Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Missing Pieces: Teaching Puzzles what Board Games have Known for Years

This week’s guest post comes from the out-of-the-box brain of Rachel Happen, who sets out to show that puzzles have a lot to learn from the revolution the board game industry has and indeed is still undergoing; examining where puzzles go wrong and attempting to unlock their full potential. But that’s enough from me, here is Rachel to take you into the future of puzzling.

Hey there! I’m Rachel Happen, creator of Baffledazzle puzzles. Baffledazzle is available on Kickstarter through May 4th. If successful, I will use the campaign proceeds to buy a laser cutter and begin producing my puzzles! In this article, I’d like to explore how Baffledazzle brings something new to the puzzle landscape.

Baffledazzle smaller

Puzzles, what are you lacking?

All board gamers know about our white elephants: the few behemoth games that are overwhelmingly popular and simply not that good *cough* Monopoly, I’m looking at you. Well, puzzles have the same problem! Everyone can remember that monotonous puzzle of polar bears in the arctic they put together with Grandma or that devilish crossword that soured them on puzzles for good.

Puzzles haven’t yet been through the amazing groundswell that has brought us thousands of excellent new boardgames, many from independent, even first-time publishers. So I’m aiming to get that movement started! Puzzles have just as much to offer as board games; so much of their potential is yet to be explored.

If you think about what makes for a first-rate board game, you’ll see what puzzles are missing! Great board games have well-balanced mechanics, space for different player strategies, and replayability, all tied together with a compelling theme. Almost all puzzles are missing this final key ingredient!

close up paris 1 all white

Game play is entertaining when everything in the game naturally follows from the theme: when you really feel like everyone is joining together to save the world from a raging pandemic, or you’re all shouting orders and adjusting different controls to defend your space ship. Even better if you can apply real concepts, like the way real farmers hedge against risks like drought, during a resource management game.

It’s that sense of immersion in a game that’s missing from puzzles. Crosswords often have a “theme” that connects the answer phrases, but it doesn’t shape the puzzle solving experience. What do “Famous Canadians” have to do with ponderously filling in crisscrossing words? What does an idyllic image of a starry sky have to do with slotting cardboard jigsaw pieces together? Puzzles are simply too focused on mechanics. There are many puzzles that are 100% mechanic, like Sudoku!

There’s a place for these puzzles but they shouldn’t be what the puzzling hobby is known for. Baffledazzle aims to change that! The theme of Baffledazzle puzzles is discovery and I’ve tried to incorporate the process of discovery into every step in the solving experience. So what does that look like?

cirkusu close

A good theme tells a story, a better theme lets you write it

To develop the theme, I laid out everything I knew about discovery and all of the forms of entertainment that incorporate that experience. I drew on everything from cornfield mazes (where the bigger picture isn’t obvious and you need excellent spatial awareness to find your way out) to mystery novels (where the cunning detective reveals some clues and conceals others, inviting you to solve bits of the mystery yourself along the way). I even drew on pop culture depictions of discovery, one of my favorites being Indiana Jones, the cunning archaeologist with a sharp mind who’s willing to get his hands dirty to protect historical artefacts and bring them to light!

One big, thematic decision I made was to craft puzzles that led to “real things.” So unlike the fictitious mystery novel, my puzzles lead to real people, real places, and real stories from history. This is allows me to open the doors to the puzzle and invite you and all your friends and the internet inside. Googling is welcomed and there is no such thing as cheating! There is simply no wrong way to solve these puzzles.

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I did this because search is at the very heart of discovery. How do you discover something new if you don’t look anywhere but your own mind? Similarly, it’s not really discovery if I lay out all the clues, taking you along for the ride like our mystery novel detective. I try to provide enough clues so that there several ways to connect them and arrive at the solution, but I space them out, like stepping stones in a river, so that you still have to make the leaps between each one. 

Why you have to get lost to find the solution

Part of the thrill of discovery is getting off course, mis-stepping, and splashing into the river. You have to climb back out, figure out where you went wrong, and find another way forward. Puzzles that are about “real things” make this possible! The book of history is much richer and deeper than any world I could create, so there are thousands and thousands of “decoy paths” that can divert you from the solution. This makes discovering the true answer that much sweeter!

S and S close up 1 all white

This is why I can’t include everything you need to solve the puzzle in the box! If part of the fun of discovery is making leaps, crossing perilous rope bridges, and getting a bit lost, then the only way to deliver that experience is to send solvers out into the world which is absolutely bursting with knowledge trap doors and history black holes.

I also see Baffledazzle as an opportunity to advocate for unbridled curiosity. Read a dozen Wikipedia pages in a row, opening 8 more for each one you close. Check out a book from the library that you can only understand a quarter of. Figure out why it's the Toronto Maple Leafs and not the Maple Leaves. Read a comic in another language by Google Translating every panel. Hack things together, take them apart. The reality of learning is that it is a fluid process that swings between question and answer. There is nothing more empowering than having a question and setting out to find the answer to it!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration of puzzles’ potential! I’d love to hear what you think about puzzles and how we can continue to improve them. Come connect with me on Twitter Tumblr  or Facebook  or check out my video puzzles on Youtube  If you’d like to check out the Baffledazzle puzzle series you see here, find me on Kickstarter! Thank you!

Can you solve the hidden puzzle in the article? Then contact Rachel and let her know, the first person to solve it will get a free set of four Code Breakers coasters!

Status: Unsolved

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Board Game News 38: Zombies, Trolls and Robots

This weeks news is full of new fantasy titles, from the postapocalytic wasteland of Tracker to the high fantasy realms of Allegiance and Clash! Dawn of Steam. Not to mention the fantastic artwork scattered about in here, whether it’s the cutesy style in Beastie Bash or the geometric simplicity of Baffledazzle there is literally something for everyone.

Also we have another UK offering in the form of a simple card game Grim End Manor. So dive in and see what tickles your fancy, but don't forget to stick around at the end for Paul’s new releases.

Tracker

Tracker is a competitive post apocalyptic board game. The game where even the dead still have a chance... 

… Years after apocalypse. A group of survivors are locked in battle for the astonishingpower of artefacts. In a constantly changing environment they must adapt their strategy and tactics just to stay alive, let alone secure final victory.

