New Year’s Resolutions and 2018 Snaps

New Year’s Resolutions and 2018 Snaps

Boardgaming has been in my blood forever and I’ve been in the hobby seriously since the early 80’s, but grew up on card games with the family even as a toddler. This deep into the hobby, exploring it further is part and parcel with staying engaged. All this time in, I’ve lost none of my love for the hobby but 2018 brought about some great things and lousy things, too.

In looking back, I usually like to review my resolutions and plays. I usually set two to three per year but take it easy. They are to direct things, not to be painfully rigid.

1) Play 100 New Games – I’ve done this for more than 10 years and it’s always fun. In the last two years, I’ve hit the number early on (game conventions help) and cruised well above the value while focusing on my other resolution. This will take place again in 2019.

2) Play 300 Different Games – Well, I failed at this one. I will end up topping out at around 240. But I will try again next year because I love a variety of games to play. With my 100 new ones, that means I can go 200 deep into owned games as well. This helps with managing the collection because some of those games get a final tryout and then off to the flea market or trade pile. So, I will attempt this again in 2019.

3) NEW RESOLUTION: Play all 100 of my top games. Late in December, someone started this funny thing of ‘If I could only keep 7 games.’ I don’t know what kind of crazy world that is, but I don’t want any part of it! Someone online asked me how many could I limit myself to…and I said 100. So, I tweeted out my 100 game list. I will play all of them this year to make sure they deserve their spot on the list.

Quick Review of the Overall Play List

Full disclosure: I record electronic plays, regardless of whether my opponents are carbon or silicon based. This is because the experience of the play still exists in my mind so trying to invalidate those plays like they don’t exist is not useful to me. If you told someone you’d never played Race for the Galaxy because you had never played it FTF, but you’d played Keldon’s brilliant app 1,000 times, that’s not an accurate depiction of your experience at all.

Quarters

Ganz Schon Clever – 32 plays (most iOS) – I hit the 300 mark on this meaty roll-and-write, then stopped playing. GSC has an addictive quality and I’ll admit many plays were after I said, “Oh, just one more play.” I narrowly missed acquiring the game over the holiday in a gift exchange so I’m not sure it will ever make the jump off iOS onto my shelf. What a year Wolfgang Warsch had with this game, The Mind, Illusions and The Quacks of Quedlinburg. Glad someone liked 2018!

Spite & Malice – 32 plays (all iOS) – A go-to train game while I am listening to books on tape. I can play this simple game with minimal attention and I haven’t truly tired of it yet. Spite is a perfect two-screen companion, I say.

Cribbage – 27 plays (most iOS) – Cribbage was the game I most played with my Dad and this year, I played it with my son (first time) and on iOS a lot because I lost my Dad in late January. I am writing up a separate note about Cribbage, my dad and me to come out in January.

Almost Dimes and Quarters

Glass Road – 22 plays (most iOS) – I love this Uwe Rosenberg game. In a fast-playing game that lasts 35-45 with experienced players, there is a lot of game. I have the out-of-production app on my old iPad but no longer on my phone so I expect my Glass Road plays will drop. I guess I will drop this number in 2019. That just means it will need to hit the table more often (it’s on my Top 100 Games List).

The Game – 21 plays (all iOS) – Another mindless game that I play on the train with an audiobook. That makes a 25 minute train ride feel like 5 minutes. Probably fewer plays in 2019 because Spite & Malice and Love Letter are more popular with me now.

Unpublished Prototype – 21 plays recorded (probably a lot more) – This tapered off in the latter half of the year due to sheer busy times. I expect it to pop back up in the New Year with some help from my buddy Ta-Te Wu.

Ascension – 18 plays – Another book companion that I can play on the train. The UGLY new update probably killed this one for me, which I’d say was an addiction before. While I deeply dislike what they did to the game’s UI, I’m kind of grateful so I could open up and play more different games.

Dungeons and Dragons – 17 plays – The headline for my 2018 gaming is my return to RPGs after nearly 30 years (last played seriously in 1989). This infringed on the board games a bit, but it made my son and friends very happy – and, thus, me. More on this in a separate post. Now is a great time to get back in, by the way, as Amazon has the $50 main books on sale for $20. It’s like the 80’s again!

