Have Odin’s Ravens Flown the Coop?

30 05 2013

Odins RavensA few months ago we featured “Odin’s Ravens Second Edition” in a Kickstarter Weekly piece. The campaign was created by Works LTD. who has seen success with one other game campaign, and a few less-than-successful campaigns with some audio/recording gear.

The campaign closed on March 5, 2013 and reached pledges of over $22k. The date provided by Works LTD. to get the game to market is sometime in August of 2013. But a growing number of backers have become concerned because Works LTD. hasn’t given any further updates since March 5th when they announced the successful funding of the campaign.

We’re not suggesting Works LTD. took the money and headed for Mexico, never to be seen again. But what we really know right now is, well…nothing, and that’s what the hub-bub is about. No, the game isn’t past delivery date, and there wasn’t a “Dear John” note left on the backers’ doorsteps. But there haven’t been any signs of life coming from Works LTD; it’s like they’ve gone all Willy Wonka and disappeared. Seth—the guy behind Works hasn’t logged onto the Geek since March, they haven’t tweeted since March.

We all understand that life can happen, and I, for one, certainly hope that nothing tragic has befallen anyone within the ranks of Works LTD; but in the world of 2013, with all of our connected-ness and technological doo-dads, it certainly seems that the easy and professional thing to do is to shoot a quick update to your backers and put their minds at ease.

Here’s hoping the ravens haven’t flown the coop, and that Works LTD will update backers soon!

Did you back this game? Sound off: On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you that you’re not getting your game?

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The State of Euphoria—An Interview With Jamey Stegmaier

29 05 2013

Box FinalOne of our earliest interviews here at Theology Of Games was with Jamey Stegmaier, and we’re privileged to have another chance to talk with him as he’s halfway through his latest Kickstarter project: Euphoria.

Jamey, thanks for talking with us. First, how are things going with Viticulture now that it’s in people’s hands?

Hey guys, thanks for having me back. It’s been a pleasure reading your blog over the last 9 months. As of this writing, Viticulture has an 8.12 rating on BGG, so that’s definitely a great start. Of course, it’s about much more than a rating—it’s about creating memorable, fun, sometimes nail-biting moments around the table with friends and family. From what I’ve heard, we’re definitely achieving that goal so far.

I (Firestone) have had a chance to play the finished Viticulture now, and it’s definitely a solid game. Well done.

What are some of the lessons you learned through your Viticulture Kickstarter campaign?

A LOT. 🙂 In fact, I’ve been writing a series of Kickstarter Lessons on the Stonemaier Games blog over the last four months to help other project creators learn from my mistakes and insights. Here’s a small tidbit that I don’t think I’ve mentioned elsewhere: If you’re making a board game in China (or anywhere), just because it’s on the boat does not mean the boat is leaving. The boat doesn’t leave until it’s full. To extrapolate that to Kickstarter, don’t tell backers that something will happen. Tell the things that have happened. Otherwise you’re going to run into some frustrating delays that require backtracking.

How do you feel about already successful game companies (and Hollywood, now!) using Kickstarter to finance projects?

Nice topical question! You know, I’m all for any Kickstarter project that builds community and relationships. I’m against any Kickstarter project that is all about the money, whether it’s a $500 project from Local Artist Guy/Gal or a $5 million project from a celebrity. But if you’re building something together with people, I’m all for it.

OracleYou recently launched a Kickstarter for your new game: Euphoria. Can you tell us about the game?

Euphoria is a dice worker-placement game set in a dystopian world. The numbers on your dice represent their knowledge, which has varying impacts on the game depending on your special abilities (on recruit cards) and the other dice that have already been placed on the board. It’s a meaty game with a lot of replayability. If you like Alien Frontiers, Tzolk’in, and The Manhattan Project, you’ll like Euphoria.

So what’s the “hook”—the thing that’s going to make Euphoria different from other worker-placement games?

I’d say that element of knowledge is one of the big hooks of the game. The numbers on your dice thematically and mechanically mean something, and yet there’s very little luck in the game. The other aspect is the flow of the game. There are no rounds and phases, no seasonal upkeep costs or anything like that. Once the game begins, it doesn’t stop unless someone has to get up to go to the bathroom (which doesn’t happen often because the game plays in almost exactly 15 minutes per player once everyone knows how to play).

