Tom: Hello Ava! How is your day so far? I indulged in having a rare THREE slices of toast this morning, 33% more than my usual breakfast.
Ava: Oh dear. Returning to the homestead has lowered your standards for excitement?
Tom: I’m gearing up to film a review in a garage, Ava. It’s all downhill from here.
Ava: I got a bit dazzled last Monday when I found myself accidentally watching Reiner Knizia wearing a hard hat and matching bow tie. He was there to not win the biggest award in board games, the Spiel Des Jahres. I’m a bit sad he dressed up for nothing, but he also looked like he was having a whale of a time.
Tom: He also looks like a rogue trader pretending to be a magician.
Ava: The slightly fancier Kennerspiel award was deservedly won by Thomas Sing’s The Crew, a delightfully tough co-operative trick taking game of going to space by making sure the right people win the right cards in the right order. I’m just now realising it should have been called The Right Stuff.
Matt: Sorry to bust into the news-shack wielding two hammers, but this is a game where you roll a TENNIS BALL around in the hope that things will stick to it? I’m unsure I’ve ever been this sold this fast. Oh to be at a games convention, scrambling underneath neighbouring tables in the hope of retrieving a missing hedgehog…
Ava: Friedmann Friese’s 2F games are finding themselves without a convention to launch their latest green box, so are self publishing a small print run of Finishing Time, a game that sounds remarkably depressing.
In Finishing Time players take the role of a group of workers, who are looking to acquire the maximum amount of leisure time, but forced to balance the fun with doing extra jobs to be able to afford holidays later, but only if you spend some other time unionising and lobbying for holiday time.
Tom: ‘After all your workers have been placed and taken their after-work actions, they are forced to return to work. You place them all in your factory where they then suffer stress, earn income, and gain strike tokens from the union, depending on the current working conditions.’ Good to see boardgames continuing to offer much needed forms of escapism.
In all seriousness though, Friese seems fairly keyed into this game being ferociously solo-able – and of course all the miserable theming is in service of what’s shaping up to be a neatly satirical little box, and one of those euros with licks of depressing realism to make those worker-placements feel extra-grounded-in-the-harsh-realities-of-the-world-at-large.
Matt: There’s a fiendish streak within a lot of their work, so it’s fun to see more bite bubbling to the surface. I still clearly recall an evening I spent playing Fast Forward: Flee in a pub with Quinns – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so aggressively, purposefully trolled by a game?
Ava: The most prolific game design duo of all has got another thing coming soon, and it sounds a little reminiscent of some of their finest work.
Kramer and Kiesling’s Renature is a domino game of area control and mischief. Each turn you have to place dominos with matching animal symbols, and then place plants next to those dominos. Whenever an area gets fenced off points are awarded for whoever has the most plants there, with ties being completely ignored. Crucially, players can place neutral plants to force a tie – leaving everyone’s work seeming wonderfully pointless.
To me, that doesn’t sound entirely dissimilar to their canal-building masterpiece, Mexica, but with fewer friendly ties and more focus on border building. It sounds like a pettily ruthless thing: nasty, brutish and beige.
Ava: With some suitable disclaimers about the fact that we’ve worked with Alex Hague on Monikers expansions (actually one of my first jobs with Shut Up & Sit Down was helping write some card descriptions for our second box of tricks), it’s hard to ignore a new party game from the makers of two of the last decade’s best party games. This is their second collaboration with Wolfgang Warsch after Wavelength, but I struggle to see what role ‘the big WW’ actually had in a fairly simple game of stacking fuzzy things.
Tom: He gives each one a little kiss before it gets sent off to backers.
Ava:The Fuzzies is essentially tribble jenga, with tiny round furry things that inexplicably stick together in a tower precisely until they don’t. It comes in a little cup that means you’re set up in seconds and it’s bright and colourful and silly and I dread what happens when one of those fuzzy things drops into a puddle of beer at the pub.
Tom: The gif of this thing being set up and promptly collapsing is an absolute joy, and sells exactly why this thing might be a slice wonderful (even if it’s not exactly the party-game powerhouses that are Monikers and Wavelength). You just whack it onto the table and… it’s set up? And then you scoop it all up and it’s… packed away??? Gosh darn it Mr Monikers you’ve done it again.
Ava: There’s some nice touches here, like a punishment for just knocking a few of the fuzzies down, but not collapsing the stack. But I’m not really finding enough here to tug on my excitement whiskers, although it does appear to be very, very cheap.
Ava:Anybody who’s spent more than three hours with me will know that I’m incapable of letting a three syllable phrase get by without singing it to the tune of Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. It’s great because if you do the fanfare and pause, people can actually join in. It is with heavy heart that I spot that we nearly let Whale Riders slip off kickstarter before I’ve had a chance to go: “Duh daaaah …… Whale Riders.”
Tom: Pack up the games news and bring me a Peter Gabriel, we’re going on tour.
Ava:Whale Riders is the latest collaboration between Reiner Knizia, Vincent Dutrait, and Grail games, who’ve been publishing pretty new editions of the Kniz’s biggest auction games for a while now. Whale Riders is something new, but with that classic Kniz glitz (or anti-glitz, depending on how you feel about careful calculation of value). Players will race up and down the coast, buying things from each port to fulfil contracts, initially to earn money for the buying of stuff, and later to acquire pearls, which is what wins you the game. It sounds like an interesting balance of racing, jostling, shifting markets and careful timing.
Ava: Also available only through the kickstarter, is a card game version of Whale Riders, that’s actually a reimplementation of an older Knizia design called Trendy. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m instinctively much more hype for a game called Trendy, because I love calling people trendy when they’re wearing some nice clothes, because it makes me sound like my mum.
Tom: My mum is continually amazed at how often I say ‘natty’, a word that has seemingly slingshotted itself in and out of the orbit of acceptable adjectives within her lifetime. ‘Natty’ is a great word and I stand by my use of it. I hope she reads this.
Tom’s Mum: Very natty work Thomas. WAIT HOW DID I GET HERE WHAT IS THIS PLACE I WAS MAKING LUNCH.
Ava:Omari Akil has a cracking opinion piece over on Dicebreaker, providing concrete examples of ways that a more diverse (and specifically, more Black) games industry would make tabletop gaming better for everybody. I still want to try his first game Rap Gods, and I firmly agree that it would be great to hear more Black stories in the games we’re making. He offers some very specific examples of things he’d like to see, and I hope we get some of them.
Matt: And that’s the wrap on the news for this week! Finally though, a quick update on this week’s Twitch streams. Tomorrow myself and Tom will play Hanamikoji, while on Thursday we’ll be joined by Ava for some fun with Consulting Detective: The Baker Street Irregulars! (we’ll be playing the free demo, so no worries about spoilers.) See you there!
Tom: I’m doing it! I’m finally piloting the newscopter! I can see so many games from my perch in the sky! I’ve dialed down the whimsy-ometer, and the daftosphere has been calibrated. All the news is trickling out the newspipes – I can see my NEWS from here!
Matt: OK Tom, gosh. Fine – you can keep flying the newscopter for a COUPLE OF MINUTES, but for heaven’s sake – crank the Reprint-Rotor before we have a terrible accident?
Queen Games’ delirious Twitter teasing has finally led us to its natural conclusion. The cities have been revealed, the mystery is gone, you can all go home now thank you very much that’s quite enough. The first of the City Collection is Hamburg, a reimplementation of 2013’s Bruges – which, as you can tell, is not Hamburg. It’s Bruges.
Matt: Yeah, switching from Bruges to Hamburg isn’t exactly the most enthralling re-theme?
Tom: In what was Bruges and is now Hamburg, you’ll act as the mayor of Hambruges, avoiding brugetastrophes or dishamsters.
Ava: Is everything okay in here Tom? You seem to be-
Tom: Everything is FINE AVA ALL MY WORDS ARE IN ORDER AND UNDER CONTROL.
The BGG description is a nonsense cluster of boardgame words, to my eyes, but Bruges (pre-Hamburg) has an average rating of SEVEN POINT FOUR on BGG, which means it is positively… good. Check it out if you’re into ‘cards with five different uses’ and also ‘cleverly choosing the best use for each one’ – and you should DEFINITELY take a peek if you enjoy ‘avoiding disasters and racing for different objectives’.
Matt: Tom’s obviously still too young to wholeheartedly embrace stuff that’s openly quite boring, but Bruges’ combination of brightly coloured wood and muted esoteric history-stuff is like an immediate soothing balm for my brain. Prosperity amidst FIRES and RATS? That’s the stuff that board game dreams are made of!
Tom: The second revealed so far is Amsterdam, a reimplementation of 2009’s Macao, but unfortunately I’ve used up my quota of glib euro-teasing.
Instead, you’re getting the cut-and-dry boring description of what Amsterdam is going to be – a Eurogame that chiefly tasks players with ‘building combinations of abilities, as well as to correctly calculate the advantage of delayed gratification for actions.’ Wahoo. We’re going to get more information on the next two in the collection, New York (another reimplementation) and Marrakesh (a new design) shortly – so stay tuned for more high quality reporting on those in the near future.
Matt: I’d chastise you for a lack of enthusiasm here, but even as a begrudging defender of drab, quasi-mathematical puzzles – I can’t say there’s much here to be jazzed about, so far? When the boards and components get shown off, perhaps, but there’s something seriously disappointing about what we’ve seen of this project so far. To appreciate the wonderful potential of a stylised ‘set’ of games like this, you need only look briefly at the world of book publishing. There’s a lack of vision here that I guess feels like a missed opportunity – perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but this feels more like a different flavour of the modern tendency for Kickstarters to sell you a broad collection of things rather than simply A Thing.
Tom: Chip Theory (the ones that make the conveniently waterproof games) have come out with a standalone solitaire addition to the Hoplomachus family of games – Hoplomachus Victorum.
Matt: What’s your favourite Hoplomachus game, Tom? Mine is “Hungry Hungry Hoplomachus”.
Tom: Don’t be ridiculous Matt, this is a sensible news article. It’s clearly “Hoplopoly”.
As expected from Chip Theory, this is a game that involves an awful lot of thick plastic chips – this time representing warriors fighting against one-another in arenas of neoprene, tactically lobbing legions of minions at one-another to make sure that their champion is the last man standing. For a series that people have continually praised for its solo rules, making them effectively Roman Canon is going to bag Chip Theory a fair few wallets, and probably sharpen up some rough edges along the way.
Matt: The placeholder cover art they’ve gone with is a tremendous improvement on what we’ve seen before within that series – I’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on Chip Theory in the future.
Tom: Oh. I mean let’s be honest, I’ve mostly only mentioned Hoplomachus to carve a roman-related cul-de-sac: down this road we’ll eventually come to a fancy new edition of Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery from Gale Force 9. I’m honestly disappointed that they didn’t keep the dizzyingly B-movie cover art from the original – especially the ‘mature content’ sticker on the box. It’s freakin’ badass, Mum.
Matt: That’s it, Thomas – I’ve had enough of that language. You’re grounded for a week.
Tom: Gale Force 9 hasn’t mentioned any changes to the mechanical core of the game, so the basics of players scheming against one another in grisly arena showdowns is likely to be exactly what’s on offer here. Where Hoplomachus has you personally getting all bloody and sandy, in Spartacus you’re the figures behind the curtain – pitting fleshy beyblades against one-another for maximum profit and prestige. This means that seemingly most of the game is played in the arena of the free market, baby, with players bidding against one-another to ensure you’ve got the beefiest boy of them all. It’s like meat pokemon.
