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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Toc Toc Woodman

About a month ago Mayday Games contacted me to offer me a copy of Toc Toc Woodman. The game has never really appealed to me, but I’ve been aware of it for several years.

However, as a shrewd blogger I thought, if I say yes to this Mayday might send me more free stuff. So I agreed to receive a review copy of the game and I’ve been blown away by just how into it I got!

Let’s take a look at what comes in the box!


You are a woodcutter, armed with your trusty axe you head off into the wood to carefully remove the bark from a tree without cutting the tree down… Okay, so not like any wood cutter I know but still, that’s what you’re trying to do!


In the box you will find:

  • 1 Plastic Axe
  • 9 Plastic Centre Pieces
  • 28 Plastic Bark Pieces
  • 1 Rules Sheet

Now, I should point out that the pieces are really well made, the aim of the game in Toc Toc Woodman is to knock the bark off the tree without knocking the tree down, however, this tree has tumbled to the table more than twenty times since I opened it and the pieces don't even have a scratch.

When I first opened the box I thought the pieces looked a little bland but that doesn't affect how the game plays, plus any paint on the pieces would easily become chipped during the course of the game, so the pieces offer the best compromise between having the look and feel of a tree and having components that will stand up to the punishment they’re going to receive.

Finally I want to mention the actual design of the pieces themselves. This is where I am really impressed because despite being made of plastic, there are no mould lines or imperfections that would cause the pieces to snag during gameplay. They are the perfect weight and density to allow for really skilful play (I know people are doubting me here that hitting a plastic tree with a plastic axe can be skilful, but it really, really is!). Honestly, the manufacture and design of this game has me really impressed, but does it make for a good game? Lets find out.


The rules for Toc Toc Woodman are really simple. Each player takes it in turn to hit the plastic tree twice. The tree is made up of 9 rings, each consisting of 4 pieces of bark and 1 centre piece. Any piece of bark that falls off is worth 1 point however if you knock a centre piece off it is worth minus 5 points.

The game ends when there is no bark remaining, the winner is the one with the most points.


As I said in the intro, I wasn’t expecting to like the game. I was thinking we’d play it once and I’d burn off the review with some comments about “A good game for kids or drunk adults” and throw in a few Jenga references. However, having played the game I feel a whole lot different.

First up I’d like to say that I think it’s a great family game and I dont doubt it would go down a storm with inebriated adults too, but I don’t think you need to have kids or alcohol to enjoy this game. Toc Toc Woodman really is a game of skill. On your turn you want to score as many points as you can without leaving obvious scoring opportunities for your opponents and of course you want to destabilise the tree as much as possible before you pass on the axe.

This is where the design really is a charm. Once you get a feel for the game you know how hard you can hit the rings to achieve the effect you want. The weight of the rings above pushing down on the lower rings means you have to hit harder to make them move, but the smooth design means that the ring you hit will slide out BSd054HIUAAM_VYfrom underneath the others without the effects of the hit reverberating upwards through the stack.

The fact that you get two hits intrigued me. It makes for a much better game, as you can use your first hit to set up the second, but at the same time, sometimes that second hit is more of a curse. Sometimes you’ve destabilised the tree so much with your first that you really, really don't want a second!

Now, I can’t really talk about Toc Toc Woodman and not mention Jenga. The fun of Jenga comes from not being the one to knock the tower down, however the game itself is rather repetitive. Your move is almost predetermined in Jenga, take the block that keeps the tower stable. Toc Toc Woodman on the other hand introduces an element of skill in where you hit and how hard and in what direction. It still has the tension of Jenga, the inevitable crash, but it introduces an element of dexterity that makes the game infinitely more interesting for me.

One of the main reason I agreed to take a review copy was because of my brother. Long time readers will know that a lot of my gaming revolves around him. He has a form of Cerebral Palsy called Worster Drought Syndrome, that affects his vocal chords, motor control and his ability to learn. I decided that this game would be great for helping him develop his hand-eye co-ordination and it has been amazing to watch just how quickly he has learnt to adapt to it. It is a joy to watch him analyse the tree before he swings and to adjust his power based on how high up the tree he is hitting.

Final Thoughts

What I am driving at here is that this really is a game that can be played and enjoyed by anyone. It doesn’t take long to learn and it really is very enjoyable for such a simple game. Toc Toc Woodman is currently on Pre-order with Mayday but if you are looking for a good dexterity game that works well with everyone, you could do a lot worse than take a look at Toc Toc Woodman.

Mayday Games provided a review copy of this game

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Descent 2nd Edition

It’s been a while since I wrote my review of Descent. I loved the game, as that review will testify. In more recent times I voted Road to Legend the best expansion I bought last year. So, when 2nd Edition was announced I was not that enthused, as I was still knee deep in exploring the 1st edition of the game.

However, I read every preview and soon I could start to see a lot of reasons why I should buy into the new edition. Yes… I may have been swayed by how pretty the tiles are and how shiny new things are but I stand by my decision. Plus, Mark Collins over at Grim Tree Games let me have it cheap in exchange for letting him open it first!!

This is going to be my first of two reviews of Descent, focusing entirely on the mechanics of the game and the differences between first and second edition. The second review will focus on the campaign and the experience point system. For those who want to skip over the review entirely, I love it and I think you should buy it!

Right then, to business.


In Descent you are a hero, trusted with saving the land from an evil overlord. With your fellow heroes you must defend the weak and the innocent against monsters and dragons and the other foul denizens of Terrinoth.

Or, perhaps you are a misunderstood ruler, who simply wants to bring peace and unity to the land. Unfortunately not everyone feels you’re methods are right and just, of course they are wrong and they must be shown the errors of their ways!


Descent 2nd Edition comes in an impressively small box compared to it’s predecessor. However, I’m fairly confident it is just as good a bang for your buck.

• The Rulebook
• 1 Quest Guide
• 8 Hero Figures
• 31 Monster Figures
• 9 Custom Six–sided Dice
• 7 Plastic Stands
• 8 Hero Sheets
• 1 Pad of Campaign Sheets
• 152 Small Cards
• 84 Bridge-sized Cards
• 205 Tokens, consisting of:
– 48 Map Tiles
– 45 Damage Tokens
– 35 Fatigue Tokens
– 7 Doors
– 16 Hero Tokens
– 9 Search Tokens
– 6 Lieutenant Tokens
– 10 Objective Tokens
– 8 Villager Tokens
– 20 Condition Tokens
– 1 Reanimate Familiar Token

When I reviewed Descent First Edition I talked about the components as a great tool box for any D&D player. In second edition I feel that the components are more tied to the game (you certainly could use them for other games too) but there is perhaps a less broad selection of pieces.

