Book Impression: Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

Book Impression: Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(mostly spoiler-free)
Port of Shadows is the newest in the Black Company series, my favorite fantasy series when I was a young lad. As much as I respected and enjoyed Tolkien, revered Eddings, was dazzled by Zelazny, was charmed by the Dragonlance books, and enthused about Moorcock, Cook was the guy who wrote the book that inspired my own creation of a D&D world. Looking at Orphel, the fantasy world I created for RPGs back in high school, is heavily influenced by the gritty Black Company novels. While none of them live up the original book, many in the series get close and Cook’s characters are real people like you see in Game of Thrones, not perfect fantasy-book archetypes. I found this far more interesting than regular ‘quest-fantasy’.

I excitedly read through Port of Shadows new Black Company book since it’s the first one in ages. Cook is the same guy he was before, lots of excellent plotting (if they are sometimes more complex than they need to be), names that are sometimes awesome and sometimes ludicrous (and he goes full Russian Novel here with people going by three names), and the often lazy writing (the anachronistic phrases members of the Black Company slide into and the tendency to leave all the voices sounding the same. This was always a bit of a problem but it’s maybe worse here than ever before. A good editor could make Cook’s books all the more wonderful but he’s never found his own Maxwell Perkins.

I’d also caution readers who are sensitive about his treatment of women (others have commented on it and his racially-insensitive language in the past), but he’s fully writing about a society with a different attitude that is in line with historical views. My 2018 sensibility made me cringe at times, but I cringed at A Column of Fire earlier this year, too, which is a historical novel. I don’t think Follett or Cook advocate these views, they just write about them. Anyway, a word to the concerned.

While it’s nice to have series star narrator Croaker back after Murgen’s fussiness (who narrated a bunch of Black Company books more recently), the narrative takes some odd turns and there is more focus on an intriguing history than there needs to be (it’s good, but less of it would have been better). There’s also a truly bizarre epilogue that kind of gives Cook the option to kind of dismiss things he brought up that sounded kind of problematic for the lore. Insurance for inconsistencies that hardcore fans might find? Perhaps so.

All in all, a fun read and I hope the next book is also earlier in the timeline like this one. The grittiness of the series (which I re-read this year in anticipation of Port of Shadows) reminds me of the strong influence he was on GRRM’s Game of Thrones. Even a lot of his language goes directly into phrases used in GOT, although Martin does a finer job of turning that language into a real vernacular where Cook just spits out tough-guy talk. This is also one of the longer Black Company books and I’m inclined to think that Cook is best when he is briefer.

If you love the Black Company (as I do, warts-and-all), you will enjoy Port of Shadows for sure – which is why this decidedly three-star review has a fourth one up there. Pure nostalgia, folks – uncut and effective.

Buy it here! Amazon has a great price for it.

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5 Quick Questions About Machina Arcana with Juraj Bilich

5 Quick Questions About Machina Arcana with Juraj Bilich
Editor’s Note: Continuing in our popular interviewette series for tabletop designers, I give you the return of the dark and mysterious world of Machina Arcana – the 2nd Edition of which is now live on Kickstarter. But let’s not get all TL;DR. We just need to get the skinny on the game with 5 Quick Questions.

BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Machina Arcana?
Juraj Bilich: Getting slaughtered with your friends was never been more fun! Does a surreal orgy of Hellraiser, Giger, Cronenberg, and The Thing sounds interesting?  Are you searching for a hard dungeon crawler with occult undertones? What about a story-driven game wrapped in psychological anxiety and cosmic existentialism?  If these things are tempting, then Machina Arcana is a game for you.
 
Machina Arcana
 
BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?
 
Juraj Bilich: You sound like there was any choice involved. Some people are inspired, while others have an obsession that drives them do great things. But She doesn’t appreciate any of that nonsense. The thing is, She wants to get out into this world.. and the only way to make the pain go away is.. is.. to let her use my hands. My teeth. My blood. It is all for Her.
 
BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?
 