Why did you choose a dystopian theme?

I really, really love dystopian fiction. Ready Player One, The Giver, The Hunger Games, Children of Men…I think the theme has always been in the back of my mind. But what really brought it to life was something that happened during the creation of Viticulture. I was playtesting the game last year when I stopped to think about who the little workers were. They had no personality—they did whatever I wanted them to do without complaint, blissfully unaware of their bleak existence. And it hit me: Every worker placement game is a dystopia. And thus the idea was born.

Why do you think people are so draw to dystopian themes in literature and film?

I think we see a lot of ourselves and our society in dystopian fiction, but to the extreme. That often makes for really interesting fiction. I personally love the element of discovery in dystopian literature. How does the world work in the future? What caused such drastic changes? What can we learn from the extremes presented in the book?

Registry of Personal SecretsWe’re so glad you hit the stretch goal that gets us those cool steampunk dice—those are awesome!

Thanks! I’ve played the game with the samples a few time, and for some reason they’re just way better than normal dice, even though they’re functionally the same.

You mentioned that this game “incorporates mechanical elements” from The Resistance. WHA?! (That’s our excited way of asking: “What, pray tell, does that mean, exactly?”)

Before you get too excited, let me explain. 🙂 The comparison is that just like in The Resistance, you don’t know whom you’re aligned with in Euphoria, and there is some amount of bluffing to make people think you are someone you’re not. Basically, each player starts the game with an active recruit and a hidden recruit. The hidden recruit could be one of any of the factions in the game, and you activate that recruit by reaching certain thresholds in the game that can be triggered by any player. Thus at any point, you might be helping another player unlock their hidden recruit without realizing the folly of your ways. It is different than The Resistance, but I think there is definitely a common bond there.

I love the artwork for the game—so many games these days seem indistinguishable from one another, but that certainly isn’t true of Euphoria. How closely did you work with artist Jacqui Davis to drive the aesthetic?

Jacqui is really fantastic. Basically, I told her the story of the world of Euphoria, and she took it from there. She created a unique style for each of the factions, both in terms of architecture and clothing. I can’t speak highly enough of her visual creativity.

Your press release mentions you playtested the game with more than 60 people. How do you know when you should let someone’s opinion affect your game—how did you decide what input to listen to and what input to ignore?

Well, let me clarify that point: The game has been blind playtested (i.e., without me present) by over 60 people. They were all Viticulture backers who volunteered to help with Euphoria. I, of course, playtested the game tons of times with Alan and other local friends, but we’re not included in that 60+ number. I would say that I listened to all of the feedback, and then I’d try to get to the core of what they were saying. Sometimes it resulted in a mechanical tweak; other times it required a graphic-design change. And sometimes I didn’t do anything with the feedback. But I learned from everything they said, and I think the game significantly benefited from their input.

pic1653415_mdWhat are some things that changed from the original prototype?

Here are two specific examples:

  1. Retrieving workers is a big part of the game. On your turn you either place a worker OR retrieve any/all workers—you choose one, like in Tzolk’in. In Euphoria, you have a choice to feed your workers or not when you retrieve them. Feed them and you gain morale; don’t feed them and you lose morale. Simple enough. But I made it WAY too complicated early on. There was this big chart on the board that told you how much you had to feed each worker and how much morale you would gain or lose as a result…it was too much. So based on the feedback I received, I simplified it so that the number of workers you retrieved didn’t matter.

  2. The allegiance track improvements are a prime example of the value of blind playtesting. The allegiance track is essentially a tech track that any or all players can benefit from, depending on their active recruits. Once you reach certain tiers on the tech track, you unlock new bonuses. Again, simple enough. That is, if you designed the game. If you didn’t, the allegiance track bonuses were way too much to remember, and they were often forgotten. So we simplified the bonuses, added a new bonus that triggered at the end of a track, and added tokens to the game to help players to remember to take the bonuses.

I know you’ve got plenty on your plate as this campaign winds down, but are there any other games on the horizon that you can share?

I’m working on a few ideas for an 8-player game, and I always have Viticulture expansions on my mind. Alan is working on a Prohibition-themed game.

