5 Quick Questions about Civil Unrest from Upstart Games

5 Quick Questions about Civil Unrest from Upstart Games

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. So, here’s a new interviewette for tabletop designers. We promise no TL;DR. Let’s see how Upstart Games, publisher of Civil Unrest (coming to Kickstarter soon) does, shall we?

BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Civil Unrest:

Upstart: Civil Un-rest is a strategic board game with miniatures. (The game) takes place in an alternate modern-day fantasy world where magic and technology have been combined. Players take control of law enforcement or political activists who are trying to take control of Three Circle City, a place where all fantasy races are welcomed but have not been able to get along peacefully.

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

Upstart: I began creating this game in my college days. The funny thing is, during the game’s conception back in the early 1990’s, I believed that political movements becoming waring factions willing to commit acts of violence was a thing of parody. Now, unfortunately, it has become a reality. It is my sincere hope (that) by creating this satirical alternate reality, people can gain some perspective on political violence.

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

Upstart: I believe the miniatures are unique, but also can be great proxies for other games. The game is a fast-paced miniatures game, which is rare. Also, it’s satirical theme (that) can be a conversation starter.

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

Upstart: Well, there are no good guys in this game. Though Civil Unrest is political in nature, the game itself does not paint any one side as good or bad. So, if you are sensitive about politics you may want to skip this one.

Thanks for telling us a bit about Civil Unrest. 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?

Upstart: 2 Players, play time is between 30 to 60 minutes. Right now, all I have is a Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/upstartgames/

JOKE TIME

Upstart: My day time gig is IT so here goes:

A Network Tech walks into the doctor’s offices and says, “Doc it hurts when IP…”

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

Check out the promo video:

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Spiel Des Jahres 2015 Comments

Spiel Des Jahres 2015 Comments

xlogoFirst, congratulations to all the nominees and recommended titles. I’m glad the Spiel Des Jahres continues to be a source of promotion for the hobby, even if it rarely is considered the ultimate arbiter of quality by serious gamers. The inclusion of the Kennerspiel (Complex Game) category is certainly welcome but even there, serious gamers have had some issues with the jury’s definition of ‘complex.’

But let’s get to our story – like many of you, I was watching closely for reports of the Spiel Des Jahres 2015 nominees last week and was excited to see that two of the nominees were games on my radar that I’d pegged as likely nominees. Conveniently enough, I have played all three games and I’ve acquired them so I can play them with my old group of friends who take a game holiday in early July. We love to get our own comparison going and then see what the Spiel Des Jahres jury decides. So, what are the nominees?

Colt Express

This amusing train robbery game has 2-6 players battling out to be the most successful Colt Express Board Gamethief on a 3-D train you construct. Players program cards from a fixed personal deck into a central deck (like one of my favorites – Mamma Mia and other similar games) that is then resolved in order, with players hoping that whatever they programmed goes off as expected – which is often not the case due to the action of the others. Players steal gems from the various trains, shoot each other to place space-filling bullets into the decks, and try to lure the Marshall over to hit their opponents.

Colt Express gets some criticism for a lack of control but gamers will want to immediately graduate to the ‘advanced rules’ which let you cycle through your cards rather than having a completely random draw each turn (making it possible for players to have almost no turn at all). I think the designer made a mistake in not calling this the normal game. While the basic rules are easier, I can see how people could be hugely frustrated by it.

On components alone, Colt Express would have a good shot. But based on the fun of the game, its approachability (we played it with a third-grader and he almost won), and the seeming interest in this theme lately, I feel like Colt Express is the front-runner. It’s available now through Amazon.

