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Game Nite

Issue # 4

the magazine of tabletop gaming

ee r F

y Pla d n e! t a nsid n i Pr me I Ga

GAME REVIEWS RYAN DANCEY L5R & WOTC

BRIAN SNODDY CCG ARTIST

“EUROGAMES” BOOK REVIEW

BOARD GAME HISTORY PT. 3

AND MORE!


IN THIS ISSUE: REVIEWS

INTERVIEWS 14

Ryan Dancey

26

Chenier La Salle Brian Snoddy

Landships.

44

26

Chaosmos

BOOK REVIEW

36

March of the Ants

40

AquaSphere

52

Fidelitas

56

Rise of Cthulhu

60

Maha Yodah

12

Rhino Hero

20

Attila

22

Spurs and Sprockets

Card Stacking.

Faidutti Abstract.

Alien Deduction.

08

WotC/L5R/Goblin Works.

Designer “New York 1901”.

Artist.

Eurogames Eurogame Analysis.

EDUCATION

Ant Evolution.

10

Stefan Feld.

Games in Education Game Literacy.

GALLERY

Secret Missions.

63

Gorgeous Filler.

Gallery Game Night comic strip.

CONTRIBUTORS 64

Mythology of India.

Game Nite Contributors

PRINT AND PLAY

HISTORY 04

Boardgame History

Part III Ancient Rome.

66

Maha Yodah Leprechaun Games PnP.

NEXT ISSUE 92

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Issue #5 Preview Preliminary cover to issue #5.


FROM THE GAMING TABLE

Game Nite ISSUE # 4

W

ith the convention season upon us, companies have started to announce their products for the upcoming months, and so far it looks like it’s going to be an exciting year for tabletop enthusiasts! John Anthony Gulla continues his series on “The History of Tabletop Games”, this time he looks at the board games of Ancient Rome. Students of the hobby should enjoy this one. Bill Braun has written two reviews. One is Stefan Feld’s latest game, “AquaSphere”, and the other is “Rise of Cthulhu”, which features some great artwork. Bill has some interesting thoughts on each. We would like to welcome two new contributors: David Niecikowski will be covering “Games in Education” and Kevin Lauryssen is the artist/writer behind the “Game Night” comic strip. I’d like to thank Ryan Dancey, Chenier La Salle, and Brian Snoddy for taking time from their busy schedules to share their thoughts. All three provide interesting insights into themselves and their work. Congratulations to Joey Vigour and Mirror Box Games for winning an “Editor’s Choice Award” for their excellent “Chaosmos”. An excellent deduction game! Special thanks to Chandan Mohanty of Leprechaun Games for providing our readers with a Print and Play version of their game “Maha Yodah”. You are in for a treat when you see the gorgeous artwork! If you are a writer, photographer, etc. and feel you have something unique to contribute to the magazine, feel free to contact me to discuss it. We’d love to have you on board!

Serge Pierro

Cover Photograph by Serge Pierro. Chaosmos © Mirror Box Games

Editor in Chief/Publisher: Serge Pierro Editor: Eric Devlin Contributing Writers: Dan Fokine Bill Braun David Niecikowski Kevin Lauryssen John Anthony Gulla Photographers: Serge Pierro Bill Braun Follow us on Facebook:

www.facebook.com/GameNiteMagazine Visit us at:

www.gamenitemagazine.com

Editor in Chief

Follow us on Twitter:

editor@gamenitemagazine.com

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History

The History of Tabletop Games By John Anthony Gulla

Part III - Ancient Rome c.500 B.C. - 500 A.D.

L

ike the Ancient Roman epic hero Aeneas (the mythological founder of what would later become the city of Rome), we now sail into the west from outside the walls of Troy and the territories of Ancient Greece for this, the third installment in our series on the history of tabletop games. You may have already noted that the time period of this article overlaps with the previous-- and this is no accident. While society in Greece began to crumble from infighting during the early portion of this era, Rome began steadily building up its territories and unifying various populations under one banner. Nevertheless, Ancient Rome, though undoubtedly a civilization with an identity all their own, borrowed much from Ancient Greek thought and culture, with some ancient Roman sources even considering their civilization to be the worthy successors to the older, but well-respected, Greek values. Along with this cultural appropriation came many of the tabletop games that were popular in Greece for years. As they did with countless other Greek ideas, the Romans improved upon the initial design of these Greek (and also Egyptian) games over time, while also managing to exploit some simple game mechanics for more base purposes. Petteia, as an example of the former, becomes slightly more sophisticated and standardized throughout the empire, while dice games (i.e. Kuboi to the Greeks, Tessarae in Latin) become used widespread in Rome for simple betting games as the most popular example of the latter. This duality of simple dice games, in addition to more complex strategy, i.e. “heavier,� games in Roman Society is prevalent throughout the entire epoch.

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It is well known that soldiers, farmers, and perhaps even slaves would often partake in dice games, as did some Roman Emperors and statesmen. Caesar Augustus, Caligula, and (later) Commodus, and Lucius Verus were all known to be avid dice-game players and even had state-sponsored gaming events! RomeCon, anyone? In fact, dice games and gambling became so popular and problematic in Rome that they were

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actually outlawed. One such Ancient fresco found in Man on left: “I’m out.” (it is not known for certain the remains of Pompeii may illustrate a compelling which game was being played here, but it seems to have reason as to why. involved going “out,” as a win condition and three dice per player.) In the crude and humorous drawing, there are clearly Man on Right: “But that isn’t a three, it’s a two!” two men sitting at a table with dice on it, one holding a cup (presumably that he used to roll the dice with). Now on the next panel, which shows the two men in an Above their heads, Latin is scribbled into the wall like apparent scuffle, while the barkeep swoops in behind): that of a modern cartoon that says, loosely translated: Continued on next page>

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History (Cont.) Man on Left: “You offend me, friend. That is a three!” More recent studies, however, make the claim that the 20-sided die may be connected to Egyptians of the same Man on Right (now shown between the man on the left era, where similar dice were also found. Still, it seems and the barkeep): “Cheaters like you should be hurt.” that Rome, whether borrowing from Greece, Egypt, or otherwise, certainly had a collective interest in dice of Barkeep: “Take it outside, if you’re going to fight!” any kind. Rome may not have invented the die, but it certainly did move a long way toward popularizing Reminiscent of a Wild West-style poker game, it is them as a symbol of gaming, which has persisted as such probably safe to say that if this sort of thing occurred in ever since. Rome enough for someone to immortalize it in this way, it happened enough to cause concern over maintaining Turing our focus to the more structured and strategic order throughout the empire as well. games of the period, it seems that Romans played everything from tic-tac-toe (which they referred to as In addition to this evidence (and the other physical Terni Lapilli), to a version of checkers (called Calculi), evidence unmentioned herein), we also have many to early cousins of both Chess and Backgammon. In historical accounts which allude to games and dice as a fact, grids of various types are often found carved into prevalent cultural phenomenon during the period. The ancient walls and tables in many places where the most famous of these is, of course, Julius Caesar’s pre- Romans lived and/or occupied. eminent statement, “Alea Iacta Est” (meaning “The die is cast”) just before his crossing of the Rubicon River One of the more popular games of the time is called into Rome Proper with his legion. While his statement Duodecim Scripta, which simply means “Twelve is clearly meant to bring forth the notion of a gamble, as Lines.” As the name implies, the game was played on a well as that of leaving a result up to fate once the action backgammon-like board with 12 parallel lines, usually has been decided upon, it must not be overlooked that with a space in the middle of the board. Game pieces his chosen metaphor is that of a game mechanic, i.e., moved along those lines, likely in an attempt to move the roll of a die. This statement alone well supports to (or past) a certain position. We also know for certain the recognition and popularity of dice and gaming to that three dice (Tessarae) per player were utilized in the Rome. Rome’s affinity with dice does not stop there, movement of the pieces upon the twelve lines, but not however. much else is known about the actual ancient rules. It is widely believed that Duodecim Scripta was essentially In addition to the ever-popular Tessarae ( i.e. 6-sided a race game, and the first one to finish moving his or cubes) that were used in a variety of games, Romans her pieces to the goal was the winner. Considering the also made use of Astragals (like the Greeks) and even inclusion of dice, it is also reasonable to assume that, had a 20-sided Icosahedron die! One of the world’s though strategy as to which pieces should be moved oldest examples of such an object, there are no ancient depending upon the result of the dice was used, a references as to its actual usage, and the markings healthy dose of luck was clearly involved. Like Senet, upon the examples we currently have to study are also educated guesses have been made by modern scholars as unknown (since they are neither Greek nor Latin based). to how it played exactly, using logic, knowledge of other

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Interview Ludus Latrunculorum, another popular Roman board game, was undoubtedly based on the Greek game Petteia (or Pessoi), which we discussed in the previous article in the series. In testament to the game’s initial design, the Romans did not change much in the way of the game’s mechanics, preserving the board setup, movement rules, and the capturing mechanic. They did increase the quality of the production in some cases, though, and Photo: William Neuheisel - CC 2.0 even added a bit of theme! similar games, ancient clues/references to the game, and Ludus Latrunculorum, more commonly referred the many different (some beautifully styled) Duodecim to as Latrunculi in later years, translates roughly to Scripta boards that have been found in various regions “brigands, or “highwaymen” in Ancient Latin (though throughout Europe. Unlike Senet, however, there does some earlier accounts relate the name to “soldiers,” i.e., not seem to be any thematic basis for the game or its latrones, instead). Some historical accounts in the latter format and there is no pronounced connection between portion of the era mention Latrunculi boards that were the two. Eventually, the popularity of Duodecim made from polished marble or silver, with some even Scripta waned during the 1st century C.E., in favor of using precious stones as the game pieces. No such rich what seems to have been a variant of the same game examples have been found to date, but if the ancient called, Tabula (meaning “table” or “board”-- probably in stories are to be believed, Latrunculi must have been reference to the stone board it was played upon.) Instead a worthy and well-respected game in its time. In the of twelve lines broken up in the middle, Tabula used late Roman period, there is some evidence that suggests 12 lines on either side with no interruption, likening it there may have been an evolution to the classic game, even more to the modern backgammon board. From involving a special “king” piece for each side. What the ancient sources, Tabula seems to have increased in this special piece did or how it differed, however, is still popularity over the next few hundred years, with the largely unknown, but often guessed. What is certain is Emperor Claudius writing an entire book about it! that the popularity and esteem of Latrunculi in Rome Sadly, the book was lost to history. Tabula was likely seems to have carried this ancient game through the the main influence of a multitude of other games in the period and into the modern era in some fashion. We centuries to follow, going as far north as Iceland, and as will continue finding out about how it may have had far east as India, making it one of the most influential an influence on the games in Northern Europe in the next part of our series, Part IV: Tabletop Games of the games in history. Middle Ages.

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Book Review

Eurogames The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games By Serge Pierro

Eurogame Analysis

I

t shouldn’t come as a surprise that with the rising interest in Eurogames over the last decade, that someone would write a book on the subject. What is surprising is how well written and in depth it is. Stewart Woods has written a scholarly book on the subject of Eurogames, covering the historical background leading up to their introduction and popularity, as well as the games themselves, the players and the gaming experience. The book is divided into three parts: Understanding the games, understanding the players and understanding the play. In doing so, Woods, an assistant professor and postdoctoral research fellow, provides great insight into the inner workings of the Eurogame genre and those who are a part of it. The first chapter opens with a brief history of Hobby games, first differentiating the term Hobby game from Classical and Mass-Market games, and then moving onto a discussion on the aforementioned games before moving onto the genres within the Hobby game market. Woods breaks down the Hobby genre into specific phases of its growth: Wargaming, RPG’s, and CCG’s. This provides a nice backdrop on which the development of the Eurogame can be examined. It should also be pointed out at this juncture that there is an extensive amount of notes scattered throughout the book and they are quite insightful. It would be a great disservice to read the book and not take these into account, as they are as interesting as the sentence that was referenced.

