Rococo: Jewelry Box Expansion Review

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I acquired two new games last week, Broom Service the card game and the Rococo Jewelry Box expansion. I decided to write about Rococo and make a little video on Broom Service (coming later this week). As I mentioned in my post a few weeks back I absolutely love Rococo, its a beautiful Euro and up there in my top ten.

So what does Jewelry Box add to the game and is it worth purchasing? Well you get 28 additional employees, an exam card, jewellery box board and jewellery tokens, and yes I believe it’s worth purchasing (for a vey reasonable £12.50 RRP.)
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So what does it do? Well first off there’s the personal ‘exam’ cards. You take the exam using your apprentice and journeyman cards to meet the three set requirements (same for every player and easily achievable e.g- use an action with your apprentice to buy a yellow or red material) Once you’ve completed the exam you spend an action trading in your standard journeyman/apprentice card and pay the hiring cost to choose one of the special guys. These let you add on a cool free action e.g. – make a dress for free and sell only (instead of placing it in a hall, and hey that extra money is always welcome!) you can take the exams as many times as you like. The jewellery itself is displayed on a separate little board and consists of coloured ring and necklace tokens. You can only purchase these when you make a dress and as the game progresses and they are purchased you can move them along the board and lower their cost. When you buy a piece of jewellery this gives you income every round. If the one that you buy matches the colour of the dress you made then you can pick up a free material. I find this comes in handy because personally I dislike spending too many actions purchasing! Some of the expansion cards are shuffled into the regular deck too so you can snap one of those up as a hiring action.
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In my opinion if you like Rococo you’ll welcome this expansion and probably enjoy it as much as I did. I love that it adds more to an already tough game and makes choosing what to do next even more challenging. I only wish it added on an extra round because this game seems to end so quickly as it is, and you feel like there’s so much more you could achieve if you had just a bit more time. There’s the inevitable ‘check the rule book 500 times to remember what the symbols mean’ but that’s to be expected when you first start playing a language independent game. The jewellery box and the exams seem to give you quite a bit more income to play around with too and can earn you some valuable extra prestige points early on, so it definitely feels like you are gaining more which is always nice.
It’s an all round good review from me, a must have if you own the game and an incentive to give Rococo a try if you haven’t already!
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Empty packet of Revels optional! 

Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space

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I was looking forward to this for some time and having heard mixed opinions (along the lines of ‘brilliant, love this game’ to ‘doesn’t work very well in practice’) I was curious to try it myself and wanted the re print with the matte finish book-like box, the map/log manuals and wipe clean markers. It has a great design, the minimal art work is very fitting and the creatures are pretty horrible, it really does have that ‘Alien’/space horror feel. But is it any good? I won’t beat around the bush, yes, yes it is. In my opinion.

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Let’s start with the setting. You’re on a research mission in deep space. The bad news is that your craft has been badly damaged. You’ve been plunged into darkness. The worse news is that an alien plague has got on board and it’s going to creep about and pick you off one by one and transform you into a flesh eating monster too. Run.

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So how do you play? Well despite the slightly intimidating rule book (symbols everywhere…brain melting) it’s actually pretty straightforward. It’s bluffing/hidden movement basically. You randomly determine in secret who is playing the alien and who is the human. Each come with a special ability (optional) and you choose which map to play on (there’s a recommended beginners map and they all state the number of players they’re best used with). From here on you decide where to move on your map to escape the alien or hunt the human. The white sectors are silent sectors, so you can announce you’re located in a silent sector but don’t have to draw a card. Then there’s the grey ‘dangerous sectors’ where you randomly draw a card from the main deck. Green cards mean you have to declare a sector but not necessarily the one where you’re in, red cards means you have to be truthful about where you are. So there’s a fair amount of bluffing here. Which for some reason took me a while to get the hang of but when I did, I realised I’m actually pretty good at it! So you move around your map trying to get to an escape pod. If the alien player or players find you then they can attack and kill you! Then it’s ‘game over man, game over!’ So a pretty abrupt ending. You can also randomly draw ‘action’ cards from the deck instead of a noise card, you can keep these to yourself and play them on any turn once. This is also optional!
A few points:
  • The maps matter. I was playing a two player game with the starter map which is actually recommended for 4-8 players. The first two times I played I died within about three minutes (but was also not bluffing very well) and as soon as we started playing with the 2-8 player maps the game went on (for about 10 minutes) and was a lot tougher.
  • It works as a two player. This was a concern I had but it still works really nicely. Only with two players you both know who you are so there’s really no secret there and also a couple of cards that would be cool you aren’t able to use, like ‘mutate’ so you can change into an alien secretly and trick your opponents. It would also last longer with more players, so I really want to try it with 2+ to see how it differs.
  • I’d recommend playing with the character ability and events. It means there’s more going on, more options and you can (try) to get smart. For example one action card means that the human player can attack an alien. So I deliberately tried to trick my alien opponent by bluffing as to my whereabouts and was secretly following where I thought he was to kill him. Then I played the card at the wrong time and promptly died. Not so smart. But it was a fun way to play. Maybe next time!
  • It can be over pretty quickly. If you play with 2-3 players it’s more of a filler game.
  • I’ve never played a game that involves mapping and writing and I really enjoyed this aspect. But as much as I liked the laminated maps I found the pens to be fiddly. Also hiding your manual from the other player whilst writing and trying not to smudge your ink is tricky. Give me a mini pencil any day!
  • You have to announce ‘silent sector’ ‘dangerous sector’ ‘noise detected in sector X’ every single turn. After saying the phrases in various theatrical tones, like the whisper, the Dalek, the generic ship computer voice, it got a little annoying. It’s a small criticism, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment!
Overall I’d give it a 8/10. It’s a good game, fun with two, probably a ‘bigger’ game if played in a group, and with the lights down and some atmospheric music it’s even better. Maybe not worth paying over the odds for but definitely worth the RRP (£25-£30 depending on where you shop.) More Info

