Games, Games, Games Pt 3.

Every now and then I write a post about games that I’m hyped about. There are many exciting things happening in board game-land right now, and in this post I’m sharing my excitement with you. There’s a good chance that you may be familiar with some of it, or all of it already, especially if you attended Gen Con or keep an eagle eye on games news. I try to keep my finger on the pulse, but often it’s other people sharing information that keeps me updated, and thank goodness that they do or my world would be a far emptier place.

Below are a few up and coming games that are buzzing me right now. I have provided links, in the past I’ve tended to kind of rehash what the game is about somewhat, which seems kind of silly really. So i’ve kept it pretty light…

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To start with there’s some new titles coming by those whom I would consider to be table top heavy weights. It’s possibly a little dangerous to assume that everything these guys release is automatically going to be five star stuff but I can’t help but to feel it might be very good. Therefore I’m really looking forward to seeing more of A Feast For Odin (Uwe Rosenburg) and The Oracle of Delphi (Stefan Feld) because I really love Eurogames. It’s definitely one of my favourite genres and previous games by these two designers are some of the best i’ve played. I don’t think a new Euro game has been released of late that’s made me say ‘Yes! I am going to need this in my life’ But these two games look like they will blow my Euro socks off just a bit. I love a bit of dice rolling when implemented right, I go mad for hexagonal tiles (the sexiest of all the shapes surely), I’m fond of Greek Mythology themes (Delphi) and anything that involves industry, building, producing (Feast). You can read more about them on the links above.

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Colony by Ted Alspach. Yes! Why am I into it? Because Suburbia is a wonderful game and I also enjoyed Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but Colony is a sci-fi game involving cards/deck building and dice. It seems very different from his usual style and I can’t imagine this guy coming up with anything that’s not fun, smart and playable. I find Ted Alspach games friendly and inviting. There’s something warm about them even if the subject matter isn’t so cute & fuzzy. Take a look!

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I also discovered (and i’m probably the last to know) that one of my favourite games Twilight Struggle is getting a sister (brother? whatever….) Imperial Struggle! Instead of the The Cold War we have the ‘Second’ 100 Years War, the 18th century rivalry between France & Britain. Like TS it’s a two player game, easy to pick up but a mission to master. It looks pretty epic, I will not do is justice by waffling about it here,  so please do go and read all about it on the official page!

Onto my next coveted game. Great Western Trail. This was also brought to my attention on Twitter. Since Doomtown: Reloaded I’ve been longing for a new Western themed game that ticks all the boxes, and this might be The One. It’s by Alexander Pfister who also designed Broom Service (a firm favourite) amongst others. Cattle herding in 19th century West using tile placement, hand management and deck building. On a big beautiful board, with tons of card, tiles and cow meeples. Awesome. I saw on Twitter this week that Alexander Pfister describes it as ‘heavier than Mombasa’ so it’s heavier than a heavy Euro. I’m so ready for this.

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I’ve seen Lotus by Renegade Game Studios getting a lot of positive reviews, and not only does it look gorgeous but also intriguing. Creating flower forms with your cards, growing a garden and using mystical guardians to assist you. I’ve never seen a game like this before, it seems like a really unique spin on area control. I’m really looking forward to it.

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Inis. Another game that I only found out about through a Twitter/Instagram buddy, a super cool lady @maggibot. Inis looked pretty striking with large land tiles, minis and old-school box art. Inis (or Island as I discovered) is a fighting game immersed in Ancient Celtic times. Funnily enough it was just reviewed by my favourites Shut Up And Sit Down and it’s an extra special episode because Paul and Quinn’s are back together (as a one off I am assuming.) So I just travelled back in time to a few years ago when I first saw the series and thought it was brilliant. Anyway, they compare Inis to Kemet and Cyclades (two epic games I missed out on when they were released) and actually have rated it above Cyclades. Gasp! I’m really excited, and you can visit the link to their page to see the game in full.

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Unfortunately all of the games mentioned in the post are not looking likely to hit retailers for some time, at least in the UK anyway, so it’s going to be a bit of a wait. But is also lots to look forward to.

