Friday, April 27, 2007


I saw a blurb on Asmodee's Website about Wicked Witches way, and there's a note about Ca$h'n Gun$.

I think that this means I can discuss these games.

It's always a bit nerve-wracking for me, writing about games I've seen and/or worked on before they're out.

It goes a little like this:

I work with Asmodee on their English translations - they send me their first-draft English rules, and ask me to make it more natural. I don't speak (or read) French yet (I'm working on it - very slowly), but I know English.

Usually the rules they send me require a few minor tweaks here and there. Sometimes, the necessary changes are more extensive. Either way, I make any changes I see necessary before sending it back. I can also make suggestions or ask questions for clarification. In exchange, I get copies of the games and occasional editor credit.

I'm totally cool with that. It probably makes me one of the most under-paid editors in history, but I'm not doing this for the money. I do this because I love games.

I've also been to GenCon and Origins twice each (a 20-year dream for me).

Here's my concern: I'm never sure I am allowed to discuss what I've seen.

I didn't sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, but I also don't want to violate their trust. I very much like the Asmodee team, and don't want to jeopardize our friendship. Or our working relationship.

So, until I see word on their site (or a leak on the 'Geek) about a game, I'll tend to stay mum. I may say, "I've seen the English rules for X," or, "I'm in the middle of editing X," but that's about as far as I'll go unless I have specific permission to say otherwise.

There's another reason for this, as well: Not all the games I've seen have made the cut, and I don't want to raise your hopes. Sharur: Evolutions, for example. It's a great game, but it'll appeal to a narrow enough spectrum of gamers that printing it in English would probably lose money.

Apparently, they agree with me: It's a business. It's a business that they love, but it's still a business.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dungeon Twister Rules Clarifications

Rather than have a long-running list of clarifications which require constant re-linking and back-linking, I will update this same entry as new clarifications become necessary.

Even though these aren't technically errata, I will tag them as such for ease of classification.

Also: If you don't see it here (or just want a very useful resource to check for DT FAQ Questions), go here.

Last Updated: May 22, 2011

Revealing A Room
This is very unclear in the English release - and it's my fault, as I'd never played the game before I helped with the rules. When a room is revealed, the player revealing the room places ALL characters, and all of their opponent's Objects. Then the opponent places the revealer's Objects.

There are two exceptions (so far) to this:
Players will always place their own Cursed Items.
The player who reveals the room will always place Torches.

Even with the exceptions, the order remains the same - the player who revealed the room places everything they are permitted to place first, and then their opponent places the rest.

Order of Resolution for Combat
It's not as important with the basic set, but it becomes important with later expansions.

First, the Attacking Player makes (and declares) all decisions relevant to the combat at hand - which items to use or not use (including available 0 AP items), which optional character abilities to use, and so on.

Next, the Defending player makes (and declares) all decisions relevant to the combat at hand (again, including all items or optional character abilities).

Then the Attacking Player chooses and lays a combat card face-down.
Then the Defending Player chooses and lays a combat card face-down.

Note that there are character abilities (such as the Weapon Master) or items (such as the Scroll of Confusion) which can override the card-laying step.

Finally, both cards are turned up simultaneously and a winner is determined.

The Rope
When used to cross an obstacle square, the rope must have two valid anchor squares. One of these squares must be the square the character holding the rope leaves before entering the obstacle square with the rope. A good rule of thumb is that a valid anchor square is one which is safe for the character carrying the rope to move through. The primary exception to this rule of thumb is that if there is an enemy character in a square, it can still be used as a valid anchor square for the rope.

Squares which are normally obstacles, but which are 'disarmed' due to the presence of another rope, your Thief or a shield can also be used as valid anchor squares.

All weapons grant their bonus and/or other special ability while attacking only. While defending, characters may not use any weapons. This applies to all weapons and all special effects of weapons. For example, the Dragon Slayer will not instantly kill a Dragon while on the defense, nor does it provide its +4 bonus when defending.

Armor and Shields
Armor and shields are continuous effects. Even wounded characters can benefit from their protection. They are useful only when defending, never when attacking.

Fireball Wand
This item is restricted to the Wizard. It is not a Scroll, and may not be used by other Magic-Users.