… and last but not least in reprint and reimplementation news, we’ve got Tammany Hall – a palpably slimy box about accruing political capital in the big apple. The site reviewed this a mere six years ago, and since then the man on the box has become considerably larger – sated by the sweet profitable nectar of sheer, unrefined business.
Matt: Please stop feeding grandfather nectar, he is too powerful
Tom: For those not in the Tammany Hall know-how, a quick meander down its BGG page will likely provide you with a meagre ration of ‘ooh yes i would like to play this please’. It’s a shady worker area control and negotiation game where each player tries to sway the New York public (most notably its new immigrant population) into voting you in as mayor – and whoever wins that vote then has the honour of appointing their fellow players as officials in their cabinet – who, in turn, will use this position of power to lunge upwards for your throne in an ouroboros of bickering. Less ‘dudes on a map’ and more ‘political constituencies on a map’.
Matt: We’re losing ‘em Tom! Hit the Kickstarter Killswitch! We’ve got to turn this newscopter around!
Tom: Night Cage! Ah-ahh-ahh! Fighter of the Day Cage! Ah-ahh-ahhhhh!
First in our scheduled Kickstarter Roundup segment, Smirk and Dagger are seeking the investment of the ever-generous boardgame public for The Night Cage, a giant metallic structure designed to contain Reiner Knizia, lest he be unleashed upon the unworthy.
I kid, of course. The ‘Kniz cannot be contained. The Night Cage is in fact a tile-placement co-op game about staggering around a dark labyrinth with only a tiny candle and a gang of lost friends to keep you company.
Players are tasked with wandering the labyrinth by placing tiles on a big grid, ultimately in the hope of finding a set of keys that’ll let you congregate at the exit to leave the titular ‘orrible dark prison. The twist here is that the tiles you placed on previous turns will disappear into the dark as soon as you turn your back on them, leading all of you into a nightmare of twisted tunnels and haphazard planning from the get-go if you don’t carefully plan where your light is going to be shining. I love the art here, and the core conceit could cook up some spooky surprises, but I’m not sure if it’s going to blow anyone’s socks off. It looks like one of those things that’s going to be better in practice than in theory, perhaps? Only time will tell. I’ve come over all unsure.
Matt: It could be interesting, but I know what you mean. I’m almost definitely not a good indicator of what most people will personally buy, but I’m honestly slightly put-off by the inclusion of stretch-goal miniature LED candles? Perhaps that’s ridiculous? Oh gosh, Tom – your temporary lack of conviction might be contagious?!
Tom: HEY. What’s Dad been up to? He’s hiding all the family secrets in a big leather book that’ll ship to backers in early 2021, of course!
We’ve talked a few times about Kickstarter’s fine array of chunky escape room puzzle-box thingies, and Legacy seems to be a contender for the chunkiest and thingiest so far. It’s a narrative adventure investigation game, where you and maybe some pals will be tasked with finding out where in the world their fictional Dad has stashed his fictional cash – cross-referencing clues from Paris and Greece across two different time periods to get to the bottom of it all.
So far, so escape room, but the USP here is surely the sheer amount of physical gubbins that come with it – a tiny model of the eiffel tower, some 3D glasses,and what looks like a message in a bottle? Once you’re done with the game you can decorate an entire student flat with that calibre of leftovers.
Matt: I’m disappointed it doesn’t ship with An Actual Dad.
Tom: Fair, but it’s got the next best thing? A companion app! One of the promo images appears to show a player scanning through the menu of a greek restaurant to find clues, which would be delightful – but maybe they were just getting takeout during the photoshoot, who’s to say?
Well, I’m to say, and I’m willing to bet my entire career that it’s the latter.
Matt: Unable to confirm Actual Dad – mild possibility of Accidental Kofte.
Tom:And finally on the Kickstarter roundup, we’ve got an odd little RPG about making ends meet in a family restaurant. Also: vampires.
Jianshi: Blood In The Banquet Hall is a boxed roleplaying game where players assume the role of family members running a restaurant – doing chores to keep things running smoothly, chatting amongst themselves, serving customers, and then discussing what nightmarish visions they had during the night. This all comes before Jiangshi, ‘hopping vampires’, descend upon the restaurant and attack members of your family – making them a whole lot worse at both preparing food and/or being alive.
Matt: I adore the art for this one – and WHAT A THEME!
Tom: It all looks pretty wild! I’d be very down for giving this one a big ol’ whirl when roleplaying games are permitted under UK Law. Nothing to do with Covid, they were banned after ‘the incident’.
Matt: It isn’t that they’re illegal, Tom – you just aren’t allowed to play them when you’re at my house. I’m not made of money, and curtains are expensive. Anyway, congratulations on keeping the newcopter mostly in the air – let’s bring her into land.
Tom: Wahoo! The training manual said to apply a thick layer of ‘Misc-Gubbins Grease’ to the landing gears after every flight – I’m cracking open a fresh jar of the stuff RIGHT NOW.
Tom: The first thing I quickly wanted to drop a mention of is that Root is coming to PC, IOS and Android. This is potentially what’s known as ‘old news’ in the bizz, but nevertheless i’m rather excited to have Root on my phone so I can get in more of that wonderful puzzle box whenever possible. I’ve been playing a ferocious amount of Twice as Clever on mobile recently, so anything that can take me away from that will be an absolute godsend – the ‘wahoo’ sound effect upon doing literally anything positive in that game is driving me over the edge.
In a similar vein of not-so-news, there’s also an upcoming Brass Birmingham digital implementation to look out for as well, developed by Phalanx – the team behind the app implementation of the original Brass. This is absolutely wonderful news, as Matt’s copy has sat on my shelf for half a year and I’ve played it approximately once. It’s on track for early 2021. The app, not my next play of Brass Birmingham.
Matt: HOT JAZZ ON A UNICYCLE, that may not be new-news, but it’s new-news to ME! Digital Birmingham is what I need in my life right now, and if there’s any publisher out there I trust to handle a conversion with detail and love, it’s Roxley: those goggled chickens are a meticulous bunch. Root could be pretty app-happy too, to be fair – I’d love to bash my head against some custom AI challenges while collapsed on a sofa.
Tom: Fictional scenario with humorous implications!
Ava: Harmless pre-amble with light twists of jokery!
Tom: Slight pun, sensible query?
Ava: Query resolved, questionable segue into the news!
Ava: I can’t not talk about that teaser trailer for Pandemic Legacy Season 0. My understanding is that if I’d tuned into the stream last tuesday, I would’ve been able to watch Matt complete a teaser jigsaw with a secret code on the back. I’m really hoping Tom was watching and knows if we’ve gleaned any exciting spoilers.
Matt: In my defence, I am incredibly daft. It turns out I’d vastly underestimated both the time and energy required to ‘Do A Jigsaw’ – five hours of live-streaming a muddy brown puzzle left me shamefully too wiped out to actually solve the mystery behind the clues I’d uncovered. I still don’t know exactly what I missed, but I gather I missed *something* quite vital – the next day I even went so far as to heat up the accompanying note in a wok in the hope that a heat-sensitive message would reveal itself. You can’t mark me down for effort, I guess?
Ava: So it seems like the new Pandemic Legacy is a prequel, taking place in olden times. Quinns shared something in the company slack that I don’t think I’m allowed to say anything about, but it was accompanied with statement that “Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau are clearly having a lot of fun here”. Frankly, that’s exciting enough for me (as someone who failed to get through a season 1 campaign for interpersonal issues I am IN NO WAY BITTER ABOUT.)
Matt: It’s amazing how many people I know who found their Season 1 playthrough unfortunately torpedoed, usually just before the bit in the campaign where things really get REAL.
Tom: I’m having such a strange time of all the Season 0 announcements – It’s an event that I should be incredibly excited for, having effectively used Season 1 and 2 as a cardboard bonfire around which my closest friends of University gathered. With Season 0 on the horizon, though, I’m physically willing myself not to be excited for it – because I know there’s no way I can meaningfully get that same group together again consistently, maybe forever.
Matt: I felt the same way when Jaws of the Lion arrived.
Ava: This is an awfully glum start to the news.
Let’s talk about Beans.
Ava: Is it okay to just keep releasing variants of the same game forever with increasingly tenuous puns? No. But I’m going to let this one slide because Excalibohn is extremely fun to say.
Tom: They missed a trick – I think Excalibohnanza is WAY more fun to say – but only if you stress and savour the beginning before a swift crescendo of speed and ferocity towards the end, with an appropriate level of theatrical pizazz to boot.
Matt: Tom, you have my vote.
Ava: After Bohnaparte, I think they’ve fully committed. Consistency is as important as pizzaz in the seamy underworld of pun-branding.
Excalibohn is the newest entry to the Bohnanza bonanza, and promises the same game of planting, trading and desperation, only now the beans are magic. Special powers and magic potions can be triggered on your turn to manipulate the core game’s simple but tight trading mechanism. I suspect it has to walk a pretty fine line to keep the game functioning while appealing to those who want a bit of extra fiddle? Otherwise this might just be bean trading with added take that, which would be awful?
Matt: MAGIC Bean-Trading with MAGIC Take That.
Ava: That’s still awful though, isn’t it?
Matt: In my mind it was easily their best album.
Tom: Before that mammoth 6 hour Lords of Vegas stream, Mike Selinker said something to the tune of ‘Bohnanza is the best game ever made’. Now, I don’t remember exactly what he said afterwards, but I’m almost certain that it was ‘I can’t wait for them to add magic potions to it though, because that would be VERY cool and good’, and I thiiiink that’s perfectly fine to use as a pull quote for the box, Uwe.
Matt: Gosh though, THAT GAME! I’ve yet to do a little post about it on the main site, but that’s easily the best game of Lords of Vegas… ever? A very long video, but what a ride.
Tom: You know what I need in my life right now? More thoughts. I just can’t get enough of the blighters! They’re always scurrying around, hiding under important events – I just want some good clean thoughts for my brain canals! What’s a boy gotta do to get some THOUGHTS around here?
I jest, of course, thoughts are mostly horrible things I want to reduce, re-use and recycle.
Tom:Our Innermost Thoughts asks the question ‘What if thoughts; but good?’ This Kickstarter looks to be a dinky little zine containing a collection of (mostly) solo RPGs about self-discovery and reflection in times of turmoil – which is right up my proverbial alley, at the moment. Of the bunch, I think I’m most intrigued by ‘Frequency’, the only two-player game in the series, which is chiefly concerned with the difficulty of communication between different languages and ideologies. As well as that, I’m tickled by ‘Letters From A Book Binder’, a game about writing synopses of fictional books and sharing those stories with others.
Matt: I’m only slightly disturbed that the image they’ve gone with reminds me immediately of ‘The Cabin In The Woods’ and the fantastically stylish German Misery-’em-up ‘Dark’. Please can I instead have these thoughts in a leisure centre cafe with a mug of hot chocolate, thanks.
Matt: As first-mate aboard the HMS Hasty, I’ve gotta say I reaaally dig the use of colour in that box art?
Ava: Dead Reckoning is a piratical ‘4X’ game with card-crafting crew and a dice-ship battle-shenanigan. You’ll be sailing the high seas while sliding cards into sleeves to show your crews equipment and stats. If you ever get into a fight you’ll be pouring little cubes through a cardboard boat and into a little walled board that will tell you how battling you’ve been. There’s a lot of odd touches here, that make it harder and harder to assess if this is exciting or not. My fancy is tickled, but so is my meh.
