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HOW MINIS ARE MADE I N S I D E T H E U N S E E N W O R L D O F M O D E L- M A K I N G February 2018

tabletopgaming.co.uk

BATMAN: GOTHAM CITY CHRONICLES | HOW MINIS ARE MADE | MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP

THE CREATORS OF CONAN TAKE ON THE DARK KNIGHT

FEBRUARY 2018

THE 7TH CONTINENT

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HEARTHSTONE

Making the digital CCG real

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP An RPG horror classic returns

Display until 27/2/18

£5.25

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C O M I N G F E B R U A R Y 2018 Every year the Emperor walks through the Imperial Gardens to greet the spring, every year he stops beneath the sakura trees, and every year you try to paint his picture. This will be your year.

PLAYERS

“

20-40

MINUTES PLAY TIME

“

2-6

Sakura is a light tactical game of pushing your luck, and pushing your friends. Each player will simultaneously decide how far to move both their character and the Emperor. The player closest to the Emperor when the cherry blossoms are reached will gain a huge amount of prestige, but if you push too far you risk bumping into the Emperor and walking away in disgrace.

Jostle to the front of the crowd ready for your opportunity to shine, or keep yourself in the background only to leap forward at the right moment. But beware! The emperor has a mind of his own. TIPS FROM CREATOR REINER KNIZIA

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EDITORIAL EDITOR Matt Jarvis 01778 392 400 matt.jarvis@warnersgroup.co.uk CONTRIBUTORS Anna Blackwell, John Dodd, Owen Duffy, Holly Gramazio, Sam Illingworth, Richard Jansen-Parkes, Dan Jolin, Andy Leighton, Phil Robinson, Alex Sonechkina, Paul Wake, James Wallis HEAD OF DESIGN & PRODUCTION Lynn Wright

Welcome C

DESIGNER Richard Hallam COVER IMAGE FROM BATMAN: GOTHAM CITY CHRONICLES Illustration by Anthony Jean ADVERTISING TO ADVERTISE PLEASE CALL GROUP ADVERTISING MANAGER Claire Ingram 01778 391 179 claire.ingram@warnersgroup.co.uk GROUP TELESALES EXECUTIVE Ben Jackson 01778 391 129 ben.jackson@warnersgroup.co.uk ADVERTISING DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Nicola Lock 01778 392 420 nicola.lock@warnersgroup.co.uk MARKETING MARKETING BRAND MANAGER Nicola Lumb MARKETING ASSISTANT Katherine Brown 01778 395 092 katherine.brown@warnersgroup.co.uk PUBLISHED BY ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Claire Ingram Warners Group Publications PLC The Maltings, West Street, Bourne, Lincolnshire, PE10 9PH 01778 391 000 www.warnersgroup.co.uk NEWSTRADE DISTRIBUTION Warners Group Publications PLC 01778 391 150 PRINTING

This publication is printed by Warners 01778 395111 The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publishers. Every care is taken to ensure that the content of this magazine is accurate, but we assume no responsibility for any effect from errors or omissions. While every care is taken with unsolicited material submitted for publication, we cannot be responsible for loss or damage. While every care is taken when accepting advertisements, we are not responsible for the quality and/or the performance of goods and/or services advertised in this magazine. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) exists to regulate the content of advertisements. Tel: 020 7429 2222 © Warners Group Publications Plc, 2018

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ould 2018 be the biggest year yet for board games? After last year saw more money than ever before pledged to games on Kickstarter, 2018 is already hot on its heels with two huge comic book games hitting the crowdfunding site: this month’s cover star Batman: Gotham City Chronicles and the upcoming take on Hellboy due in April. With superheroes bigger than ever, could either soar to the heights of Rising Sun or Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5? Only time will tell, but our look at Batman leaves us hopeful. More Kickstarters means more fantastic miniatures, but how are such amazing figures actually made? We follow the entire process from beginning to end over on page 26. Not all the excitement is reserved for minis fans. The world of roleplaying is also getting some huge releases this year, not least the return of Masks of Nyarlathotep, the legendary campaign for Call of Cthulhu. Whether you’re a grizzled vet heading back in or a first-time investigator, learn what fresh horror’s in store on page 46. That’s just the start of what we have in this issue, but there’s sure to be plenty of surprises to look forward to over the coming months. Speaking of which, don’t forget to check out the latest news on page 6 ahead of our Tabletop Gaming Live convention in London this September – you really won’t want to miss it.

Matt Matt Jarvis Editor

matt.jarvis@warnersgroup.co.uk | @liquidmatt

Q U I C K S TA R T

We’ve got straight back to the raw material, the original material, which is the comics.

You get [hit by] anything more than a 50p piece it’ll hurt you so much you’ll probably pass out.

I think if you put an elegant mechanism in front of Fantasy Flight, they’d run a mile.

Meet the new-but-old Batman in Gotham City Chronicles, p18

Making metal miniatures: more dangerous than you’d think, p26

A Handful of Stars creator Martin Wallace isn’t holding back, p38

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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In this issue 06 AT A GLANCE

54 THE 7TH CONTINENT

09 FIRST TURN

60 HEARTHSTONE

10 10 OF THE BEST

63 PLAYED

13 ROLE CALL

83 PAINTING GUIDE

A 30-second guide to the latest in gaming Terraforming Mars master Jacob Fryxelius revisits his Space Station More than just a couple of two-player hits to enjoy this Valentine’s Day Upcoming RPGs to watch out for

14 ALL THE JAHRES

Klaus Teuber wins again with the underappreciated Adel Verpflichtect

17 MY FAVOURITE GAME

Co-creator Bruno Sautter considers the end of the epic adventure

Devs behind the app phenomenon reveal how they brought its virtual cards to life Reviews of the latest and greatest games you should be playing Experience The Next Generation of painting. Star Trek: TNG, that is

88 DUNGEON MASTER’S GUIDE TO ROLEPLAYING Giving a voice to your RPG’s NPCs

Fiasco creator Jason Morningstar sings the praises of RPG Archipelago

91 EVENT REPORT

ON THE COVER

92 CLUB DIRECTORY 95 SHOP SPOTLIGHT

18 BATMAN: GOTHAM CITY CHRONICLES

The Dark Knight returns in a superpowered brawler from the creators of Conan

26 MAKING MINIS

Mantic’s miniatures maestro shows us how plastic and metal become art

Visiting Welsh meet-up Bastion

Raiding Stevenage’s Lost Ark Games

98 TABLETOP TIME MACHINE Slide into the origins of Snakes and Ladders

34 HAVE YOU PLAYED? Reaping the delights of Agricola

37 KICKSTARTING FROM SCRATCH

Art Deck continues on its journey from concept to crowdfunding

38 HOW WE MADE Martin Wallace brings his deck building trilogy to an end with A Handful of Stars

44 LEARNING EVOLVED

Professors and students on the brainboosting benefits of board games

46 MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP

The story of Call of Cthulhu’s legendary globetrotting RPG adventure

52 PLAY IT SMART

Searching the tabletop for life on Mars

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February 2018

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THE GAMES The 7th Continent

54

Adel Verpflichtect

14

Agricola

34

Art Deck

37

Archipelago

17

Batman: Gotham City Chronicles

18

Battle for Rokugan

64

Breaking Bad: The Board Game

81

Call of Cthulhu

46

Charterstone

65

Dungeons & Dragons 88

38

Evolution

44

Fallout

74

A Few Acres of Snow 38 First Martians: Adventures on the Red Planet

69

Fog of Love

78

Gaia Project

70

A Game of Thrones: 72 Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch

26

46 60

Genesys

67

A Handful of Stars

38

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

76

Hearthstone

60

Khan of Khans

71

Kings of War

26

Legacy of Dragonholt 73 Pandemic: Rising Tide 66 80

Smile

Snakes and Ladders 98 Space Station

09

Star Saga

79

Star Trek Adventures 83 Tales from the Loop

75

Terraforming Mars 09, 52 Through the Desert

77

Who Should We Eat? 81

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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AT A GLANCE

LIVE AND KICKIN’

Play the latest from the makers of Ticket to Ride, Catan, Pandemic, X-Wing and more at Tabletop Gaming Live 2018 Want to be among the first in the UK to see what’s new from the creators of some of the biggest board games, RPGs and miniatures? Best make sure you’re at our Tabletop Gaming Live convention this September, then! We’re delighted and excited to announce just some of the huge studios, publishers, designers, artists, traders and more coming along to London’s Alexandra Palace, including: • Fantasy Flight (X-Wing, Arkham Horror Files, Android: Netrunner, Legend of the Five Rings) • Days of Wonder (Ticket to Ride, Small World, Five Tribes, Memoir ‘44) • Catan Studio (Catan) • Z-Man (Pandemic, Carcassonne, Terra Mystica) • Mantic (The Walking Dead: All Out War, Dungeon Saga, Kings of War, Hellboy) • Thames & Kosmos (Exit: The Game, Legends of Andor, Imhotep, Word Slam) • Warcradle (Wild West Exodus, Dystopian Wars) • And many more! For the latest announcements and full details visit tabletopgaming.co.uk. Tickets are on sale now for the September 29th and 30th 2018 show, with prices starting at £10 and extra savings for booking before the day. Head over to theticketfactory.com and search for “Tabletop Gaming Live” to get your ticket today!

ADVANCE TICKE

NOW ON SALTES

Book and save today: theticketfactory .com

£0 Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is headed to PC as a free-to-play app sometime this spring

2021

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS The next crack at adapting Dungeons & Dragons for the big screen has been given a release date of July 23rd, 2021

1

43

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 has been dethroned in BoardGameGeek’s overall rankings by Gloomhaven, after almost two years at the top

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has become Dungeons & Dragons’ fastest-selling book in the roleplaying game’s 43-year history

2,106

More tabletop projects were successfully crowdfunded than ever before on Kickstarter last year, with over 2,000 hitting their target

6

Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars living card game is coming to an end this year, nearly six years after it launched. Promise of Power will be the title’s final expansion

REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE

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• SAVE UP TO 10% PER YEAR • GUARANTEE YOUR FREE GIFT EVERY MONTH • DON’T MISS OUT IF THE SHOPS SELL OUT January 2018

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16/01/2018 11:21


We asked…

What’s your favourite game to play with your significant other? (Head over to page 10 for our suggestions!)

YOU CIV A LITTLE LOVE The classic empire-builder gets a modern-day makeover

The civilisation-builder that started it all is back with a new edition. Francis Tresham’s Civilization set the mould for epic, historyspanning strategy games when it was released back in 1980, pioneering the idea of a technology tree and inspiring games from Through the Ages to 7 Wonders. The new version of Civilization is set for release this month and is said to leave the gameplay of the original completely untouched. Instead, it’s the visuals of the components and player mats that have had the biggest overhaul, apparently bringing the game’s look up to 2018 standards while keeping the classic feel of their 1980 predecessors. While the rules might not have been changed, the rulebook has been revisited to make it easier for today’s players to jump in and start building up their empire.

You said…

My partner and I love playing Caverna together. This game has been really formative to the building of our relationship and board game addiction. Claire Robinson

For those who haven’t played Civilization before, it’s a monolithic simulation of humanity from the invention ofagriculture in roughly 8000 BC through to the arrival of the Roman Empire. It’s renowned for its deep gameplay and lengthy play time, which can see matches take up to (or more than) six hours to complete. Civilization isn’t the only huge strategy game making a return this year, though; its spiritual successor, Mega Civilization, has also announced a new edition.

Lost Cities. It’s elegant and quick, we’re well-matched, and there are no small pieces for the baby to swallow. Jessica Metheringham Tyrants of the Underdark... it’s the one game he will play with me without going on his bloody phone! Samantha Ingle My wife and I loved playing Stronghold: Second Edition together. It provides a deeper Euro feel not often seen in two-player only games and asymmetry is one of our favourite mechanics. Jennifer Graham-Macht Our favourite game is probably Pandemic in all its forms but as a purely two-player experience Fox in the Forest is a great trick-taking game. Laura Stephen

PUT OUT THE CALL

Call of Cthulhu players can now sell their creations for the horror RPG online An official library of user-made content for horror roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu has been launched, allowing creative players to sell their creations to fellow fans. Following in the mould of Dungeons & Dragons’ Dungeon Master’s Guild, The Miskatonic Repository is hosted on online roleplaying store DriveThruRPG and allows users to set a pay-what-

you-want or fixed price for custom scenarios, spells, cults, character skills and more – with creators keeping half of the revenue (the rest goes to publisher Chaosium and DriveThruRPG). They can also put out their work for free, if they want to. Chaosium has put out free art packs to help authors illustrate their creations, with

official templates for Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign helping to establish a consistent format across the catalogue of downloadable goodies. The Miskatonic Repository is already live, having launched with a selection of Call of Cthulhu scenarios. All of the content is for the RPG’s seventh edition and can be downloaded as PDFs.

Mansions of Madness. It is so much fun working together! Caz Ferrie Love playing Hive, it’s one of the few he will voluntarily play and doesn’t pull faces the whole time. Mel Thorpe

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S TA R T R E K A D V E N T U R E S

PAINTS & TECHNIQUES PAINTS USED Abaddon Black Agrax Earthshade Alaitoc Blue Altdorf Guard Blue Averland Sunset Baneblade Brown Blue Horror Bugman’s Glow Cadian Fleshtone Celestra Grey

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Liberator Gold Lugganath Orange Martian Ironearth Mephiston Red Pallid Wych Flesh Reikland Fleshshade Rhinox Hide Runefang Steel Screaming Skull Squig Orange

Slaanesh Grey Sotek Green Steel Legion Drab Temple Guard Blue Warplock Bronze Wild Rider Red Zamesi Desert

UNDERSHIRT

STAGES

Since there is a large amount of variety in the crew of the Enterprise, combined with matching uniforms, this guide is split into general sections covering the uniforms and tech, but splitting the skin, hair and other details into different sections. This will allow us to cover every element of each crew member, giving you a guide for the full boxset contents.

STAGE 3 Apply a line highlight of Celestra Grey, focusing on the hard edges and raised folds.

MEDICAL JACKET

UNIFORMS BODYSUIT

STAGE 2 Apply a highlight of Dawnstone, focusing on the hard edges and folds.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Steel Legion Drab.

COMMAND AND HELM

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Altdorf Guard Blue.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Khorne Red.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Mephiston Red, leaving the recesses the basecoat colour.

STAGE 3 Add a line highlight of Wild Rider Red, focusing on the hard edges.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Alaitoc Blue, leaving the recesses the base colour.

STAGE 3 Apply a fine highlight of Blue Horror to the edges and raised folds.

DARK SKIN

SKIN

STAGE 4 Apply a dot highlight of Lugganath Orange, focusing on the corners.

LIGHT SKIN

ENGINEERING, SECURITY AND OPERATIONS

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Rhinox Hide.

STAGE 1 Add a highlight of Dark Reaper across the hard edges, corners and raised folds of the bodysuit.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Averland Sunset.

STAGE 2 Apply a wash of Reikland Fleshshade.

STAGE 3 Apply a layer of Averland Sunset, leaving the recesses the original colour.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Bugman’s Glow.

STAGE 4 Apply a line highlight of Krieg Khaki.

STAGE 2 Apply a highlight of Temple Guard Blue, focusing on the hard edges and folds.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Zamesi Desert.

STAGE 3 Apply a line highlight of Blue Horror, focusing on the corners and raised folds.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Cadian Fleshtone, leaving the recesses the base colour.

STAGE 3 Apply a highlight of Kislev Flesh, focusing down the centre and top of the head.

STAGE 4 Apply a final fine highlight of Pallid Wych Flesh, only adding small lines and dots over the previous coat.

STAGE 3 Apply a glaze of Zamesi Desert over all the skin.

STAGE 4 Apply a final fine highlight of Dorn Yellow, only adding small lines and dots over the previous coat.

STAGE 2 Apply a highlight of Doombull Brown, focusing on the top edges of the features.

STAGE 3 Apply a final fine highlight of Krieg Khaki.

February 2018

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P L AY E D

BATTLE FOR ROKUGAN

Legend of the Five Rings expands with an excellent area control spin-off. Or are we just bluffing? Designer: Molly Glover, Tom Jolly |

Artist: Mathias Kollros, Francesca

Baerald, Nele Diel, ShenFei

IT

H

O R'

CE

84

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Sotek Green.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Screaming Skull, leaving the recesses the base colour.

ANDROID SKIN

SCIENCE AND MEDICAL

STAGE 2 Add a dot highlight of Slaanesh Grey, focusing on the corners and the top of the raised folds.

ED

Turn to page 53 to find out more or subscribe today from as little as £14.99

Ceramite White Dark Reaper Dawnstone Doombull Brown Dorn Yellow Drakenhof Nightshade Khorne Red Kislev Flesh Krieg Khaki Leadbelcher

I S CHO

90m

2-5

14+

£40

safeguarding it from future attacks but potentially sacrificing a tactical advantage during future battles. Taking over an entire territory can grant a huge advantage, as each collection of lands unlocks a single-use power for the controlling player to use. The abilities feel fittingly formidable and satisfying to execute, but are only held onto as long as that player has total control – meaning waiting to use them to their full advantage can be very risky. Each player also starts with a very limited supply of scouts and shugenja that let them spy on some of their opponents’ tokens, plus a secret objective that’s revealed during endgame scoring for a potential last twist in the final standings. Funnily enough for a spin-off to a living card game, the cardplay is kept to a bare minimum, leaving the focus on the placement of tokens, but the small number, restricted use and great power of the cards means that every one lands with a huge impact. The combination of straightforward basics, the chance for deceptive mind games, and just a smidge of luck and asymmetry works an absolute charm: Battle for Rokugan is 90 or so minutes of exhilarating Oh My God!-ness, air-punching triumph and head-inGames aren’t hands regret (with laughter) as traps just fun – they can also you are sprung, plans go astrayhelp and bigboost your brainpower. moments pop off in everyProfessors round. and students the cranium-crammi tell us about That’s no bluff. Darwinian delight ng benefits of MATT JARVIS Evolution

ot on the heels of its recent living WHAT’S IN crucially, when – you put your tokens card game revival, Legend of the THE BOX? down becomes a tense standoff and Five Rings’ next major franchise ◗ Game board clash of wits between players. Could instalment is Battle for Rokugan – a ◗ 22 territory cards taut the token attacking your province be area control board game that stands ◗ 10 initiative cards a powerful army needing to be fought ◗ Seven daimyō screens alone as a truly fantastic experience. off with ample defence? Or could it simply ◗ 12 secret If you’re already a fan of Legend of the be a distraction to draw your forces objective cards Five Rings, you’ll find rough sketches ◗ First player card away from a surprise attack elsewhere of the seven competing clans’ broad ◗ 189 combat tokens during the final placement? You’ll need strategies in their slightly asymmetrical ◗ Five shugenja cards to constantly guess and second-guess special abilities and pools of combat ◗ 10 scout cards your rivals, especially as every player tokens used for wresting control of ◗ 210 control tokens always has a blank bluffing token hidden the map’s various provinces – and the ◗ Four honour with the rest of their ‘hand’ behind victory-sealing honour that comes bonus tokens their screen, presenting a constant ◗ Four defence with them. It’s just enough to root the opportunity to mislead and deceive. bonus tokens conflict in a wider world that feels more ◗ Shrine token It’s a tight, thrilling experience that believable and vibrant, without throwing ◗ Harbour token keeps up the pressure throughout its off the careful gameplay balance or ◗ Battlefield token very reasonable running time and gets leaving total newcomers feeling lost. ◗ 15 peace tokens especially explosive during the fifth Learning the ropes is easy, with Words by Anna ◗ 15 scorched Blackwell and final round, as players unleash combat largely coming down to a WE SAY earth tokens a last-ditch effort to take over entire straight battle of numbers – attack with There’s no need to already be a Legend ◗ Round track token territories or block their rivals’ control. more strength than your opponent has of the Five Rings fan to enjoy Battle Particularly brutal are the rare raid for Rokugan as a brilliant game of defence, and you’ll claim that province. tokens, which completely decimate planning, deception and strategy. The Each type of combat token has slightly easy-to-grasp gameplay means the an area for the rest of the game different rules – armies must attack riveting showdowns between players and remove all combat and control over land, naval tokens operate only get to shine, while the tight play time tokens, while the equally uncommon along coasts, the rarer shinobi can strike and differences between the clans and diplomacy tokens permanently forbid anywhere and so on – and is placed territory powers leave plenty of reasons all combat in – or out – of a region, facedown to signify its intent, before to come back time and time again. all players’ tokens are revealed and TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… resolved simultaneously. GAME OF THRONES: THE BOARD This is where Battle for Rokugan’s GAME Want a game that lets you conquer real joy comes into play, as where – and, the world as you trick and outwit your friends? Battle for Rokugan lets you do it all in under a couple of hours.