However, the pieces are beautiful. I love the map tiles and the fact that they are doubled sided is a great boon to the game. Also the introduction of coloured borders around terrain really helps gameplay as it stops arguments about whether a rock is just an artistic flourish or an actual piece of terrain.

The minis are okay, however other than the heroes I will replace most of them with minis from my own collection, the exception being the larger pieces like the shadow dragons. However, there are actually some nice sculpts amongst them and they are actually a better quality of plastic than the original game.

I had reservations about the dice, I didn't think they looked as pretty as the originals but to be honest its a minor quibble and the way the game has been streamlined makes me like the dice the more.

The cards and rules are well laid out and I have rarely had any issue with finding the information I need to run the game. Overall it’s a very smooth product, finished with some beautiful artwork and I’m very glad I own it.

Playing the Game

The game is played using an Overlord player and between 2 and 4 heroes. The Overlord sets up the game according to the scenario rules and draws a hand of three Overlord Cards.

In most games the heroes go first. The heroes can act in any order they choose but each hero must fully complete his turn before the next hero starts. Each turn the hero may perform 2 actions.

  • Move: The hero moves his hero figure up to a number of spaces equal to the hero’s Speed. The hero may interrupt his movement with another action and then complete his movement after the other action is resolved.
  • Attack: The hero attacks a monster
  • Use a Skill: The hero uses a skill listed on one of his Class cards
    that requires an action (shown by an arrow)
  • Rest: The hero will recover all fatigue at the end of this turn.
  • Search: If the hero is adjacent to or in a space containing a search token, he may reveal the search token.
  • Stand Up: This is the one and only action that a knocked out hero may perform during his turn. This action allows the hero to recover damage and prepare to be activated as normal next round.
  • Revive a Hero: The hero restores health to a knocked out hero in an adjacent space.
  • Open or Close a Door: The hero opens or closes one adjacent door.
  • Special: Different cards or quests may provide heroes with unique actions to perform.

Once all the heroes have acted the Overlord may take his turn. He begins by drawing a card and doing any actions or playing any cards he wants that state “at the start of your turn.” Then he can activate each of his monster groups in turn. Most monsters may perform at most 1 combat action, but can otherwise perform actions like a hero. The Overlord must complete all the actions for a single group before moving on to the next group.

Once the Overlord has acted with each of his groups his turn ends and play passes back to the heroes. The game continues in this fashion until one side achieves their objective.


Most of the actions listed above are self explanatory, but combat deservers a little more attention. Descent, at its heart, was always a tactical miniatures game, manoeuvring on the map to gain the best position for attacks and making them count. In Descent 2.0 some of that is lost in exchange for better storytelling and faster gameplay but it’s still a great game if you love bashing monsters!

To make an attack you roll the dice listed on your weapon card, this will always include a blue dice. The blue dice features a miss icon, meaning all attacks will miss 1 out of 6 times. At the same time your opponent rolls his defence dice. If the attack is ranged you must get enough range (numbers) on the dice to reach your opponent or the attack is a miss. If the attack is melee you must be adjacent to your opponent (unless you have “reach”) so the numbers are ignored. The number of heart icons are then compared to the number of shield icons and your opponent takes damage for each heart not blocked by a shield. If you have taken more damage than you have health you are defeated. Monsters are removed from the map, heroes are replaced with tokens so that they may be revived in the next turn.

If you roll any surge icons (the lightening bolt) you may activate one surge ability you have for each surge rolled. Note that each surge ability can only be activated once per roll.


The changes in Descent 2.0 are many. And most of them are good. Descent First Edition is an excellent tactical miniatures game that encompasses a whole dungeon crawl in a single session, managing to include evil monsters, magic weapons and levelling up. It is still a fantastic game. Descent 2.0 strips away a lot of the complexity of the original and it changes the format from a single session style game to a full campaign, but one that can be played in nine sessions.

The following has been stripped out of the game:

  • The movement point system, this has been replaced with the elegant and easy to remember action system
  • The ready action, this has been replaced with action cards that allow heroes to take moves out of turn sequence if their class allows
  • Many condition tokens, the conditions have been stripped down considerably and they are now summarised on cards for convenience.
  • The conquest point system, the Overlord now receives a bonus card whenever he knocks out a hero instead of Conquest Points.
  • The Threat System, Overlord cards no longer have costs to play, but they are usually triggered by specific circumstances.
  • The Surge System, Surges are now less frequent, which speeds up gameplay and prevents analysis paralysis. In addition each surge effect can only be used once which makes the decision making process easier and prevents abusive use of power by Overlords and Players.
  • Static Defence, Defence is now represent by a dice roll which allows Heroes to damage even the hardest monster with a lucky hit. In addition because attack and defence are rolled simultaneously it allows players to allocate their surges knowing if they have hit or not.
  • The Exhaustion system, this system has been given an overhaul and exhaustion is now used to trigger skill cards and cannot be use to increase range or add additional dice to your pool, however it can still be used for an additional move point.
  • Spawning Rules, monsters now enter the board through a specific point on the map, rather than spawning out of line of sight.
  • Upgrading, all upgrades are now done between encounters, again this leads to faster gameplay.


Overall, I think that Descent 2.0 appeals to the more casual gamers, as well as to the roleplayers that wanted a more campaign feel built into the base game. The fact that the campaign can be played out in 9 session (as opposed to 200+ hours that Road to Legend takes) means that you get that interconnected feeling between scenarios without the drawbacks of a long campaign such as one side getting too far ahead or players becoming bored with playing the same group of characters.

Yes, it is less epic than playing Road to Legend or Sea of Blood but at the same time it strikes a nice balance and as I said I feel it will appeal more to the casual players. The reduced playing time will also appeal, I’ve played games of the original that lasted for five hours, however I’ve not had a session last over two hours in Descent 2.0.