To briefly mention I really fancy Prospectus, Tyrants of the Underdark, Twelve Heroes and Fields of Green, and it’s almost time for Terraforming Mars and Last Friday. Woop!

I’m going to go rob a bank now!

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In Defence of The Best Hobby Ever…

It’s strange to me that table top gaming still has a stigma attached to it. Maybe less so in the last year, but still, at least in my part of the world I feel that it’s still considered to be a ‘boring’ or ‘unsocial’ hobby, which as we know is just nonsense! I base this on the perplexed looks people give me when I’m explaining what I mean by table top gaming, I base it on many people just not really knowing what board games mean in this day and age. I base it on the reactions I get when I say I’m dressing up to make a video/play a game/take a fun photo for Instagram or people I speak to about it and receive a blank or confused stare in return.

So where does this ‘unsocial’ stigma come from? I think it possibly means that as a social activity other people associate it with staying indoors. Which doesn’t bother me too much, I like staying in and having rubbish hair and eating snacks and wearing t shirts and woolly socks most of the time (this explains the lack of pictures of me actually playing games as most of the time I look like a hot mess) because when it’s just me and people I’ve been playing with for ages I tend not to worry about personal appearance too much. But I also don’t want pictures of me with my huge fluffy hair floating around the Internet! This is just me personally, I don’t attend gaming groups or anything, as much as I like the idea I am a socially anxious wreck of a person deep down. Anyway my long, drawn out point is that there’s nothing more social than board gaming whether you’re playing with one other person or a group, because you’re interacting with other humans in a way that you normally wouldn’t. When I have played games out of the house, the pub for example, I find that people are often genuinely curious, if you were playing chess or cards no one would bat an eyelid. But it’s because it looks so intriguing to the non gamer. I once played MTG for most of the day in the pub and some guy kinda just come over and said ‘sorry I’ve been wondering all day what’s going on, we’ve got like Jessie J (me apparently) and two sorta working class blokes playing cards with poker chips??’ And so we kind of explained what it was all about and life went on. I’ll bet if he’d sat down and played he would of been shopping for the latest core decks in no time! I also think that in my neck of the woods at least  ‘fun’ is still associated with going out to clubs and pubs and getting obliterated.

That brings me onto ‘boring’ and possibly weird. It’s a personal preference, I happen to think there’s nothing less boring than immersing yourself in a completely different world with your game of choice. Unlike films and tv (something that I couldn’t live without) or video games (I’ve never been all that into VG not through lack of trying) it’s something that you can feel, touch and DO in the real world. That’s also why I love a bit of dressing up (it’s not woolly socks and bad hair all the time!) and music soundtracks because I really like to get into the spirit of things, especially with heavily themed games.

Weird, I don’t know. Most things that aren’t common to the majority of people are often thought of as weird. I just feel like I’m sure at Christmastime lots of people break out a traditional or a mainstream game and have a perfectly great time. So it’s just like that except the games are better and you do it all year round!

To end on a positive note I feel that table top gaming is being more accepted as a worthwhile hobby now as more board game cafes pop up and a few more games make it into the mainstream and you’ll see them in Waterstones/Borders/The Works, that sort of thing. Part of me doesn’t really care too much anyway if it is considered a worthwhile or hobby or not. It’s just irksome to have to defend it for lack of a better word.

Lastly, as I’ve said in a post earlier on in the year, with so many sweet, intelligent kids games (and gateway games) around, it’s horrible to see some of the garbage peddled out for kids by old hat publishers. So that’s why I do care that it’s becoming a little more recognised in the mainstream, because if someone discovers a great game in a cafe or a bookstore then there’s a chance they’ll start exploring the genre more and so forth and buy their children something neat, as oppose to something gross or inane. I sound like a bit of a snob now but I really don’t mean to be.

In conclusion I will resist the urge to be outwardly defensive about my favourite hobby. Instead I shall spread the word, share information and hopefully other people will give it a try. I’ll try not to tell them it will be the best decision they ever made. But I think it will be.

