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!

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.

Kickstarter Games I’m Sad I Missed; Part 1, Tavarua.

I was fairly late to Kickstarter. A few years ago I was aware of this word floating around but didn’t quite know what it was all about, and it was only in the last year I started actually looking into it and getting myself up to speed. I was initially put off by a few bad stories, some negative experiences people posted about, but overall I mainly see great looking games, happy gamers, a good sense of community around it and other gamers saying ‘wow this looks neat’- ‘yes I backed it on Kickstarter, you might be able to get it in 18 months!’ Jamey Stegmaier of Viticulture/Scythe termed  it ‘the shopping mall of the future’. Which I actually really like.

I’m probably the poorest I’ve ever been in my life right now, so I don’t back often and can never back anything too pricey (goodbye Anachrony & Days of Ire Budapest 1956, I’m in a world of hurt.) So every now and then I thought I’d write a post about successful Kickstarter games that I’ve missed and look great, and hopefully one day I’ll still be able to play (forever the optimist!) This weeks choice is….Tavarua!

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Image totally nicked from the Kickstarter page, link below.

This is an awesome looking game by Cody Miller who also designed the Xia: Legends of a Drift System (which I haven’t played either yet much to my distress. I clearly have a lot of board gaming cherries to pop) and it’s themed around surfing. Surfing! I’ve never been surfing which is ludicrous really, as I love activities and being in the water, but for whatever reason the closest I’ve come to surfing is watching Point Break fifty times (unbelievable, another classic is being remade but that’s another topic!) and there is something here that appeals to me. Maybe it’s that I’ve never played a sports related board game before (again with the cherries).

When Tavarua appeared on my Instagram feed the other day I immediately thought was ‘how has this been done?’ What mechanics can you use that work with a surfing theme?’ So I went and checked it out. Initially I thought wow this looks very cool, lots going on, dice, surf board meeples, words like ‘barrel’ and ‘stoke’ and ‘catching the break’ (images of Lori Petty and Keanu Reeves dancing in my head right now). I’ve read the rule book and watched some play throughs and it looks really interesting and like something I’ve never played before! Which is great! So your competing in a surfing competition, the players ‘paddle out’ on the board to catch waves (represented by dice and wave tiles, the dice change and you have to get them in the right spot to ride them) and players use action cards to perform tricks that will score points, and when you catch the waves you use the wave cards that interact with your surfboard (which is like your player card). If you  haven’t heard of this one please pay it a visit here, I don’t think I can do it justice by rehashing the rule book/BGG blurb when I haven’t played it myself.

I’m gutted to have missed this. Hopefully they’ll be a retail release next year. As for Kickstarter I will definitely be looking to be a backer for a few more games I have my eye on (more on that coming soon!) even if I can only put in a small amount. Now I need to go surfing. Or maybe I’ll watch Point Break again.

 

 

 

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!

Games, Games, Games!

First off I must apologise for being a bit quiet of late, it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and although i’ve been playing games as much as possible  i’ve been lacking in time for blog posts and game design. Hopefully now I can get back on it a bit.

Something I love to do in my spare time is look up new releases, up and coming games and expanding my already pretty full games wishlist. For fun if nothing else. I guess that’s what a lot of boardgames do! A few weeks ago I posted about games that I’m excited for this year. Well i’ve now found yet more games that look and sound fantastic, and here I am going to share them with you! First up….

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Domek: A lovely family game from Poland. In Domek you build your dream home, where your board is actually a house (complete with cat in the front garden and treehouse) to fill up with furniture and rooms. You achieve this by card drafting, set collection and pattern building. End scores are based on good functionality, quality and design. The artwork is ludicrously cute! Cannot wait for this one, due this year, but no release date as yet.

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Hit Z Road: Ok, I don’t know if excited is the right word for this one. I’d say more curious. I can categorically say that i’m pretty much over zombies. Which is sad, I used to love zombies. But like a lot of things that are over produced it becomes a bit stale.  But if there’s anything that could get me interested in zombies again it might be this game. I don’t like the title (I preferred Route 666, there’s a whole thread about this on BGG that made me chuckle) but I love the artwork. I had some quibbles with Study In Emerald, but I like Martin Wallace. I’m into the kitschy 50’s take. But is it a good game? To be honest it’s too early to tell, there’s not a huge amount of information or rules available at present, but i’m keeping my eyes and mind open for this one.

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The Last Friday: Ah ha ha. I’m a horror nut, I grew up watching films like Friday the 13th (and have hated every single slasher flick 90’s onwards, i’m much more into supernatural/weird horror) and although i’ve seen a few games that are capturing the essence of a horror movie i’ve not seen one that’s compelled me to play. This looks different. I’ve seen a few forum gripes that it’s a bit similar to Letters To Whitechapel (which I wanted a couple of years ago but never bought) but my feelings are kid of like ‘and? If something is a direct and obvious rip off of another then that pretty much sucks, but I feel that most games (especially those that need to use a certain mechanic) will always seem reminiscent of something else and most games have been inspired by another in some way. Nothing exists in a bubble as I always say! But indeed those that pioneer completely innovative stuff well that’s another story. Anyway, this is a hidden movement game/deduction/hunting game where you are stalked round a campsite by a weapon weilding lunatic. The usual cat and mouse horror movie type scenario ensues, played across four chapters. It just looks good! Due for release in August, i’m going to play this out the garden with marshmallows and a horror movie soundtrack. That should please the neighbours!

