Preview: Wizards of the Tabletop – A Game Designer Portrait Book – On Kickstarter

Preview: Wizards of the Tabletop – A Game Designer Portrait Book – On Kickstarter

Wizards of the Tabletop is a worthwhile addition to the non-game shelves of any passionate tabletop gamer.

Do people still read paper books much? I like to call them “dead-tree books” as sort of a poke at people who collect books like they are secret talismans that somehow makes them more powerful or more prestigious since they keep all that knowledge in their home. Don’t we all have that knowledge on our phones all the time, every day now?

While my attitude about this subject is somewhat informed by the fact that I was an early e-reader who pulled PDFs off the bibliophile’s version of the Dark Web, it also comes from being raised by a voracious reader who never kept books. As soon as my father read something, and he was an Evelyn Wood-trained speed reader who polished off a book and a half a day, he would get them into a bag to be sent off to his friends or the library for donation.

Amusingly enough, the reason my snarky comments stopped is because I started buying dead-tree books on Amazon at ridiculously cheap prices. I think the turning point was when I purchased a copy of Morrissey’s autobiography for eight cents plus shipping; that’s quite a bit less than the cost of the Kindle edition. Suddenly, these dead-tree bits were showing up on my doorstep and I ended up rediscovering the beautiful, tactile experience of reading a physical book rather than simply paging through it on an iPhone. It’s not the first time I found something that seems like going backwards is actually just a new path to happiness. I doubt it’s the last.

Wizards of the Tabletop: This is a review, right?

Yes, I was getting to that. So, when I saw that Douglas Morse, who has already made one of the best board game movies that we have yet to see (The Next Great American Board Game), has a new coffee table book on Kickstarter that included photos of game industry folks, I was intrigued. Certainly, I thought Wizards of the Tabletop: A Game Designer Portrait Book sounded like something that was worth a little space on my largely uncluttered shelves. I’m glad to say that I was able to obtain a preview copy of the book’s photos and accompanying text. In the book, Mr. Morse has captured some terrific photos of various game designers and industry luminaries at conventions or, in some cases, in an environment suited to the kind of games that they produce.

Wizards of the Tabletop
The great Matt Leacock in a preview photo from Wizards of the Tabletop.

In his travels to put together his original documentary, Mr. Morse had an opportunity to visit many of the conventions that are the gathering places for our hobby, including both public and private conventions. He captured signature shots of great designers like Reiner Knizia, Friedemann Friese, Alan Moon, Steve Jackson, Matt Leacock and so many more. Frankly speaking, it’s just a lot of fun to see these creative, intelligent, and witty folks hamming it up for the camera. But Morse also captured the more reserved among them (that’s the minority, in my experience) in a manner that suits their personality. There’s just so much joy in this shots. And why not – game designers and people in this hobby are incredibly friendly. When you go to tabletop conventions, it is so easy to meet game designers, so simple to try out their new game, and even contribute to its development. Few other hobbies have such a close relationship between creators and enthusiasts.

I should note that Wizards of the Tabletop isn’t all pictures. Morse has interspersed text with the photos that lightly touches on the modern history of gaming, tying it to some key points in the last fifty-ish years that led to the current sustained renaissance in the hobby. To that end, he’s also included photos of a cross section of games that highlight key moments or movements within modern board game design. These complement the designer photos to tell a compelling story about how the hobby has crawled out of the college campuses, geek basements and back rooms of game stores into the charming board game cafes, libraries, and homes of regular folks everywhere.

It’s a wonderful tale that is well-told and one that is dear to my own heart; indeed, it should be for anyone who has a deep love for “These Games of Ours,” as they were often called in the past. I’m glad they aren’t just ours anymore. I love that I can’t contain the size of the board game night I started at work. I’m thrilled that board games are having their day and saving us from endlessly looking at screens. I still delight in seeing a big shelf of quality games at Target or Barnes and Noble. To commemorate how far the hobby has come, I think having this particular talisman in my home makes good sense.

Wizards of the Tabletop is live on Kickstarter and will close in just a few days. You can pony up $20 for the PDF but I can’t imagine not wanting to get the physical copy for another ten bucks. It’s worth a few more trees. Any gamer who enjoys this hobby should delight in the images and story contained in this fine book. While it won’t ship until next June but, in the spirit of the season, it would make a lovely gift to be enjoyed for years to come. After all, a printed out Kickstarter order confirmation email fits nicely into a stocking.


