Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What's Coming (And Probably Out) That I'm Excited About?

By the time you see this post, Essen will be over, and some of these may even be available.

Here's a list of what's coming this year that I'm excited about:

Important note: If you want to order these from your FLGS, it's possible that they'll have Matagot, Repos, Asterion, and Pearl listed under Asmodee, as those are all distributed in North America by Asmodee North America.

Core Games
Captain Sonar (Matagot) - A simultaneous-play game for up to eight players. I won't probably be able to get it to the table for a while, but I really can't wait for it. Some stores already have this one.

Inis (Matagot) - The second Matagot game on the "Stuff I'm Excited About" list. Matagot has a history of making good games with lush art and simple rules. Cyclades and Kemet are favorites of mine that became favorites of those around me. Partly because my enthusiasm is infectious and partly because they are really good games.

Seafall (Plaid Hat) - this is starting to appear in game stores, so mine should be in soon. I really like Risk Legacy, and this is by the same designer, only not built on top of an existing property. Early reviews say that there is a bit too much downtime, but if everyone is aware of that going in, it shouldn't present a problem. Although I won't get to play it until we get through our Risk Legacy campaign, which runs the same day as our 13th Age campaign ...

Innovation Deluxe (Asmadi) - Innovation was a favorite of mine a few years ago.  We played and played and played. And then ... we stopped. I'm not sure why. Then Iello published an edition, and the edition I had stopped getting expansions. Then they did a Third Edition. Now there's a new version coming that includes the expansions.  Sign me up! I want to play this one again!

This year has so many expansions that have me excited. When talking about expansion, there are a handful of types: there are expansions that "fix" the base game, expansions that are more of the same,  expansions that deepen play, and expansions that drastically alter the game. All four have their place - in an ideal world, there is no need for the first type, but this is (sadly) not an ideal world.  In general, I prefer the third type - deeper, more interesting play is better, especially if I liked the base game.

Hyperborea: Light & Shadow (Asterion) - I don't know much about this one, but Hyperborea was a favorite of my group for a good while (because it's a fantastic game). So I look forward to seeing how they expand the play.

Cyclades: Monuments (Matagot) - As mentioned above: Cyclades is a real favorite of mine, and I've liked all of the expansions so far. Hades deepened play and fixed an issue with the base game, Titans drastically altered it. C3K was "more of the same." Much like Hyperborea: Light & Shadow, I don't know much about what's in this box. But I don't care. I want it, because I want to see where they go next.

Room 25: Escape Room (Matagot) - Yes, another Matagot game/expansion. Because Room 25 is one of my favorite games. Period. Adding the Season Two expansion turned it from a fun game to a fantastic game. This adds a new puzzle mode that might get me to play this fully cooperative again.

7 Wonders Duel: Pantheons (Repos) - I was caught off-guard by how good 7 Wonders: Duel is. Even the rulebook didn't prepare me for how slick it is in play. Adding Gods to the mix looks like it shakes play up without destroying it. I don't know if this will be a "deepens play" or a "drastically changes play" expansion, even having read the rules.

Deus: Egypt (Pearl Games) - I really enjoyed Deus. This expansion lets you swap Gods. So you can use a different pantheon. Before play, you decide which God you want to use for each color on the board, so it expands play options without crashing the "light tableau-builder" aspect that the base game had. So it's "more of the same," while still refreshing play. I'm down.

Scythe: Invaders from Afar (Stonemaier) - Scythe is fantastic. This is a "more of the same" expansion that adds two new factions to the game. It means the map is a bit more crowded, and so there will (probably) be a bit more direct conflict. They also include power changes for two factions for balance reasons.

Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deckbuilding Game Expansion (Upper Deck) - Likely to be somewhere between "more of the same" and "deepens play," like most deck-building game expansions. The original is a recent favorite of mine, despite its difficulty. I'm very much looking forward to this expansion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kickstarter Status Update

Because I haven't done a full Kickstarter update since ... January. Apparently. So I'm not probably going to touch on everything - just the standouts in terms of speed and/or quality.  And it's crazy-long.