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Chapter two is entitled “Anglo-American Hobby Board Games 1960-1995” and covers all of the major developments of that time period. Starting with company 3M, we are introduced to the design talents of Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph, both of whom are considered the “founding fathers” of Eurogame design. The rest of the chapter features highlights of game design from this time period, as well as some black and white photo examples. Serious students of the genre will be delighted to see the attention paid to this background as it leads up to the emergence of the Eurostyle itself. No discussion of the Eurogame would be complete without delving into the importance of Germany’s influence on the gaming world. This chapter shows how Germany came about to be the game board capital of the world and the history behind it. Also included is the function of the German media and the importance of game awards and how they came about. Non-Germans will feel pangs of jealousy as they read about how the Germans celebrate games and gaming. With chapter four we are introduced to the development of German games to Eurogames. This was one of the most interesting chapters in the book, as I was fortunate to have been a part of a group that was in on the ground floor. It brought back many memories of German games arriving each game session with computer printouts in English provided for the rules. Little did we know at the time what many of these games (and their designers) would turn out to be. Classics such as Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, El Grande, and Tigris and Euprhates amongst others are introduced and their impact noted. Names such as Reiner Knizia became reverent as designers, as something new and exciting was being introduced into the gaming world, but it would still be some time before others would make the discovery. An exciting chapter for those who were there at the beginning and can reminisce about playing those games for the first time and wondering why no one knew about them.

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Chapter five is a meaty section on the breakdown of the Eurogame genre and its mechanics. Woods discusses the various mechanics common to Eurogames and provides many excellent examples to further illuminate the text. Some of the mechanics discussed include: Tile Placement, Auctions, Trading/Negotiating, Set Collection, Area Control, and Worker Placement. From there he goes into the goals within the games as well as themes. There are some nice charts that show the various mechanics and goals laid out for easy analysis, thus providing a highly accessible overview of their relationships to each other. The role of chance and constrained playing times are also discussed, as well as other relevant topics. Chapter six is all about Hobby gamers. Chances are that if you are reading this, this chapter is about you. Woods breaks down the demographics of the gamer and provides lots of interesting observations about the subject. For some this will not be breaking any new ground, but it is quite fascinating to see all of it laid out in one place and discussed in a scholarly manner instead of stereotypical analysis. Chapters 7-9 examine the more social aspects of Eurogames within the community, and how gamers themselves relate to the games and their opponents. It reads a bit like a psychological study, so those whose interest lean towards social interaction and the thought processes behind them will probably find this to be of interest. Although I found these chapters to be interesting, they didn’t enthrall me as much as the previous ones, as I’m more interested in the games themselves, rather than the social interaction of the players involved. Though from a game design viewpoint, it is worth knowing the various emotional and psychological processes as they relate to the gaming experience and how to integrate them into your games.

well written book. It is fascinating to see Woods breakdown the the concept of the Eurogame and explore its many permutations. The notes section and bibliography are both outstanding and provide great resources for perusing additional material. If you have any interest in these types of games, then this book must be considered a “must read”.

Author: Stewart Woods Publisher: McFarland

Although some readers will find the writing at times a bit on the dry side, there is no shortage of interesting material contained throughout this

Highly Recommended www.mcfarlandpub.com 800-253-2187

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Education

Games in Education By David Niecikowski, ABD, MAED/CI

I

t has been nearly 10 years since I wrote for a quarterly magazine as a Games in Education Correspondent. My interest in the educational merits of games has not waned as I currently progress on my dissertation in the University of Arizona’s department of Language, Reading, and Culture. Whether in consumer publications, in person at trade show and convention presentations, or through academic research, my personal purpose has always been to advocate for the academic and social benefits of traditional games. For those who have read my previous work, I believe many of my observations and recommendations of the past still hold true, however, as a result of my doctoral studies and passage of time as a parent, educator, author/designer, and hobbyist, I have made some deeper connections that I wish to share. The purpose of this article is to introduce the concept of Game Literacy in order to serve as a foundation for a series of articles that will explore this idea in more detail. The following subtopics are briefly introduced below as a precursor for more in-depth analysis in the future: What is game literacy? Literacy has historically been considered as knowing how to read and write traditional print text. Over approximately the last 30 years, this domain has been expanded by researchers to include other multimodalities, or new literacies, such as social/cultural, digital, graphic, mathematical, physical, and auditory literacies. Many new literacy researchers have focused their attention on digital literacy, the use of the internet and digital devices. When discussing my research

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interests with professors and graduate students most assume that I am referencing digital gaming and I often have to articulate the distinction and importance of traditional game literacy by citing archeological records. I explain that there is evidence of gaming in cultures before the invention of alphabetic writing and therefore, we would not have digital gaming without traditional gaming. Future articles will discuss what it means to be literate in traditional gaming, knowing how to play and interact across different genres and social situations, and its implications. Why is it important? As mentioned above, cultures across the world have been playing non-sport games with handmade pieces for thousands of years. As a reader of this article you are likely part of a gaming community that finds playing traditional games satisfying. I believe that under many situations, playing games is more than just personally satisfying. Playing games with others provides opportunity for socialcultural mediated learning that can advance academic and social growth. Who is game literate? When is it developed? Where is it developed? Answers to these three questions will generally involve discussing what it means to be members of a traditional gaming discourse community and how do the uninitiated become members. It is important to note that like in other discourse communities, traditional gaming is not homogenous. There are sub discourse groups based on, for example, genre, goals, age, gender, culture, and geography.

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How is it developed? This may be the most important question, especially for educators and parents who believe, as I do, that games help children develop academically and socially. Game literacy is typically developed informally but there are situations where it is developed formally with specific short term and long term goals. Finally, as a matter of record, I first discussed this concept of game literacy indirectly when I authored parent and educator handouts for the 2005 and 2006 National Games Week program. I took a more academic and social skill development approach to the use of games and that playing games was a positive experience in bringing families together. In my 2011

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book, Game Design in the Classroom, I discussed the topic of ‘Becoming Game Literate’ under the context of working toward becoming a fluent game designer. So how does my approach, or framework, differ today? Over the years, I have had much success in introducing traditional gaming to new players but have had mixed success with new players repeating gaming sessions and committing to the hobby. Therefore, I am interested in discussing and researching how new players and families become game literate and long term members of the gaming community. Overall, my future Game Nite Magazine articles will be intended for any reader who wants to introduce and foster a love of traditional gaming with new players who may be children, teenagers, young adults, adults, or retirees. It is never too late to enjoy the benefits of traditional game literacy.

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Game Review

Rhino Hero

By Serge Pierro

Card Stacking Fun!

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ith the current popularity of board games, parents that are gamers are taking a closer look at the games that are available for their children. Germany’s game company, HABA, has several offerings that are well made and fun for kids. One of their top sellers is Rhino Hero. Let’s take a look at why this game has such wide appeal to both kids and adults. Rhino Hero is a card stacking/dexterity game that comes in a 4 1/2” x 7” box and includes bendable wall cards, roof cards, a starting base, and a wooden meeple of Rhino Hero himself. The quality of the components are excellent. Although the multilingual 32 page rulebook is nicely done, only five of the pages are relevant to any given language. The wall cards which are bent into shape for placement are of a very sturdy stock with a vibrant yellow interior and a more subdued earth tone exterior. The colors quickly grabbed the eyes of players as they were laid upon the table. The sturdiness of the cards are apparent as the folding of the card along the crease doesn’t weaken the structure of the card itself, even after multiple plays. These are built to withstand the rigors of a game of this nature.

Rhino Hero himself is a custom 1 1/4” painted wood meeple that has a decal applied to the front that displays a graphic of Rhino Hero. To start the game each player is dealt five roof cards (seven cards in a two player game) and players will attempt to be the first player to play all of their cards. Play starts by bending the wall cards and placing them on the floor tile matching both the pattern and amount of walls. That player will then place one of their roof cards on top of the walls, thus completing their turn. The following player now has to build walls to match the pattern on the roof card that the previous player played. However, they also have to follow any of the effects that are in the silver cornered region of the card. Some of these effects include: having to draw an extra roof card, reversing turn order, next player loses a turn and perhaps the most important effect: move the Rhino Hero meeple to the spot designated on the newly played roof card. This is where the fun really begins. Besides having to deal with building a large building of cards, you now have to take Rhino Hero from one roof and place him on the new one. This often times leads to the collapse of the structure, either by your hand knocking into walls/roofs or the weight of the meeple causes the building to fall over. The game ends when a player has played all of their roof cards or when the building collapses, in which case the player with the least amount of cards in their hand is declared the winner.

This game appealed to players of all ages. The younger players enjoyed the graphics and game play while learning about spatial relationships and balance, while the older players had a raucous time as they teased each other as they built the towering structure. Parents in particular were happy to have a game in which they could play with their children on a somewhat level playing field. It is rare that there are games that have such a wide range of appeal and The base card is of the same sturdy stock as the other the box designation of ages 5-99 seems to be quite accurate. included cards and is double sided. One side has This is an excellent game for parents with young children or markings for the placement of two walls, while the other adults who want to have a fun party game. side is for a more challenging game, as there is only wall marking to start play.

Designer: Steven Strumpf & Scott Frisco Publisher: HABA Number of players: 2-5 Mechanic: Card Stacking Ages: 5-99

The roof cards, which are the foundation of the gameplay, feature silver foiled corners and are further indicative of the quality of the components that HABA has in their games. Each of these cards feature the wall patterns to be matched for each turn.

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Recommended

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www.habausa.com


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Interview

Ryan Dancey By Eric Devlin

“Ryan Dancey has been associated with Legend of the Five Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, OrganizedPlay, and Pathfinder Online.”

L5R, TSR and more... What did you do for a living prior to entering hobby game industry? I worked in retail selling computer hardware and software, and cofounded a company with several of my co-workers that was built around using the emerging technology of CD-ROM burners to back up corporate data and help individuals archive large files. The company is named ISOMEDIA and it still exists today but it’s has morphed into a regional Internet Service Provider.

How did you get your start in the industry? About the same time I started ISOMEDIA my wife and I had a daughter. We needed a hobby we could do with friends that was cheap and that allowed us to keep an eye on the kid. One of my ISOMEDIA co-founders and I decided to restart our D&D game from high-school. We also decided to create a “fake” mail order company so that we could buy D&D supplies from a local distributor at wholesale prices rather than paying full retail. We ran an ad in Dungeon magazine (for $300!) and used it to open an account. Shortly thereafter, it turned out we’d found an untapped market as orders began to pour in and we had to turn our “fake” division, RPG International, into a real company.

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Ryan Dancey CEO Legends of the Five Rings Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons and Dragons Pathfinder Online

www.goblinworks.com

To expand our marketing footprint I contacted the magazines that served gaming and eventually found Shadis. John Zinser, the CEO of AEG and publisher of Shadis and I hit it off well. In 1994, we met face to face for the first time at GenCon, and while walking the aisles looking at all the CCGs that had been rushed to market to capitalize on Magic, we decided we could do at least as good a job, so we brainstormed and came up with the idea that eventually became Legend of the Five Rings. AEG and ISOMEDIA formed a joint venture to make and distribute the game, and my time became more and more focused on gaming and less and less vested in the tech stuff that ISOMEDIA was doing. After the release of the Imperial Edition in 1996 we decided to spin the joint venture off into a stand-alone company called Five Rings Publishing Group, and I became it’s VP of Product Development and that was my first full-time gaming industry job.

What was the genesis of Legends of the Five Rings, a revolutionary concept at the time, a ccg that had an interactive storyline that impacted card and game development? We looked at the games that got produced in response to Magic and

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decided that the market was so crowded that we needed to pick a niche where we could be the biggest fish in a small pond. We made a list of several potential genres and the Samurai/Ninja thing had the most support within our group.

he reached out to the CEO of TSR to see if there was a potential deal. He was a smooth operator and made that tenuous connection work. We worked out terms to acquire TSR and when we had those terms memorialized in a letter of intent, we allowed Wizards of the Coast to know what we had, and as a part of our terms for letting them in on the deal, required them to buy us too. In the end we were able to make that all come to fruition and the 3-way deal closed to everyone’s satisfaction.

