By Firestone A few weeks ago Jamey Stegmaier sent me a preview copy of Tuscany, the Viticulture expansion, and I was able to get in a few games with it. So is this expansion worth your money, or is it just sour grapes?Read More
Well, we know we were missing in action last week and neglected to bring you our usual volume of quality content--including an installment of Kickstarter Weekly. But never fear: We're back at it this week and bringing you tons of exciting news from our favorite crowd-funding site. So without any further delays let's dig in as we bring you a king-sized version of Kickstarter Weekly!
Viticulture, the game that nearly won my (Jeremiah's) Game of the Year, is getting an expansion! This is an interesting take on tackling an expansion, where players will unlock smaller expansions one-by-one within the box until the full expansion is included into the game. It seems a clever device to slowly introduce smaller elements of the expansion instead of completely overwhelming players with a TON of new mechanics, components, and strategies. Because of these smaller modules of the expansion, players get to pick and choose their experience each time, as well.
The campaign has already blown past its funding goal and is over $150,000, which has unlocked tons of cool stretch goals, and they're pushing closer to the final goals with each passing minute! Stonemaier has carved themselves a solid place in the market with their superbly run Kickstarter campaigns and great games; this should be a no-brainer to fans of Viticulture!
The campaign ends April 9. and it will cost a pledge of $45 for a copy. You can see all the details right here!
Gone Viking is a trick-taking game wrapped neatly around a viking theme--which apparently is a thing now. We wrote a full review of the game and think it's a lot of fun. It adds a lot of great decision-making tension to your typical trick-taking game, and plays off of the theme really well! The campaign page features all the info, including images of cards and a full pdf rulebook. They're over half way to the funding goal--which is set pretty low--and shouldn't have any problem bringing this fun little game to your table!
The campaign ends on April 1 and a pledge of $30 Canadian will score you your very own copy. For all the info you could ever hope for, click right here!
So imagine that the Terminator films are ancient history, and the robots have ruled the world for some time now, and there are different factions of those robots now battling for complete world domination. Now you have an idea of Kingdom Bots. The game relies on some resource-management and area-control while being mostly "command card" driven. It's a game for 3-4 players that sports some pretty awesome artwork! The campaign has a long way to go as they are trying to hit $60,000 Canadian, but the game looks worth giving a spin!
The campaign ends April 4. And it will cost you $70 Canadian, for a copy of the game. Full details, pledge levels and sweet artwork can be found here!
The makers of Dungeon Dice have designed a simple, single-deck game for all ages: Kaboom. Kaboom is essentially a hot-potato type card game in which players are passing around a very cartoonish bomb and trying to get rid of it by any means available before it blows! The game looks fun and creative with cards that interact with the players' actions, making it much more than a game of straight strategy and playing the best possible combination of cards to win.
The campaign ends March 27. And it only takes a pledge of $19 to score a copy of the game! Full details and such can be found right here!
Worker Placement, is...well...a worker-placement game. It's a light-weight worker-placement game that even my 5-year-old did well with. We'll be reviewing the game soon, but the quick overview goes something like this: Players are the operators of different temp agencies in town trying to score jobs for their clients. They place them throughout the town to gain skills or make a quick buck. Once they have the right skills to land a job they can get the job and score you points. In a genre that has a lot of depth and weighty games, Worker Placement has streamlined the mechanics and makes for a great family or gateway game into a very in-depth genre of gaming.
The campaign ends April 10. And it takes a pledge of $40 for a copy. You can get all of the details right here!
Thanks, as always, for stopping by our little Web site; we'd love to hear about any other KS campaigns you think we should check out!
You can subscribe to TOG by filling in your email over on the right, we'd also love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and of course there's more TOG where this came from on our Podcast!
Well, it's 2014, and it's early enough in the year that you're still writing 2013 on things... That sounds like the perfect time to trot out our Top 10 Games of 2013! So what made the cut? Let's see...
Okay a few things first...
1) These are in no particular order—in fact, they aren't even numbered. These are our 10 favorite games of the last year, and trying to slot them into specific numbers seems like more trouble than it's worth. We did, however, each pick one game as our personal Game of the Year.