Game Design; Month 3

Recent prototype

Today I thought I’d write a post on the progress of my game design and where the idea stemmed from. A couple of people asked about it and I’m happy to share now I’m slightly further along. I’m still a little apprehensive to say too much as the end result could be years from from now (for all I know at this stage!) But I’m thinking semi regular progress reports for those who are interested would be good!

So, I’m designing a game…
The working title is Supernatural Showdown. Not too sure about it, however that’s not the most important thing right now. This will be a card based game, possibly a two player (but subject to change!) and the core mechanics are deck building, hand management and set collection, with elements of press your luck. I’d like to make a game that’s meaty enough for gamers but that could be picked up by someone whose new to the hobby.
The outline:
Right now I can pretty much describe the skeleton of the game (I’ll save the flesh until I’m further down the line!) So what’s supernatural about Supernatural Showdown? You are a paranormal investigative team making a reality TV show. You are competing with your biggest rivals in the field for air time on a TV channel specialising in the supernatural. Your mission is to build the most credible and exciting investigations to air by creating a series of episodes. You will use the characters in your team to hire equipment, hunt for spirits and gain evidence of ‘the supernatural’. 
So why a card game?
Initially I had 3 ideas for possible mechanics to explore and themes to create. In the end I went with the two that I feel most confident in developing at the moment. I have a complete addiction to card games. I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I find it fascinating that so much story and so many possibilities can be represented in a simple deck of cards, and I love that card games can be so wildly different from each other. It’s risky because there are a lot of card games out there and in development, so will this one really peak a tabletop gamers interest? Only time will tell I suppose! 
Why design a game?
I don’t have too many ideas of grandeur here! My intention is not attempt to make loads of money or become a famous designer. It’s a lovely dream obviously, but I understand that the reality of game design is very different. I love playing tabletop games and for whatever reason I’m passionate about designing my own. I think it’s because I wanted to make something that I wish had been made, I like that I could bring an idea into a playable game that hopefully other people will also enjoy! I like the notion  that other people can in some way help shape the game further, create a world with me and I’m hoping to really communicate and share with fellow gamers. 

The first cards I designed

The first incarnation


What’s with the theme?Since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with ‘ghosts’ and supernatural horror. Whether it was fictional, historic, television or movies. I was an ‘X-Phile’ when I was 12/13 (FYI this is what hardcore X Files super geeks refer to themselves as, not sure if they still do or if it was a 90’s thing) and I loved reading the inspiration and real life phenomena behind the episodes. I have a penchant for paranormal reality TV, no matter if you think it’s silly or fabricated, you have to admit it can be entertaining! Personally I am a firm believer in the paranormal and I’ve been on ‘ghost hunts’ myself. I’ve certainly experienced a couple of unusual things but nothing that’s convinced me it was definitely ‘the paranormal’. I really enjoyed the movie Grave Encounters (sadly the sequel sucked) about a paranormal team that fake their encounters for their show, until they get locked down in a haunted asylum with some very real and very angry spirits and have no way out. It’s a must watch, and genuinely freaked me out the first time I saw it. My favourite documentary is The Enfield Poltergeist (there has since been a mini series, and the new Conjuring sequel is loosely based on it. The first show I ever watch of the paranormal nature was ‘Ghostwatch’, a UK ‘mockumentary’ aired in the early 90’s. I pestered my parents to watch it on Halloween night, and I was too embarrassed to admit I couldn’t sleep for days after. It was way ahead of its time, this was years before found footage films like The Blair Witch Project, (whose early marketing campaign lead the audience to believe it was real found footage). It was years before the Paranormal Activity franchise, and years before the spooky reality favourite ‘Most Haunted’. Looking back of course it’s as dated as hell (although I still love it!) but at the time people actually thought it was real. The BBC had calls and everything, so you know it was serious business! I’ve added a link here, it made quite a furore in the UK at the time. Great stuff. So there began my love affair with spooky shows and things that go bump in the night! Anyway, back to the game design…