One of the things that I thought was a weakness (at the time) was the open-ended nature of the games already on sale. I thought that people would get fatigued if they knew that there would never be a point where they could stop buying new cards. So we envisioned our game as having a beginning, a middle, and an end, that we would express through 5 expansions to the basic The biggest issue was determining what TSR was really set. The last expansion would be a “conclusion set” and worth. The last year of its existence TSR had mortgaged would be the “end of the game”. its intellectual properties completely. If it went into bankruptcy, all the copyrights and trademarks it owned That format lead naturally to the idea that there had would be thrown into the bankruptcy court and it was to be a story told through those expansions, not just likely that the lenders would fight over those rights. random collections of card ideas. That dovetailed There was a very real chance that they’d become so nicely with the work that AEG was doing anyway since divided that nothing useful could be done with them in the core team working on the game had been creating the aftermath. TSR also had a warehouse full of product “storylines” almost since the start of the project. that nobody wanted to buy, and it was contractually obligated to accept millions of dollars of value in returns We had a big meeting in mid ’95 to draw out the very from its book trade distributor. To arrive at a fair price, rough outlines of the story. We named the 5 expansions estimates had to be made of how much money the at that time and had the broad strokes of the return of company could generate if it were rescued, its operations Fu Leng and the struggle to avert the 1,000 Years of cleaned up, and its licenses managed for future value. I Darkness. helped with that analysis extensively but the final deal was hammered out without my direct participation. At about that same time we realized that we didn’t have to decide if Fu Leng won or not. There was an equally How did the Open Gaming License come about and how cool outcome either way. That led inevitably to the idea did it impact the role playing game hobby? that the “players should decide” how the story ended, and that insight paved the way for putting the players In the fall of 1998, I was asked to take over the business in a meaningful role in driving the story. Everything management of the roleplaying game division at else that happened in terms of involving players in the Wizards of the Coast. That meant, in practice, TSR. It storytelling proceeded somewhat logically from that key was obvious that the business was in worse shape than decision. it had been when we did the analysis that lead to the acquisition and radical change was required if the deal

How were you involved in the purchase of Dungeons and were to be salvaged. It is only under conditions of dire Dragons by Wizards of the Coast? What were some of the distress that things like the Open Gaming License can be attempted. If we could have saved the business with difficulties in assessing that property? Our CEO had worked early in his career with TSR and when we started to get wind that there were problems,

a more straightforward set of changes, we would have. Only because it was a “fix it or die” situation was the OGL possible. Continued on next page>

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Interview (Cont.) Wizards actually had an “open source” track record. The Primal Order, the company’s first product, had been published with conversion notes for many popular RPGs – one set of which triggered litigation. To try and avoid that in the future Wizards evangelized a concept called the “Envoy System” that was designed to make RPG rules portable between publishers, but Magic had derailed interest in that effort. So the OGL concept was planted in fertile soil. The only way to save the business was to make the 3rd Edition of D&D a runaway success. And the biggest competition for the 3rd Edition was 1st and 2nd Edition. We needed a way to induce people who were playing those previous versions to upgrade. We could not possibly publish enough content to provide a transition for the huge library of pre-existing campaign settings, homebrews, etc. But the fans might. If we gave them the ability to make and sell stuff that was compatible with 3rd Edition, it could unleash the creativity of thousands of writers. The RPG business was also in very bad shape. TSR didn’t just fail in isolation. The whole category was effectively dying. Every major publisher was staring down the barrel of an unprecedented simultaneous collapse in the category. People just weren’t buying RPGs as they had for the previous 20 years. There were so many game systems all mutually incompatible, and so many subgroups and tiny niches that the audience had become unworkably fragmented. It was harder and harder to find people to play with because it felt like everyone wanted to use a different game.

talent into the market. It made a lot of money for the retailers. And it ensured that no single company could ever screw up as badly as TSR had and put the game of D&D into a legal position that could force it to cease production. With OrganizedPlay Corporation you worked on what is for many event organizers, the holy grail of gaming, event results verification and storage. What were your goals for the company and how close were you to seeing your plans come to fruition? Were there ever plans to branch out to individuals as opposed to companies and to events outside the core hobby-gaming market? It seems like twelve years later there is still an under served niche that would love to have a suite of online tools to make things easier for event management. OrganizedPlay was a reaction to the fact that at Wizards I learned that the social networks of games were more important than the games themselves. Wizards spent tens of millions of dollars learning those lessons but there was very little effort made to export that knowledge beyond the company – in fact some of what they learned was considered such a valuable asset that they intentionally tried to hide it so the competition wouldn’t understand what they were doing. I felt that long term OrganizedPlay was really going to be a venture in the videogame space. But I thought that in order to get the attention of the companies that mattered in that space I needed to come to the table with a proven solution with a track record. Starting in the tabletop world meant that I could operate nearly invisibly while incubating the concept.

The OGL addressed both issues. It let folks make D&D compatible products, and it provided a place to rally I made a couple of mistakes. I underestimated the the market around for the cause of unification and appetite for the business with the investment community simplification of the game systems themselves. in the Seattle area, and I spent too much time and effort on the Living City campaign and the RPGA. The impact was that 3rd Edition was massively successful and it “saved” the RPG business at Wizards of the By 2001, I had succeeded in getting 4 or 5 trading card Coast, returning it to profitability. It kicked off a 5-year game companies to use the service and had processed cycle of innovation in game design. It drew people back more than a million tournament results, but I was into tabletop RPGs who had lapsed or lost interest. It spending too much of my time on Living City and not spawned a bunch of new companies and brought new enough on the CCG segment. I had invested almost all

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the money I made in the FRPG deal and had run out of You’re now the CEO of Goblinworks, the company that personal funds to inject. After 9/11, I felt there was no produces Pathfinder Online. With your experience at chance of getting outside investment and wound down Wizards of the Coast and CCP, this seems to be the perfect the business.

culmination of your work experience. What are you most I still believe in that space and I still think that someone excited about as we approach Open Enrollment? What will will raise the money required to make the tools, make Pathfinder Online bring to players of MMO’s that has been the connections, and do the marketing that would missing until now? enable it to work. I think that the rise of eSports has shown that the idea of organized play remains central to building a successful game. Every year or two I hear someone pitching the idea and I always kind of smile knowingly as they recite the arguments I used in 20002001; they ring as true to me today as they did 15 years ago. I hope someone finally makes it work.

The objective of the game is to advance the state of the art for fantasy sandbox MMOs. EVE proved it was a viable model but there are a lot of people who don’t want to play a science fiction game, or play without a humanoid body. Pathfinder Online is an attempt to combine the lessons I learned at CCP with an opportunity that opened due to the commercial failure of the Theme Park MMO model.

You moved from the table top game industry to online games with Eve Online. What did you learn from that I’d like to see PvP return to MMOs as a viable and experience? My horizons were substantially broadened. I worked internationally for really the first time. At Wizards I had some connections with the Europeans but not very meaningful operational responsibilities. At CCP, I managed people in Europe, North America and Asia. I also had a front row seat at the rise of quantitative marketing. In the space of maybe 5 years, marketing transformed from the kind of stuff you see on Mad Men where people pitched a creative idea then spent money to try to make it work to a new era where the objective was to break every aspect of a campaign down into its smallest unit, then do A/B testing to find out quantitatively what worked and what didn’t. Buying marketing also transformed into an auction-driven market instead of the previous very opaque “deal” driven model where you never knew if you were paying a fair price for what you bought. I had a lot of things confirmed. I had theories about the overlap of MMOs and tabletop RPGs and I felt those theories were validated. I had opinions about the direction of the technology confirmed.

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accepted part of the game. PvP is the Great Failure of the MMO genre, and bad, toxic experiences ruined it for many people. But not having PvP in an MMO is like having a supermarket without a dairy section; it’s a crucial missing ingredient. Pathfinder Online has a number of experimental technologies embedded in it to make PvP work without souring, surrounded by an intentional effort to build a community that can act as an antitoxin. Financially it represents a path forward. $100+ million Theme Park games can’t be made anymore. There are none in production. So if MMOs are to continue as a business, we have to learn how to make them for a smaller budget, with smaller teams, and shorter timelines. I’m hoping that we can show the industry it’s possible to take manageable risks on an MMO. Our mantra is to make a game that is more meaningful than real life, and to maximize meaningful human interaction. The MMO genre started off with those goals and achieved them with games like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, but the massive success of World of Warcraft sent everyone off down a narrow, dead end street for 10 years. EVE showed there were other options. Pathfinder Online may become another one. Continued on next page>

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Interview (Cont.) What mistake in your career have you learned the most Putting a book into a store isn’t sufficient. We lack a whole ecosystem of review and critique, of thought from? leaders with widespread audiences who can help get people interested in a new game, and no mechanism to help people who want to try and play new games to find each other and make a social network. I wish there was a show as good as “Table Top” for RPGs. I wish there was something like “At the Movies” for RPGs. Hell, I just wish there was a blog that “everyone read” that talked about tabletop RPGs from the standpoint of I learned to abandon a good idea when it was not discovery of new games. working. Rolling Thunder, our plan for transforming how TCGs were produced was a good idea (its such A good AI that could replace the drudgery of GM work a good idea that Fantasy Flight has essentially used it during combat encounters would unlock a new wave of for all their successful games today) but retailers and players. I believe there are a lot of folks who don’t play consumers didn’t like it when we introduced it. I stuck because it’s just too hard. Tabletop RPGs are orders of with it longer than I should have because I thought magnitude more complex than they were when I played that the rightness of the idea trumped the dislike of my Keep on the Borderlands for the first time in the ‘80s and I don’t believe we got much valuable return on that partners and customers and that was dumb. investment in complexity. We certainly didn’t get a I learned to keep my nose out of industry trade corresponding increase in players. I think hybridizing associations no matter how much they anger me and tabletop RPGs with computers and humans is a good make me feel massive opportunities for needed change idea as long as the result is a human-directed game with computer assistance, not vice-versa. are being lost. I learned my most important lesson when we tried to diversify into making too many TCGs in parallel. If we had focused on just Legend of the Five Rings we would have made a better product and more money and had happier customers. The lesson of “focus, focus, focus” has been my touchstone ever since.

I’m in the process of learning many humbling lessons at Goblinworks. Every new business provides new How close are we to having an experience in online gaming opportunities to try hard things and sometimes fail. that is comparable to the personalized experience that you

get from tabletop role playing games? When looking at trends in tabletop gaming, do you see any opportunities that aren’t being properly leveraged For several million people they already have it. There are lots and lots of people who are having a better experience that could benefit the hobby as a whole?

in MMOs than they ever had on the tabletop. They play with bigger groups, with more meaningful experiences, and have created rich and deep shared worlds together.

The fact that the primary mechanism of delivering the games is a book or book-formatted object is a giant opportunity. Whomever figures out how to make an App that replaces the page-based book concept is going There are a whole lot of people playing Minecraft who to transform the business forever. (I’m not talking about make complex worlds and design “dungeons” in 3D the virtual tabletops. I’m talking about a whole new way to way my generation designed them on graph paper. present a tabletop RPG that is unbound from “pages”). The people who want an unlimited creative freedom like There’s no good way for an innovative small press RPG they have on the tabletop have a while to wait though. to get much visibility. The industry has almost no I would say that sometime before 2035 there will be AI mechanism for discovery and promotion that works. smart enough to pass a “GM Turing Test”; a system able

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to respond appropriately to almost anything a player in cards it has a ripple effect on retailers and distributors a tabletop RPG would want to do at least as well as an that kills the weak and hurts the strong. average human GM. Something good enough to allow a high-quality Chronicle of Vampire, for example. I also think we find out if we’re in a sustainable longterm board game market or if it turns out to be just a Between now and 2035 that line gets fuzzier and fuzzier. particularly long-lasting fad. My bet is on fad, but that’s Several of the upcoming MMOs have “voxel engines” more of a hunch and less data driven than my opinion that allow players to alter the terrain, make structures, about cards on the tabletop. build ecologies, etc. Second Life has tools now that allow player-created custom objects (the hardest part is having I think that PAX/GenCon attendance is on a permanent the talent to use them). We already have intelligent upswing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a million agents like Siri and Cortana that can respond in near- attendees cumulatively annually by 2025. That means realtime to verbal player input. We might tip past the a lot more shows (because the existing shows can’t grow point where for most people the online world is as good due to limited hotels and convention center facilities). as the tabletop world and not really notice with just a The audience at those events will be younger, closer to few holdouts left who can dream up edge cases where the a 50/50 gender balance, and less hardcore than what we tech can’t deliver (yet). see today. The videogame industry is about to spend 10 years chasing the rabbit down the hole of VR. I have strong doubts that it will amount to much but the money that is going to be spent is breathtaking. You will be able to play a fantasy RPG in a 3D photorealistic VR world in 10 years or less. I just don’t think the result will be much more satisfying, and it will be hella more expensive (and thus riskier) than the AAA MMOs that got built from 2010-2014. But if you’re one of those people who wants to have the Neuromancer/Snow Crash/Sword Art Online experience, I can almost guarantee you’ll get it shortly.