LEARNI EVOLVENG D

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FIRST TURN

JACOB FRYXELIUS Before he set about Terraforming Mars, the Swedish designer and his creative family were already reaching for the stars with his debut title, Space Station Interview by Dan Jolin

BACKGROUND “At the time I made Space Station, I was studying to become a chemist in the University of Lund, in south Sweden. But I have made games all my life. That’s my father’s fault, because he also made games and played them with us kids – I have 15 siblings [nine brothers, six sisters] – when we grew up. Even when we played with toy soldiers and Lego and stuff, I just made up rules: ‘This Lego brick costs this much, and this costs this, and you have to come to my store and buy Lego bricks for your building,’ and so on. I made games out of most playthings.”

COMPONENTS “The original inspiration was the game Illuminati, where you have different groups attached to your organisation and you play cards in a special way, connecting them to each other. I just thought to myself: ‘Connecting things to each other. Isn’t that a bit like a space station module?’ So it grew from there. I made the first prototype in ‘97, presented it to my family and they really liked it. Then, when we started the FryxGames company [in 2011], Space Station was one of our first games to be published. Why? Because Mamma liked it. [laughs]”

OBJECT “I don’t think that much about who might play my games. I just make games that I like myself, and if people are like me, they will also like it! I was always the card player in my family. So I have played Magic: The Gathering, and the Lord of the Rings and World of Warcraft trading card games, and I really love those customisable card games where you can build your own deck and have synergies between different cards. So usually when I make a new game, it’s a card game from the start. I guess that’s just my game-making style. And it shows in Space Station.”

SETUP “I’m really not a graphic designer guy. I just made paper prototypes that were really ugly. And then my big brother helped me to make a computerised ugly

version on paper, with Word. Then, when we decided we should publish the game, another brother took over and made it more professional-looking. But I felt it was too abstract-looking, so we turned it over to my brother Daniel and he made the current design, which is more Star Wars in style. He’s really good at that kind of thing.”

HOW TO PLAY “Each player competes to build their own space station. You have module cards and event cards, but the most important are the module cards, because there are six different types of modules and you have to pay for them and connect them to your station. So it’s kind of a puzzle how you build it. You get victory points for having different module types, but you get extra money for having the most of a single module type. So you need one really strong type in your space station to get a good economy, but you also need to be pretty good in more than one, because otherwise you will not win victory points.”

I just make games that I like myself, and if people are like me, they will also like it!

END OF THE GAME “We were a really small company and nobody knew us, so the first print run was just a hundred copies. But it sold well and we really believed in it, so we printed 2,000 copies for the next year and it has paid for itself and quite a lot more by now. For a hobby project it’s really successful. But Terraforming Mars is my darling project – Space Station doesn’t hold such a special place in my heart as that game.”

STRATEGY TIPS “If you design a game, you should really do it for fun. Because that’s the most you can usually expect from it. You cannot expect to make a profit from it. You cannot expect to be able to convince others to publish it. So do it for fun. And if you do it for fun then your passion will be in it, and that’ll give you a higher chance of success.”

Players expand their space station with new modules

February 2018

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PATCHWORK

Agricola and A Feast for Odin creator Uwe Rosenberg is the master of complex, brain-busting Euro epics, but Patchwork proves the designer also knows how to create a simple yet equally gripping game that plays in a matter of minutes. Players take it in turn to purchase patches by paying buttons, before adding them to their quilt. Each piece takes a different amount of time to stitch into the beautiful spread and must be carefully arranged to avoid leaving holes – because that makes it more of a poncho, and loses you points. It’s fast, gorgeous and easy to learn, and has quickly solidified itself as one of the most popular and celebrated twoplayer experiences on the tabletop. If you’re Rosenberg fans, the designer has also come up with brilliant two-player takes on some of his bigger classics: Caverna: Cave vs Cave and Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small.

10

For those seeking: Crafty creators, blanket snugglers, Euro perfection

ANDROID: NETRUNNER

Magic: The Gathering may be Richard Garfield’s better-known two-player card game, but we’d say that Netrunner has even more of an intense head-to-head atmosphere as one player’s team of hackers tries to break into the megacorp of their opponent. Each side of the virtual battle plays in a unique way, as the corporation advances its agendas and locks down its servers with security software, while the attacker’s runners race against time to bypass the barriers. The living card game is kept constantly fresh with regular cycles of expansions and recently updated its core set – which is all you’ll need to start playing – so now’s a good time to jack in for the first time. For those seeking: Cyberpunks, competitive counterparts, a lifelong obsession

OF THE BEST

TWO-PLAYER GAMES

Cut up that card and bin those chocolates: whether you’ve found your perfect partner or not, all you need this Valentine’s Day is a fantastic two-player game. Here are ten worth coupling up with Chosen by Matt Jarvis

3

MR. JACK

The historical cat-and-mouse chase of Jack the Ripper and the London police officers on his tail makes for particularly exciting two-player games, as one person takes on the persona of the killer and tries to outwit their pursuer. Mr. Jack boils the tense hunt down to its basics, as a lone investigator rushes to eliminate suspects from a board of eight characters by catching them in the light. Equally great is the snappy card game spin-off Mr. Jack Pocket, which condenses the gameplay down to just 15 minutes. It’s also available on mobile, if you’re looking to play out and about (or in bed). For those seeking: Crime lovers, vintage dressers, dangerous liaisons

4

HIVE

Great for on-thego gaming thanks to its lack of a board, Hive is a quick abstract game about laying down bugs to try and surround your opponent’s queen bee – before they do the same to you. Each insect has unique rules that determine the way they move, so you’ll need to command your army of spiders, beetles, grasshoppers and soldier ants tactically to claim the win. There are only 22 pieces in total, the rules are easy to remember and Hive can be played on any flat (or almost flat) surface you can find, so it’s a prime choice when travelling with someone else – or when trying to make a new friend. Hive Pocket is an even smaller version that includes a couple of expansions (adding a mosquito and ladybug), so you’ll soon find yourself playing it everywhere you can. For those seeking: Outdoorsy opposites, chess exes, the non-squeamish

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6 THE FOX IN THE FOREST

A charming and magical two-player twist on the classic playing card game whist, The Fox in the Forest is a fast trick-taker with a beautiful fairytale theme. As in the traditional game, hands are claimed with the highest-ranked card or by laying down a trump card, but a series of special abilities shakes up the formula. There’s also an interesting scoring system that means winning too many tricks will start to lose you points, so learning to master your cardplay is a must. For those seeking: Romantics, fairytale dreamers, animal obsessives

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JAIPUR

Reckon you drive a hard bargain? Prove it in this neat little card game about trading in the capital of Rajasthan. The action centres around buying and selling goods more efficiently than your competing trader, aiming to get the best price without losing out on potential deals. Only one type of good can be sold each round to earn chips, so hanging onto cards and building up a bigger set can pay dividends. It’s a race against time, though, because the chips’ value drops over the course of the game, so waiting around for too long can mean missing out on the money. Meanwhile, you’ll also need to collect camels that can’t be sold but help you trade for more goods from the market. Jaipur is quick and easy to pick up, and recently came out on mobile with an app, making it even easier to get into. For those seeking: Brill bargainers, diamonds in the rough, camels with the hump

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HANAMIKOJI

This beautiful little card game came out a number of years ago in Japan, but only recently made its way across to the UK – and we’re very glad it did. Inspired by the geisha street in Kyoto, Hanamikoji sees each player attempting to earn the favours of seven of the female performers by presenting them with a variety of gifts. The twist is that each of the four actions can only be taken once in a single round, and half of them involve offering your rival a choice of cards that they then give to the geishas, so winning comes down to a combination of strategy, luck and just a tiny bit of bluffing. The most gifts for each geisha earns their favour and the whole game is often over in a single round, but can go onto into two or three without giving a single player the complete upper hand. It’s a stunning set and wonderful to play – the perfect gift to share with someone else. For those seeking: Gift-givers, 15-minute flings, Japanophiles

STAR REALMS

A mash-up of deckbuilding and card-battling created by two Magic: The Gathering pros, Star Realms is an engrossing competition of sci-fi combat that only takes 20 minutes to play. Players purchase cards for a trade row and add them into their decks, before playing bases and ships when they reappear later on. It’s not hard to learn, but there’s plenty to chew on as balancing generating trade resources and keeping the pressure on your rival begins to swing the victory either way. You only need a single copy of the box to play with two people, but extra copies can be combined together to expand the player count up to six. For those seeking: Out of this world hookups, sci-fi fanatics, deckbuilding devotees

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LOST CITIES

Often considered one of the best couples’ games for those who aren’t as gaming-savvy as their other half, Lost Cities is a simple two-player card game from prolific designer Reiner Knizia. The archaeological theme is mere dressing, as the players play down cards of increasing values on five colour-coded expeditions. Each card played must always be higher than the previous card, but doesn’t need to be consecutive. At the end, each pile is scored with extra multipliers from ‘wager’ cards that must be played at the start of the expedition, but starts at minus 20 as result of ‘expedition costs’ – meaning you can end up with a negative multiplier if you’re not careful. The rules can be taught to anyone in 30 seconds, but there’s a good deal of strategy hidden beneath.

For those seeking: Adventurous types, hidden romance, first-time gamers

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7 WONDERS DUEL

Another case of a fantastic multiplayer game being turned into a truly brilliant two-player version, 7 Wonders Duel takes the streamlined civilisation-building gameplay of its bigger card-drafting sibling and trims it down once again into a tight head-to-head race to build wonders and out-progress your rival. The players pick their cards from a pyramid of cards on the table, with the ability to leave cards overlapping to stop your opponent choosing certain cards – making timing key. Instant victory comes through military might or advancing your scientific discovery far enough, or is ultimately decided by points at the end of the game. It’s a wonder! For those seeking: Globetrotters, picky partners, history buffs

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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Role Call

As 2018 rolls on, we’re battling our way through multiple new books for Conan and a pair of promising sci-fi releases

Words by John Dodd

CONAN THE THIEF

Conan the Thief covers the darker side of the Hyborian age with details on everything from the thieves and assassins who ply their trade in the night to cities like Zamora and Shadizar, where those who live on the other side of the law thrive. Included in this book is a heist generator for GMs who might not have time to plot their master crime. Modiphius | £20

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STARS WITHOUT NUMBER: REVISED EDITION

Stars Without Number was a revelation when it first came out, offering a simplified rules system that allowed sandbox-style play in an infinite universe of starfaring adventure. The revised edition includes upgraded psionics and character creation, together with details for transhumanism, mechs and a comprehensive set of rules for AIs. Sine Nomine | £45

CONAN THE BARBARIAN

The other Conan sourcebook this month, Conan the Barbarian covers the nature of life in the far north, from Asgard to Conan’s home of Cimmeria: rough lands called home by rough peoples. This book looks at how adventures here differ from those set in more civilised settings, and includes a raid system that allows GMs to build short, savage scenarios with a minimum of effort. Modiphius | £20

TRAVELLER: THE GREAT RIFT

Charting a dangerous realm of space that has claimed more lives than any other, with countless more being forever lost in the darkness of the deep void, this book contains the secrets of the Great Rift, how to traverse it, what has been found within it and what waits to be discovered. This volume comes with three double-sided poster maps of the Great Rift and mysterious Phobetor system. Mongoose | £50

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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All the

Jahres Replaying the winners of the Spiel des Jahres so you don’t have to Words and pictures by James Wallis

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ADEL VERPFLICHTET

del Verpflichtect, the winner of the world’s most important game prize in 1990, is many things. It was the second win in three years for designer Klaus Teuber, the dental technician from Darmstadt. It was a recognisable step on the path to modern Eurogames. It was one of the first German games to be widely licensed and published around the world. It was and is the most unpronounceable Spiel des Jahres winner (though 1992 winner Um Reifenbreite runs it a close second). And of all the award’s 39 winners to date, it is the one most badly treated by the hobby games market. ‘Adel verpflichtet’ translates as ‘noblesse oblige’, and when the closest English translation for a German phrase is in French you know you’re in deep water. There are several rules for choosing a good name for a game: it should be clear, it should be memorable, it should evoke something about the game and people should be able to spell and pronounce it. Clearly the name Adel Verpflichtet was not going to work in an English-language market, so there is no rational reason why an American publisher would keep the German name, but that’s exactly what Avalon Hill did. It then realised its error and changed it to By Hook or by Crook,, which is too long and only slightly describes the game. It didn’t fare better in the UK. Gibsons released it as Fair Means or Foul, which might be okay except it was coupled with one of the worst covers ever seen on a board game. The

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Year of win: 1990 Designer: Klaus Teuber Number of players: 2-5 Playing time: 45 minutes Worthy winner? Yes Worth playing now? Absolutely Availability: Good Price: Varies wildly

most recent edition, published by Überplay, has been saddled with the name Hoity Toity. Can you tell what the game might be about, from that name? Because it’s about collecting antiques by – well, by fair means or foul. Why does it matter what the English editions of an almost 30-year-old game were called? Because Adel Verpflichtet is the game that almost changed everything. Charming, intelligent and pitched at a level that’s great for newcomers but still engaging for experienced hobbyists, with high production values and a nicely mainstream theme, it seemed like it could be the killer package to take modern board gaming to a wider audience five years before Settlers of Catan. Slap an Antiques Roadshow or – better – a Lovejoy licence on it and it could have changed the world. At least, that was the chatter at the time. In retrospect, could it have worked? In Adel Verpflichtet you are a member of a smart antiques collecting club, aiming to gain prestige by acquiring and displaying the best collection of items over a season. You start with a small and probably disjointed collection, some cheques, two thieves, and a friendly detective. At the start of each turn everyone lays a card facedown indicating whether they are going to the auction house or to a stately home, then all cards are flipped at once, and there’s a second round of playing and revealing cards. At the auction house you can bid a cheque for one of two face-up antiques, or you can play a thief to steal the winner’s cheque – but only

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the highest bidder will win, and if more than one thief is played then they cancel each other out. At the stately home you can display your collection, send a thief to steal from someone else’s or play a detective who may catch thieves and send them to jail. Cards are revealed and resolved simultaneously, but in three waves: first the locations, then the auction house, then the stately home. It sounds simple and it is, and early rounds are little more than rock-paperscissors. But you quickly learn how to read other players’ probable tactics, which are determined by the resources they have left in their hand, and what you know about their collections from the cards they’ve bought or stolen and the selection they’ve displayed at the stately home. If someone’s spent all their cheques then they’re likely to play a thief at the auction house to try to win one back; if one of their thieves has been sent to jail early in the game they may not risk losing the second, and so on. Each round is different enough to keep things interesting, the game moves and develops swiftly, and it’s charming and engrossing in equal measure as you move around the board.

Because there is a board, and you win by progressing furthest around it, since the winner is the person highest on the table at the collectors’ club annual dinner. But you can only move in two ways: if you display the best or second-best collection at a stately home, or if your detective catches a thief in the act of pilferage. The stately home your piece is currently occupying determines how many spaces you will move, which adds another variable to working out what other players are likely to do on their turn. It’s a game of clever systems built on clever choices, with an intricately balanced structure beneath a seemingly simple core mechanic, and it’s delightful. I’ve barely touched on the antiques themselves, which range from sets of pop-culture artefacts (Andy Warhol’s glasses, Johnny Weissmuller’s loincloth) to a collection of antique chamberpots. The game doesn’t reward you for completing sets, which is a shame as it’s very satisfying. But this is a small omission in what is otherwise a lovely thing to play. In two years Klaus Teuber had progressed from the melange of quirky mechanics that had made up his first Spiel des Jahres winner

It seemed like it could take modern gaming to a wider audience five years before Catan. Barbarossa to a charming collection of tricks and tactics, smooth in parts, a little rough in others, but always delivering the goods. Imagine what Adel Verpflichtect could have achieved with more love, a Lovejoy licence attached or perhaps – for a modern edition – a re-theming around gamers and their collections. It could sell a million, I tell you. Next month: Klaus Teuber wins again, with the topsy-turvy Drunter und Drüber

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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THE SCI-FI ADVENTURE BOARD GAME FOR 1-5 PLAYERS

Featuring strong story-telling elements and immersive game scenarios, Star Saga: The Eiras Contract will see players guide a team of mercenaries on a mission to retrieve stolen technology from a highly guarded research facility deep beneath the surface of the planet Eiras.

www.manticgames.com

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my favourite game

JASON MORNINGSTAR After causing a Fiasco and busting through Ghost Court, the indie roleplaying designer admires the ‘less is more’ brilliance of streamlined storytelling RPG Archipelago

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y favourite game is Archipelago by Matthijs Holter. If you know me you know this, because I can’t shut up about it, and I play the living hell out of it, and I’ve co-designed a bunch of stuff related to it. Have I mentioned that I love Archipelago? If you sent me to Mars and I could only take one roleplaying game, I would not take Archipelago, because I have internalised and memorised the game from top to bottom. (I would take Alex Roberts’ game Tension.) I love Archipelago for a lot of reasons. It’s a clean, elegant game: spare in word count, precise in execution. I appreciate the difficulty of paring a design back to what is essential, and know how much harder that often is than churning out a 300-page A4 tome. At its core, Archipelago is a handful of cards you occasionally draw from to resolve uncertainty and a half-dozen maxims you fall back on to guide you toward good – or, often, great – play. The game is structured loosely as a picaresque, modelled after Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea books in tenor and pacing. Basically it assumes you are playing a group of people on the move. My most recent games were about castaways in Dinotopia and a travelling carnival in post-WWII America.

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Those cards, then. They come in two sorts. One pile consists of the outputs to any uncertainty you input. These largely overlap similar cards in another great game, Itras By, because the designers of that deeply weird game (Martin Bull Gudmundsen and Ole Peder Giæver) are pals of Matthijs Holter and were designing in parallel. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Very Norwegian of them. These cards give you a broad result – “Yes, but...” or “No, and…” – and inform play through their specifics. “Yes, but... something unrelated goes wrong,” for example. One card simply says: “Help is needed.” In play they do the boring job of telling you whether your character can escape the thugs who are chasing her, while resolutely throwing the creative bits back to the table to parse. Archipelago trusts you and your friends to be smarter than the designer, or you alone. These cards are functional and get the job done, but they aren’t the really interesting cards. The rest of the deck consists of fate cards. These are the beating heart of Archipelago. When you build up a setting, you figure out what the most important elements are. (In my carnival game they included “suckers and marks”, “money”, and “the carnival family”.) Every session, each of these elements is “owned” by a player, and this rotates from session to session. You are the final say on whatever you own. During play, once per session, you can ask someone else to draw a fate card if you aren’t sure what to do. It might read, “Somebody important to this character faces trouble because of the element you own – severe illness, bankruptcy, doubt in their faith or something similar,” and instantly you have forward momentum again. It is pretty brilliant in play. Imagine if the person who owned “suckers and marks” drew that for you. Or “the carnival family” – the next moves write themselves. This simple, extremely lightweight framework perfectly accommodates my freeform tendencies and desire to enjoy a system that solidly supports play, but fades into the background when it isn’t needed. Combine this with a series of phrases that allow you to calibrate play (including the wonderful and terrifying “Try a Different Way,” a hightrust tool that can amp up your game to new heights if you all love each other), and you have a really beautiful and near-universal game system. I love it! Maybe you will, too! I hope you give Archipelago a try.