The Mind – 15 plays – All in person and probably would have been higher if we’d not misplaced my copy. Will be high in 2019 as well. This game intrigues all of the people to whom I introduce it and I feel like it’ll get more attention in the future. I still agree that Azul deserved that SDJ win, but The Mind is a keeper.

Codenames – 14 plays – This might be higher because I tend to record for a session, but Codenames remains a wonderful pre-gateway party games. And with my homebrew holiday editions hitting (and one especially for my company), we’ll always play some number of Codenames games. My wife also got Codenames Harry Potter for Christmas and that will surely come out soon.

One Deck Dungeon – 14 plays (all iOS) – This is an attractive iOS game, much more enjoyable than playing the game in person, which I found fiddly. But I expect to buy the DLC for this one in 2019 and keep playing it as a pleasant second-screener. This is definitely the case (also with Friday, another high-play game for me) where I think the app experience beats the physical game hands-down – if purely on administration.

Azul – 9 plays – I’m surprised this isn’t higher. Azul is a wonderful old-school euro with gorgeous pieces that I’d always enjoy playing. No surprise it came from a master like Michael Kiesling, who also had one amazing year with the glorious Heaven and Ale. We also have the new version, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, which is a pleasant variant but won’t replace the original.

Four Against Darkness – 7 plays – Another sign of the return to playing more RPG-style games. I was intrigued by this solo-style game that you play and also draw out as a kind of art project.

Terraforming Mars – 7 plays – Well, it’s just a great game. Yes, the graphics are wonky. Yes, it’s swingy on luck and the variants are too numerous. But is there any more compelling theme? Not for this lover of science fiction and space travel. I even read Red Mars, the book that inspired the game, this year, with plans to hit the other two in the series in 2019 (it’s really hard-SF for those who might consider it).

Simon’s Cat – 7 plays – This simple game caught my attention after buying it on clearance. I didn’t know the charming cat-based web series, but it had a cat and it was cheap. As a pleasant, light trick-taking game, Simon’s Cat is a winner. It helps that Liam, one of the charming sons of my good friend, took a liking to it and he’s made sure Simon’s Cat is on the list for each game day. That’s always a welcome request.

Summing it up

I’ll be honest – I wish I’d played more heavy games this year. I wish I’d played more games head-to-head with my son, who is now away at college during the week. I wish I’d had more time to spend on game design. But 2018 was the hardest year of my life, in terms of loss, profession, and immediate family needs. I’ve forgiven myself for those things I didn’t get done this year and achieving board game goals is the easiest of the lot. As I used to say on the podcast, it’s only a game. That’s one thing I really love about this part of my life.

Yes, board gamers compete and play hard. But considered how much of the rest of my life has stakes that are ridiculously high, this hobby (and my reading) is the place where I can just have fun and spend time with people I like. It’s the way I refuel for the hard stuff. It’s the best method of relaxation and while some might feel the stress of gameplay, this is all good stress for me. Thank goodness for boardgames, I say – and for a New Year in which to work, love, achieve and – definitely – play.

Happy New Year! May your 2019 be grand! – EB

5 Quick Questions About Arcane Alley with Corwin Riddle

5 Quick Questions About Arcane Alley with Corwin Riddle

Arcane Alley is a new game from Strange Space Games, now on Kickstarter until November 29th.

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. People seem to love our interviewette for tabletop designers that is a quick read. We promise no TL;DR. Let’s see how Corwin Riddle, designer of the new game Arcane Alley does, shall we?

BGB: Attention is money, my friend! What is the elevator pitch for Arcane Alley?

Corwin: Oh boy, this combines my two biggest fears—heights and answering under pressure. I assume it’s too late to hit the STOP button?

Arcane Alley is a light tableau and collection card game for aspiring wizard merchants trying make a fortune on the black magic market. Sell sets of infamous enchanted items for gold while keeping an eye on the competition and getting rid of any evidence before the alley is inspected.

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

Corwin: For the mechanics, my friends and I were playing a lot of 9-card Golf and just wished it were more complicated, while still keeping some of the set collection and the idea of not wanting your cards, which is pretty unique in tableau games.

At first, I tried really hard not to make a new game! I was adding mechanics to the existing game, and then more, and finally I threw my hands up in frustration, cursed the heavens, and shouted: “Fine! I’ll become a game designer!” I didn’t witness it personally but I can assume there was almost immediately a thunderous bolt of lightning somewhere, in the distance.