2) Some of these aren't strictly from 2013. But for each of them, they were widely available to play here in the States in 2013. That's where we live, and it's our list, so those are the rules we're playing by.
Let's start with a few honorable mentions...
Two Rooms and a Boom—There are two reasons this didn't make our main list. First, it's only available as a print-and-play right now, so it's hard to count that as coming out this year. Second, it really needs a larger group to work well. But if you have a large group, THEN YOU SHOULD PLAY THIS. I fully expect to see this game on next year's main list...
Space Cadets: Dice Duel—This one is conditional, too. If you're playing with the full complement of eight players—three players and a captain on each team—then this is an incredible gaming experience. Anything less than that full complement is just...less.
Lords Of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport—Neither of the two included expansions are "necessary," but they're both fun and interesting, and add some legs to this good worker-placement game.
Kemet—It's a highly confrontational game that encourages fighting over turtling. And everything on the map is the same distance from every other thing, so you're not fighting someone because they happen to be closer, but because they happen to be the person who most needs to be attacked. Plus it's got cool minis. Plus it's got tons of tiles with cool special powers. Wait, why isn't this on the main list...?
Walk The Plank—Two of my (Firestone) pals designed this take-that piratey madness. It's really fun, and just missed making the Big List.
And without further ado...
THE TOP 10 GAMES OF 2013
Coup is a small little card game that's just full of bluffing. There are roles, and you can bluff that you've got a role in your hand. If someone calls your bluff, though, you better hope you're telling the truth... Don't believe us? Well Wil Wheaton loves it, and
This little card game took me completely by surprise. You can't see your own hand of cards, but you can see every other player's. Your challenge, as a team, is to place down the numbers 1 through 5 in each of five suits, in order. It's challenging and thrilling and nerve-wracking. Those are all good things. You can read our review of the game
I (Firestone) wasn't sure anything could replace Ticket To Ride as my go-to game to bring out with nongamers. But then along comes La Boca and does just that. Part of the reason is that it works with gamers, nongamers, kids, youth groups, parties—EVERYONE! And there's a tricksy red piece you can add to up the challenge. Watch for a review of this one soon.
It's like SimCity, but not mind-numbingly boring. Okay, it's more than that. You're building a borough, and buying new areas based on what you have, and what your opponents have, and what you can afford. Some people don't think there's much interaction here, but I respectfully disagree.
If you've played Pandemic or Forbidden Island, you'll have no problem picking up Forbidden Desert. But this game adds completely new and clever mechanisms and ideas that make it more than just a retheme. This is a great cooperative family game that we'll be playing for years to come.
That mad genius Stefan Feld came out with four games in 2013, and I (Firestone) was able to play three of those four. While the others were "merely" good, Bora Bora was clearly the best of the bunch. It has a ridiculous number of ways to score VPs, but despite that, it all just...fit.
This is the first release from Stonemaier Games, and what we believe should be the measuring stick for all Kickstarter projects. A very in-depth worker-placement game, Viticulture exceeded all of our expectations—in gameplay, components, and everything. This game is great from top to bottom. If you're into worker-placement games at any level, snatch up a copy of Viticulture—well, as soon as the reprint is available! You can check out our Double-Take review here
If you've read Theology Of Games for any amount of time, you know that we don't often see eye-to-eye on games. We have two distinct gaming personalities, and though we do sometimes agree on games, it's rare for us to both love or hate one.
We both love The Duke.
It's a 2-player abstract where you're trying to move different pieces around the board in an effort to capture your opponent's Duke. It's like chess, except fun.
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar—Tribes and Prophecies—
This is the lone expansion on the list, but with good reason. It is EXACTLY what I want in an expansion. First, there are the Tribes, which basically give you a unique special power. When you first read one, you think, "That's crazy and overpowered!" Then you read the others and realize they're ALL crazy and overpowered! And it's awesome!! The Prophecies are events that make the game a little harder by causing some things to cost a little more to achieve—but then you get some VPs for achieving those things. Great, great expansion.
Great Heartland Hauling Co.—
Our pal Jason Kotarski designed this neat little pick-up-and-deliver game with a trucking theme. It doesn't break new ground, or change the landscape, but it's a fun and clever little game. Our families have had some great times playing this one. And
here's the review.
Firestone's Game of the Year—Hanabi!