I waited 15 years for the “next wave” – the product that would be the next entry in the line of evolution that ran: wargaming -> roleplaying games -> trading card games. It didn’t happen. I’ve stopped waiting and I don’t think it will happen anymore. I think the venue for innovation shifted to digital and it will never shift back.

As hackneyed as the question is, we would be remiss if we didn’t ask where you see the hobby-game industry in 5 years and in 10 years. 5 years – virtually no change. The current trajectories are pretty firm and barring catastrophic real-world things like war or pandemic I don’t think any force can bend those trajectories meaningfully.

10 years – my big bet now is that Magic lives or dies in this time frame based on its ability to go digital and leave the tabletop behind. I think the tabletop card format is doomed, and if Magic doesn’t make the evolution it will doom Wizards of the Coast too. If the tabletop dies for

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Game Review

Attila

By Serge Pierro

Bruno Faidutti Abstract

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Game play is simple. Each turn a player has to move one of their pieces in a pattern similar to a knight move in chess. When they are done moving, they place one of the fire tokens on any empty space on the board. Players may not move their pieces onto the same square as another piece or a square that contains a fire token. Players keep alternating turns until one player is unable to move a piece. The player who is unable to move loses the game.

hen one thinks of Atilla the Hun being pursued by Rome’s legions, it is seldom in the I thought that this was an interesting take on form of cartoon characters, and yet here we “Amazons”. In “Amazons” each player has four chess have a small abstract strategy game by Bruno Faidutti queens on a 10x10 board and after they move a piece, that features that visual theme. using the same movement pattern of a chess queen, they “shoot” an arrow to anywhere on the board in which they The game comes in a c. 4 1/2” x 6” tin and features a would be able to move. The player then places a marker highly embossed lid that adds great depth to the cover on the target square. These squares are now obstructions art by Cyril Bouquet. Inside there is a small four page in which a player cannot move through. Play continues rulebook, four board tiles that can be configured into until a player is unable to move, thus losing. This game various layouts, stacks of fire tokens and two sets of takes a similar approach, but with a smaller board and pieces. The components are stored in a moulded plastic the ability to place the fire token on any square, it leads storage tray with a nice felt finish. to a quicker and more dynamic game play. The rulebook clearly lays out how to play the game and its brevity can be associated with the simple rules for gameplay. The modular board is made of very sturdy stock and has a gloss finish with a black back. The fire tokens are of the same quality and finish, except, they are double sided with the artwork being repeated.

This is a perfect filler for those who enjoy strategic games but don’t want to invest the time to play a long game. It is also an excellent introduction for children as the small board game, fast game play and cartoony artwork will keep them engaged until completion. I must admit that I was originally a bit perplexed by the artistic style chosen for the game. On the one hand it certainly makes Each player has a set of three painted wood figures that it accessible to children, and yet on the other hand I have have a decal applied to both the front and back with a feeling that many adults will be put off by it and not Cyril Bouquet’s artwork. The red set features Flavious give the game the chance it deserves. Some adults had Aetius and two Roman soldiers and the yellow set some reservations about trying it, however, once they features Atilla the Hun and two barbarians. did, they thoroughly enjoyed the game. Bruno Faidutti has delivered an interesting little filler that should appeal The instruction booklet recommends taking the to strategy gamers of all ages. modular tiles and forming a 4x5 grid and then gives two examples of starting positions. We played several games Designer: Bruno Faidutti with this setup and made learning the game easier. Publisher: Blue Orange However, the game really shines when you take the tiles and form other shapes. This was where we had the most Number of players: 2 fun, as we formed various playing surfaces, including Mechanic: Amazons Variant some that had gaps in them, leading to creativity in Ages: 7+ both the setup and strategy.

Recommended

www.blueorangegamesa.com

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Game Review Spurs & Sprockets: Landships

By Serge Pierro

Filler or Light War Game

A

s with any artistic endeavor, being influenced by the classics of the past is part of the growth and inspiration journey. With the “Spurs and Sprockets” line of games, designer Bobby Doran takes the venerable Tic-Tac-Toe and creates an interesting strategic game, greatly surpassing the game that influenced it. There are several games in the Simi Game Knights “Spurs and Sprockets” series, the main difference being the artwork/ theme, while the other is that there is usually a rules variant added. We will be taking a look at their latest offering “Landships” which is abstractly based on Tanks and is playable by 2-6 players. The game comes in a pocket sized box with 48 3 1/2” square cards/tiles. These are sorted into six factions based on World War Two: USA, Britain, Japan, Germany, Russia and Italy. Each faction will receive an identical set of eight tiles. The artwork is the same for all eight cards, however, there are additional icons for in game play. This is an open information game with all of the players knowing what is in the other player’s hand. The sets of cards include two of each value: one, two, three and four. What makes this game interesting is the ten games/variants that it contains and how it goes about showing you how to play. The first game is a two player Tic Tac Toe variant that is used to show the core foundation of the game play and uses an evolving 4x4 grid. Scoring is based on how many tiles are in a row. The next game features what they call “scoring lines”. We wound up calling them “supply lines” as that seemed more

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thematic. These are an important part of the game and all of the advanced games rely on them. Each tile has a number of these lines ranging from two for the powerful “4” tiles to eight for the weaker “1” tiles. Although game #2 is similar to game #1, the difference is that the tiles have to connect via the “supply lines” or they don’t score. A subtle


rules change, but one that had a substantial impact on game play.

named “Tic Attack Toe� is where things start to get really interesting. It is a disservice to the game to use a name that calls to mind a simple mindless game, when Game #3 introduces scoring via the numbers actually the game here is nothing like that at all. I would highly printed on the cards instead of a predetermined score as recommend changing the name to match the quality of per the previous games. the game play. Game #4 is where the game really begins. After covering the basics of the previous games, the sadly

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Here is where the game introduces the attacking Continued on next page>

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Game Review (Cont.) mechanics. On each tile there is a letter “A” that indicates the direction in which the tile will attack. The number on the tile indicates the attack strength. The number has to be higher than the defending number in order to win the battle. However, both the defender and the attacker have the ability to “Call for backup”. What this means is that the both the attacker and defender have the opportunity to have an adjacent tile add to their defense or attack number, however, the tiles must “connect” via the aforementioned “supply lines”. These new numbers are used for resolving combat. This is also where the game can stall at points due to Analysis Paralysis, as players try to figure out the best way to lay out their tiles for both the current turn and future ones. When a defending unit is defeated it is placed face down in front of its owner and is then brought back into play when they are done using the cards presently in their hand. Scoring is the same as versions #3 and higher of the game, three tiles or more in a row and connected via the “supply lines” score the amount of points listed on the tiles. Games 5-8 are just variations on Game #4 with different amounts of players and grid sizes. These multiplayer games proved to be the most fascinating as battles would spring up all over the evolving grid. There were some powerful “3” and “4” tile combinations that made for some seemingly overpowered “Call for backup” situations. However, a “3” and a “4” will not score in the end, as three tiles are needed to score. So it is worth targeting one of the smaller number tiles attached to this chain, thus somewhat limiting the strength of the combo. Though a “2” and “4” is still a formidable combination and the only way to defeat it is by using a “3” and “4”, while a “1” and “4” is a little easier as there are two ways to defeat it. Game #9 introduces the concepts that were introduced in the “Revolutionary” series of the game. These include “Flanking” and ability to move tiles previously played on the grid in lieu of playing a tile from your hand. As could be expected, these open

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up a variety of strategic and tactical decisions, especially the tiles that were previously played with the “move” ability, as they reinitiate an attack when repositioned. Game #10 adds the ability to use the “Projectile” symbol to launch attacks a space away, thus “firing over” a tile between the attacking tile and its target. This symbol appears on a “3” and a “4” tile within each of the decks and due to their strength are obviously formidable weapons. What begins as a simple 4x4 Tic Tac Toe variant, starts to evolve over the course of learning the game, and winds up turning into an interesting little war game. Although the simple variations could be played as a quick filler, the later games lead to a more substantial gaming experience. I really like the way the game is taught, as well as how each variant game keeps adding a new concept and evolves it into something more interesting. Although the rule book is a bit shaky at points, the designer was quick to respond to questions and is currently working on a new rules booklet that would address the issues that I had concerns with. With the ability to play up to six players, this game is viable in many situations, and the length and depth of play can be chosen before the game begins by choosing from the list of games offered. Apparently there are some other tiles and variants in the works and I’d be interested in seeing how these further influence and build upon this game. If you are looking for a filler game that can be extended to something more, then perhaps you should consider looking at this.

Designer: Bobby Doran Publisher: Simi Game Knights Number of players: 2-6 Mechanic: Area Control Ages: 6+

Recommended

www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/simi-game-knights

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Interview

Chenier La Salle By Serge Pierro

“New York 1901” Designer Many of our readers probably do not know that you are a Canadian Diplomat. What does your job entail? Yes, I’m vice-consul at the Consulate of Canada in Houston. I arrived in Houston from Ottawa in 2011. My job is to help Canadian industry find potential partners in the southern United States. I’m set to go back to Ottawa this August. I really enjoyed my four years in Texas and I’ll miss all the good friends I made here. I’ll also miss the extremely mild Texas winters!

Do you have any favorite non-game related hobbies? I’m a voracious reader. I subscribe to 3 daily newspapers and 20 magazines (I’m not joking, feels like I’m singlehandedly keeping the traditional “paper” press alive), I also have books and magazines in all parts of the house (not just the obvious places) that I can pick up and read a few pages at a time. I’m generally working on 2 or 3 books at the same time and I go from one to the other depending on my mood. My tastes are eclectic, it can go from rather “heavy” books about politics and economy to low brow stuff like rock star biographies. The rock star bios are escapism, just like a good board game ;)

Of the books that you have read, which ones are your favorite? I lived, studied and worked in Japan from 1994 to 2004. I met my wife there and two of my three kids were born there. I did a master’s degree on the Japanese political economy at Nagoya University. One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read about Japan was Karel

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van Wolferen’s “The Enigma of Japanese Power”. It’s one of the most interesting analysis of Japanese society ever written. I liken it to de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” in that an erudite foreigner gives his account of his host country and does it extremely well. Well, this is going on a scholarly tangent! ;)

Do you have a favorite author? Not really. I go by book. Just like in games. If a book/ game stands out on a certain subject that interests me, I’ll buy it. In that sense, others will have to discover it for me because I probably won’t be the first one to read/ play it.

What are your favorite games? I do most of my gaming with my family and our favorites are generally the easily accessible ‘gateway’ type games. Our family loves Ticket to Ride, Thurn und Taxis (my wife calls it “the Germany game”), Finca (wife calls it “the fruit game”), For Sale, No Thanks, That’s Life etc. I have a collection of about 100 games. The family has tried about half of them.

Who are your favorite game designers? I can’t say I have a favorite designer per se. I generally go by game rather than author. If you’ve designed one of the games my family and I love (see partial list above), you’ve made it on the list! Personally, I’m always curious to find a simple but effective game with an immersive theme. If you’ve got that combo down, we’ll probably buy it and give it a try.