As for the theme, once I knew these things (cards) would be unwanted and removed during the game, it made sense to have them be some kind of illegal goods. I went through a few different “normal” black market ideas, and one day my friends and I were just joking about it being wizards—these powerful, enigmatic, educated masters—selling their enchanted collections for gold in a back alley, and that was that.

I called it “Wizard Wares” at first, going so far as to have a logo for it, but there are too many things with the word “wizard” in it on the internet, so here we are in Arcane Alley.

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

Corwin: This fills the hole of having a great game for groups with varying levels of gaming experience.

It works for any group, but if you have a few casual gamers and a few heavy gamers all together, and you don’t want to play Catan or a party game, then we’ve got your fix. Plus, it plays up to 6 players (up to 8, if we hit some stretch goals) and scales really well, so you can bust it out in larger groups if you’re tired of social deduction games and want a strategy game that doesn’t take forever.


It’s light and easy enough for casual players to learn without feeling overwhelmed, while being deep and interesting enough to keep serious gamers engaged. You can go for sets and not worry about maximizing every part of your storehouse, or you can plan turns ahead and set up combos to make the absolute most of every play.

And the art is beautiful! Think of how gorgeous it would look, sitting on your shelf. Until the inspectors arrive and confiscate it, of course. But until that moment—what a beauty!

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

Corwin: I spent easily half the time designing it working on the flavor text and visual jokes on the cards. The game is good, I promise, but now you know where my real priorities are.

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Arcane Alley! 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?

Corwin: Here you go:

Number of players: 2-6 (adding 7-8 players is one of the stretch goals)
Time: ~45 min
Ages: 10+
Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/strangespacegames/arcane-alley?ref=78e9rh

BGB JOKE TIME

And I don’t know about good, but this seems fitting:

Q: What kind of tests do wizards take in school?

A: Final HEX-ams

…that joke is banned in the alley and rightfully so. (Editor’s Note: Agreed.)

Want to read more of these 5 Quick Questions articles? Sure you do.

PRESS RELEASE: A Plus – A Game for Children with Autism Launches on Kickstarter

PRESS RELEASE: A Plus – A Game for Children with Autism Launches on Kickstarter

Alhambra, California – November 6, 2018 – Sunrise Tornado, the creative team behind the recently published Cat Rescue, presents A Plus, a project from the bottom of our hearts that will be ready to ship in time for Christmas. The campaign is just two weeks long so your early support is vital to help us reach our goal and get this game to families in time for the holidays.

A Plus is a 2 to 4 player cooperative card game designed to be a fun way to reinforce the value of social skills for children on the autism scale. With the help of an adult, players work together to complete a series of activities. At end of the game, players receive an A+ if they completed all six activities.

Designed by game designer Ta-Te Wu, a former teacher and psychology major, A Plus is a labor of love constructed with the ideas of helping children with autism through play. Ta-Te’s passion for education is strong, as he continues to teach painting and game design at various venues.

A Plus is available exclusively through this campaign. There is no plan for a retail release at this time. As a bonus, Sunrise Tornado is also offering some exclusives with the campaign. Fans of Cat Rescue, which sold out in one day at Essen Spiel 2018, can get a small expansion called The Carrier, with the basic A Plus pledge. More exclusively, a couple of copies of Ta-Te Wu’s upcoming game Promenade, are up for grabs for the first couple of people willing to pledge for this 2019 release.

A Plus

The modest goal of $1,000 and a quick two-week run to raise funds hopefully increases the chance the project will reach its goal so as to ensure that families that would enjoy and gain value from A Plus will surely get their copy in time for the winter holidays.

You can even see an early review from Team Nerd Church just below.

For more information, check out the campaign here and please consider sharing the campaign through social media to support this modest project with the hashtag #gamesforgood. Thank you for your support!

5 Quick Questions About Builders! with Tyler Omichinski

5 Quick Questions About Builders! with Tyler Omichinski

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. People seem to love our interviewette for tabletop designers that is a quick read. We promise no TL;DR. Let’s see how Tyler Omichinski, one of the designers of hot new game Builders! does, shall we?

BGB: Attention is money, my friend! What is the elevator pitch for Builders!?