Oracle5 Questions with 1-Word (or Phrase) Answers:

  • Who’s your favorite comedian? Seinfeld

  • What’s your favorite line from Shakespeare? How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world. (The Tempest)

  • Have you read Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick? I haven’t! Should I?

You should! It’s a utopian novel—series of short stories, actually—that is one of my favorite books. It’s just beautiful.

  • What is your favorite Proverb? Proverbs 25:16. “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit.”

  • A strange old man with a kind face knocks on your door one day. When you answer, he takes his hat off, holds it gently against his chest, and says, “Jamey, you don’t know me, but I sure know you. I’ve been watching you for a long time now—since you were a boy, really—and I’ve decided to give you a gift…though you might think of it as a curse. For the next year, you can only eat one thing for lunch—the exact same thing. You can try to make or order something different, but it will always change into this thing. So I’m going to ask you a question, and then I’m going to walk away. You’ll see me again in 14 years, but not before then—so don’t try to find me. Now Jamey…what is that thing you want to eat every day for lunch for the next year?”

I have a strange temperament at lunch…if I don’t eat protein, I get woozy. So I’d have to ask the old man for shrimp tempura sushi. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that.

Jamey, thanks so much for answering these questions for us!

I (Firestone) was seriously impressed when I got my copy of Viticulture recently—Jamey knows how to run a Kickstarter campaign, and the presentation, bits, and aesthetic are top-notch. Many people in my game group thought the same thing—in fact, when they found out the guy who was in charge of the game we were playing had a new game on Kickstarter, a couple said they were now going to back it based on Viticulture’s presentation.

With two weeks to go it’s sitting at ~$135,000, so head on over and add yourself to the list of backers. And as always, thanks for reading!





What You Missed…

24 05 2013

HanabiIt’s been another busy week here at TOG! Here’s a quick look at the week that was:

To start the week off we brought you some info on new expansions from games by Eagle/Gryphon and Cryptozoic.

Later in the week the Spiel des Jahres were announced.

Firestone warns us: Don’t believe the hype about Love Letter.

And AEG’s plans to keep the next Smash Up expansion under wraps were thwarted—but we didn’t spill the beans! We just reported on it, post-spillage.

We’d also like to give you a heads up about a few things we have in the works!

We’ve got a TON of interviews in the works, including Paul Peterson, who will discuss that new Cthulhu Smash Up expansion. We’ll also be chatting with Jamie Stegmaier, designer of Viticulture, about his latest Kickstarter campaign for Euphoria, and we’ll check in with David and Fred Mackenzie of Clever Mojo Games about the epic board game Princes of the Dragon Throne! (And that’s just for starters!)

Also be on the lookout for our newest delve into social media as we introduce out newest feature: The 6-Second Review via Vine! Don’t wanna miss this!

Thanks so much for reading, we’d love it if you subscribed for our email list, and liked us on FaceBook and followed us on Twitter, Instagam and now Vine!





The Great Old Ones Won’t Stay Hidden—A Cthulhu Smash Up Expansion!

23 05 2013

cthuluWell, AEG was hoping to keep the secret until June 1, but you know ancient evil: It just won’t stay hidden! The Obligatory Cthulhu Set is the third expansion for the popular Smash Up game. According to AEG “this set features crazy Cthulhu cultists, fishy Innsmouth locals, horrifying Elder Things, and good old Miskatonic University members (the Fightin’ Cephalopods). To be certain we got it right, this set also includes a new card type fittingly known as “Madness”, that each of these groups use to various effects. But remember that Madness brings you power but at a price.”

Since this was outed earlier than they’d wanted, AEG doesn’t have a page up or previews yet, but they promise more next week.

You can read our interview with designer Paul Peterson right here.

There are already some complaints in the Twitterverse that people aren’t really excited about an expansion that’s all under the same broad theme. What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading! Please follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!





Return To Sender—A Review of Love Letter

23 05 2013

By Firestone

LoveLetterCoverLove Letter had all sorts of buzz coming out of Essen. The game sold out quickly upon reaching the states, and for a time this $10 game was going for $40… So is it worth $40? Is it even worth $10? Let’s find out!