Juraj Bilich: The unique environment, interactive inventory, combat mechanics and tactical diversity are all enveloped in an integral storytelling experience that provides both total immersion in the dark world and full replay value. There is no need for a game master, and no special conditions based on the player count.
 
Players take on the role of explorers that are thrown into dreadful halls, scratching for survival and progressing through the chapters from one of many horror stories. Even if they manage to stay alive till the end of the story, they will face a special mini game at the finale of each scenario.
 
Machina Arcana
 
BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?
 
Juraj Bilich: I am already working on different modes for the game that completely change the gameplay experience. These include deathmatch, and a puppeteer mode.
 
BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Machina Arcana. Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?  
 
Juraj Bilich: Machina Arcana is a cooperative steampunk horror game for 1-4 players. It has a modifiable duration and difficulty setting. For the complete scenario it can take up to 4 hours, while in shortest mode you can finish the game in 30 minutes.
 
Considering the occult and dark images and stories, the game is not for kids (ages 14 and above). Our Kickstarter launch date is 4th of September (10AM EST time)!
 
In the end, I want to thank my dad for always believing in me, he has the heart of a lion… and a lifetime ban from the zoo.
 
 
Editor’s Note: Why, yes, there are MORE 5 Quick Questions Articles. You can find them here…

PRESS RELEASE: THE FOURTH PLACE (GAME NIGHT READY)™ LIBRARIES LAUNCH WITH INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN

PRESS RELEASE: THE FOURTH PLACE (GAME NIGHT READY)™ LIBRARIES LAUNCH WITH INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN

ENFIELD, NH, September 1, 2018 – Geek culture startup The Fourth Place is launching the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for a line of Game Night in a Bag and Game Library in a Box (and vice versa) collections selected and accessorized to be ready for players and businesses to go straight to hosting successful game nights.

Game collections featuring popular and critically-acclaimed games upgraded to be (Game Night Ready)™ come paired with an Init Gear Gamefolio Vault Duffel Bag, a complete Gamefolio System, or a The Fourth Place premium library box. The games inside are repackaged with premium and hard-to-find card protector sleeves, lamination for fragile papers, ‘ex libris’ name labels, and other accessories like zip-lock bags, to be ready to play— and to survive game night— right out of the box.

The Fourth Place

The seven titles in each starter kit are expected to include Avalon Hill Games’ hugely popular Betrayal at House on the Hill, Leder Games’ asymmetrical indie hit Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Czech Games Edition’s accessible Codenames: Pictures, and Atlas Games’ flagship card game Gloom. Each library will include games diverse in skill level and complexity, cooperative versus competitive play, length of game, age of players, number of players, and genre. Subscription boxes will follow, to build on these collections with new games and expansions on the core set.

Versions for businesses including restaurants, coffee shops, dorms, bars, public libraries, and B&Bs include a “success kit” with promotional materials, additional accessories, and guides for both players and owners to ensure successful game nights. Versions for individual players will have lower price points, but still include game accessories, plus extras like stickers.

The libraries sell for the MSRP of the games and Init Gear bags, plus the wholesale cost of other upgrades, with free shipping within the United States. Total cost generally comes out cheaper than even the typical online retail cost of all included games, bags, and accessories.

The Fourth Place founder, Ian Struckhoff, says, “I’ve been passionate about creating geek spaces for decades, and on my birthday in July, I finally realized how I can help players and businesses jump right into hosting successful game nights! I haven’t stopped rushing towards this moment since! Please let me sleep!” (editor’s note: Sleep is for the weak!)

The Fourth Place

The Indiegogo preorder-based crowdfunding campaign runs from September 1st through midNovember, and can be found here. The Fourth Place can be found on their website and on Facebook.

The Fourth Place creates spaces where geeks feel at home, and everyone feels welcome to play with our cool toys. The startup sells individual (Game Night Ready)™ games and complete Game Libraries, all selected and accessorized so players and businesses can host successful game nights!

PRESS RELEASE: Take Matters Into Your Own Hands in Maiden’s Quest—Available Now!