Tyler: Builders! The Building-Building Deck Building game is a fun and fast paced game about competing to be the best construction company by any means necessary. Build a deck of employees, use them to construct zany floors in skyscrapers, and knock down the stuff your opponents have built.

Ed. Note: BGB fully endorses the amusing subtitle of this game.

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

Tyler: There were three main things that came together for this game.

One of the designers, Nat, is from the trades and loves deck builders. He pointed out that most construction games focus on the end result rather than the people involved in the process, so we worked to make that a reality.

This led into, once we were focusing on the people behind major projects like these, to ensure that it was inclusive. The industry is getting better for this sort of thing, but there are unfortunately still places that we can and need to get better, and the response we’ve been getting for this has been amazing.

Thirdly, most of our experience in game design is in RPGs or cooperative games, so we wanted to cut our teeth on something relatively light and accessible to get started on our own project.

The intersection of these three factors led to Builders!

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

Tyler: Probably the most likely spot to fill is an introductory deck-builder. It’s a good time (45 mins to an hour on average), has a lot of light-hearted humor, and has a good deal of depth to the mechanics without having a ton of them piling on the players, meaning that it isn’t intimidating. It’s a great in-between game, or the kind of thing that on a game-night you can run through a few times in a row.

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

Tyler: I mean, that there’s a 12 year old that we met at a con that can school every one of the designers and is probably the best player in the world is a bit embarrassing. That kid is amazing at card games!

Seriously though, there is a couple of small stories hidden within the cards that set up a series of small stories between the different characters. No one has caught on to it yet, and it was a thing that the art team crafted and we fell in love with.

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Builders! 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?

Tyler: Yeah! 2-4 players, MSPR is 19 USD, for ages 13+. It’s a good thing to bring more people into gaming, and there’s plenty of interaction between players. One of the best parts is that, invariably, almost every table starts taking pictures of the buildings they’ve constructed and giggling about the implications of, I dunno, a dragon hanging out underneath a goat on the roof. You can check it out here.

BGB JOKE TIME

As for a joke, we’re just saying that if you arrange all the occult floors in the game you summon our team into your living room. Be careful!

No, we can do better, what about… what’s the difference between Gloom and Monopoly? One is a game about destroying families, and the other is Gloom.


5 Quick Questions About Dice Summoners with Eoin Costelloe

5 Quick Questions About Dice Summoners with Eoin Costelloe

Editor’s Note: Continuing in our popular interviewette series for tabletop designers, we travel via blog post to Dublin to hear about Dice Summoners from the designer Eoin Costelloe. The game is now live on Kickstarter and nearly funded. But I promised no TL;DR so let’s get to it. We can get all we need to help you feel good about supporting Dice Summoners on Kickstarter with these 5 Quick Questions.

Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Dice Summoners?

Ever wondered what it would be like to pit a Triceratops against an angel warrior, or to fire a magic arrow at a charging zombie? Dice Summoners is a two player game that allows you to do just that. Roll dice, match them with cards, build your army and attack your opponent. It is a game that is quick to set up and quick to play, with high replayability and a mythological theme.

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

I’ve loved trading card games like Yu-Gi-Oh since I was kid. So when we thought of an idea to curb the randomness of a deck and replace it with dice, we couldn’t resist. We’ve played a lot of heavy strategy and heavy luck based games that we loved. We wanted to create a game that was a nice balance of both with some cool modern mechanics like a common pool of cards.

Dice Summoners

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

This game is fast and quick to play. We think there aren’t enough good two player games out there. This game is great for two people waiting for that friend who is always late for a game night. It has 44 interchangeable decks that make for hundreds of different versions you can play. It’s a painstakingly balanced game, meaning there are many different strategies that players can win with.

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

We nearly killed each other trying to make a 4 player version of this game because we just couldn’t get the balance right. We aren’t ruling out a 4 player down the line because we have some good ideas for it but we have some couples counseling to get through before we can start working on that version again.

Thanks for telling us a bit about Dice Summoners. 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?

Dice Summoners is a two player duel using cards and dice that plays in about 30 minutes for ages 14 and above. It’s aimed at players who want a light competitive card game with high replayability. The game has an engaging strategy using dice based action selection and an extensive variety of cards. Immerse yourself in it’s mythological theme as players deplete their enemy’s health to win the battle.