Components

16 cards—these are eight different characters, numbered 1 through 8, and there are varying numbers of each of those…numbers. I just wrote “numbers” too many times.

1: Guard—There are five of these.

2: Priest—There are two of these.

3: Baron—There are two of these.

4: Handmaid—There are two of these.

5: Prince—There are two of these.

6: King—There’s only one.

Bag7: Countess—There’s only one.

8: Princess—There’s only one.

Some red, wooden cubes

<———And all of this comes in a small velvet carrying bag with “Love Letter” embroidered on it.

Setup

Shuffle the cards. Remove one facedown. Deal one card to each player and place the remaining cards in a draw pile. That’s it.

Gameplay

The point of the game is to get your love letter to the princess. You do this by using the different members of the court to work for you. So on your turn you draw a card, and then play down in front of you one of the two cards you now have. When you play a card down, it stays down. And subsequently played cards are just played next to the old one. So you can always see what’s been played.

The actions on the card will often result in someone being eliminated—you or an opponent. The goal is to be the last person standing—or if the small deck runs out, you want to be left holding the highest-numbered card.

CardsThe Guard lets you pick another player and guess the card he or she has. If you’re right, the person is out for the round. If you’re wrong, nothing happens.

The Priest lets you look at the card of another player.

The Baron has you compare your remaining card (now that you’ve played the Baron down) with that of another player. Whoever has the lowest-value card is out of the round.

The Handmaid protects you for that turn—you can’t be targeted by other players’ cards in any way.

The Prince lets you pick a player—including yourself—and force that person to discard the card in his or her hand and draw a new one.

The King lets you trade hands with another player.

The Countess is a little odd: If you have the Countess and also have the Prince or King, you must discard the Countess. You can still discard the Countess at any time, and then people will think you’ve got the Prince or King.

The Princess makes you lose if you’re forced to play or discard her.

CubesWhoever wins the round gets a red cube. The game ends when one player gets a certain number of cubes—which will vary depending on the number of players.

Recommendations

Youth Group Game? Maybe! It’s light enough and fast enough that I do think this could work with a youth group (or a party setting)—though it does only play up to four players, so not too large a party… Usually the luck—which is high in this game—isn’t a detriment in that sort of gathering.

Family Game! No! Okay, changed to Maybe! My kids aren’t old enough to get the game yet, and I don’t think my wife would like it. But your family dynamic might be different.

Gamer’s Game? Probably not! If your group is really, really okay with luck, this could work as a filler. But there are so many other, better fillers out there…

The Verdict

It's Brad Pitt in 10 years. Or Robert Redford...

It’s Brad Pitt in 10 years. Or Robert Redford…

I don’t like this game. There. I’ve said it.

On the very first turn of my first game I was sitting in the 2nd seat. The 1st player played a Guard, guessed a card I had, and I was already out of the round before I had a chance to even play. I turned to my friend and said, “That’s a problem.” It might not have been a problem if it had happened once in the entire game, but it happened a number of times to a number of people.

There was some skill in the way you played your cards, but often it was obvious what to play. And since you’re drawing cards, there’s lots of luck. If you draw two Handmaids in a row, you’re sitting pretty because you’re safe for two rounds—which is a lot in this game. If you draw two Barons, you’re pretty much hosed. If you have a Guard and get a lucky guess, go you! If you have the Princess you have a numbers advantage but you now have fewer strategic choices, as whatever other card you draw will have to get played. Yawn…

There were times you knocked people out thanks to clever deduction. And there were just as many times you knocked people out by blind, dumb luck. In fact, people are churning their hands so often that deduction is practically useless.

Thanks to the timing of their releases—and the fact that they’re both small card games with lots of buzz—it’s hard not to compare this to Coup.

But while Coup is mostly bluffing and some deduction—the deduction element comes in more with a higher number of players—Love Letter is almost no bluffing, some deduction, and tons of luck. Coup is a much better game, IMHO.

So what do you think? Am I way off base here? Did I miss something? Let us know what you think of the game or the review. And thanks for reading! Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.





Award Announcements: The Spiel des Jahres, Kennerspiel des Jahres, and Kinderspiel des Jahres

21 05 2013

By Firestone

HanabiThe biggest awards in boardgaming were announced today.