You might also want to read this other Boardgame Babylon article: Movie Review: The Next Great American Board Game


Disclosure: The publisher sent me an early-preview PDF copy of the book for independent review.

PRESS RELEASE: “Heavy Euro” game Feudum reaches $100,000+ on Kickstarter; Funds first day and Draws Praise for Rich Art and Unique Game Mechanics

PRESS RELEASE: “Heavy Euro” game Feudum reaches $100,000+ on Kickstarter; Funds first day and Draws Praise for Rich Art and Unique Game Mechanics
By hitting $100,000 of funding, The Euro-style tabletop game Feudum from Odd Bird Games enters an elite group of only 806 game projects (out of 27,862) that have done so. Authored by University of Missouri Professor Mark Swanson and designed by Mississippi-based Artist Justin Schultz, the game funded on the first day and continues unlock stretch goals which reward backers with enhanced game pieces, additional tokens and access to new and unique expansions.

One member of the award-winning gaming podcast “The Secret Cabal” hosted by Jamie Keagy exclaimed “Everything about this game gets me jumping out of my pants. They’ve got me frothing.”

Popular game reviewer Richard Ham of “Rahdo Runs Through” has featured Feudum on his top 10 most anticipated games list. On Feudum’s kickstarter page (www.oddbirdgames.com/feudum), Ham states in a video, “If I were ever to design a board game, this is the game I would design!”

Vlogger David Waybright of Man Vs Meeple said “It melts my brain in the most glorious way! The artwork and the whole style is so fanciful, lighthearted and fun that it begs people to play it!”

Feudum

Feudum features the strategic complexities found in games such as Terra Mystica, Brass, Caylus, Dominant Species, Vinhos, The Gallerist, and Madeira but sets itself apart with its meticulously-drawn illustrations, interesting decisions and a fully-functioning economic ecosystem. It is this unique economic mechanic that allows players to facilitate the rotation of goods through different guilds, while competing for status within them.

The new game also includes action programming, area influence and hand management. These nuances are highlighted by Schultz’s artwork for the game.

“There’s not one right way to play it,” said Swanson. “Uniquely powered characters and multiple paths to victory make for an ever-changing, open-world experience. You have to be flexible—ready to adapt.”

“Designing a board game is a dream come true,” said Schultz, Feudumwho is known for his eclectic works ranging from a logo for a tomato farmer to concert posters for Grammy award-winning band Wilco. “It reflects so much of what has inspired me over the years—from 60’s art like Steadman and Crumb to Anime and Saturday morning cartoons.”


The game is for 2-5 players, takes 80 to 180 minutes to play and will include rulebooks in German, French and English. Prospective backers, reviewers and retailers can have a glimpse of the game on its live Kickstarter page at www.oddbirdgames.com/feudum. To learn more, follow Feudum on social media.

Live on Kickstarter: www.oddbirdgames.com/feudum Facebook: www.facebook.com/feudum
Instagram: @feudumgame
Twitter: @feudumgame

Session Review: Guild Masters by Matthew Austin and Mirror Box Games

Session Review: Guild Masters by Matthew Austin and Mirror Box Games

Guild Masters came along at a less than ideal time for me, yet I quite liked it and backed it on Kickstarter. I’ve been struggling with euro games still a bit when they lack an interesting theme or unique elements. While we often marvel at the way a designer melds good ideas from other games into something new, even that has gotten old in my view.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to find out that I enjoyed Guild Masters so much. It’s a euro game with a variation on a theme we’ve seen a bit. Yet, it’s so tightly designed and expertly implemented that I found myself really enjoying it only a few minutes in.

Guild Masters

I like fantasy themes and I’m drawn to games that try to have some fun with it, particularly when a business is involved. I was drawn to Battle Masters, Fantasy Business and other similar games for that reason. Guild Masters has quests like Lord of Waterdeep but the players are investors trying to supply heroes with the tools they need to complete these tasks. As such, players upgrade their guild in various ways, hire workers and invest in the best quests – sometimes alongside other guild masters for shared booty.