Tom: The fancy bone’s connected to the… Meh bone! The Meh Bone’s connected to the… Excalibohn! The Excalibohn’s connected to the…
It’s probably not quite worth linking to a set of kickstarter expansions, and I’m essentially just trying to goad myself into not buying them. Covering stuff in the news tends to deflate my hype for things- maybe more than makes sense. Is that okay? I don’t know if that’s okay. I do however know that I’ve already bought both games being expanded here, and both times the exact same thing happened.
The game arrived, I admired the lovely pieces, and then I started reading the rulebook – at which time I’ve then glazed over in a way I can only describe as unprofessional. I don’t know what it is about these rulebooks? I’ve tucked into GMT rulebooks that would make Tom Brewster cry. But these tiny rule books never quite go properly into my brain.
Matt:I don’t know if that’s unprofessional, really? Rulebooks are so rarely universally readable, and it’s definitely the part of the job I struggle with the most. Teach me a game and I’ll get it all perfectly, no further questions. Focussing on a booklet for more than two minutes? Eep. Still, good to know which designers your rulebook-brain doesn’t quite gel with?
Ava: But here’s the problem. I’m still tempted. More fish for the market! More moves on the metro! I want it. I shouldn’t want it. But I want it. Urghhhhhhhh.
Tom: If it helps, I also found that the tiny Tsukiji Market rulebook burrowed its way into my brain with the elegance of a whisk through bricks. But Clams, Nori, and Swordfish? Maybe a swift kick in the expandable backside will get me to actually play the damn thing. This is the kind of logic that crumbles empires. What do I want?
Ava: If you want even more punishing decision making, pretty much the entire Jordan Draper back catalogue is available as add ons. I can only speak to Import/Export, which I would describe as ‘a great game if you already know you like Carl Chudyk-style confuse-a-thons.
Matt: Oh gosh no, WHY MUST ROBOTS MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES AS HUMANITY?
Ava: This is the same people who famously beat expert Lee Sedol at Go, but now they’re moving into what I’m going to describe as a much wobblier game. Teaching a computer how to lose friends seems somewhere between cruel and ridiculous, but I’m kind of curious as to where this is going, even if I’m somewhat skeptical about just about every claim I hear made about AI ever.
Tom: Next up: Blood On The Clocktower.
Ava: It turns out, that really the focus here is not so much on betrayal, lies and manipulation, but is actually more to examine ways for AIs to collaborate with other systems and actual humans. Of course, I would’ve thought a game that didn’t rest upon inevitable backstabs might be a better way to teach collaboration. This is training an AI to work with humans right up until the optimal moment of betrayal. The more I think about this, the more ominous it seems.
Tom:Cruisin’ for a skynettin’?
Ava: With puns like these, who needs terminators.
Matt: I’m screengrabbing this for the pun-police, fyi.
Ava: Twitter this week has been a tiring mess. Twitter this year has been a tiring mess. Twitter is a tiring mess. There, nailed it.
This week has been hard, though.
Prominent Black game designer Eric Lang got suspended after being the apparent target of bad faith trolling for his eminently reasonable views on racism. He’s been reinstated, and he’s had some brilliant words to say about how we need to be working on fixing the culture of social media so that we don’t leave the space to be a place where trolls manipulate systems for abuse. Honestly, it’s big important stuff (and I say that whilst also wrestling the most successful author of all time appearing to have been love-bombed into a cult obsessed with stopping me from going to the toilet ever, which is fun). It’s our responsibility to make sure game spaces (and the social spaces that surround them) are welcoming to everyone welcoming, and intolerant of everyone intolerant.
Matt: That’s the crucial part of it, really – we’ve always managed to keep Shut Up & Sit Down’s community quite broadly kind-hearted, but it’s a softness that is primarily crafted with hammers. And even then, we’re constantly getting stuff wrong, all of the time! I hope we’ll continue to be open to recognising that, and striving to be better. I worry that social media as it currently exists may be a lost cause though, if I’m honest. Still – solidarity with those finding the current cultural climate tough. Having come over to this industry from Video Games, I’m steeled for this stuff more than anyone should have to be.
Tom: More like pen and paper TROLL playing AMIRITE? I’m not particularly active on twitter (I haven’t even got the app – I just access it through a google homepage that’s set to ‘Duck Game’ developer Landon Podbielski’s Twitter page after I googled him one time ages ago) but even then, when I do check my feed it’s nothing but nihilism and anger towards those using their huge, profitable, and ultimately stable platforms in ways that are less than savoury.
Matt: I will be unbelievably happy when Twitter shuts down, and yet I also can’t stop using it?
Ava: IT’S SO GRIM! I wish I could walk away from twitter but it’s always been a useful way to stay connected to the communities I care about, and it does do that, it’s just hard when those communities feel steadily under attack. As a more positive end note though, I’ve now got an official email address, so if anyone wants to send news tidbits to highlight, I’d really like to increase the diversity of the games news, both in the sense of highlighting more work from marginalised creators, but also in bringing a spotlight onto a wider range of curious board game adjacent media, business or other larks. Give me a shout on [email protected], we want to hear from you about the people we’ve never heard of, the things we aren’t aware of, and the stuff that never happened.
Wait. Maybe not that last one, although I am totally here for impossible gossip.
Matt: The Impossigoss Engine has been activated?! But that’s IMPOSSIGOSS? If you’re at a loose end this week and fancy listening to our voices, tomorrow myself and Tom will be hanging out with Twitch chat for “Through The Ages and Chill”. You are all invited. And this Thursday should be a lot of fun – we’ll be doing another Print & Play Along session with Metro X. Grab a copy of the file here.
Tom: “HIKING UP THE NEWSTRAIL / SINGIN’ MY NEWSTRAIL SOOONG! / GONNA FIND SOME NEWSES / OH WON’T YOU SING ALONG?”
Ava: No. Today’s news will be presented in a bland monotone with absolutely no musical interludes whatsoever.
Ava:. Don’t be sad Tom, I’m obviously lying. Have you met Shut Up and Sit Down? Pretty much everything we say ends up sung to the tune of some soft rock classic or another.
Tom: We did a musical count in last week too, didn’t we.
Ava: There’s a pandemic and a climate crisis going on, we’re allowed to recycle. One! Two! Many! Lots!
Stonemaier games haven’t quite landed a perfect hit with the review squad here at Shut Up and Sit Down, but they’ve knocked out some beautiful shots, and it’s hard to ignore when they announce something new. Their latest game evolved out of one of their open design days, apparently their highest ever rating prototype, and is now getting the full Stonemaier treatment.
Pendulum promises simultaneous play, sand timers and worker placement strategy. The details are being slowly dribbled out over the coming weeks because hype-building is a dribbly business. So far we know, well, mostly what I’ve already said. The timers provide time pressure as you try and work out where you’re going to put your next batch of workers with tasks to convert, buy and trade resources. With three worker sections, each with their own timer, but also regular breaks to pause for breath, it’s more about slow pressure and careful planning than fast reactions. It sounds like it’s mostly about building an efficient rhythm: making sure that the thing that finishes after forty five seconds will be done enough times before the thing that takes two minutes but needs those resources ready as soon as it’s done.
Tom: This sounds like it could be a wonderful, snappy and unique experience on the one hand, or a total NIGHTMARE on the other. The physical sand timers could provide the sense of urgency and ‘no-take-backsies’ that we’ve observed to be the best feature of playing digital games on BGA, but equally the idea of trying to navigate a chunky euro under time pressure is absolutely horrifying. Whatever it ends up looking like in the end, it’ll most likely be fascinating regardless.
Ava: Looking up details for Pendulum also nudged me towards Rolling Realms, a Stonemaier-retrospective roll-and-write game that mashes up elements from their previous games. It’s one of these lovely print-and-play freebies that publishers have been putting out and now they’re running a survey to see whether people would like a properly published edition. Maybe give it a look if you like rolling dice and referencing games you may or may not have already played.
Tom: You can also play it D I G I T A L L Y or P R I N T E R L Y if you so desire – both versions are available through the above link and it does all look quite charming. It’s also rather sweet that another designer, Seth Jaffee, has also made a Rolling Realms tour through his own designs using the same iconography and core idea of condensing complex systems into little tiny boxes. I’m waiting with bated breath for the Vlaada version. Roll a 6 and make bunny ears above your head to score 8 points – or roll a 3 and chart the rise and fall of an entire civilization for 9 points.
Lost Ruins of Arnak is designed by the mononymous duo Min and Elwen, new to the CGE fold. It’s built on small decks of cards for each player and a big board of resource gathering and utilising options to go and do an expeditions on the titularly ruined island. I’m once again wondering whether I’m overly excited by CGE because of their highest highs, with no evidence anything actually interesting about this one. The promise of being able to use some of the cards as workers in the worker placement is technically intriguing, but I’m not thrilled by the entirely devoid of information trailer video.
Oh dear, I do appear to have become a bit hype-cynical. I’m sure that’s not going to get irritating or be very inconsistently applied over the course of the news.
Tom: There’s not much to go on here, so take that cynicism and hold onto it for as long as possible, lest ye be swayed by the tumultuous hype-tides.
Ava: I helped Quinns with the playtesting and a little bit of script beavering on his lovely Undaunted: Normandy review, and fondly remember our afternoon of deck building duelry in an actual pub, a million years ago, just before Christmas. It’s a sharp and clever re-invention of deck building, and makes for a dramatic take on World War Two with less rules and faff than I’ve ever seen in a wargame, but quite a lot of the precision. Lovely! It’s since been expanded with a North Africa sequel, which I’m eager to explore, and now BOTH of those games are receiving Reinforcements.
Undaunted: Reinforcements adds new cards, scenarios and bits to both games, and offers a new solo mode, as well as a four player variant. I’m pretty excited, but worry that something so sharp might get a bit wobbly when it tries to expand to four players. That said, when tables are allowed to get a little bit bigger, I’ll be well up for giving it a try.
Tom: We can get the whole gang together post-lockdown to mourn the losses of our favourite soldiercards. Honestly, the meanest thing I can say about Undaunted: Normandy was that I was upset I couldn’t share it with more people. Once I started playing it with one person, it became too much of a grudge-match game to play with anyone else – it’d be unfair ‘Training’ for our next showdown. Playing it with 4 might turn it into a right royal rumble – a cosier alternative to Memoir 44 Overlord, perhaps.
Ava: If I ever brew a beer I’m calling it ‘Cosy Overlord’. In barely-even-news news, Armata Stigoi, a team game of fortress assaulting werewolves ganging up on immortal vampires, is getting a wider publication, but I just want to hear what Tom has to say about Powerwolf, the band that inspired the game.
Tom: I wasn’t aware of Powerwolf until now, but they look like a band that take themselves EXACTLY as seriously as they should. This is very much a stream-of-consciousness ramble at this point, but I just went to the Wikipedia page for Powerwolf and very much enjoyed this quote; ‘When asked if he was a Christian or a Satanist, Matthew Greywolf answered: “I am a metalist, a metal fan. Metal is my religion’, which is hilarious. But more intriguing than that, when I started googling a suggested search was the Wikipedia entry for the ‘Sugababes’, from our recent Mothership stream. What struck me though is the fact that there isn’t an R iN ‘SUGABABES’? I THOUGHT IT WAS ‘SUGARBABES’ LIKE YOU SHOULD SPELL IT. THIS IS THE STRANGEST MANDELA EFFECT???