It’s a clean, elegant game: spare in word count, precise in execution.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS After hacking and slashing its way through Conan, Monolith is taking on the Caped Crusader and pals in Batman: Gotham City Chronicles. It’s going to be Batfantastic… Words by Matt Jarvis Main illustration by Anthony Jean All components shown are work in progress

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or the first time since Arnie punned his way through Batman & Robin as Mr. Freeze, the worlds of Conan and the Caped Crusader are colliding. And this time, it promises to do the Dark Knight justice. Behind the unlikely reunion is Monolith, the French games studio that made a splash in early 2015 with its Kickstarter for a tabletop adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s barbarian warrior. Monolith’s debut game, Conan ended up making more than $3 million on the crowdfunding site and quickly found an audience with its fluid translation of Howard’s action-packed short stories to a innovative gameplay style dubbed the Tactical Homeostatic System – or THS for short. Central to THS was a pool of energy gems for each character that could be spent to perform a variety of actions, from moving and fighting to using special abilities or granting a reroll. Characters only recovered a certain amount of gems each turn until they rested, giving a sense of fatigue and encouraging the group of players to work closely together to optimise their moves. The next evolution of this framework powers Batman: Gotham City Chronicles,, Monolith’s upcoming take on the legendary comic-book superhero. But there’s a world of difference between Conan’s bruising battles and Bruce Wayne’s riddle-solving, shadow-skulking alter-ego, which the team has been keen to get across in the gameplay. “Let’s say that it’s 80% to 90% close to Conan in the fact that the gem system is the same,” says Gotham City Chronicles project manager Adnane Badi. “But we’ve made a lot of improvements to the system. First of all, to match it to the Batman universe, because you cannot tell stories about a hacking, slashing Cimmerian and a Dark Knight in Gotham City – you have to adjust your mechanisms to match this. So we have a sixth characteristic that appeared, which is intelligence, which will allow us to play more with solving riddles, finding clues; things like this which are more in the Batman universe. “What makes the game cool is that when you have those cool miniatures on a nice board it really feels like a hack ‘n’ slash game, but it’s also really a resourcemanagement game. You have to allocate your gems and energy wisely and try to work efficiently to get to your objective.” As in Conan, Gotham City Chronicles features asymmetrical multiplayer, with one player taking control of a main villain and all of their minions in each of the objective-focused scenarios while the remaining players play as Batman and his companions attempting to foil their evil plans. “The hero boards have also evolved a lot [from Conan]; we’ve created a lot of new skills, again to match the Batman universe,” says Badi. “We have arranged the skills according to the action that you perform, so if the skill is relating to a melee attack it’s now in front of the

Gotham City Chronicles is based on the Batman comics rather than the Dark Knight’s film outings

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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B AT M A N

GOTHAM CITY CHRONICLES

melee attack action. We also made a lot of improvements to the borders in front of the doors, to simulate the fact that you can heroes’ boards because what we’re going to do is offer two-ply shoot in and out of the building, things like this. thickness boards. So you will have the base, which is this two“We also have a system of lettering that allows us to play thickness board with recesses and spaces to place your cubes with the elevation. Because of course Batman is more in so they don’t move around anymore. The character sheet is elevation than Conan was. He’s always climbing on the removable – you can change it and match it to the hero you rooftops, things like this. So we had to simulate that. For want to play with during the scenario.” instance, when you have an obstacle in front of you on the Players will be able to customise their heroes further by street level, if you’re on the roof you don’t have that obstacle selecting which gadgets they want to stick in their Bat-belt blocking you any more. We managed this through a system for each mission – all the while staying true to Batman’s nonof letters that tell you whether or not you have a line of sight. deadly approach to taking down enemies. So the boards have evolved a lot on that aspect.” “Batman and other characters can carry guns but they One of the biggest changes ditches one of the most cannot use them to kill people,” Badi confirms. “You have a controversial mechanics in the whole of gaming: player trait in the character sheet that says you cannot use lethal elimination. As characters in Conan took damage, energy weapons. He has incapacitating weapons – tasers and gems would be slowly sapped away, leading to their things like that which he can use. eventual death – and removal of their player from the “The cool thing that we’ve done is some of the characters encounter. In a universe of alternate dimensions, Lazarus belonging to the Bat-family – Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, Pits and passing of superhero mantles, death just isn’t the Batman – will have a Bat-belt with an associated size. For big problem it used to be. instance, Batman in one scenario has a size five Bat-belt, so “We have a system now where the heroes don’t die what you can do at the beginning of the scenario, you know anymore; in Conan you could die and go wash the you have five spaces that you can use, and you’ll be able to dishes and you were done,” Badi says. “Now we are in pick and choose whatever gadgets you want. So you can Batman, heroes never really die. So when you have all say, ‘Okay, this time I want to go with the Batarang and your gems and wounds on, you lose a turn to recuperate the grappling hook’ or ‘This time I prefer the explosive gel some of them to your fatigue zone and at the beginning or the scanner to find clues.’ [There are] a lot of various of the next turn you’ll be able to play again with those gadgets at the beginning of the scenario. As long as you gems that you’ve recuperated. can fit them in your Bat-belt, you can play with them.” “The fail condition might be that all of the heroes are As well as fine-tuning things to fit with the new knocked out in the same round, it could be something universe and style of combat, Gotham City Chronicles like this. You’re not out of the game permanently now; makes some broader improvements to Conan’s overall you can still come back and maybe perform the final presentation, which could occasionally slow down the action to finally win the scenario. That’s one of the momentum of the action. cool things we’ve added.” “We’ve made a lot of tweaks to the boards themselves because in Conan we had some issues COMIC PERSONA ABOVE A Brotherhood on line of sight because we had some lines that were Batman will turn 80 years old next year. In theknight near- and two of Steel close to walls etc. – it was kind of tricky,” Badi admits. century since he made his debut in Detective initiates Comics prepare for battle “Here we’ve placed a system where you have green #27, Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego have been lines to separate areas; those two areas share line reimagined in countless forms, ranging fromOne Adam RIGHT of the knights of sight always. That allows us to have those green West’s endearingly campy TV persona and the various clad in the iconic T-60 power armour

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Characters can equip different gadgets – but, true to Batman’s philosophy, many of the heroes can’t actually kill anyone

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B AT M A N

GOTHAM CITY CHRONICLES big-screen actors that have put their mark on him to the twisted and evil incarnations seen in last year’s comic run Dark Nights: Metal. Despite Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader recently spreading his wings on the silver screen in the Justice League films, Gotham City Chronicles stays true to the superhero’s roots. “We stick to the comics; no movies, no video games ,” Badi asserts. “We’ve got straight back to the raw material, the original material, which is the comic s, and we’ve used basically everything from Hush from Jim Lee [published in 2002] up to Rebirth [which ended in December 2017]. So we allowed ourselves to pick and choose the characters we want in all the comic s history of Batman from 2001 and nowadays.” The decision to focus on a relatively small portio n of Batman history might come as a blow to those hoping for a cameo from the Dark Knights of Tim Burto n’s original film or the beloved 1990s Animated Series , but Badi is steadfast in his belief that the limita tion strengthens the game’s overall atmosphere. “That’s more of a concern of visual identity and consistency,” he explains. “Really, the style of Batma n changed with Jim Lee when he started Hush – we went from these very ‘90s comics to what we have now. ” The commitment to a coherent visual style and tone also rules out some of the more outlandish reimaginings of Batman and his foes in the comic s– including one of the most influential Batman arcs of all time, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

“For Miller we had a lot of talk about it because I’m a huge fan of the Dark Knight series and I wanted to be able to play an episode in the game,” Badi reveals. “The thing is that, if you wanted to do that, we would have had a Joker, a miniature, which is in the style of Miller – very differe nt to what we’re used to seeing, with his big suit and stronger shoulders. We’d need to have a mutant boss, some mutants. Very specific; a very distant style. It really didn’t fit with the rest of the game, so it was kind of difficu lt. Even the boards are out of place with those miniat ures, really. So we’ve taken one Batman – the Miller, the strong Batman, very bulky – because we had to do it. I pushe d it so hard they had to do it. But other than that, if we wanted to maintain that consistency we couldn’t go too deep into that style. Same thing with Arkham Asylum, the story from [Grant] Morrison and [Dave] McKean – incred ible in terms of graphic design, which is very nice to read, but it’s too far from the rest to be able to put it in.”

TELLING TALES

Even with a few notable absences, Gotham City Chron icles still draws from some of the greatest Batman stories ever written. Several of these tales are reinterpreted as sets of missions that players can play through in the game, reliving and rewriting Batman’s history as they go. “We know that people love campaigns, they love to have things taken from one scenario to another, so what we’re going to do is offer short campaigns of three, four or five scenarios that depict those iconic stories in the Batman universe,” Badi says. “You can imagine the Court

Batman and his sidekicks can take on villains in direct combat, but there’s also the chance to take a stealthier route

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of Owls episode in the Batcave, The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween; we have so many great stories to tell – we don’t even have to invent anything! Everything is already there and it’s already cool.” When it comes to characters from the stories, there’s no shortage of potential heroes and villains set to make an appearance. Exactly how many – and who – Badi says depends on the game’s upcoming Kickstarter, but he’s understandably optimistic. “It will probably go over 200 miniatures, so you can count of course all the iconic heroes will be there, ” he proclaims. “What is funny is that in the Batman univer se you actually have a lot more villains than you have heroes, so you’re sure that you’ll have all the heroes in there – of course Batman will be there, The Joker, Clayface, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Penguin.” Not forgetting, of course, everybody’s favourite villain : the date-obsessed and costume-loving Calendar Man, who began as somewhat of a joke among reader s before developing a far darker personality in later stories . “Yes!” exclaims Badi. “He’s scheduled to appear. We have Man-Bat, we have a lot of cool characters like that. We also have a T-rex that will be in one of the expan sions. That’s what’s cool about this universe.” The various different comic arcs and series being poured into the game means that there won’t just be a single definitive version of each character, either . Instead, you should be able to create an all-sta r team from whichever form of your favourite goodie or baddie you like.

We’ve got straight back to the raw material, the original material, which is the comics.

“We have a Batgirl which is Barbara Gordon,” Badi suggests. “We also have Oracle, who is also Barbara Gordon. We went from 2001 to today so the characters have different forms. That’s why you’ll have different Batmans also. The first one we’ll have in the core box is the Batman from Hush. We also have one from Miller, of course. We also have one from Paul Pope [writer and illustrator of 2006’s Batman: Year 100]. We have one from Rebirth. They all have their different sets of characteristics becau se they are Batman at different periods of time.” So, if you really want to, you could answer the age-ol d question: how many Robins does it take to do a Batma n’s job? Although Badi wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. “Mixing Robins is kinda difficult, but you could have Nightwing, who is a former Robin, with Red Robin and Robin himself,” he laughs. “That’s totally a roster you can imagine.” Monolith’s seemingly diligent treatment of the Conan universe whipped up a storm of controversy, with many accusing the publisher of doing little to combat the antiquated and offensive elements of racism and sexism found in Howard’s original 1930s stories. The team defend ed itself by claiming that it had simply remained faithful to its inspiration. With the representation of women particularly genera ting similar debate around certain Batman tales over the years, does the studio still feel confident in sticking to its guns? “We try to put theme in our games,” Badi respon ds. “That’s why we went with Conan – we love the theme, there are so many cool things in it. That’s why we went with Batman

The hero boards have been improved from Conan, with new skills and a layout suited for the Batman universe

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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B AT M A N

GOTHAM CITY CHRONICLES

– because we love the theme. We always stay true to the original material. If something is said a certain way in the original material, we don’t try to change it because we think that it wouldn’t be true to the author, to the creator and to what people like in this genre. That’s why we had some heat coming our way on Conan, but we accept it because that’s the way that Howard intended it in the first place. That’s what we’re going to do with Batman – we’re going to stay true to the original material, the comics, so everything you see in the game will be true to the comics, including the depiction of women.” Badi quickly adds the counterpoint that the span of modern comics serving as the base for Gotham City Chronicles have seen several steps forward in the way female and LGBT+ characters are presented. “Anyway, in the Batman universe you have characters like Batwoman, for instance, who is a very strong female character,” he says. “She’s modern, she’s homosexual, she lives a normal life when she doesn’t have her outfit. We don’t have any issue with that, so we’re going to do it the same way with Batman.”

TEAM GAME Although you’ll be able to replay storylines from Batman comics in Gotham City Chronicles, the game doesn’t go so far as to stop you taking your favourite hero along for the ride – even if they weren’t in the original story. Most of the time, it’ll be down to the players to decide who’s best suited to each mission. “One of the enhancements we’ve made since Conan is that at the beginning of a scenario you’ll be able to pick and choose your hero,” Dadi says. “Maybe we will sometimes fix or impose a hero because they’re key to the storyline, but other than that you’ll be able to say, ‘Okay I want to play with Huntress more than Robin’ or ‘I want to play with Red Hood more than Catwoman’. MICRO You’ll be able to pick and choose your hero and create 1 ORDINATEUR your roster at the beginning of the scenario and play it BATCAPE like this. So it has a lot of replayability.” 2 1 G BATARAN This also means that Batman isn’t always the star of the show. In one introductory mission, for example, Bane has planted some bombs under Gotham City Hospital. A team of three heroes could see Batman and Red Hood clearing the way with their fighting prowess, while the agile and bombsavvy Catwoman defuses the charges. “We didn’t make Batman an overpowered man who can do it all,” Badi stresses. “He’s good in all the aspects, he’s sometimes great in some aspects like intelligence because he’s the world’s greatest detective, but he’s not overpowered. The other characters have all the skills that really fit with Batman and work together. So Batman is not the 1 one who’s going to do everything.” The baddies are less flexible, with a specific foe 1 defined for each encounter, but some missions might see two supervillains work together instead of being a single boss and their henchpeople. Players can choose who they take on a mission and how they fill up their Bat-belt, allowing “We know that these guys love to team up – it’s for a variety of ways to tackle a single scenario and plenty of replayability between matches always temporary, but they love to team up,”

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Badi enthuses. “You can imagine that Bane teams up with Clayface or Solomon Grundy in a specific scenario.” Blowing out the setup options on both sides is a new module separate to the one-against-many adventure mode that enables a one-on-one versus showdown where both players have a villain command post board in front of them and control a whole team of heroes or villains. “It’s more like a skirmish mode,” Badi explains. “The cool thing is you’ll be able to draft your team in it. You choose a scenario and then you can team up Joker with Harley Quinn if you play the villains or team up Batman with the Huntress or Robin if you play the heroes. Each villain has an associated power. So Joker will release gases, Scarecrow will scare people, Clayface will be able to change forms, Batman will be able to launch a smoke pellet and disappear before reappearing somewhere else. Really we’ve gone into associating each character to a power and really putting that in the game. What we try to do is always [make] a game full with theme. “That’s taking a lot of time and a lot of effort from our development team to make sure all this is balanced, because as soon as you have drafting you’ll have competitive modes; you’ll have people trying to find the best composition to play with. We want to make sure that there’s nothing overpowered that people will always choose because that’s the best way to go. So, yeah, there’s a lot of work on balancing all those things.”

THE BATPLAN After sparking one controversial discussion with Conan, Monolith has already triggered a second heated debate around Gotham City Chronicles before the game even hits shelves. The problem? That it won’t hit shelves – ever. The studio announced last year that the game would be permanently exclusive to Kickstarter, with no way to buy it in shops once the crowdfunding campaign has ended. Monolith justified its decision by claiming that the extra margins involved with taking the game through traditional distribution and retail would result in a ‘weaker’ game. Despite the limited window for players to pick up a copy of Gotham City Chronicles – and the trust required to back an unproven project ahead of release – Badi doesn’t rule out the chance of the core game becoming available during future crowdfunding campaigns for expansions or reprints. “That’s something we can imagine,” he predicts. “It will depend on the success of the first campaign. “We’re trying maybe to go for something smaller than what we did with Conan and Mythic Battles: Pantheon in terms of ‘all-in’. We probably won’t have a $600 all-in. If you want to have the whole Batman it will probably cost you a lot less than that. Because we know there are more and more of those huge Kickstarters coming and we know people don’t print money in their basements, so they have to make choices. We didn’t feel like imposing on people.” As for what expansions may bubble to the surface in the future, it seems that the game’s comic-book

Batman won’t always be the star of the show – Catwoman is a better bomb defuser, for example

universe may eventually begin to explore Batman’s cinematic outings, including the potential for crossovers with the ongoing Justice League films. “We work closely with Warner Bros and DC Comics and, yes, it’s something that can be done in the future – why not?” Badi says. “Again, if the Kickstarter campaign is a success. That’s really also a test for us with DC Comics and Warner, because it’s the first time they’ve gone to Kickstarter with Batman. So they want to see how it goes and what we do with it. So far they are very happy with the work we are creating. So, yeah, we can imagine other things in the future.” Conan’s fast and furious action helped overcome some of the game’s rockier aspects. With a refined version of that gameplay and an even more popular – and less contentious – hero at its heart, it’s hard to imagine Gotham City Chronicles failing to stir up a huge amount of excitement and hype. But, despite its confidence in the system that established it as a studio to watch, Monolith is keen to go even further when it comes to the stories it tells. “Our objective is to continue to make great games on great themes, so we have other stories with other licences coming,” Badi says. “Some themes just don’t match the THS system used in Conan and Batman. The licences we’re working on right now do not fit with this system, so we will create other systems and other things and Monolith will not only be the THS system. Of course, it’s our core because that’s the system behind Conan, which is our first game and our baby. We’ll never let Conan down; we’ll probably offer a new campaign in the future with more content for Conan. But we will go other ways.”

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From the metal models of wargames to the plastic pieces finding their way into more and more board games, miniatures are everywhere. But how are they actually made? We follow the entire process from start to finish Words and pictures by Matt Jarvis

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LEFT & BELOW Designing figures on a computer and then 3D printing them significantly cuts down the time required to create prototypes – with copy and paste especially helpful!

LEFT Early models can be easily modified using modelling putty such as Green Stuff, allowing sculptors to quickly add extra details without needing to start completely from scratch

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iniatures have never been bigger, exploding outside of their origins in wargames to conquer a new wave of modern board games and Kickstarter success stories. Thousands of unique models are created every year, spanning from historical troops and sci-fi inventions to imitations of movies, video games and famous faces. Although you’ve probably handled hundreds of plastic figures in your lifetime, it’s unlikely you know how they’re actually created – a process that has remained largely untouched for decades. Ricky Dove has been working with miniatures and moulds for around a decade, having found his way into the manufacturing side of things after starting at Games Workshop as a receptionist. After seven years working in the Warhammer company’s Forge World and resin divisions, Dove eventually moved to Kings of War and The Walking Dead: All

Out War studio Mantic, where he is now the resident master mould-maker. We recently visited Mantic’s Nottingham HQ, where Dove took us through the complex, challenging and even dangerous process that turns miniatures from one person’s vision into the plastic and metal figures on your tabletop. Here, from beginning to end, is the story of those miniatures.

SCULPTING Every original model begins in the imagination of its sculptor. In years gone by, this title was quite a literal one, with creators physically hewing their vision out of a small block of plastic – often helped along by the addition of detail using modelling putty. Nowadays, it’s becoming more and more the norm for sculptors to work with a virtual scalpel, refining a 3D render on a computer over the course of two to four days, depending on the level of detail. While digital modelling is becoming more commonplace – the characters in Mantic’s recent Star Saga were all created

digitally – the traditional approach is still used in some situations. “It’s really the studio’s decision,” Dove says. “It goes on a costing thing, I believe. Or basically how much time the sculptors have got. We don’t have any in-house sculptors ourselves – it’s all contracted out. So it depends on who’s free and when.” Working with pixels instead of plastic has a number of benefits, including the ability to easily rearrange or re-pose parts of a model on the fly, re-use parts from past figures, and convert existing creations with greater ease. Sculptors can also copy and paste elements of a 3D model, which can cut the time needed to craft a symmetrical model literally in half. Once the virtual version has been refined, it’s printed out using an industrial-grade 3D printer that produces layers measuring just 16 microns – or 0.016mm – thick. While the layers are just about visible in this prototype model, the slight loss of detail during the subsequent casting process means the finished miniature will appear perfectly formed.

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M A K I N G M I N I AT U R E S

The channels in the moulds act almost like a firehose and fire the metal into the cavity.

ABOVE & LEFT Sprues for resin models are added manually RIGHT A resin model production mould filled with material

“Obviously it’s going to be a copy, so you will lose a little bit,” Dove says. “That’s where the art comes in, to make the best copy we can in the end.” Digital modelling and 3D printing are beginning to revolutionise the way miniatures are created, but their convenience comes at a cost. “There’s definitely an advantage [to digital],” says Dove. “If the original sculpture gets destroyed, I’ve got nothing to go back to, whereas if it’s a 3D print your file is your master so you just print another. But it’s expensive to end up printing models at that level of detail; the last time we had a 3D print run it was like a grand.”

MOULDING With the final model in hand, it’s time to take the figure from being one-of-a-kind to mass-produced. This first requires creating a master mould from silicone. For a metal model, the mould consists of two circular discs that go together on top of each other, creating the shapes of parts of the figure

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in the middle. Later, hot liquid metal will be poured into the hole in the centre of the disc as it rotates, flinging the material into the holes and forming the pieces of the miniature. “When the silicone is in its raw state, it’s kind of like plasticine – it’s very, very soft,” Dove explains. “It’s just like a little pizza, you drop it down. You have to cut it to shape and everything. You insert the mould and press the mould in nicely. Lay them out exactly how you want them to be. Then you’ll add another layer on top. Put a release agent on top to stop them bonding together. There’s match marks that you insert as well. That’ll go into a press, the press will put it under high pressure and bake it at about 170, 180 degrees Celsius to vulcanise it so that it goes hard and rigid. Once that’s done, you can take it out and it’s cooled down. It takes about two hours to vulcanise and then a few more hours to cool down properly.” Due to the way the metal feeds into the holes from the centre of the spinning mould, channels must be cut by hand to allow the material to find its way into the shapes.