Yes, I dont think of the game as a tactical miniatures battle, filled with min-maxing and optimal moves and attacks, but I still have original descent for that. What we have in this edition is the introduction of skill cards that build on one another, so you can watch your hero grow and develop his powers to suit your playstyle. There is a greater focus on developing your character over maximising your damage potential. Now it’s possible to play a healer, or magic user with subtle spells, as opposed to tank equipped with the “rune of destroy all things”.

The Overlords responsibility is also reduced, with fewer rules to remember, although it’s still really easy to overlook stuff and make silly mistakes. I love the fact the monsters abilities are printed on the reverse of the cards, so no more looking at the rules during gameplay. Also I like the fact the monsters increase in power with the heroes, although I’ll talk more about that in my next review.

Talking of rules, I have played whole sessions of Descent 2,0 without needing the rulebook at all, this is a combination of the simplified rules system and the abundance of reference material. All the heroes have their abilities on cards, the turn order is on cards, the conditions are on cards and the monster abilities are on cards. And despite this the game probably still takes up less table space than it’s predecessor.

The streamlined Surge system really speeds the game up, not that I minded long games of Descent but with this edition you don't need to plan a sandwich break in the middle of it. The streamlining of the rules has made the game faster and more “casual-gamer” friendly and I think more fun. The less I have to concentrate on remembering how to play the game the more I can concentrate on having fun.

Final Thoughts

If you liked the original game I dont think there is anything you wont like about the new system. If you wanted to like the original but felt it would be better with more story and less power gaming then Descent 2.0 is right for you. And if you hate having fun and playing with gorgeous components then I’d give this game a very wide birth indeed!

Go get it now!!

Until next time, have fun gaming!


Thursday, 8 August 2013

First Impressions: The Agents

Sometimes, there are surprises in life you just don't expect, the same is true in the gaming community. The Reaper Bones Kickstarter is one example of a surprise no-one could have predicted, a miniature company raising over $3 million through crowd funding. Now The Agents, by Saar Shai hasn’t raised quite that amount but with 18 days still to go and over $140,000 raised it’s not doing bad, especially when you consider this is a first time designer out of Israel, not a country synonymous with Board Game Designers.

Now, Saar contacted me several months ago to ask me if he could send me a preview copy of The Agents. I get a lot of these offers because I feature a lot of Kickstarter projects in my news feed. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of time to do reviews any more and I feel I can better serve my readers by concentrating on published games, rather than games that might come out, if it gets funded and if there are no production issues etc.

So I was ready to turn down Saar’s offer but, for some reason I clicked through to his site and read a little more. The first thing that hit me was the artwork. This was a professional looking game for, at that point, a very pre-kickstarter project. I could see that Saar had invested some time and effort into the project and I liked the style the design was taking.

Then I read about the “double edged cards” mechanic, when you play a card in The Agents you can either play it for the points or for the ability. However, which ever you choose your opponent gets the other. This was what sold me and so I replied to Saar and asked for a review copy of the game.


Lets take a quick look at how the game plays. You have two factions, one you share with the player on your left and one you share with the player on your right. In addition you have facing, cards with an Order facing you can be activated by you, cards with points facing towards you can be scored by you.

The game has two types of cards, Agents and Mission. Agents have orders and points and allow you to manipulate the state of play. Missions have a task you must complete, as long as you are completing that task you can score the mission at the end of your turn.

On your turn you may take two of the follow actions:

1. Play a Card (Agent or Mission). If you play an agent the order must be completed by the player it is facing.

2. Activate an Order facing you on an already played agent in either of your factions

3. Retire a mission and pick up a new one from the deck

4. Buy an Agent for 1 point or a mission for 3 points. For an additional point you may choose the top most card from the relevant discard pile instead.

The meat of the game is in the cards. Regular Agents look like this:

Each Agent has two versions, a black version and white version. Each Agent also has a colour which is important for some missions, plus an icon and text that explains their “order”. Also at the top of the card is a half icon. A complete icon facing you is worth two points, this basically means two black cards next to each other with the arrow icon facing you is worth two points and the same with two white cards. A white card and a black card next to each other is worthless (most of the time)

The second kind of agents are Free Agents:

Free agents are one off special cards that can be played on any player, not just the two you share factions with. You can choose to take the points or use the ability (the points area on this card is blank because the values have not be finalised yet). After the order is completed the Free Agent is moved to the agent discard pile.

The game is played until one player reaches 50 points or until all the factions are full (in most games this means 5 cards in each faction). As the game offers very few ways to remove played cards from the table (even assassinated agents stick around) you will spend most of the game using orders to manipulate the cards played to fulfil missions and score the most points before the last agents is played closing out the factions and ending the game.


That brief overview doesn’t really explain everything but it gives you a general idea. Most of the game of The Agents is in the cards rather than the rules.

At first you may think that playing a card and giving your opponent points is a bad thing, but here is the trick. A basic agent requires a second agent to score you points, however an order on a card can be activated as one of your actions as long as it is facing you. Most of the orders allow you to rearrange the faction in some way, swapping cards, or eliminating them or even rotating them.

Giving your opponent this power, to use at his whim is far more dangerous than a potential to score points. Thus your turn becomes about manipulating the table in your favour so you score points but leave your opponent scoring none. As scoring is done at the end of the players turn you will want to think about just how best to mess with your opponent. If you spend an action denying your opponent a point that he can get back with a single action then you are probably fighting a losing game.

The meat of your points will probably come from missions, a player who is allowed to complete a mission multiple times in a row will likely run away with the game. Removing the mission or the components allowing him to score it is vital to success.

In The Agents you need to both manipulate the game to your advantage and at the same time sabotage your opponent. That is a delicate balance to strike with only two actions per turn. The Agents requires you to plan ahead, often your moves in a turn will seemingly grant you little to no benefit, but they set you up for a coup d'éta in a following turn.

The game features very little luck, except in the draw and even that can be mitigated by buying cards from the top of the discard pile. But it does feature chaos as your opponent is essentially working with the same cards as you. In addition, in a 3+ game you are playing against two opponents meaning you could be facing two entirely different play styles and trying to beat them both.

Basically what I’m driving at here is The Agents is very well structured game if you enjoy working out puzzles, playing several moves ahead and direct conflict. This game may well burn your brain, not with it’s rules which are very simple, but with it’s gameplay.