Our Kickstarter is now live so check us out and consider backing us.https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/870869293/dice-summoners
And if board game development doesn’t work out, I think I’ll become an optician. People will say it’s a bad idea but they’ll see. They’ll all see.

Just love these 5 Quick Questions things? There are more here.

PRESS RELEASE: Penny Arcade to release THE MAGIC HOUR, a travelogue-style web series featuring Magic: The Gathering

PRESS RELEASE: Penny Arcade to release THE MAGIC HOUR, a travelogue-style web series featuring Magic: The Gathering

REDMOND, WA – Sept. 17, 2018 – Penny Arcade will debut the first episode of THE MAGIC HOUR, a new show where Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins meet companions old and new over friendly games of Magic: The Gathering, on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. 


Over the course of six 15-minute episodes, Mike and Jerry greet, befriend, and compete with special guests, including media presenter Anna Prosser-Robinson, Twitch streamer DisguisedToast, games media personality Morgan Webb, WWE Superstar Tyler Breeze, and more.THE MAGIC HOUR focuses primarily on how players can find and build relationships over a game of “MTG,” while featuring new and/or unreleased cards and expansions from the massively popular game. 


The show will air exclusively on Penny Arcade’s YouTube channel and release content weekly on Thursdays, alternating between the full 15-minute episodes and bonus content pieces or “minisodes” featuring the guest from the previous week.

About Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade is a web comic focused on video games and video game culture, written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. With over 3.5 million readers, it is the most popular and longest-running gaming webcomic online. Penny Arcade is also responsible for the Child’s Play Charity, the Penny Arcade gaming expos (PAX) in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Melbourne, multiple video games based on the brand, and several online video series.

About Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering is a fantasy trading card game published in eleven languages and sold in 70+ countries. Tens of millions of fans around the world collect cards, build their own decks with them, and play as a powerful spellcaster in casual and competitive events. 

About Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS), is the leader in entertaining the lifestyle gamer. Wizards’ players and fans are members of a global community bound together by their love of both digital gaming and in-person play. The company brings to market a range of gaming experiences under powerful brand names such as Magic: The Gathering,Dungeons & Dragons, and Avalon Hill.

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.

View all my Goodread reviews and become my reading friend

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…

iOS Review: Hardback by Tim Fowers

iOS Review: Hardback by Tim Fowers

Hardback is the delightful sequel to Paperback, the deckbuilding word game from always-interesting designer Tim Fowers. This is a sequel worth having 

As a second-generation bibliophile, I do love games with a book theme. I had the pleasure of playtesting Tim Fowers’ delightful Paperback (which originally had a longer title that might have gotten him in trouble with The Beatles’ record company) so I knew this excellent twist on the deckbuilder genre was going to be a hit.

While I like the physical game, in iOS form, Paperback is one of my most-played games. The game captures the wonderful feel of Scrabble with the clever mechanisms of deckbuilding optimization. This is a tight design that delights this wordsmith. I really enjoy coming up with the best word for the letters I’m dealt.

With that in mind, I was delighted to hear that Tim decided to return to the concepts of Paperback with a sequel. The game takes the deckbuilder concept and refines it to give the game a different, more open feel.

Hardback versus Paperback

Hardback plays like Paperback on a basic level. You are building words with the cards you draw in deckbuilder-style (if you’re reading this blog, I’m going say, you get it.) Points are scored by playing letter formed into words that give you enough money to buy additional letters that may have special powers. While the letters are in rows (Ascension-style), you can also buy victory point cards that act as wild cards and big words get you a bonus card once in a while. Also appealing: your change can be used to ‘Buy Ink.’ This lets you flip cards without losing their benefit. No more leftover change with no value, which was a gripe with Paperback.

The difference is that Hardback lets you turn every card into a wild card if you would like to do so. This gives you a lot more opportunity to come up with the words you really want to create. But it’s not a free-for-all or something. Turning the individual cards into wilds actually sacrifices the benefits of the card, which may be gaining cash to buy more cards or it might be awarding victory points.

Hardback

Genre Cards

Hardback also includes Genre cards, much like the faction cards in Clank!, are cards that interact with each other when you have more of them. Thus, having more Horror or Mystery cards in your word will get you some bonuses, as stated on the cards. So, instead of a restriction based on only the letters you have, your choices are about what you sacrifice to get the right combination of letters and benefits. As much as I love Paperback, this is a really interesting implementation of the original concept.