Ava: It’s definitely always been suga, babes.
Tom: Now I’m thinking about what other musical acts would make good board games. A Nick Zammuto T’Zolkin-alike but it’s about time signatures carved into vinyl? A Moonsick solo RPG about the wistful days of your youth? A cluedo-like that’s set in Pottery’s album, ‘Welcome To Bobby’s Motel’, where you have to collect as many cowbells as you can muster. ! A Godspeed You! Black Emperor Eurogame that takes a literal week to get through, with a cluttered (if wholesome) anti-capitalist tone. A Jai Paul print-and-play! The possibilities are well and truly endless.
Ava: You could remake Fog of Love as a nightmarish five player Fleetwood Mac tribute, entirely about making horrible breakup songs about your band mates. Or how about a deckbulding version of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies? Maybe a Chassol game that’s just a big French role-playing game with an app that plays piano in tune with whatever’s being said and takes poignant loops and lays them over lovely drums. I’m genuinely surprised I can’t get a Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds game already, with a big glitterball and an apocalyptic Victorian London to fight over. I’d also take a role-playing game where you play as your favourite Beach Boy (Dennis) and have to avoid falling into Charles Manson’s cult while going surfing.
Tom: William Basinski: Legacy?
Ava: Environmentally friendly, as you don’t even destroy the cards, you just keep writing things over them again and again forever.
Tom: We probably should have used this time to talk about the game.
Ava: Oh yeah. There’s a game about werewolves and vampires. Maybe read the design diary if that tickles your Powerwolf?
Ava:An Alhambra Roll & Write is on Kickstarter, promising an paper-scratching version of the sprawling palace building original. The games share a scoring system based racing to build the most of certain coloured buildings.. The dicier version features you taking pairs of dice to cross off those buildings, and passing on the leavings to the next player, who gets to do some of their own rolling and taking.
The original Alhambra is the sort of game that needs to have it’s maximum player count cut in half, as the one time I played with six it was an absolute dull-fest, but with three players it’s a pointy little diamond. It contains my favourite rule to teach in any game: ‘just like in real life, if you pay with exact change you get to take another turn’. I’m not quite sure how dice-drafting is going to replace the ruthless currency collection of the original, but I am sorely tempted by the revised edition of the base game, also available on the kickstarter. Of course, this is Queen Games, so not only do I have to decide if I actually want both of the core boxes, (in writey and revisedy flavours), but I also have an enormous bundle of expansions to calculate the cost to value ratio of. I might end up not going for it out of sheer bloody-minded indecisiveness. We’ll see. We’ll see.
Tom: Cynicism-ometer seems perfectly in check here, boss.
Ava: While we’re looking at Queen Games though, I can once again get wound up by hype-dribble, as over on twitter they’ve announced a new ‘city collection’: a set of new boxes based on previous Stefan Feld games, but relocated to new cities. In a move I can only describe as ‘deeply irritating, but it does the hype-job’ they’re slowly teasing out the skyline of buildings that will grace the sides of the boxes, asking people to guess what cities the buildings come from and what games they’re based on. Unfortunately, because all the games are now going to be set in new cities, this gives us absolutely no information about what games are getting rebooted.
Tom: Spoilers; they’re all Burton-On-Trent. It’s a risky move but they’ll have the whole town down at their FLGS.
Ava: I’m so infuriated by the lack of information! BUT, I’m also watching closely, because I’m really hoping that Macao is getting a new version, as that games very particular cube-collecting doom-rondel was one of the most excruciatingly beautiful bear-traps of a mechanic that I’ve stumbled across in the last year. Please let me rotate my distress-inducing cube-compass again, Queen Games.
2000AD publishers Rebellion are teaming up with long-time role-playing collaborators Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor to put together the first in a series of ready-to-play rpgs-inna-magazine. The Adventure Presents… series is breaking ground by being cheap as chips (well, maybe more like a couple of fish and chips at the chippy in town I can’t go to because they cook everything in dripping, but the point still stands). The series will be explicitly designed for lockdown play, with digital materials to make distant play work better. It’s also got lush 2000AD style comic art throughout, and the first episode offers the opportunity to be a veteran, scavenger, influencer or graphic designer, which is not a party set up I’ve seen before.
Adventure presents Tartarus Gate is a slim little volume that will give you everything you need to experience some cosmic horror in the depths of space, which sounds a little bit like how I’ve been spending every other Thursday, so maybe this is all a bit too soon.
Tom: Is that a convenient segue to talk about the STREAM SCHEDULE?
Ava: No I just meant to-
Tom: THIS WEEK you can join THE REAL MATT LEES doing a *checks notes* JIGSAW PUZZLE on TUESDAY, followed by PART 3 of the COSMIC HORROR PICTURE SHOW that is MOTHERSHIP on THURSDAY! If you’ve yet to do so already, follow us on Twitch! Oh, and expect a tumultuous return to streaming for me as I try to keep the entirety of my family out of the room while we’re live. Expect many interruptions from the extended Brewsterverse.
Matt: Oh gosh, getting you to role-play live as Juice Springsteen in front of your FAMILY may be the greatest professional joy I’ll ever know.
Ava: It’s the most ambitious cross-over event of all time.
Tom: I can’t believe someone has so blatantly taken the Alien from Nemesis and made it into a board game (pictured above)
Ava: Tom, I think that…
Tom: The obviously copyright infringing ‘Aliens: another glorious day in the corps’ sees players fighting through ‘their favourite scenes in the film’ as the designers attempt to inception their blatant theft into your mind via a film that clearly doesn’t exist, a la Shazam and the Berenstein Bears.
Ava: No, Tom, there really is a…
Tom: We don’t really have much detail, just some vague promises of a dynamic co-op game, aliens you can kill and two already lined up expansions. And yes, those expansions are apparently really called ‘Ultimate Badasses’ and ‘Get Away From Her, You B***ch’ (their censoring, not ours). All snappy and perfectly okay and also good names for expansions for the boardgame that is the Aliens, the boardgame.
Ava: Sometimes this hobby/job(/jobby???) is a delight. I stumbled upon this design diary never having heard of the game, only knowing a little about the publisher Hollandspiele, and knowing absolutely nothing about the historical event the game is based on.
The Field of the Cloth of Gold aims to arrive on the five hundredth anniversary of the ‘essentially a party’ of the same name, a three week festival of Kings showing off that spent a third of the wealth of England at the time. King Henry VIII (yup, that one) and King Francis I of France basically had a renaissance rave-up to show off just how swish they were.
Tom Russell describes the main problem with designing a game about the event is that basically nothing happened, but honestly it sounds like he’s built quite a treat. A lightweight filler inspired by ultra-classics El Grande and Tigris and Euphrates, players will face a simple choice every turn, to collect tiles (which gives a random bonus to your opponent) or score the tiles you’ve already collected, limiting your ability to gain more in the future. It could be sharp, it could be nonsense, but with a theatrically bombastic manual, I’m curious about it.
Tom: I hope this turns out to be really, really excellent so that we can review it, otherwise it might be another one of those games where I’ve got at least, like, 8 jokes written and then Matt says ‘yes Tom but it’s not a good game is it’ and I say YEAH BUT I’VE GOT ALL THESE JOKES and then Matt says ‘these are just pieces of paper with the word ‘jokes’ written on them’ and I say ‘It’ll work better in a visual format rather than written! This paragraph is a mess of punctuation and the readers probably hate how self-indulgent and silly this is’ and then Matt edits the end of this paragraph to stop it from going on forev-
Canopy sees two players vying for the fanciest and most biodiverse parts of the rainforest, drafting trees, weathers, animals and plants, each with their own bonuses and methods of scoring. It sits squarely in the territory of ‘that sounds nice’, and reminds me a little of the surprisingly ruthless push-your-luck set collection of Herbaceous. Though maybe that’s just the prominent foliage playing tricks on me.
In other news, I’m so disappointed to find out there isn’t actually an Italian chamber orchestra providing scores for live action role playing. Sad.
Crescendo Giocoso Ritornello is a ‘playlist’ of several games by an orchestra-themed larp group. I’m never going to get past that disappointment, even if some of the things here sound great. Sorry Crescendo Giocoso Ritornello, you’ve clevered yourself out of a fair shake. Unless Tom can rustle something up?
Tom: Ava I am struggling to understand this concept at its most fundamental level. The clash of Italian and Acronyms is making all the thinking juices trickle out my nose.
Ava: Wait, wait, wait. I’ve slept on this, and had a closer a look, and I think beyond the quirky framing, this looks like an intriguing twelve games. On a quick glance through, one of them is about caring for a person with Alzhimer’s disease, and looks genuinely heartbreaking, and another is played in complete silence and asks players to try and recall an impossible, imagined childhood through movement and invented ritual. Maybe these are exactly the sort of people who should pretend to be a chamber orchestra, and maybe, one day, we can all do the same. The Kickstarter closes very soon, so jump on quickly if it sounds like your thing.
Honestly, I just watched the video and entirely zoned out enjoying the Barber of Seville and then thinking about the Tom and Jerry take on the same. I always forget that classical music is often actually quite affecting. I’m also glad I googled to double check I’d got the right piece, as it turns out the song that goes ‘Figaro’ lots, ISN’T from the Marriage of Figaro.
Intrepid gives you massive handfuls of dice, and asks you to sort them between all the players at the table, each a character from a different country, with a different goal, a different way of manipulating dice, and their own lovely face. Actual faces may vary.
Carefully communicating and collaborating to keep the station ticking, with upgrades that will help you find some resources at the cost of others, it all sounds a little on the chaotic side for a carefully planned space mission. It also reminds me of some of the best bits of explosively-collaborative dice defuser FUSE.
Tom: Having never played Intrepid or Sidereal Confluence, I am inclined to compare the two in a way that you can feel free to completely ignore. Maybe, if you’ve played them, you might be able to tell me if Intrepid is kind of like a co-operative version of Sidereal Confluence with Dice instead of… Other… Bits? I don’t know, it’s the vibe I’m getting with the clunky graphic design and asymmetric ways of interacting with the same components – and honestly I’m quite intrigued with what looks like a rather chunky puzzle.
Ava: It wasn’t a comparison that had occurred to me, and I doubt it’s got the enormous asymmetry and wheeler-dealering of Sidereal, but if it comes close to that games ‘I’ve got an engine you don’t understand, so you’ve just got to trust me except I have no way to make you trust me’ then maybe that’s a bit of a win for a co-op? Also, the ‘other bits’ in Sidereal Confluence are mostly just bits. Lots and lots of bits, each with a specific name that gets entirely ignored in favour of just yelling the colour and shape out.
Yura Yura Penguin’s wobbly papercraft iceberg looks like a curvier Rhino Hero, and honestly, that’s nearly me sold already. The oddly-translated kickstarter page is a delight, and the game looks very silly. I’m glad it has upgraded to little wooden penguins from card ones, because little wooden penguins are adorable, and look like they’ll make this card stacking dexterity game almost impossible to win. Lovely.
Tom: There’s games about being a haunted Antiques dealer, a watch dealer, and even a game about being a games dealer. There’s a game called ‘Suzie-Q’ that has an absolute disaster of a central mechanic for someone like me (who doesn’t understand numbers or reasoning), and there’s a game about naming as-yet un-named, specific objects (such as ‘staples that have failed to be stapled’).