“All these cuts are angled so they come to a point,” Dove indicates. “When it’s filling, because you’re having the same volume of metal compressed into a smaller and smaller space, it acts almost like a firehose and fires the metal into the cavity, giving it that extra oomph to get in there – and allows you to snap it off nice and easy, as well.” Equally important is creating vents to let out the displaced air – which, as it turns out, is more complicated than it sounds. “Metal’s going to flow in, but the air’s got to go somewhere, so it’s going to push it all the way out,” says Dove. “Everything’s kind of zigzagged to make sure it doesn’t just fly out the sides or anything like that.” Resin models are created in a slightly different way, using the force of a vacuum rather than a centrifuge to fill every nook and cranny with the liquid plastic and ensure models emerge fully formed. The feeds are once again added manually, with rods forming each model’s sprues. “We have a master copy and that’s put into a silicone mould again, but this silicone mould

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LEFT Silicone production moulds used for casting metal figures BELOW One of the metal figures sits in the cavity that formed it

is RTV [Room-Temperature-Vulcanising] silicone,” Dove says, holding up an example. “So it goes off and doesn’t need any heat. This one has a platinum catalyst that gets added to it and it will set within 24 hours. Once we’ve set the piece up in a box, we fill it, we leave it a day or so after we’ve added the addictive, we vacuum it before to remove any air bubbles or anything so there’s nothing in the way, no extra detail that’s going to get stuck on the sides or anything like that. “Once we’ve taken the box away, it’s set and everything, we can go through with a scalpel and cut it so we can get the piece out in the centre. They’re all match-marked along the edge, so they will go back in the same place every time. The master silicone is quite a rigid and firm material, so it doesn’t want to move or go anywhere and gives us the best impression so I don’t have to spend ages cleaning it afterwards. It gives us a really good copy.” Once a small number of miniatures have been created using the single master mould – Dove says anywhere between three to ten models depending on the size and total

number required – the figures are cleaned up using a file and magnifying glass to make them as accurate as possible to the original design. These figures are then pressed into what’s known as a production mould, which produces multiple copies of each component ready to be packaged into boxes. The metal moulds remain the same size and shape, while the resin mould becomes a concertinalike block that can be flexed to release the parts inside. “We do it in a large block mould because obviously a rectangle holds itself together,” Dove says. “They’re all match-marked again. Instead of doing the zig-zag, because that’s very difficult for the caster to keep putting back together every time, we just do one single cut with a special knife with a curve in it. Just cut straight down and that matches it. “When we run the first mould, we only get one copy, but we run these two moulds and we get three copies with a larger piece.” With more complex models, this can mean using multiple moulds to form all of the parts required for a single figure.

“Wyrmriders [for Kings of War] are the most we’ve done,” Dove recalls. “I think it’s seven moulds. And then you only get three models.”

RESIN Once a resin production mould is ready to be filled, the silicone block is sprayed with a mould release agent to stop the concertina sticking together – and potentially snapping bits off models as they’re removed. Boards are placed around the sides of the block and pressure applied with elastic bands to eliminate unsightly mould lines as resin leaks out. Secured, the mould is placed in the vacuum chamber. “This is really the only bit of actual equipment for casting,” Dove comments. “Everything else is just mixing tubs, things like that; it’s done by hand.” Before the air is sucked out of the chamber, the mould is filled with a twopart resin made up of a liquid plastic and isocyanate – a potent chemical also found in glues, paints and flooring that has been

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M A K I N G M I N I AT U R E S

LEFT Getting the mix of liquid plastic and isocyanate right is key to ensuring models don’t end up bendy LEFT, BELOW The vacuum chamber used to suck the liquid resin into the moulds in a matter of minutes BELOW Resin production moulds ready to be filled

linked to asthma and other respiratory issues. Luckily, the dangers are completely gone by the time you’re picking up your figures. (We still wouldn’t put them in your mouth.) “The isocyanate’s a bit nasty and not very nice, but as soon it’s cast into the resin it’s inert and it’s completely fine,” Dove reassures. “It’s just an exothermic reaction between the two components that turn into the resin.” Mixing the chemicals is where the magic happens, as the two liquids combine to become the familiar rigid plastic of models. Getting the mix exactly right is crucial. “It’s a 50-50 mix,” Dove says. “You have to get it right because that affects the overall finish on the end product. If there’s too much of one it’ll be bendy.” We’ve all opened a game to find spears that looks more like spaghetti or characters trying to copy Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ lean. This can be down to a bad batch, but in most cases it’s more likely to be a deliberate choice.

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“It’s just a type of material they’ve chosen to use,” Dove suggests. “It’s probably cheaper. Also, it allows it to be de-moulded easier. So if the material has got some flex and bend in it, then it’s not going to snap and get left in the mould or something like that. It probably helps with speed of process and it’s probably a slightly cheaper material. “Resin can be as hard as plastic or soft and bendy. It just all depends on which specific resin you’re using and how you mix it. You can tailor it exactly to what you want it to do.” This includes the ability to customise the colour of the plastic used. Dove explains why some board games might come with multicoloured player pieces while traditional miniatures tend to come in similar shades of grey. “Resin, in its raw state when you cast it, is white,” he says. “White you can’t see anything, detail and anything like that. So we actually put a black colourant in it to turn it grey. As soon as you turn it into the grey, the detail just pops. You can do whatever colour you want.” Whether the aim is to have flexible pieces that can survive being chucked around in a

box or hard miniatures primed for painting, it doesn’t take long for the chemical reaction to happen. Only a few minutes, in fact. “It’ll go in [the vacuum chamber] for a minute and a half, then the operative will allow some air back in,” Dove explains. “Then they will pop up anything required – so if all of the resin has gone out of the well, they’ll top it all up and that’ll go on for another minute and a half. Then it’ll just come rest on the shelf for, let’s say, five minutes.” After that, the components are ready to be popped out of the mould and packed into boxes before the cycle starts all over again. Each successive run takes its toll on the moulds, however. “They only last for about 30 cycles, so they don’t last very long at all,” says Dove. “It’s probably one of the reasons resin models are slightly more expensive to buy.”

METAL Watching resin form into models is interesting, but it can’t quite match the most exciting – and arguably dangerous – way of creating

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When we transferred models into resin, people noticed detail they couldn’t see on the metal.

LEFT Finished resin models ready to be packaged in boxes and shipped out to shops. The moulds only last for around 30 cycles, which is one of the reasons why resin models can end up costing more to buy for players

miniatures. But even with the thrilling use of hot liquid metal and a spinning centrifuge, there are some surprisingly mundane aspects of casting metal models. “The mould’s covered in talcum powder because that’s what we use as a mould release agent,” Dove reveals. “Plain old talc. It allows the metal to flow over the top of it. When any material sets, it tends to grab because, on a microscopic level, everything’s pitted and marked everywhere. Talc allows it to take up that space, so it grabs onto the talc instead of the mould. So when you pull it out it’s not going to latch on and rip. It also gives you a nice matte finish because metal, when you cast, tends to be shiny. When you’ve got the talcum powder or cornflour, whatever you use, it just takes the shine off it.” The two circular discs are put together and clamped into a machine that raises the platform up and begins to turn it at an incredible speed. As it rotates, Dove scoops a single spoonful of liquid metal from a bubbling pot and pours it into the centre of the spinning mould. It’s not a lot of material, but

the compression of the mould means it goes a long way. As for knowing when enough’s enough, that comes down to practice. “You can hear, you can see,” Dove says. “When you’re pouring, as soon as you can see a wall of metal coming back towards the centre, stop. You can also hear it sucking, so if you just know the change you can do it; nearly full, nearly full, done. Occasionally you do miss or pour a little bit too much in, but it’ll ball up on the top and it’s an immensely smooth surface so it just pops off.” Despite the relatively small amount of material used and safety measures in place, the incredible heat needed to turn metal into a liquid makes casting an obviously dangerous job. “You burn yourself all the time,” Dove admits. “It’s only ever little bits and bobs you notice. It’s a bugger when it flies up and gets in your beard or something.” And if you should happen to come into contact with more than just a ‘bit’? “It’s not good,” Dove says frankly. “The shock is enough to kill you, to be honest. You

get anything more than a 50p piece it’ll hurt you so much you’ll probably pass out.” Assuming you avoid death and injury, two minutes or so later a perfect cast is ready to be removed from the machine. Or almost perfect cast, anyway. “The quality on resin models far outsurpasses the metal,” Dove says. “Metal cools – when it cools, it shrinks. So whatever detail it fills, it kinda shrinks a tiny bit back in. So when we transferred some models into resin, a lot of people noticed detail that they couldn’t see on the metal.” The quality of resin comes at a cost, though. While resin moulds only last for a few dozen cycles, the silicone used in metal moulds means they’re far more economical for miniatures makers to use. “The old-school black rubber ones you get about 200 casts out of them,” Dove says. “The new-style silicone moulds we’ve been trialling are getting anything up to 400 casts. It doesn’t sound like much, but if you’ve got ten copies on a mould and you can run it 200 times it’s a decent amount of models.”

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M A K I N G M I N I AT U R E S

ABOVE, LEFT The metal is kept at a consistent 400 degrees – making it a potentially dangerous task to pour it into the spinning mould ABOVE, RIGHT The machine used to generate the centrifugal force required to fill every little hole and crevice with material LEFT Bigger or more complex figures can require multiple moulds RIGHT A finished set of components from a metal production mould

There’s another big benefit to using metal. As he talks, Dove drops a leftover set of metal sprues into the simmering pot behind him. The scrap instantly liquefies, leaving behind a skin on the top of the 400-degree metal that looks like the worst custard you can imagine. “The material’s been oxidising,” he explains. “I put the old stuff back in to be reused. The central gates we can just melt back down again, because obviously it’s not product. It’s got a load of talc and other things we don’t really want, which in the industry we call dross. We skim it off just like soup. That will end up going back to the company, and they will sieve out and distil out any of the metal still left in there and reclaim it back. It’s quite efficient at using material. You can get away with reusing some of the resin, but only if you do large models because you can chuck a load of old models inside the large one and then pour fresh resin around the sides.” Being able to use as much metal as possible counts, because what resin loses in thriftiness with its moulds, it makes up for when it comes to the plastic itself.

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“Metal is purely a material cost,” Dove says. “If it’s in actual physical material, it probably costs about £3.50 or £4 of metal in a set of [Kings of War] Molochs. It’s probably 20p to 30p worth of resin, so there’s a massive difference. All your cost in resin comes from your man-hours: labour, moulding costs, that kind of stuff. The actual material is quite cheap, but it’s all the other costs around it. Metal is the opposite; it’s quicker to produce, but the material costs you. You pay for it by weight and metal weighs a lot. But the detail on resin blows it out of the water. And it’s exactly the same master copy we used to make both, the same sculpt.”

INJECTION MOULDING Injection moulding is perhaps the most recognisable way of creating miniatures, forming the iconic sheets of model parts that need to be clipped off of their surrounding rectangular sprues. The core process is similar to casting by hand, but instead of using a vacuum or centrifugal forces to distribute the

liquid material through silicone moulds, powerful machines blast PVC plastic into metal moulds. “It’s something I’ve never done myself, because it’s very specialist,” Dove says. “Their moulds are solid steel blocks and the machinery required to cast them are like 12-tonne machines. It’s forced in, injected in, with a lot of force. It’s a steel block – it’s not going anywhere. “There’s a lot more effort that goes into making those because it’s a steel block and it won’t give. Everything needs to be able to pop out. It can’t have any undercuts because you’re going to be able to bend them out the way. There’s a lot more thought process that goes into making one of those. That’s why they’re a lot more expensive to make in the first place. Cheap to churn out the plastic in the end, but expensive to get the mould and everything done in the initial stages.” The cost, training and space needed to injection mould means that it’s a method usually reserved for proven hits guaranteed

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to return on the investment and publishers able to invest a significant wad of cash in the first place. “A steel injection mould’s going to cost you £5,000 or something to have made,” Dove details. “[A silicone] one costs £90. There’s a bit more cost that goes in because there’s been a mould that’s previously been made, there’s been a lot of time that’s gone into it and that kind of stuff, but the physical mould is £90.” However, the price of injection moulding is becoming easier to stomach for smaller companies thanks to the advent of crowdfunding through sites such as Kickstarter. By reeling in supporters with 3D renders of their miniatures and successful campaigns gathering a specific amount of money before manufacturing their pieces, studios can invest in injection moulding safe in the knowledge they already have a hit on their hands. While most of Mantic’s models are created in-house with resin and metal, the company has turned to injection moulding for some of

its own Kickstarted products, including the Terrain Crate scenery kits. “They’re got an awesome mould life,” Dove says. “Cost you a load, but you’re moulding thousands.”

FINAL TOUCHES With a batch of miniatures ready to land on shop shelves, it’s time for the process to begin all over again. The time taken to churn out a single set of figures may be quick, but the manual requirements of the job mean that making sure there are enough miniatures for potentially thousands of players can be taxing. “You only really get six cycles in throughout the day because it takes 35 to 40 minutes for the resin to actually set once you’ve mixed it together,” Dove says. “It’s not like metal, because the metal is purely based on heat, so as the metal cools it sets solid. It’s quite a quick process because all you’ve got to do is cool it down and metal likes to give off heat, so as soon as you put it in, two and a half minutes later it’s set and ready.

“It’s about six cycles a day, so about 35 copies of most things really in a day. With ten in a mould, about 60 a day maybe.” It’s a similar story across the world of miniatures, with the decades since Games Workshop first produced its Warhammer models seeing little deviation from the tried-and-tested methods of making figures. “Just the materials and the chemicals have been improved,” Dove observes. “Different mould release agents that work better, that kind of stuff. “In all honesty, if you look at the process, techniques haven’t changed for hundreds of years. It’s exactly the same. It’s just we’ve changed materials and modified. In general, it’s not that much different.” So the next time you’re gluing together a plastic torso or painting up a metal laser rifle, perhaps think back to the people, hours and history that led to it finding its way to your table.

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H AV E Y O U P L AY E D ?

AGRICOLA

Harvest the rewards of Uwe Rosenberg’s magnificent farming Euro and let it worker-place its way into your heart

“T

Words by Matt Jarvis

he 17th century: not an easy time for farming.” So proclaims the tagline for Agricola, and it’s a philosophy to which Uwe Rosenberg’s 2007 masterwork holds true. Players are dropped into the worn-out boots of European farmers scraping a living in the remnants of the bubonic plague, trying to expand their homestead as they plant and harvest vegetables, raise animals for food or

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sale, and widen their family with children. (How many other game manuals have a section literally entitled “Family Planning”?) Still, this is Uwe Rosenberg we’re talking about, so the evocative theme ultimately takes a backseat to the finely crafted Euro gameplay. Agricola is Rosenberg working at what many consider to be the height of his design powers, offering up a complex worker-placement buffet for players to feast upon. (Rosenberg is very much the king of themes about reaping – and eating – what you

sow, as later titles Caverna: The Cave Farmers, A Feast for Odin and more will prove.) Players start in a modest wooden shack and, action by action, slowly build up the resources needed to develop their estate, maintaining their crops and breeding animals to keep their family fed and save towards improvements to their house and land. Players’ farmers can also personally improve themselves, learning valuable occupation lessons in their pursuit of the most victory points by the time the game’s 14 rounds come to their conclusion. As well as collecting the prestigious 2008 Kennerspiel des Jahres for being the ‘Expert Game of the Year’, Agricola has been inundated with plaudits and acclaim in the decade since it debuted – including replacing Puerto Rico at the top of BoardGameGeek’s overall rankings, a position it held for almost two years. Even today, it remains a permanent fixture at the top of many players’ all-time lists and is frequently cited as one of the pinnacles of hobby gaming as a result of its detailed simulation of farming life, deft interweaving of theme and gameplay, and the number of different ways its various interlocking systems can play out – making every rematch as awe-inspiring as your first.

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WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? Agricola is essentially a game of rags to riches: players start with very little and aim to attain the most wealth and luxury by the final round, represented as victory points. Luxury and value comes in many different forms, whether it’s the very house that the family lives in or the goods they’re able to sell. Points are lost for failing to use your land to its maximum capacity and gained by constructing rooms, having children, cultivating crops and raising animals. Of course, gaining wealth isn’t a straightforward business. Your diddly family of farming meeples will also need to keep themselves fed, symbolised by a periodic harvest phase that takes place at the end of six rounds during the game. Unsurprisingly, food is crucial; if the family can’t eat, they’ll have to go begging – losing you points when scores are calculated. The harvest phase has a second role, which is to simulate the breeding of animals when your family owns two or more animals of the same type, resulting in the birth of an extra sheep, boar or cow. Thankfully, the parents and newborn can’t be eaten the same round that they breed. Phew. Bumping up the value of your property comes through either extending the house with extra rooms (that also grant the space to have children)or upgrading your wooden structure to clay and, later, stone, which gives you extra points. Stone was the height of luxury in the 17th century, it seems. The inside of your home can be further enhanced with minor and major improvements, which can grant points but, more importantly, unlock extra ways to accumulate further wealth. Building improvements is necessary in order to turn your raw goods into food by cooking animals and vegetables, and baking bread, and also allows you to turn building resources into craft products that can be sold for extra victory points. One of Agricola’s most innovative aspects – and something that has since popped up in other Rosenberg games – is the use of occupation cards to give each player a unique route to victory. There are nearly 50 unique roles in the deck, seven of which are given to players at the start of the game to hold in their hand. Later in the game, players can teach their farmers new skills by playing the cards as lessons, granting bonus ways to rack up points and resources.

the punch is crucial. In a unique twist to many worker-placement games, the majority of action spaces are already on the central board but a new action is added every round by being randomly drawn from a deck of cards. This evolving pool of options and slightly unpredictable progression keeps things constantly exciting and ramps up the tension as players are gradually able to choose from more and more possibilities every round – a tricky decision if you don’t have enough meeples. Each player starts with the ability to perform two actions: one each for their husband and wife pair of farmers. The number of actions you can take during a turn is increased by – what else? – producing children, as long as you have the room for extra offspring. Agricola presents a huge number of ways to spend your meeples every turn, opening up the simulation for interesting and diverse strategies in every game – but focusing too much on one area can lead to disaster. By juggling looking after your plants and animals, improving your home, and expanding your well-fed family, you’ll be able to prove your household is the most prosperous around.

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL Agricola’s success has led the game to be reimagined a number of times since it first appeared. In 2016 a revised second edition was released, adding improved wooden components and cards, and streamlining the original rules. The game was given a more drastic makeover in the form of Caverna: The Cave Farmers, Rosenberg’s mountain-dwelling redesign of Agricola’s gameplay that swaps the original’s cards for building tiles and introduces a quest system and mining mechanic as its dwarves tunnel into the rock to expand their home. In 2012, a two-player-only version of Agricola was released, subtitled All Creatures Big and Small. Significantly trimming down both the

Animals can breed – and be eaten later on playing time (to half an hour total, rather than per player) and the complexity of Agricola, All Creatures Big and Small focuses on the animal husbandry of the game and challenges players to manage their livestock in the most effective way. Both Agricola and All Creatures Big and Small have since come to mobile (and PC in the case of the latter), making it easier to learn the ropes and play on the go.

WHY SHOULD YOU TRY IT? Its reliance on the basics of worker placement means that Agricola isn’t a hard game to learn, but the range of options open to players makes for an absorbing, immersive experience up there with the very best on the tabletop. The theme is atmospheric and interesting enough to ground the fascinating gameplay in a relatable rhythm, as harvests pass, animals breed and families expand. Yet, it never becomes repetitive thanks to the growing pool of actions available, the way that players’ varied occupations can shift their strategies and the slightly interactive competition of blocking other players’ choices on the actions board. Agricola is board gaming at its very finest; perfected gameplay mixed with just enough theme and luck to always keep things interesting. Farming in the 17th century may be hard, but in the 21st century it’s an absolute joy.

HOW DO YOU PLAY? Agricola is the epitome of worker-placement gameplay. The meat of the action involves players selecting just a couple of actions to perform each round, placing down their meeples to select and execute a specific instruction. Key to the competition between players is the fact that each space can only be selected once a round, so beating your opponents to

Players lead their farmers’ household to prosperity by juggling the production of food and resources

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KICKSTARTING F R O M S C R A T C H

With its creative gameplay pinned down, Holly Gramazio and her team embark on a search to put the ‘art’ in Art Deck

In the busy jostling-forattention spaces of Kickstarter, our original shades of grey and subtle text placement might not cut it.

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o we know how our game works. We even know how many cards we have, and what’s written on all of them. But we still need to work out what those cards actually look like. When we first made Art Deck, we were going to run it at a single event, with big piles of paper and paint and facilitators to draw in players. But in the busy jostling-for-attention spaces of Kickstarter or a shop floor, our original shades of grey and subtle text placement might not cut it. We have a few priorities for visual design: 1. Gameplay: The design has to work for the game itself. 2. Marketing: It has to draw people’s attention, and communicate its personality to people who might enjoy playing. 3. Practicality: We need to be able to sort out the design quickly and affordably, because we can’t make our Kickstarter video until we have some cards to put in it. For me, supporting the gameplay is the top priority. Our cards are pretty simple: each one has a sentence fragment and a number. A few of the cards are special, and those need to be separated from the deck every game, so they have to be easy to pick out from the rest. So far, so straightforward.