Hardback played solo has the same addictive quality of Paperback. As much as I can enjoy the game in person with other players, like Dominion, it’s really competitive solitaire. Thus, they both work better (for me) as solitaire experiences. The gameplay is compelling and it’s one of those peanut games (i.e., you can’t play just once).

Graphic Design Challenges

If I have a complaint about Hardback, it’s that the digital version is rough on the eyes. While I admire the excellent artwork of Ryan Goldsberry, whose delightful visions have appeared in all of Tim Fowers’ games, Hardback feels like a slight misfire from the logo page onward. While his development of the snappy style of Paperback takes the feel backward in time, it has also gained an ornate look that makes it hard to read.

Capturing the mood of the different book genres with different fonts is a good idea. Yet, in practice, it makes the game look less appealing. Some of the genre fonts (the Romance font is probably the worst) are hard enough to see on my iPhone 7 Plus that I’ve bought a different letter just to avoid it. The flashy letters are even less appealing when contrasted with the tiny size of the iconography (including the Flip spot).

The cards aren’t the only problem. The game has so many fonts elsewhere that are hard on the eyes as well, including the Submit button that is on a kind of flag or something and the various stylized but oddly large card names elsewhere. Worse, the score marker is so subtle that I didn’t notice it at all my first game. When you do notice it, it’s hard to tell numbers – you can just basically say you are winning or losing. That’s fine for me, but players with a more pointed need for precise will suffer at the colorful and perhaps overly-stylized score tracker.

The Final Word

Hardback is a delightful offshoot of the original Paperback that absolutely deserves a spot on your shelf. As a solo game players on you mobile device, it’s a winning title that well suits my ask that games be playable in a 5-8 minute timeframe. This is about as long as I want to really hold the device while playing. Longer games are fun but I need to use the iPad for them.

Lovely but squinty art aside, Hardback is a winner. The game is definitely worth the money to add this compelling little word game to your digital collection. Here’s hoping that Softcover, eBook, or perhaps Limited Edition is the name of the inevitable third game in Fowers’ trilogy.

Hardback is available now for download to your iOS device.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Hardback

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

Disclosure: A complimentary copy of the app was provided by the publisher for independent review.

Review: Thanos Rising by USAOPOLY

Review: Thanos Rising by USAOPOLY

Thanos Rising is a winning cooperative game for 2-4 players that has garnered BGB’s highest rating. Read on to learn more:

Gamers, both video gamers as well as board gamers, have been disappointed for so many years so many times when a great movie or TV show gets turned into a terrible play experience.

As somebody who worked in the video game industry for many years and made games for many Disney properties, I know that there are additional challenges that are faced when you have to work with a licensed product. Sometimes you don’t know the exact story and you still have to make a game anyway. At other times there are restrictions put into place by the IP holders. Yet sometimes it’s just a lazy publisher or designer figuring they don’t need to work that hard because the property is so popular. This happens A LOT, particularly with one publisher in particular.

Thank goodness this didn’t happen with USAopoly’s enjoyable, thematic Thanos Rising.

Thanos Rising
What’s the big deal, scrotum-chin? I’m holding them in my BARE HAND.

I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say that Avengers: Infinity War was a great cinematic experience. I’m baffled by the naysayers (presumably DC fanboys and people who just hate fun). I call myself a fan but not raging fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of the films are fantastic, others definitely fall short of that description. I was never a serious comic book reader but I’m impressed with the way Marvel has put out fairly consistent films in the last 10 years and Infinity War is probably the best of the lot. So I came to this game wanting to enjoy it and, frankly, a little fearful that it would fall short. I’m glad to say that didn’t happen.

Taking on the Mad Titan

Thanos Rising is a cooperative game that plays in about 45 minutes with 2 to 4 players playing on a three space board around an awesome Thanos statue. Players take on the role of a leading Marvel character who’s responsible for gathering at team of heroes and defeating villains (your pick of Captain America, Black Panther, Gamora or Dr. Strange). Thanos himself is far too powerful to actually defeat so you aren’t going to be asked to actually take down the mad titan in the game. Instead, you win the game by defeating seven or more of his villains while working to save and recruit other heroes to your team.