Back This! Mint Works, Justin Blaske

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Meet Justin Blaske, a designer from Nebraska, USA. I originally spied Justin’s latest game Mint Works on Instagram and I was really drawn to its quaint low key design and quirky name. I thought it looked super cool and wanted to find out more. Mr Blaske kindly allowed me the PnP, which I did indeed print and play. I’m happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did the other players. For me this is an absolutely lovely and beautifully designed little gem. A cute filler and perfect travel game, easy to teach for new gamers but enough strategic decision making and minty rewards for more experienced players to get their teeth into. Yes I loved Mint Works, and hope very much to get a finished copy arriving on my door step in the near future. It went live on Kickstarter today, it’s a great campaign (I love the promo video, it’s perfect) and you can find the link at the bottom of the page. 

I’ll leave it to Justin to tell you more…

What was the inspiration for Mint Works and can you tell us what it’s all about?

Well, this game came about very differently than my typical game ideas. Mint works ended up being created in response to a design contest on BGG. The contest, run by R4D6, was to create a game that, with all of it’s components, would fit within a mint tin. When I saw the competition, I thought it was really neat, but had no ideas what I could do for that. So I subscribed to the thread to see what came of it, and moved on. A few days later while I was relaxing around the house the idea came to me. Why not make game that used the mints themselves as components! From there, worker placement seemed like a good direction to go. That’s when I locked the name “Mint Works” down, since your mints were doing your work for you, ha! From that point, I started throwing together ideas, realized I could make it simple enough that it could be a gateway style game, and being pocket sized in a little metal tin made it even better for that idea. People could carry this around in their pocket and the game wouldn’t get damaged!

Is this the first game you’ve designed and what lead you up to this point as a games designer? 

Nope, My first game was Area 1851, and I was lucky enough to get that published! It’s had pretty mixed reviews so far. Some people love it, some people think it’s ok, and some people hate that it exists.  If I look at my projects listing Mint Works is my 7th design. Which now that I look at this list, kind of blows my mind how many different projects I have going.

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How did you find creating the campaign? 

Well I had created one campaign before this, for Area 1851, and that was a bit of a mess. I had no idea what I was doing, both in term of Kickstarer design, or the game design industry as a whole. So it’s a good thing that it failed initially, I think – it gave me time to get a better context for Kickstarter and game design as a whole. The Mint Works campaign I think will be much better, and I dare say successfully fund. My abilities as a graphic designer have improved over the years and I’ve done a lot more research into creating a campaign. Not to mention actually being a part of the gaming ecosystem now for several years. When all is said and done, When you buy a copy of Mint Works from your FLGS store you’ll find a ton of fun, in a tiny little tin. The final graphics haven’t been submitted to the manufacturer yet, so it’s possible for things to change a slight amount, but what you see in the campaign page, and in review videos will be pretty close to what you get at the end.

Have you got anything else in the pipeline for Mint Works such as expansions or any future games you’re working on?

Mint Works is so small and compact, I’m not sure what would be a good expansion or addition to it. I struggled to come up with meaningful stretch goals for the campaign, that would still fit in the tin!

I’m not opposed to expanding on it, introducing more advanced concepts and leading new player deeper into this wonderful hobby we all enjoy. However, I don’t think it would work well in the mint tin form factor, an expansion for Mint Works would likely be a little bigger box, that accepts all of the original mint works components. As for other games, yes there are lots in the pipeline, and having my buddy Mel join up with me has brought even more creative engergy to the mix. We are pitching a game we initially called “Dungeon Town” during the publisher speed dating event at GenCon this year. I’m also working on a few other projects to potentially release from Five24 Labs, as well as projects directly with other publishers.

 

I love the simple but attractive illustration and design, was this all created by you?

I wish it was! The game’s initial layout was my idea, and a friendly BGG user by the name of Felix (BGG user ID skoll) offered to do some layout/design for a small project for a geek gold donation. I messaged him and he came up with what became the final design/layout. After that, I’ve made a few tweaks here and there. All of the central images on the cards are from the amazing artists over at Game-Icons.netI’ve attached an image to show you the evolution of the cards from initial PnP to near final design.

