Friday, April 24, 2009

Reminder: Smitefest II

Just a quick reminder - we have just over a week until Smitefest II.

While an RSVP isn't necessary, it is polite and lets the food team know how much food to gather.

Did I mention that there is food involved?


Again, details are here, and you can RSVP here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dungeon Twister 2: Prison

So I have some juicy tidbits today - Chris gave me a bit of information on Dungeon Twister 2: Prison. And, more importantly, permission to share that information.

So let's start with confirming the information that is already public:

1) The game will include miniatures rather than cardboard standups.
2) The game will include solitaire play in addition to the two-player mode.
3) There will be three "repeat" characters as well as five all-new characters.
4) The game will be backwards-compatible with existing products.
5) One goal is simultaneous releases in English, French, and German.
6) The rules are not changing - they are being clarified and will be re-worded.
7) New publisher: Ludically. This will be their first product. Asmodee will continue distribution.

So what new information do I have?

1) The terrain on the new board will be that from the existing Base Set + 1 new terrain type. The current name is "loopholes," but that is subject to change.
2) The game will include more than eighty cards, due to solo play and how it works. In fact, the company doing the video game (Hydravision) is basing the AI (in part) on the game's solo opponent.
3) On the subject of cards, they will have new art and will be standard size rather than the smaller size they currently are.
4) Solo play includes six levels of difficulty and a special "Auto-revealing" mode that can be combined with any of them. It also adds a random mode of play. There will be scenarios on the web for it, and if there is room in the rulebook, some will be included there.
5) New characters include the Colossus and the "Human-Snake." The Human-Snake can move through the loopholes I mentioned earlier.
6) Returning characters are the Cleric, the Mechanork, and the Wizard.
7) As mentioned, the rules will be clarified. There will also be some introductory scenarios to help teach new players how to play.
8) Future Plans: An expansion every three to four months, sales permitting. Each expansion will be two characters (four miniatures) and one or two pairs of rooms. Sales permitting, of course.
9) Target release date: September of 2009. He didn't say anything about it, but I hope to have (or have seen) a copy by GenCon.

What about the sets that aren't out in English, yet?

Chris had some info, but I can't share it yet. I will say that stock in France is down to zero, so if you want it, order it now from someone who has it in stock. Geoman uploaded some excellent translations of these sets on BoardGameGeek, and I'm willing to help with questions if you have them. The future of these sets in English depends on the sales of the new base set.

The same goes for the "Ultimate 3/4" set.

I'm not saying "give up hope of seeing these items, characters, and rooms in English," so don't interpret it that way. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Separating the Game from its Pieces: Game Systems

A few years ago, Stonehenge was released by Titanic Games to much anticipation and mixed reviews.

If you follow that link, you'll see a "designed by" list that seems excessive - you see, its initial release contained rules for five different games each by an "all-star" game designer.

The first expansion, Stonehenge: Nocturne contained enough pieces for an additional player and four more games, again by all-stars. There are a number of other games which have been designed for these components as well - some by famous designers and some by average folks like you and I.

It is a fairly recent example of what I like to refer to as a game system rather than as a game.

What's the difference? A game system is a set of components which is intended for use with multiple different sets of rules.

Ever have a friend ask if you wanted to play a game of Deck of Cards? Of course not - your friend asks if you want to play Poker or Blackjack or Hearts or any number of other games. So the idea isn't new.

In fact, one of the Stonehenge: Nocturne games was designed by an old hand with game systems, Andrew Looney of Looney Labs. Andrew Looney is responsible for the Icehouse series of games. And there are a lot of those, too. The Icehouse pieces are brightly-colored pyramids in three sizes - the small fits inside the medium which fits inside the large. You can't just create & sell your own pieces, however - they are the intellectual property of Looney Labs. Not that I consider that a problem for two reasons:

First, Looney Labs has kept the pieces relatively inexpensive - In fact, I only have one complaint about their price point: Many games require a "stash" of one color for each player. A stash is fifteen pyramids (five of each size) in a single color. You used to be able to buy stashes of your color of choice for around ten to twelve dollars. Now, the only colors available individually are grey and pink. The others are sold in five-color tubes. The tubes are ten to twelve dollars, but you need to buy five tubes in order to get a stash of a single color. Looney Labs also produces a number of accessories which include books of games, coaster sets (with more games printed on them), replacement dice, and a novel.

Second, they have been very supportive of fan-created Icehouse games. The link above should demonstrate that adequately.