The Game

This title from the same designer of Qwixx was the surprise on the short-list for me. While, like the Oscars, the same designers seem to get an increased shot at the big awards if they previously missed them, I thought Qwixx was a fun game but didn’t expect it to earn the designer, Steffan Benndorf, another go at the big time. But here it is.pic2405167_md

The Game is funny to me in that the comparisons to Hanabi make me think maybe he decided to build his own version of the game that edged him out of his big moment. Could be – there are some elements of similarity for sure; player collaboratively discard/play cards to stacks. But the closer comparison is probably 23, a pleasant little game which plays quicker and competitively. Players discard cards (ranked 2 to 99) to one of four stacks, two of which are ascending from 1 and two of which are descending from 100. Play one per turn from a hand and the twist is that if you get a card exactly 10 higher/lower than the top card on a stack, you can play it going the opposite way (i.e., play 49 on 59 for an ascending stack). That’s about it. Also, the art is grim/dark and feels kind of odd for such a light family-style game (which should have probably kept it out of the running for the SDJ).

With those in mind, I find The Game to be only okay and I think it’s a long-shot at best to win (unless the politics of giving the award to a smaller, independent publisher win out. The Game is kind of hard to get (and to find on BGG…just search for “The Game” and “Kannst”) at the moment but I got my own copy from TimeWellSpent Games.

Machi Koro

This little dice-rolling, city-builder is the one I have had for the longest. I’ve played it many times and have also invested in the Harbor expansion, which many gamers insist is necessary to properly enjoy the game. While I agree that the basic game grows old quickly, even the Harbor expansion has its own problems. But if you play with the Harbor expansion and a variant that gives you one row of 1-6 cards and a second one of Machi Koro Spiel Des Jahres7+ (also limiting the often annoying ‘6’ cards to one per player), Machi Koro is a lot of fun. As you can see, even our cat gets into it.

Machi Koro‘s chances are solid but I think Colt Express will likely take the prize on pure component fun. Some have suggested that awarding Machi Koro makes sense because it would acknowledge the wonderful microgame revolution coming out of Japan right now. I think the way to award that would have been tossing it to Love Letter but Machi is more the style of the Spiel Des Jahres.

Still, Machi is a bunch of cards and a couple of dice. Colt Express has freaking 3-D trains and Banditeeeples. It’s going to be tough to beat. You can buy Machi Koro on Amazon right now. Also, I strongly recommend the Harbor expansion – also available on Amazon immediately.

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What do I think belonged in that spot for The Game?

Cacao from Sushi Go designer Phil Walker-Harding seems like the most obvious choice. It’s a pleasant gateway game with a nice theme, good components (though nothing eye-popping like Colt’s 3-D train or last year’s winner Camel Up with it’s dice-pooping pyramid), and family-friendly theme and feel.

I would have loved to have seen Bezier Games’ One Night Ultimate Werewolf in there, too. Although this version of the perennial party game Werewolf plays in 5 minutes, it would be a nice
addition to the game collections of families that just buy the Spiel Des Jahres winner each year. We’ve played it a bunch of times and it definitely has both that ‘let’s play again!’ feel and serious replay value with all of the characters included (and there’s more in the excellent expansion).

I need to try the rest of the list and will. Only Patchwork was on my ‘must-try’ list but now they all are.

Other Awards from the SDJ Jury

I’d note that I had no idea on the Kinderspiel at all and I had far too long a list of Kennerspiel possibilities but I will be back when I have finished playing all of them later this summer.

I haven’t played any of them Broom Service is based on Witch’s Brew, which I think it terrific. I’m also quite keen to play Elysium, having enjoyed previous games from Brett Gilbert (Divinare is an underrated gem), and Orleans has so much positive hype that I almost want to ask people to start lowering my expectations! When I get a chance to try them all, I’ll be back to report on them.

Press Release: Stronghold Games Announces Space Cadets: Away Missions

Press Release: Stronghold Games Announces Space Cadets: Away Missions

Launching As A Kickstarter Project – Featuring As Many As 100 Plastic Miniatures

New Jersey, USA – January 19, 2015 

Stronghold Games is proud to announce Space Cadets: Away Missions, the third standalone game in the Space Cadets franchise of cooperative and team space-themed games.