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Lastly I’d love some advice as an aspiring designer myself, any hints, tips, and ways not to go mad in the process? 

I guess, my best advice is, make things you love playing, or wish you could play. If you aren’t enjoying the game, it becomes much more difficult to finish the project. Also, don’t be afraid to collaborate and worth with other people. Participate on design forums, both on BGG and Facebook – there’s a lot of people out there doing a lot of neat things. Do a competition or two as well, the constraints can really bring out neat ideas.

Most of all though, just stick with it – and if you find yourself in a rut, shelf it for a bit, maybe it isn’t as amazing as you thought it was, maybe it is. Coming back a few weeks/months later will really shed fresh light on on it. Also, if you plan on going to Kickstarter, read Jamey Stegmaier’s book and blogs, and James Mathe’s blogs as well. Really crucial stuff in there to at least see, even if you don’t want to follow it to the letter.

Thanks to Justin for talking to me, and take a look at the finished product here!

Tiffin Unboxing & Other Bits…

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I made a video of unboxing Tiffin. I was a bit worried after I put it up. Worries such as maybe viewers thinking I’m ‘trying’ to be quirky or something because of how I can come across. I can categorically say no, not trying, and i’m not quirky, just a bit of a goofball with a grating accent. But I think that maybe I should finally learn (after all these years) to just stop worrying what other people think full stop, because I’m the only one with a preoccupation about it and I can’t imagine anyone else cares all that much! I still don’t know if the video medium is for me, but i’ll persist a bit longer and a kind fellow from Instagram who works in video shared some tips on how to make my videos a bit more engaging. But I had fun making it! And now it’s done i’m sharing the hell out of it because why not?

I get very excited about getting a brand new game. It’s unfortunate I haven’t played it yet but I haven’t been feeling too well past couple of days. I have been playing a lot of Arkwright recently  (playing somebody else’s game is the next best thing when you can’t purchase too often). I’ve also been enjoying seeing news from Gen Con. I’ve been doing a lot of research into a proof reading/copy editing career path and my brain has been working overtime. I was let go from my part time job as the owner could no longer afford to pay me, so it feels more necessary than ever to focus on career stuff. It sucks that I don’t that chance to get out of the house and earn a bit of extra money but to be honest it was a small shop where I was looking after it on my own with no security, I had people trying to give me counterfeit money and basically casing the joint (I sound like a paranoid nutcase but i’m convinced that was what was going on) and at this point in my life I am literally done, like so completely done with people belittling me, verbal abuse, feeling like an idiot and being treated like one etc. I won’t go into it all here but i’ve experienced so much for this the past couple of years, and now i’m a grown woman raising a daughter I have to hold my hand up now and say ‘enough’, i’m just not allowing this anymore. Anyway….

I haven’t been working on my game design too much these past couple of weeks, but i’m still going with it (in the back of my mind it’s always there!) and I still think it might be good enough to carry on with. I write about my progress every three months (because I don’t want to go on about it all the time) so in September i’ll write my latest game design stuff. And that’s all the news from shiny happy meeples. Below is a link to my video, huge thanks to a few new subscribers, the couple of folk that kindly commented and those that watched it over the two minute mark…I salute you!

Tiffin Unboxing

 

 

 

All These Things That I Have Done


Ok this is a bit of a personal (and long!) post, however it will link to board gaming in the end, but if you’re just here for the board games feel free to scroll down now, no offence will be taken!

So basically in my years I’ve done quite a lot of stuff. Nothing that has gone the distance or been consistent. I’ve played in a band (guitar and vocals!) and made my own fanzines (before the online age). I’ve been a studio photographer, baker and bra fitter (not all at the same time) got a degree (I was a ‘mature’ student) did internships where I realised I was no longer hip or energetic enough to fit in, ended up in a high pressure office job, had a anxiety related meltdown, started a fashion business, worked somewhere awful part time, got unexpectedly pregnant, ended the business, tried to go back to the awful job after having my daughter, had another bout of anxiety, and here I am! So I’ve done a lot, much of it has failed either by my own doing or from outside factors I couldn’t control (redundancy etc). 