Next, the fragments have to be easy to read as a whole sentence. When three cards are set down next to each other on the table, they need to look like they’re related, like they carry a single communicative instruction. That’s perhaps a little less straightforward. Finally, the cards can’t be too staid and formal. Art Deck is all about scrawling and scribbling. If the cards feel dynamic and messy, that helps get players into a drawing mode. Not to mention that it helps the cards look good even after they get smears of charcoal on them! So, there’s legibility and looseness, two gameplay issues pulling in slightly different directions – but nothing a good designer couldn’t sort out. Next: marketing. We need to find a look and feel that’s approachable for both hobbyists and a more general audience. Art Deck needs to look simple; probably it needs bright colours and clean edges, geometry and patterns rather than figurative art. But it still needs to look like a ‘gamey’ game with its own personality. This feels harder – but again, maybe it’s something a good designer can resolve? Which brings us to the final issue, of course: finding and paying for that good designer. We could run a Kickstarter without a final visual design for our game, and try to raise enough to pay for a designer to come in later in the process. This saves money up front, but means missing out on the advantage that polished visuals might bring to the campaign. We could try to muster up some money and pay a designer now, which is a risk but means the campaign would be in a better place to make a good impression. Still, given that we’ve already committed to paying for a polished video, it’s hard to justify. Or we could try to get a visual designer entirely on board; someone who’s willing share in the risk and the reward. This is harder, of course, because it means finding not just a designer we like, but a designer who’s excited about the game and wants to be a part of it and is willing to assume that risk. It’s definitely something that depends on existing relationships; we can’t just email random designers we quite like and say, “Hey, wanna do some work now for some maybe money later?” Three options. Our plan over the next few weeks is to figure out which one’s right for us.

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HOW WE MADE

A HANDFUL OF STARS

The swan song in Martin Wallace’s deckbuilding trilogy brings to a close a tale spanning hundreds of years, from historical warfare to the colonisation of space. With the next chapter of his own story just beginning, the designer looks to the stars

Words by Owen Duffy

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he latest game from designer Martin Wallace, A Handful of Stars is a science-fiction empirebuilder that combines Dominionstyle deckbuilding with mapbased grand strategy, casting players as leaders of alien races fighting to conquer planets and build fleets of mighty ships. We can attest: it’s really bloody good. We spoke to its creator to hear the story behind its design, the origins of his deckbuilding-with-a-board formula, and why inclusiveness and diversity are critical to the future of the tabletop industry.

STARS IN THEIR ICE Wallace is an industry veteran with a reputation for games that reward clever strategy and careful planning; his releases include Brass, which casts players as textile magnates during the industrial revolution, and Age of Steam, a fiercely competitive game of rival rail barons. The story of A Handful of Stars begins with 2011’s two-player wargame A Few Acres of Snow. Wallace had trained as a history teacher, and his games had often explored periods from the past. A Few Acres of Snow was no different. Set during the French and Indian Wars – a longrunning series of conflicts between European powers in North America – it handed players command of British and French forces fighting to colonise the continent for their homelands. “The first thing that got me interested was the historical period,” Wallace says.

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“A friend of mine, a historian called John Ellis, was working on a book about the French and Indian Wars. He pointed out that all of the movement during the campaigns was done by river network, because there were no roads. If you wanted to move somewhere then you went by coast or you went by canoe. He thought there could be a good game in it.” Wallace agreed, and, intrigued by the idea, started to develop a design. He quickly realised that a recent hit game – the original deckbuilder Dominion – threw up some interesting possibilities that fitted well with the history of the conflict. “I was thinking about the theme before I came to the mechanics, and it just occurred to me that the deckbuilding element from Dominion could work really well,” he says. “The British were fighting a long way from home. There was a real lag in communications. If you wanted something from Britain then you had to send a boat over, then you had to wait for parliament to make a decision, then you had to wait for your boat to come back – and after all that waiting you might get what you’d asked for. “The deckbuilding mechanism where you never know quite what you’re going to get in your hand reflected that in a very simple, elegant manner. It was this nice, easy system where you could reflect the reality of the time.” Wallace wasn’t the first designer to be inspired by Dominion. But where some games had been little more than imitations, making only superficial changes to the

deckbuilding formula, A Few Acres of Snow added something new: a board representing the settlements and icy stretches of wilderness that players were fighting over. Opponents used cards to command their forces, launching raids on one another’s towns, laying claim to territory and struggling to solidify their hold on the divided continent. It was a novel idea, and the interplay between the cards in players’ hands and their units on the board allowed Wallace to tie the game’s environment to its mechanical structure. Capturing territories granted players new cards to add to their decks, neatly representing the importance of holding and exploiting different areas. It wasn’t the game’s only departure from Dominion’s familiar blueprint. “There were a number of games that stuck too closely to the original Dominion,” Wallace says. “And the one thing I didn’t like was the ‘use it or lose it’ thing a lot of them had – where you’re dealt a hand of cards, you use it to the best of your ability and whatever you don’t use, you chuck away. “Where’s the long-term planning in that? It just felt to me like a lot of these Dominion clones had the same problem where if you were dealt a good hand, you could do one obvious thing with it, and if you got dealt a rubbish hand, well, you just chucked it away and then hoped to get something better.”

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A Handful of Stars is the third entry in the ‘A Few Acres of Snow trilogy’, reimplementing gameplay from the historical deckbuilder

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HOW WE MADE A H A N D F U L O F S T A R S

His answer was to give players a reserve – an area where they could store potentially useful cards for later use, mitigating some of the deckbuilding formula’s inherent randomness. “I’ve always felt that it’s nice if you can plan something long-term,” he explains, “which is why with A Few Acres of Snow you have the ability to put something aside for the future. It’s a key part of being able to have a strategy, and it also fits thematically in that you can build a reserve army, but there’s a cost. That reflects real life, where if you have a standing army, you have to pay them, you have to feed them and a lot of the time they’re standing around doing nothing.”

REWRITING HISTORY A Few Acres of Snow had genuine depth, but it was also slick and fast-playing, and bridged a gap between historical wargamers and more general board game fans. While it met with an enthusiastic reaction, Wallace thought, it ran into a problem when players discovered what they argued was an unbeatable strategy – the designer points out that the approach actually mirrors the plan that eventually won the war for the British. But while it might have been historically accurate, it reduced the game’s appeal for some players who considered it to be ‘broken.’

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Wallace’s answer was to develop Mythotopia, a fantasy-themed sequel with a similar mechanical core, but which used a randomised setup and upped the maximum player count from two to four, removing the possibility of finding a single all-conquering strategy. Despite the game receiving a positive response, Wallace wasn’t finished with his deckbuilding ideas and, for the next instalment in the series, he was ready to take things to a much grander scale. “One of the things that interested me in the French and Indian Wars was that it seemed in certain aspects like a space game,” Wallace says. “You had these serious delays in communication; in a lot of ways it was like trying to fight a war on Mars. And the restrictions on movement reminded me of an old space game called Imperium where you had fixed connections between stars. If you wanted to go from A to B, there was only one way to go. In a sense, this was the same thing.” Wallace reworked his design into a science-fiction setting, with players exploring a universe of interlinked planetary systems. The new game, A Handful of Stars, used black holes to block routes between certain worlds and, with planets distributed randomly across the board, it challenged players to find ways to

claim and colonise the most valuable planets, engaging in starship battles with similarly expansionist opponents. “I kind of like the fact that right from the beginning you can be involved in a fight,” Wallace says. “I also like that you have to do what a military commander does. You have to assess the lay of the land and work out: where are the critical strategic points that I need to take, and what areas can I forget about? If there’s a really key location then you need to make an effort to claim it as soon as possible. Then once you’ve got it you can start to slow down your expansion, start building your forces and improve your deck.” One big change from the previous games in the series was a new, streamlined combat system. Where A Few Acres of Snow and Mythotopia had aimed to portray longrunning sieges with both sides suffering ongoing attrition, the new release sped things up, with players’ forces quickly succumbing to a merciless hail of laser fire. “The combat in A Few Acres of Snow was designed to take a long time, because sieges would take months,” Wallace says. “Mythotopia sort of kept the same idea. But with A Handful of Stars it was just about getting it over and done with, having a quick

Aggroloids

Bilderoids

Culturemoogs

Exploremords

Rapid Reaction Force Super Dreadnoughts Star Bomb

Armaments Mobile Factories Production Line

Culture Development Festival of Culture

Fast Ships Scouts Terra-forming

Peacenims

Storbots

Technoids

Diplomacy Retreat Space Mines

Out of Storage Recycling Plant Warehouse

Blue-sky Research Research Laboratories Top-secret Research

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matter of luck. When you’re designing a game you’re not actually completely in control of the process, and sometimes a game can surprise you by doing things it wasn’t intended to do. I think it’s just a case of the elements coming together quite nicely there. You’ve got a limited amount of time; usually early on you’re taking the neutral stars where there’s not that much interaction, but towards the end people have bigger fleets, more power, and generally you can see who the leader is, so you’ve got this big showdown. “What was quite nice during development was that you’d have a clear leader, and he

see-saw combat where whoever can chuck in the most resources wins. “What’s nice about it is I’ve seen a few times where someone would go into combat with the biggest fleet, and they feel really strong, and the other guy would just pull out a victory from nowhere because he happens to have a few critical cards. So you can get cases where the big guy does get beaten. I kind of like that you can have this Persia-versus-Greece thing where Greece does actually pull a victory out.” The new combat model, with the players involved momentarily stepping out of the game to resolve card-based clashes, was reminiscent of 2015’s Forbidden Stars, a space strategy game from publisher Fantasy Flight set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. But Wallace’s approach was noticeably quicker. “I’ve played half a game of Forbidden Stars, because it took forever and a day,” he says. “It just felt too unnecessarily clunky for what is: essentially, building dudes, going out and killing things. It just made everything take much longer than it needed to, especially TOP Despite its sci-fi setting, A Handful of Stars was inspired by historical battles LEFT Players control one of seven different races attempting to dominate the galaxy RIGHT Martin Wallace trained as a history teacher before becoming a game designer

When you’re designing a game you’re not actually completely in control of the process. Sometimes a game can surprise you.

the combat. It was like: ‘Well we know who’s won from the beginning, but we’re going to spend 10 minutes proving that.’ “It’s something that Fantasy Flight do. They never do elegant if they can do clunky. I think if you put an elegant mechanism in front of them, they’d run a mile. They just don’t do that. They say: ‘We’ll have a separate card system for this, and another mini separate card system for this.’ It just depresses me slightly. Obviously they do very well from it, but they just don’t do elegance.” Another big change was the introduction of a new system for ending the game. Rather than setting a target number of victory points, A Handful of Stars used a countdown system, edging closer to completion every time a player exhausted and reshuffled their deck. It meant that while players were constantly becoming more powerful – expanding their empires, developing new technologies and constructing ever-stronger fleets of ships – they were also forced to keep one eye on the clock. It added ramping tension to the game, bringing each session to a dramatic crescendo as players scrabbled to assert their dominance. “To be honest, that’s something you’re trying to do in every game,” Wallace says. “Whether you achieve it or not, to a certain degree, is a

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HOW WE MADE A H A N D F U L O F S T A R S

ABOVE Having the biggest army doesn’t necessarily mean winning every battle RIGHT Planets start in random locations, and players can block routes using black holes

or she would be attacked by all the other players, and in a standard wargame that leader would then just lose because they didn’t have the strength to hold off multiple attacks. But in A Handful of Stars, very often you can fend off attacks even in a weakened state. So you can’t just pile up on the leader. If you’re going to do it you need to work up to it, plan it carefully a few turns in advance.”

A HANDFUL OF DOLLARS Wallace is clearly pleased with how A Handful of Stars has turned out, and it looks set to serve as the final instalment of his deckbuilding trilogy. For now he’s focusing on his upcoming project AuZtralia, which sees players battling to rid the country of a host of occupying monsters from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. But while many Lovecraftian games fixate on madness and tentacles, AuZtralia injects a dose of social commentary. “The premise is there’s been a terrible war against the Old Ones,” Wallace says.

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game. You need to take care that you’re not pushing away that potential market. “That sounds a bit callous, but it’s an incentive to be more inclusive of a wider range of people. I think whenever things change, it’s usually because there’s a business case. I mean, my wife’s a vegan, and 20 years ago that was a nightmare. But now there’s money in it, and suddenly there are 132 types of non-milk milk. So, yeah, money talks. It’d be nice if people did things for the right reasons, but money is an incentive, and you have to accept that and be glad that it’s moving in the right direction.” AuZtralia is set to be released later this year by New Zealand-based publisher SchilMil Games after Wallace shut down his own company, Treefrog Games, which had published many of his previous titles. “I’m not really a media-savvy person,” he explains. “I don’t do Twitter, I do very little on Facebook, and in the old days you didn’t have to do that. You just put a game out there, and people would come and buy it. But then in the last couple of years because there’s so much more competition, if you’re not prepared to get out there and shout about your game then it doesn’t matter how good it is, it just doesn’t get noticed. That’s why I’ve stepped away from publishing to just focus on what I’m better at – which is designing games.”

“I’ve taken the view that war tends to act as a social leveller. So we’ve tried to put a significant number of female characters in the game and, rather than just eye-candy in a low-cut top, they have combat abilities, they have resource abilities and so on. We’ve tried to show a wide range of ethnic backgrounds as well. “There certainly has been a debate over how women are objectified in board games, and there are certainly more and more women getting into board games, but if you look at how women are presented in these games, it’s just a complete turn-off. There are also quite a lot of gamers who just don’t possess a full set of social skills. “It’s changing, though. In the old days when I went to a games club, there just wouldn’t be any women. But now there are certainly more coming into the hobby. I think the more women there are, then the more comfortable women feel, and that’s something that needs to be taken into account when you’re designing a

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LEARNING EVOLVED Games aren’t just fun – they can also help you boost your brainpower. Professors and students tell us about the cranium-cramming benefits of Darwinian delight Evolution Words by Anna Blackwell

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OP QUIZ! Name 20 chemical symbols from the periodic table without looking. Name 20 countries in the European Union. Name all original 151 Pokémon. It’s a relatively safe bet that more of you got the third question than the other two. Don’t worry though, there’s a very good reason for that: the names of the pocket monsters are delivered to you in a more interesting way, whether it be through the hugely popular trading card game or long-running series of video games. Games train you to memorise important information so that you can recall it without even thinking. Winning strategies, card combinations, rules – even history and economics (to an extent). These educational powers aren’t a mystery, and traditional and digital designers have already made great progress into turning them into tools (with varying degrees of success). One great example is Evolution, a twoto four-player board game about natural selection and the constantly changing ecosystem. In Evolution players take on the role of unseen designers, controlling and evolving their species to adapt to the environment. Each round, they play cards to attach traits to their species that define their abilities. Traits like ‘carnivore’, which allows species to eat other species; ‘climbing’, which takes the species out of harm’s way; ‘burrowing’, which allows the species to hide once they are fed; and ‘foraging’, which allows the species to take two food instead of one. Once these secret changes have been made they are revealed and relevant food is added to a watering hole in the middle. Players then take it in turns to eat from the plant food in the middle, or eat each other if they can – sometimes to the point of extinction. The round ends once everyone has eaten to their population value. Players then draw more cards, adjust their traits, discard cards to increase population or body size, give a card to the watering hole and continue. The base mechanics are polished to the point of shining and, as is fitting with the theme, there is no winning strategy. If players aren’t discarding high food-value cards to the centre then the need for competition grows and species become carnivorous. In contrast, vast amounts of food see species competing to eat as much as they can, as fast as they can. In the end, the player who has eaten the most food wins.

TEACHER’S PETS But how does Evolution stand as an educational game? As it turns out, even better than anticipated. Stuart West, a professor of evolutionary biology at Oxford University, uses Evolution with

his first-year undergraduates in order to reinforce understanding of the basics of evolutionary biology. The benefits of having students play with these concepts is that it encourages discussion and thought on how natural selection drives evolution, how species adapt to their environment and the concepts of convergent evolution and the evolutionary arms race. This is no accident or happy coincidence. From the outset Evolution has been about education. Its original incarnation, Evolution: The Origin of Species, was a card game/teaching tool designed by Russian biologist Dmitry Knorre. Tabletop publisher North Star Games saw promise in the design but found the initial game “lacking” and worked with Knorre to create something that was “both educational and tactical enough to be played at a competition level”. After taking the game to Kickstarter and smashing its original goal, receiving over 12 times the $10,000 (£7,400) it was asking for, North Star went on to create expansions focusing on birds (Evolution: Flight) and the environment and its effect on evolution (Evolution: Climate), and will soon be releasing a standalone sequel, Oceans: An Evolution Game.

Games train you to memorise important information. When asked about the design of Evolution, lead designer Dominic Crapuchettes happily confides that he and his team “polish and refine a bit too much, but that’s how we like it. We playtest each new card exhaustively.” The game being good to play is not North Star’s only concern. It also has to convey the concepts correctly. “We work closely with experts,” Crapuchettes says. “The next title in the Evolution line is all about the ocean and is being co-designed by a marine biologist!” The research and refinement of these trait cards has made Evolution a streamlined and manageable tool for learning the process of evolution. As players only have a small selection of cards to choose from and must compete for food, they don’t have the luxury of occupying a niche. As species evolve and adapt to the circumstances, the competition once again forces change. Having a species with the ‘warning call’ trait, which prevents predators from attacking species adjacent to the warning call species, can be negated with the ambush trait. Once the predators have defeated

the protective traits, the species is forced to adapt and in such a simple way the concept of the “evolutionary arms-race” is experienced.

PUT TO THE TEST To see firsthand how well Evolution covered these base concepts I brought together some honours-level zoology students from the University of the West of Scotland, got them to play through the game and asked what they thought. To ensure a fair test the group was an equal split of male and female, experienced gamers and played-Monopoly-oncers. Before playing, I asked the group about their opinions on games in education and was pleasantly surprised to hear they all consider them as “useful tools” – a promising step in public awareness of the application of games. However, when asked before they played Evolution at what level they thought these games stopped being useful, most said secondary school. As play progressed, a strange trend emerged. Large carnivores dominated the ground, constantly eating each other and any herbivores that weren’t adequately defended. Yet, the species that routinely ate the most was a tiny climbing herbivore that didn’t change for the entire game as its defences were never challenged and it never grew large enough to be worth the effort of eating. When asked to explain what was happening from an evolutionary standpoint, the students were able to give detailed descriptions of the imaginary species and its environment. As intended, the game allowed the players to interact with and feel the process of evolution in a way that supplemented the textbook learning of the classroom. Afterwards I asked again at what level of education they could see games being useful. The response this time around was more positive, with around a third of the group saying they wished something like it had been available in their first and second years of university. The rest were positive about the experience – but maintained that it’s “more of a high school or college thing”.

BOARD BRAIN Using games to teach is not a new concept but, as the medium matures, its strengths start to show. By actually interacting with the subject matter our understanding of a subject can be improved and while these games aren’t meant to replace traditional teaching methods, they are a fantastic way to supplement them. Oxford University professors use games in their lessons to help students to understand and to promote discussion of ideas – if it’s good enough for the highest-ranking university in the world, then maybe the rest of us ought to catch up.

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BEHIND THE MASKS

More than 30 years after it debuted, Call of Cthulhu’s Masks of Nyarlathotep remains one of the greatest roleplaying adventures ever created. With the globetrotting horror tale returning to drive a new generation of players insane, we revisit a true classic Words by Matt Jarvis Illustrations by Jake Murray, Wayne Miller, Caleb Cleveland, Victor Leza, Jonathan Wyke, Eric Lofgren

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our friend is dead, the murder victim of a sinister cult after he suddenly sent you a telegram calling for help investigating the mysterious fate of the Carlyle Expedition. Finding the answers will take you around the world and risk the loss of your life and sanity – and the total destruction of humanity should you fail. This is the opening to Masks of Nyarlathotep, the epic multi-part Call of Cthulhu campaign first released more than three decades ago in 1984 and universally considered one of the pinnacles of roleplaying storytelling since, collecting the 1996 award for Best Adventure from the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design, the precursor to the Origins Awards. Even Psycho author – and friend of H.P. Lovecraft – Robert Bloch was a fan. Set in 1925 and starring Lovecraft’s shadowy deity Nyarlathotep, Masks was a revelation upon release due to its sweeping tale that saw players globetrot from America and England to Egypt, Kenya, Australia and China, and the non-linear approach used to unfurl its shocking narrative across several interlinked adventures. Masks’ narrative hook of an expedition missing in Africa was inspired, unexpectedly, by Kenyan politician and founding father Jomo Kenyatta, who had been researched by roleplaying author Larry DiTillio while writing a script for children’s television show Against the Odds. DiTillio was later approached by Call of Cthulhu publisher Chaosium to pitch a scenario for its horror RPG and, despite his initial reluctance, eventually came around on the idea of putting together a story. With Kenyatta’s life still fresh in his mind, DiTillio began to write a scenario featuring a group of explorers that had disappeared in Kenya. The multi-country setting grew out of a need to justify how players’ investigators would end up in the African nation, with DiTillio throwing in extra locations based on some of Lovecraft’s stories. Eight months later, the 400-page manuscript submitted by DiTillio was expanded further by the late Lynn Willis, who added detailed background on each of the countries visited along the journey. “Larry understood that Chaosium wanted something different to the Call of Cthulhu books they were putting out at the time – many dealt with sinister New England locales and small hidden-away villages,” Call of Cthulhu line editor Mike Mason reflects today. “So his idea about something set in Africa was the spark that ignited the campaign. What’s more, Lynn was looking to show that Call of Cthulhu could

be played in different ways, so Larry’s pulpinspired story approach to Masks fitted the bill.” Chaosium had previously put out two longerform Call of Cthulhu campaigns, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth and Fungi from Yuggoth, but Masks was something else. Its sprawling, connected tale blew apart the largely episodic nature of its predecessors, handing even more control of the narrative to the whims and decisions of players – including actions that could have consequences in later chapters – and allowing a single plotline to build to a thrilling finale over dozens of hours. After the opening section in New York, players could head to any of Masks’ global locations and find their own path through the story. “One reason why Masks worked so well was that the story was cooked up by a single person who was able to translate that story across differing locales,” Mason suggests. “Often campaigns are written piecemeal, with different writers putting together their scenarios in isolation. Once the parts are complete, someone must gather the scenarios and mesh them

moving hit a positive chord with players around the world,” Mason says. “It’s an epic story that creates epic gameplay – which means great and memorable scenes around the gaming table that players love to recount. It’s become almost a rite of passage for many game masters to run the campaign.”