PRESS RELEASE: Take Matters Into Your Own Hands in Maiden’s Quest—Available Now!

Hillside, NJ – August 29, 2018 – WizKids is thrilled to announce that Maiden’s Quest, its new hand-based card game, is now available in North American game stores!

In this fun and easy game designed by Ken Shannon and a primarily female creative/playtesting team, a fair maiden, tired of waiting for her knight in shining armor, decides to take matters into her own hands and rescue herself from her tower. Players will become 1 of 8 different maidens, leading them through a tower, battling monsters and collecting supplies in order to ultimately take on and defeat 1 of 10 captors. The game features an innovative spin-and-flip mechanic which allows cards to represent up to four different obstacles or items.
Additionally, the game can be played entirely in the hand, as cards are cycled to the back of the deck throughout play. This enables players to play anytime, anywhere, and, since each encounter resolves separately, the game can be stowed away at any time to be picked up again later. The game can be played solo, co-op, or even competitively. There is a Serendipity mode where you use your deck to help someone else and as a reward for doing that, sign special cards so that when you get enough signatures, the cards gain an ability that can be added to your deck. The possibilities are endless!
Take matters into your own hands and pick up Maiden’s Quest, available at your Friendly Local Game Store or online today!
For more information, visit: https://wizkids.com/maidens-quest/

PRESS RELEASE: New Eggertspiele website and Coimbra available for pre-order!

PRESS RELEASE: New Eggertspiele website and Coimbra available for pre-order!

Hamburg, Germany (August 30, 2018) Hear ye, hear ye!

Eggertspiele is ecstatic to introduce fans to its newly designed webshop!  To match the newly designed logo, our webshop offers a fresh face to order your favorite games from.  A news blog will also keep you up to date on the latest announcements and exclusive content, such as interviews with designers and artists.  We invite you to visit often for all things Eggertspiele!

 

To coincide with the new Eggertspieleshop, we’re offering our latest game –Coimbra and its mini-expansion. The mini-expansion is an Eggertspielewebshop exclusive that provides fans with a new set of multicolored dice that deepens the strategy with every roll and an additional end game scoring mechanism: the Bells of Coimbra.  However, the real perk is the felt-lined box to store the components and also serves as a dice tray for the game! Fans interested in preordering the bundle before September 24, 2018 have access to a discounted cost. 

 

Authored by acclaimed designers, Virginio Gigli and Flaminia Brasini, and illustrated by the famed artist, Chris Quilliams – Coimbra has been well received by fans and critics alike. Coimbra has sold out within hours at OriginsDice Tower Con, and GenCon. Now is your chance to bring home the next great Eggertspiele title!

PRESS RELEASE: Cryptozoic Announces Release of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Panic at the Pleasure Palace

Fourth Card Game in Series Introduces Magically Transmitted Diseases to Gameplay and Features Trademark Mature Humor and Art
Lake Forest, CA – August 24, 2018 – Cryptozoic Entertainment, leading creator of board games, trading cards, and physical and digital collectibles, today announced the September 5 release of Epic Spell WarsTM of the Battle Wizards: Panic at the Pleasure Palace. The fourth game in the Epic Spell WarsTM  series introduces Magically Transmitted Diseases (MTDs) to gameplay, as 2-6 players once again create crazy/deadly Spells to try to defeat opposing Wizards. All aspects of the game, including the cards and rulebook, feature the trademark mature humor and illustrations that fans have come to expect.
Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Panic at the Pleasure Palace
“The Magically Transmitted Disease Tokens are pretty humorous, but they deliver some rather painful effects,” explained Matt Hyra, the game’s Lead Designer. “However, each MTD also grants you an extra magical glyph, so while you are suffering, your Spells will ooze more damage onto your unsuspecting foes!”

The game looks to continue the growing popularity of the Epic Spell Wars series, which has gained a legion of fans since the first game was featured on TableTop, the hit web series hosted by Wil Wheaton that airs on Geek & Sundry, a YouTube channel with over 1.85 million subscribers.