Did I like it? Yes, but I wouldn’t say it is for everyone. Do I have anything bad to say about the game… well… yes.

The copy I received was a prototype so much of what I’m going to say now could have changed in the final design. The problems I had with the game lie in the graphic design and the composition of the rulebook.

Ignoring typos and obvious rule conflicts (such as the rules stating players can have two missions per faction and then a couple of paragraphs later saying only one), I found the rules overly wordy for what they were trying to achieve and the order in which they were laid out was not necessarily intuitive and easy to follow. I hope that Saar uses some of the additional cash generated by the Kickstarter to hire a good proof-reader to really streamline the rules and hammer out the inconsistencies and ambiguous language. 

Other than the rulebook I found the text on the cards to be problematic. For example a mission card “Reinforcements” states “Score 4 points for Two Agents of the same type facing you in this faction” however the rules state that the two agents must be adjacent. Given the size of the cards there is plenty of room for a full explanation of how the card works. Again this is something can be easily fixed with a good proof reader and some extensive playtesting. Ambiguous language and discrepancies between cards and rules can turn a great game into an argument very easily, especially in a game as confrontational as this one. Good rules can’t fix a bad game, but bad rules can make a good game inaccessible.

Final Thoughts

So, in conclusion, I think The Agents will be a great game for players who enjoy this confrontational style of game and I really hope it doesn’t let itself down with it’s rules and it’s card text.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Elemental Clash – A 12 Year Evolution

As a writer who has been working on his “novel” for what is now half of my life, I know a little something about about belligerently trying to birth your ideas, despite your own doubts, despite the time and effort and the other hardships that life throws your way and despite the dissenting voices in the crowd telling you to not give up your day job. This week’s guest post comes from Andreas Propst, designer of Elemental Clash and it is his story of a difficult journey to bring his game from scribblings in his university dorm room to a finished (and stunningly beautiful) game.

Clashing Through the Years

I remember it quite clearly: Everything started out on one lush summer evening back in the year 2006. Since my early teen years I had been trying to design my own fantasy card games in an effort to recreate what the godfather of CCGs (CCG as in Customizable Card Game), Magic: the Gathering meant to me throughout my time as a youngster, yet with my very own touch. I have always been a creative mind and simply could not resist to emulate great things in my own way and style.

After some failed attempts at creating my own CCG in the past years, it was on said lush summer evening in 2006 when I sat down to lay the fundaments of what was to become my personal story of success, idealistically if not monetary. This time around I wanted to create something original, not just emulate Magic: the Gathering, which had been so dear to me ever since I “discovered“ it as a boy. So over the course of one evening, I wrote down the basic mechanics and rules as well as what was to become the “Basic Set“ of cards for my longest project up to the very day, Elemental Clash, in what I can only call an epiphany. Astonishingly, the rules and basic mechanics as well as the set of cards I wrote down over the course of just several hours remained intact up to the present day, many of the cards from the original “Basic Set“ being incorporated, just as they were scribbled down 6 years ago, in the Elemental Clash “Master Set“, which can be regarded as the “pinnacle“ of 6 years of development and refinement.

Some of the fantastic Creatures you can summon.

In this article – forgive me if it turns out lengthier as intended – I want to give you, dear reader, an idea of and a glimpse into the process of designing my „non-collectible, yet incredibly customizable“ fantasy card game Elemental Clash, which has accompanied me for half a dozen years now and with which I “grew up“ as a game designer.

The Conception of a Game System:

I just had ended my civil service in the social sector, working at a home for mentally ill people, which had convinced me to study Social Work instead of art, and had just started my studies at the Linz University of Applied Sciences that one night, I felt the inexplicable urge to have yet another try at a fantasy-themes Customizable Card Game (CCG). And this time, it would be something original and not just a “Magic Clone“ with some cosmetic twists. So I grabbed my notebook and started brainstorming. Within a couple of hours I had settled for mechanics and even penned down a first set of cards, to become the Elemental Clash “Basic Set“, which should stand unaltered for the most part up to the present day. Today I would call that kind of process “Speed Design“ and, although it may sound unprofessional or even stupid, I work like that very often. While I am mostly the intuitive, creative type rather than the analytic type, an “artist“ rather than a statistician, I seem to be blessed with a good intuition when it comes to designing games in general and to balancing cards over the background of an well-working game “engine“. So when I design games, and this was the case with Elemental Clash as well, I am mostly guided by my creative sense and game designer's intuition.

Some of the magical Spells you can cast.

So what I had come up with during my brainstorming in summer 2006 was to become what I now call the “Clash System“, which is a combination of mechanics/concepts which work very well together and which has proven to be quite enjoyable for most of the gamers who have tried “Clash Games“. The basic mechanics that are integral part of any Clash Game I designed (there are a few which I will be dealing with later on) are the following:

  • Deck Depletion as the Primary Win Condition:

The goal of any Clash Game is to reduce the cards in an opponent's deck to zero by inflicting damage on him or her. For every point of damage caused to a player, he or she discards the top card from his or her deck to the discard pile. If a player is unable to draw from the deck because it is depleted, he or she loses the game.

  • The Stacking Resource System:

Many have called this the most unique and well conceived part of the Clash System. Resource cards are stacked on top of each other and cards you want to play have to be placed on top of a suitable resource-stack. In general you can play one resource card during your turn. You get the choice to either put it on top of an existing resource card or stack in play or start a new resource stack. The bottom most resource decides which type of resource the whole stack provides. This system makes for tough decisions and requires the players to plan ahead. Furthermore it is a great alternative to „tapping“ resource cards in order to pay for cards you want to play.

  • The Zones of the Playing-Field:

There are several, well defined zones on the playing field where you can put certain cards or where certain cards behave in a certain way. In Elemental Clash for example you have three major zones: The Element-Stone-Zone (for resources), the Attack- and Defence-Zones (both for Creatures).