FRESH HELL This year sees Masks return to terrorise a new wave of players, coming to Call of Cthulhu’s seventh edition in an expanded form. It’s the first major update to the campaign since the 30th anniversary edition hardback, which introduced new artwork but left things otherwise largely unchanged. This time around, Mason and co-authors Lynne Hardy, Paul Fricker and Scott Dorward have revisited and refreshed the entire campaign chapter by chapter, with Mason promising the team added “cool ideas to strengthen the campaign’s narrative” alongside updating its rules to support the seventh edition. Chief among the changes is a brand new chapter set in Peru, which serves as a prologue to the main story and lends greater depth to the character of Jackson Elias, whose research kicks off the core mystery. With props playing a key role in the story, the new edition marks the first time Masks will be printed in full colour, complete with new art, cartography and player handouts – some of which have appeared in the French and Spanish versions of the book in the past. For the first time, the campaign can also be played in Pulp Cthulhu – the rollicking Call of Cthulhu spin-off that toughens up investigators and allows for a more action-heavy tone. Alternative scenes and options for the RPG are included alongside their Call of Cthulhu counterparts, while a set of appendices act as a reference for the campaign’s various spells, items and more – which should make running the notoriously complex story easier for game masters, referred to in-game as ‘Keepers’. “We’ve also strengthened the clue trail to ensure there are no ‘clue bottlenecks’ while also making it easier for the Keeper to keep a handle on the various moving parts of the campaign,” Mason adds. “In terms of running, we feel it’s the most user-friendly version of the campaign to date, with plenty of advice and guidance throughout.” The revised campaign should be a little easier-going on players, too. Masks is infamous for chewing up investigators throughout the

It’s become almost a rite of passage for many GMs to run the campaign.

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together to form the campaign. If this isn’t done carefully, the campaign can feel unconnected and the logic absent. Thus, ensuring different writers are working closely together throughout the entire process is essential; allowing them to contribute ideas to each other’s scenarios means the whole is tighter and better formed. Masks avoided these pitfalls because Larry and Lynn worked closely together.” In fact, the original draft of Masks was so ambitious in scale that its creators ultimately had to leave out an entire sixth chapter set in Australia inspired by Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time due to the size and cost of the book. The missing scenario would finally hit the table in 1987’s Terra Australis supplement, before being reunited with the full campaign in 1996’s The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep. From its initial sold-out run through its equally popular reprints, Masks has remained a consistent hit for generations of roleplayers. “Masks fired up people’s imaginations and its pulp ethic of keeping the pace and story

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course of its brutal story, with a staggering rate of mortality and insanity, and the need to regularly introduce new characters, which can be intimidating for players today. “It was a constant churn of characters, which meant the players often became detached and unconnected to their characters,” admits Mason. “The end result being that many groups failed to ever finish the campaign, abandoning it when they just got fed up with another of their characters dying in an random and uninspired manner.” To improve the life expectancy of investigators on the trail of Nyarlathotep, the new Masks tones down many of the campaign’s most lethal scenes and encounters, particularly reducing the punishment inflicted on players for taking a wrong path and other relatively minor mishaps. Don’t expect an easy ride, though. “We didn’t declaw it fully,” Mason quickly adds. “Certain climactic scenes remain, where the threat of character death is a possibility. Also, by including Pulp Cthulhu optional scenes we were able to up the ante from time to time, as Pulp Cthulhu heroes are more durable and tougher than regular Call of Cthulhu investigators – so, depending on your

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play style preference, you have the option to ramp up certain encounters for pulp play. “Certainly, in whatever style you end up playing, Masks remains a tough campaign – but, now, the concept of deaths by a thousands cuts is diminished and put into the hands of the Keeper. Which, all in all, we hope that the majority of player groups get to enjoy the entire campaign and reach its epic ending.” It’s not just Masks’ gameplay that needed bringing into the 21st century. The original campaign suffered from outmoded treatment of gender and race – even in the context of its historical setting. “Most of the original characters were male, which didn’t really reflect society or history,” says Mason. “We’ve refitted some of the characters to better reflect reality, as well as adding further details on the different locales, providing more in-depth background for the settings and the period in which the campaign takes place. “We also addressed ethnic portrayals to ensure balance and fair representation. We researched the various settings and historical portrayals to ensure these are as correct as possible, tweaking and rewriting as necessary to ensure accurate and sympathetic portrays of the differing communities and locales. I

personally spent a great deal of time looking up old maps from 1925 of various places to ensure authenticity in terms of location and travel.”

HORROR COMES HOME Chaosium had already been planning to bring back Masks in an updated form for Call of Cthulhu when another way to tell the story anew arose. Mega-studio Fantasy Flight contacted the publisher with the idea to bring the campaign to Eldritch Horror, a descendant of Call of Cthulhu board game spin-off Arkham Horror – making the proposed project a reunion of sorts. The board game expansion takes its cues from the roleplaying campaign’s groundbreaking structure, adding a campaign mode that tracks the group’s progress over multiple chapters as their actions dictate the ultimate fate of the world. Players get to explore their characters’ histories further, too, with personal stories developing their background and ties to the action. It doesn’t quite have the depth of an RPG – but it’s not a bad way to get a taste of the story in just an evening or two, either. “The storyline is more abridged, as there just isn’t the room to tell all the levels of the story,” Mason says. “Of course, this also means the game is quicker to play while providing a fun

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BABY ‘TEPS

Call of Cthulhu line editor Mike Mason recalls his own introduction to Masks and offers some tips to those taking on the adventure for the first time

experience. In Call of Cthulhu, the experience is different: the full story can be played out, including sidetracks and red herrings. It’s a deeper, often more personal experience. If you’ve been playing through the full Masks campaign, then its climax will be that much more rewarding. That’s not to say the board game version isn’t rewarding too, it’s just a different experience and still lots of fun. “While the experience can never be so freeform and unrestricted as in the Call of Cthulhu version of Masks, the board game version hits other highs – for one, you can play the entire campaign in a single night! Thus, we see both working in unison. You can enjoy many sessions of play and deeper levels of understanding with the Call of Cthulhu campaign, while also enjoying an entirely different style of play and take on the campaign with Eldritch Horror in a simpler and easy to pick up manner. “We expect many people may first encounter Masks through the Fantasy Flight version, who will then be turned onto the mystery of the Carlyle Expedition and wish to play through the full campaign using Call of Cthulhu. Why enjoy only one version when you can play both? You might fail at one but achieve success in the other!”

“My first encounter was as a player back in 1985, soon after its release. My school friends and I gathered each Friday evening to play and muddle our way through the campaign’s twists and turns. We didn’t fare very well, I’m afraid, and came to a quite a messy end – meaning we didn’t save the world! I remember that my first investigator in the game ended up being sacrificed to the Outer Gods in a rather unspeakable way. Despite our poor attempt to uncover the mystery of the Carlyle Expedition, we had great fun and still talk about those game sessions today. “There are so many elements in Masks that I like. But, for me, the London chapter has always been close to my heart. It has one of the best villains in it, and also includes two ‘sidetrack’ mini scenarios unconnected with the core campaign, which allow the players to let off some steam and chase a red herring or two. There are also some fabulous setpieces in the campaign that are grand in scale and turn Call of Cthulhu’s usual cultist gatherings on their head. Oh, and one more cool thing is the range of non-player characters, each with their own motives and agendas, who are just fun to play as the Keeper. As I say, there really are too many just downright cool things in the campaign! “If you are planning to run the campaign, read the whole thing through first. It’s key to understand the interdependencies and motivations of the main characters, all of which are helpfully summarised in the campaign. Prep game sessions by making some bullet-point notes of the key

information, encounters, and characters the players should find in that session – as there are often a number of moving parts going on, having these aid memories can be a real help to ensure you don’t forget stuff. “Also, don’t fuss about the little stuff. There’s no need to worry overly about the investigators’ finances or how they sometimes get from A to B in terms of travel; the core of Call of Cthulhu gaming isn’t about accounting. Keep things apace and on track. Of course, all of this is covered in more detail in the actual campaign guidance, so be sure to pay attention to the advice given, which stems from years of experience running Call of Cthulhu and this campaign in particular.”

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Life on Mars? Settling the Red Planet may still sound like sci-fi, but ambitious games like Terraforming Mars are increasingly taking inspiration from real life

the science embedded within Terraforming Mars. Cards such as “space elevator,” “nitrogen-rich asteroid” and “extremophiles” were thought to be not only well balanced in terms of game mechanics, but also accurate with regards to the science that they depicted. Many of these cards led to further discussions about the complexity and necessity of terraforming Mars. Our conversations echoed those currently taking place at NASA, ESA and other international space agencies, and in private enterprises such as Virgin Galactic and SpaceX. As James Green, director of NASA’s planetary sciences division, recently stated: orth ngw Illi Sam and Doctors Paul Wake “The solar system is ours, let’s take it, and that, of course, includes Mars. But for humans to acob Fryxelius’ Terraforming Mars be able to explore Mars, together with us doing sees players take on the role of science, we need a better environment.” giant corporations tasked with The science behind Terraforming Mars is, turning the Red Planet into a world of course, largely conjecture. While the “global capable of supporting human life. parameters” have their basis in existing scientific This remarkable feat, performed over many research, they are, nonetheless speculative. This generations, is achieved by increasing the oxygen is entirely fitting for a project that the scientific level, raising the temperature and manufacturing community regards as an ongoing future project. oceans on Mars. The game ends when the Fryxelius, a trained chemist, is clearly attuned previously inhospitable environment is considered to the ways in which Terraforming Mars draws on habitable – once it meets minimum “global scientific principles, a fact that the faux-scientific parameters” for terran life – and the corporation article currently hosted on the FryxGames that contributed the most to the endeavour (the website, and attributed to a certain J. Jacob player holding the highest “terraforming rating”) Fryxelius, department of materials science, Mars wins. While the game has been recognised for Free University, makes abundantly clear. ‘On the its compelling gameplay – it was nominated absorption of cosmic radiation by employment for the prestigious Kennerspiel des Jahres – its of fullerene-bound 2-(2,6-dihydroxophenyl) underpinning science and inspirational subject benzaldehyde,’ published in ‘The Journal of matter are also worthy of note. Terraforming (2376 AD)’, addresses the issue of In a recent workshop that we ran for the the much-needed radiation protection of Mars Institute of Physics (on the use of tabletop games (something missing from the game’s essential to communicate science), the participants were global parameters). The first reference in this impressed by the sophistication and accuracy of fictional article is to Kim Stanley Robinson,

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author of the Mars trilogy and the person whom Fryxelius cites as his source main of inspiration. (Another telling sign of Robinson’s influence is that the players in the manual’s examples are “Kim,” “Stanley” and “Robinson”.) Robinson’s Mars trilogy, which charts the terraforming of Mars over a period of two centuries, presents a largely-utopian view of the settlement of Mars, contrasted with the dystopian future that is simultaneously playing out on Earth. Robinson’s fiction is discussed by McKenzie Wark in his book Molecular Red (2015), which proposes an alternative to our current global situation, making the argument that Robinson’s Martian utopia presents a powerful resource for rethinking and remaking the world that climate change has wrought. This utopian world(s)view is echoed in Terraforming Mars, which despite its competitive nature has at its core a collaborative and almost altruistic mechanic. All of which poses the question: should we should we be investing time, money and science on creating a liveable planet on Mars, or just leave it to the sci-fi writers and instead focus our scientific endeavours on trying to make the one that we live on now more habitable? A consideration of this necessary pragmatism (or wilful escapism) is a timely and complicated issue, and Terraforming Mars allows players to explore such scenarios in a meaningful and scientifically accurate manner. Something which is no doubt at least partly responsible for its critical and commercial success. Paul Wake and Sam Illingworth are Manchester Metropolitan University academics and codirectors of the Games Research Network

Terraforming Mars includes references to both fictional works and real-life science

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Since there is a large amount of variety in the crew of the Enterprise, combined with matching uniforms, this guide is split into general sections covering the uniforms and tech, but splitting the skin, hair and other details into different sections. This will allow us to cover every element of each crew member, giving you a guide for the full boxset contents.

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February 2018

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of 132 pages

BATTLE FOR ROKUGAN

Legend of the Five Rings expands with an excellent area control spin-off. Or are we just bluffing? Designer: Molly Glover, Tom Jolly |

Artist: Mathias Kollros, Francesca

Baerald, Nele Diel, ShenFei

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ot on the heels of its recent living card game revival, Legend of the Five Rings’ next major franchise instalment is Battle for Rokugan – a taut area control board game that stands alone as a truly fantastic experience. If you’re already a fan of Legend of the Five Rings, you’ll find rough sketches of the seven competing clans’ broad strategies in their slightly asymmetrical special abilities and pools of combat tokens used for wresting control of the map’s various provinces – and the victory-sealing honour that comes with them. It’s just enough to root the conflict in a wider world that feels more believable and vibrant, without throwing off the careful gameplay balance or leaving total newcomers feeling lost. Learning the ropes is easy, with combat largely coming down to a straight battle of numbers – attack with more strength than your opponent has defence, and you’ll claim that province. Each type of combat token has slightly different rules – armies must attack over land, naval tokens operate only along coasts, the rarer shinobi can strike anywhere and so on – and is placed facedown to signify its intent, before all players’ tokens are revealed and resolved simultaneously. This is where Battle for Rokugan’s real joy comes into play, as where – and,

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WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ Game board ◗ 22 territory cards ◗ 10 initiative cards ◗ Seven daimyō screens ◗ 12 secret

objective cards

◗ First player card ◗ 189 combat tokens ◗ Five shugenja cards ◗ 10 scout cards ◗ 210 control tokens ◗ Four honour

bonus tokens

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safeguarding it from future attacks but potentially sacrificing a tactical advantage during future battles. Taking over an entire territory can grant a huge advantage, as each collection of lands unlocks a single-use power for the controlling player to use. The abilities feel fittingly formidable and satisfying to execute, but are only held onto as long as that player has total control – meaning waiting to use them to their full advantage can be very risky. Each player also starts with a very limited supply of scouts and shugenja that let them spy on some of their opponents’ tokens, plus a secret objective that’s revealed during endgame scoring for a potential last twist in the final standings. Funnily enough for a spin-off to a living card game, the cardplay is kept to a bare minimum, leaving the focus on the placement of tokens, but the small number, restricted use and great power of the cards means that every one lands with a huge impact. The combination of straightforward basics, the chance for deceptive mind games, and just a smidge of luck and asymmetry works an absolute charm: Battle for Rokugan is 90 or so minutes of exhilarating Oh My God!-ness, air-punching triumph and head-inhands regret (with laughter) as traps Games are sprung, plans go astray and bigaren’t just fun – they can also you moments pop off in every help round. boost your brainpowe Professors r. That’s no bluff. and students tell us about the cranium-c MATT JARVIS ramming

crucially, when – you put your tokens down becomes a tense standoff and clash of wits between players. Could the token attacking your province be a powerful army needing to be fought off with ample defence? Or could it simply be a distraction to draw your forces away from a surprise attack elsewhere during the final placement? You’ll need to constantly guess and second-guess your rivals, especially as every player always has a blank bluffing token hidden with the rest of their ‘hand’ behind their screen, presenting a constant opportunity to mislead and deceive. It’s a tight, thrilling experience that keeps up the pressure throughout its very reasonable running time and gets especially explosive during the fifth benefits of Darwinian delight and final round, as players unleash Evolution WE SAY Words by Anna Blackwell a last-ditch effort to take over entire There’s no need to already be a Legend territories or block their rivals’ control. of the Five Rings fan to enjoy Battle Particularly brutal are the rare raid for Rokugan as a brilliant game of tokens, which completely decimate planning, deception and strategy. The easy-to-grasp gameplay means the an area for the rest of the game riveting showdowns between players and remove all combat and control get to shine, while the tight play time tokens, while the equally uncommon and differences between the clans and diplomacy tokens permanently forbid territory powers leave plenty of reasons all combat in – or out – of a region, to come back time and time again.

LEARNI EVOLVENG D

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… GAME OF THRONES: THE BOARD

GAME Want a game that lets you conquer the world as you trick and outwit your friends? Battle for Rokugan lets you do it all in under a couple of hours.

February 2018

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February 2018

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As the choose-your-own-adventure epic approaches its finale, co-creator Bruno Sautter considers what’s next

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Words by Matt Jarvis

runo Sautter and Ludovic Roudy began working on what would eventually become The 7th Continent in the spring of 2013, but the game’s full story stretches back decades – even further than the 20 years the co-designers have been collaborating – bedding its roots in childhoods spent reading Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, playing old-school RPGs and exploring computer adventure-puzzler Myst. “We are children of the board game and video game worlds,” Sautter says. “We’ve played almost everything – not every game, but every type of game. So we’ve come through Magic: The Gathering, we went to video games and very different video games; so from Might & Magic or, back in the day, old RPG games, Baldur’s Gate and stuff like that. We’ve been through roleplaying games, card games, wargames etc. etc., so we have a culture of all those aspects and we try to take from them what was needed for our whole purpose.”

It was this shared adoration of playing in its many aspects that led the pair to meet and eventually begin to create their own game in 2000, before the project was waylaid by their formation of a digital communications agency turning out websites for major French businesses. “We worked for Disneyland, Orange, the French Oscars – companies like that,” Sautter explains. “It was all about making websites that were entertaining, with lots of interactive video and stuff like that.” The passion for games remained, although it took almost a decade to boil back to the surface. “After about eight years we wanted to make games again because we had somehow gone a bit too far from what we really enjoyed, which was making games,” Sautter recalls. This culminated in the creation of publisher Serious Poulp in 2010 and the studio’s first release, Steam Torpedo: First Contact, a small two-player submarine battle game that took around a year and a half to make as a result of the pair’s all-in attitude.

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THE 7TH CONTINENT

“We do everything together,” Sautter says. “Ludovic does all the artwork, I write all the content – we just work with some people to translate, proofread, manufacture and stuff like that. Every game we make takes a lot of time because it’s just the two of us.” While it wasn’t a massive hit, Steam Torpedo had helped establish the fledgling publisher. It was followed a couple of years later by a second modest success, 2013’s fighting card game 8 Masters’ Revenge. “Our first two games they were... well, people liked them, but it was not enough to live, to pay ourselves a salary out of it,” Sautter admits. “So we figured out: what can we do to ensure our future and ensure we can live and get some money to eat, basically?” They would find their answer in The 7th Continent.