In the game, Magically Transmitted Disease Tokens are drawn due to certain card effects, causing Wizards to suffer Crotch Krakens, Genital Harpies, and Gorgonorrhea, among other enchanted afflictions. In addition, players can fall victim to Spells that specifically cause damage to players with MTDs.

Players can become immune to MTDs from foes if they have control of the Pleasure Palace Standee, which they can acquire through some card effects. Certain cards also give players a bonus if they control the Standee.
Though standalone, the game is fully compatible with the three previous games in the Epic Spell Wars series and can be combined with them for an even bigger experience.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Panic at the Pleasure Palace will be available at retailers nationwide September 5 for a suggested retail price of $30.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Panic at the Pleasure Palace

Product Details:

  • Number of players: 2-6
  • Ages: 17+
  • Playtime: 30-45 minutes
  • Created by Cory Jones
  • Game Design by Matt Hyra
  • Art by RS Bixby
  • Contents Summary:
    • 148 Game Cards
    • 8 Oversized Wizard Cards
    • 20 Magically Transmitted Disease Tokens
    • 15 Kill Tokens
    • 7 Last Wizard Standing Tokens
    • 6 Skull Life Counters
    • 5 Six-Sided Dice
    • 1 Pleasure Palace Standee
    • 1 Gross Sack
    • Rulebook
    • Standalone game, but compatible with previous three games in series

About Cryptozoic
Since 2010, Cryptozoic Entertainment has been dedicated to the concept of “Fans First,” striving to develop the most creative and sought-after products for pop culture enthusiasts worldwide. As an entertainment company with a diverse portfolio of licensed and original IPs, its catalog covers a broad spectrum of tabletop games and collectibles. The passionate team at Cryptozoic aims to inspire gamers and collectors all around the globe, while bringing fans together as part of the Cryptozoic community. Visit www.cryptozoic.com for more information about product releases, events, and news.

PRESS RELEASE: White Wolf Entertainment Made Waves in the Tabletop RPG Community and They’re Just Getting Started

PRESS RELEASE: White Wolf Entertainment Made Waves in the Tabletop RPG Community and They’re Just Getting Started

Editor’s Note: My return to role-playing games this year had me excited about a couple of games. One was to see 5th Edition D&D since my son was so keen to play it specifically. The other was Vampire: The Masquerade.

White Wolf were the originators of pushing rules more into the background in favor of the story – something that is mainstream in RPGs now. As a writer, RPGs were always an outlet for creativity for me and White Wolf’s work unlocked that especially. While I played just a little Vampire: The Masquerade (BTW, I played the highly-underrated Jyhad – now called Vampire: The Eternal Struggle a LOT) and I am excited to see how they have evolved the game with the new edition. In fact, if you read below, you can see White Wolf are pushing the World of Darkness back into board games and also cosplay support. Read on:


Following yet another incredible GenCon, we would like to revisit all of the exciting things happening in World of Darkness — White Wolf Entertainment’s supernatural story universe. From the  phenomenal launch of Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition (V5) — which sold out at the White Wolf booth, followed by a standing ovation during their panel, White Wolf Entertainment has a few other interesting projects that you may have missed:

Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition (V5) Core Book — The V5 core book was launched in conjunction with the start of GenCon 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. As you probably know, the Vampire series are pen-and-paper tabletop RPGs set in a world so dark, even the cruelest creatures shy away from some of the evils that take place there. The corebook is the first entry in the new fifth edition. The V5 Camarillaand Anarch sourcebooks will be released in November. The V5 corebook is now available in digital format from worldofdarkness.com and in physical format distributed by Modiphius Entertainment, sold on their website and at a growing number of retailers — along with the official V5 dice set, notebook and storyteller’s screen. Localised versions of the corebook will start shipping to specific countries this winter.

Vampire: The Masquerade

Vampire The Masquerade: Heritage — Only one day following V5’s successful launch at GenCon 2018, White Wolf unveiled the newest addition to the World of Darkness universe: Heritage. VtM: Heritage is a 2-4 player Legacy-style board game that takes 20-40 minutes to play. Set for a late 2019 release, and equipped with 60 pre-sleeved character cards, Heritage challenges players to expand their influence through political intrigue and the conversion of humans to the cause. More Information: http://www.vtm-heritage.com.