Progress so far:
I had a very early prototype printed and played in April and just from those few playtests I realised that a lot needed to be changed. So I went back to the drawing board for many weeks, scrapped those initial ideas and redesigned it. This is how I discovered rapid prototyping is the way forward. I’ve faffed a lot and wasted loads of time! Another basic prototype was made using those new ideas and although there is a lot of further development needed I still think I’m on to something. I’m quite a way off from blind play tests or any play tests that involve other gamers for that matter, but I am really looking forward to getting to that stage. I’m also excited about wrapping a story and characters around the game but that’s going to come later as soon as I’m confident the actual game is good, worth playing and it’s all worth pursuing. 

If you made it to the end of this post thank you so much for reading, and of course I’ll appreciate any thoughts, opinions and general feedback too! 

Back This! Gloria Eternia by Lewis Terry

On my quest to meet like minded tabletop gamers on Instagram I came into contact with Lewis Terry, (@britishbriefs on Instagram) a game designer from the UK. I discovered that he was Kickstarting a new game in June called Glori Eternia, a fast paced card game for 2-4 players where clever hand management and timing is everything. Lewis has been crazy busy preparing for the launch so I was very lucky to get the chance to pick his brain last weekend and interview him. Read further to find out more about Glori Eternia and his journey as a game designer…..

Hi Lewis! So your new game Glori Eternia is launching on Kickstarter. How long has this game been in the making and how has it evolved over time?

‘I had the initial idea for the game many years, and in the last few years I started developing it into a more cohesive and sturdy game. Since its first conception it has evolved dramatically with regards to the art and design, and has become far more powerful. I sought out a talented artist who could bring the images to life in the way that I imagined through the use of traditional painting, and the layout design is through the use of digital art – so there is a nice merger of the traditional and the contemporary. The gameplay itself has gone through rigorous playtesting with a diverse age range, from seasoned gamers to beginners, and it has been tweaked here and there to make sure it is balanced and fun to play.’

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The Evolution of Glori Eternia

What was your inspiration for the game?

‘The inspiration for Glori Eternia came from three main things.  I have always loved the idea of the mythical hero who could slay silly amounts of opponents in one blow on the battlefield.  Growing up I really enjoyed hearing tales of mythology.  Later I discovered the Dynasty Warriors series of computer games in which you play as heroes of the past and take on wave after wave of insignificant peons.  Then in cinema, Lord of the Rings really turned that battle prowess into a visual reality.  Sauron cleaving waves of his foes in one strike of his blade. I wanted to recreate this in a game.  I had a few shots at it in my teens and I eventually came up with a solo dice game, which I shall talk about later.  Even though the dice game could be played with more than one player it was still really just a solo game.  I wanted to create something where you had the same banter as Legolas and Gimli in Lord of the Rings, a friendly but heated competition between rivals.  This brought me into a Take That style card game in which you are all fighting to be the best, while screwing each other over in the heat of battle’

Have you ever launched KS before and how are you feeling as the launch date approaches?

‘We had one successful Kickstarter last year, with a print and play game called Breakneck Blitz. Blitz is a game about arena combat, using a dry point pen on a grid to plot your movements. We also did launch Glori Eternia last year too (back then it was known as Eternal Glory), but we launched too close to Christmas and during a sudden, big house move so things were pretty chaotic. We decided to postpone the project and launch after we were settled and had improved the overall layout of the cards. It was a good decision! As the launch date approaches I feel a mixture of excitement and nerves kicking in, which I guess is natural when you are launching a big campaign and attending the biggest games convention in the UK as an exhibitor.’

Tell me a little bit about your background? I understand you’ve been designing games for many years, was it always something you aspired to do? 

‘I was brought up from a very early age with Citadel and Games Workshop games and miniatures.  My dad as a late teen had the opportunity to have an apprenticeship for six months or so with the small six man team that it was back then.  This meant that I was surrounded by a lot of Games Workshop titles, such as Space HulkTalismanChaos Marauders and Chainsaw Warrior, to name a few.  After that he went into computer game artwork and design for two decades.  This allowed me to see the development of an idea to its fruition into a product many times over.  It was an exciting environment to grow up in.