A Crisis as a Chance - Making my Passion a Profession:

After I had basically come up with a whole game in one inspired night, the Elemental Clash project was put on hold soon after as my studies of Social Work took up pretty much all of my time. That was until a fateful event in my life, that turned everything upside down in a cruel twist of fate. In summer 2008 I embarked on a journey to South India where I was going to work for a major development aid institution as part of my practical placement. There, I unexpectedly contracted a severe tropical illness which almost killed me. I barely made it home and besides the bodily effects of the disease, I was traumatized for life. Because of this I was forced to discontinue my studies of Social Work. We have a saying over here in Austria: “If God closes one door he opens another“. I soon realized that this severe crisis in my life was, ironically, to become one of the greatest opportunities in my life as well. The Chinese word for crisis also means opportunity, and that is pretty much what happened to me. All of a sudden, I had a lot of spare time and, instead of drowning in self-pity and idleness, I decided to put my time to good use by investing it into my game design hobby, or passion rather. A passion that was to become my profession.

Four mighty Spellcasters.

So I dug up my notes on Elemental Clash and started to work on the game again. A great stepping stone for me and powerful catalyst for my game design undertakings in general was the discovery of BoardGameGeek on the web, which was brought to my attention by a friend. I had found the greatest place in the world for a fledgling game designer where one could meet fellow gamers and game designers, expand one's knowledge on games, exchange and present ideas, build up a network (networking proved to be key to many of my various projects) etc etc.

The Evolution of Elemental Clash – Superficiality of the Gaming Scene:

Elemental Clash evolved greatly since its conception back in 2006. The evolution was mostly a visual one, as the core mechanics and basic rules remained pretty much unaltered since the very beginning as I have mentioned before. Rather than telling you I will show you the tremendous visual evolution Elemental Clash underwent over the course of 6 years, starting from humble beginnings in black and white to the definite “Master Set“ look with professionally done card layout and artwork that can compare with major CCGs on the market.


Back in 2009 when I started to work on Elemental Clash again and had started to become an active member of the great community over at BGG, the very first version of Elemental Clash was printed – through Artscow in Hong Kong. This first version had layout created amateurishly in MS Word and the artwork consisted of crude pencil drawings. I was still recovering from that sever tropical illness and this was the best I could come up with. All that did not stop me from starting to send out review copies of this “Proto Elemental Clash“ to gamers and reviewers I had met on The Geek and soon after to publishers all over the world as well. Although I received some great initial reviews – the first from Marcin imageFengler alias Rudolf Aligierski from Poland (I later honoured him for that by creating a Promo card bearing his likeness which you can see below) – only few people recognized Elemental Clash as the hidden gem those who had actually played it called it.

Back then, I got many comments from gamers saying that Elemental Clash was “just another Magic Clone“ and I have been struggling with that sort of prejudice ever since. What is quite telling about the gamer scene in general however is the fact that the “Magic Clone“ comments became less and less common the more the game became visually appealing. Considering the fact that the game system, the mechanics and the cards with their particular effects changed little to not at all over the course of time, while the looks of the game became better and better, it is quite telling about the gaming scene in general. I consider it legitimate that “you eat with your eyes first“ as the saying goes but I found it quite irritating to say the least how the reactions to and the comments on the game improved proportionally with the improvement of the visuals for the game. Of course I was pleased to see how the “Magic Clone“ comments decreased but I had learnt my lesson: Looks are everything, not just in the fashion scene but in the gaming scene as well. This is the reason why I am investing into art for prototypes as early as possible to be able to present gamers and potential publishers with eye-candy to make a good first impression.

Parting with pathetic partners – A new beginning for Elemental Clash:

After a while of looking for publishers quite desperately, I was overjoyed when in 2011 TOG Entertainment, a small games publisher from the United States agreed to publish Elemental Clash. Unfortunately, what seemed to be every game designer's dream come true turned out to be a nightmare after all. After what was probably one of the most painstakingly nerve-wrecking experiences of my life as a game designer, I was eventually able, with much cunning and the invaluable help of many friends (such as Hank Panethiere, to whom I dedicated a Promo card commemorating the whole affair – see below), to wrench Elemental Clash from the clutches of TOG Entertainment, who then waned and vanished soon after. With the rights to the game back, I solemnly swore to myself to never let Elemental Clash out of my own hands again. So I “crafted“ a new plan for Elemental Clash: I hired artists to redo the card layout and card backs as TOG would have charged me outrageous sums for the old ones and decided to do a big re-launch on The Game Crafter, the very place the game started out in the first place. So in 2012 I re-released the Elemental Clash “Basic Set“ along with two expansions of 60 cards each in the form of the so called “Master Editions“ on The Game Crafter, with greatly improved layout and illustrations done by myself and coloured by my loyal artist and good friend Enggar Adirasa from Indonesia. The Gods of Gaming even blessed me with the prestigious Staff Pick status on The Game Crafter, which only further encouraged me to pursue the Elemental Clash project further and reinforced the notion that the game was indeed not “just another Magic Clone“.

Elemental Clash and its Spin-Offs/Derivatives:

Over the course of time I designed several spin-offs or re-themes of the fantasy-themed Elemental Clash, which all share the basic tenets, the core mechanics, utilizing the Clash System as detailed before. The first was the World War Two themed Panzer Clash, in which you choose one orimage more of the four factions Americans and Soviets (Allies) or Germans and Japanese (Axis) and re-enact the tank battles of the Second World War. The idea for Panzer Clash was born when wargamer friends of mine said they'd like the game more with a “wargamer-friendly“ theme. So I set out to re-theme Elemental Clash. The result, Panzer Clash is intended to appeal to wargamers or people interested in modern historical warfare as a filler type game for in between heavy (war-) gaming sessions. Panzer Clash features the four aforementioned factions and 100 different cards to build custom decks with. The major difference between Elemental and Panzer Clash is the introduction of Terrain cards in Panzer Clash. You build a playing field out of Terrain cards at random before each game where you move around your units, whereby different Terrain has certain effects on units stationed there, which adds a lot of tactical and strategic depth to the gameplay as compared to Elemental Clash. The card layout was designed by myself and the historic photographs I used are in the public domain.

Space Clash is the second Elemental Clash re-theme, which is thematically more interesting for me and was conceived several years ago. Just recently I gave the game a complete overhaul when it comes to gameplay and mechanics applying all the experience and lessons learnt from 6 years of Elemental Clash (Yes, Elemental Clash is not perfect!).