 

Starting positions are determined by a die roll, and then the first mission objective is revealed. While playing, each roll of dice determines the number of moves (actions) a player may perform. Players may choose to move around the board, shoot other players, or gather items that are laid out on or around the board.

Survivor, choose your strategy! Either arm yourself to tackle other players or aim to gather as many artefacts as possible. Either way, being prepared to finish missions can be pivotal. Picking up points from each success is a start, but can you seize the opportunity for ultimate victory?

If, during a game, a player is killed, the game does not end. The eliminated player resurrects as a zombie with only one mission to complete: to kill a living player. This is the only way to come back to life. The winner is either the player who collected 8 winning points or the only survivor left.

For more info, a chance to pledge and how to play videos head on over to the Kickstarter page.

Roll D6 Games

Everybody run - it's the trolls! They might not be the brightest crayons in the box, but they sure can wreak havoc in the neighborhood.

Luckily they have a weakness! All you need to do is shine a ray of sunlight at their eyes, and the beasts turn to stone immediately!

It's up to you and a handful of other troll hunters to use your magical lanterns and mirrors with such cunning that you can outwit a troll — which is not saying much really, but that won't stop the celebrations that shall take place to glorify the greatest troll hunter!

In Troll Hunt, the players try to guide rays of light from their lanterns into the trolls' eyes by placing and moving reflecting mirrors around the board. At the end of the game the hunter who has managed to turn the most trolls to stone wins. To put shortly, it is a tactical tile placement & movement game with grizzly trolls.

Troll Hunt includes a modular game board depicting the countryside with meadows, lakes, mountains and troll keeps. Because you construct the board before every game, no two games are the same! The trolls don't even have the decency of showing up in a predictable order. You never know where the next one will pop up...

Check out the Kickstarter for more details but hurry, it ends soon!

Allegiance

A fantasy-themed, tabletop board-game/card-game of strategy and tactics, where players assume the roles of powerful warring heroes.

The continent of Anstrus has been warring within itself for generations. With its nations locked in a struggle for power, a sudden invasion of dark forces from unknown lands is sweeping across the realm. While war rages, chaos reigns, and no ties of loyalty are left unbroken. Out of the turmoil, powerful heroes have arisen and are gathering forces to fight for their cause - some fight for good, some for evil, and some for purposes unknown. Choose your hero and emerge victorious, in Allegiance: A Realm Divided.

Allegiance: A Realm Divided is a fantasy-themed, fully self-contained tabletop game for 2 to 4 players. It is a unique board-game/card-game hybrid that is deeply strategic in nature, and usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes to play.

In Allegiance, each player assumes the role of one of 10 powerful heroes fighting in a realm divided by war. Each hero represents a different fantasy character class, and plays according to that character’s style, strengths, and weaknesses. Players can customize and level-up their hero’s unique abilities, enlist allied units, and play tricky action cards to defeat their enemies.

Allegiance is a fully self-contained tabletop game, containing everything you'll ever need to play within the box.

Game Contents

Allegiance comes with:

  • 10 Hero Boards (2mm thick cardboard, 12" x 8", double-sided)
  • 4 Resource Boards (2mm thick cardboard, 12" x 5")
  • 10 Hero Summary Sheets (thick card stock, double-sided)
  • 60+ card Basic Unit Deck
  • 30+ card Elite Unit Deck
  • 70+ card Action Deck
  • 80+ Special Cards
  • 20 double-sided Weapon/Armor Cards
  • Over 250 playing cards in total (blue-core)
  • 30 Red Dice (12mm)
  • 30 Blue Dice (12mm)
  • 60 Glass Beads (12mm)
  • 1 Rulebook

Hero: Alena Bellamy, Eremitic Ranger

To see more great artwork and learn more about the game visit the kickstarter and pledge today.

 

Homemade Game Guru

The guys at Homemade Game Guru would like you to know about their new project Superpowerful Bonanza and it is a ‘three-dimensional, comic book based, side-scrolling video game inspired’ board game currently listed on Indiegogo.com

Check this video for more info or visit the link above to pledge.

Baffledazzle — Puzzles that baffle the mind and dazzle the eye

Baffledazzle puzzles combine solid wood jigsaw puzzles with clever riddles that lead solvers on a quest to uncover the story that lives beyond the images and shapes. Five puzzle series were developed for this campaign:

La Plage—Reconstruct a moment in time through the creations of people that lived it.

Ozuzo—Uncover the camouflage and bravado of animal patterns.

Cirkusu—Piece together seven games from history, then sleuth out their identities.

Lucharán—Explore the imagery of luchadore wrestling masks.

Biurko—Solve nine riddles from around the world by picking out the answers from a field of decoys.

La Plage, Ozuzo, and Cirkusu are available for $99 during the campaign ($125 after the campaign), Lucharán and Biurko are available for $49 during the campaign ($60 after). There is also a set of 4 mini-puzzle coasters, called Code Breakers, available for $25.

All Baffledazzle puzzles are made from solid wood, acrylic, or 100% wool felt and cut with a laser. Each series comes with illustrated riddles that guide you through the puzzle.

The experience

Every puzzle leads you to something real: a moment in history, a scientific discovery, a hidden culture, a tradition forgotten by time, an ancient joke. So there are endless ways to solve the puzzle. Most of what you need to get to the solution doesn’t come in the box, but can be found by searching the world around you.

Dozens of wood, acrylic, or felt puzzle pieces start you off. You start to gather clues from the piece shapes and textures, from the images they form, from the words etched into their face. A cryptic printed riddle helps you along; it gives your efforts direction and nudges you back onto the trail when you get lost. Mysteries and information gaps challenge you to look closely, think deeper, and search for sources that bring you closer to the solution. No two paths to the answer are exactly the same.

The creator

For creator Rachel Happen, Baffledazzle puzzles are the culmination of a lifetime of developing experiences for others. Trained as a dancer, she grew from performing others’ choreography to creating her own performance art. Now, she uses business infrastructure to capture the exploratory nature of art in products like clothing, footwear, and now puzzles. These products aim to deliver creative experiences, like solving a mysterious puzzle worthy of Indiana Jones, that help all of us see the world a little differently.

The details

The Kickstarter Preview page can be seen here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2134561303/1932217978?token=b6203a32

This all-or-nothing funding campaign must raise $12,000 by May 4th for the funding to be collected and the puzzles to be produced. The puzzles are fully designed and ready for production. The campaign will help cover the cost of a laser cutter.