Space Cadets: Away Missions is a cooperative, scenario-based, tactical action game set in the Goldenunnamed-6 Age of science fiction, making it a thematic prequel to the first two Space Cadets games. In this game, players take on the roles of adventurous human spacemen (“Rocketeers”) who explore UFOs, acquire alien technology and fight hordes of hostile extraterrestrials.

Each turn, Rocketeers spend action points on activities such as firing atomic rifles, analyzing exotic equipment, or subduing the malicious Brain-in-a-Jar. When the Rocketeers are finished, the Aliens take their turns by following simple movement and combat protocols. Seven types of hostile Aliens threaten the Rocketeers, from the repulsive Mind Leeches to the rampaging titanic Sentinels.

Space Cadets: Away Missions has scenarios linked in a campaign story arc. These “Away Missions” are set at various locations, feature different combinations of Aliens, and have diverse objectives for the Rocketeers to achieve. Hexagonal map tiles are arranged to form the locations, such as flying saucers, rocket ships, and space stations. Cooperation, tactical planning and a bit of luck are essential if the Rocketeers are to overcome the relentless horde of little green men.

In a departure from its previous publications, Stronghold Games will launch a Kickstarter campaign for this game, which is the most ambitious project in its 5+ years in the hobby game industry. By utilizing Kickstarter for this publication, Space Cadets: Away Missions will contain as many as 100 detailed, professionally-sculpted plastic miniatures to represent the heroic Rocketeers and the rampaging Aliens.  Stronghold Games will print this impressive project at Ludofact Germany, the leading printer of hobby games in the world, where the best-selling miniatures board games in the world also have been printed.

As an added bonus, free worldwide shipping will be offered to the Early Adopter Pledge Levels of the Kickstarter campaign for Space Cadets: Away Missions.  The project is scheduled to deliver to Kickstarter backers in August 2015.  The game will be available in retail venues at a date after it ships to all backers.

The Kickstarter for Space Cadets: Away Missions will begin within days of this announcement.

“We wanted to publish a game in our Space Cadets franchise, which not only has incredible gameplay, but also is beautiful to behold on the table”, said Stephen Buonocore, President of Stronghold Games. “With as many as 100 plastic miniatures, Space Cadets: Away Missions moves us into an entirely new market. To ensure that this market does exist for us, we are employing Kickstarter for this project only. We are using Kickstarter in the same manner as much larger companies than us have done in the past when they reached into new markets.”

About Stronghold Games LLC:

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 its latest copublished game line “Among The Stars”.  Stronghold Games publishes great game designs developed both in-house and in partnership with European publishers. Stronghold Games LLC is a Limited Liability Company formed in the State of Delaware, USA.

Splendor back in stock at Amazon so order now…

Splendor back in stock at Amazon so order now…

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Splendor is back in stock at Amazon.com! While it failed to capture the SDJ for 2014 (losing to Camel Up, the one with the dice-pooping pyramid), I’ve played Splendor almost 20 times this year and I’m sure it’ll hit the quarter list. You will love those crazy poker chip gems if you haven’t played it yet.

Splendor was the biggest hit of Gateway 2014 last weekend, with it being constantly checked out. I’m glad I bought one and hope Asmodee will send us a copy soon because we could easily support two copies in the Board Game Library.

While the game has fallen in and out of print the since early this year, it’s back on Amazon so get it now!

Favorite Two-Player Games to play with your casual-game partner

Favorite Two-Player Games to play with your casual-game partner

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Few things are more enjoyable than finding out that the gamer gene has been passed on. My son Alaric clearly has it and those that follow my plays will see that my recent board game selections have been all about enjoying the kind of experience games that a 14-year old will more likely embrace. Don’t get me wrong, Alaric has enjoyed SDJ nominee Splendor in recent days, loves Hanabi, and has been enthusiastic about my family’s run through the Alea series. But there is no question that when push comes to shove, he’ll often reach for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game or Zombicide, so I’m learning to enjoy those kind of games more.

