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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