Baffledazzle is all about discovery and exploration. More puzzles, experiments, and experiences can be found on:

Tumblr: baffledazzle.tumblr.com

Twitter: twitter.com/baffledazzle


Grim End Manor

A swift tactical card game, Massacre your friends, Steal from rivals and claim ownership of the manor for yourself!

The deed to Grim End lies unclaimed after its last occupant met an unexplainable demise. Luxury manors like these are hard to come by and are worth killing for, the rules are out the window, it's time to play dirty!

Use people to your advantage to hinder your rivals and accumulate enough gold to claim the manor for yourself! Will you take the road of fame and fortune by rubbing shoulders with lords and ladies to gain your riches or will you rise your way to the top using the working folk to earn an honest revenue. Maybe you will Influence your rivals pawns to execute your master plan or maybe, just maybe, you will take the darkest path of all; killing and stealing from your competition to assure your victory!!!

2-6 players will take turns playing cards from their hand that represent their associates expertise to affect how others play. Your cards are secret but nothing stops you from revealing them or lying about what you have if it gains you an ally... until you stab them in the back!

The rounds are short, intense and fierce. One moment you may think you have the winning hand until it all comes crumbling down, while other players sneak up from the shadows to take the lead.

The deck size is dependent on how many players are participating, providing the optimum spread of cards which keeps the game strategic and fast paced. Each card can be as valuable as the other, presenting a different tactical advantage to each game. Knowing what you are passing on can influence your play style.

Target the strongest player or take the pressure away from you by aiding another, its all up to you.

An average game lasts around 15 minutes where longer games can last up to half an hour. We can insure that you have an enjoyable, tactical card game which has been balanced through countless play tests.

 

Highway Hustle

You are a humble yet musically astute mayor with one goal in mind: Be the first to the Big City by building a road of epic proportions!

Players: 2-4

Average Game Time: 20 mins

Recommended Age: 8 and up

Mechanics: Drafting, Tile Placement, Route/Network Building, Simultaneous Action Selection.

Enter Groovopolis – the world in which the 70’s never died. You are the humble yet musically astute mayor of a small local town with one goal in mind – to be the first to the Big City and make sure your favourite music, Disco or Rock ‘n’ Roll, is crowned the greatest tune maker of all time! But the mayors of the surrounding towns all have the same goal in mind.

The game is split into rounds. During a round, play follows in a clockwise direction starting at The Foreman, then followed by each other player, one at a time, until everyone has played a tile. Each round is broken into 3 steps – Plan, Play, Pass. The three P’s, baby! 

You PLAN by selecting a tile from your hand, 

Then PLAY it, 

And PASS on the rest. Simple!

Play takes place on a variety of maps that can be customised to add or decrease the difficulty. Objects may also be placed on each map, creating a new game experience every time!

The first player to reach all the designated locations is the winner! 

HOW TO PLAY VIDEO

http://blueroom.labvc.com.au/wiki/images/3/3e/Hh-instructions-V4.pdf - LINK TO DOWNLOADABLE PDF INSTRUCTIONS (REQUIRES ADOBE ACROBAT TO VIEW)

Check it out on Kickstarter

Beastie Bash!

Beastie Bash! isn’t just a card game for kids, it’s outside-the-box thinking -- in a box. (Ages 7+)

Beastie Bash! is a silly character creation game for 1-4 players. It’s 15-20 minutes of family fun created by children’s book author/illustrator, Eric Wight. 

WHO IS BEASTIE BASH! FOR?

Beastie Bash! is for kids with wild imaginations. For families who prefer silly to serious. For parents & educators who think the world needs innovators, not fill-in-the-bubblers. 

BEASTIE BASH! contains six categories:

Each category has six characters (for a total of 36) that can make over 1000 unique combinations. Each card has a point value, a color-coded category symbol, and silly text that changes with each match.

Combine the highest scoring Head card with a Body card to win the cards for that round. The game winner is the player who collects the most Beasties.

LEARNING BONUSES
Beastie Bash! isn’t just fun to play, it’s also a great tool for learning both at home and in the classroom.

  • READING: Each card contains funny flavor text that brings the characters to life. With each new match, the text changes creating countless new reading experiences.

  • MATH: Kids practice addition skills as they play each round of the game. Older kids can multiply instead of add to make the math more challenging.

  • WRITING: Create your own adventures using the mix-and-match cards as writing prompts.

Check it out on Kickstarter right now.

 

Clash! Dawn of Steam

An asymmetric strategy card game set in an evolving fantasy world. Burn the city to the ground, or defend it to your last breath!

In each game of CLASH! Dawn of Steam the players will either fight to tear a location to shreds one piece at a time, or stand up to protect it. Here are some highlights of the game that may pique your interest:

-Asymmetric game play. Meaning that within the game itself there are two different sides, each with its own separate win condition.

-Beautifully Illustrated Full-Art Cards. With a team of world class artists on board we opted to have our art on showcase, as such the card layouts feature the artwork proudly rather then hiding 80% of it behind filler design space.

-No randomized sets or packs. So you always know exactly what you're getting. No chasing rares or useless commons.

 

Check out the video below or visit the Kickstarter for more info.

Custom Dice

Quality custom dice you can afford and a design process that's easy - even if you're not a graphic designer.

Help us provide the gaming community with customized 16mm (standard size) D6 dice - with more colors, shapes, and sizes available when we reach higher funding levels!

Right now, if you want to make custom dice for a game prototype, print-n-play game, or just to customize your old Yahtzee! game, it'll cost you several dollars per die - before shipping.

We see a way to provide the same quality engraved custom dice at a fraction of the cost. But we can't do it without your help, we need funds to purchase the necessary supplies and equipment (primarily meaning thousands of dice and a Trotec laser engraver)!

Better still, with an easy to use website, we want to simplify the actual design process to a point where ANYone can design their own custom dice easily. Our site includes thousands of stock graphics plus the ability to use your own graphics (as long as you own the copyright). In fact, all of the graphic elements we used in designing this project page below are available for use in designing your dice on our website - plus thousands more!

 

To make this project a realty go to Kickstarter and pledge

PRIME TIME: The Ratings Game

Take your Network to the Top!