There’s even a game that’s basically ‘Guess Who’ but for underwear. Honestly I want all of these delivered to my home as soon as possible because they all sound like delightful little filler games that will draw people in on their central gimmicks alone.
Ava: In news that’s got all the most irritating people’s hackles up, Dungeons & Dragons is finally trying to remove some of the baked-in racism from its settings. They’re removing the concept of ‘Evil Races’ entirely from the game, and are planning a host of new books with more empathetic portrayals of factions previously only ever seen on the bad side of the table.
In particular, after criticism of The Curse of Strahd’s portrayal of the Vistani, which drew on various stereotypical ideas about the Romani people, new editions will have some of that content edited in consultation with members of the Romani community, who are also helping work on a new adventure with more positive rep of the same.
Honestly, I’m consistently appalled at the casualness of racism against traveller and Roma communities in the UK, so I’m really glad to see some reparative work being done here, not least because this sort of diversity tends to lead to much more interesting stories.
Tom: I’m trying my best to ease ‘DnD’ out of my vocabulary, when what I really mean is ‘RPG’. To most onlookers to the hobby, and many of those within it, the two are almost used as synonyms, I’ve found – and having recently started perusing the indie RPG scene I can’t imagine the frustration that arises from producing unique, diverse art and having it immediately posted under the banner of something so trite and tired. There’s so much out there, so rather than waiting for Wizards to get better, one can always start looking at what’s doing their ‘bit’ considerably better.
Ava: In blast from the past news, there’s a new Fighting Fantasy book coming out! Continuing the series of solo rpg style branching narrative books, Crystal of Storms is written by Rhianna Pratchett, and will have players flicking from page to page and leaving as many fingers in the past as they can manage.
Tom: Oi, that’s cheating!
Ava: I don’t care, I just want to get to the end before I’ve written too many numbers in the ‘stamina’ box at the front to be able to continue playing.
I’m honestly bewildered at the press release stating that Fighting Fantasy came out ‘before gaming gripped the imagination of children worldwide’ in a fairly ridiculous attempt to argue that Steven Jackson and Ian Livingston literally invented the concept of games for children. Presumably before that children had only ever been serious, pragmatic and realistic.
Tom: My first interaction with the work of Steve Jackson was spending my bus money on Munchkin expansion packs (i was young, okay) – and believe me, the daily 7 mile round trip to school that decision incurred (along with the detention I would receive for inevitably rocking up late) was most certainly the least pragmatic decision of my younger years. I guess this is the long way of saying that Steve Jackson did in fact free my childhood self from the shackles of normality. Thanks for the blisters, Steve.
In further reading material news, Warhammer 40,000 is getting its first Marvel comic, and it’s being written by the often lovely Kieron Gillen. Telling the story of Marneus Calgar, I’m disappointed it’s going to be a bluespaceboy story, and not something a bit Orkier, but that’s probably just me.
Tom: We’re ALL still waiting on Ava’s Queer Ork Theory 101
Ava: You might be waiting a little while longer. The last time I tried to explain it to someone we started off with discussions of Orks’ asexual reproduction and lack of gender, and ended up googling ‘Do Tau ****’. Eventually we were even asking whether, if the astartes have genetically engineered their ‘unnecessary’ sex organs away in favour of extra hearts and lungs, does that mean space marines sweat piss.
Tom: Tickets are now available to purchase for the first Games News Gig. Our genre is cardboard and our instruments are words. Join us for a little ditty we like to call ‘The Games News This Week, On The 22nd of June 2020’. It’s going to be OUT THERE.
Ava: Give me a second, I need to look up a very, very, very, niche reference.
Tom: I’ll do a sound check. Let’s play that old classic – ‘The Stream Schedule For The Next Two Weeks Starting On The 22nd of June 2020, Also’.
Tom: Huh. I guess we’ll just have to improvise when we get there.
Ava: This one’s for Brian Jones and all the other dinosaurs that got kicked out of the band! 1-2-3-4!
Ava: Capstone Games teamed up with designer Ryan Courtney for last year’s Pipeline, a combo-tastic, oil-filled matrix of mechanics that gave rise to Matt and Tom’s weirdest review yet. Well they’re at it again! Capstone and Courtney that is. Matt and Tom remain safely isolated and entirely unable to cover each other in oil for the foreseeable future.
Tom: I’ve got a super-soaker of vegetable oil ready to go the minute lockdown is lifted.
Ava: Oh dear.
Curious Cargo looks like it’s treading some familiar territory, with a whole web of conveyor belts at the core of each player’s board. A combination of economics, timing and network building gives you a duel-based alternative to Pipeline’s pipelines. Call in a truck at the right moment! Connect an interweaving network of lines! Ship your custom-shaped cargo tokens to your opponent to interfere with their logistics! PVC player boards! It’s all a bit exciting.
Tom: There’s not huge amounts of information on to how the game actually plays, but there are some positively frightening pictures of the board that make the game look like the logistical nightmare that exists in the deepest part of every boardgamer’s amygdala. There are also day and night sides of the board with different difficulties; for when you’re in the mood for a brightly-lit puzzle or a dark and dingy depo. Most of the early days of my internship involved playing plenty of Pipeline against Matt, so an exclusively two-player design from Mr Courtney has me in a state of some kind of imagined nostalgia.
Ava: Star Wars! That was a star war. That was a star, war. That’s a star war.
So goes the theme tune to Star Wars, which I can only assume the app and card based escape room puzzle will belt out at you as you launch into some space wizard hijinks. The cover kind of implies that one of them has you escaping from inside the innards of a tauntaun, and I’ll be honest, I’m here for it. Any puzzle that asks you to carefully tug the correct intestine has to be a winner, right?
Tom: Following that logic, the other two will have you escaping space (difficult, considering it’s what Star Wars is made of, duh) and escaping routine stormtrooper patrol duties. I’m practically salivating.
Ava: Two points of order. Firstly, I had to stop myself going into your sentence and adding ‘duh duh duh DAH duh, duh duh duh DAH duh, duh du duh dah’ after your soitary ‘duh’. Secondly, more escape rooms should be on the theme of just trying to get out of routine duties, it’s highly relatable.
Tom: Coming Q4 2020: ‘Unlock: SU&SD’s Games News’! Escape from bed in the morning, puzzle out some questionable goofery, and tool up for the final boss: Mr Lees.
Ava: Is Mars big? We just can’t tell. It’s too far away for us to know anything for certain, and that’s a fact. What I can tell you, though, is that it’s getting bigger. Or at least, it’s getting a bigger box.
Yes kids, that’s right, Terraforming Mars Big Box has hit kickstarter, and at heart it’s just a big box for all your Terraforming Mars goodies. That’s not quite all that’s going on here, as there’s also some fancy trays for sorting the components and a full set of 3D terrain tiles, to make your Mars more macho. Adding tiny mushroom clouds and adorable forests, it’s all entirely non-essential, but might make your red planet real estate slightly more desirable.
Me? I prefer a small box. This is just too much.
Matt: As someone who was part of the reviewing team for Terraforming Mars, it likely won’t be a surprise that I’m also unexcited at the prospect of More Box. Although oddly, I keep being tempted to buy the App version of the game? Zero box seems my optimal level for this particular beast.
Tom: I like that the first thing you see when you open the webpage is the giant mushroom cloud in the middle of a moderately terraformed mars. I guess nuclear devastation is kind of terraforming…
Ava: Can’t terraform an omelette without splitting a few atoms.
Ava: I am become death, fearer of puns.
Honestly, I’m a bit bewildered that the fourth in the ‘dark cities’ series is set in Bristol. I realise this is just a quirk of geography, but having a series run Salem, Tortuga, Deadwood, Bristol, screams bathos for me. Bristol is most recently a place where statues get rightly thrown in the river, but previously, i mostly associate it with long walks along motorways, a very drizzly hill, and a very expensive whisky in a very unpleasant hotel. It’s weird how exoticism works? I’m sure plenty of people have had drizzly hills in Salem, or been overcharged for liquor in Tortuga, but for me those are sensible places to set a game, but Bristol? It’s like being invited to a music festival in a church hall.
Tom:Ava, you still haven’t told us anything about the game.
Bristol 1350 is a plague cart racing game of dice, deception, and pushing people out of cart and leaving them to die.
Tom: Those little carts do look absolutely wonderful, and I do like that the whole thing folds away very neatly into that dinky little book. You can roleplay a priest hiding a bottle of whisky in a hollowed-out bible – only instead of alcoholism being your sneaky secret, it’s thematically risky boardgames. That or buboes. And speaking of buboes – the main mechanic of the game involves you making sure that you can pass your pustules in regularly scheduled intra-cart ‘mingles’, shuffling your symptoms around like the world’s worst poker dealer – passing off the worst of them off to other passengers so you can gracefully throw them from the cart and onto the street, ready for another cart to take pity on them. With some variable player powers and shaky ‘remedies’ added into the mix, this could be a nice (horrible) little box.
Ava: I don’t know if right now’s the best time to be releasing a social deduction game about whether people have got the plague or not. Though that concern may well be reduced once the box hits the doorstep.
That’s the actual noise I made as I scrolled down The Emerald Flame’s kickstarter page. It’s a box of codes to decipher, mysteries to unravel, and beautiful objects and ephemera to get lost in. The Emerald Flame is a one off puzzling adventure that can be played solo or with friends. It looks like a sumptuous sequence of solvable shenanigans.
Tom: Yeah Ava, sure this is a cool escape room-adjacent experience, but there’s an absolute dearth of tauntaun spleen for the $70 price tag.
Ava: But there’s maps! And alchemical diagrams! And letters with mushrooms on! And wood! Who am I kidding, I hadn’t seen the price when I started rhapsodising. The right kind of person will have an absolute whale of a time with this. By which I mean, a good few hours of studious frustration, which is what everybody associates whales with, right? I’ll trust our dear readers to know if they’ll get enough whalebang for their whalebuck.
Tom: Do you actually look at the words you use after you write them?
Ava: Goonies never say die. Or look back. Or something like that.
Matt: HOT ZONES IN YOUR AREA WANT TO CHAT
The Avril Lavigne: Hey hey, you you, I can’t afford your hot zone. No way no way. Now it’s print and play hey.
Tom: That title has one too many colons, just like my Uncle Phil! What a story that was, let me tell you-
Ava: -Very much no thank you.
This feels like a canny move for something pitched as the perfect introduction to boardgames. It’s a freely available simplified version of a popular co-op game: anyone could try it! On the other hand, I imagine the type of people who want to try a board game for the first time aren’t the same as those who are up for cutting printer paper into little decks of cards. Either way, it’s a nice freebie.
Meanwhile, Omari Akil, designer of Rap Godz, has a really insightful and challenging piece in The Manifold, a pretty new and pretty exciting board games newsletter. Omari is talking about a set of playtesting feedback that he ignored, because he felt that the systems being criticised were actually an important part of the culture he was representing, and a recognition of the challenges of racism in our culture. It’s a great little read on the assumptions and norms of game design and the things they can reinforce, and be challenged on.
It’s an odd time to be thinking about how to run public game events, as they’re currently pretty much off the cards, but I’m hoping that when we do all come together we’ll all have learnt a thing or two about the importance of challenging norms and hierarchies. We need to make sure we’re welcoming every soul (that’s willing to welcome others without being creeps) to the table properly and consistently.