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Photo: Chenier La Salle

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Interview (Cont.) Is there anyone in particular who has had an influence on your design process? Very early in New York 1901’s development, I was lucky to connect with Kevin Nunn and his group of designers and playtesters here in Houston. Kevin is an established designer with many games to his name. My weekly meeting with Kevin and his group was hard on my ego but I received quite a bit of “tough love” just when I needed it most. That group’s dedication to their craft was definitely an inspiration. I also connected with many other playtesters and designers through Facebook and many of them had a look at my game at various stages in the development. Quite a few of their contributions made it into the game (you guys know who you are!). I Photo: Chenier La Salle also worked very well with Stephane Maurel, the project manager at Blue Orange, and the changes he made to How much research did you do for the game prior to the mechanics (small changes with major impacts) were very beneficial to the game. I’m sure (I hope) some of choosing it as a theme? his enthusiasm and professionalism rubbed off on me. Short answer is “a lot”. So much so that New York’s history ended up dictating many parts of the game. What made you choose New York in 1901 for the theme of For example, most people are familiar with Midtown the game? Manhattan skyscrapers from the late 1920s and early 1930s like the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Good question. There are many reasons. The first one is Although right up there in the pantheon of “New York simply because New York is special. There are very few imagery”, that period had been covered in many other cities in the world that have so rich an imagery that they games before, so I wanted to do something different. leave almost no one indifferent. Paris and London are Through my research, I discovered the first wave of such cities and New York is another. But New York has New York skyscrapers at the turn of the last century. a modern and dynamic “new world” ring to it, a ring it That’s the time period I chose for my game. keeps to this day. I also discovered literally hundreds of beautiful I love games that create a small world that you can skyscrapers with elaborate facades. I got so enamored manipulate and make your toy. I call it the “sandbox” with the period that I started collecting vintage New effect. Movies allow you to virtually visit great cities like York City postcards. The turn-of-the-century was the New York. Some movies even allow you to travel in time. heyday of postcard collecting so cards are relatively But board games take it one step further. Board games easy to find on Ebay, and dangerously cheap (a few allow you to make great cities like New York your own dollars will buy you a nice 100+ year old postcard)... little playground for an hour. Board games are the only My collection has reached well over 2000 cards. Every medium that makes that possible. I borrowed so much single skyscraper tile in New York 1901 was inspired from New York that I feel that I owe it big time. But by an actual building from that period. Now the vast then again I fed the New York City myth by creating a majority of these first skyscrapers were not built in game around it… We’re even New York! Midtown Manhattan but rather in Lower Manhattan, in New York City’s financial district. That’s the part of

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the city that I chose as the backdrop for my game. You’ll recognize some of the streets like Broadway and Wall Street. Lower Manhattan was the oldest part of the city and the size of the lots was determined when New York was just a small city in a young British colony; therefore, the lots were very small. Real estate developers from the turn-of-the-century literally had to acquire many small contiguous lots of land before they could finally build a “big” footprint building. (I thought to myself: here’s an idea I could use…) Moreover, it wasn’t uncommon for pesky real estate holdouts to ruin a developer’s grand plans. When confronted with a holdout, it wasn’t uncommon for developers to simply build around them. This gave us quite a few skyscrapers with very peculiar footprints. (I thought to myself: here’s an idea I could use…) I’ve sent you a few postcards of period skyscrapers from my own collection, I hope you can show them to your readers. The fact that such tetrisy structures actually existed gave me the freedom to use these shapes in the game. I didn’t start with tetrisy shapes in mind, in fact, the skyscrapers in my first prototypes were square or rectangular. History dictated the shape of the tiles. But wait. There’s more. Skyscraper technology was advancing rapidly at the time, making it possible to build better and higher skyscrapers. It wasn’t rare for buildings that were just 10 or 15 years old to be demolished to make way for better ones. (I thought to myself: here’s an idea I could use…) Many of the game’s concepts were “revealed” by New York City history. I was just there to push it along and Photo: Chenier La Salle make it fit into a nice, efficient and, hopefully, fun format ;) my pleasant surprise, they listened to me too. I say “to my surprise” because I’d read stories on the internet about the What was it like as a new designer to work with a publisher-designer relationship and it seemed to vary greatly company such as Blue Orange? from publisher to publisher. I’d heard horror stories about designers being left in the dark completely after they’d signed I simply could not have found a better partner. their game. That wasn’t my experience at all and Stephane They have a foothold on two continents. They can Maurel from Blue Orange always sought my opinion before reach out to the top artists to get them onboard as making any changes to the mechanics. collaborators. When they spoke, I listened! But, to Continued on next page>

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Interview (Cont.) The artwork for the game is stunning, what were your thoughts when you first saw Vincent Dutrait’s artwork for your game. Having an established publisher pick up your game was fantastic news. Learning that Vincent Dutrait was hired to do the artwork was the icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae. I didn’t communicate directly with Vincent during the development process - that was handled by the project manager - but every now and then Blue Orange would send me some of the artwork as it came in from Korea (Vincent lives there). It was a great thrill to see the world of New York 1901 come to life under Vincent’s brushes and pens. I, humbly, think we have one of the most beautiful board game covers out there and I’m very privileged to have my name on the box. Vincent’s name is also right there on the box and that’s extremely fitting.

What advice would you give to aspiring game designers? Playtest, playtest, playtest. Seek advice from mentors and learn to distinguish between the advice you keep and that which you politely ignore. That can be hard, trust your instinct, you’re the director you have the vision. (But heh, if everybody and their dog says you’re wrong, they’re likely on to something…) Target your audience very clearly. And don’t count the hours.

Are there any upcoming projects that our readers should be aware of? I’ve got a few ideas and projects. I’ve been working on another turn of the century game with another major American city as backdrop. This new project doesn’t involve skyscrapers, but rather cars and horse drawn carriages. I’ve also got ideas for new content for New York 1901 but I don’t want to jump the gun. However, if the game is successful I’d love to add content to this little world I’ve created. Only time will tell if I get that chance.

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Photo: Vincent Dutrait

How can our readers stay up to date on your projects? They can friend me on Facebook, that’s if they don’t mind seeing pics of my kids and family as well. I haven’t set up a “professional page” yet. I would feel terribly pretentious setting one of those up at this point in my game designer’s career.

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Game Review Chaosmos

By Serge Pierro

A Unique Deduction Game

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hile perusing the list of games on Kickstarter it is commonplace to see many rehashed ideas scattered about, however when something unique is presented, it just jumps out and grabs your attention. That’s how it was the first time I saw the Chaosmos video. I thought to myself… “Hmmm, this is a fascinating game concept”, but I also wondered, how does it play? Let’s find out. Designer Joey Vigour has been working on this game for years. Besides the gameplay itself, there has been a lot of thought put into the backstory and Planet and Alien names. Apparently not content with delivering a mediocre product to the market, Mirror Box Games spent a great deal of time testing the game and developing the components. It appears that all of their efforts have paid off. Not only is there an impressive amount of components within the box, but they are all high quality. Because of the sheer number, we will only list the most relevant. The nicely designed rule book is a large 11” x 11” and features extensive photos, as well as various notes and information. The core components include: ten large Planet Hexes, the Chaos Clock (which is easily assembled), ten Alien sheets, ten plastic Alien miniatures, ten Alien Screens a deck of 76 cards, ten Planet Envelopes and an Envelope Box to hold them in, four Combat Dice and a whole lot more! The rulebook lists a series of recommendations for playing your first game and all of the suggestions work well, especially since there are ten Aliens to choose from and it can be a bit daunting trying to initially pick one of them when you are not yet familiar with the game play and strategy.

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To start the game each player will choose an Alien and set up the Planet Tiles which will be used as the game board. Draw six cards and place them in the Cosmic Pool. Depending on the number of players, the rest of the cards will be dealt face down into the Home Planet Envelopes of each of the players, with the leftovers being evenly distributed to the remaining envelopes. Players will then open their Home Envelopes and choose seven cards, they will be using these as their starting hand for the


game. They then place the extra cards back into the Envelope. There is a possibility that the Ovoid (the card needed to win the game) will be in one of the players Home Envelopes. That player will then have to decide whether to put it into their hand or try and keep it safe in the envelope and try and prevent players from discovering its location. The Chaos Clock is then set for the amount of turns that you want to play, 48 for an average game or 36 for a short game.

Game play is simple, each player has three actions that they can take on their turn. Players will choose their actions from a list. Actions are not unique, players may choose to play a single action up to the three times or any combination that adds up to three. Players may use one action to move one space. A space is considered to be from one point on the board to another. Example: From a Star to a Planet would be one one space, as well as from a Planet to a Star. Continued on next page>

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Game Review (Cont.) A player can also spend one action to Control a Planet they are currently at. This means that when the player is on a Planet that is not toxic (each player has a Toxic Planet on which they can’t attack or Control the Planet’s Envelope, unless they have the relevant Enviro Gear card) they may take that Planet’s Envelope from the Envelope Holder and take a look through the cards contained within. However, they must be careful because players can set up Trap cards to be triggered upon opening! You may take cards from the Envelope and place them in your hand, but since your maximum hand size is seven cards, you would have to place any surplus cards back into the Envelope.

Each player at the end of their turn moves the Chaos Clock one tick. The game ends when the Clock hits zero and whoever has the Ovoid card in their hand is declared the winner.

Chaosmos is one of the most interesting and unique games that I’ve had the pleasure of playing lately. Clearly this was a labor of love and everything from the design, to the components, show the amount of effort put into it. While most 2-4 player games would have been happy to offer maybe 4-6 Aliens, this game delivers 10, which meant additional production costs for more miniatures, custom envelopes, player screens etc. But in doing so, the game offers tremendous replay value, Some cards have an Action Icon on them and a player as each of the Aliens have distinctly different abilities has to pay an action to use the card. and make each game play differently. Some of them actually influence alternate victory paths. When you If a player is on their Home Planet they may take a free add this abundance of options, along with a modular action to exchange a card from their hand for one of the board that can be set up differently each game, you can cards in the Cosmic Pool. This action does not count start to see that this is a game that will have tremendous towards the three action limit. replay value and provide a great deal of entertainment. As if that wasn’t enough, the rulebook includes several It also costs one action to initiate combat at a location. variants, and there are optional components that add Combat is resolved by each player rolling a pair of dice even more variety to the game play. All in all there is and playing cards from their hand. One of the unique an amazing amount of gameplay contained within this aspects of the dice is that one die face is a “mirror” and box. when it is rolled it becomes an exact duplicate of the other die rolled. If two mirrors are rolled (“Infinity”), Although I’m usually not a fan of deduction games, you automatically win the battle. However, if both this one is done in a manner which is nicely integrated players roll “Infinty”, the combat is cancelled and each into the game play, as opposed to being a standalone player is sent to their Home Planet. After the dice are mechanic. I’ve had games where I started with the Ovoid rolled, numbers are compared and then the player with and then lost it, as well as having games where I had to the lower score will then have the opportunity to play deduce who had it, and each time I was rewarded with Combat Cards out of their hand. Play continues until an enjoyable gaming experience. If you are looking for both players pass. The higher total wins, while ties are something unique and fun - give Chaosmos a try! a draw with no one winning. When combat is over, all of the Single-Use cards are placed in the Void and Designer: Joey Vigour both players place their cards back into their hands. The Publisher: Mirror Box Games victor then may choose to take Spoils or Banish the loser to any other planet. Spoils allow the winner to look at Number of players: 2-4 the losers hand and take any one card. If the loser was Mechanic: Deduction controlling a planet, the winner may immediately take Ages: 14+ control of the planet as a free action.

Highly Recommended

www.mirrorboxgames.com

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Game Review

March of the Ants

By Serge Pierro

An Invasion of Fun!

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arch of the Ants brings Myrmecology to the tabletop, as players will try and control the meadow by placing their ants in the numerous tunnels and destinations, while at the same time evolving their ants into more powerful entities. The quality of the game components range from linen finished cards to sturdy cardboard tiles, as well as wooden cubes and disks. The oversized twenty page rulebook is informative, but there is information in it that is not included on the player boards, which lead to some initial confusion. The main components included are: The Great Tunnel, twenty five Hex Tiles, 66 cards, five player mats, 180 wooden cubes (36 of each color), 30 wooden Food Tokens, a Score Track and an assortment of other tokens. All of the components fit nicely in the cardboard insert which is divided into two sections. It should also be noted that designer Tim Eisner also did the majority of the artwork for the game. To start the game, place the Great Tunnel in the middle of the table. This will be used as the starting hub for placing the Hex Tiles. Each player receives a player mat and thirty-six wooden cubes of their chosen color. Players put their scoring disc on the Scoring Track and place five of their cubes on the Larvae Chamber of their play mat, as well as two Food discs in their Food Stores. Each player is dealt two cards. There are two types of Hex Tiles, the Starting Hexes and the Standard ones. For a four player game, shuffle the eight Starting Hexes and place them on top of the stack of Standard Hexes. Players will draw from this stack for the rest of the game. The Round Marker is placed on the number which reflects the type of game that you would like to play. Each turn of the game is broken down into four phases: Worker, Soldier, Queen and Slumber.