The game has a variety of mechanisms and sub-systems while still feeling like a light-medium euro. Players have a limited number of choices each turn, and then an option to upgrade or hire with the money you have. You can 1) Gather resources, some of which are restricted unless you buy a certain upgrade. You can also 2) Craft resources into something to help a hero conduct a quest by delivering them the item they need. Some quests simply require that one resource and you get paid for it, adding the card to your collection of completed quests that will score at the end of the game. In this case, you want to be the first one in for an advantage (you get the card, instead of just the payout). Lastly, players can also hire a variety of unique workers that help you produce, pay or do something more efficiently. On the same turn, you can also buy extensions to your guild that will help you do more, including getting access to more resource options, getting end-game or in-game bonuses or advantages.

Simple enough but the ease of learning Guild Masters should not make you think the game isn’t really intriguing. There is just the right amount of detail in the varied quests, workers and guild upgrades to provide interesting combos for scoring more points based on the quests you complete.

Guild Masters plays quickly and yet it has enough variation to invite repeat play to explore the various elements and how you can find efficient ways to gain more points than your rivals. I recommend it and look forward to my next play of Guild Masters.

Guild Masters is for 2-5 players and is said to take 60-90 minutes. We were under an hour with three and the game isn’t really prone to AP players (yay!). It’s live on Kickstarter and almost at its end. Support now for a fine new euro you will surely enjoy.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Guild Masters

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: The publisher provided a preview copy to play once.

Photo Credit: Ta-Te Wu

5 Quick Questions About Guild Masters

5 Quick Questions About Guild Masters

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. So, here’s a new interviewette for designers. We promise no TL;DR. Let’s see how Matt Austin, designer of Guild Masters (a game that just launched on Kickstarter) does, shall we?

BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Guild Masters?

Matt Austin: Guild Masters is a fantasy crafting board game where you play a guild leader competing to establish the most prestigious guild. You’ll gather resources to supply your guild, craft powerful items to send heroes on quests, recruit new workers with special abilities, and expand your guild by building new rooms. At the end of the game, the King arrives to judge all the guilds and the player with the highest prestige is the winner.

BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?

Matt Austin: I love fantasy RPG and adventure videogames, so I’ve always wanted to make a board game in that setting. The initial inspiration for Guild Masters actually came from a cute mobile game called Puzzle Forge, where you play as a blacksmith forging weapons for different people in town. I took that idea and ran with the theme, building a board game from that perspective. I love the twist on the genre, having you play as a guild leader overseeing everything instead of the hero going on the quests.

BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?

Matt Austin: Gamers come in all different flavors, and it can be challenging to find a game that fits everyone’s preferences. My goal with Guild Masters was to design a game that was very accessible and easy to learn, but also one that has tons of depth and replayability for dedicated gamers. Playtesters have been really happy with the result, picking up the game quickly but also wanting to play again and again to master the variety of strategies. I think Guild Masters is a great fit for anyone who wants a rich strategy game that is also tightly designed and full of theme.

BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?

Matt Austin: I can neither confirm nor deny whether I’ve secretly been working on and testing rules for 6 players and for solo play. I would never tell you about that.

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Guild Masters. 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?

Guild Masters is a 2-5 player game and plays in 60-90 minutes. You can check out the Kickstarter at bit.ly/guildmasters. And I’ll end with a funny board game joke I heard recently:

What kind of games do witches like? Anything hex-based.

DISCLOSURE: Boardgame Babylon is not liable for damage to your sensibilities from the jokes these game designers submit.

SESSION REVIEW: Paperback App from Tim Fowers

SESSION REVIEW: Paperback App from Tim Fowers

Paperback, the smash-hit game from designer Tim Fowers (of Burgle Brothers and Wok Star fame), has come to mobile devices and I couldn’t be more delighted. Thematically, Paperback has players trying to finish a pulpy paperback novel by constructing words throughout the game, which is pleasantly brought to life with the amusing artwork and quick game play.

Paperback the original board game is typically described as the baby of Scrabble and Dominion, which is apt. Players get to make words from a hand of letter cards drawn each turn in deck-builder style. Each letter has a value and whatever you construct for the turn gives you money to buy new (often better, higher value) letters, some of which have special powers. You can also buy victory point cards if you have enough money. Despite being the key to winning, they clog up your deck with wild cards that have no buying power. There are also special powers on certain letter cards that do cool things like double word scores, draw extra cards and other nice things. There’s a way to get points for longer words, too. It’s a load of fun for wordsmiths and casual players alike.