In Space Clash, players assume the role of one of four unique, exciting races (from left to right in the above image: Terrans, Skaargans, Attrayids and Intrazi) represented by four pre-constructed and well balanced decks. The major innovation mechanics-wise in Space Clash is that there are no resource cards. Employing a clever twist of the tried and tested resource stacking mechanic, players can play any card upside down as a resource of the resource type of the card. This improves gameplay greatly on so many levels. You will never have a “dead card“ in you hand or draw too many or too few resources, as any card in your hand can be used as a resource. Space Clash is currently under review by several American games publishers and simultaneously undergoing heavy playtesting to balance the cards and decks against each other properly.

Present and Future of Elemental Clash:

Elemental Clash is currently on Kickstarter - for the third and probably last time. As I write these lines we are about 22% funded, and that after three days. I am awed and humbled by the support, the enthusiasm and kindness those great people who backed the game so far have been showing towards me. Now if you have become curious about Elemental Clash, please check out the page on Kickstarter and if you want true CCG feeling without the blind purchase model of traditional CCGs, please consider backing the project. We’ve got awesome pledge levels and amazing Stretch Goal bonuses to offer you. For example you can have yourself or a loved one “immortalized“ on a special promo card bearing your likeness or can even shape the present and future of Elemental Clash by designing your own cards to be included with the Elemental Clash “Master Set” and the upcoming expansion “Legendary Legacy”.


Furthermore, the Elemental Clash Mobile App for Android and iOS is nearing completion and release. My skilled programmers from Indonesia have been working tirelessly on the project for about a year now and I will soon be able to imageoffer you the finished App on Google Play / the App Store. Have a look at a little teaser in the form of some screenshots from the prototype:

Well that is my article about developing Elemental Clash and my Clash Games in general. I hope it was somewhat insightful and interesting to you, dear reader.

Now if I have managed to raise your curiosity and you want to know more about Elemental Clash, I strongly recommend you visit the Official Elemental Clash Website at for more info, many reviews, visual card spoilers of all past, present and future sets of the game and much more!

If you would like to follow the news on Elemental Clash please like us on facebook and/or follow us on twitter

If you happen to have any questions, inquiries, comments, feedback or whatever else please do not hesitate to contact me directly and any time at and I will personally answer you in a timely manner!

Well hope to see some of you over at Kickstarter!

Kind regards from Austria,


About the author:
Andreas Propst is a young, up-and-coming game designer, artist and book author from a rural part of Upper Austria. Andreas is the designer of Elemental Clash as well as a number of other Clash Games and a variety of non-Clash related games.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Board Game News 29: New Games, New Magazines and even a New Sitcom…

This week’s news instalment shines a light on a lot of new Kickstater projects, but we’re not just talking games this week. Along with the usual collection of projects you’ll find The Casual Game Insider, a quarterly magazine with a focus on family and casual gaming. Plus a trailer for a new Board Game sitcom… I kid you not!

Wiggles 3D

Wiggles 3D is proud to announce the release of a new type of matching puzzle game: Smile Tiles!

Smile Tiles features 10 different monsters, each with a unique personality! Boomy was never built quite right, Dizzy is totally out of control, and Wheezy has never been able to get over his cough. We know you will learn to love them all!

Smile Tiles is not about matching colours like other matching puzzle games. You make smiles by moving and rotating monsters to match up eyes with mouths in a variety of different patterns.

Test your monster mojo! With challenging levels, thought-provoking puzzles, and hundreds of secondary goals to earn more stars, this game is guaranteed to be fun and addictive for hours. Every level has a different look from a heart to a bee, or even a moose! Do you have what it takes to race the clock and earn every star?

Smile Tiles is available for all devices on both iOS and Android platforms.

Happy Meeple

Announcing Version 2.1 with sound, music and more

Happy Meeple now comes with sound effects, atmosphere and music!
This adds a great new layer to the platform and the games. We are particularly excited about Lost Cities. In this game, atmosphere and sound effects do a great job to put forward the exploring theme. Try it out!
With version 2.1, we have also improved the following:

  • more meeple animations (see login screen for a sequence of funny animations)
  • various graphical improvements on Lost Cities and Finito!
  • Improved management of the clock (now fully synchronized with server clock)

Play now!

Please visit our new media page:  Media page
And the platform: Happy Meeple

About Happy Meeple

Happy Meeple is an online platform offering carefully selected modern board games.

Our aim is to promote the board game hobby and reach new players.
Hundreds of millions of people play every day online. We believe that they should play modern board games rather than often very uninteresting ones.
Our games are: Lost Cities, Finito!, Level X, Keltis Card, Keltis Ór.

Casual Game Insider

Chris James would like you all to know about the gamer magazine Casual Game Insider which is now in it’s second year of publication and successfully funded on Kickstarter.

Casual Game Insider is the perfect resource to learn about great casual games, read up on interesting topics related to casual gaming, and share with your friends to get them interested in gaming!

CGI is published quarterly in print and digital formats and focuses on casual board and card games that are relatively easy to learn, quick to play, and fun for all ages. The first year of publication was funded here on Kickstarter, and we have had a very rewarding and successful year. In addition to our many direct subscribers, we now reach 2,000 game stores with the help of 3 major game distributors (ACD, GTS, and PHD). We also have the magazine available on the iPad through a 3rd party app (HP Magcloud).

We now need your help to fund another year of publication. If we gather extra support, we also hope to expand our reach by publishing directly to Apple, Android, Kindle, and Windows marketplaces and increasing our retailer distribution. Please help us continue our dream!

So, if you want to get in on the ground floor, go check out the Kickstarter now, because you’ve only got six days left!!

The Agents

The Agents is a brand new strategic card game that introduces a unique ‘Double-edged cards’ mechanic into the undercover world of covert operations and espionage.

As the Agency shuts down, dismissed and disbanded Agents all around the world are trying to figure out what’s next. Left without a cause, they team up and turn against each other.

You must enlist and lead your own faction of highly skilled professionals into an uncertain territory of betrayal and deception. Show no mercy, reveal no secrets.

The Agents is a deceptively simple card game; easy to learn, set up and start playing, but underpinned by intricate decision-making gameplay. Players must join their Agents into Factions, assign Missions and take their opponents down, to gather intel and win the most points.

Featuring the captivating artwork of collaborator Danny Morison (aka Dark Mechanic), ‘The Agents’ will challenge your imagination and brain power as you plan, plot and scheme your way to victory.