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The Worker Phase is where most of the gameplay takes place. On a player’s turn they will choose to take one action from a list of five: Explore, March, Forage, Play a Card, and Rest. Similar to the mechanic used in “Puerto Rico”, the player who chooses the action gets the primary benefit, while other players get to take a lesser reaction. Example: If a player chooses the Forage action, they


draw two cards. As a reaction, other players may gain one round. After two players have rested, the Worker Phase Larvae. This simple mechanism keeps everyone engaged in ends and the game proceeds to the other phases. the gameplay, even when it is not their turn. In the Soldier phase, any contested Hexes are resolved The Rest action is special and it is used to determine the via combat. A Hex is contested when two or more players end of the round and who the first player is for the next have more Ants than Collection Sites. Combat is resolved round. This proved to be an interesting concept, as players as follows: always had to factor in the possibility of other players deciding to rest and thus negating a possible play that Each player’s total number of Ants in the contested Hex is

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Game Review (Cont.) added to the number of Head Evolutions, if any. Then each player may place a card from their hand face down. Players reveal the card and add the Ferocity number listed on the card to their previous total. The higher number wins, with ties going to the defender. The loser loses Ants equal to the Army Strength of the winner, while the winner loses Ants half the Army Strength of the loser, rounded down. The Ferocity numbers from the cards played do not count towards these numbers and are only used to determine the winner. During the Queen Phase players collect resources from the Collection Sites and feed their ants. One food disc will normally feed four ants. If you have five ants it will cost you two food discs. It is important to keep track of this, as not feeding your ants can wreak havoc on your strategy. You must feed your ants with the food disc(s) if available, if you do not have enough food, then the ants must be fed with your Larvae, and if you don’t have enough Larvae then you must destroy any remaining ants. The final part of the Queen Phase is the Royal Decree in which players choose to either receive two Food or five Larvae. The last phase is called Slumber. Here players score one Colony point for each Hex they control surrounding the Great Tunnel. They also resolve and score any Stashed Colony Goal cards. This ends the Round and the player with the first player token begins the next round and the Round Marker is advanced to the next round on the Great Tunnel and the game continues as previously described. There are three different types of cards in the game: Ant Evolutions, Colony Goals, and Events. The Ant Evolution is one of the more interesting aspects of the game. Players are able to “evolve” their Ants by playing cards on their player mats that increase the abilities of their Head, Thorax and Abdomen. Besides adding new abilities, the cards also increase associated stats for each body part. When an Ant completes an

evolution, which is one of each body part, they receive three Colony Points, and continue to do so for every complete evolution. The Colony Goals are cards that yield special results during the Slumber Phase, while Events trigger immediately and have an effect on the current game state. There’s a lot of things to like about this game. First and foremost would be its replayability. Between the Hex Tiles being different in every game and the Ants evolving into different types, in all likelihood you will never see the same game twice. We loved the different Hex tiles, but we wished that they would have gotten into play sooner. While I understand the necessity of needing the Starting Hexes for the initial resource gathering, they took away the opportunity for more of the interesting tiles to see play. A somewhat necessary evil, I suppose. Seeing as how the Ants had three body parts for Evolution, this led to a broad range of evolved Ants, however, players quickly championed certain parts and in follow up games pursued them by Foraging often, as some of the evolutions are stronger than others. Which brings up the only negative of the game, some of the cards seemed to be unbalanced, not to the point of being detrimental, but to the point of obviously not being in line with the others. Fortunately this didn’t have a negative effect on any of the games, but it did leave us scratching our heads as to how some of the cards made it through playtesting. Other than that, this is an excellent game that we found very enjoyable and I believe that it will continue to hit our gaming table in the future.

Designers: Publisher: Number of Mechanic: Ages: 13+

Ryan Swisher and Tim Eisner Weird City Games players: 1-5 Area Control

Recommended

www.weirdcitygames.com

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Game Review

AquaSphere

By Bill Braun

A new Stefan Feld brainburner

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tefan Feld has been designing tabletop games for well over a decade. Whether providing opportunities for players to take on the role of aristocrats controlling a small princedom in The Castles of Burgundy, increasing ones influence and political power in Trajan, or journeying across the mysterious island world of Bora Bora, “Feld” games are widely regarded throughout the tabletop industry as must-have titles. Some gamers have gone so far as to claim that a game collection is incomplete without at least one Stefan Feld title. Others go out of their way to ensure that their personal collection includes his entire library. The themes that his games incorporate, the mechanics that are included, and the experiences that they yield are simply the best that this hobby has to offer. Or so I have been told…. Full disclosure, in the time that I have been enjoying the tabletop hobby I have never sat down, or found the time, to arrive at any of these conclusions on my own. Thankfully, the kind folks at Tasty Minstrel Games were generous enough to help me resolve this dilemma by sending me a copy of Stefan Feld’s latest game, AquaSphere. Gameplay

opponent’s moves and respond (or in many cases, react) appropriately.

AquaShere is a game for 2-4 players that focuses on strategy and tactics, and demands consistent planning of your actions well in advance of their execution. Like a game of chess, players must be able to think several moves ahead, while having the foresight to predict their

Spread out over two separate boards - a research station comprised of six sectors, and a headquarters where players control their engineer – AquaSphere combines programming, light area control, and action-selection mechanics. Lasting four rounds, players are competing

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Photo: Bill Braun

against one another to have the most knowledge (victory) points at the end of the game. During the course of a turn, each player may choose from three possible actions: program a bot, carry out an action with a programmed bot, or pass. At first glance, the limited number of available actions may cause some to believe AquaSphere to be a more simplified game

with relatively easy decisions. This assumption couldn’t be any further from the truth. AquaSphere embraces the notion that every decision the player makes is just as critical (if not more) than the last. The headquarters is where much of the player’s strategy and planning occurs. Beyond the starting point for each player’s engineer, there are three additional levels that Continued on next page>

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Game Review (Cont.) accommodate for the current round’s programming actions. Moving your engineer to the next allowable programming space often prohibits reaching a muchneeded programming space on a later turn. Deciding on the best path requires thorough consideration at least three to four moves ahead. Previously programmed actions are then carried out in the research station. Each of the six sections of the station are nearly identical, but the opportunities for increasing (or decreasing) your knowledge points will alter both during, and between, each round of the game. Whether launching a submarine, gathering time tokens to access other sections of the research station, expanding your lab, or acquiring additional research cards, AquaSphere is that rare game where opportunities can be both in abundance and lacking at the same time, while also being in a constant state of flux. When a player can no longer complete any moves or actions they are left with the option to pass. However, passing has its advantages in that the order in which players pass dictates the starting order of the following round, adding an additional sprinkling of strategy to an already strategically-heavy game. After all players pass, intermediate scoring occurs, the research station is re-set, and a new round begins. Theme and Components While the idea of conducting research at an underwater station sounds compelling and unique, five minutes into the first round of AquaSphere and you’ll be hard pressed to remember if this was a station on Mars or at the bottom of the ocean. Quite frankly, a game like AquaSphere does not require much theme, nor does it add to the game’s overall enjoyment. From a marketing perspective, board game publishers are responsible for ensuring that the game jumps off the shelf and into the hands of the consumer. Having an interesting theme helps to promote this. And while I appreciate the effort that went into AquaSphere’s theme, it was essentially pasted on with a rough brush.

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Photo: Bill Braun

The wooden components included in the box are of a high quality and nicely represent the various colored robots, submarines, and octopods that each player controls. Both the research station and headquarters game boards break apart into puzzle-like pieces and nicely accommodate for storage in a smaller game box overall. Because there is no specific way the research station is required to be assembled each game, this allows for a greater degree of replayability. Sitting down to your first game of AquaSphere can be intimidating. There are an abundance of colors, icons, wooden and cardboard tokens, and two separate game boards to contend with. Although gameplay becomes quite intuitive after a few turns, the initial spectacle of the game is quite a lot to breathe in. Sadly, the included rule book did little to relieve that initial intimidation. It’s not that the rules are unclear, it’s how they are laid out from one page to the next. Giant boxes of text with arrows shooting out in every direction, pointing to a variety of game examples, made digesting the rules much more complicated than they needed to be.

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Final Thoughts AquaSphere is both challenging and competitive. Providing the player with too many options and not enough actions to carry them out can result in quite the brain-burning experience. The path to victory is never obvious and rarely occurs in a straight line, and the best laid plans can change at a moment’s notice. In my opinion, these are all signs of a great gaming experience ….with room for improvement. Player variety is the first thing that comes to mind. Adding abilities that are specific to each research team would eliminate the sense that every player was simply taking turns doing the same limited set of actions. Granted, the research cards provide an added bonus to many of the available actions, but I’m referring to abilities that further break the rules in more interesting and unique ways; abilities that provide character to an otherwise nameless and faceless team of researchers.

As a two, three, or four player game, I enjoyed AquaSphere. But I also recognize that it will not be a game for everyone. The set-up is fairly involved, and gamers new to the hobby will undoubtedly be intimidated by the number of components and icons that permeate the game from start to finish. The rule book could benefit from a new design and a more interesting variety of research team abilities has the potential to make the game even better. Overall, AquaSphere provides for a nice experience. But, was it enough to convert me into a “Feld” faithful? The jury is still deliberating that question.

Designer: Stefan Feld Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games Number of players: 2-4 Mechanic: Area Control Ages: 12+

Worth Trying www.playtmg.com

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Interview

Brian Snoddy Artist

Brian Snoddy is well know for his work for Magic the Gathering as well as Legend of the Five Rings.

By Eric Devlin

What’s the earliest memory that you have of trying to create art?

you have to now use what you’ve learned to forge a new path?

I remember being about three years old, and wanting to build things. Blocks and coloring books were a regular part of my life back then.

As someone who has been self employed for more than 22 years, I’ve had to forge my own path many times.

If illustration were not available for you, would you be able to satisfy your urge for creativity through other artistic mediums?

Was your interest in art as a child promoted by anyone in particular? I don’t know about it being promoted, but I had and older cousin who was a brilliant artist, and I mean BRILLIANT. I wanted to be like him, or at least have his abilities.

Although you attended the Art Institute of Seattle, many of your current techniques were self taught. Is that common for artists? I think it is, as I believe most art schools just suck money from people and fill them full of false hopes and other crap. I believe that there are very few art schools the focus on technique and craft. To be honest, I did learn many things from the Art Institute, but most of that stuff was layout/design, type speccing, paste up, and film photography…. some of these things don’t even exist anymore.

Brian Snoddy Artist Magic the Gathering Legends of the Five Rings Privateer Press

Iron Kingdoms Warmachine

www.flyingfrog.net

I think so…. I have always told people that I think I could be happy as a chef. I don’t really know much about cooking, but I do like doing it. A friend and I get together every once in a while, go down to the local farmers market, load up on stuff, stop by the wine and beer shop, and spend all day watching movies and cooking. It’s really fun…!! He’s really into it too, and anything I know about cooking now comes from him… with the exception of cooking mushrooms… as I believe I am the mushroom king.

Do you have any interest in writing, sculpting or playing music? I did have a mild interest in all of those things at one time. I liked writing when I was a kid, but I never

Is there a point that you reach where

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Interview (Cont.) went far with it. I sculpted some STAR WARS creatures in clay, when I was in high school. I played a guitar for a short time, but I have some nerve damage in my hand, and the constant strumming cramps my hand and wrist…. so that’s out for me too. I did do stand up comedy for about a year and a half……. I’m thinking of returning back to it someday.

You’ve had quite the disparate background. You’ve worked in commercial, in-house art, you’ve worked on comic books, you’ve worked on animation and, of course, you’ve worked in the hobby game industry. You left out advertising, album covers, and history books.

Do you feel that your diverse background has helped you become the artist you are today? Of course. When you are a freelancer, and have to work with different kinds of people and on different kinds of projects, you really have to be “on the ball” at all times. It was chaotic at times but it made me a better artist. Trial by fire I guess.