Toronto, ON - A card game from new company Duck Duck Games launched on Kickstarter, April 7th.

Daniel Perlmutter designed and developed Prime Time: The Ratings Game and is now taking to Kickstarter to launch the card game.

Players take on the role of Network Executives who must create and schedule TV shows in a variety of different genres to beat out their rivals in the ratings. Prime Time: The Ratings Game is a deck building and tableau creation game. 

The Kickstarter campaign will feature the game at $35, including shipping to the US and Canada. The target goal is $6,000, with stretch goals at the $10,000 and $15,000 mark.

Daniel Perlmutter has had previous success with crowd funding, raising over $50,000 for his feature film Big News From Grand Rock from indiegogo  (imdb page here - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2071464/ ) and he hopes to repeat this success with his first game.

ABOUT THE GAME:

Players start the game with a blank schedule and a small stable of actors. They will have to create shows for Monday to Friday night, choosing the genres, actors, commercials and special twists to include in each program. Players buy cards from the centre of the table and will have to decide if they want to keep those cards in their deck to earn money or if they want to program them to start building up shows.

Number of players: 1 to 4 (special rules for solo play.)

Recommended Age: 8+

Duck Duck Games website: www.duckduckgames.ca

Duck Duck on facebook: http://tinyurl.com/ob5sq7n

Duck Duck on Twitter (@DuckDuckGames): https://twitter.com/DuckDuckGames

ABOUT THE DESIGNER:

Daniel Perlmutter is a Toronto based writer and director for film and television. His upcoming feature comedy, Big News From Grand Rock, will be released next year. He is also a trained game designer and has worked for mobile development, most recently at Blammo Games. He founded Duck Duck Game in 2013 to bring interesting and unique games, both tabletop and digital, to the market.

ABOUT DUCK DUCK GAMES:

Duck Duck Games is an independent gaming company dedicated to making games that are fun to play.

PRIME TIME: The Ratings Game is the first game from Duck Duck Games and many more are underway. From hardcore strategy games to party games to collectable card games, a wide variety of new gaming experiences are in the works from this new company.

 

Out This Week

And finally, here’s Paul from Board Game Guru to play us out with this weeks releases, take it away Paul…

Arriving next week

I missed ‘Quantum’ at Essen and it seems that was a big mistake – designed by Eric Zimmerman (of the scholarly book on games design -  ‘Rules of Play’) it is a dice based  space conquest ('2x') game that has been described as  ‘parts of Alien Frontiers and King of Tokyo - and also a little of Primordial Soup’. My pick of the week and I will rip the cellophane from the first copy that arrives on Tuesday. An excellent review can be read here.

‘Crossroads’ is an expansion for ‘Tokaido’ (base game back in stock on Tuesday)

‘Last Night on Earth : Blood in the Forest’ adds new zombies and terrain and my favourite new hero  , Sister Ophelia , the reformed nun.

‘Jackpot!’ (Zombie survival card game)

'The Phantom Society’

‘Madeira’  reaches UK distribution on Tuesday and the new copies are slightly cheaper than the copies I imported in January.

In stock now

‘Camel Up!’ – a gamer family race round a pyramid (which doubles up as a dice dispenser). Looks like fun.

‘Port Royal’ – winner  of the 2013 Austrian game design competition.  An excellent review (of the original 2013 edition) can be read here.

‘Istanbul’ – Rudiger Dorn’s latest trading (near) the Mediterranean game. Looks like an interesting logistical challenge.

‘Pagoda’

I sold out of' 'Fungi' but will try and get some more next week.

E-Raptor 'Agricola' and 'Game of Thrones' player board holders

Also, Legendary Paint the Town Red is now in stock!

Restocks

‘Citrus’, ‘6 Nimmt Anniversary Edition’, 7 Wonders - 'Leaders', 'Cities' and 'Wonder Pack'

Happy Gaming

Paul

Friday, 11 April 2014

Wentworth Wooden Puzzles

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about how my brother responds to games which led to a couple of interesting offers, one of which was from a UK Jigsaw company called Wentworth Wooden Puzzles who wanted to send me a puzzle for Andrew to try.

Each of the puzzles Wentworth does is unique to them. They are wooden, made in the UK from sustainable sources and precision cut with a high powered laser. In fact you can see exactly how they do this in this video.

The puzzle that Wentworth supplied for me was the gorgeous Homecoming, an image of Noah’s Arc and all the animals it contained.

The Homecoming

I chose this design in particular because there weren’t large areas of flat colour which helps Andrew. Even the water and trees were broken up with animals and butterflies.

The puzzle arrived in good time and in a nice, small box. Inside the box the pieces themselves were held in a drawstring cloth bag. All in all the presentation was very nice. The first thing you will notice upon opening a Wentworth puzzle is the distinctive smell. Because the puzzles are wooden and have been cut using a laser, they have a very noticeable smell of burn. It’s not an unpleasant smell though.

The next thing you will notice is the “Whimsy” pieces. Each puzzle is cut with unusual shaped pieces based on the image on the puzzle. For example our puzzle came with animal shaped whimsy pieces.

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These are easily the most interestingly shaped jigsaw pieces I’ve ever seen. With maybe two dozen of these scattered throughout the puzzle, there are some very interesting shaped pieces that fit around them too!

Lastly, Wentworth puzzles don’t follow the normal rules of Jigsaw making. I set about looking for the four corners, but after scouring the pieces and separating out all the edges (with Andrew’s expert help) I realised they weren't there. That is because Wentworth doesn’t use the traditional jigsaw piece shape. Their corners have been bisected into two pieces. In addition you can’t just make the “frame” of the jigsaw either because not all edge pieces are flat edged and not all flat edges are edge pieces.

So how did Andrew get on?

Overall very well. Because we couldn't start with the edge pieces we instead decided to make individual animals. We started with the tigers in the bottom right corner and then moved onto the elephants, giraffes, rhinos etc. I was looking through the box for likely pieces of the animals we were working on while Andrew fitted the pieces together.

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Because the puzzle is made from wood and cut with a laser the pieces fit together very precisely and they are very rigid and durable, but they also allow a small amount of movement. This meant that sometimes Andrew struggled to get the pieces in, not realising he needed to manipulate the pieces around to get the piece in (opting instead to push harder to no avail.)