0 AP Items
0 AP items will be introduced to the English-speaking audience with the release of Forces of Darkness. They fall into two basic categories:

- 0 AP items which may be used freely at any time
- 0 AP items which must be used as though they were an action

Use of a 0 AP item which must be used as though it were an actions is treated exactly as though that character had taken an action, but does not cost the controlling player an Action Point. The Torch from Forces of Darkness is an example of this. The First Golden Rule applies to these items. This means that, if a character wishes to use a torch to reveal Darkness squares, they cannot move/illuminate/continue moving (unless, of course, they wish to spend another Action Point to do so).

0 AP items which may be freely used at any time include the Potion of Strength from Mercenaries. These may be used even in the middle of an action - I can, for example, declare that I am initiating combat, and then decide to drink the Potion of Strength. These 0 AP items may also be used on your opponent's turn - if you are holding the Potion of Strength and I declare an attack, you may choose to drink the potion as part of your decision-making step in the combat. The key phrase to look for in the rules is "this item may be used at any time."

Placing Tokens Behind Your Starting Line
In Tournament play, every time one of your characters escapes the maze, you place that character's token between your starting line and the end of the table. Every time you kill an opposing character, you place that character's token between your starting line and the end of the table. If you get the treasure out of the maze, you set the treasure token (all together now) between your starting line and the end of the table.

This allows other players passing by to look and easily see the score without interrupting the game or distracting the players. The English release of Forces of Darkness references this in regards to Zombies to avoid accidentally summoning a fourth Zombie over the course of a game.

Token Characters
There are characters for whom stand-ups are not provided. The first of these appear in Forces of Darkness (the Zombies), but there are more coming in later expansions. These characters still have a healthy state and a wounded state. When a Token Character is wounded, turn the token face-down. Since all wounded characters have a base combat value of 0, it shouldn't make a difference.

There is only one terrain which permits suicide by itself - the Falling Rocks squares which are introduced in Paladins and Dragons.

You can kill your own characters via the Remote Traps in Mercenaries, but the character has to be on the trap before it is triggered.

The Fire Elemental is permitted to wander into the water to kill himself in Fire & Water.

You can carry your own wounded undead into the Sacred Tomb, or walk your own undead into the Holy Cross in Forces of Darkness.

A good rule of thumb to follow for awarding VP's is this: Whenever a character is killed, the Victory Point for that death goes to the opponent of the player who normally controls that character - in a 2-player game, a Blue character's death will always give points to the Yellow player and vice versa. If you suicide in a 3/4 player game, then all of your opponents will get the appropriate points.

The Small Bridge
There have been questions about what causes a small bridge to break - does a sword increase my Strength? What about a Potion of Strength? A General? The answer is that the character must have a base strength of four or more to fall through. "Base strength" being defined as "the number printed on the character token." The reason for the line about characters of Strength of four or more finding themselves on the bridge has to do with the Ring of Repulsion - you can push characters onto the bridge that would otherwise not be able to move onto it.

This game has no diagonal effects (with the exception of one promo character). The Base Game doesn't specifically spell out that diagonal is not equal to adjacent, but Page 4 has some red text that states, "In Dungeon Twister, no Action, movement or shot can be performed diagonally." Also worth noting: if you look at the example on Page 8, it references characters being "In contact with" other characters. This is something I missed when reviewing the initial translation. "In contact with" should in all instances be read as "Adjacent to."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dungeon Twister Updates

The last I heard, Forces of Darkness was due in April. I suspect it's either on the boat enroute to the US distributors or is held up in Customs again.

Mercenaries will be next after Forces of Darkness. I don't have an estimated release date on it, but I suspect it's targeted for GenCon (or thereabouts). Some of you who attended NorWesCon had a chance to play this one with me. I think it'll be one of my favorite expansions.

According to a message that went out on the Yahoo! mailing list (from an actual Asmodee employee):
after Mercenaries, Asmodee intends to release DT " Fire and Water " Christmas Edition. There will be many goodies in the box.
Most of the european goodies will be included which is great, but they also intend to add some trully new goodies that even the French don't have !
I may have seen the prototype version of one of these goodies. If so, I'm excited. It looks pretty cool.

I have a clarification for 0 AP items that I'll be posting later this week - it'll be short, but I'm going to put it in my Errata category to make it easier to find. 0 AP items are items which are not always on (like the Fire Shield) and that don't cost an AP to use, and they start showing up in Forces of Darkness.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Not Your Mom's Kitchen

My wife has started a blog of her own, Not Your Mom's Kitchen. It's about food, cooking, and family.