Your point of view for the art of Magic the Gathering is fairly unique as you were there in the beginning. What was the original process like and how has it changed over the years? The original process for artists (I can only speak for myself here), was that Jesper Myrfors, the original art director, would call you up on the phone, and read off the names of cards that he thought you would be interested in painting. At that time there was no style guide, and you had almost total creative freedom to do what you wanted to. Once they approved your sketches, you turned in your finished art and a bill. I remember turning in my art into Peter Adkinson’s basement, a few times. Nowday’s… it’s a little different. There are strict style guide regulations 98% of the time, and there are

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“card descriptions” as well…. something that didn’t existed before. In the past few years, I’ve only painted three new MAGIC cards, and to this day only one of them has been published. Bye the way.. there were no style guide rules for any of those last three pics.

You quickly became a fan favorite artist for Legend of the Five Rings and from the outside, it seemed that you had an ability to capture the essence of the ‘fantasy samurai’ milieu. Thank you…!!

Was that setting particularly appealing to you? YES…!! I love that stuff.

Did your interest in Japanese armor predate your work on Legend of the Five Rings? Yes, I’ve been interested in Japanese arms and armor since I was in 2nd grade. When I was going to art school here in Seattle back in the early 80’s, my buddy Russ and I joined a local Japanese sword study group (The Northwest Token Kai). I still make it down to San Francisco every once in a while to attend the Japanese sword convention (don’t know if I can make it this year… all of my sword/armor buddies are going, I’m very jealous). I have friends who are involved in sword restoration, sharpening/polishing/evaluation, forging, and armor research, preservation, and study. I also have a large library of books on Japanese armors, swords, and other subject matters. Japanese culture just fascinates me….. Even my cutie pie wife is Japanese.

Do you own much Japanese armor? I guess so….. I have 10 armors, 5 helmets, and a face mask or 2 laying around. I live in a fairly small apartment (950 square feet) … so you do the math. I used to have some swords too, but I sold them to get the cash to buy more helmets.

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Interview (Cont.) A website that discusses legendary giants includes an article by you where you mention your astonishment at seeing Japanese armor in a museum that seems wildly disproportionate to the size of the Japanese populace who would have been using it. Do you have any theories on who the armor was created for? Well, yeah… I believe they were created for real giants. I know this sounds wacky, but the history of real giants is world wide. Before anyone thinks I’ve lost my mind, I would like to point out that giant skeletons (7 to 13 feet in hight, and some wearing copper armor) were being dug up all over this country in the 1800’s, and at such an alarming rate, that even president Lincoln commented on this. Also, local news papers, county records, and scientific journals of the time were also filled with these reports. The Indians also have plenty of stories about these creatures. Today, mainstream news won’t touch any of these stories. We can talk about this later, as this would take up an entire magazine…. or three.

In 2001 you helped found Privateer Press. What were your contributions to the company? Well… I did help co found the company, helped to develop the “Iron Kingdoms” world, and of course What did you learn from that venture? contributed greatly to the visual scope of the world. I also helped to develop the “Warmachine” tabletop No comment. minis game…. didn’t do too much for “Hordes”.. just Do you still teach classes on inking and painting? a little there. Yes… Every Wednesday, from 6 pm to 9 pm. at the Georgetown Atelier in Seattle…. please check it out.

How skilled does someone need to be to attend one of your classes? Are they for introductory students? Journeyman? The classes are for everyone. I focus on techniques, and at the level of whoever enrolls. The 4 disciplines that we work on in my classes are pencil, marker, pen&ink, and gouache paint. Continued on the following page>

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Interview (Cont.) Are there any artists that stand out in your mind as being What is your favorite piece of art that you have done for influences on you, your thoughts on illustration and your a CCG card? I just don’t have one… second thought… LAVA AXE art? (MAGIC) isn’t bad.. I guess that’s it.

I have several… here is my list. Bernie Wrightson, Frank Frazetta, James Bama, Barry Winsor Smith, Mike Grell, Ralph McQuarrie, Angus McBride, Hal Foster, Russ Manning, Syd Mead, Mark Shultz, Joseph Clement Cole, Zdenek Burian, Bob Peak, John Buscema, Al Williamson, Jim Dietz, Val Mayerick and Rick Hoberg. All of these guys made HUGE influences on me, both positive and negative. I know this is a long list, but they were all important to me in some way. The two biggest, to me are Ralph McQuarrie, and Angus McBride… who I call the Mc Genius’s. I got to meet McQuarrie several years ago in San Francisco, bought him 2 beers, and got to yak with him for several hours. A very fond memory…. of course he’s gone now. As far as my thoughts on illustration and art… “do the best you can with the time, and resources you have”, and “get your art done on time”. The best advice I ever got was from one of my art teachers when I was going to the Art Institute. It was by the great Jim Dietz, and he said “It’s better to be good and on time, than it is to be a genius, and be late”. I built my entire career on that one.

What was your involvement with Lord of the Fries by Cheapass Games? Years ago, I illustrated a game for James Ernest (Cheapass Games) called “Gimme the Brain”. It was a very successful game and that lead James to create another game, with the same theme (zombies that work in a fast food restaurant) called “Lord of the Fries”. That too was successful. Recently, I completed 85 new drawings for James, that will go into the new versions of Lord of the Fries.

What’s your favorite medium to work in? My personal favs are pen&ink, and gouache paint…. don’t really groove on digital stuff.

Do you accept private commissions? Yes I still do, but have little time to work on them.

Is there an artist in the industry today whose work you How can our readers keep up to date on what you are admire the most? working on? I do not have “one” favorite, so here is a list. This too could be a long list, as I admire many……. I’ll name a few, as there are several. Todd Lockwood, Brom, Daren Bader, Steve Belledin, Tom Baxa, Wayne Reynolds, Anthony Waters, Rob Alexander, Augie Pagan, Phil Foglio, Jeremy Jarvis, Franz Vohwinkle, Greg Staples….. there are more, MANY more, and… Gus, Dev, Brian, Stefano, Haley, Seth… you guys know I love you too.

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Right now, I’m a full time “on staff” artist at FLYING FROG PRODUCTIONS. I’ve been working for FLYING FROG for about a year and a half, and helped to design all of the characters, monsters and some of the other items in our new board game, “Shadows of Brimstone”.. If you are going to GENCON this year, please stop bye at our booth and say “hi”. Also, please check out our KICKSTARTER site at https://www. kickstarter.com/projects/1034852783/shadows-ofbrimstone?ref=nav_search

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Game Review

Fidelitas

By Serge Pierro

Secret Agendas Revealed

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idelitas is a fast paced filler game that has appealing artwork and plays from 1-4 players. Players will attempt to move cards around the locations on the table in order to meet the specified criteria on their ”Missio” cards. The game comes in a small sturdy box that features the clean artwork of artist Jacqui Davis. The cardboard insert divides the interior into two sections that hold the 85 cards, as well as a slot for the first player token. The 12 page rulebook is fairly clear, though there is some ambiguity, in particular the use of the term “location”. The cards of the game are mainly broken down into two decks, the 50 card Virtus deck and the 20 card Missio deck. Also included are the five location cards, each of which contain two locations. As mentioned previously it can get a bit confusing when first learning the game as to what a location is… does it mean the card itself or either side of the the card. Clearer terminology would have made it easier for new players to grasp the meaning of “location”. The Harbor and Castle cards are also included, but they have no relevance to the actual game play, other than being used as a location reference for some cards. To set up the game, the five location cards are laid out in numerical order and capped at each end by the appropriate Harbor and Castle card. Then a Virtus card is randomly placed at each of the ten locations. Each player is then dealt two Virtus and two Missio cards. The player who goes first is given the first player marker and the game begins.

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On a player’s turn they will play one of their two Virtus cards to one of the Locations on the table. The main criteria being that if the character on the card is representing a specific Guild that matches one of the Guilds at a location, it must be played on either side of that Location. If the

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card is not one of the standard Guilds, then it may be placed anywhere. When a card is played, the effect on the bottom of the card is triggered and resolved. This is the main mechanism for moving the cards from Location to Location. If a player should meet the criteria stated on one of their Missio cards, they may reveal the card

and place it in front of them, displaying the Victory Points earned. At the end of their turn players redraw up to their hand size of two Virtus and two Missio cards. An important caveat to the normal playing of cards is playing a Virtus card from your hand to the Tavern, the effects don’t trigger as with other locations,

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Game Review (Cont.)

this allows you to discard a Missio card to the bottom of the Missio deck and draw a replacement from the top. The Missio cards can be frustrating at points, as you may not have one in your hand that has any chance of being played soon, and while the Tavern lets you exchange an unwanted card, it does so at the expense of using a Virtus card on your turn. We felt that this was a bit clunky as it penalized a player for a bad draw. Perhaps an opening hand of two Virtus cards and three Missio cards would have helped to alleviate the problem, giving players a greater chance of fulfilling a Missio on their turn, and thus keeping them interested. This was the only downside to the game as sometimes one player was stuck with bad cards and fell behind. I’m always thrilled to see a solitaire version included in many contemporary games and Fidelitas is no exception. The solo game is one in which you are playing through the deck once, while seeing how many points you can score. I found this had a fun puzzle-like feel to it as you were not trying to block your opponent’s play and you had to strategize the best way to move cards around in order to take advantage of the Mission cards you had in hand. The game also comes with a couple of other variants that the players can choose from. The game includes an eight card expansion set that has some slightly different rules. I would recommend playing the base game once, just to get a feel for the gameplay and then add the expansion. While it makes the game more interesting, I’m not sure why it wasn’t just included in the base game, as the

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mechanics introduced are just another small set of rules that could easily have been integrated into the core rules, instead of as two paragraphs for explaining the difference. This is a fun game to play no matter how many players you decide to play with. With four players, the Locations could change quickly by the time it came back to your turn, but this wasn’t any more annoying than having someone take your spot in a worker placement game. Players got used to it and planned accordingly. However with the more difficult Missio cards this became a problem as they became harder to get into play and caused some frustration for some players who had two hard to complete ones in their hand. The more that we played it the more players were able to “read” their opponents plays and attempt to block their completion of a Missio. So there is that element to the game also. All in all it is a light and fast filler that has some nice engaging gameplay. I think this is a game that many gamers will find enjoyable.

Designers: Jason Kotarski and Philip duBarry Publisher: Green Couch Games Number of players: 1-4 Mechanic: Hand Management Ages: 13+

Recommended

www.facebook.com/greencouchtabletop

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Game Review

Rise of Cthulhu

By Bill Braun

Cthulhu Filler with Great Art

I

t truly is a great time to be a tabletop gamer. A steady release schedule from many of the larger publishers in the industry – Fantasy Flight Games, Plaid Hat Games, Cool Mini or Not, and Days of Wonder, just to name a few – is likely to scratch just about any gamer’s itch. Add to this the rising popularity of crowd-funding organizations such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo and now you and your neighbors have an equal opportunity to develop and release the next must-have title. However, like so many things in life, nothing is guaranteed. And Kickstarter campaigns are no different. For every positive Kickstarter experience, there seems to be an equal number of those that end in disaster: games are abandoned by the developers, products are delivered well beyond their promise date, and component quality doesn’t always live up to expectations. All that we as consumers can do is be conscious of these potential Kickstarter pitfalls, do our research into the history of the designer, and cross our fingers and hope for the best. Backers beware! Today I want to talk to you about Rise of Cthulhu - the Kickstarter campaign, the communications from the developer, and most importantly, the game itself. Gameplay Although some may consider the tabletop industry has become oversaturated with games that involve the Cthulhu theme – along with the theme of zombies and fantasy adventures – I consistently support all things H.P. Lovecraft. And my current game collection

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is proof of this ongoing support with titles such as Eldritch Horror, Arkham Horror, Ancient Terrible Things, Kingsport Festival, The Cards of Cthulhu, and Mansions of Madness. Something about the mythos and all it has to offer continues to suck me in. As might be expected, I was instantly drawn to the Kickstarter campaign for Rise of Cthulhu.

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Photo: Bill Braun

Rise of Cthulhu, designed by Chuck D. Yager, is a twoplayer game that last about 20-25 minutes. It involves each player managing a hand of Cultist cards that vary in color and are numbered from 1-10. Vying for control over the four available locations – Arkham, Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Kingsport – players will take turns playing two cards from their hand, drawing two cards, or drawing a card and playing a card (in either order).