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You can see in this picture the small amount of movement available between each piece.

Overall though he had no problems, even the sky and trees, which can often take a long time, came together quickly and easily. From start to finish the puzzle took us about 3 hours, which isn’t bad for a 500 piece jigsaw.

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Thoughts

So the question is then, should you buy a Wentworth Wooden Puzzle? What Wentworth does, is supply a quality product, but at a high price. The puzzle they supplied to me retailed at £54.95. However, I believe the price is justified. The puzzles and packaging are environmentally friendly. They are produced in the UK and cannot be produced in volume. Each puzzle piece is individually designed with unique shapes and whimsy pieces. A lot of work and love has gone in to making them. So really the question becomes what are you willing to spend on your puzzling hobby? Wentworth provides a quality product that is beautifully designed and highly durable giving a very interesting and unique puzzling experience and if the price doesn't put you off I can guarantee you wont be disappointed.

P4110984

www.jigsaws.co.uk kindly supplied a review copy of this puzzle

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Blood Bowl Team Manager

When Blood Bowl was announced as a new deck building game, way back in the mists of time, I was excited to play it. Firstly because I love what FFG has done with their Games Workshop licenses in the past, secondly because I have always wanted to play blood bowl but find the game a little stilted for a “sports simulation” and thirdly because it was being designed by Eric Lang and Corey Konieczka, one FFG’s best card game designers teaming up with one of their best board game designers.

However, then BBTM disappeared for a while and when it resurfaced it was no longer a “deck building” game and the original designers were gone, replaced by a then unknown to me Jason Little. I worried that the game would not turn out to be all that I had hoped for… Until I realised that Jay Little was the guy behind the epic Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay!!

Anyway, before I start gushing about Jay, lets take a look at the game.

Theme

In Blood Bowl Team Manager, you take on the role of a… erm… Team Manager. Your roster is filled with blood thirsty football stars from the sneaky Skaven to the steadfast Dwarves. You will play against upto three other Managers, competing to win highlights and payouts and eventually the Blood Bowl itself. The Team with the most fans at the end of the season is the winner.

Unboxed

So, what’s in the box?

  • Over 150 Player and Matchup cards
  • 4 Scoreboards
  • 2 Tackle Dice
  • Rulebook
  • Over 50 Team and Staff Upgrade cards
  • Over 50 Customized Tokens

First up, as always, FFG produces a top notch product and this one is a steal at ~£25. Everything is on nice thick cardstock and the art is wonderful. The rulebook is well written and fairly comprehensive. Storage could be better but that is always true with FGG.

This really is a great production with lots of components and lots of choices for players, including six fully playable teams.

Set Up

To set up the game each player takes one team of twelve cards, their own deck of team upgrade cards and three markers in their colour. Shuffle your deck and draw six cards to form your starting hand.

The game is played over 5 rounds which form a season. Take two of the tournament cards and two random headline cards, shuffle together and then place facedown on top of the Blood Bowl Tournament card. This is the Spike Magazine deck.

Now draw highlights equal to the number of players and set them out in a row horizontally. These will form the match ups players can play at this round. Add a ball token to each highlight card.

Finally determine the first player and give them the first player marker. You are now ready to begin.

Playing the Game

I’ll give a brief overview of the game but for a full tutorial check out the Fantasy Flight Games site.

To start a round turn over the top card of the Spike Magazine Deck. If it is a Headline read out the effect and apply it for the rest of the round. If it is a tournament it acts as an additional highlight with no restriction on the number of players who can play at it.

In turn order each player will play one card from their hand of six to the table. It is not possible to play more than one card in your turn, nor is it possible to play more than six in a given round. A player can play a card at any highlight including a tournament if there is one available. Only two managers can play cards into a regular highlight, each highlight has a payout zone on each side of the card plus a central payout. You will claim the payout on your side of the card regardless of the outcome of the highlight. You can only claim the central payout if you win the highlight. play-layout

When a manager commits a player to highlight he chooses which side of the card he wants to play at (determining his guaranteed payout), no other manager may play cards onto that side of the highlight for the rest of the round. The same manager cannot play on to both sides of the same highlight, he can however continue to add more cards to his own side to make sure of the win.

Each player has a Star Power and a selection of skills. Cheating is the only mandatory skill, but a player must use his skills in the order they are printed and only when the card is first played.

The four available skills are:

Passing – Move the Ball one position towards the played card

Sprinting – Draw a card from your deck, discard a card from your hand

Tackling – Attempt to down an opposing player to reduce their star power

Cheating – Take a Cheating Token from the pool

 

After a Manager commits a Player he may take one matchup action. These are given by upgrade cards which are awarded by winning payout slots on Highlights.

Once all six players from each team have been committed reveal all cheating tokens (which will add star power, or fans or cause the player to be ejected). Then it’s time to score each highlight. The two managers at the highlight add up their star power, the player with the most star power claims the central payout and both teams claim their own side’s payout. In the case of a tournament, all the players add up their star power and determine who won, came second and runners up and take their payouts accordingly.

Then the managers discard their cards, draw six new ones, the first player marker passes to the left, new highlights are dealt and a new Spike Magazine Card is turned over and a new round begins. The fifth and final round always ends with the Blood Bowl after which players tally their fans and the one with the most is the winner.

Thoughts

Blood Bowl Team Manager is brilliant in it’s elegance. It starts out so simple and turn by turn it builds, gradually getting more complex.

Each round all you are going to do is play six cards at upto 5 highlights, but the decisions you need to make in order to get the best out of those cards are far deeper than they have any right to be.

There are six playable teams, which all play completely differently. The Skaven and Wood Elves are both fast decks, making a lot of use from the Sprinting action (one of my favourite actions..) The Wood Elves however prefer to pass, where as the Skaven rely on underhanded cheating. The Dwarves rarely sprint but they hit hard. The humans enjoy passing the ball, employing sure handed players who can hold onto it even when tackled. The Chaos players enjoy sticking the boot in, scoring fans for injuring a downed player, while the Orcs are tough as nails and always up for a fight.

Each of the skills is different but each is a perfectly viable option during the game, adding to the depth of the game and order in which you commit your players.

The staff upgrades, team upgrades and star players all add to the flavour of the game, giving fantastic options for players on their turns.