Now outside of motherhood I’m trying to find my place in the world again. I’ve only really come ‘back to life’ in the past couple of months, prior to that I was in a completely sleep deprived limbo state and was definitely experiencing some kind of post natal depression and heightened anxiety. The cloud has pretty much lifted now and I feel alot more positive and focused. My various failed ventures all taught me lessons and gave me different skills and experiences. Now I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. I began this year with a couple of resolutions: learn to drive at last (still hasn’t happened because money or lack thereof) deep clean the oven (absolutely hasn’t happened) and do something I WANT to do. I was going to write a book, instead I decided to design a board game because one random night I thought well why not? I wanted to write a consistent blog (check!), wanted to make games videos and almost gave up, but with a nudge in the right direction I’m now doing it. I definitely still want to create some sort of games event for kids. I wanted to do it this summer but it got too late to organise. So i’m now aiming for October as that is when the next school holidays are. But as with everything in life you need money to survive. So….
I was thinking the other night about rule books. I helped proof read and adjust a Norwegian rule book to a more native English that English speaking readers would understand. I enjoyed doing it and the designer said it helped a lot. A game is on its way to me from Singapore, I was going to offer to proof read their rule book y’know just to be nice. I was thinking about badly translated rule books. Then I thought well maybe I should do a proof reading course so I can get a qualification from a professional body, and then offer an actual service. I mean tabletop gaming is still a pretty niche market so I wouldn’t end it there, there’s quite a bit of work out there for freelance proof reading. But it would be nice to tailor it to something I’m passionate about. Then I thought well maybe I could offer more services in addition, related to gaming promotion. This would also help with my catch 22-need money-can’t afford childcare-don’t really want to work full time when my child is still so young situation because I could work from home. 

My question is this (and I’m planning to ask some of my board game contacts from different countries (contacts in the most casual sense of the word!) does anyone pay for this kind of service? Does anyone need a translator/proof reader when there’s perhaps friends or fans that will gladly do it for free? Does anyone need promotion when bloggers like myself do it for free already? Have I just answered my own question? I’m going to delve into this and brainstorm the idea some more. If it’s a dead end then fair enough, at least then I’ll know. And when you know, you know, and you find some other way to get by.

If anyone who may be reading this (or made it to the end of the post!) has any advice, comments, thoughts that could possibly help please feel free to comment/email/message me on Instagram. Thank you for reading!

Live On Kickstarter…The Lords of Rock!

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I recently acquired a prototype of a game launched on KS today and that is The Lords of Rock, a beautiful looking game with a great theme, that I’ve never seen in a game before. Think 80’s hair metal x He-Man x She-Ra x Jem and the Holograms x legends and Gods. It is brought to us by Solar Flare Games/Brave Frontier Studios. In this simple take that/hand management card game you are playing as a range of mythical gods set to take control of the earth via the medium of rock n roll. The KS rewards and stretch goals are really cool, I absolutely love the plectrums and playmat.
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You create a band from one of the available pantheons, made up of a bassist, drummer, vocalist and guitarist and you go to the venues (world wonders and mythical places) to play. Based on what the audience is hankering for at that event (drums, vox etc) you tot up your skill level within your band against your opponent’s to see whose skills meet the audience requirements for a good show. You can modify your skills with set cards (aptly named rock songs) to either boost your skills or lower your opponents. The winner is the person who has claimed the most souls (represented by soul stones) after 4 venues have been played.
I was talking a while ago about possibly starting a group gaming session locally for kids/teens and this is the kind of game I would definitely take along and teach. Personally, despite the beautiful art work and the fantastic idea, it is a bit too on the light side for me. I hope there’s an expansion that brings more to it for heavier gamers (designer Dave Killingsworth has mentioned this is in the pipeline) anyway, go check out the KS page and finer details, have a look at the rule book and marvel the gorgeous art work here.