But the inquiry I got tonight was special – my nephew asked about two-player games to get to play with his new girlfriend (who we had the pleasure of meeting recently). Of course, it’s just not my doing since his step-father is a gamer friend of mine as well so we both got the request. But since I’m the one with a gaming blog, I figured I would include my list here for those who might be seeking some great couples games. So, here’s what I’m telling him to get to ease that casual-gamer partner into the fold with some titles that introduce the concepts of euro games without overwhelming your novice.

1. Lost Cities – It’s almost a given that this is on all two-player game lists – gamers call it ‘the Couples Game’. Unfortunately, this beautifully-illustrated and relatively light set collection card game from Reiner Knizia looks to be out of print so the link from the title will only lead to overpriced gougers on Amazon. Wait for the reprint and then enjoy!

2. Jaipur – A relatively new game but one that jumped onto top 2-player game lists quickly. Sebastian Pauchon’s delightful little trading and buying game plays quickly, has a little bit of luck, and has some good options for trying a new strategy next time. Click the name to buy it on Amazon.com at a pretty solid price.

3. Carcassonne – A eurogame classic, Carc is best when you stick with the original game (ignore the endless expansions). It plays beautifully with two, has a puzzle aspect to it, and you can also enjoy it when another couple or your kids join you for a game (it scales well up to five). We kind of like the Winter Edition, which is the basic game with a harmless expansion that ties in the holiday theme. Readers of BGB know I love holiday games so you know this has a permanent home in my collection (complete with Grinch, Elf, and Snowman Meeples from Meeplesource.com).

4. Qwirkle – Susan McKinley Ross’ SDJ winning game is jokingly called “Scrabble for Cavemen” but it is actually just a really good way to get a similar play experience without comparing vocabularies. While this is most obviously best when you play with kids, it doesn’t hurt to level the playing field for couples, too. Regardless, Qwirkle uses shapes and color instead of letters so you make rows and columns of like items instead of words. And it’s a blast. Try also the Expansions, which add some fun variation – plus, this one will also scale well for more players. I also prefer the Travel Edition for just that purpose – it’s a great game to take on a trip.

5.Ticket To Ride – Another bona fide classic of the euro game genre, this SDJ winner is celebrating its 10 Year Anniversary with a massive, gorgeous Anniversary Edition of the game, but you can also enjoy this rummyesque train-themed game from the mighty Alan Moon on maps from all over the place, each with its own feel and sometimes some new rules. There are many more little expansions but the best expansions are just getting new maps, including the tight-and-exciting Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries version (particularly good for two and also loosely themed to Christmas) and the similarly-scaled Switzerland map (available on the back of the fine India map). They’re all good and the game scales in interesting ways (the blocking and route misery with five is completely different from the two-player route grab and ticket contests). Such a great game!

6. Pandemic – The inventive designer Matt Leacock may not have created the genre of ‘cooperative games’ (where players work together against the game system) but he sure awakened it in a huge way with his brilliant game Pandemic. This plays really well with two and scale nicely up to four. He has expansions
for it and has created kid-friendly cooperative games, too (Forbidden Island feels like a great “Pandemic-light” while the excellent Forbidden Desert
has some clever new ideas and a feel all its own). I recommend and own them all.

These are all pretty mainstream gamer choices. I’ll be posting a second list soon for games you may not be able to order on Amazon or find at your local game store or Barnes and Noble, yet they are worth seeking out.

BGB’s Gathering of Friends 2014 Individual Game Notes Part 1

BGB’s Gathering of Friends 2014 Individual Game Notes Part 1

Here’s a roundup of games I played with my brief comments and the perspective of other commentators, designers, and reviewers I admire and respect. Also, check out the GOF Buy List in the panel on the right to buy some of the games that are available now.