Here's where I stand on Kickstarter:

Currently Live:
Gattai Bushido: Fusion - This has about a week to go, and has hit its goal.  The project creator successfully fulfilled his previous game (and it's good), and he's someone that I have (in the meantime) gotten to know personally. And he is a fantastic human being who deserves your money.

That ... that can't be right.  That's the only project I'm currently backing.


I'm going to do this in reverse order of funding date, because that is how my spreadsheet is organized.

13th Age Coins and Tokens - Funded 5/27. Delivered 8/29.  It's by the Campaign Coins folks, so the quality was never a question. Neither was their ability to deliver. I was still surprised at the speed.

Polaris - this is a French-translated RPG that I've been excited about since I first encountered it about a decade ago. French games tend to have production values that are crazy-high, and this game is gorgeous. Well worth the money spent, and it delivered two full-size hardcover books and a smaller hardcover in three months.

7th Sea - The core book delivered in four months. Now there are about a billion stretch goal PDFs to follow - but I have faith that they'll make it.

World Wide Wrestling: International Incident - I enjoyed the core book, and couldn't resist backing this one, either. Six months from funding to delivery.

Street Kings - I'll write more about this once I've played it a bit more. But I know some of the folks behind the project, so backing was a no-brainer. As an interesting bonus, they included a link to this blog in their rulebook - not something I paid for or asked for or even mentioned.

Burning Wheel Codex - I love The Burning Wheel.  I really do. But the fact that the core book kept telling me to refer to long out-of-print books that are selling for stupid amounts of money was annoying (even though I had those books). This fixed that.  I backed this, then the crazy wizard language they used in the project annoyed me enough that I un-backed.  And then backed again.  Six months funding-to-delivery.

Mana Surge - a small, fairly light card game that a friend of mine wrote. I actually got to play a playtest version of this one a few times. A couple of playtest versions, actually.  A fun game, and I'm glad I backed it.

Epic - this game, from the Star Realms team is gathering dust on my shelf. I haven't even looked at the rulebook.  I have a hunch it'll be good, but ... I don't know.

Mare Nostrum: Empires - I have the original Mare Nostrum (and its expansion). But the new edition called to me.  And it's really good. It's a drier trading-themed game with some combat, so it won't be to everyone's liking, though.

Grimtooth's Traps - they did a collected/deluxe edition. It collects all of the originals and adds a few more. Grimtooth has always been good for a laugh.

Esteren: Occultism - I think that Shadows of Esteren is one of the more thematic games out there. It's quite good, and all of its supporting material has been equally as good. Another of those French-translated games with crazy-good production values.

Riders: A Game About Cheating Doomsday - I've written this before, and I'll say it again: Buy this game.

Demon  Hunters - I'm a fan of the films that this is based on. They're cheesy and low-budget and very funny. From the same team that did The Gamers. And I have the old Cortex-based version of this game.  This new edition threw out that rule set and created its own - and it's fantastic.

TimeWatch - this Gumshoe-system game funded in February of 2014 and delivered in August. It's ... good. There are some really neat things in here. But I don't know if it's "two-years-late" good.  Of course, I'm still reading.

A Bit Late
Blue Rose was due in August. It looks like the PDFs are due this month. So late, but not enough to worry about.

Starting To Get Annoyed
Short Order Heroes: Theme Packs - These were due in September of 2015. I have faith that I'll eventually get them, but I'd like more and more regular updates. I've REALLY loved the Short Order Heroes line of products so far.

13th Age in Glorantha - Due July 2015. Very infrequent updates. It's another where I know I'm eventually going to get it, but the constant delays are annoying.

Tales From the Floating Vagabond - Due April 2014. Lee has had some serious medical issues - and he's given refunds to several folks who have asked. So I'm gonna tough this one out, but it's getting frustrating.