First up is the big one: The Spiel des Jahres, which is the German game of the year. This is a highly sought-after prize, as a win here can mean big sales—look at Ticket To Ride!

There are only three nominees:

Qwixx, by Stefen Benndorf

Augustus, by Paolo Mori

Hanabi, by Antoine Bauza

I’ve played Hanabi, and it’s terrific.

They also released a list of “recommended games”—kind of a consolation list of games they think you still ought to play.

Libertalia, by Paolo Mori

Divinare, by Brett Gilbert

Hand auf Herz, by Julien Sentis

Escape: The Curse of the Temple, by Kristian Amundsen Østby

La Boca, by Inka and Markus Brand

Riff Raff, by Christoph Cantzler

Rondo, by Reiner Knizia

Mixtour, by Dieter Stein

Yay!, by Heinz Meister

I’ve played Escape: The Curse of the Temple, and Libertalia, and the latter is one of my favorite games of last year.

BrugesThe Kennerspiel award is for more complex, gamers’-type games. The nominees are:

Bruges, by Stefan Feld

Legends Of Andor, by Michael Menzel

The Palaces of Carrara, by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling

I’ve played none of these. The recommended games for this category are:

Terra Mystica, by Jens Drögeüller and Helge Ostertag

Tzolk’in, by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini

I’ve played Tzolk’in, and you can check out my review of it.

And finally, the Kinderspiel des Jahres—the children’s game of the year—nominees:

Mucca Pazza, by Iris Rossbach

Gold am Orinoko, by Bernhard Weber

Der Verzauberte Turm, by Inka and Markus Brand

And the recommended games:

Kakerlakak, by Peter-Paul Joopen

Kuddelmuddel, by Haim Shafir and Günter Burkhardt

Move & Twist, by Kerstin Wallner and Klaus Miltenberger

Pingi Pongo, by Peter Neugebauer

Bim Bamm!, by Lukas Zach and Michael Palm

Baobab, by Josep Maria Allué

Linus, der Kleine Magier, by Wolfgang Dirscherl

Mix Fix, by Andrew Lawson and Jack Lawson

Madagascar Catan Junior, by Klaus Teuber

Star Wars—Battle Of Hoth, by Bastiaan Brederode and Cephas Howard

I’ve played none of these…

Which ones have you played? Were there any glaring omissions in the nominees? Which ones do you think will win?

Thanks for reading! Please follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!





New Expansions for Age Of Steam, Seasons, and the DC-Comics Deckbuilding Game

20 05 2013
Prototype image

Prototype image

By Firestone

As we lead up to Origins in a few weeks, companies are announcing new games and expansions. First, over on Boardgamegeek, designer Alban Viard announced that he’s designing a new pair of expansions for Age Of Steam. It sounds like he’s going to use the actual game box as a part of the game. From the announcement: “The box might be a mountain and we will have tunnels to cross the mountain under the box! The network will be cut by the mountain and the players might arrange the different maps around the mountain.”

seasonsAsmodee Games announced on Facebook that their popular card game Seasons is getting an expansion called Enchanted Kingdom. It adds “40 Power cards; 10 Enchantment cards; 12 Special Ability tokens; 16 Energy tokens; 2 ‘Raven’ tokens 1 ‘First Player’ token; 2 ‘Bespelled Grimoire’ energy reserve expansions for individual game boards; 7 ‘Decreased energy reserve’ tokens.” And it should be ready by Origins!

Finally, though Cryptozoic Entertainment hasn’t announced it yet, a couple of retailers seem to have outed a standalone expansion: Heroes Unite. A description on the site says, “Play as Shazam!, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Nightwing, Black Canary, Batgirl, or Booster Gold in Heroes Unite, the first standalone expansion for the DC Comics Deckbuilding Game! Unlock special abilities, like Force Field or the Helmet of Fate, and unleash devastating card combos against your opponents! Craft your hero deck into a well-oiled machine to take on the most vile villains in the DC Universe in your quest for Victory (Points)! Mix the cards from Heroes Unite with the core DC Comics Deckbuilding Game set to wage the ultimate showdown!”

Check out our Double-Take Review of the DC-Comics Deck-Building Game.

Thanks for reading!








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