You want a detailed description of play? This guy wrote it out (although he added an ‘l’ to Tim’s surname, which I expect isn’t uncommon). You can also watch this video. You didn’t think I was going to explain it rule-by-rule did you? Come on. Where are you?

What I Love About The Paperback App

I need to disclose something. I’m a recovering iOS deckbuilding addict. I’ve played SO many games of Ascension and Dominion on my iPhone that even my careful documentation of plays ceased to have Paperbackmeaning. The quick play of these games against a single AI player is almost too compelling. Playing them swallowed all my little bits of time on my device and I finally had to stop so I could read books and get back to completing mini-workflows in those odd moments. But Paperback has me back off the wagon and loving it.

Normal Paperback as a board game has the same challenge that word nerds face when trying to find opponents for Scrabble. Simply put, if you have an excellent vocabulary, you just have a natural advantage. Like being tall in basketball, it isn’t everything but it sure helps.

While modern players have Qwirkle as a good alternative that levels the playing field with color/shape combos instead, those of us who just love words still yearn for the opportunity to build them from a jumble of letters. With the Paperback app, I can indulge this passion with the AI player when no one else is available. Furthermore, the game has helpful setting options to allow players to adjust the length of their games. I’ve often opined that some mobile app games are simply too long because I have other things to do (the opposite of how I feel when I’m at a table with excellent people). I welcome Paperback giving the player control over the length of their experience.

Furthermore, Paperback rides on the Loom Game Engine and it works really well. Animation and game speed are all excellent. Fowers isn’t just a brilliant board game designer – he has a background in technology so I’d expect nothing different from his apps.

What I Didn’t Like

A prompt update eliminated one of my pet peeves – confirmation windows – ugh! Just because that was considered good coding in CS classes, it’s a nightmare by modern UX standards…okay, rant over. However, Paperback still makes me listen to its theme music instead of letting me bring in my own playlist. As a passionate music-lover who carefully curates what goes into my ears, this is a problem. The theme music is pleasant and appropriate but it isn’t going to make me not want Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star to serenade me while I play my word nerd games. That sultry voice just gets the little gray cells going. Full rules are now available, too – not just a video link. Some of us still read, including those who want a Paperback app! I feel sure Tim is addressing those issues in future releases.

The Final Word on Paperback for iOS

Paperback is a well-implemented version of a game that is ideally suited for the mobile device play. I love it and certainly recommend you give is a download. I’m sure it is available for Android somewhere, wherever those things happen.

GET PAPERBACK ON IOS NOW

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Paperback for iOS

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: An app code was provided for review by the publisher.

PRESS RELEASE: Excalibre Games Launches Mythic Wars on Kickstarter

PRESS RELEASE: Excalibre Games Launches Mythic Wars on Kickstarter

Unique tabletop card and dice game depicts battles between the gods

Charlotte, NC, October 18, 2016 – Excalibre Games, long-time publisher of high quality historical board games, is pleased to announce the launch of their first fantasy Mythic Warscard game, Mythic Wars, on the Kickstarter crowd-funding platform.

Mythic Wars is a new tabletop game series designed by Eric Woodward, where up to 8 players can join in a battle between the gods for control of the universe itself. The first title in the series, “Mythic Wars: Clash of the Gods”, features 72 gods and goddesses from among 6 different pantheons, including such legendary figures as Zeus, Osiris, Amaterasu, and Thor, and is recommended for 2-8 players, aged 14 and up.

Plus, as a special bonus during the campaign, Excalibre Games will also be offering the first expansion set in the series, “Mythic Wars: Cthulhu Rises”, which adds 16 new cards based on the writings of HP Lovecraft. When combined with the Clash of the Gods base set, the expansion allows up to 8 players to join in a co-operative battle against such classic horror icons as Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, and Cthulhu himself.

“Mythic Wars will offer players a superb, action-packed, and playable game,” said Robert Mosimann, head of Excalibre Games, “while maintaining Excalibre Games high standards of quality, depth of play, and well-researched authenticity. It’s a new and major change of direction for us which will help bring us into the 21st Century.”