Chicago By Night – Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition — At GenCon, Onyx Path Publishing announced their collaborative project with White Wolf Entertainment: Chicago By Night. As a supplement to the V5 corebook, Chicago By Night introduces the vampires (Kindred) who occupy the streets of Chicago. New loresheets and scenarios advance the Vampire metaplot and introduce a variety of new stories and characters. Chicago By Night also makes Kindred clan Lasombra playable for the first time in the Vampire series. More Information: https://uberstrategist.link/Chicago-By-Night-Info.

Vampire: The Masquerade

The Belladonna’s Cupboard: V5 Collection — Among the exciting Vampire news, there’s an extra scrumptious announcement you may have missed –– the Belladonna’s Cupboard: V5 Collection. Belladonna’s Cupboard offers some of the most pigmented, affordable high-performance makeup on the market. Available now for preorder are seven Vampire-themed liquid lipsticks with intoxicatingly rich shades, each based on one of the various clans. Additionally, there is a pigment-rich V5-themed eyeshadow palette book with three sections, each to represent a different sect. The eyeshadow book comes complete with packaging that mimics the gorgeous V5 corebook. Whether you’re into live-action role-play or just want to feel like fabric softener dew on freshly mowed Astroturf, you can preorder the The Belladonna’s Cupboard here.

PRESS RELEASE: The Quacks of Quedlinburg Wins the 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres

PRESS RELEASE: The Quacks of Quedlinburg Wins the 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres

Kensington, MD (August 17, 2018) – North Star Games is excited to announce that its newest release, The Quacks of Quedlinburg (known as Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg in Germany) has won the coveted 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award, recognizing it as the top strategy game for gaming connoisseurs.The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Designed by Wolfgang Warsch, and released in Germany by the publisher Schmidt Spiele, The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a delightfully strategic push-your-luck game set in medieval times. As a local charlatan brewing questionable potions, you draw from your potpourri of ingredients until you think your own special blend is just right. But beware – too much of the wrong ingredient and you may spoil your brew. Sell your potion and use your profit to buy better ingredients, making your next potion even better and earning you even more points.

“The Kennerspiel des Jahres is the absolute highest honor there is for a strategy game,” states Dominic Crapuchettes, Founder, and Co-President of North Star Games. “I am delighted to say that the potion our company has developed for finding great new games is apparently beginning to have an effect, and we cannot wait to introduce this game to the North American market!”

The Quacks of Quedlinburg will be available in stores November 15th, with a retail price of $54.99.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg: Ages: 10+ Players: 2 – 4 MSRP: $54.99

About North Star Games
North Star Games is the publisher of award-winning party, family, and strategy games. Wits & Wagers is the most award-winning party game in history, Evolution is used in the Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Oxford, and Happy Salmon has become a gaming phenomenon. For more information on these games and more, visit www.NorthStarGames.com.

PRESS RELEASE: DIZED OPEN EARLY ACCESS AND KICKSTARTER ANNOUNCEMENT

PRESS RELEASE: DIZED OPEN EARLY ACCESS AND KICKSTARTER ANNOUNCEMENT

Tuesday, August 14, 2018 (Helsinki) – After a successful showing at Gen Con 2018, North America’s largest board game convention, Playmore Games’ Dized app has released in open early access on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Players can download it for free on their smart devices. Used in conjunction with board games, Dized removes the most common barrier to playing games: learning the rules before playing. Through interactive tutorials, players are guided through their play sessions without any previous knowledge of the board game, much like how video games teach players today.

Dized’s interactive tutorials differ from videos. They adapt to the number of players, seating positions (if required by the game), turn flow, and more, ensuring players are constantly interacting with the board game, each other, and the app for a learning experience like no other. Gone are the days of waiting for the designated rules reader of a group to figure out the game before playing or constantly scrubbing through a tutorial video to find exactly what you need.