7TH HEAVEN Heavily inspired by choose-your-own-adventure books, The 7th Continent drops players onto a mysterious landmass and sets them forth in search of a cure to the curse afflicting them. It’s an objective that can take several multi-hour sessions to achieve – but Sautter stresses that simply ‘winning’ isn’t the point. “The game is not about the goal, it’s about the journey,” he insists. “The story is not about what’s happening in the end, because the end is obviously something that comes, and when it comes it just says ‘Victory!’ and then you have a small conclusion text. It’s not the purpose of living the adventure for

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OPPOSITE Players can spend more than a dozen hours trying to cure their character’s curse – but death means starting back at the beginning BELOW The 7th Continent’s ‘choose-your-own-path’ format is card-driven

15 hours. It’s not a thriller movie; that’s not the kind of adventure we wanted. We wanted people to have stories to tell of their own, not tell what was our story. It seemed logical that people wouldn’t know much about the story of the continent, so we’ve spread some clues in the game so you can find them or not.” Driving players’ exploration of the environment are hundreds of numbered cards that begin to form a complete map of the area as they’re revealed – some have pre-determined areas, while others present random encounters. The ‘choose-your-own-path’ system harkens directly back to the ‘turn to page’ directions of gamebooks – and has proved to be so successful that its creators have even applied to patent it in the US. “We’ve worked so much on it that we just can’t afford someone to just come and [copy it],” Sautter says. “There are lots of other boundaries to get behind because it’s a tremendous amount of work and you need to know everything. Every mechanism is so related to others. It’s pretty difficult to jump in a project of this scale like this for someone who would like to do something like a game like this one. It would be pretty difficult.” Despite being the beating heart of the game, Sautter says that the exploration system was the “easiest part of the project”. What was harder

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was giving players the ability to interact with each section of the world while providing enough forward momentum to stop them being able to poke into every corner of the world in a single playthrough. “It’s very difficult to balance a game of this scale, especially because you are so free to do whatever you want,” Sautter explains. “It’s very difficult to make sure that people are doing it properly. Most of the time when people die in the game it’s because they chose not to follow tips we gave them or they chose to explore everything and they forgot the purpose of the game, which is not to explore all of the continent. “You are not here to just walk around, you’re here to – for instance – reach the Voracious Goddess and then figure out what she wants from you. So every curse was meant to do something a bit specific, although there are many ways to do it differently; you don’t have to go with one route.” Actions are resolved using a deck of cards that players draw from to check whether they’re successful. Most actions allow players to draw as many cards as they want, but risk using up the deck faster – eventually leading to a complete loss of the game and the need to restart from the beginning. “We didn’t want everything to be just rolling dice, because when we read the Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy books, we just skipped the fighting part because it’s not very interesting,” Sautter says. “So we had to figure out a system that would say when you do an action you can always succeed but it will be the end of you earlier than you expect. “When you do an action, you don’t want to cheat, because as you do the action it’s useless to cheat

because you can succeed just by drawing more cards. What you don’t know – or at least don’t realise – is that if you draw too many cards then you will die sooner than expected. So it creates this kind of ‘I don’t want to cheat’ mechanism. “It frustrates some people, yes, but all the feeling you get from the survival aspect, meaning you have this action deck and it’s going to lose its cards, only works if you have the pressure of knowing you might actually lose something. And what you lose is real time in your real life. “What today seems very logical and pretty straightforward took us maybe two full months for our two big heads to figure out.”

The game is not about the goal, it’s about the journey.

KICK IT

The 7th Continent was a project several magnitudes more ambitious than the games Sautter and Roudy had made before, but the two men were heartened by the swelling number of Kickstarter campaigns bringing in thousands – and even millions – of dollars for ideas that would’ve seemed overly ambitious even a few years before. “When we heard about the first season of Zombicide, it was like a revelation for us,” Sautter recalls. “We said: ‘Okay, now a board game can be launched and we can skip retailers and distributors, so we’ll have in the end enough money. Although we [might not] sell many, many copies, we should have enough money to keep on making board games.’ At the same time, Kickstarter was all about digital communication, as well – it felt like we were meant for Kickstarter, and Kickstarter was meant for us. “What we love as game designers is to go for crazy big projects that are completely– not realistic, but

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THE 7TH CONTINENT

People have told us they felt like they were 12 again and reading their chooseyour-ownadventure books and stuff like that.

with no limits. We wanted to do a game that we couldn’t do if we went to retail, meaning we could spend two years working on it before launching the Kickstarter. Because in the end we knew that if the Kickstarter was successful, it would be worth it. So it was a big risk at the beginning because we spent two years working on the core mechanics of a game that could have never been found. In which case we would’ve been in big trouble.” Two years after they began to outline The 7th Continent, the pair launched their project onto the crowdfunding platform. The risk paid off: The 7th Continent’s first campaign made €1.2 million – more than 24 times its €50,000 target. As it found its way into the hands of backers last year, its reception quickly mirrored its financial feat, rocketing the game up BoardGameGeek’s rankings, where it now sits as the sixth highest-rated thematic title and the 38th best-rated game overall on the website. A second Kickstarter, which included both a reprint of the core box and new expansion What Goes Up, Must Come Down, solidified this success by raising an extra $7.1 million. While the millions have had a concrete effect in securing the future of Serious Poulp, Sautter is insistent that the greatest reward is the realisation of a lifelong dream for him and his creative partner. “We took a big risk and it paid off and that’s really, really satisfying to see; what we thought people might like actually happened and they happened to like it,” he reflects. “It’s very rewarding in itself. It’s not only about the money or the amount of people, it’s more about having people telling us they’ve experienced stuff from their childhood that came up because they felt like they were 12 again and reading their chooseyour-own-adventure books and stuff like that.”

AT THE END OF THE WORLD With The 7th Continent riding high on a wave of critical acclaim and popularity, you might expect that its

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creators would be keen to keep copies of the game flowing into the hands of those only just discovering it. Surprisingly, Sautter says that, instead, last year’s What Goes Up, Must Come Down Kickstarter may be the last time the game is available – with its exclusivity to the crowdfunding campaigns assigning it a destiny as a hard-to-find cult hit. “It’s very, very likely,” Sautter confirms. “We don’t know yet for 100% sure, because I don’t want to close too many doors before we have moved to something else. But, yes, the plan is to focus on developing what we call the choose-your-own-path system.” Although Sautter is understandably reticent when it comes to discussing what could follow The 7th Continent, he hints at two potential directions in which the game’s mechanics could head. “We plan to release – once we are completely done with The 7th Continent, once our backers get their rewards and we take care of customer service etc. – we are going to work on another universe,” he reveals. “It’s likely going to be sci-fi or medieval fantasy: med-fan. But we don’t know that yet. We have several ideas, but it’s too early to talk about them.” It’s not hard to see the ‘choose-your-own-path’ format being applied to countless different settings and genres, just as the proliferation of gamebooks decades ago sought out endless inspiration from fantasy, sci-fi, horror and more. Sautter says that the gameplay would adapt to suit wherever players explore next. “There are things that are very attached or linked or bound to the current universe,” the designer considers. “For instance, the curses are something that work very well in our 7th Continent. It might not work as well in a sci-fi or med-fan universe, so we are likely to change this so you have another way to lose the game. It won’t necessarily go through the action deck, running out of cards. Same thing for all the inventory aspects of the game; crafting items and stuff wouldn’t work so well if you are a warlord, paladin or wizard in a med-fan

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universe because you wouldn’t craft your sword, obviously – you’d find one. So this kind of stuff that is really related to the craft, survival, exploration aspect of The 7th Continent might evolve. “What we will keep is definitely all the numbered stuff, such as having numbered cards, having gold cards, having hidden numbers, random events – all this stuff would work in any universe. Then we’d have to adjust items, action deck etc. for a new universe. It’s a bit too soon to talk about, because we just don’t know for sure, so we have to try it. When we went into how this game system could evolve, these are a few of the ideas we had, but then it will be tested and playtested. We won’t know for sure until it’s done.”

WE HAVE TO GO BACK With years of their lives and boundless passion invested in the world of The 7th Continent,, it’s hard to image Sautter and Roudy leaving behind their sprawling creation forever. One route back into the 7th Continent universe could be with a different style of game, as Isaac Childres plans to do in the upcoming Founders of Gloomhaven, a workerplacement prequel to the legacy adventure game. Sautter remains adamant. “All doors remain open until we close them for sure,” he concedes. “But I would say it’s unlikely. For one, the 7th Continent is a pretty lost island, so you couldn’t bring too many people or turn it into some kind of Jurassic Park place with lots of tourists or people because of the very story of the continent. So it’s difficult to... I wouldn’t say no, but I think we’d rather use some of the mechanics – for example, the action deck mechanic was a success. This is something we might use in other types of games

TOP Played cards gradually reveal the map of the 7th Continent, but you won’t find every secret in a single playthrough LEFT A flexible system means characters are able to perform a huge variety of actions

than choose-your-own-path board games, but the universe itself, it’s unlikely.” The designers’ wave goodbye to their universe comes down to the same craving they felt decades ago as they made their way through – the constant search for something new and exciting, a new world awaiting discovery. “The thing with The 7th Continent is that the bigger part of the adventure – the continent itself, which is in the base box – can be enlarged thanks to new expansions and stuff, but you can never, unless you do a new standalone box, have a feeling of such a big place to discover from scratch again,” Sautter says. “What we want to do in our future games is bring basically a new world to explore, because the funniest part is to discover, ‘Oh my god, a new jungle or new forest or swamp or icy mountains’ or whatever. This unfortunately is not doable anymore for The 7th Continent unless we just release a new base box with new cards. “I think it’s the end of the adventure for The 7th Continent, because the continent has achieved its goal. People have seen it, explored it; some of them have really explored it and seen almost everything that was seeable but have spent more than 100 hours doing so. They’ve gone through all curses and then fought all curses together. Sometimes I see the feedback from people and I’m like, ‘Wow, you must’ve played so many, many hours to get to this part.’ “Also, as game designers, we want to try new stuff, and since we love also universes and we’ve created this big game, we can make it evolve in very different directions. So we as game designers want to explore new universes as well.”

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HEARTH AND SOUL Hearthstone has taken the world by storm with its digital take on collectible card games. Its latest expansion sees it tackle another tabletop favourite: the dungeon crawler. But can an app really live up to the experience of physical gaming? Words by Matt Jarvis

F

or a game that began as an experiment, it might still be a bit of an understatement to call Hearthstone ‘successful’. Since the digital card game launched on PC at the start of 2014, its player count has rocketed to 70 million people. To put things in context, that’s more than three times the 20 million players fellow card-battler Magic: The Gathering had at last count. It’s an audience that has quickly seen the game blur the increasingly fuzzy line between physical and digital games. It’s now not uncommon to see Hearthstone discussions pop up in online tabletop forums (often without the scorn typically reserved for screens) or Fireside Gatherings – the game’s inperson social events – regularly held at shops and cafés usually devoted to all things cardboard. Listening to Hearthstone’s creators discuss their devotion to reproducing the feel of holding cards in your hand, it’s not hard to see why the game has found such a following among analogue addicts. “There’s so much time and effort put into making these things feel physical and look tangible,” says art director Ben Thompson, a card game veteran who previously worked on the

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physical World of Warcraft Trading Card Game. “They’re worn and torn and used and loved, but at the same time kind of revered and kept safe.” The dopamine hits Magic and Star Wars: Destiny deliver with the crinkle and gloss of foil boosters, Hearthstone finds in tapping on virtual bundles that swell and burst, revealing a handful of the game’s 1,300-plus cards. “We talked a lot [about] what those seminal moments are in a game where players get the most excitement and pack opening was universally one of those points where everybody leaned in a little bit,” Thompson recalls. “We had people who can still tell you the exact feel of the foil beneath the

fingers and there’s some people that swear they can tell what set certain packs came from when they smell the ink. All of that was intended to be replicated in the digital space.”

TO KOBOLDY GO Hearthstone’s latest expansion, Kobolds & Catacombs, burrows the digital creation even further beneath the analogue world, drawing this time from the dungeon-crawler

Hearthstone’s cards and booster packs are designed to feel like real, physical objects

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HEARTHSTONE HOTSHOT James ‘Jambre’ Brennan is one of the UK’s top Hearthstone players and a member of the Manchester-based Diabolus eSports team. He tells us how he went from a CCG newbie to competing at a professional level

How did you get into Hearthstone? Initially I got into Hearthstone in the closed beta. I hadn’t really played any sort of CCGs before, so this was my first one. When I actually very first played it, I had my friend with me who had played quite a lot of Magic: The Gathering, so he kind of had an idea of how this sort of game would work. I really enjoyed the game and got into the competitive nature of it very early and all about the tactical side of the game. I didn’t really do it competitively for about a year or so, and then I started taking part in some tournaments. I did pretty well; I thought maybe I’d give it more of a go! Did the way you play change when you started competing professionally? Yes! There was a lot more effort put into things when you’re not actually playing the tournament – things like preparation, which was something that I wasn’t really doing before. Things like just analysing the metagame as a whole, taking a look at that – that’s a different kind of skill aspect that I obviously wouldn’t be doing at all if I was a casual player. What advice would you give to new players? I’d say look out there for content on YouTube and Twitch and things. The best way to learn is hearing another player tell you their thought process, that sort of thing. You’ll be able to see some sort of fun things that they’re doing and maybe have a go at that, as well.

genre often defined on the tabletop by dicechucking, miniatures and D&D-style grid maps with a Dungeon Run mode of successive boss encounters. It’s not the most obvious direction for a virtual CCG to take. “We knew we wanted it to be about loot, treasure and those kind of things,” Thompson explains. “That was really the bare bones. In fact, early on, the nickname for it was ‘Lootapalooza’; it was just loot all the time, treasure and things like that. “As we started talking about those kind of things, it started to harken back to memories of feeling like those old fantasy games.” Hearthstone’s tabletop ties harken back to the early days of developer Blizzard, when the budding studio’s three founders would get together and play card games on the carpet of the office. More than 25 years on, the tradition continues. “There’s a bunch of people on the team who have, like, board game afternoons or lunches,” says senior Hearthstone designer Peter Whalen. Among the tabletop games played in the background of Kobolds & Catacombs’ delve into dungeon-diving was Gloomhaven, with the

Hearthstone group gathering to tackle the epic legacy adventure game together once a week. “Kobolds & Catacombs is our love letter to the whole fantasy dungeon-crawl set; the idea of what it’s like to re-experience that kind of tabletop gaming type of feel,” Thompson says. “For those who spent a lot of time tabletop gaming growing up, as we did, this is the set where you’re going to find a lot of that nostalgia come to bear.” Despite Hearthstone’s latest world championship having just handed out its $1 million prize pool and the game’s booming figures showing little sign of slowing anytime soon, its team is keen to not become complacent. Having successfully challenged the idea of what a collectible card game and dungeon-crawler can be, there’s little limit on where the game could go next. “There’s a vision in the sense that we have a sense of where we want Hearthstone to go,” Whalen says. “We’ve got an idea for what Hearthstone is and what isn’t Hearthstone, as well. But within that, Hearthstone’s huge; there’s a huge amount of space that is Hearthstone that we can explore and try out and kind of push the boundaries.”

Do you have a favourite card or deck? My favourite all-time card is Dragon Egg. [It summons 2/1 Black Whelps whenever it’s damaged.] That’s no longer in the standard rotation. Currently I play a lot with a card called Dread Corsair, which gets its mana cost reduced if you have a weapon in hand. I’m known mostly for paladin decks, tempo-driven ones. So that’ll be what I’m playing mostly. But other sort of similar play styles is what I enjoy the most. How has the competitive scene changed since you started playing? There’s a lot more resources out there for analysing and things like that. What tends to happen is that metagames get ‘solved’ a lot faster and then it’s all about optimising the decks, making little tweaks. That process happens a lot quicker. So a lot of the best players are ones who can get to that stage quicker than other people. What are your competitive plans this year? I’m going to be putting a big focus on the Blizzard-run events, trying to play as many of those as I can and hopefully go to the next world championships.

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PLAYED

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67

74 FALLOUT

65 CHARTERSTONE

75 TALES FROM THE LOOP: OUR FRIENDS THE MACHINES & OTHER MYSTERIES

67 GENESYS 69 FIRST MARTIANS: ADVENTURES ON THE RED PLANET 70 GAIA PROJECT 71 KHAN OF KHANS 72 A GAME OF THRONES: CATAN – BROTHERHOOD OF THE WATCH 73 LEGACY OF DRAGONHOLT

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64 BATTLE FOR ROKUGAN 66 PANDEMIC: RISING TIDE

February 2018

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76 HARRY POTTER: HOGWARTS BATTLE 77 THROUGH THE DESERT 78 FOG OF LOVE 79 STAR SAGA 80 SMILE 81 BREAKING BAD: THE BOARD GAME 81 WHO SHOULD WE EAT?

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P L AY E D

BATTLE FOR ROKUGAN

Legend of the Five Rings expands with an excellent area control spin-off. Or are we just bluffing?

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IT

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ot on the heels of its recent living card game revival, Legend of the Five Rings’ next major franchise instalment is Battle for Rokugan – a taut area control board game that stands alone as a truly fantastic experience. If you’re already a fan of Legend of the Five Rings, you’ll find rough sketches of the seven competing clans’ broad strategies in their slightly asymmetrical special abilities and pools of combat tokens used for wresting control of the map’s various provinces – and the victory-sealing honour that comes with them. It’s just enough to root the conflict in a wider world that feels more believable and vibrant, without throwing off the careful gameplay balance or leaving total newcomers feeling lost. Learning the ropes is easy, with combat largely coming down to a straight battle of numbers – attack with more strength than your opponent has defence, and you’ll claim that province. Each type of combat token has slightly different rules – armies must attack over land, naval tokens operate only along coasts, the rarer shinobi can strike anywhere and so on – and is placed facedown to signify its intent, before all players’ tokens are revealed and resolved simultaneously. This is where Battle for Rokugan’s real joy comes into play, as where – and,

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WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ Game board ◗ 22 territory cards ◗ 10 initiative cards ◗ Seven daimyō screens ◗ 12 secret

objective cards

◗ First player card ◗ 189 combat tokens ◗ Five shugenja cards ◗ 10 scout cards ◗ 210 control tokens ◗ Four honour

bonus tokens

◗ Four defence

bonus tokens

◗ Shrine token ◗ Harbour token ◗ Battlefield token ◗ 15 peace tokens ◗ 15 scorched

earth tokens ◗ Round track token

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Designer: Molly Glover, Tom Jolly | Artist: Mathias Kollros, Francesca Baerald, Nele Diel, ShenFei

O R'S C H OI

crucially, when – you put your tokens down becomes a tense standoff and clash of wits between players. Could the token attacking your province be a powerful army needing to be fought off with ample defence? Or could it simply be a distraction to draw your forces away from a surprise attack elsewhere during the final placement? You’ll need to constantly guess and second-guess your rivals, especially as every player always has a blank bluffing token hidden with the rest of their ‘hand’ behind their screen, presenting a constant opportunity to mislead and deceive. It’s a tight, thrilling experience that keeps up the pressure throughout its very reasonable running time and gets especially explosive during the fifth and final round, as players unleash a last-ditch effort to take over entire territories or block their rivals’ control. Particularly brutal are the rare raid tokens, which completely decimate an area for the rest of the game and remove all combat and control tokens, while the equally uncommon diplomacy tokens permanently forbid all combat in – or out – of a region,

90m

2-5

14+

£40

safeguarding it from future attacks but potentially sacrificing a tactical advantage during future battles. Taking over an entire territory can grant a huge advantage, as each collection of lands unlocks a single-use power for the controlling player to use. The abilities feel fittingly formidable and satisfying to execute, but are only held onto as long as that player has total control – meaning waiting to use them to their full advantage can be very risky. Each player also starts with a very limited supply of scouts and shugenja that let them spy on some of their opponents’ tokens, plus a secret objective that’s revealed during endgame scoring for a potential last twist in the final standings. Funnily enough for a spin-off to a living card game, the cardplay is kept to a bare minimum, leaving the focus on the placement of tokens, but the small number, restricted use and great power of the cards means that every one lands with a huge impact. The combination of straightforward basics, the chance for deceptive mind games, and just a smidge of luck and asymmetry works an absolute charm: Battle for Rokugan is 90 or so minutes of exhilarating Oh My God!-ness, air-punching triumph and head-inhands regret (with laughter) as traps are sprung, plans go astray and big moments pop off in every round. That’s no bluff. MATT JARVIS

WE SAY There’s no need to already be a Legend of the Five Rings fan to enjoy Battle for Rokugan as a brilliant game of planning, deception and strategy. The easy-to-grasp gameplay means the riveting showdowns between players get to shine, while the tight play time and differences between the clans and territory powers leave plenty of reasons to come back time and time again.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… GAME OF THRONES: THE BOARD GAME

Want a game that lets you conquer the world as you trick and outwit your friends? Battle for Rokugan lets you do it all in under a couple of hours.