Setting up a game of Rise of Cthulhu is nearly as easy as it is to play. The four locations described above are placed vertically in between the players. The smallish deck of Monster cards are shuffled and placed face down at one end of the locations and across from the deck of Artifact cards. The opposite end of the location cards holds the remaining Cultist deck (with three randomly drawn Old One cards shuffled into each third of the Continued on next page>

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Game Review (Cont.) deck) and the Valley – a random, single cultist card played face up. Lastly, a Dark Hunter token is placed next to the Valley. When playing cards on your turn, the focus in on set abilities – a combination of Cultist cards that are played on your side of a location. Accumulating three Cultist cards of the same number allows the player to draw a random Monster card into their hand. Three cards of the same Cultist color will move the Dark Hunter from a location back into the Valley (more on that later). Three Cultist cards that all share the same color and are in order (ex. 2-3-4 or 8-9-10) allow the player to draw an Artifact card. All of these set abilities are cumulative and can be built upon during later turns. The player with the most total points on a given location at the end of their turn now has “influence” of that location and appropriately turns that location to face them. But this location influence shifts from turn to turn as more cards are played and greater influence is gained.

Photo: Bill Braun

Rise of Cthulhu is deceptively strategic, and the more I play it, the more I realize how many opportunities there are to win. Moving the Dark Hunter can eliminate your opponent’s highest Cultist card at a location. Building up your set to acquire Monster cards provide a great variety of powerful bonuses that can be played when needed. And Artifacts, although all the same, force your Cultist cards may be played onto the Valley, but must opponent to cancel a Cultist or Monster card as it is either be of a higher value of the currently face up Cultist played, or can be retained for an additional six points at card, or the same color. Playing a card in this way will the end of the game. allow the player to move the Dark Hunter from the Valley and onto a location. Doing so will immediately Theme and Components remove the Cultist card at that location with the highest value (potentially from both sides of the location if It goes without saying that I was instantly drawn to the there is a tie), as well as temporarily lock that location, theme of Rise of Cthulhu. Aside from the mythos, the preventing future Cultist cards from being played there. idea of playing as Cultists (as opposed to investigators It is a simple, yet effective, strategy that can quickly fending off the Old Ones), inspired me to investigate the change the course of the game. Kickstarter. Consisting of fewer than 100 cards, a nicely The game proceeds until all three of the Old One cards have been drawn from the Cultist deck. As each Old One awakens they are placed onto a specific location, effectively closing that location and locking it down for the player who currently influences it. The player that influences the location also reaps the benefits of the Old One’s power and gains the abilities that are written on the Old One’s card. When the third Old One awakens, the game ends, and the player who influences the most amount of locations wins the game. In the case of a tie, the player with the highest number of Cultist points in play is the winner.

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crafted wooden Dark Hunter token, and a detailed and portable game box, Rise of Cthulhu is a well-designed game from top to bottom.

Hands down, the most impressive part of this game is the artwork. I absolutely adore it! During the Kickstarter campaign there was an opportunity to increase your pledge by $10 for a digital image of your choice. Being print-ready for an 8x10 physical copy, I continue to regret not taking advantage of this offer. Even though the individual cards are of a high quality, I did not hesitate to sleeve each and every one. The artwork is simply that good.

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My only complaint about the components is a lack of Artifact variety. Every other card type in the game promotes variety except this one: each Monster card has a unique power, a greater variety of Old Ones were added as a Kickstarter stretch goal, and the four locations are two sided to promote variable gameplay. Yet, each of the six Artifact cards is identical to one another. However, the designer quickly responded to this and has identified that more Artifact cards are in the making. An expansion, perhaps?

Photo: Bill Braun

My Kickstarter Experience

Final Thoughts

While I don’t want to spend too much time talking about how the Rise of Cthulhu Kickstarter was conducted, I do feel it’s worth a few comments. In a word - amazing! Granted, Rise of Cthulhu was not a Kickstarter that required tens of thousands of dollars to be successful. The game didn’t focus on dozens of highly detailed miniatures, and there was never any mention of an addon App that needed to be developed. But what it did focus on was exceptionally well cared for. Communications by the designer consistently kept all backers up to date on the development process and there was ample response to any number of questions during the campaign. Sadly, I count myself among the ranks of those Kickstarter backers who have had less-than-stellar experiences backing a new tabletop game. Thankfully, Rise of Cthulhu was not one of those experiences and I look forward to backing whatever Chuck D. Yager has planned for the future.

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Rise of Cthulhu is the very definition of a “filler” game. It is both easy to teach/learn and quick to play, and offers a great deal of depth and strategy – much more than I ever could have imagined from such a small package. The artwork and components are of an exceptional quality, and the theme – regardless if you’re a fan of Cthulhu or not – is spot on. The Kickstarter was a rare treat and the game delivered on every promise that it made. Rise of Cthulhu should not be missed!

Designer: Chuck D. Yager Publisher: Self Published Number of players: 2 Mechanic: Area Control/Hand Management Ages: 14+

Recommended

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Game Review

Maha Yodah By Serge Pierro

Indian Mythology Card Game

W

hile Eurogames might have kickstarted the current “Golden Age” of boardgaming, other non-European countries have started to make their own contributions. Maha Yodha is a beautiful card game from India that is based on Indian mythology and brings another culture into the broadening world of contemporary games. Designers Chandan Mohanty and Sagar Shankar of Leprechaun Games present their take on a two player mythological strategy card game. Everything about the game is classy, from the beautiful design of the box top to the gorgeous artwork on the cards, you can see that there was some serious effort put into this game. (Leprechaun Games was kind enough to allow us to offer you the base set as this month’s Print and Play… so you will have the opportunity to play the base game - with the same fabulous artwork as the production copy! Thank you, Leprechaun Games!) The aforementioned box is the first thing that catches your eyes. The top is black and trimmed with gold around the edges as well as gold lettering and logo. It looks like it would contain an expensive luxury item. Inside, the black and gold theme continues, first with a nicely designed high quality rulebook, and then tan and black boxes for each of the card factions. The base set contains 54 cards for each faction, as well as an additional 32 card expansion set for each faction. There are tokens to track Life and Valor, as well as four very small tokens, two for each player to track their attack and defense totals. Sadly, these tokens are far too small and were always getting “lost” in the box. All of these items are stored in a plastic insert with a felt finish, further adding to the elegance factor. However, the inserts don’t hold the items in place and when you move the box and later open it, the pieces and card boxes are disorganized. When I first saw this game I was stunned at how beautiful the art was and in particular how nice the design of the Asura cards looked with their black background and gold lettering. The names of the

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twenty-eight international artists are listed in the back of the rulebook. The artwork is broken down into two styles, paintings were used for all of the non-scroll cards and the “flat” traditional style of Indian Mythology used for the scrolls. Besides helping each card type stand out, the traditional artwork added atmosphere to the game’s theme. Some cards also have some interesting flavor text.


The game features two factions, the Aditya and the Asura. I would recommend starting with the base set to get a feel for the game and then add the expansions for each faction. The artwork for each of the factions is great, however, other than visuals, I never got a sense that each of them were entirely unique, and when you factor in that both decks have access to some of the same Scrolls, there is a bit of sameness to

them. I would have preferred to have seen more separation in their feel - like the clans of Legends of the Five Rings or the colors of Magic the Gathering. Each player starts the game with five Valor tokens. These will be the resources used throughout the game and they are replenished at the start of each turn. This is a welcome

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Game Review (Cont.) system as it eliminates the drudgery of not being able to play cards due to a lack of resources. However, there is a chance that you might not draw a Warrior in your opening hand, so there is a mulligan rule included to address that situation. Players will have their own “Attack and Defense dashboard” in which they will track the fluctuating attack and defense values. Other than the minute tracking tokens, this was a nice addition as otherwise there would be a lot of housekeeping to track the changing values. One of the more interesting mechanics is that at the start of your turn you discard any Scrolls previously played and you take all your Warriors, Units and Weapons back into your hand. At first this seemed to be a somewhat strange concept, but after a while players were able to use different Warriors and combinations for different effects. If your opponent was able to defend against your Warrior, you could switch things up and play a new one and see if they adapt to the new situation. When this was added with the ability to discard cards at the start of your turn and redraw to seven cards, it led to the possibilities of streaming a series of different strategies over several turns. Damage dealt in combat is of the “overflow/trample” variety, in which any damage dealt over the defender’s defense is subtracted from the defending player’s life total. However, if an attacking Warrior deals less damage than the defender, then the attacking player takes the amount of damage less than the defense. There are times that you don’t want to attack because you don’t have the sufficient numbers necessary to deal damage to your opponent, however, you may need to put out a Warrior just to absorb some of your opponent’s next attack. When a player is at zero Life, they lose the game. As mentioned, there is an interesting attack/defense dynamic to the game. When you play an attacking warrior and any associated cards, they stay in play until your next turn, when you pick them up and place them back into your hand. So you have to decide what Warrior you want to have in play for both the attack and defense phase. There is the tendency to want to pump up your Warriors attack each turn with Scrolls, however you have to think about the counterattack coming on your opponent’s turn and how well your Warrior

can defend. This is the core element of the game and leads to some interesting decisions on how to manipulate the attack and defense numbers of the Warriors. The 32 card expansion is a must to bring out any of the further complexities of the game. Strangely enough these were included in their own mini box for each faction. However, if you play with all the cards in the base set and the expansions, you have to break up the deck into two separate piles to store in the two boxes. It would have been nice if the base set was an oversized box so that all the cards could be stored inside it. On the other hand, serious players will not want to use all the cards. The tournament CCG player in me took the cards that I felt were worth playing with and tweaked all of the included cards into a 54 card deck, storing the extras in the mini expansion box. I think that the game would be even better if the deck size was 45 cards. This would allow the removal of some more of the cards that I thought could be removed, plus it would allow cards such as the Weapons of Mass Destruction to trigger a bit more consistently by drawing the relevant triggering Scroll quicker. I would also take out some of the Weapons, as they suffer the same problem as the Weapons of Mass Destruction, they need to combo with another card in order to be really effective. Maha Yodha is a fast and fun game with beautiful artwork. I think that it would be a game that would greatly be enhanced by a substantial expansion of cards and factions, as well as further developing the key aspects and play styles of each faction. The game play is solid, but the replayability is somewhat hampered by the limited card pool. Be sure to try this issue’s Print and Play and see for yourself how the game plays!

Designer: Chandan Mohanty Publisher: Leprechaun Games Number of players: 2 Mechanic: Tactical Card Game Ages: 13+

Worth Trying

www.mahayodah.com

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Comic Gallery

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Contributors Serge Pierro

Serge

has playtested numerous games for several companies, including Wizards of the Coast and AEG. He has also written for Duelist, Inquest and Gamer print magazines. His award winning photography has appeared in both newspapers and magazines. He has self published a game, and has several other designs scheduled for a 2015 release.

Eric Devlin

Eric has been the North East Regional Representative for Wizards of the Coast, the brand manager of Legends of the Five Rings, as well as working with Sabretooth and Third World Games. He has an extensive background in playtesting for top companies. He has also written for Games Quarterly, Duelist, Inquest and others.

Dan Fokine Dan has sculpted miniatures for “Wreck Age”, published by

Hyacinth Games, as well as miniatures for the “Brushfire” and “Endless” product lines, published by “On The Lamb” games.

John Anthony Gulla John graduated with an M.A. in Humanities, wherein he focused his study on games, the history of gaming, and game design as it relates to the Humanities. He is an avid board gamer and game collector, with over 200 games in his current collection. You can reach him on BGG.com under the username JohnAG68

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Bill Braun Bill has been a contributing writer for PSNation and High-

Def Digest, an Editor and Publisher Relations Director for 30PlusGamer, and the co-creator and podcast host of A Band of Gamers.

David Niecikowski David is a published game designer and recognized expert on using traditional

games with families and students. Since 2000, over two dozen of his board games, role-playing supplements, books, and articles have been published. He has also worked as a freelance marketing and event consultant with scores of industry companies such as Alliance Game Distributors, Gen Con, Wizards of the Coast, Upper Deck, Mayfair, Rio Grande, AEG, and Out of the Box.

Kevin Lauryssen Kevin has a Master in Audiovisual Arts and majored in

Animation. He works as a Freelance Draftsman for multiple companies in Belgium. He’s an avid gamer who has created a web-comic about boardgaming. His work can be found at www.game-night.be

Contributors Welcomed Game Nite is always looking for contributors who have something unique to offer. Feel free to contact us at: editor@gamenitemagazine.com

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