The cheating tokens bring an element of luck and chaos to the game (which I love) when you have a cheating heavy team you never know what the outcome will be, storming success or utter disaster.

There are a few things, maybe, that I like less. For example, unless you have a fast team with lots of sprint icons, you are unlikely to see any of the star players you won in round four on the field in round five, making that particular payout less useful in the last two rounds.

It’s also perfectly possible for the non-sprinting teams to start the fifth round with a weak hand and be entirely unable to do anything about it. This can be a problem because round five has the highest fan payout of the game, The Blood Bowl. However, if you plan well and pick up good upgrades you should be fine.

Finally, I have played the game with two, three and four and I have to say I prefer it with 4. Two players gets a little trickier to set up and play, but also the game is a little more predictable. More players equals more fun with this game.

Final Thoughts

I love this game, love, love, love it. For me, this is the Blood Bowl experience that I have always wanted but never found. It’s fast, it’s simple , but it has all that history and all that flavour behind it.

It’s full of interesting teams and brilliant star players (I love the Death Roller for the dwarves). No two games are alike.

Each round is just six decisions but those decisions are a lot of fun to make. I would recommend BBTM to anyone who enjoys having fun and is not adverse to a little (or a lot) of chaos in their games. If you love the Games Workshop IP or the Blood Bowl games, then you owe it to yourself to check this out.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Board Game News 37: Wine, Video Games and a Clockwork Donkey

Lots of news this week including several UK projects that I want to mention. First up is Steam Donkey, a Victorian resort building card game from the delightful Ragnar Brothers, with some lovely art and a rather unique theme. Next is the rather wonderful looking Game Developerz, a satirical take on the world of computer game design, promoted by the wonderful welshman Rod Gilbert, who apparently loved it! And finally Tripods, a UK designed game influenced by War of the Worlds in which players must use their skills, knowledge and influence to escape an alien invasion.

As well as all that we also have new games from Eagle and Gryphon Games, a fun little education game called Mice and Dice and long time reader and friend of the Unboxed crew, Jamey Stegmaier returns with an expansion for Viticulture. You can read Jamey’s guest post on Viticulture right here. All this and more in this weeks news, read on!

Steam Donkey


A card game with a twist! Race to attract visitors to your Victorian Steam-punk sea-side resort and achieve the glory you deserve!

Steam Donkey!

Back Steam Donkey on Kickstarter

The year is 1897 and to celebrate 60 years of the reign of Queen Victoria and bring much needed solace to the Country’s weary workers, four seaside resorts vie with each other to be the grandest and most opulent, worthy of a Royal visit from Her Majesty herself. The latest in steam technology will be on display, to attract and transport visitors to the hotels and guest houses that line the seafronts. Amusements and Monuments will be created to edify and delight the visiting holidaymakers. You, as the designer of these developments must complete your resort first and claim your rightful place as Chief Architect, by Royal Appointment! Help is available from enigmatic and mysterious personages: Donkey-boy, Lord Admiral, Princess Royal and Madame Ice-cream. They may prove invaluable but are fickle and may aid your opponents too!

Steam Donkey is a card game that is fun but has depth to its strategic play. You will make decisions about when to take cards into your hand from the resort and whether to build in the Park, Beach or Town area. You, as the Architect will have to choose which characters will be of most use to you each turn and which projects they will help you construct. All for the glory of having the most magnificent resort in the land!


Mice and Dice

Stephen from Stesso Games would like you to know about Mice and Dice.

Nice Mice, Twice Mice, Mice on Ice! It's Mice & Dice! Play Nice. Parents! Great for teaching numbers/counting to your kids! This game can truly be enjoyed by both adults AND children at the same time. Adults enjoy the fast-paced game play, and card pulling mechanics. Children love the fun theme, and score keeping

Mice and Dice is a FAMILY FRIENDLY game that can be enjoyed by people of ALL ages! This game is perfect for children. It is easy to learn. Quick to play, and makes counting and learning numbers fun and exciting!

It is your turn, every turn in Mice & Dice! There is no waiting for your roll, because roll of the dice by any player affects your score!

Check it out on Kickstarter now…

Game Developerz

GAME DEVELOPERZ is an original card game you are going to love!

Two to Six can play. Each player is put in the shoes of a gaming studio working for some of the most important brands in the gamez industry such as Electric Farts, Youbeflop, Nightvision Lizard and so on. Your goal is to develop and release a videogame. Will you be able to run your studio, deal with your publisher and charm the critics with your game?

Game Developerz gives you the chance to build up your own studio and Company Cards represent the publisher your studio will be working for. They all have a special ability and they will provide you the Coinz you need to keep your business going.

You will have to hire your own Staff in order to compose a solid. Business Development is something crucial if you want to be able to release your game, learn how to use your assets properly and how to manage your studio. Finally you will be able to create the game you always dreamed of …Well.. Almost..! Features are the core of your videogame and your goal is to put together the best of them if you want to release a great game!

During every game development something might go wrong or there could be unexpected surprises. These events are represented by the Random Event Cards. They might be good but they are usually very bad, so be ready! During the year Special Events might occur and your studio has the chance to earn important awards and be rewarded for its incredible job!

You'll have to collect as much Betascore as you can! Betascore is earned through completed Features and represents the score given by the critics and the audience of your game. Don't worry, even if your game was not so good, you will still be able to buy some journalists loyalty with the Coinz you saved at the end of the game.

Check it out on Kickstarter now…

Slugfest Games

Inline image 1

SlugFest Games is proud to announce that our third Kickstarter campaign for our new stand-alone title Kung Fu Fighting is live! You can follow the action right now on Kickstarter.

Kung Fu Fighting was first published in 2004 and is coming back! This new edition of Kung Fu Fighting is a fast-paced action card game for 2 to 6 players. Players compete to be the last one standing by launching devastating kicks, punches and a variety of weapons. By carefully switching between styles and managing their offensive and defensive options, players will eliminate their competition.

We have redesigned the game to have the feel of the original but with more strategic play. The new edition combines elements of the original Kung Fu Fighting and its expansion MORE! Kung Fu Fighting with new game mechanics. The box will include a base game that supports rough and tumble free for all combat, a more advanced team play variant, and characters with unique abilities.