I played this more than any other game that came out in 2013. It's portable. It's cheap (when it's in print). And it's soooooo fun. And if you use one of the print-and-play decks (after you've bought a legitimate copy first, of course), you can add in some variants, such as multicolored suits, that up the replay value.
Jeremiah's Game of
the Year - The Duke!
The last half of this year my time to game has been more and more at a premium. While I LOVE lengthy and in-depth games, there's something great about a game that is incredibly engaging, strategic, super-streamlined, and that plays pretty quickly. I've played a few of the expansions, and they add a lot to the game—we'll talk about these expansions very soon. I first played The Duke at Origins and fell in love with it, and after dozens of plays The Duke still excites me every time we bring it to the table!
Well, there's our list. What would your list look like? What did we forget? What should we have left off? Sound off in the comments. And thanks for reading!
We understand that having a gamer in your life can lead to confusion during the holiday season. Chances are you've found yourself walking into a store, or looking at Web sites you never knew existed, and are wondering if someone is playing some sort of elaborate prank on you. So we've taken it upon ourselves to explain some of the oddities you might be experiencing this year with that gamer in your life, and hopefully make this a joyous and bright Christmas for all.
So here are 11 ways to tell if there is a gamer on your Christmas list, and a little help in figuring out what exactly it is they are talking about, or would like under the tree this year.
It's okay, you're not imagining things. They do like to build decks, but they're not referring to an overgrown porch; they're talking about cards. Deck-building games are all the rage these days, and chances are your gamer likes them. Games to check out include: Dominion, Ascension, and the DC Comics Deck-Building Game. Here are some other deck builders!
2 —They appear to talk in a strange, secret language that mostly involves random letters and numbers : RPG, CCG, LCG, d12, d6, etc.
Most trades/vocations/sub-cultures have a certain vernacular, and gamers are no exception. Here's a few quick tips to help decipher this code: G = Game, C= Card, and d = die/dice. So in the examples above, we've referred to Role Playing Games, Collectible Card Games, Living Card Games, and 12- and 6-sided dice.
In this case, you've got a serious RPGer in your life (See #2). Sometimes a roll of the dice can be a non-objective way to resolve a dispute. Just don't let them get carried away with modifiers, or equipping support items and spells. If you want to get on your RPGer's good side, a nice custom or metal set of polyhedral dice should do the trick... Just don't ever touch them, and whatever you do, don't roll them! Ever!
4—They often refer to playing with a hidden identity, being a spy, and/or a werewolf.
Chances are they're talking about the last time they played The Resistance or Werewolf, or some other game that requires them to hide their identity from others in order to win. You shouldn't be too concerned, unless they start wearing dark sunglasses even at night. Or unless, of course, you find multiple counterfeit passports in their underwear drawer. You may want to look into the newest sensation in this genre, "Two Rooms and a Boom." You can't buy it yet, but you could print and cut the cards from the DIY print and play files. Anyone who's ever gone through that process will surely appreciate the thought AND the effort put into that gift!
5—They repeatedly refer to a certain group of people they keep calling "Settlers" and can't stop making "wood for sheep" jokes.
A word of warning here: (this may come off as snobbish) but if this describes a person you know, and they claim to be a gamer, you could be dealing with a poser here. Settlers of Catan, while a fine game in its own right, is just a few clicks up from Monopoly in the "Oh, I like board games... I've played..." category. Regardless, there are plenty of iterations, accessories, and Catan-themed gifts out there, to satisfy the unquenchable thirst of any die hard Settlers fan.
6—They measure everything in mm (millimeters).
Looks like you've got a real miniatures/wargame fanatic on your hands. You've no doubt seen them more than once with their nose deeply inserted into a 2 inch—errrr...make that 5.08 mm manual for games like Warhammer 40K (pronounced 4DK for some reason), or hunched over a table meticulously painting the highlights into every knuckle of their Eldar Bowman's fingers, or writing thesis-length back-stories for why that particular figure has a small grass stain on its left knee. You may consider getting this gamer some art supplies, like nice model paint, or fine-point paintbrushes. Or some financial counseling so they can move out of your basement.