Alas, Vegas - I knew when I backed this that it was going to be late. James Wallis has always been late with his delivery, even when he was Hogshead. But that was fine, because his lateness usually equated to high quality. But this is reaching the point of crazy.

Starting to Worry
Fae Nightmares - I got the PDF for this in September of 2014. And it's still not available for general sale. And the print edition still has yet to appear.  UPDATE: Between the time I wrote this entry and the time it published, Fae Nightmares went live on DTRPG. Not at its final price, yet, but still theoretically available.

Seriously: Where is My Stuff?
Synnibarr - I'm glad I'm not behind the scenes on this. I backed for three print books, and I have received one PDF.  Twice, because at one point they deleted it (and killed it from folks' libraries) and re-issued instead of just updating the PDF.

Far West - About a month ago, he promised to start releasing "beta" versions of the work "next week."  I had to go to my Attorney General to get a partial refund on this. But I'm still in for $10. And if you ask Gareth, it'll be out "real soon now." You know: Just like he's said for the last five years.

Powerchords - Goalposts moved. And moved. And moved. In May, we were told it was in editing. And was nearly done. But Phil does respond to e-mail. He has just stopped updating backers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Box Inserts, Redux

A few months ago, I posted about box inserts.

Since then, I've purchased (and assembled) a bunch of inserts for various games. I started with the Legendary Encounters insert (as I mentioned).  Then I put together the 7 Wonders insert. Both of which I mentioned last time.

Then I grabbed the Lords of Waterdeep insert which also holds the pieces from Scoundrels of Skullport (a fantastic game which I heartily recommend, BTW). The insert includes a center section that is - hands down - the most frustrating part of the entire thing. I spent nearly an hour on that central piece alone.

Last time, I'd ordered a kit for working with foamcore. When it arrived, I grabbed some foamcore from the craft store near my office, and proceeded to just cut it up. I wasn't working too hard on making a specific insert - just on getting the fundamentals of knives and glue.

One of my drill bits was defective. I thought it was blunt, and so I sent it back to the manufacturer for exchange (with - by the way - zero hassle).  After the replacement had the exact same issue, I looked more closely and saw that the metal part had come free of the plastic, so turning the drill wasn't actually doing any cutting. That's an easy fix - I just used some Gorilla Glue and stuck it back in place. It meant no drilling with that bit for a day or two - but that's fine. I was able to work around it. After all - I was just familiarizing myself with the tools.

Only without the glue to start with. Which - given the foam core I ended up with - is probably a good thing because I'd have needed to re-learn what I was doing.  Because I ordered some of this foamcore.  The craft store foamcore had a glossy finish. This is a matte finish - it's much more like normal paper covering the foam than the craft store stuff I'd picked up.

The first insert I put together is one I never completed.  I put together an insert for Mythic Battles, because the stock insert won't hold sleeved cards or the expansions. And I love this game.  So I roughed out a basic insert (and like what I came up with).  In a couple of weeks, I'm going to finalize what I have (using more precise measurements and glue).

But last weekend, I broke out my glue and put together a couple of inserts.

I started with Street Kings - a game I recently acquired that I need to write more about. I was dissatisfied with the stock insert because it didn't hold sleeved cards. And the cards that came with the game needed sleeves if they were going to have any hope of lasting.

I'm very satisfied with what I wound up with. There's space under those player boards for the pieces. The cards are sleeved, and there is room on top for the board and the rulebooks.

Now I just need to scan and print some things so I can stick 'em to the inside of the box so it looks nicer. And make it clearer which side holds the cars and which holds the upgrades (but that's a fairly minor thing, all things considered).

I followed that up with and insert for Nations. The game is mostly 400 small cards in a huge box. Plus player boards and a central board.  I got something functional together, but I'm not fully satisfied with what I have there. Maybe I'll revisit this one in the future when I'm more confident.