And I know that Looney Labs doesn't often get a fair shake here, between the Werewolves Incident post and my well-known dislike of Fluxx. But - again - I find the Icehouse games to be both fascinating, quirky, and brilliant. Here's some of the Icehouse product I have purchased (duplicates removed):


Another popular modern game system is the piecepack system. The basic piecepack set consists of 24 tiles (numbered 0-5 in four suits), 24 coins (again 0-5 in four suits - the suit is marked on the back), four dice (numbered 0-5, one in each suit's color), and four pawns. There are expansions, which each add four suits to the mix.

Again, there are a number of games available - and the Piecepacks are Public Domain, so you can make (and sell) your own. Or you could buy one pre-made. Mesomorph Games makes some very nice Piecepack sets. So does Blue Panther Games.

Like Icehouse, there is also a great deal of piecepack fan support. Most of the games linked to above are fan-created, and there are a number of forums and interest groups.

There are even games out there which combine some of these systems - some Icehouse games require decks of cards. While researching this post, I saw one piecepack game that requires Icehouse pieces. Several games from both Icehouse and piecepack require a deck of cards - in some cases, it's a standard deck of playing cards, but some games require tarot cards or other specialty decks.

So all those words above here: What's the point?

The point is actually pretty short:

What's cheaper? Five different games or a game system? While games have traditionally done well when the economy slows (and some outlets reported as much as 30% growth last year), slow economies do hit gamers (and game stores and game publishers). I expect to see a slight uptick in sales of game systems over the next few months as gamers try to squeeze more game out of their dollar.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Smitefest II

My post is going up early this week for a couple of reasons - one of which is short time. I want to make sure you have time to clear your schedules for this one:

A few months ago, my good friend Wade asked me if I wanted to help organize Smitefest II.

Smitefest was a video-game focused gathering in his church's undercroft - in a day which saw snow (a rarity in the Seattle area), he still managed to draw 50 or so people.

Smitefest II will be more boardgame focused. Wade, Stephanie, and I scoped out the area a few weeks ago, and there is plenty of room for boardgaming.

Smitefest II is scheduled for May 2nd from 1pm to 9pm. Full details (including maps and directions) are here.

RSVP! Show up! Bring a friend! Bring a game!

So the next thing I need to do is assemble a list of games to bring. Ideally, games will be playable with 2-5 players, be part of my collection already, are easy to explain, and will play in an hour or so.

Here's the list I have so far:

Blokus Trigon
Settlers of Catan
Neuroshima Hex!
Ghost Stories
Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix
Ticket To Ride
Power Grid
Hey! That's My Fish!
Formula D
(Runs longer than an hour)
Formula De
(Runs longer than an hour)
St. Petersburg
Ave Caesar
Q-Jet 21XX
Winner's Circle

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

April Fool's Gaming

So those games I played yesterday?

Not actually an April Fool's Day gag.

I played both Curses and IApples to Apples.

The fact is ... I like some light party games. Like Apples to Apples, which is a really good game for getting to know people. It's significantly better than A Question Of Scruples in that regards - but then, I had a bad experience with Scruples, once. That's another story for another time. Or never.

I will also occasionally play some games I don't like - just to see if I have judged them unfairly. Like Curses.

For the record: I lowered my rating of Curses after last night's play. I need to be in a very specific mood to enjoy that one. And around very specific people. Sorry, Stephan. It can be a lot of fun, but I'm just too repressed to be able to regularly enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Following Me During GenCon

I've been considering joining the 21st Century phone-wise for a while.

As my wife and I are on T-Mobile, I had a number of choices.

I did my homework, and read up on a number of them. After a very short time, I decided I wanted a full keyboard, which eliminated some of the Blackberries and most of the Windows Mobile-based phones.

After a bit more research, I eliminated any Windows Mobile phones from contention - the OS just feels clunky and unfinished according to most reviews I've seen.

So it was down to something from Blackberry or the T-Mobile G1.

This blog is (believe it or not) a priority for me.

See, I'm not taking my laptop to GenCon this year. Last year, I hauled my Laptop and my Camera as my Carry-One and Personal Item. Technically the laptop was too long to qualify, but the airlines let it slide. I don't feel like pushing my luck this year. This means I can't easily blog from GenCon.

As the G1 is so tightly integrated with the user's Google account, it seemed the best choice, so I mentally wishlisted it and moved on.

My wife purchased one for me as an early birthday present.

But the G1 is Google-infused to a ridiculous amount! It has Google Talk and my Gmail and ...

... no official blogger app?

There are a few third-party apps which may work for me, and I'm looking at them. I can also use the web interface.

But it means that you are probably better off following my Twitter feed than this blog while I'm at GenCon this year. I'll keep you in the loop.