These last few months we’ve seen the world change overnight, with impossible things happening over and over again. I think we’ve got to keep up that pace, at the gaming table and beyond, and keep making change for better, over, and over, and over, until we live in a world that is the one we really want to live in. Sorry, I appear to have launched into a ‘Jerry’s final thought’
Ava: OH GOD YOU’RE SO YOUNG
Tom: Matt is consistently existentially horrified when i remind him that i started watching SU&SD when i was FIFTEEN
Ava: Jerry Springer was a minor chaos deity of the nineties. He ran a chat show that was mostly just leering at working class folks and other marginalised groups goaded into yelling at each other. But it always ended with a heartfelt ‘final thought’ about togetherness and understanding.
Tom: Ahhhh I’ve heard of this Jerry. Wait, are we the Jerry Springer of boardgames?
Tom: Hey there, reader. Are you excited by news? Do you like boardgames? Do you want to make a fortune through-
Ava: What are you doing.
Tom: Shh! Let me finish my pitch.
…As I was saying – you, the reader, stand to gain cardboard riches beyond compare. How? Well, it’s as simple as the power of positive thinking, and SU&SD’s patented Pear-Shaped Marketing Scheme.
Ava: You’re not meant to tell them the SHAPE of the scheme! They’ll put the pieces together!
Tom: But that’s just the shape of the company! You hired me and Mart, and now I’m hiring the… wait… a moment… Is this a pyra-
Ava: STREAM SCHEDULE! We all love the stream schedule and there is nothing shady to be discovered within it. This week, Matt will be deviating from boardgames to play some Slay The Spire on Tuesday, and then Matt and Tom will duke it out in Dice Throne on Thursday. Then, next week, we’ve got some real corkers – we’ll be playing some Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion on Tuesday, and continuing through MOTHERSHIP on Thursday. Isn’t that all so exciting! Follow our Twitch page now, and you’ll never miss a show. Until you obviously, ineviatably do.
Tom: Ava, it’s so exciting that I’ve forgotten whatever I was just talking about. It’s so exciting that YOU should be a part of it, reader! You just have to mail your entire boardgame collection to the Shut Up and Sit Down offices and soon you’ll be working your way up the corporate ladder that we call home.
Tom: The core action of the game sees players co-operatively returning items to their rightful places in time, by racing their DeLoreans (there are more than one DeLorean?) through tiles that represent the timelines depicted in each movie. Each player will have to resolve events using icons on dice – but if they don’t have quite the right icons showing then they can drop their dice in place, leaving them for a future self (or co-operative partner) to come and pick up in a different timeline. As well as this, you’ll have to contend with the ever-present Biff that haunts each of the tracks, appearing at a different point in time whenever you dispatch him – like quantum breadcrumbs falling out of a quantum toaster all over your quantum countertop when you want to do some quantum cleaning.
… but wait, there’s… TWO Back To The Future Games? And they’re BOTH coming out in June? In fact, Back To The Future: Dice Through Time wasn’t even the one we mentioned in games news last time! We were in fact talking about Back To The Future: Back In Time! What a chortle-worthy incident.
Ava: I can’t believe that’s really what they’re calling them to differentiate from each other.
Tom: The description of ‘Back In Time’ states that the game ‘forgoes any time-travel elements to instead give you the chance to replay the climax of the first Back to the Future movie’ – and that’s awful telling, to me – especially when combined with the fact that the game is being developed by Funko Games. Are we to expect the facsimile of the Back-To-The-Future experience, in cardboard form, or a hollow, lifeless collectible? How am I to know? I have never seen Back To The Future. I don’t think I’m particularly enthused by the ideas presented by either of these games, but the string of buzzwords accompanied by a scattering of dice rolls that make up the description of ‘Back In Time’ isn’t all that inspiring – you go somewhere, you roll some dice, you get excited by the pang of familiarity that comes from Recognising That Thing You Like.
Ava: Back to the future, more like stay in the past, am I right? *waggles eyebrows*
Honestly though, I also can’t believe that the one that’s called ‘Back In Time’ is the one where you don’t even go back in time. You just stay in one time. Where’s the fun in that?
Tom: That is how time works, to be fair.
Ava: Up yours, time.
Matt: Sorry, you’ve NEVER SEEN Back to the Future? We’ve got to go back, Tom! Back… to The Hiring Process!
Tom: oh no
Ava: Fire! Tower! I thought it was going to be about a skyscraper, but actually it’s about forest fires, which immediately put me in mind of the eminently creepy Firewatch, and the board looks pretty gorgeous.
Tom: I thought Fire Tower would be a game about cooperatively fighting fires a-la Flash Point (or similar) but really it’s a game about sending patterns towards the fire towers of other players, who will extinguish said patterns with splashes of water, and the last tower standing wins? I went from ‘eh’ to ‘Oh YeAh’ in an instant – it’s kind of like… A Blokus made of fire? This is all without mentioning the lovely, painterly art style and spicy twists like wind strength and fire breaks. Other major highlights here include the absolutely delicious fire tokens, and that’s all I have to say on this one.
Ava: Don’t you mean delicious-looking fire tokens?
Tom: I mMKnow… *crunch* whot I uh *gulp* said.
Ava: Disgusting. This is actually a Kickstarter for a reprint and expansion of a 2019 game. The expansion promises ‘Fire Hawks’ that can circle around your tower and transplant fires to pastures green, as well as all new cards, a solo mode, and the opportunity for eliminated players to become the ‘Shadow of the Wood’ (whatever that means).
I can’t believe that we’re already so deep in 2020 that a game about forest fires can feel like a vaguely reassuring thing, and not the genuinely terrifying horror of recent (but feels like a million years ago) history. Oh and also I guess the odds are there’s a forest fire happening right now and I don’t even know about it. Wow, I’m sad.
Ava: On the subject of sad, we’re looking at kickstarter ‘Your Friend is Sad’. Is this too sad for a Monday? Or is it just an overly simplistic game with an overly simplistic representation of solidarity and mental wellbeing?
Ava: Okay, okay, so I don’t think this above is untrue, but I do also want to give the game a little bit of a fairer shake.
Your Friend is Sad is a simple enough hand management game about trying to match the colours of ‘brain goop’ cards in your hand with a series of mood boosting activities laid out in the centre. The first person to cheer up the collective friend eleven times wins. There’s some cute drawings and some really strong simple copy on the cards. This is the genre of kickstarter that has a billion stretch goals of different webcomic artists who may do some nice art for it if things go well. Further down the page the game also has a note about actual depression, and how just saying ‘cheer up’ isn’t helpful. I think it still remains more than a touch un-nuanced, but maybe there’s something sweet here.
Tom: The phrases ‘simple enough hand management’ and the fact that ‘your friend is sad’ are two things that, in my mind, aren’t exactly compatible. Depression is a strange thing to game-ify, and certainly not a subject matter that begs for simple mechanics. Ah well. It looks like their heart is in the right place, at the very least.
Matt: It’s a capital H “hmmm” from me. HMMM.
Ava: Right. So. There’s a fair few games about tea, and I always do a bit of a wince as despite my recent stream obsessions, I’m actually quite uncomfortable with the weird British patriotism attached to the love of tea, a product mostly associated with Britain because of the gross horrors of colonialism.
Tom: Ahh, the great british taste of yorkshire tea. Grown by good british yorks from the roots of the york plant, native to yorkshire.
Ava: You joke, but I do remember a few years ago someone on twitter quitting Yorkshire Tea when he found out it wasn’t actually grown in ‘god’s own county’. Though it is a blend designed for the local water supply, so does not taste as good if you drink it somewhere other than Yorkshire!
Anyway, I think Chai, and new expansion High Tea, dodges some of those problematic bullets by actually trying to be about the varied tea drinking cultures of the world, and that’s quite sweet.
Ava: The game itself has you collecting colour matched groups of ingredients from the market, rooting around the pantry, grabbing customers and fulfilling their tea needs. I like the look of the market, which features chunky plastic tiles that slide along to create match three style groups and a tasty little puzzle. The High Tea expansion adds that diversity I was looking for, giving each player a unique tea culture, with a specific bonus action to help them on the way. From Turkish Samovar to Tibetan Butter tea, there’s a lot of lovely art and honestly I do really want some tea now.
Tom: Quick, Ava, say something negative so we don’t get accused of shilling for Big Chai.
Ava: About halfway down the page they nonchalantly use the pun ‘diversi-tea’ and even as a professional purveyor of terrible, terrible puns, that was beyond the pale.
Tom: Tea is CANCELLED.
Ava: Oof. This actually looks pretty ugly and the game sounds a little bland, and I lost a close friend to a car crash so the theming actually is a bit upsetting to me. So why am I still talking about Crash, on Kickstarter now by Czacha games? Well, it’s because it’s by my favourite designer, and I just can’t ignore that weird, lovely man, and his strange, convoluted games.
Crash is a trick-taking-ish game of player created multi-car pile-ups, where you attempt to derail other players as everyone escalates until everything has gone too far. Cards played have to increase in value whilst matching symbols to indicate that they are doing..the right kind of crash? Once you’ve played a card you nominate the next player, and if they can’t place a card, they’re out of the round. It sounds like nonsense! But it’s also pretty cheap and it’s by my darling Carl, so I’m not sure I can steer clear of this one.
Tom: The trouble with trick taking (ish or otherwise) games is that it’s frightfully tricky (hah) to make them sound exciting or understandable to me, a trick-taking novice – and the only way to decide if they’re worth your money or not is to have a bit of a play. It’s nice, then, that Mr Chudyk has personally printed and played the game just for you – it’s available as a pdf on the Kickstarter, and would likely be fairly easy to homebrew. Rumour has it that if you say ‘Carl Chudyk’s Crash’ three times into a mirror he will send a copy paper version to your home address – complete with glitter-glue, stickers and felt tip pen.
Tom: This interview was really amiable until Frank West brought up your podcast appearance right at the end, continually referring to you as ‘Hater of Games; The Villain Ava Foxfort’. It all got a bit sinister.
Ava: I do hate games. It’s a good interview though. Frank seems like a nice enough guy, and I’m glad Isle of Cats has been so successful. It’s the sort of solid, accessible game that thanks to the family variant, you could put in front of literally anybody and get started, and while I think the drafting and buying process is a little faffy, it does mean that there’s a more complex and point salady game there for those that want it.
Continuing our ongoing journey through the ‘things that you can play for free, because everybody’s a bit worried about people needing to stay stuck at home’ zone, Asmodee have thrown out a print and play mini expansion for Ticket to Ride that’s literally about staying at home. Building little routes around the house like some kind of over ambitious model railway enthusiast. You’ll need a copy of one of the standard editions of Ticket to Ride to play, so you can borrow the trains and the cards, but that doesn’t stop this being a bit sweet.
Matt: My brain skipped a beat here and somehow simply read aloud: Alan R. Moon, Stay at Home. No further comment, your honour.
Ava: Taking the lockdown freebies one step further by requesting a donation to the NAACP if you download it, CMON has put up a complete print and play version of their game Foodies, which had been flying under my radar for a while. It’s a nice gesture, and Eric Lang was a bit into it on twitter saying it was one of the first games he guided through the CMON development process when he became their head of designy stuff. Maybe I should look up his actual job title. Or find something out about this game.
Tom:It’s about food! You’re managing a food court, hiring chefs to make exciting dishes that’ll get slotted into a grid so you can draw in various patrons for, you guessed it, POINTS – the most delicious of all currencies. It looks fairly straightforward, but also has an absolutely lovely Pixar-esque illustration style that makes me want to be friends with every chef in the game.