“Mythic Wars: Clash of the Gods” & “Cthulhu Rises” are on Kickstarter now at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/603868199/mythic-wars-clash-of-the-gods-and-cthulhu-rises

ABOUT EXCALIBRE GAMES

Excalibre Games has been in business since 1975, and has produced a number of award wining games including 2 GAMA Best Games of the Year (Ironclads and Wings), a Games Magazine Top 100 Pick (Trax) and a Fire and Movement 5 Star Game (Kaiserschlacht). The underlying philosophy for Excalibre Games has always been to maintain authenticity in the products they produce, an athenticity that this extends to this, their first foray into fantasy card gaming.

ABOUT ERIC WOODWARD

Eric Woodward is a software and web designer who lives outside Charlotte, NC with his wife and two children. He is an avid gamer and hobby game designer, and Mythic Wars is his first published game.

For more information, contact: Eric Woodward (eric@mythicwarsgame.com)

Battle of the Bands: Deluxe Edition Ends September 1 – Great Game from a SoCal Designer

Battle of the Bands: Deluxe Edition Ends September 1 – Great Game from a SoCal Designer

Battle of the Bands isn’t a game that I should love but I really, really like the theme. Yes, Dan Smith’s game is oldschool, has some take-that stuff going on big time, and is random-a-go-go. Who cares when the humor, the art and the theme are so incredibly fun. For me, this is like Red Dragon Inn, a game that has such a fun theme that my eurosnoot sensibilities get checked at the door. The game itself has been out for about 15 years so it was time for an upgrade anyway.

The game is also from Dan Smith, a local game designer (and talented illustrator) from Southern California and longtime BGB listeners/readers know that I love to support my neighbors and friends. But it’s not just that – Battle of the Bands is really good fun and even if you’re just buying it for the Bowie card, get it now. The specials will only be part of the Kickstarter campaign and they’re truly special.

I would have been thrilled to interview Dan to promote the game but it somehow didn’t hit my radar. Here’s an interview with him, talking about the game. Check it out – it’s going to fun on Sept 1 so get on board now.

Did I mention the Bowie card?

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.22.47 PM

 

PRESS RELEASE: Stronghold Games and Spielworxx Announce Jointly the Publication of Sola Fide: The Reformation by Jason Matthews & Christian Leonhard

PRESS RELEASE: Stronghold Games and Spielworxx Announce Jointly the Publication of  Sola Fide: The Reformation by Jason Matthews & Christian Leonhard

The release of Sola Fide: The Reformation timed for the 500th Anniversary of The Reformation

New Jersey, USA and Billerbeck, Germany – August 8, 2016 –  Stronghold Games and Spielworxx are proud to announce jointly the publication of Sola Fide: The Reformation, a game designed by the renowned game design team of Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard.

In Sola Fide: The Reformation, one player takes on the role of the Protestant movement, while the other plays the Catholic establishment. Players attempt to install Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire or try to prevent it, battling the Holy Roman Empire’s Imperial Circles. The game does not have a game board per say, but rather has 10 board tiles, each representing one of the Imperial Circles. Via card play, the two players try to win these ten Imperial Circles, each of which are worth 5 or 7 points. The game is for 2-players, ages 12+, and plays in 45 minutes.

Sola FideSola Fide: The Reformation faithfully tracks the Reformation, which Martin Luther started in 1517 with his “Ninety-Five Theses”. Luther criticized the selling of indulgences and that the Catholic doctrine of the merits of the saints had no foundation in the gospel. The “Protestants” soon incorporated doctrinal changes such as Sola Scriptura (“by scripture alone”) and Sola Fide (“by faith alone”).

The changes were not only theological, but also other factors played a role in The Reformation: the rise of nationalism, the Western Schism that eroded people’s faith in the Papacy, the perceived corruption of the Roman Curia, the impact of humanism, and the new learning of the Renaissance that questioned much of traditional thought. The Roman Catholic Church responded with a Counter-Reformation initiated by the Council of Trent.

The release of Sola Fide: The Reformation is timed with the 500th Anniversary in 2017 of The Reformation. Stronghold Games and Spielworxx commissioned the great game design team of Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard to work specifically on this project. Matthews and Leonhard are foremost game design experts on historical games, previously designing 1960: The Making of the President, Founding Fathers, and Campaign Manager 2008. Jason Matthews also co-designed the critically acclaimed 1989: Dawn of Freedom, as well as Twilight Struggle, which is the #2 ranked game on Board Game Geek.