The Agents gameplay is based on a unique, new mechanic we like to call ‘Double-edged Cards’. Each Agent card features a ‘command’ on one end of the card and ‘points’ on the other end. However, the direction in which you place the card will determine from which asset you benefit. If you choose to perform the command, one of your opponents will get the points. If you keep the points for yourself, an opponent gets to perform the command.

Throughout the game, you’ll need both commands and points to advance. Commands will allow you to manipulate Agents, control your Factions, and influence other players. But you’ll need points to buy more Agents and Missions. And ultimately, the player with the most points wins.

Deciding how to place each card will require strategic precision and calculated foresight, as you try to further your own goals, and prevent your opponents from reaching theirs.

The Agents has already funded on Kickstarter (twenty times over) but there is still time to get in on the action. I will be publishing a review on this soon based on the preview copy I received earlier this year.

Latest Pursuit

The Oleg Story™: Survival is a prison based board game.

The story is based on Oleg D Tyler. He is an international hacker who is believed to have been captured and handed over to the U.S. Government, suspected of leaking confidential governmental information.

Oleg has been incarcerated in one of the most notorious prisons in North America and stands accused of killing two innocent people. Oleg has been sentenced to serve two life long prison sentences. He has refused to join any organised gang.

The Oleg Story™: Survival is a character driven prison survival game, with a wide range of comprehensive detailed miniatures. You and six other friends can control and co-operate with 6 different rival gangs.

The stories of 618 Nation, Ryder Brotherhood, The Asian Family, The Mobsters, Russian Spies and, finally, non-gang members, also known as NGM, who are led by Oleg, are all in your hands. Remember, the NGM are a group of people who are not associated with any organised gangs; they are called the non-gang members.

Can you survive the harsh realities of prison?

Play the game that allows you to control individual gangs and conquer other gangs. You will be able to play as existing gangs and engage in their active and ongoing battles. If you possess the right cards, you can also join an alliance with a fellow player and plan your attacks on other players.

You can back Oleg on Kickstarter right now… or check out the video below for more info.

Board With Life

A new comedy webseries based on board games is launching this week on August 8th from Moonrat Media.

Moonrat Media announces the release date of a long-form web series Board with Life: The Series. The series will debut on Thursday, August 8, 2013 with new episodes released on Thursdays. The ambitious show chronicles the misadventures of a weekly game night comprised of dysfunctional geeks who squawk and squabble through episodes of gaming, arguing and fun.

The recent release of their first few sketches (which they call "bits") has shown only a hint at the ambition, quality and scale of Board with Life: The Series. Each 12 minute episode is a smaller part of a larger narrative containing character arcs and deeper themes. The series delves into classic games including Catan, Dominion, Dungeon Twister and Magic: The Gathering, and features guest appearances from Ashly Burch, Christopher R. Sabat and others.





As a little pig, your dearest wish is to build a strong and beautiful house in which you can spend your long winter evenings. Throwing the special dice will allow you to construct your dream home. But if you bring the wolf out of the wood, just take a deep breath and shatter other players’ buildings by blowing on the wheel!

This original game comes in a book-shaped box,
along with an illustrated version of the famous tale it is based on.

2-5 players | 7+ | 20 min.

published by IELLO & Purple Brain
design: Laurent Pouchain | artwork: Xavier Colette



Play as sly spirits seeking to ruin a Scottish manor hotel or, if you prefer, intrepid ectoplasm hunters who never falter in the pursuit of their prey. While the ghosts have to be cunning and use psychology in order to remain concealed, the hunters use observation and deduction to flush out their sneaky targets.

From award-winning author Hervé Marly (The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, Skull & Roses...) and new talent Frédéric Colombier, with dazzling artworks from Naïade (Tokaido) and Vincent Dutrait!

2-4 players | 8+ | 20 min.
published by IELLO & Funforge
design: H. Marly & F. Colombier | artwork: Naïade & Vincent Dutrait



Humankind’s greatest factions fight over Titanium, a new, super-powerful form of energy. Purchase buildings to master new technologies and increase your earnings. Buy units to expand your fleet and enhance your spaceships with powerful equipment. Explore the edge of the galaxy and adjust your tactics to seize control of new planets rich in Titanium.

Titanium Wars offers countless possibilities to build your own fleet, a fast and smooth gameplay with no downtime, and impressive artwork!

3-4 players | 12+ | 60-90 min.
published by IELLO & Euphoria Games
design: Frédéric Guérard
artwork: C. Hirbec, I. Polouchine, M. Rebuffat & A. Yakovlev


In a world where everyone above 18 has turn into a blood-thirsty, flesh-hungry zombie, most youngsters served as meat to quell their elder’s appetite…
As a little group of survivors, you must unite to escape the relentless horde of undead.
Run across town to find shelter or food, hold a strategic position, meet with new survivors and discover the truth about this terrible and mysterious disease!

Zombie 15’ is a new, innovative, frantic game in which players try to defeat zombies… and time!
Easy rules but real choices, to be made as quick as possible if you don’t want to get overwhelmed by zombies!
A team of 15-year-old teenagers, a 15-minute soundtrack to give each game its tempo, a 15-scenario, progressive campaign, and much more than just 15 zombies…

2-4 players | 14+ | 15 min. per scenario
published by IELLO | Kickstarter pre-orders in September, available Q4 2013
design: Guillaume Lemery & Nicolas Schlewitz | artwork: Biboun, Alexey Yakovlec, Anthony Wolff & Igor Polouchine | soundtrack: Eros Cartechimi

Guardians Chronicles is an epic semi-cooperative board game of superheroes and villains, in which the four brave heroes of the Liberty Patrol try to stop the dark schemes of one of their worst enemy: evil Pr. Skarov. While one player plays the villain, safely retreated in his lair, the other image016.jpg@01CE8EE7.C5631E40players have to cooperate if they want to enter his base and evade all his minions and traps. Only by joining their forces will they succeed in stopping Pr. Skarov’s madness.

An intense, immersive game experience, thanks to its abundant material (including miniatures of heroes, villains and minions!) and simple yet comprehensive game system. The rules focused on bringing life to the superhero in each player, by making them work as a team and combine together their own, unique superpowers in order to defeat Evil in several, different scenarios.