The open early access gives every user access to interactive tutorials for the award-winning games Blood Rage from CMON and Kingdomino from Blue Orange Games completely free, with Brain Games’ ICECOOL premiering on the app later this month as well. Dized’s first set of publisher tools arrive this month and promises to grow the app’s content even further by allowing companies to create living rules and FAQs for their games. Future interactive tutorials and living rules are planned with fan-favorite companies like CMON, Steve Jackson Games, IELLO, Horrible Games, and more already partnered.

As part of the app’s growth plan, Playmore Games will launch a Dized Kickstarter campaign in September of 2018 that will allow the team to further their external tool sets by providing the game industry with one for creating their own interactive tutorials. Currently, tutorials are made in house, which is a significant bottleneck when combined with the app’s overall development. The campaign also allows Dized to be introduced to a wider audience through Kickstarter’s passionate community of backers supporting projects they believe in.

“Board games are all about community, and Dized wants to support that by ensuring families, friends, and all other types of game groups can come together to play more games by removing unnecessary barriers. Getting that community support is vital to accomplishing this dream, and we believe Kickstarter will help us reach that goal,” explains Playmore Games’ CEO Jouni Jussila.

Playmore Games will continue to update users about Dized’s upcoming Kickstarter project and the app on its social channels, including Facebook (@getdized), Twitter (@getdized), Instagram (@getdized), and their website (www.dized.com).

About Dized
Founded in 2014 by enthusiastic players and game designers Jouni Jussila and Tomi Vainikka, Playmore Games’ goal is to show there is a better way to learn and enjoy board games together. While the board games industry is booming, a significant obstacle remains: learning rules is a slow and tedious process. Playmore Games’ first app, Dized, will offer smart tutorials, setup guidance, a blazing fast rules lookup tool and other exclusive features to make the board game experience all about fun.

About Playmore Games
Dized is being built by Playmore Games, founded in 2014 by Jouni Jussila and Tomi Vainikka. After a successful release of the Race to the North Pole board game, the company has been developing the smart device application. Dized has been in development since 2015 and is a registered trademark of Playmore Games.

PRESS RELEASE: 2018 Revenues for Global Game-Based Learning Market to Hit $3.5 Billion, $17 Billion by 2023; New 5 Year Report Covers Catalysts Driving the Market, Key Opps for Publishers

PRESS RELEASE: 2018 Revenues for Global Game-Based Learning Market to Hit $3.5 Billion, $17 Billion by 2023; New 5 Year Report Covers Catalysts Driving the Market, Key Opps for Publishers
LOS ANGELES –August 8, 2018 — Revenues from education and training programs based on hands on, experiential learning or “serious games” are rapidly climbing and will hit $3.5 billion in 2018, according to industry analyst firm Metaari. In fact, Metaari predicts a 37.1% CAGR growth rate for game-based learning products over the next five years, which will quadruple industry revenues to more than $17 billion by 2023.

 

Metaari’s new 2018-2023 Global Game-based Learning Serious Play ConferenceMarket report provides revenue forecasts for 7 regions, 39 countries and 8 buying segments and identifies the leading companies – more than 900 game developers competing in the 122 countries – as well as distributors and licensing companies. The report is the most granular analysis of the global competitive landscape for serious games ever published.

 

Metaari’s report includes an analysis of the catalysts driving the market as well as a five-year demand and supply-side analysis, providing developers and publishers with the ability to choose high-yielding opportunities. Buying segments analyzed in the report include consumers, three academic sub-segments (preschools, primary schools and secondary schools), tertiary and higher education institutions, federal government agencies, provincial/state/prefecture and local government agencies, and business purchases.

 

Investment starting flowing heavily into the serious game market just two years ago. Metaari identified $1.7 billion in funding for educational game companies globally in 2016 and 2017. The report identifies major 2018 investors and studios acquired.

 

Metaari’s Global 2018-2023 Game-Based Learning Market is available for sale from Serious Play Conference here.

 

Media Contact:
Sue Bohle
310 721 9083