The release of Sola Fide: The Reformation continues the strategic partnership between Stronghold Games and Spielworxx, which was announced in December 2014, whereby Stronghold Games and Spielworxx would partner on select game releases.

Sola Fide

Sola Fide: The Reformation is scheduled for release to the general public in late October/November 2016. The MSRP for this game has not been set at this time. The game will make its debut at the Essen Spiel in Germany in October 2016.

Stronghold Games will release Sola Fide: The Reformation as the sixth game in its “The Great Designers Series”, which highlights games from the best game designers in the world.

About Stronghold Games

Stronghold Games LLC is a publisher of high-quality board and card games in the hobby game industry. Since 2009, Stronghold Games has released many highly-regarded games, including the best-selling “Survive: Escape From Atlantis!”, the most innovative deck-building game, “Core Worlds”, the smash-hit game line of “Space Cadets”, and many others. Stronghold Games publishes game designs developed both in-house and in partnership with publishers around the world. Stronghold Games is a Limited Liability Company formed in the State of Delaware USA.

About Spielworxx

Spielworxx was founded in 2010 in Germany and publishes cutting-edge board and card games for the gaming gourmet.

Contacts:

Stephen M. Buonocore, President

Stephen@StrongholdGames.com

Stronghold Games LLC

17 Sunflower Road

Somerset, NJ 08873 USA

Website: http://www.StrongholdGames.com

Phone: +1-908-304-5711

 

Uli Blennemann, President

uli@spielworxx.de

Spielworxx

Nielande 12

48727 Billerbeck

Germany

Website: http://www.spielworxx.de

Phone: +49-2543-9309107

Session Review: Imhotep from Phil Walker-Harding & KOSMOS

Session Review: Imhotep from Phil Walker-Harding & KOSMOS

Imhotep is a welcome addition to our gateway games collection, but I almost missed out on it. My first play was fine, but I was underwhelmed. This SDJ nominee was my final game of the day at an event last month. I had wanted to try out this title that was going to challenge Codenames for the Spiel Des Jahres and only spotted it late in the day. I had faith in the possibility that it could take on Vlaada Chvatil’s effortlessly wonderful party game because I’m a fan of Phil Walker-Harding‘s other games like Sushi Go!, Archaeology, Pack of Heroes, and Cacao. The game was loaned to me from another party who waited until I played before mentioning that he felt similarly (good, not great), suggesting that maybe the nomination was an Academy Award-style ‘make up for a previous snub’ to console the open wound of the excellent Cacao missing the cut. I nodded in agreement before taking off that night.

I was wrong. Imhotep deserved the nomination and the adoration of the SDJ jury. This is a very good game that I’ve now played nine times. Despite my first impression, I bought the game to play during our summertime game-cation (where we always sample the SDJ and KDJ nominees ahead of the announcements). I was impressed with the delight the newcomers experienced playing it and I how much enjoyed exploring the nuances of the game.

Imhotep Basics

Gameplay is straightforward and seems familiar, as with many great games. Players are trying to score points and win by placing stones on boats and delivering them to ports that let them score in various ways. This is done six times, with some scoring happening immediately, some happening at the end of the round, and the bulk of points coming at the end. The game has an old-school euro feel and I sense the strong influence of Michael Schacht, the master of minimalist designs that have incredible depth.

To play, you give your two to four players a pile of colored blocks and a sled tile that holds up to five stones at a time, select round cards based on the number of players you have, and then set up the modular port boards you opt to use. The port boards have two sides, with side A featuring ‘beginner’ options with simpler rules. There are also boats with one to four slots, four of which (in some combination of slots) you’ll bring up based on the round card. Each turn, players decide between three options: add up to three blocks from the player’s general supply to their sled, add a block to a boat from the sled, or sail a boat with enough blocks to a port for activation.

Imhotep

Four boats are available each round and they only can be sailed when one fewer than the number they will handle have been placed on them (pointless clarification: yes, the one-block boat needs a block). At that point, any player (whether or not they have a block on the boat) can sail it into a port. This is important because players can send a boat into a port that doesn’t help the players with blocks on it very much. Managing this narrow range of choices still makes for interesting decisions, even if it doesn’t sound that intriguing just reading the gameplay mechanisms.