2-5 players | 14+ | 60-90 min.
published by IELLO & The Red Joker | available Q4 2013
design: Frédéric Condette | artwork: Louis, Sébastien Lamirand, Sylvain Guinebaud, Julien Carette, Anne Rouvin and Nicolas Fructus.

The time is summer 1944. The Sun shines on Normandie hedgerows. Gentle wind, fields of bright flowers, and in the background, the romantic staccato of a machine gun fire in the morning. In these typical French countryside landscapes, thousands of men are about to fight. And die. Bravely like heroes, or cowardly like wussies. But only heroes really matters. Those you see in Hollywood Golden Age war movies. Here lies Heroes of Normandy's inspiration; here is what the game has to offer: explosive and fast-paced battles; the pleasure to butcher your enemies through MG42 walls of lead, and to crush nazi bastards under tons of shells; basically, blood and guts.

Heroes of Normandie is a new, fast-paced WW2 strategy wargame inspired by Hollywood war movies. A tactical scale board-game opposing 2 players, and 2 armies: the German on one side, the American on the other. Secretly plan your attacks and ouwit your opponent. Block the opposing strategy and surprise the enemies. Deploy your units to and don’t turn back!


2 players | 10+ | 60 min.
Published by IELLO & Devil Pig Games | available Q4 2013
design: Yann & Clem | artwork: Alexandre Bonvalot.


As owners of a fantastic steam park, you're to build gigantic, coal-powered rides to attract as much visitors as you can... But building attractions won’t be enough: you'll also need to manage your employees, invest in advertising in order to attract and please the different kinds of guests visiting your park, and, above all, keep the dirt you park produces under strict control!

Steam Park is an easy to learn game, with two difficulty levels, one for the less experienced gamers and a more strategic one for those who want a more exciting challenge. In this management game you’ll have to build your own amusement park and make it the largest and most profitable in the region. By constructing the three-dimensional, wonderful rides designed by Marie Cardouat (Dixit 1 & 2), you will see your park grow right before your eyes. Choose your strategy! Build Stands to attract more Visitors, or Toilets to keep the Dirt under control. Whatever decision you take, take it quickly: the less time you spend planning, the more time you'll have to maintain you Park. Thanks to a clever, original action-choosing mechanic, winning in Steam Park is as much a matter of being the best... as of being the fastest!

2-4 players | 10+ | 60 min.
Published by IELLO & Cranio Creations
design: Aureliano Buonfino, Lorenzo Silva & Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino | artwork: Marie Cardouat.


Gettysburg: The Tide Turns

With a only a few days left in the Gettysburg: The Tide Turns Kickstarter campaign, we are preparing for one final push. We've been impressed with the response of our community thus far. Their early support allowed us to offer the tabletop version of Gettysburg as a campaign reward and make many other improvements. 

To provide a rallying point for our supporters we are pleased to announce several stretch goals we hope to reach in this final push:

$30k - Alternate History Scenario #1: "Stonewall" Jackson at Gettysburg

Would the tide have turned differently if Jackson were at Gettysburg? This scenario will explore the ramifications of this powerful commander's presence at the battle.

$35k - Alternate History Scenario #2: The Cavalry Arrives!

Stuart's cavalry was late to the battle, but what if they had arrived when expected? This scenario will explore that event and what the outcome may have been.

$40k - Alternate History Scenario #3: Hooker Retains Command

What if Meade had not replaced Hooker just before the battle? We will prepare a scenario that explores what may have happened and how the divisions and brigades would have performed.

These goals will allow us to add more enjoyment to Gettysburg and improve the experience for everyone. We encourage our current supporters to help us reach these goals and to share with their friends. 

This Weeks New Releases

And finally it’s time to hand you guys over to our friend Paul from Board Game Guru to tell you about the latest releases…

The sun is shining on next week’s board game releases

The most popular is guaranteed to be ‘Creation and Control’, the first Deluxe Expansion for Netrunner Living Card Game . It includes 3 copies of each of 55 new cards.

Star Wars the Card Game also gets its first deluxe expansion– ‘The Edge of Darkness’ adds two new playable factions.

Not to be left out the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game gets Adventure packs two ('Druardan Forest’) and three (‘Encounter at Amon Din’) releases next week.

‘Planet Steam’, finally, has an English Language release. For the first time in their history Fantasy Flight has published a game with less bling than the original – which required an extension to your house and a remortgage to purchase. ‘Planet Steam’ is one of the best economic games of the last five years; it has a brilliant market mechanic an unforgiving economic engine and guarantees brain burn with every play. Guru recommended!

‘Zug um Zug: Deutschland’ (‘Ticket to Ride Germany’) is a German language only release.

‘Mascarade’, designed by Bruno Faidutti, a  game of bluff and identity fraud. This looks like it might occupy the same game space as Coup and Love Letter and I’m going to give it a try.

'Conquest of Kumnajaro' is a spell tome expansion for 'Mage Wars'

My pick of the week (in fact pick of 2013's UK releases so far) is ‘Fauna’. Despite it being released in 2008 and it has only just made it to UK distribution. I love this game and have played it more than any other in 2013. It’s a wonderful mesh of general knowledge , gambling and positioning – with the locations of hundreds of animals on world a map and weight and size scale. It is the rarest of games; one that is as popular with gamers as with families and non gamer friends. Nearly everyone I teach the game to buys a copy, i’d say it is almost an essential purchase for any gamer family.

War Games

‘Phantom Leader Deluxe’ is an upgraded edition of the Vietnam War Squadron command game and adds a host of extra cards and a Cuban Missile crisis scenario.

‘Roads to Moscow’, includes tow battles fought before Moscow in 1941.

‘Fall of the West’ is the fifth Battle Pack of for ‘Combat Commander’

‘Strategy and Tactics 282’ includes ‘War of the Pacific’ (a 19th century dust up between Chile and Peru/Bolivia)


‘Guns of Gettysburg’, ‘Ghost Stories’ and it’s expansion ‘New Moon’, ‘Seasons : Enchanted Kingdom’, ‘Kemet’ (I love this rather aggressive euro/ameritrash hybrid), ’10 Days in Europe’, ‘A-Wing’ and ‘Tie Interceptor’.


'Robinson Crusoe' is expected in August and available to pre-order. Please contact me if you would like to pre-order the 2013 Cave Evil reprint

Happy Gaming


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