These are classic tell-tale signs of a LARPer. (We'll help you out: "Live Action Role Player.") This form of gaming takes the stakes to a completely higher level by adding in actual, physical activity to the gaming experience. Many folks who LARP can be found in the woods on weekends camping out, battling nasty orcses, and looking rather stylish while doing it. LARPers generally appreciate any accessory, medieval garb, or foam weaponry that would go well with their character's taste or clan's colors. If you want to be more practical, some camping gear, and bug spray (aka magical mist of repulsion), comes in handy, too. A word of warning: Do not attempt to go all Pinterest and make your LARPer some "snazzy" cardboard weapons or armor; such things are frowned upon by this crowd.
8—They're always discussing "Streamlined Mechanics" but the guy who works on your car is some clumsy dude named Bill.
In the gaming world the term mechanic is used to describe the way a game plays, the actions a player can do on a turn, and the way game pieces or cards interact with each other in a game. Streamlined mechanics are a way of referring to a game that is simple to play and learn, without a lot of in-depth mechanics, or actions to slow the game play down. If your gamer is into games that are streamlined, you might want to check out some simple, but fun, games like Council of Verona, or Coup. Find Coup online here.
They're not obsessed with the Measles; they're saying Meeples. Meeple has been slowly usurping the terms Token and Pawn for some time now. A standard Meeple is essentially a wooden representation of a person. But of late we've seen everything from Truck-eeples (in The Great Heartland Hauling Co.) to Canoe-eeples (in Paradise Fallen) to awesome monster-eeples and adventurer-eeples (in Dungeon Heroes) and even Lincoln-eeples (albeit hat-less ones, in Pixel Lincoln). If your gamer likes trinkets and such, any of the games we just mentioned will add some unique Meeples to their collection. You can also find tons of customized/painted Meeples on sites like Etsy and Ebay.
10—They don't work in HR, but they're constantly bringing up "Worker Placement."
Worker Placement is an increasingly popular game mechanic (see #8) that involves placing Meeples into certain areas of a game board to perform a certain task or gain a resource to hurtle you toward victory. If you've got a worker-placement fan, they probably already have Agricola or Stone Age, but they'd love a copy of T'zolk'in or Viticulture to add to their collection. Get Tzolik'in here.
While this may seem confusing, we're unfazed by this apparent dichotomy. Abstracts are once again a specific genre of games that are, well...non-specific. They usually involve moving random pieces around on a board until someone wins for whatever reason. Very rarely do they have a theme or any sort of story-driven explanation as to why you're doing what you're doing, but they are also generally highly strategic. If this describes the games your gamer is into, go grab a copy of The Duke, RIGHT NOW! Find it online, right here!
We certainly hope that this list has been both entertaining and helpful to you. If there's something we didn't cover, let us know down in the comments!
Today's review is for the super-hot game Viticulture, designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone. Viticulture is a worker-placement game where you're running a winery, and trying to run yours better than your opponents. Does it succeed, or are these sour grapes? Let's find out!Read More
One of our earliest interviews here at Theology Of Games was with Jamey Stegmaier, and we’re privileged to have another chance to talk with him as he’s halfway through his latest Kickstarter project: Euphoria.
Jamey, thanks for talking with us. First, how are things going with Viticulture now that it’s in people’s hands?
Hey guys, thanks for having me back. It’s been a pleasure reading your blog over the last 9 months. As of this writing, Viticulture has an 8.12 rating on BGG, so that’s definitely a great start. Of course, it’s about much more than a rating—it’s about creating memorable, fun, sometimes nail-biting moments around the table with friends and family. From what I’ve heard, we’re definitely achieving that goal so far.
I (Firestone) have had a chance to play the finished Viticulture now, and it's definitely a solid game. Well done.
What are some of the lessons you learned through your Viticulture Kickstarter campaign?
A LOT. :) In fact, I’ve been writing a series of Kickstarter Lessons on the Stonemaier Games blog over the last four months to help other project creators learn from my mistakes and insights. Here’s a small tidbit that I don’t think I’ve mentioned elsewhere: If you’re making a board game in China (or anywhere), just because it’s on the boat does not mean the boat is leaving. The boat doesn’t leave until it’s full. To extrapolate that to Kickstarter, don’t tell backers that something will happen. Tell the things that have happened. Otherwise you’re going to run into some frustrating delays that require backtracking.