Kashgar Review on Hiew’s Boardgame Blog

BGB Editorial Note

Perhaps my game of the convention was Kashgar, a terrific deckbuildy kind of euro that is only in German but is good enough to tempt me into paste-ups (haven’t done that since Agricola…) Kashgar’s central mechanism of three mini-decks is well explained here in a review on Hiew’s blog. Here’s hoping Kosmos brings this to the US with a partner or at least prints it in English and makes it available to a wider audience because it is not at all language-independent. Thanks to the Grand Poobah himself, Greg Schloesser for introducing it to me.

Plays: 4Px1. Many people will probably think of the queuing mechanism in Kashgar as a twist to the deck-building mechanism, but the designer actually came up with the mechanism before the first deck-building game, Dominion was published. Here’s how it works. Every player starts with three queues of workers.

More game info… at http://hiewandboardgames.blogspot.com/2014/04/kashgar.html

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

BGB Editorial Note

The Castles of Mad King Ludwig by Ted Alspach was one of the most played and best games of the show as well. I really enjoyed this clever game of price-setting and castle construction. Ted points out that you actually build castles room-to-room here rather than some of those other castle building games that are abstracted out. A good point; Ludwig lets you build rooms with special power, bonuses, and cool options to combo rooms by completing some and leaving other halls unfinished. It plays quickly and yet is a very satisfying hour for 2 to 5 players. It is due out at Spiel this autumn.

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In the tile-laying game Castles of Mad King Ludwig, players are tasked with building an amazing, extravagant castle for King Ludwig II of Bavaria…one room at a time.

More game info… at http://www.beziergames.com/caofmadkilu.html

Review – Evolution from North Star Games – An Experience You Do Not Want To Miss! | Evolution | BoardGameGeek

BGB Editorial Note

I had the pleasure of playing Northstar Games’ foray into serious games, Evolution, during the Gathering. I enjoyed the game – partially due to getting to play with the terrific Erik Arneson, who was generous enough to feed the other players with his sickly species – and I look forward to it hitting Kickstarter soon. I expect to have a copy on-hand for Gamex 2014 next month and we’ll likely broadcast a play of it on the USStream channel for Strategicon Conventions. Check out the link below for a good review of the game posted on BGG.

After having played about a dozen games of Evolution – North Star’s first foray into the strategy games realm – I felt it was time to give this gem its own review so that others can learn about it and anticipate it’s release as much as I am.

More game info… at boardgamegeek.com

Five Tribes Designer Diary from Designer Bruno Cathala

BGB Editorial Note

One of the top games of GOF 2014 was Five Tribes. This Gen Con 2014 release represents a “Gamer Game” release for Days of Wonder and it’s a really good one. Bruno Cathala has contributed to many great games but the interesting central mechanism combined with the awesome might of Days of Wonder production and marketing should turn Five Tribes into quite an event. Check out this link for Bruno’s Designer Diary on BGG, which I think you’ll enjoy.

In Q4 2014, Five Tribes will start appearing on game store shelves worldwide, including Days of Wonder in the US.

More game info… at boardgamegeek.com

Subdivision from Bezier Games

BGB Editorial Note

Bezier has also come up with a game related to their hit title Suburbia. Subdivision has some of the building feels of Suburbia combined with Take It Easy style play. Played quickly, it’s a fun puzzle experience that takes under 45 minutes to complete (no AP players allowed!) It’s available for pre-order now at Bezier Games’ site for a Gen Con 2014 release.

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Subdivision mimics the city-building feel of Bzier Games’ Suburbia, but differs in scope as now each player has been allocated a specific area in which to create the best possible subdivision, filling it with residential, commercial, industrial, civic, and luxury zones, while balancing various improvements to the area, including roads, schools, parks, sidewalks, and lakes.

More game info… at http://www.beziergames.com/subdivision.html

AbluXXen rules explanation and overview

BGB Editorial Note

Don’t we have enough trick-taking-like card games? No, no we don’t. This one comes from one of the Grand Masters of Gaming, Wolfgang Kramer, and it doesn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed playing it and I will be buying it soon. But I noticed it’s hard to explain. Thankfully, the gaming world is full of Awesome Erics and one of those is Eric Martin, who will explain it in this video.

