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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.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Gaming Changes Lives

Abacus and GamingUnboxed is 300 posts old today! I’ve been thinking for a while now about what I would write for this milestone, wanting to create something profound to mark the occasion. However, what I think I am going to write about is how gaming has helped one person specifically.

As regular readers will know, I have a younger brother who suffers with a form of cerebral palsy that affects his learning and motor skills. He struggles with basic things we take for granted like reading and counting, however he loves playing games with the family.

Through the use of games we have been able to cement the idea of pattern recognition. For example the dots on the side of a die are instantly recognisable, despite the fact if he was presented with 6 objects he would have to count them individually. He uses the images on a card to understand what it says, for example when he draws the Hag in Talisman he knows that he must travel to the village to get rid of her.

This recognition of patterns and images is actually proof of intelligence beyond what his doctors and therapists believe he possesses. Andrew can store thousands of patterns in his brain, knowing the functions of hundreds of cards and board positions in dozens of different games, so much so that he often corrects other players when they make a mistake.

As an extension of this pattern recognition Andrew has begun to recognise words and their meanings within a game context. For example he recognises the words “Card” “Gold” “Wound” “Disease” “Hit Points” and understands what they mean within the context of the game. I know that this is actually understanding of the word because he can extrapolate and use the word in different games where the same word is used but generates a different result.

We have known for many years that Andrew can comprehend game mechanics. For example, when he plays Zooloretto he can not only recognise which truck of animals will work best for him, but he can also identify which truck each other player wants and, as you can tell by his sadistic little smile, he knows when he is deliberately messing up your strategy!

Andrew has a desire to play games with his family and that desire is driving his learning. After watching us play Thunderstone for years he eventually decided that he wanted to join in. The finer mechanics of the game are too complex for him to understand, however being able to add and subtract his attack and gold is something that could be taught.

Initially we tried to teach him using a calculator, however I quickly realised that he was not understanding the correlation between the symbols (i.e. numbers) and their numerical value, so we switched to an abacus and the difference was immediate and apparent.

Andrew can now play Legendary almost unaided, using his abacus to add up his Fight and Recruit. We are still working on subtraction. He can recognise when he is allowed to draw additional cards by reading the words “draw a card” and he is starting to understand when he can use his super power actions. When asked to show an X-men Hero or an MK Hero he can do so unaided, the same is true if he asked to show a specific colour hero.

His counting ability has come on leaps and bounds since he started playing using his abacus. At first games were painfully slow while we struggled to get him to add up his attack or recruit score which he could only do one bead at a time. Now however he is confident enough to move groups of beads up to five at a time and can recognise how many beads are in a string on sight (although he struggles with 5 and 6).

Making him understand 10’s was not easy but the concept is slowly sinking in as is the ability to subtract a villains Fight value from his attack score to see if he has enough to beat anything else. He is also getting much better at the concept of “Higher” and “Lower” which he just used to guess at. Andrew’s ability to add up using his abacus has now come on so far that he can calculate his final score correctly (which has been up to 55) without prompting and unsupervised.

We have been using this strategy since November and progress has been slow and sometimes frustrating, but we have also achieved more through the use of games than formal schooling had achieved in 21 years. Andrew’s desire to play a game has directly boosted his reading and counting skills and the change is staggering.  

So, there you have it, proof that games can not just be a fun distraction but that they can be educational and life changing. If you have a story about how gaming has affected you or someone you know in a positive way please get in touch and perhaps write a guest post for the blog.

See you next week guys,

Chris

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Killing Down Time

This week’s guest post comes from the creative minds over at RAINN Studios, the company behind War of Kings, a strategy game that combines simultaneous play with fun and exciting battles on the field. Here’s Seth to tell you more.

Simultaneous Play, Why Not?

Simultaneous play is a core component of real-time strategy video games, but it is not as common in strategy board games. In this article, we would like to share our experience integrating simultaneous play into our game, War of Kings.  While strategy games are traditionally turn-based, we were able to implement some unique mechanics that allowed us to circumvent this stereotype.

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War of Kings emphasizes expanding your kingdom economically and through military conquest. Typically, such a game would call for each player to gather resources, build or upgrade structures, and then move and attack with their armies sequentially. However, this creates a situation that all of us have been in. One player spends time deliberating all of the options while the other players are just waiting—especially in a six-player game. War of Kings was no different during its early playtesting. In fact, the most common feedback from play testers was to find a way to reduce the wait between turns.

After brainstorming, we tried to pull as many phases of the game as we could into one phase that every player could participate in at the same time. We found that resource generation, construction, raising armies, and the army support mechanic could all be blended together and played simultaneously. After this phase, the players could move and attack with their armies sequentially around the board. Generally, everyone at the table is interested in these battles, so it seemed appropriate to handle them in the traditional manner.

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As might be expected, this simultaneous play initially introduced some imbalance to our game because the first player will get to move his or her armies immediately after everything is constructed, whereas the 6th player must wait until the end of the round.  While painfully simple now, the “moved token” mechanic was our solution.  By restricting an army to a single movement each round (including a withdrawal from combat), movement in War of Kings became much more elegant.  The first player has the initiative, but must risk their armies being unable to withdraw from an unfavorable battle.  The last player must react to everyone’s movement, but has the certainty of knowing where everyone else has moved and thus is less likely to get into a situation where his or her armies could become trapped.

In the case of War of Kings, the simultaneous play mechanic not only speeds up the game, but it also greatly simplifies the resource generation. When we were still thinking in terms of turn-based play, resources were generated more or less often, depending on the number of players in the game (i.e. resources generated six times per round in a six-player game vs. two times per round in a two-player game). This made it very difficult to balance the economic system. Our first attempts revolved around adjusting the quantity of resources that each settlement would generate based on the number players in the game. This was clearly far from ideal, because it required multiple tables for players to keep track of. We would much rather keep all of these things independent of the number of players. Now we get to do exactly that.

This simultaneous play mechanic makes War of Kings a hybrid between “real-time” games and traditional turn-based games. The Construction Phase of the game transformed a long wait to a fast-paced and active experience.  Players are collecting resources and building their kingdoms while shouting out potential trades they are interested in, similar to traders on the floor of the stock market. Now, both the economic and military components of the game stay exciting and engaging for everyone while speeding up and simplifying game play.

Seth and Heath are the designers of War of Kings which is now on Kickstarter at http://kck.st/1nBlTyw. You can also find a complete development blog at the game’s homepage: www.warofkingsgame.com.

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