I'll pressure her to talk about Snack Customization and other Gamer Food Tips from time to time, but no promises.

Blind Auctions and Anonymous Car Ownership for Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix.

... and now for some actual content:

I really enjoy playing Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix, but on our usual Game Nights, I generally spend part of my time running the store and helping customers.

I don't mind doing so, but it can pull me away from games for an extended period. This, as I'm sure you can imagine, can be frustrating for the other players unless you're involved in a game where long delays are part of play.

Another issue I run into is that when people know whose car is mine, they will actively single me out for defeat - I'm not the only one this happens to, but it's a frustrating feature of the game.

With that in mind, here is a variant which fixes these issues for me.

You will need:
1 Envelope Per Player
1 Player to serve as Auctioneer.

At the beginning - when cars are auctioned off - the auction becomes a silent auction.

Turn the first car up. Each racing player secretly places their bid into their envelopes, and hands the envelopes to the Auctioneer.

The auctioneer takes the envelopes to a private location and determines who has won the auction. He then removes that money from the envelope, places that car's Ten Movement Card into the envelope, and hands all envelopes back to the racing players. In the event of a tie, the Auctioneer will then declare that there has been a tie, and will hand envelopes back to the Racing players. All players will then have the ability to adjust their bids - if you are not involved in the tie, your bid will be ignored by the Auctioneer.

Repeat this for all six cars.

Players need to remember to conceal the contents of their envelopes. You don't want other players to know which car you have or how much you paid for it. You'll also want to bluff, even after you own your maximum number of cars.

The Auctioneer needs to keep track of who has purchased a car and who has not - remember: there are limits to the number of cars you can own if there are less than the full six players.

Determine randomly who the starting player is. Once the race starts, the Auctioneer is free to run the store or cook dinner or play another game.

The racing players can determine winnings for themselves after the race, and will not need the Auctioneer until time to bid for the next race.

A possible modification to this is to reveal all six cars first, and then each player bids a certain amount for each car in order - the Auctioneer then resolves the bids in order from first to sixth, stopping and handing bids back if there is a tie. This modification requires a piece of paper per player.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Done For Now + Google Analytics

Okay, the dust should be cleared. You'll notice a new - and hopefully more readable - look.

As part of the change, I also added Google Analytics.

I actually added Google Analytics last week - before the major changes. Because I was curious about who was reading and how they were finding me.

I knew that Mike and Brian were reading, but I had no idea what else was out there.

Truth be told, I still don't know what else is out there, but I've got a much better idea than I did before. I'm getting between fifteen and twenty hits per day. It doesn't sound like a lot, but I expected two to three hits per day at the most.

It seems that complete strangers outnumber people I know by a considerable amount.

So, to those of you I don't know, welcome. I hope you like what I have to say.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pardon My Dust ...

I'm going to be going to one of the new more customizable templates, so things may get a bit weird around here.

There may be some RSS spam, and the blog may look a bit odd for a few days while I figure out how all this stuff works.

Just fair warning.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Monkeys Shouldn't Run The Zoo

I'm a huge believer in supporting your local game store. A HUGE believer. And so are a lot of people out there - but local game stores are still closing all over.


People are fast to blame the internet - it's cheaper, faster, more convenient.

But I think a large part of the problem is that monkeys are running the zoo.

A Game Store owner has to wear several hats, each of which critical to the success of the business.

The first hat they need to wear - the most important hat - is that of Businessman. If you don't approach your game store as a business, then you're already out of business.

Far too many game store owners open game stores for the sole purpose of getting discounts on their gaming products. Their goal isn't profit, it's expanding their own collections. If they can turn a profit in the process, so much the better - after all, the more they sell, the more they can buy for themselves! The owner of this type of store will typically provide discounts to all of their regular customers or buddies.

The organization of the store will be haphazard at best. The stereotypical game store has stacks and stacks of games and books spread at random throughout the store - this stereotype exists for a reason. Most Game Store owners don't know what to stock, so they either stock everything, or else they'll stock very little. They won't carry mass-market games, reasoning that customers can get those at Target or Wal*Mart.