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AbluXXen game listing on BoardGameGeek: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/153065/abluxxen

More game info… at www.youtube.com

Concordia board game review

BGB Editorial Note

Concordia was my favorite game from BGG.con 2013 and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it this year as one of my 10 Games 10 Times resolution. I played it at GOF2014 as well and it was quite close even though my experiment with a different strategy didn’t work out as I planned.

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Review of Concordia board game.

More game info… at www.youtube.com

BGB’s Gathering of Friends 2014 Roundup

BGB’s Gathering of Friends 2014 Roundup

For those that don’t know, the Gathering of Friends is legendary game designer Alan Moon’s private gaming convention, an invite-only affair that draws top game designers, publishers, game reviewers, and gamerati from all over the world. The event runs almost a fortnight if you add in the early arrivals and late departure common at the Gathering. Attendees are treated to many early protos, rare and coveted games from esteemed collections, and many fresh from Europe titles from the folks who come over for the con. Best of all, you get a great community of folks Alan has put together that are just fun to be around, whether it is enjoying a game with them, or an outing to nearby Niagara Falls, or even just dinner at the various hangouts in and around the hotel. 

After missing the convention last year due to a job change a week before it, I was back this year with some prototypes in hand and a deep interest in checking out the latest titles from the many designers on-hand. What follows are my notes about some great games, early looks at a few upcoming titles, and I’m also sharing a few links to other stories about GOF 2014. I hope you enjoy it. I also posted many pictures on my social accounts while I was there and you can see more from others on Twitter if you check out #gof2014 Watch also for some additional posts on individual items and our Amazon Widget for games mentioned that you can purchase now.

Driving home from the Gathering

Here is the list of games that I played this week. (Saturday) 7 wonders Babel Flizz & miez Gib gas Start frei Time Stories x 4 Black Fleet Leg los Concept Chimera (Sunday) Knock down barns Faulpelz Gib gas Spike Pandemic the cure Gib gas Flizz and miez Istanbul Abluxxen Qwixx kartenspiel Qwixx …

More game info… at opinionatedgamers.com

The Gathering of Friends game convention 2014 – part #1!

BGB’s Editorial Note:

Nicole’s enthusiastic summary of the Gathering of Friends is certainly a lot of fun to read. I had the pleasure of playing Bezier Games’ wonderful One Night Ultimate Werewolf with Nicole and her boyfriend Adam in the tournament and they were part of the great energy at the show. You’ll enjoy the effusive takes she has on various games played throughout the week.

This is my second year attending the invite-only Gathering, it’s so nice to be back! Familiar faces, lovely people, swathes of games. I can only attend weekends this year due to work & life commitments – but I’ll be damned if I won’t cram in as much in those weekends as humanly possible!

More game info… at https://thewholenicole.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/the-gathering-of-friends-game-convention-2014-part-1/

Gil Hova on being a First-Timer at GOF 2014

BGB’s Editorial Note:

Designer Gil Hova was a red-badger this time (you get one for your first time so people are extra welcoming and more likely to go out of their way to introduce themselves) and he wrote a great article about the experience. He had his own protos but I played his friend’s game, Wombat Rescue, with him and some others. Click the link to enjoy Gil’s thoughtful take on GOF.

Gil Hova designs and plays board games

More game info… at http://gil.hova.net/

The Gathering of Friends 2013 (Warmup for 2014)

BGB Editorial Note: Mary Prasad’s Great 2013 Roundup is worth a read if you missed it last year.

Note: I originally wrote this to be posted on Board Game Geek News but the editor was swamped with work thus this got pushed further and further behind. The company told me it would be for 5-20+ players, with a note that you could play with even more players if you had a big enough table and …

More game info… at opinionatedgamers.com