Matt: It’s great to see action like this, absolutely – but my gut tells me that the culture of Wizards still has an awfully long way to go… We’ve always been reticent to give too much coverage to Magic: The Gathering on the basis that the community they’ve fostered attracts so much toxicity, and it’s clear that internally they don’t take problems nearly as seriously as we’d personally expect: Despite multiple, serious accusations of covering for alleged abuser Zak Smith in 2019, Mike Mearls then distanced himself by downplaying the involvement of Smith as a playtester on D&D 5th Edition (despite crediting them in print as a consultant). No official statement was ever made by Wizards of the Coast, and it remains unclear if any action was ever taken internally – with Mearls now working with a different role within the company that as far as anyone external is aware may well have been a promotion. On that basis it frankly doesn’t seem right to applaud Wizards for cleaning up their act when it comes to their copyrighted archive of assets – or for moving to offer work on a freelance basis – when frankly the recent silence of the company hangs heavy around their necks, like a massive brass albatross.
Ava: I do hope that Wizards are really listening and making changes as this stuff gets raised, but I also know how bad large organisations are at changing this sort of culture. Heck, it’s hard for small organisations to change their culture.
Matt: Absolutely! It’s hard as hell. I just hope they’re recognising at this point that any problem at the bottom usually slides down from the top.
Ava:Dropping into our inbox this week was a press release from Dissident Whispers, a collective pulling together a collection of RPG scenarios raising money for Black Live Matters bail funds. It looks like a nice project, and may be worth taking a look at.
Tom: The renders of the anthology itself look absolutely gorgeous, with an avalanche of exciting graphic design that’ll propel you headfirst into about a billion oneshots. One of those is a fresh new one-shot for Mothership – which we’ve been having a jolly old time playing on stream- exciting!
Tom: To take a dip into videogames-mode for a moment and give my personal recommendations – this bundle has got some corkers. A Mortician’s Tale, A Short Hike, Celeste, Minit, Diaries of a SpacePort Janitor (my personal fave), Nuclear Throne, Pikuniku, Hidden Folks, Glittermitten Grove (better known as Frog Fractions 2), Quadrilateral Cowboy and The Stillness Of The Wind and Starseed Pilgrim. GOSH. All wonderful works.
Ava: There’s now so many games in the bundle that it’s actually quite hard to dig out the specific pen and paper stuff, but I do know that Blades of the Dark, a masterful whalepunk sneaky theivey simulator and Lancer, a big robot shooty bang with drama game are available. I suspect digging will find a whole load of smaller names with interesting ideas, like ‘the anthology of cosy RPGs’, a collection of smaller pieces from a 200 word game jam. Honestly, I’m hoping that the strange happening of a huge number of people suddenly getting the same thousand games dropped on to their hard-drive leads to some people getting to see stuff they’d never see otherwise. I wonder if anyone’ll get lured over to the tabletop by these RPGs.
Either way, it’s made millions of dollars for some important causes, and that’s obviously, utterly, marvelous.
Hello everybody. Today we’ve got an announcement about this October’s SHUX, the Shut Up & Sit Down convention. To state the obvious, hosting an event where thousands of people from all over the world can meet and sit in close proximity is no longer “a great idea”.
If you were planning on attending SHUX in 2020, or even 2021, here’s everything you need to know. And if you weren’t planning on that, scroll down to the next image on this post for a fun surprise!
Local health officials have ruled that cons like SHUX will not be allowed until a date yet to be determined, conditional on at least one of the following: widely available vaccination, “community” immunity, or broad successful treatments – none of which look likely to happen by October 2020. This means that SHUX, as we currently know it, will take place in 2021 instead. We are locking in the exact dates as we speak, and hope to be announcing them very soon.
Our team is pretty excited to have extra time to plan our big, yearly show, and, drum roll please, we’re also planning a special digital convention that will be free of charge in 2020!
For more information on this, as well as what this all means for people who already bought a ticket, read on!
If you’ve already purchased a SHUX’20 badge it is now a badge for SHUX’21. You’ll receive an updated ticket via email when we have confirmed the new dates, and you do not need to worry about a thing.
If this change of plans doesn’t work for you, we absolutely understand, which is why we’re maintaining our policy of honouring refunds anytime up until 30 days before the actual event (meaning we will offer refunds through at least the end of this year). Details here. However, we’d love for you to hold off on that refund if possible – those sales have been used for our deposits on the convention centre next year, and continued sales would help us in planning SHUX’21. We promise we’ll make it up to you!
As past attendees know, we give away a free game and some goodies to everyone when they come in – for the next show, everyone who bought their ticket for SHUX ‘21 in 2020 (tickets for SHUX’21 still on sale here!) will get additional treats we’re cooking up as special thanks for championing our event and carrying us through this extraordinarily cursed moment in time.
Coast Coal Harbour Vancouver +800.716.6199 (toll-free) – Cancellation Info – Should you have an existing reservation (made before March 12, 2020) Coast Hotels will accept cancellation of individual bookings until June 30, 2020.
So long as we can prioritise the health of our attendees, not only will SHUX ’21 happen, it’ll be the best SHUX yet. It might also be the last SHUX we’re able to do, since if this year has taught us anything, it’s that the future is a haunted forest. All the same, we can’t wait to once again host you all for a few incredible days. We’re going to build on everything we learned over the last 3 years, and add a dash of the unexpected to the already-tasty mix of friends, games and SU&SD that you love.
But what about October 16-18, 2020? I’m so glad you asked! Today, we’re also announcing AwSHUX, short for “Away SHUX”. A digital event where we bring a few of our favourite bits of the physical show and contort them into an online world, 100% free for attendees and publishers.
Luckily, doing things “on the internet” is where it all started for SU&SD, so we’re on very comfortable footing. We also can’t wait to bring SHUX to all sorts of people who would never normally be able to travel to Vancouver. An online show opens up some “dream” opportunities for us that we might never have otherwise had with geographic and budget impossibilities – we’re hoping to blow the doors off this one.
This has been an especially tough year for publishers and we’re going to do all we can to give back to those folks who give us all so much, and we’re going to give our attendees an opportunity to do the same. Here’s what we’re planning:
· We’ve heard over and over again that what sets SHUX apart is how friendly and welcoming all of our attendees are. Naturally, we’ve put our top scientists on figuring out how during AwSHUX you can all connect and chat together, over the internet. Can it be done?! We think so, yes.
· SU&SD has always stood for having fun, but that can’t happen unless everyone feels comfortable. Our goal is to create the safest and most inclusive space ever seen online. If you’re rolling your eyes, you’ve never been to SHUX, because this event truly is about every single person in attendance looking after each other.
· People travel from around the world to come to SHUX, and now you can bring your favourite chair from home, because this year the world is coming to you!
2. Playing board games
· Playing our favourite games and finding new delights is what cons are all about. We’re partnering with Tabletopia to bring you thousands of games for you to play with other attendees, for free. Whether you’re on your own or traveling in packs, we’ll be using all the tools at our disposal to get you online and playing games in a silky-smooth fashion.
· We’ll ensure loads of volunteer matchmakers and teachers are on-hand to help you understand the tools and to get you setup and playing as quickly and easily as possible. Do you have the “Pearagon” spirit, and want to help with this? We’d love you to join us! Send “Count me IN!” as the subject line to [email protected].
· Play from home with the SU&SD team! We’ve had some awesomeexperiments on Twitch, and we’re ramping that up to 11.
· What if we told you that in playing games online (or from home during the show), you could win prizes? It’s the truth!
· Want to get in on an RPG? We got those.
3. Incredible live events and special guests
· We will be running ONE Twitch channel 12 hours a day (with a replay of those 12 hours over the following 12 for a truly 24 hour, international event), 3 days in a row, with incredible live content: 1. Panels with the wildest industry personalities. 2. Massive live games we will play with everyone watching. 3. Live plays of some of the show’s hottest launch titles.
· Many of our favourite convention memories are playing a game with a designer or a board game personality I admire – and we’ll make sure all our special guests are out there mingling and playing games, so keep an ear out for that recognizable voice in the games you’re playing…
4. An online Expo hall brimming with potential and excitement
· Seeing, trying, and buying the newest games the industry has to offer is a buzz that’s very hard to capture outside of a physical convention. But we have a plan! It involves a ‘virtual’ hall where scrolling down the page feels kinda just like walking down the concourse.
· Stop in when a game catches your eye to see a demo, ask a question, or sit down and play a couple rounds!
· Add a game to your shopping cart, and batch a basket of incredible new games knowing the publisher is getting a MUCH better cut of that sale than they would via the big online retailers, and support AwSHUX with that same purchase!
· SU&SD merch, available to buy online, for the first time in 4 years. The curse is broken!
– – –
Shut Up & Sit Down was founded to highlight & amplify the countless incredible folks who make up this hobby, and we see AwSHUX as a perfect opportunity to do exactly that. We’ll be working closely with exhibitors, indies, guests, and creators so that their work pops off the page and into your home.
Of course we’re disappointed to not be neck-deep in planning the usual convention that we and you love. However, we take heart in knowing that the people who mean so much to us in this hobby – in this community – will still be able to meet up, safely, from their homes this October.
We greatly look forward to a future where we can all be together again, laughing and making new friends over the gaming table. We know that this hobby that’s done so much to bring us all together has the power to reunite us once more.
Be safe, be kind, and stay well. Keep an eye on Twitter and the SHUX website for more AwSHUX and SHUX’21 announcements, and as always we’re just an inbox away if you have any questions or comments. Connecting has never been more important, and as a platform that aims to bring people together, we want you to know that we are here for you.
Tom: Yes, but most of that isn’t actually about games is it.
Ava: I know, but it feels super weird to be focussed on one narrow stream of stuff when so much huge other stuff is happening.
Tom: How about this. We’ll pick a few fruits from the kickstarter tree, oggle a few upcoming intrigues, then try and be thoughtful and highlight some good work, good links, and ways to help?
Ava: Maybe a teensy bit of stream promotion first? Just a wee dram to get the cockles warm?
Tom: A little stream promotion; as a treat.
So! All stream donations/subs for the next month are going to Black Lives Matter and the Stephen Lawrence Trust – so your regular scheduled boardgame buffoonery now comes with a small side of potential positive change. This Tuesday we’re playing Oceans with Dominic Crapuchettes, and on Thursday we’re going to be playing MOTHERSHIP – a roleplaying game! Imagine! That will feature myself, Ava, Matt and Pip and I’m super excited for it. Then, next week, we’ll be playing Dice Throne on Tuesday and [something else] on Thursday! Tune in, it’s always a cosy time.
Ava: This kickstarter makes a lot of bold claims about exactly what people want in a board game. And it simultaneously wound me up the wrong way, and made me go ‘ooooh, yes, I do want that’.
Dice Miner is using animated gifs to full effect by showing a load of colourful dice pouring into a little cardboard (or plastic if you’re fancy) mountain. I’ll be honest, I want to see video footage of someone successfully rolling into the mountain before I dig into this one, but, still, I did an oooh. The dice filled mountain is there to facilitate a dice drafting game with a little extra strategy as you’ll be grabbing dice from the mountain, and so taking from the top lets other players take dive from further down. Initially the dice are stuck as they were rolled, but you’re also setting yourself up for later opportunities to re-roll and do exciting digging things.