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Anachrony: With over 2000 backers and another two weeks to go this already hyped mega-game looks just a little bit mind-blowing. It’s a post apocalyptic/sci fi/time travel themed table hog, played over 7 eras involving a two tiered worker placement system and travelling back and forth in time thus altering the path of the game.  Following on from what I said in the previous paragraph I’m always impressed with designs that are innovative especially with the mechanics. Anarchrony involves worker placement, gaining influence, scoring victory points, playing for dominance, all familiar territory so far. But it gets complex. Very complex. So complex in fact that after burning my brain and testing my (not so great) writing skills this afternoon, I gave up. I think if you want to get the full grasp of this game you should definitely go and visit the BGG summary and the official Kickstarter. Much better than me trying to summarise it here! It looks amazing, really. If it’s super heavy you’re after then this is your game. The pledge levels and stretch goals are all worth going for and if I do get the chance to back (lack of money is the bane of my life right now!) I would personally go for the ‘Leader Box’ for the amazing miniatures alone because I feel that I really need more futuristic robot miniatures in my life.

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Shakespeare Backstage: I absolutely love Shakespeare and have played many good games over the last few months. It works beautifully, is straightforward and fun but still requires much thought and strategy. I posted about this a while back and my only concern was once you’ve cracked it the replayabilty is limited. But hey, fear not, we have an expansion on its way. It’s called Backstage and all we know so far is that we’re getting new characters, costumes and stage set. I’m in!

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Days of Ire: Budapest 1956: This looks fantastic. I’ve been waiting for a new war/political themed game that actually looks like something I would enjoy playing and not leave me feeling a bit icky (if you know what I mean?) This could be the one! It’s a co-op game for 1-4 players where one player is the Soviets, the others are Hungarian revolutionaries, in a historically inspired card game spanning 7 days. I won’t go into all the details- you can read a perfectly good summary on BGG! But it does seem reminiscent of GMT’S Twilight Struggle and Labyrinth (TS being a big favourite of mine) and the art by Sami Laakso (of Dales fame) and the designer Katalin Nimmerfroh looks fantastic. I do like good art in a game. Also I have to add that I am very, very pleased that one of the game designers is a woman. I don’t think it should be made a big deal of, and there are women designers out there, but as far as I’m aware (please correct me if i’m wrong, really!) but they never seem to be attached to any well known games, so I hope that this one blows everyone’s socks off. As a woman designing a game it fills me with confidence (‘I can do it too!’ type confidence). I’m stoked! No rules available yet and it’s still due for a Kickstarter (date still unknown) so could be quite a wait for this one.

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Islebound: Ships! Merchants! Sea monsters! Pirates! All wrapped up in an adorable bundle. I’ve been contemplating various nautical themed games and Islebound definitely looks to fulfil that need in the way that others haven’t quite tempted me. In Islebound you sail around collecting resources, hiring crew, commissioning buildings, recruiting sea monsters and pirates to conquer towns or completing events to befriend other towns. You will win the game by being the wealthiest player with the most impressive capital city! Sounds fun, interesting and a game you can get on the table and play without too much faff. I really like the idea of taking different paths to achieve the end goal, meaning much replayabilty, and I like that it seems like innocent fun in a sophisticated package, in the way that other nautical games haven’t quite captured for me.

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Dale of Merchants 2: The Era of Trade Masters: I was late to the party with Dale of Merchants but I finally got my hands on it last week (at a great discounted price!) and I was expecting a tough little card with some interesting choices to be made and adorable animals to say (or squeal) ‘awwwww!’ over. I can gladly say it definitely lived up to my expectation! So Dale of Merchants 2: The Era of Trade Masters, has a great backstory (see here) and it can be played on its own or combined with the original. It’s now 4 days away from the end of the Kickstarter campaign. I’m pleased to say it’s majorly over exceeded its funding goal, so stretch goals will be unlocked meaning more decks (penguins! Beavers!) better quality components and more amazing artwork.

Wow, I think I’m done for now! Thanks for reading. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One to Watch; Kill The King

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My attention was recently brought to Kill The King, a new board game in the making, hailing from Norway (so you know it’s going to be good right?!)  Kill The King is a strategic tabletop for two players. In a game of attack and defence you are either trying to kill the king or you’re defending his honour.

The game comes with two alternate game modes. The  first is a regular battle between the two players armies outside the castle walls; one attacks the castle while the other tries to defend it. The second mode is a larger version, where you combine two game boards and one player defends the  castle, while the other attacks the castle on side each. It sounds intriguing! I’m really looking forward to playing more strategic battle games so this sounds right up my street. I’m excited to be playing the print and play game in the near future! 

It’s coming to Kickstarter in September, if you want to keep up to date follow the links below. This is one to watch.

Facebookofficial website , Instagram, Twitter

Thanks to Petter for the great images of the prototype game, which looks pretty damn cool already.

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