Customers who walk in may not be noticed for several minutes if the owner is playing a game at one of the game tables. Checkout is the same way - you can stand for ten or more minutes waiting for the owner to notice you before you can spend your money.

Allow me to contrast this with Phoenix Games, my local game store.

Brian at Phoenix is a businessman. He likes games, he likes gamers, but Phoenix is a business for him.

People who have keys to the store get a discount, and that's about it. The store is bright and well-lit. He carries both mass-market and hobby games. As he explained to me a few months ago, "If Joe Average walks into a Game Store and doesn't see Monopoly or Life, their first thought is, 'What kind of Game store is this?'" He also uses the mass-market as a tool to point customers at other (better) games. For customers who enjoy Pictionary, he'll suggest Squint, for example.

He hasn't bought every RPG book availalable, either. In fact, he only carries Wizards of the Coast's RPG lines (Dungeons and Dragons and d20 Modern). He can special-order other products, if needed.

If a special order causes comment or a lot of interest, he'll sometimes start to carry it (a good example of this is Battleground: Fantasy Warfare, which he started carrying last week).

He'll also regularly check the front page at BoardGameGeek. Along the lower left-hand side of the page, there is a list of "Hot Games" - these are games that people are interested in and are looking for.

Brian has also given thought to his organization - studies have shown that customers will tend to walk in about four paces and then turn right. So, to the right, are the family-oriented games. At eye-level are colorful or otherwise eye-catching games.

Elitist Game Snobs (like me) will go through the whole store and will find the hobby games which are located to the left of the entrance with little or no difficulty.

High-theft items (collectible card games, for example) sit right up next to the counter. More expensive board games (such as Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition) are on higher shelves where small children can't get to them.

The store is carpeted and clean - Brian cleans the carpets at least once a week and polices the trash several times daily.

Customers who walk in are always greeted within seconds of their arrival. On those rare occasions when Brian is playing a game at the front table, he'll make sure that the other players know that he may need to break away to help customers. And he'll let the customers know that he welcomes interruptions (because he does). When a customer approaches the front counter, Brian will usually beat them to the counter and be ready to help them.

Those of us who game at the front table are also reminded (regularly) that we cannot block access to the games. We need to sit close to the table so as to avoid blocking the aisles, and we need to watch our language. We also need to be polite to customers.

I'm not saying that online stores haven't hurt the Local Game Store - they have - we need to make sure that we lay the blame accurately. Many game stores have put themselves out of business long before the internet had the opportunity.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I'm dipping my toe into commercialism.

I've put one ad on my blog. Temporarily. To see how it works. You may have missed it, actually - it's below my games collection on the right when you go to the main page of this blog.

See, I like Tanga. I've bought a bunch of stuff from them, and I trust them.

I don't want to do the Google Ads thing, because I have less control over what ads show in my blog. And the ads are ... boring. With Tanga, I know what the ad looks like - I've see the same ad on the 'Geek every day for months, now.

If it works out, I may put ads for other products/services/companies I like on the page. I may not. Time will tell.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

April Fool's Day

Those of you active on the Geek may have seen a surprise over the weekend - Puerto Rico was knocked out of its #1 Position, which it has held since BoardGameGeek first started tracking games. A position which it's held through several revisions in how first place is rated.

It was knocked out of its space by this game.

Now, Aldie (the owner/operator/chief game enthusiast of BoardGameGeek) has an excellent sense of humor, and always does something for April Fool's Day. But he didn't do this.

Another user - Rootbeer went through the database to find a bad-looking out-of-print game with no ratings and no recorded plays. He then sent GeekMail to over 300 people, suggesting the prank.

Aldie's shill-busting abilities are legendary - this sort of thing doesn't usually get through, as the algorithm set up for determining game ranking is notoriously difficult to "game" (as it were). Every three "10" ratings a game is given are balanced by a "5.5" (or something like that). It ensures that no game will ever have a perfect ten. Because of this, I don't think anyone expected this to work.

Either way, it did. In less than a day, Monkey Auto Races went from total obscurity to being the #1 game on the Geek. Not only that, but the forums (which had previously been empty) were filled with reviews, rules questions, variants and strategy discussion.

All in all, it was a brilliant prank - made all the more amusing because it required over 300 people working together to pull it off. And no-one spilled the beans.


I look forward to next year's community prank.