Tom: Is it bad that I’m entirely put off this and any enjoyment of it because Kickstarter mentions that ‘every gamer loves dice’ about forty-six times in as many seconds? It feels like that sentence was the six-sided building block of the whole game – if we build it/make it full of nice pretty dice, they will come. It looks like a roll and write, but without the write and way more of the roll. It’s a roll. A roll.
Ava: Some of my best lunches have been rolls.
Alice is Missing offers a pretty strong elevator pitch. A silent role playing game about a missing teen, played entirely via text message, representing the group chat of the friends of Alice (not a euphemism). A shared table of cards are required, but Roll20 will facilitate remote play, and obviously, text messaging is more accessible than tables right now.
Tom: This looks super, super interesting and I’m certainly going to be getting my thumbs on a copy as soon as possible. I suppose a by-product of a purely text-based roleplaying game means that you can fully embody your character, and players won’t know who the person ‘behind’ each member of the group is – which sounds almost frighteningly immersive. On the flipside, though, looking through this Kickstarter has made me realise how much ‘roleplaying’ goes on in my actual group chat with my friends, and how many strange minigames, in-jokes and groupthink vernacular arise from typos and ‘bits’ that go off the rails. We’re currently in the final ‘circle of snow patrol’ after descending through the first six with only two members getting ‘flushed’ due to ‘posting’. There’s rich, twisted history there – I still don’t quite understand why three members of the group are listed as [POISONED] and one is a [TRAITOR]. And even MORE than that, this is all reminding me of my favourite text-based ‘roleplaying game’ of all time – Stackswell and Co.’s Facebook page – once gloriously investigated by Reply All in this wonderful episode. It’s a delight.
Ava: Another role playing kickstarter on offer at the moment is Roll and Play, a games masters toolkit full of prompts and tables to help a GM with the challenge of creating worlds on the fly.
Tom: This looks great if you’re someone like me, whose brain short-circuits as soon as players decide to diverge from the path after they’ve already diverged from your planned divergence? What if you have to *gasp* make up a name?? Roll and Play seems to have a nice, robust and beautifully presented system for the GM who is just tired of players refusing to fit into the nice little box you’ve made for them.
Ava:To be honest my instinct is to save your money and work with the much cheaper advice I’m about to give. Spend ten minutes of your first session getting your players to write down lists of people, places and oddities that they’d like to see in the sort of world you’re building. This gives you an instant list of names, places and oddities to call on when your mind goes blank. During the campaign, they may see a familiar name crop up, and be delighted. As a bonus, you’ve just got out of the way of your own writer’s block, utilising that one weird trick that it’s easier to come up with twenty things than one, because if you’re coming up with twenty, you know they don’t need to be perfect.
This will probably come up again when it actually hits kickstarter, but I was pretty intrigued by the promise of Seize the Power, a collaboration between Bez Shahriari and Tiz Creel. Looking at the structural power dynamics of inequality, through the lens of aliens with specific physical differences, it promises to highlight the real world dynamics of privilege by making the game easier for some players than others through cruel luck of the draw, but encouraging the disadvantaged to band together in solidarity and challenge those holding onto power. There’s obviously some very prickly ideas here, and it’s well worth taking a look.
Tom: It’s the Sidereal Confluence of bigotry! I love the idea that the main ‘auction’ of the game is seemingly for actual RULES being added or changed from the game; that’s huge, and is honestly making me all kinds of excited for this thing. The chaotic elegance of a system where you’re investing your chances of ‘winning’ not straight into ‘points’, but into potential, structural change that can alter your position within the ‘system’ that the game is presenting? This might be a case of looking a little gimmicky at first blush, with a game behind it that’s a ruthless and complex negotiation engine that’s educational and unfair. On the other hand, we don’t know much yet, and the game design devil is in the game design details.
Ava: I never want to meet the game design devil.
Tom: Spoilers; it’s all the staff at Splotter Spellen.
Ava: I still have a little bit of guilt on my shoulder over the fact that we covered Abandon All Artichokes by doing a list of Artichoke facts instead of actually talking about the game at all. Thankfully, I’ve found an excuse to rectify that, as a design diary has gone up. Finding its origin in an alliterative game name bit of play (remember what I said about lists of 20 things?), Abandon All Artichokes is actually a real thing now. Emma Larkin takes us on a pretty in depth and insightful tour of the game design process, and I’m getting increasingly intrigued by this edible thistle dismisser. A simple fast paced deck building game where you’re trying to get rid of your starting hand of artichokes, replacing them with a bevy of more exciting fruit and vegetables.
Tom: Hey, did you know that the edible part of an artichoke is the part th-
Ava: NOT AGAIN.
Ava: Although actually i do feel like I need to point out that artichokes are a type of thistle to explain the joke above.
Ava: Also I want a little shout out to the comments section to tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do with the artichokes that arrived in my veg box. They’re a daunting prospect! So spiky! So many leaves!
Tom: Shall we…
Ava: Abandon all this thistly business? Yes.
Ava: I’ll level with you, it feels really weird writing out a list of news items and digging for games announcements when the world is rising up from years of racist abuse and brutality, and we’re seeing protests of a scale, power and effectiveness I’ve not seen in years of working in the background of activist scenes. Seeing Minneapolis council members ready to actually debate dismantling the police force and replacing it with new forms of community work and protection is something I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime. But it’s horrific that this is coming from the subjugation, oppression, and implicitly authorised state violence against black people and other minorities (and intersections of the above). It’s a wake up call, to realise the scale, the scope and the horror of it all, even as someone who tries to be on it about these things,
Tom: It certainly feels like ‘continuing as normal’ feels irresponsible – producing harmless and joyful content may help to alleviate ‘that 2020 feeling’ but does nothing to address and confront the issues in our corner of the world. I’ve seen a frightening number of people on social media talk about how they ‘don’t see the value’ of their entertainment journalism sources discussing matters, and it feels like that statement is coming from the same crowd that want ‘politics out of their games’ – a sentiment that is improbable and ignorant.
Ava: It feels weird writing about games, and I’m struggling to find a way to talk about the bigger picture that feels effective, interesting and meaningful. We’re going to try and link to some things that might be useful. I hope it makes sense.
This news is too late to point you to Rap Godz, a game by Omari Akil that received matched donations meaning that for a while last week, every game they sold for $55 was creating a $100 dollar donation to Black Lives Matter, bail funds and associated charities and organisations. The game sold out pretty quickly after that. However, it’s put Omari on my radar, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about upcoming Graffiti Knights.
Tom: How the knights are going to tag anything successfully in all that armour is absolutely beyond me.
Ava: He says, while I spray rude words on his breastplate.
Matt: Breastplate IS a rude word if you mumble the second bit
Ava: I found some other games and people I’m curious about, like Wan Wan Touch, a football dexterity game from Nigerian designer Kenechukwu Ogbuagu. Four player football played with sticks, pucks and a little cardboard box is an intriguing offer – especially when you only get one touch to win. Kenechukwu also had a huge part in organising what might be the first board game convention in West Africa.
Tom: I tried so hard to make a joke about the LCD Sound System song ‘One Touch’ here (draft jokes include; ‘Wan touch / is never enough / people hitting pucks in / a cardboard box’) but (evidently) nothing was working. I’ll do better next time.
Ava:Tattoo Stories by Eric Slauson sounds intriguing too, promising to mix two of the most challenging party game elements, drawing and storytelling. Tattoo stories asks you to create tattoos and tell the stories behind them sounds like a strong cocktail. Often people are put off drawing games because they can’t draw, or put off story games because they can’t tell stories. I can’t tell if asking for both at once is going to put off twice the number of people, or make it so much easier to be bad at either, because so many more people are likely to struggle with one or the other. Either way, it looks neat, and will likely sing with the right group.
Matt: I’ve got a copy of this burning a hole in my house, taunting me that I’m currently unable to play party games and/or tattoo strangers.
Tom: Every box comes with a tattoo gun, and the winner is strongly advised to get their victorious tat permanently etched into their body. It’s the right thing to do.
Ava: This is just not true.
Tom: Then WHY do I have this terrible depiction of Matt and Quinns on my left leg?
Ava: What you did to get this job is none of my business.
Matt: He wrote it into his contract, not us.
Ava: Moving very swiftly on, I’d also like to give a prominent shout out to Eric Lang’s twitter feed. Eric’s one of the biggest names in the industry, with hugely successful kickstarters Rising Sun and Blood Rage in his back catalogue, alongside classic favourites like Chaos in the Old World. He’s also been writing eruditely, precisely and brutally on the current wave of activism, his own experience of racism, and the troubling equivocation of attempting to be moderate in the middle of that. He’s brilliant, and well worth a follow.
Matt: He really is brilliant. I like and admire and respect Eric so much – he’s an absolutely vital voice in this industry.
Ava: And finally, a link to an important piece on race and board games. The piece focuses on the benefits for children and young people of playing board games, socially and culturally, and some of the barriers to getting those benefits. It’s also a call for more students of colour to work on their own designs, and challenge some of the prevalent colonialist themes. The article expresses justified anger at the oft-lauded Freedom being treated as an educational game, when it focuses largely on white abolitionists, rather than offering a full picture of the fight against slavery.
And finally finally, please, if you have spare money for kickstarters and new board games, remember that there may be some more important places to throw your hard-earned. Money doesn’t fix everything, but applied correctly it can help get someone out of jail, keep someone fed, match protest with legal challenges and political will, and save lives. It is not okay to live in a world where the police can kill and harrass so many people and go unchallenged. Try and do something different. I’ve personally found it useful to look at this list of organisations supporting Black trans people. But you’ll know best what sort of work and activism you’ll want to support.
Tom: For our part, our immediate response is donating any money raised through Twitch – but that being said, this is definitely not the most efficient way for you to donate, so we’d encourage you to please give directly to the causes themselves so that your bucks don’t get run through The BezosFilter.
Ava: Whether you donate or not, please remember that if you’re white, dismantling racism in yourself and your networks is your responsibility. It’s a very long term process and I hope we’re all trying our best, but we’ve got to not let up until we live in a very, very different world. Here’s hoping we can make it there.
Matt: I couldn’t agree more: this is our work to do. As alluded to in a post on the main page last week, however, charity isn’t where our involvement ends. Taking the money we’d be earning from streams and directing it to relevant causes makes us feel more comfortable about spending time being flippant and fun during these times, even though we recognise that they do in themselves provide a welcome respite for those exhausted from protesting or simply caring quite deeply. Because right now everything is understandably exhausting, and endurance is the quality we need to cultivate where we can. Charity donations are a good place to start, but as editor I’d like to assure you that we’ll be taking further action in the following months to ensure we push more directly towards systemic change within our own industry. This might take a little time to shape up, so we’ll ask for your patience – as I’m personally determined to avoid temporary or tokenistic measures. Take care of each other, and donate some money if you can.
Everybody at Shut Up & Sit Down is finding it very hard to work this week, and we’d imagine that many of you feel the same. We offer love and solidarity to those currently struggling in the face of police brutality – we stand unequivocally with those who rightly demand justice. While the severity of violence towards peaceful protests isn’t an issue our country shares today, Great Britain is equally guilty of allowing systemic racism to thrive – and the culture of our hobby is far from exempt.
As a small show of immediate support, we will be donating all money raised through Twitch streaming this month to Black Lives Matter and The Stephen Lawrence Trust. This is a start, but it is far from enough. This need for action extends beyond this week or this month, and the team remains in serious conversation about how we can make a difference on a more long-term basis. If you already donate via Twitch – you don’t need to do anything. If not, we would ask that you donate directly via the links above.