After the initial upbringing of American and UK games. My family started to import games from Germany when the Eurogames really kicked off.  It was seeing this huge amount of games that inspired me.  Seeing both high end production but also the really budget marketplace too.  Steve Jackson’s microgame series and James Ernest’s Cheapass Games, really inspired me.

Both of my parents always encouraged my creativity.  I was always surrounded by paper and notes and I made my own games from an early age.  I guess it was always something I wanted to do but never thought I could do.’

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Breakneck Blitz

I’ve seen some of your amazing art work on Instagram, have you ever illustrated for other games or your own?

‘Thank you for the compliment. I got into art as a hobby, a hobby that slowly got very out of hand.  For a few years I spent time trying to illustrate people’s games on the Board Game Geek.  I did a few versions of other people’s print and play games.  One of which was Doubloons that has now been released as Scallywags.  The artwork that I did was okay and it led to me making art for my own games.  You can download on BGG many of my early games.  My favourite was a game called Exquisite Rivalry, about feuding rich siblings trying to make the best town.  I am currently redesigning it as Three Sheets to the Wind.  The artwork is poor but the mechanics are solid.’

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Three Sheets To The Wind

What was the first game you ever designed and are there many that never quite made it to the shelf? Would you consider revisiting one of those?

‘I honestly can’t remember the first game I ever created.  I used to make lots of paper and counter games with huge results charts and encounter tables.  I still have some of them in a folder somewhere.  Most of them were made from cereal boxes and paper cut outs. The first proper game I created that I had success with was called Makura Sagashi, which stands for Pillow Searcher.  In feudal Japan people would hide their possessions under their pillow, hence they called burglars pillow searchers.  I invented the game when I was 13 and kept revisiting it.  I played it sometimes at lunch breaks back then and I still bring it out sometimes now.  A few years ago I refined it and uploaded it to BGG as Pillow Searcher and gave it a new look.  Someone on one of the forums pointed out it was very similar to another game called Nobody Here but Us Chickens.  When I went and checked it out it is very similar.  It was crushing to see a game I had worked on for that length of time kind of already existed in another form.  This was also a valuable lesson though and it did not deter me’

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Pillow Searcher

‘There are plenty of games I have created that haven’t hit the shelf. Even games I worked up to completion.  Survival of the Fittest and Ouija are good examples of these.  Both I shall revisit at some point, but probably not for a long while. I have eleven games that I have finished and a chunk of them even have artwork and properly printed prototypes but I feel I need to tackle one at a time.’

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Survival of the Fittest and Ouija

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Some examples of game that didn’t hit the shelf. From right to left (Feed The The Beast, Adventure Team, Dicey Diner, Treacherous Turf, Sphinx, Space Babes)

As a newcomer to board game design what would your tips be for me or any other designers just starting out?

‘Since I started on my game design journey more and more people have come up to me with their game ideas and games they would like to make.  For me, game design has been a long journey.  It is easy to have an idea, but after that it needs to be play tested, balanced, playtested some more, then you need to get the artwork, format the components, source production companies and the list goes on.  Thankfully thousands of people have been there before and there are many great links on the BGG in the game design forums that will help out anyone looking into game design.

I have had to learn many new skills that I never thought I would need on my journey and the biggest piece of advice I can give is don’t give up.  Take criticism and keep improving on your idea.  If you have played the game a hundred times and you don’t enjoy it anymore, don’t try and sell it.  If you don’t enjoy your game other people are not likely to either.’

Can you tell me a little about your other new game Immortal Warriors and where is it available?

‘Immortal Warriors is what Glori Eternia was born from.  It is a very simple push your luck dice game for 1-4 players.  It is really a solo game but like Yahtzee it can be played competitively.  The game was created years ago and I have been playing it for a long time.  Having nothing to sell on the table for the UK Games Expo I thought I should make up a few games that would be easily affordable for people.  I decided to print up Immortal Warriors and make the artwork as luxurious as I could.’

The current version that people can by consists of seven Era map cards, which players battle through to try and earn the most fame and reputation. This is done by choosing a path and trying to get what is required to pass on three rolls of the dice.  If they pass they gain fame and reputation and move onto the next area, if not they suffer injury and lose a die. It is good light fun and hard to beat.  People will be able to buy it from our stand at D31 at the UK Games Expo or directly from our website in the future.’

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Immortal Warriors 

How would you sum up Glori Eternia in 3 words?

‘Fast paced fun.’

Thanks for your time! And tons of good wishes to you and your team!

The Kickstarter for Glori Eternia launched this morning, go pay the page a visit here, and if you are visiting the UK Games Expo this week you can find Lewis at stand D31 to pick up Immortal Warriors!