Thanos Rising

That’s the only way to win the game, but there are three different ways you can lose. First, Thanos can defeat 10 heroes in the game with his strikes that happen before each player around. Two, he can defeat any one of the players entirely by wiping out their team. Lastly, he can collect all six of the Infinity Stones. I am fond of the deep theming here and how it adds tension to the game.

Roll For The Multiverse

The narrative of the game is created through a series of die rolls each turn, in the style of many cooperative games where the players and the game each get a turn. In Thanos Rising, the big purple baddie goes first, with two die rolls determining his progress on collection of an Infinity Stone and some other element. For the stones, he needs to roll that same one five times and then he gets the stone, making future rolls for that stone cause grief for the heroes. The latter die has him an attack heroes, activate villains or make another step towards acquiring a stone.

Player turns are quick but provide simple options about how to contain Thanos. You deploy to one of the places on the board and then get your own dice to roll and act. You begin with a few dice depending on your character and you can improve your dice pool by acquiring other heroes. In this way, the game borrows a bit from Quarriors, a game I thought was a good idea that never really worked as well as I would have liked. To acquire a hero, you need to roll the right icons on your dice.

We Have A Hulk

Bigger heroes like the Hulk or Iron Man are tougher than pushovers like Hawkeye, so it behooves you to acquire the easier ones first. With three cards in each vector, there is bound to be someone who can help, especially since many of the characters are complementary. This is maybe the heart of the design working; USAopoly’s design team didn’t cop out and just say, “They’ll want to acquire Black Widow because Scarlett Johansson is on the card.” Instead, they made the abilities make sense for the character. This is not too much to ask, but it is often overlooked by lazy people who spend a lot of money on licensed games.

Back to it – so, if you recruit heroes, they add to your team in the future, offering you their special ability. These can range from extra dice to special powers to affect the collection of the Infinity Stones. It is definitely worth adding to your team and discussing with the other players which hero should join which team.

There is another reason to recruit heroes. When Thanos hits a vector, he hits all the heroes there waiting to be recruited. If they die, they are out of the game and that helps Thanos win. If you recruit damaged villains, you get them back at full power. Thus, it makes sense to let them take a little fire and then pull them out before they are defeated…if you can do it. I really like this factor that makes you take chances with the heroes’ lives.

Say Goodbye To The Villains

The other main option is to defeat villains from Thanos’ team (since you can’t just knock Thanos Risingout the guy himself). Similar to the way you recruit, you use your dice to roll enough to defeat the villains. Some are generic villains you can knock off with one or two rolls. Others need enough firepower that you had better recruit some help before you go. There is a very real gameplay reason to defeat them, too. When they activate, their abilities range from annoying to devastating. So, that element may play into which ones you target. You also get bonus tokens when beating villains, which helps motivate their defeat (against endlessly adding to your team).

As I said, this is also how you win the game and you can set the difficulty of the game for between 7 and 10 villains to defeat to win. Experienced gamers will want to set it high for a real challenge. I like the easy variability of that setting, which calls back to Pandemic, one of the classics in the genre of cooperative games.

We have played Thanos Rising a half dozen times and it has been tense and fun each play. The richness of the character collection weighing against the villains containment and the stone gathering is just right for a game that plays in 45 minutes. Like the best thematic games from films (looking at you, Star Wars: Rebellion), Thanos Rising unfolds like your own version of a story you enjoyed. We expect to play it for many years to come.

End Game

Look, if you are a Warner Brothers apologist that tries to convince your friends that the DC movies aren’t THAT bad just because Gal Godot is magnificent as Wonder Woman (she really is), you may not like Thanos Rising for reasons that have nothing to do with this very fine game.

But if you’re one of the zillions who loved Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, this is a worthy addition to your game collection. Thanos Rising is snappy cooperative game that will engage with both theme and nice design touches that keep the game clean. This is on a shelf with go-to games this year. I expect it to make my dime list for sure.

The components are solid, with quality cards and all but it is that massive, cool Thanos figure that makes this production. We love it so much, it’s on a coveted shelf in our game library.

Thanos Rising

Thanos Rising has been a huge hit with our gaming group, from casual gamers to serious folks that saw it as a pleasant super-filler. The game has staying power, I’m sure. Here’s hoping that USA-opoly gives us an expansion when Avengers: End Game comes out.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Thanos Rising

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