How do you feel about already successful game companies (and Hollywood, now!) using Kickstarter to finance projects?
Nice topical question! You know, I’m all for any Kickstarter project that builds community and relationships. I’m against any Kickstarter project that is all about the money, whether it’s a $500 project from Local Artist Guy/Gal or a $5 million project from a celebrity. But if you’re building something together with people, I’m all for it.
Euphoria is a dice worker-placement game set in a dystopian world. The numbers on your dice represent their knowledge, which has varying impacts on the game depending on your special abilities (on recruit cards) and the other dice that have already been placed on the board. It’s a meaty game with a lot of replayability. If you like Alien Frontiers, Tzolk’in, and The Manhattan Project, you’ll like Euphoria.
So what’s the “hook”—the thing that’s going to make Euphoria different from other worker-placement games?
I’d say that element of knowledge is one of the big hooks of the game. The numbers on your dice thematically and mechanically mean something, and yet there’s very little luck in the game. The other aspect is the flow of the game. There are no rounds and phases, no seasonal upkeep costs or anything like that. Once the game begins, it doesn’t stop unless someone has to get up to go to the bathroom (which doesn’t happen often because the game plays in almost exactly 15 minutes per player once everyone knows how to play).
Why did you choose a dystopian theme?
I really, really love dystopian fiction. Ready Player One, The Giver, The Hunger Games, Children of Men...I think the theme has always been in the back of my mind. But what really brought it to life was something that happened during the creation of Viticulture. I was playtesting the game last year when I stopped to think about who the little workers were. They had no personality—they did whatever I wanted them to do without complaint, blissfully unaware of their bleak existence. And it hit me: Every worker placement game is a dystopia. And thus the idea was born.
Why do you think people are so draw to dystopian themes in literature and film?
I think we see a lot of ourselves and our society in dystopian fiction, but to the extreme. That often makes for really interesting fiction. I personally love the element of discovery in dystopian literature. How does the world work in the future? What caused such drastic changes? What can we learn from the extremes presented in the book?
Thanks! I’ve played the game with the samples a few time, and for some reason they’re just way better than normal dice, even though they’re functionally the same.
You mentioned that this game “incorporates mechanical elements” from The Resistance. WHA?! (That’s our excited way of asking: “What, pray tell, does that mean, exactly?”)
Before you get too excited, let me explain. :) The comparison is that just like in The Resistance, you don’t know whom you’re aligned with in Euphoria, and there is some amount of bluffing to make people think you are someone you’re not. Basically, each player starts the game with an active recruit and a hidden recruit. The hidden recruit could be one of any of the factions in the game, and you activate that recruit by reaching certain thresholds in the game that can be triggered by any player. Thus at any point, you might be helping another player unlock their hidden recruit without realizing the folly of your ways. It is different than The Resistance, but I think there is definitely a common bond there.
I love the artwork for the game—so many games these days seem indistinguishable from one another, but that certainly isn’t true of Euphoria. How closely did you work with artist Jacqui Davis to drive the aesthetic?
Jacqui is really fantastic. Basically, I told her the story of the world of Euphoria, and she took it from there. She created a unique style for each of the factions, both in terms of architecture and clothing. I can’t speak highly enough of her visual creativity.
Your press release mentions you playtested the game with more than 60 people. How do you know when you should let someone’s opinion affect your game—how did you decide what input to listen to and what input to ignore?
Well, let me clarify that point: The game has been blind playtested (i.e., without me present) by over 60 people. They were all Viticulture backers who volunteered to help with Euphoria. I, of course, playtested the game tons of times with Alan and other local friends, but we’re not included in that 60+ number. I would say that I listened to all of the feedback, and then I’d try to get to the core of what they were saying. Sometimes it resulted in a mechanical tweak; other times it required a graphic-design change. And sometimes I didn’t do anything with the feedback. But I learned from everything they said, and I think the game significantly benefited from their input.
Here are two specific examples:
Retrieving workers is a big part of the game. On your turn you either place a worker OR retrieve any/all workers—you choose one, like in Tzolk’in. In Euphoria, you have a choice to feed your workers or not when you retrieve them. Feed them and you gain morale; don’t feed them and you lose morale. Simple enough. But I made it WAY too complicated early on. There was this big chart on the board that told you how much you had to feed each worker and how much morale you would gain or lose as a result...it was too much. So based on the feedback I received, I simplified it so that the number of workers you retrieved didn’t matter.
