistance and First Order.

Paul: FFG are listing those kits for fifty galactic credits each, so conversion won’t be cheap, but this a story repeated since the dawn of time: A new edition of a game attempts to fix all of the problems with the previous one, with its many expansions and its wobbly meta. Die-hards will be unhappy, others will welcome the rebalancing and heavily-invested veterans will want to cling onto their beloved edition like sloths onto branches. And what’s wrong with sloths? NOTHING.

Quinns: I know what you like to cling to, Paul, and that’s  good ol’ dungeon crawlers like Ravage: Dungeons of Plunder!

Designer and artist Ian Schofield is really diving into the hobby with this colourful debut, which has three different ways to play. As well as the conventional “dungeon master versus team of adventurers,” there’s also a full co-op mode and also the option to play solo, with randomly-generated encounters. Dungeons are built according to a deck of cards, meaning they can be different every time you play, and Ravage promises a lot of variety. Does it tickle your Heroquest itch, Paul?

Paul: It might do! I certainly like the variety and the randomness it looks to be offering. That suggests a lot of expansion possibilities and, though I’ve often been ambivalent about expansions in board games, in a context like this they might have a lot to offer and there could be a long tale on this feisty beast. And who doesn’t like long tails?

I’ve become a bit of a fan of Red Raven Games over the years, really enjoying both Above and Below and Eight Minute Empire, as well as liking-but-not-loving Near and Far. The news that Megaland was coming at the end of the year interested all of my piques, but what particularly caught my attention was word that this quick-playing, push-your-luck game of fantasy adventuring would, like Fog of Love, be another retailer exclusive (Target, this time!).

Quinns: That’s a mixed bag. It means it will be put on a lot of shelves in front of a lot of customers, but it also makes it harder for folks in countries like, say, Anywhere-Not-In-The-US to get hold of. Megaland looks like one of Red Raven’s lighter and more accessible designs and I can see how it would be pitched to a more general audience, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting, nor does it make team SU&SD any less curious to try it, even in the Target-less lands we inhabit (EDIT: See the comments below for an update on this, it looks like Target’s exclusive distribution deal still means “international” stores can order from them).

Re-theming old rules with new concepts is a curious thing, but it’s happened several times over now and the latest example is Gunkimono, a game of area control and tile placement in feudal Japan. The game promises a constant tension between developing your home stronghold and deploying troops across the realm, which is not unlike one of the core concepts in…

Paul: …2009’s Heartland, a game about developing farms and choosing between scoring short-term harvests or making long-term farming investments! Gunkimono is using the same rules, but for an entirely different concept, rather like how we reported on the Greek city state game Attika transforming into U.S. Telegraph, a game about the old west. Change is good, but in both cases I think I prefer the original concepts for being a little more uncommon!

Quinns: Remember how we reported on the release of all those games that the CIA had been using to train its operatives? Diegetic Games have only gone and teamed up with the blog Techdirt to put together a game based on the CIA’s Collection Deck. The project, now called Collect it All (such a coy CIA acronym) is up on Kickstarter and has already abseiled far past its funding goal.

Is this all legal? It sure seems so, as the original CIA game counts as a work of the United States Federal Government and so is not subject to copyright, says Techdirt editor Mike Masnick, in this interview.

PaulHere’s a weird diversion I just had to mention: There’s a Eurovision board game coming where you have to both “test your knowledge” but also prepare to take part in the famous contest. The announcement says precious little more, but teases a costume card that says “Streetwear,” suggesting you can dress up for your performance and…

Wait, you know what Eurovision is, right?

Okay! One of the best things about the Eurovision Song Contest is just explaining it. Every year, countries across Europe all unite in one megaconcert, deploying singers to perform songs of often (deliberately) questionable quality, before then scoring each other’s work and inevitably being biased toward neighbour countries and best buddies. It’s always silly but it’s also always good fun and very rewarding to see so many countries united by one very cheesy event.

A board game interpretation of this could be just the most wonderful thing, especially if it captures the petty rivalries and consensual tackiness that define it. Is this the game that will do that? Maybe? I live in hope. (Or who am I kidding, this could also be HIDEOUS.)

Quinns: There’s just time to defuse one last explosive announcement. Last year, six-year-old designer Vienna Chou worked with her father Hoby to create the print-and-play game My Little Scythe, inspired by Scythe but featuring many more animals. Now Stonemeier Games are releasing a boxed, polished version and it looks just charming. Go on, admit it, this is the Scythe sequel you always wanted.

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

Posted on

Podcast #77: Shipping & Deceiving

HONK! After a long journey, the latest Shut Up & Sit Down podcast is now docking with your ears. The pinnacle of opinion-container technology, it’s 400 metres long bow to stern (but you shouldn’t feel a thing since it’s largely metaphorical).

The thing is, the boys have finally played Container, a ridiculous economic game that’ll be enjoying a similarly ridiculous new “Jumbo” edition in July. This podcast also contains chat about Decrypto (see Paul’s recent review) and Medici, each of which deliver big experiences in small containers.

Finally, we spend a whopping 25 minutes discussing two games: Brass: Lancashire, which is the new edition of classic game Brass, and Brass: Birmingham, the hot new “sequel”. We’ve now played both of these much-anticipated games, and you know what? Going against Quinns’ Brass video review, Shut Up & Sit Down can finally recommend Brass. But you’ll have to listen to find out why…

Enjoy, everybody!

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