There are five ports and only four boats, so one is skipped each round of play. Furthermore, fewer blocks can reach those ports if players send them early so there’s definitely some dynamics around whether players opt to play offensively or defensively. The ports resolve as the boats were loaded, with blocks at the front resolving first. In some cases, this gives that player first choice; on other ports, it just means their block goes into place first – sometimes to their frustration.

The ports are the way players score, but they work differently.

  • The Market lets players choose from a set of mostly face-up cards (the B side has facedown cards), which gives them various immediate or future chances to act or score. The blue cards are an effective way to do double actions, the red ones let you place a block into one of the other ports immediately, the purple are award set collecting points, and the green ones are end of game bonuses for the performance of other ports.
  • The Temple scores at the end of each round, with spaces for five blocks. The interesting bit here is that this option delivers points for the blocks viewable from above. Thus, blocks placed early can score over and over – and new blocks ruin this plan.
  • The Pyramid scores points immediately, but the loading order is a factor because different spaces provide different point rewards.
  • The Burial Chamber and the Obelisk ports both score competitively at the end. The former is pattern-based and loading order is a big deal, while the latter is a raw comparison on side A and a timing/commitment game on side B.

While the side A cards are ‘for beginners’, there is no reason for gamers to not begin with the side B variants. They are a trifle more complicated, but they also make the game better. Players sail the four boats six times before a winner is declared. With experienced players, it’s a satisfying thirty minutes.

Imhotep’s Modular Rules

Much has been made of Friedemann Friese’s 504, a game that takes rules variations to the extreme. Imhotep has some possibilities here but it’s done in a simpler way. Dominion popularized the inspiration from older games like Cosmic Encounter for modern euro games. Indeed, you can see a Dominion inspiration in the way Imhotep’s designer expanded his hit game Sushi Go! for Sushi Go Party (see my adoring review of that game here).

Imhotep

With Imhotep, the game’s central mechanism allows for new ports to be plugged in that score block placement in different ways. The flipside variants on the backside reminded me of Antoine Bauza, who famously mentioned on my podcast that one of his publishers, Repos Productions, encourages this strongly – suggesting it’s otherwise a waste of the back of cardboard. I happen to agree; this feature allows for varied play via selection or random options. I can only assume Walker-Harding is cooking up additional ports for expected expansions of the game. Heck, we designed a couple on the spot last time we played.

The Final Word on Imhotep

Imhotep is a well-designed, interesting game that I’m glad is on our shelves. I do think gamers will enjoy it more if they play the B variants or some combination of A and B. Some longtime players may feel like they have enough gateway games but, like Hanging Gardens, Carcassonne, Kingdom Builder and even Schacht’s own Zooloretto, it fills a useful spot in a collection. Imhotep is also good enough to delight experienced gamers who enjoy a super-filler with a 90’s euro feel.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Imhotep

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Press Release: Dized is an effortless way to learn board games

Press Release: Dized is an effortless way to learn board games

As the world of board games is expanding and becoming more versatile, one element hasn’t changed with the times the rulebook. To tackle this issue the Finnish publisher Playmore Games is releasing Dized, a smart device application that will be the friend at the table teaching you how to play board games.

Dized is an interactive tutorial app for board games, and with it players can start playing the games immediately out of the box. The tutorial keeps track of what the players have learned and teaches only relevant information. It also answers any questions players might have about the game.

“I personally can’t think of a more important concept for the board gaming industry right now. We’ve been planning Dized_logo_icon-300pxDized for two years now and gotten into full speed with the development this year. We have a dedicated software studio building the application and we’ve recruited several new team members for the project,” explains CEO Jouni Jussila. Players had the chance to see the application for the first time at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in the first week of June. This preview version is built to host one board game, with more games to follow later on.

Dized will be crowdfunded later this year with the aim to develop the tools further so that any developers and publishers can build their own interactive tutorials.

“Our goal is that in a few years the library of tutorials in Dized will be so vast, that no matter which game you pick from your shelf, you can just skip the manual and start playing immediately. Just like in video games, in the future you will not need to read a manual to start playing”, says product manager Anna Lapinsh.

Players can try out the tutorials on their own iOS and Android devices later this year as a demo version will be released before Gen Con in August.

Playmore Games invites everyone to come check out Dized at booth A9 at the UK Games Expo to see the next board game revolution begin.

Further information: CEO Jouni Jussila, +358 46 9200 885
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