The allegiance track improvements are a prime example of the value of blind playtesting. The allegiance track is essentially a tech track that any or all players can benefit from, depending on their active recruits. Once you reach certain tiers on the tech track, you unlock new bonuses. Again, simple enough. That is, if you designed the game. If you didn’t, the allegiance track bonuses were way too much to remember, and they were often forgotten. So we simplified the bonuses, added a new bonus that triggered at the end of a track, and added tokens to the game to help players to remember to take the bonuses.
I know you’ve got plenty on your plate as this campaign winds down, but are there any other games on the horizon that you can share?
I’m working on a few ideas for an 8-player game, and I always have Viticulture expansions on my mind. Alan is working on a Prohibition-themed game.
Who’s your favorite comedian? Seinfeld
What’s your favorite line from Shakespeare? How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world. (The Tempest)
Have you read Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick? I haven’t! Should I?
You should! It’s a utopian novel—series of short stories, actually—that is one of my favorite books. It’s just beautiful.
What is your favorite Proverb? Proverbs 25:16. "If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit."
A strange old man with a kind face knocks on your door one day. When you answer, he takes his hat off, holds it gently against his chest, and says, “Jamey, you don’t know me, but I sure know you. I’ve been watching you for a long time now—since you were a boy, really—and I’ve decided to give you a gift...though you might think of it as a curse. For the next year, you can only eat one thing for lunch—the exact same thing. You can try to make or order something different, but it will always change into this thing. So I’m going to ask you a question, and then I’m going to walk away. You’ll see me again in 14 years, but not before then—so don’t try to find me. Now Jamey...what is that thing you want to eat every day for lunch for the next year?”
I have a strange temperament at lunch...if I don’t eat protein, I get woozy. So I’d have to ask the old man for shrimp tempura sushi. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that.
Jamey, thanks so much for answering these questions for us!
I (Firestone) was seriously impressed when I got my copy of Viticulture recently—Jamey knows how to run a Kickstarter campaign, and the presentation, bits, and aesthetic are top-notch. Many people in my game group thought the same thing—in fact, when they found out the guy who was in charge of the game we were playing had a new game on Kickstarter, a couple said they were now going to back it based on Viticulture's presentation.
With two weeks to go it's sitting at ~$135,000, so head on over and add yourself to the list of backers. And as always, thanks for reading!
To start the week off we brought you some info on new expansions from games by Eagle/Gryphon and Cryptozoic.
Later in the week the Spiel des Jahres were announced.
Firestone warns us: Don't believe the hype about Love Letter.
And AEG's plans to keep the next Smash Up expansion under wraps were thwarted—but we didn't spill the beans! We just reported on it, post-spillage.
We'd also like to give you a heads up about a few things we have in the works!
We've got a TON of interviews in the works, including Paul Peterson, who will discuss that new Cthulhu Smash Up expansion. We'll also be chatting with Jamie Stegmaier, designer of Viticulture, about his latest Kickstarter campaign for Euphoria, and we'll check in with David and Fred Mackenzie of Clever Mojo Games about the epic board game Princes of the Dragon Throne! (And that's just for starters!)
Also be on the lookout for our newest delve into social media as we introduce out newest feature: The 6-Second Review via Vine! Don't wanna miss this!
Well it certainly has been a busy week for us here at TOG! We've had lots of exciting news, an interview, and we've got a TON of stuff in the works behind the scenes! We started the week off with a few deep thoughts about the LARP community.
We also learned a little more about the wine making community in an interview with Viticulture designer Jamie Stegmiaer.
Thursday we kicked off a new weekly feature: Kickstarter Weekly with news about the Purge: Sins of Science Kickstarter campaign.
And we brought you a heads up of the Halloween Freighters add-on for Ticket to Ride.
We are always so glad to have your support, and thank you as always for joining us for another week here at TOG! The next few weeks will be chock full of game reviews, a TON of interviews, Kickstarter info, and of course up-to-the-minute news from around the gaming community!