The new edition will also feature an updated card design and all new art. SlugFest Games is currently working with two art studios on the new design of the game, Gong Studios and Robekka Art Studios.

The most exciting part of the campaign is the invitation for backers to become a part of the playtesting team working on Kung Fu Fighting. A print-and-play version of the game has been made available - for free! - on the campaign’s front page.

For more information about the campaign, access to the print-and-play documents, and to support the game, visit the campaign on Kickstarter. For more information and regular updates about the campaign’s progress, like SlugFest Games on Facebook.

Stonemaier Games

The Stonemaier Games team (Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone, and a multitude of incredibly helpful playtesters) are returning to Kickstarter with Tuscany, a pack of 8 expansions to Viticulture: The Strategic Game of Winemaking. Viticulture (2-6 players) is required to play the Tuscany expansion pack.

The Game

Tuscany features a legacy-style unlocking mechanism: A new expansion unlocks every few games as decided by the previous games’ winner. Each unlocked (“uncorked”) expansion is permanently added to Tuscany—these aren’t modular expansions. When all expansions have been unlocked, you can continue to play with all of them, or you can put everything back in the box and uncork everything in a final 4new order with a different group. We’ve built Tuscany around this unlocking system so that every game has a unique story behind it, as well as to manage the information overload by giving players new mechanisms in bite-sized pieces.

Some of the new elements Tuscany adds are an extended game board with four full worker-placement seasons, new worker meeples with special abilities that challenge players to not just figure out where to place workers, but also which workers to place, asymmetric starting resources, new visitor cards, secret goals, and more. Every copy of Tuscany will include the first expansion, Arboriculture, which was originally released as a premium upgrade on the Viticulture Kickstarter campaign.

The Kickstarter

Tuscany will launch on March 12 with a base price of $42 (a 40% discount off the $70 MSRP). The Kickstarter campaign is specifically for Tuscany, but because Viticulture is required to play Tuscany, we also have a $79 pledge level for both Tuscany and Viticulture (second edition) delivered together in November. Premium upgrade options include a Collector’s Edition, 48 custom metal lira coins, expedited shipping, and custom art.

render 4 side 1

We continue to hone the shipping and fulfilment system for which we are known, allowing for free shipping included to the US, Canada, Germany, the UK, China, and Taiwan. Greatly reduced shipping options ($5-$16) are also available for other countries in the EU, Asia, and Australia/NZ.

Just like our previous campaigns for Viticulture and Euphoria, we offer a money-back guarantee to all backers and unbiased third-party reviews on the Kickstarter page. The playtest PnP and rules are available for anyone to download, and there are no early bird levels or Kickstarter exclusives (there are a few versions of the game that won’t be available via traditional distribution, but we’ll still sell them directly at a premium as long as they’re in stock). We also have a series of stretch goals planned that will be included in every copy of Tuscany if we overfund.

Stonemaier Games website, Kickstarter Lessons series, Facebook, Twitter

Eagle and Gryphon Games

Fleet: Arctic Bounty has finally arrived!

Fleet: Arctic Bounty expands the award-winning card game Fleet with 120+ new cards including:

  • New Premium Licenses, Base Licenses, and Boat Cards with all-new bonuses
  • New Dock cards with more ways to build your Fleet
  • All new Crewman cards and Gone Fishin'
  • Brand new one-player and two-player variant cards and rules
  • An updated rulebook

The game is designed to integrate with Fleet and give players the ability to choose which License and Boat cards to play with in any given game, creating endless possibilities of card and power combinations and replayability. Want to try a game without Processing Vessel and Shrimp? Then take them out and add Pacific Oyster and Swordfish! Players can choose any combination of old and new licenses from Fleet: Arctic Bounty and Fleet to create exciting new gameplay experiences. Fleet: Arctic Bounty provides modularity, variety, and new strategic paths to victory!        MSRP: $24.99

Click here for more information!

1-6 players | ages 10+ | 30 min.

Original Fleet Back in Stock!

Fleet is a strategic card based game featuring a unique commercial fishing theme. Fleet uses both existing and new mechanics to create an exciting playing experience.

In the northwest corner of Nunavut, Canada, a formerly inaccessible bay off of the Arctic Ocean has become reachable through a secret inlet. Untouched by the hands of time and fed by both the ocean and warm fresh water springs, Ridback Bay is teeming with sea life. A remote, timeless bayside village is now being inundated by entrepreneurs awaiting the influx of the world's greatest fisherman to harvest this plentiful bounty. The docks and warehouses are being revitalized and now it is time to begin the real adventure. Go build your fleet and become the master of the seas!        MSRP: $24.99
Click here for more information! 

2-4 players | ages 10+ | 30-45 min.

Salmon Run Special!

With the arrival of Fleet and Fleet: Arctic Bounty, we're in the mood to go fishing, but it's not quite fishing weather yet. To keep you busy until it's time to get out on the river again, we are bringing back the Bald Eagle and Grizzly Bear Expansions for Salmon Run which will be FREE when you purchase the game. For as long as supplies last, you can purchase Salmon Run, and get the two exclusive expansions included for $39.99! These expansions were kickstarter exclusives, and we have less than 100 available, so get your pole in the water while the fishing is good!
The Grizzly Bear card allows you to move a bear up to 2 hexes. Each salmon in the same hex must discard 2 cards at random. The Bald Eagle card Choose a hex. The Bald Eagle Card allows you to choose a hex, and each salmon that occupies that hex must randomly discard a card from hand.
Sale Price with included expansions (MSRP at $5 a piece):$39.99
Click here for more information!

2-4 players | ages 10+ | 20-45 min. 

"Games of Art" Games now Available on Preorder

Games of Art just finished its Kickstarter campaign after raising almost $27,000! That's over $6,000 past our initial goal of 20k! We are so excited for this project, and thank you so much for all your support! It is too late to pledge for the kickstarter campaign, but you can pre-order these great games at eaglegames.net!

Games of Art

Games of Art is a book of games, includes seven classic games all designed by Sid Sackson. Each player wields one of the four colored dry erase markers provided in the package. Each page is laminated and fully erasable ensuring great replayability. Each game includes a short biography of the title artist, followed by short, illustrated rules (less than one page per game) and a full-page diagram of the game. Teachers and players are encouraged to copy the diagrams so that everyone can play these games simultaneously. Included are games named after and reminiscent of the styles of the iconic modern artists Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Jean Arp, Ferdinand Springer, and Victor Vasarely.        MSRP: $24.99
Click here for more information!