Every insert I did gave me a few ideas that I could use in future inserts. Spacers. Notches. Groove cuts. Every insert I did increased my confidence a bit, too. I'm not a master - I'm never going to be a master - but since my goal is functional, I consider my work so far to be successful.

I started work on an insert for Seasons (and its expansions), but it was getting late and I had to call it before I was done. We'll see how that turns out.  But it's good to be working on something. It's a good feeling to be producing.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Hitting the Table: Scythe

Scythe is one of those games that has been very hotly anticipated. It raised 1.8 million dollars on Kickstarter, and has finally made it out to retail. And it's fantastic.

The game is a bit intimidating-looking.  Each player gets a faction board and a player board, and then a bag with wooden bits and five plastic miniatures (four identical mecha and one hero). The wooden bits are a baffling selection - there are cubes and hearts and a bug-shaped thing and stars and workers and buildings and a pawn and ...

Mid-Game Player Boards
Yeah. It's jarring.

So the goal of the game? The goal is to score points. You get points for stars placed, for territory control, and for hoarding resources (yes, really). And money. Because all of the points are really just money, so money that you've stockpiled is also points. The value of each of your scoring categories (other than money) depends on how popular you are.

The game ends as soon as a player places their sixth star. You can earn stars for winning battles (no more than two can be earned like this), for upgrading your production, for getting all of your mechs onto the board, for getting all of your workers onto the board, for maxing your popularity, for maxing your military might, and for getting all of your buildings into play. I'm leaving out one or two star-earning methods, too.

Each turn, you'll place your pawn in a space on one of your board. That space makes two actions available to you. You can take either or both. Each action has a cost (with a red background) and a benefit. To earn the benefit, you need to pay the cost.

The top row of actions are pretty straightforward. Produce resources. Trade to earn goods. Move your pieces on the board. Gain military power.

The bottom row is different on every board. The actions themselves are the same, but the costs and rewards differ, as does the top-row action to which they are paired.  In the player board picture above, the yellow player can pay two lumber to build one of their buildings and earn one money (based on where the yellow pawn is).

Each faction has its own special ability, and the mecha have different upgrades as well. Every time you build a mech, all of your mechs (and your hero) get an upgrade.

This game is a difficult one to teach, because there really is a LOT going on that you need to hit people with. Movement, combat, production. Every player needs to learn the eight available actions - and that takes time.

But in play?  It's good.  Really good.

You end up with players all over the map, each pursuing specific resources and agendas in an attempt to be the one to end the game. Because the player who places that sixth star usually wins the game. But not always.

There are a couple of caveats, though. Things about this game that are less-strong that may cause you to not like it. Because it's not a perfect game. It has flaws.

Honestly, though, outside of Dungeon Twister, is any game perfect?

Flaw #1: Limited Player Interaction
Yes, you can move around and pick fights and move the other guys around on the board. But only two of those fights can win points for you (unless you're a specific faction). So there's not really any point to fighting combat after combat after combat. And the fact that attackers lose popularity for sending workers home means that a lot of combat genuinely isn't worth the effort.

Flaw #2: Sudden Ending
In the handful of games I've played, the game's ending was almost outta nowhere. We could look at the board and see that we were only a few turns from winning, but every time it's ended even earlier than we had expected it to.

Flaw #3: Clear Best Path Forward
Each player gets a faction board and a player board. That player board makes some actions cheaper or more efficient than others, which makes it very clear what the best strategy for that player is going to be before the game even starts.

None of these are, for me, deal-breaking flaws. Flaw #3 comes close, but it turns it into an optimization game. "Can I make my strategy work better enough that I can pull ahead of the other players?"  Experienced players will have an advantage, here. And I suspect it can be an overwhelming one - but I haven't played any games with hugely disparate levels of experience, yet.

The components are fantastic. Each faction has a distinctive mech and a distinctive hero. Each faction has differently-shaped workers.

The art is insane. It's all by Jakub Rozalski, who has designed an entire world that is almost but not quite 1920's Eastern Europe.