         2-4 players | ages 8+ | 15-60 min.

Petite Pastiche

Petite Pastiche is the condensed version of the award-winning international edition of Pastiche. The playing board has been eliminated, and there also also approximately 2/3 the hex tiles, 2/3 the palette cards and 2/3 the commission cards in Petite Pastiche (but the wooden easels remain!) A World of Beautiful Colors comes alive as players choose commission cards picturing 34 of the finest European art works of the past six centuries. Players score their commissions by mixing primary colors through clever tile placement, and recreating the palette of colors used by the masters. While placing hexagonal pieces to gain palette (color) cards, players learn the different color combinations that produce the many hues of an artist's palette... all listed on the Player Reference Card. Players also learn to recognize many great artists and their works as they complete commissions.       MSRP: $39.99

Click here for more information!

2-4 players | ages 10+ | 40-60 min.

Fantastiqa: The Rucksack Edition

Fantastiqa: The Rucksack Edition is set in a fantasy world of terrific 18th and 19th century art, portraying intrepid adventurers and the beasts they must subdue to pursue their quests. Fantastiqa: Rucksack is a deck-building strategy game set in a fantastical landscape of dark forests, mist-shrouded highlands, and frozen wastes. As you and your foes journey around the table, you will subdue strange creatures and fulfill fabulous quests. Each creature you encounter has both an ability and a vulnerability. Subdue it and recruit it as an ally! Combine the powers of different creatures and fulfill curious quests: send forth your Rabbits of Unusual Size to Nibble Through the Violin Strings of the Violent Vampire Volnar! Or deploy a party of web-slinging Spiders to String a Bridge Across the Chasm of Chaos! By completing quests, you score victory points and claim other special rewards.

Note to owners of Fantastiqa: The Enchanted Edition. The game play of the Rucksack Edition is identical to the Enchanted Edition. The Rucksack Edition slims down the size of the box, and eliminates the main board and the card holder boards. All the same playing cards are present as the Enchanted Edition, but the Rucksack Edition has a total of 211 cards vs. 240 because there are fewer duplicate cards.        MSRP: $39.99 

Click here for more information! 

2-4 players | ages 9+| 30-60 min.

Old Favorites Back in Stock!

In each of these three expansions to the cooperative fantasy board game, Defenders of the Realm, there are four new Heroes with matching Character Cards who have come to help defend Monarch City; each with special powers. Expansion #1 includes the Adventurer, Assassin, Captain of the Guard, and the Chaos Wizard. Expansion #2 features the Druid, Elf Lord, Healer, and the Monk. And expansion #3 includes the Feline, Seeker, Shaman, and the Thief.  

There are no new rules simply add the cards and tokens to the base game to begin a new adventure. Global Effects Cards should be added to the Global Effects Cards from the other Expansions to create one "Good" and one "Bad" Global Effects Deck. Several cards from each deck are added to the Darkness Spreads Deck and will change game play in a thematic way. Options allow players to increase or decrease the level of difficulty.  

Now answer the King's call to defend Monarch City!

MSRP: $24.99
Click here for more information!

1-4 players | ages 13+ | 120 min.

PitchCar

Build your own track, choose your car, and pitch it! Choose the best trajectory using the safety rails, stay on your wheels and don't go off the track if you don't want a penalty! This outstandingly beautiful game of skill is made of wood and is composed of 16 track parts, which allow you to build a vast number of 3.9 meter long tracks. The various extensions for the game are also in stock and available our website!
MSRP: $89.99

Click here for more information!

2-8 players | ages 6+ | 30 min.

PitchCar Mini

PitchCar Mini is a smaller version of PitchCar, but just as much fun as the original game. Curves are straights, the cars are a 1/3 smaller, and the tracks are 2.5 meters long. The game contains: 8 cars, 16 rails, 6 straights, 10 curves and 1 rulebook. The various extensions for the game are also in stock and available our website!          MSRP: $64.99
Click here for more information!

2-8 players | ages 6+ | 30 min.

Crokinole

This game is like shuffleboard in the round. Players take turns flicking disks on a board, trying to score points by attaining central regions. The main stipulation being that contact with the other teams' pieces must be made in order for the disk to remain on the board afterward. Although the game uses quite a bit of skill to flick the disks, there's a very significant strategy element to the game. There are many different variants and rules, as this game is very old and has had many different incarnations over the years. The game is available in both the classic finish as pictured above and a dark finish for a slightly higher price.        MSRP: $165.00
Click here for more information!

2-4 players | ages 8+ | 30 min.

MAGE Company

A tile-laying & settlement building game for 2-5 players inspired by the Prehistoric cities built in the Near East 10,000 years ago.

In Höyük each player represents a clan which will settle with other clans to erect a village. A replica of a Neolithic settlement will be built on the Höyük board using tiles to represent houses. Many additional pieces, such as ovens, shrines, and pens, will also aid a player in building their settlements. 

The purpose of the game is to build the best settlement and score the most victory points. There are multiple paths to victory with many choices along the way. The best Clan will prevail in Höyük!  

Check it out on Kickstarter right now…

Tripods

Geoff Sims would like you to know that Tripods is now up for preorder.

Tripods! is heavily influenced by The War of the Worlds and aims to take a different slant from the standard human vs. alien interpretation used by previous game versions.

In Tripods! each player controls part of the mass of humanity trying to escape from London, whilst the Martians, Military Units and other game elements are controlled by a deck of cards to simulate the inability of the individual residents of the city to have any effect on the series of events. Thus the game becomes a struggle alongside, and often against, other average folk for the limited escape routes and safe areas, much as the book portrays the desperate plight of the citizens.

INDIEAD

A small degree of influence is given to players in the form of a set of character cards which can be used to alter events, representing individuals with greater knowledge of the invasion, more power over the military, extraordinary bravery or cowardice and so forth. These are one-use-only, so players must be tactical in their decision making. This gives the game a good balance of strategy and luck, meaning experienced players who enjoy the mathematical elements of gaming can plot to their hearts' content and those who prefer to leave it to the draw of a card and roll of a die still have a chance of coming out on top by doing so.

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