February 2018

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WHAT’S IN THE BOX? ◗ Village board

(double-sided)

◗ Advancement mat ◗ Objective mat ◗ Index tuckbox

(magnetised)

◗ Scriptorium tuckbox ◗ Archive tuckbox ◗ Six Charter

Chest tuckboxes

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CHARTERSTONE

IT

The latest effort from the creator of Scythe builds beautifully on the legacy genre Designer: Jamey Stegmaier | Artist: David Forest, Lina Cossette, Gong Studios

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ith the rise of the legacy game, tabletoppers are now exposed to the same experience-tarnishing conversational dangers as fans of movies and TV, who have long suffered those awful “he’s a ghost” or “her dad’s the killer” moments. However, you could argue that being told about that thing which happens in Month X of Pandemic Legacy is even more ruinous than someone letting slip a Game of Thrones plot twist. After all, TV shows and movies are inherently rewatchable; you can still enjoy them even if you know what’s coming. But unless you buy a whole new box, the card-tearing, board-graffiti’ing legacy campaign is a one-time deal. Interestingly, Jamey ‘Scythe’ Stegmaier’s entry to the genre has been calibrated in such a way that that doesn’t have to be the case. The worker-placement Charterstone involves its players not only competitively building a village together, but also effectively building their own game. Once you’ve placed your last worker, adhered your final building sticker to the board, added the ultimate rule-tweak to the slowly evolving 'Chronicle' and concluded the story, you’ll be left with a unique worker-placement game that you can

play again and again, as if it were your very own Lords of Waterdeep. There is nothing destructive about Charterstone. You don’t tear up cards, you simply stash them away in the archive box – especially useful if you decide to purchase a Charterstone Recharge Pack (for around £25), flip the board over to its other, identical side and restart the whole campaign. Stegmaier – ever attentive to gamers’ needs, ever the innovator – has built a considerate flexibility into to his new title that goes beyond previous legacies. In addition to its replayability, Charterstone also allows for players to painlessly join an already running campaign, or drop out without making it awkward for the others (even if they’re not replaced by an analogue-AI player via the included Automa rule-set and deck, which also allows for solo play). All of which is highly appropriate for something with a theme that’s purely constructive, and which is Eurogame-gentle in its mechanisms. Your worker meeples (initially just two per player, keeping early sessions swift and simple) never mess up your opponents. You can’t even block them from using a building (i.e. taking an action); their worker will merely bump yours back to your supply, giving you a small advantage by delaying the

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◗ Four mystery tuckboxes ◗ Chronicle rulebook ◗ Automa rulebook ◗ Charterstone die ◗ Progress token ◗ 12 wooden worker

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1-6

14+

£55

moment you’ll need to use up a turn to take all your meeples back. The design is cutesy (in a good way) and brightly gorgeous, with cotton cloud-puffs nestled around Miyazaki-style floating islands, the cartoony colonists occupying and developing a pleasant mini-world that recalls the likes of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon. That’s not to say there’s not something darker brewing beneath the candy-sweet surface. You’ll begin to wonder what true agenda the story’s big boss, the Forever King, has in sending your characters off to this remote, unsettled territory, especially when... Ah yes, those dreaded spoilers. Despite its pleasingly replayable nature, Charterstone is as spoiler-prone as any other legacy tale, with Stegmaier revelling in the surprise element this style of game offers and offering up some delightful revelations. These could be story progressions unveiled through a branching narrative that develops through game-end choices; a new kind of specialised meeple; a novel physical component you’d never expect to find in a board game; or something which truly... well... we’d best leave it there. We wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. DAN JOLIN

meeples (six large, six small) ◗ 72 wooden influence tokens ◗ Six wooden VP tokens ◗ 72 wooden resource tokens ◗ 36 metal coins ◗ Many cards ◗ Many secret components

WE SAY A truly charming and absorbing game through which Jamey Stegmaier refines and evolves the legacy experience, delivering its most accessible and flexible incarnation yet. A bright, blissful triumph.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… PANDEMIC LEGACY: SEASON TWO

An obvious comparison, but for good reason: from its rules-light quick start to its world-building board, Charterstone measures up to Leacock and Daviau’s mighty sequel.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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P L AY E D

PANDEMIC: RISING TIDE This waterlogged take on the co-op classic gets bogged down in extra admin Designer: Matt Leacock, Jeroen Doumen | Artist: Atha Kanaani

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andemic is one of the tabletop industry’s perennial bestsellers, and over the years it’s seen a host of spin-offs and expansions including the campaign-driven Legacy series and a version set in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. One of the most intriguing new directions for the co-op franchise has been the Survival Series, a set of historicallythemed games where guest designers put their own spin on the original’s well-loved formula. The series got off to a strong start with 2016’s Pandemic Iberia, which introduced some interesting new approaches to the game’s web of interconnected cities. Now Pandemic creator Matt Leacock has teamed up with Jeroen Doumen, half of the Dutch design duo behind acclaimed Euro Food Chain Magnate, to release Pandemic: Rising Tide, which casts players as engineers, architects and planners battling to save the Netherlands from catastrophic flooding.

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WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ Game board ◗ Seven role cards

and pawns

◗ 78 player cards ◗ Five reference cards ◗ 56 dike failure cards ◗ 36 water cubes ◗ 50 dike tokens ◗ Five pumping stations ◗ Five ports ◗ Four hydraulic

structure tokens ◗ Sea level marker ◗ Reminder marker ◗ 12 objective cards ◗ 36 population cubes ◗ Population loss card

45-60m

2-5

8+

£50

It’s a departure from the original game’s virus-battling premise but, mechanically, there’s a lot that will be familiar to experienced Pandemic players. Instead of disease tokens, you’ll fight to stop the spread of water cubes that threaten to engulf the board. In place of outbreaks, there’s the constant risk that heavily flooded areas will leak into neighbouring regions. Where vanilla Pandemic tortured players with unpredictable epidemic cards, this new version features storms, which do essentially the same job. At its heart, Rising Tide presents the familiar Pandemic puzzle, challenging you to identify trouble spots on the map and deal with them using a collection of special player abilities. This time around, though, you’ll have some new tools at your disposal. Dikes between neighbouring regions hold back floodwaters, while windmill-powered

pumping stations let you remove water cubes from the board on every turn. What’s interesting, though, is that you can only use them on regions connected by uninterrupted stretches of flooding. It means that you’ll want to actively avoid clearing cubes or shoring up your defences in certain parts of the board – a process that involves some tricky risk management. It adds a dash of ongoing analysis to the game, and leads to some complex discussions as players attempt to work out the best course of action. It makes for a chewier, more complex experience, but it also makes the publisher’s suggested play time of 45 minutes to an hour seem wildly optimistic. While long-time Pandemic players might appreciate some more involved decision-making, it comes at the cost of a lot of the base game’s free-flowing elegance. On each player’s turn you’ll have to check to see whether the floodwaters on the board spread, and it’s a process that takes some time to get your head around. Heavily flooded regions spill over into less saturated ones, but working out which areas are affected can be a convoluted task, and the map’s muted tones, small regions and squiggly borders can make it easy to miss a step – which causes even more confusion if you have to go back later and attempt to fix any mistakes. The game adds some diversity with variable objectives, offering unpredictable challenges for advanced players. But ultimately its increased mechanical clunkiness and incongruously grimdark graphic design make it a bit of a damp squib. OWEN DUFFY

WE SAY Pandemic: Rising Tide is a twist on the original Pandemic blueprint, but it adds a layer of bookkeeping to every turn and doesn’t offer enough of a new challenge to justify the extra admin. 2016’s Pandemic Iberia is a more satisfying spin on the formula. Full disclosure: This game’s co-creator Matt Leacock once paid for the use of some of the author’s photography.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… PANDEMIC LEGACY: SEASON ONE Rising Tide uses some similar mechanisms to the ever-evolving box of surprises set in the universe. But we can’t tell you which ones. Because spoilers.

February 2018

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GENESYS

A blank slate to build on Designer: Sam Stewart | Artist: Various

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reating a system-agnostic RPG that flows neatly and feels at home with both fireballs and flamethrowers is an incredibly lofty ambition, but one that Genesys has come tantalisingly close to achieving. The game is designed as almost a blank slate – a simple platform that settings and systems can be bolted onto with little effort or rules conflicts. Though a first glance through the core book’s pages may leave you thinking it feels shallow, there’s plenty of depth just waiting to be explored with a bit of effort. One of the reasons for this, perhaps, is that publisher Fantasy Flight has created the game on the sturdy chassis of its recent Star Wars RPGs. This means it uses the same ‘narrative dice’ system that does away with virtually all the maths and number-crunching traditionally involved with tabletop RPGs. Instead, it relies on a handful of symbols etched into specialist dice to determine success and failure. Succeeding on a task simple requires you to have more successes and failures. Skills allow you to roll more positive dice, while the difficulty of the task ups the number of negative dice added to the pool. Circumstances can also add in their own dice, such as in situations where the rattle of incoming fire can distract from an adventurer’s efforts to pick a lock.

2+

£34

The system is elegant and easy to understand and, though it may sound simple, the real depth comes from the fact that there symbols on the dice beyond mere success and failure. For example, rolling a handful of advantage symbols on top of an already successful check to hack a starship’s computer system may mean that not only do you take control of the system, but you also stumble across the captain’s personal log in the process. The most interesting examples of how this system can work, however, come when you roll threats on a success or advantages on a failure. This can lead to situations where you successfully track your prey across the savannah but in the process attract the attention of some hungry-looking lions, or lose an arm-wrestling contest with the brawny thug but impress him enough to make a new friend. It soon becomes impossible to predict exactly how things a given situation may work out, with the right combination of rolls creating some truly wonderful scenes that feel all the sweeter because they were shaped by the dice and by the players’ actions, rather than simply being pulled from the GM’s notebook. The only downside to this is that it does require a reasonably high amount of improvisation and confidence in order to run smoothly.

More than that, the lack of an established setting for the game means that the GM will already need to be flexing their creative muscles from the get-go. The core rulebook contains detailed and extensive guidelines on creating worlds to drop your players into, with almost half its pages occupied by general outlines and modified rules for a host of popular genres ranging from classic fantasy to space-opera and even a Lovecraftian ‘Weird War’. It’s entirely possible that full explanations and rules for using these worlds will come in their own books further down the line but, for the time being, Genesys stands alone. Honestly, the biggest impression that you get when flicking through the elegantly designed pages of the core rulebook is that Genesys feels like an RPG toolkit that – with a bit of effort – can be shaped and trimmed to fit the needs of any campaign. To some people this will be instantly appealing, as it gives them a chance to flex their creative muscles in a system simple and robust enough to take a few knocks. Others may find the freedom overwhelming and grow frustrated at needing to fill in the blanks themselves. Ultimately, Genesys trades specialisation for adaptability, and will likely lose out in direct competition with the well-established masters of certain genres. However, if you want to buy one rulebook for your gaming group and run half a dozen weird and wonderful worlds without learning new rules, it may well be the new top dog of setting-free RPGs. RICHARD JANSENPARKES

WE SAY Genesys represents a highly polished and elegant set of rules that can be applied to just about anything you want, though sometimes it crosses over from ‘adaptable’ to ‘generic’.

IF YOU LIKE GURPS… TRY GENESYS

Like GURPS, Genesys allows you to play around in any world you want, albeit with a greater focus on storytelling over crunch.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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resented by the South London Warlords, Salute 2018 is the biggest, independent, one-day wargaming and gaming event in the UK. Once again, we have a huge number of traders from the UK and around the world attending the show at ExCel London as well as plenty of demonstration and participation games to enjoy. We will also, of course, be running our renowned painting competition. Every year, we aim to provide a fantastic showcase, whether you are thinking of starting this great hobby or are already a ‘veteran’ wargamer/gamer. SALUTE is held at ExCel London, which is very easy to get to. Here is a simplified transport link map.

Tickets

£10.00 via eticket or £20.00 (cash only) at the door. Under 16s FREE with a paying adult. Again this year there will be several ‘golden ticket’ prizes. Tickets are now on sale from our Facebook page and website:

www.salute.co.uk

NB: there is no bring and buy at Salute 2018.

SATURDAY, 14TH APRIL DOORS OPEN 10.00-17.00

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10/01/2018 16:53 12:06 09/12/2017


P L AY E D

FIRST MARTIANS: ADVENTURES ON THE RED PLANET “Houston, we have a problem. And another. And another…” Designer: Ignacy Trzewiczek | Artist: Kozaczkiewicz, Foksowicz, Jakimiec, Szyma, Fournier

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complex and convoluted co-op simulation of humanity colonising the Red Planet, First Martians will leave you wishing you’d never left Earth. The first thing to know about First Martians is that there’s a good chance you won’t even be able to understand the rules straight out of the box. The included manual is so unwieldy and poorly explained, it’ll likely take you several hours and multiple readthroughs just to grasp the basics of how to do simple tasks – even then, building a rocket and flying to Mars yourself will probably seem the easier option. If you’re really committed to learning how to play, looking up a YouTube tutorial and reading through the additional 60-plus-page almanac released separately by the game’s creators as a remedy to the rulebook’s woes isn’t just recommended – it’s damn near compulsory. What is categorically required is the game’s free companion app, which can be used on mobile or PC. The app provides much of First Martians’ narrative drive, offering up random events during each turn that will lead to various parts of your ‘HUB’ home base malfunctioning and breaking down. This fuels the core

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action and gameplay, as your band of space settlers rushes around the base, frantically repairing things in an effort not to suffocate, starve, freeze or basically prove the hypothesis that Mars is indeed uninhabitable. The enormous main HUB board is easily First Martians’ most impressive aspect, a glittering array of green and (increasingly) red cubes that don’t just simulate an LED panel in terms of the gameplay – they really do visually give the impression that you are an astronaut in control of the numerous critical systems needed to survive. Two miniatures for remotecontrolled rovers and a map that’s revealed section by section around your 3D home base add to the impressive feeling of immersion. It’s a good thing that these small touches manage to get the feeling of being alone on Mars across, because it’s something that the rest of the game fails to do. First Martians can be played as either standalone scenarios or a connected campaign that aims to establish your characters as living, breathing humans. This is nicely reinforced through the realistic conditions they can gain through taking wounds – anxiety attacks, migraines and concentration

1-2h

1-4

difficulties feel completely believable – but consistently poor writing leaves the game’s stories and characterisation otherwise lacking throughout. Characters’ profiles are generic, events are often devoid of the thematic context needed to make them feel impactful, and even story and gameplay surprises excitingly sealed in envelopes fail to offer enough of a dramatic hook. The iffy delivery hampers the app, too – where in most app-assisted games the virtual assistant does the heavy lifting when it comes to setup and handling the more tiresome parts of the game, here it often only serves to further confuse and complicate what’s required of the players. Unfortunately, the game banks too heavily on its stories and atmosphere being the draw, because the gameplay – despite how dense it first appears – is relatively flat. Each turn, the players (and potentially some robotic helpers) commit themselves to a selection of actions around the HUB. At first this seems exciting given the span of tasks involved in setting up humanity’s first colony on the planet – growing seeds to provide food, exploring the Martian terrain and more, depending on the mission – but such delight is quickly quashed by the realisation that the majority of every game will be spent repairing the failing HUB, which disintegrates at an almost comical rate. Altogether, it’s not exactly the stimulating voyage of discovery and forging ahead you’d expect from the title; less ‘one small step for man’ and more ‘man trips over: again, and again, and again’. MATT JARVIS

WE SAY First Martians aims high with an immersive atmosphere, complex decisions and intriguing premise, but its confused presentation, lacklustre storytelling and ultimately uninteresting gameplay bring it crashing back down to Earth.

14+

£75

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ Game board ◗ Four player ID boards ◗ 13 facility tiles ◗ 19 ROI tiles ◗ 38 modifier tiles ◗ Three trackers ◗ 18 morale tokens ◗ Nine POI tokens ◗ First player token ◗ 12 condition tokens ◗ Eight upgrade tiles ◗ Four multiplication tiles ◗ 26 objective tokens ◗ Eight shutdown tiles ◗ 28 spare parts tokens ◗ Three double-sided

mission sheets

◗ Two campaign booklets ◗ Four envelopes with

secret mission info

◗ Three miniatures ◗ 15 custom dice ◗ 12 action pawns ◗ 125+ plastic markers ◗ 40 working block

malfunction cards

◗ 28 living block

malfunction cards

◗ 26 system block

malfunction cards

◗ Eight upgrade cards ◗ 14 facility cards ◗ Six research cards ◗ Four double-sided

profile cards

◗ Eight direction cards ◗ Four AOM cards

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… ROBINSON CRUSOE

First Martians is billed as an interplanetary spiritual successor to the Earthly Adventures on the Cursed Island.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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P L AY E D

GAIA PROJECT

An exquisitely taxing zero-gravity balancing act

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Designer: Jens Drögemüller and Helge Ostertag | Artist: Dennis Lohausen

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etween Twilight Imperium, Sidereal Confluence, Pulsar 2849, Reworld, A Handful of Stars and First Martians, it seems like interplanetary adventure is currently gaming’s hottest trend. And if you’re looking for a complex, meaty, unashamedly brain-taxing take on the genre, Gaia Project stands out from the pack. A sci-fi sequel to the awardwinning Terra Mystica, it hands you control of one of 14 alien factions competing to establish the galaxy’s mightiest civilisation. While that might sound like the premise of every space strategy game ever made, it’s notable not so much for what it brings to the theme, but for what it leaves out. There’s no explosive ship-to-ship combat, no underhand political intrigue, no lucrative trading. Instead, there’s just a sector of open space and a whole lot of planning to do. Gaia Project challenges you to spread your fledgling empire across the stars, but each species will only be able to thrive on certain types of planets – frozen ice worlds, artificial titanium spheres or lava-strewn volcanic hellscapes. If you’d like to colonise another type of planet, you’ll have to terraform it first, and that takes some hard work.

70

WHAT’S IN THE BOX? ◗ 10 space

sector tiles

◗ Research board ◗ Seven double-sided

faction boards

◗ Scoring board ◗ Scoring tiles ◗ Tech tiles ◗ Planet, federation

and action tokens

◗ Player structures ◗ Player aid cards ◗ Solo-play

mode cards

◗ Resource tokens

First, you’ll need to advance your navigation technology to the point where you can actually reach your destination. Then you’ll have to devote precious resources to helping it sustain your particular lifeforms. Only then will you be able to claim it as your own and start building structures like mines, trading posts and science labs. It’s a tough, taxing, ultraanalytical process that forces you to constantly think several moves ahead. You’re endlessly looking for ways to make your economy more efficient, to improve your abilities

60-150m

1-4

14+

£93

in different strands of sciences, to optimise your every action and edge yourself ahead of your rivals by whatever razor-thin margin you can manage. While it keeps direct conflict between players to a minimum, Gaia Project still manages to foster some heated competition. Different factions excel at developing different types of planets, and if you and an opponent both find yourselves going after, say, desert worlds, you’ll soon find yourself locked in a desperate race to colonise every sand-covered spheroid in the sector. There’s also the bonus you get for building structures on planets close to your rivals’ colonies, which provides an incentive to cram into areas of the board already occupied by your opponents. But it also means you’re far more likely to compete for control of the same planets, suddenly making the vast, open expanse between the stars feel decidedly tight and claustrophobic. On top of all of this, there’s also huge variability: a modular board that allows for a multitude of setups, a host of different factions that offer their own advantages and strategies, and an assortment of objectives that mean you’ll need to adapt your tactics every time you play. With a 24-page rulebook to slog through, it may be tough to get into, but if you’d like a pronounced cerebral slant to your space empire, Gaia Project is a brain-burning delight. OWEN DUFFY

WE SAY If you’re looking for dice-chucking starship combat, look elsewhere. But if you get a kick out of managing resources, building economic engines and seeing carefully-laid plans come together, Gaia Project is a complex challenge that’ll bring you back to the table again and again.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… TERRA MYSTICA

Gaia Project takes Terra Mystica’s core and expands it to a new, cosmic scope.

February 2018

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16/01/2018 11:44


WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ 90 raid cards ◗ 10 Khan cards ◗ 13 corral tokens ◗ Two player

action tokens

◗ Winner token ◗ Location map

KHAN OF KHANS

Can you teach an old duck new tricks, as a venerable background meets modern card gaming? Designer: Reiner Knizia | Artist: Ian O’Toole

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han of Khans is a collision of three great influences in games: fast, fun card games, legendary designer Reiner Knizia and one of the classic roleplaying worlds, Glorantha. Board and card games based on RPGs have been on the increase in recent years, with D&D and Pathfinder finding success in the area. But Glorantha is a beast of an altogether different complexion. It first appeared in 1975 as the setting for a strategy-combat game, White Bear and Red Moon, before finding its best-known form as the background for RuneQuest. It’s a rich deep-culture world of bronzeage tribes and races, pantheons and taboos. This is about as far from a ‘wizards, orcs, magic swords, GO!’ setting as you can imagine. How is that going to sit with a light pushyour-luck card game? Surprisingly well, it turns out. Khan of Khans is a game of cattle-rustling among the tribes of Prax, whose god Waha has decreed they must send raiders into the ten areas of Dragon Pass to bring back cattle. Each player is a Khan of a tribe, and each tribe

gets a special power. Every area is represented by a deck of nine cards, and on your turn you choose one area and turn over its top card. Four of the cards in each deck are cattle, which join your herd. The others are a stampede (lose your most valuable cow card), enemy magic (lose all your cows), tribal champion (defends against enemy magic, but two tribal champions in your hand will fight and all your cattle will flee) and Waha’s Blessing (steal cows from another player). Each deck also has one card specific to that area: some places have more cattle, others extra stampedes or enemy magic. The card for Duck Point is called ‘Don’t Mess with the Ducks’ – which is very Glorantha. You don’t have to flip a card on your turn. Instead you can corral your cattle, which locks them safely away – but you have limited corrals each game – or use a previously saved Waha’s Blessing to purloin a neighbour’s card. Gameplay zings along and cattle totals lurch up and down as players try to remember what’s left in which

20m

2-5

9+

£25

decks. It finishes when all cards have been turned over and, predictably, the winner is the one with the most cows. There’s not a lot of tactical depth here nor much room for strategy, but it’s amusing and colourful, and just as much fun on a replay. The cards are a delight, with cartoon representations of the tribes, cows, zones and foes. This isn’t Knizia’s finest hour, nor Glorantha’s, but it’s a fast and playable game for older families or as a session opener. What’s more – and this is perhaps the point of Khan of Khans – if you’re new to Glorantha it’s a light introduction to some of the world’s places and lore, and if you’re an old RuneQuest-head it’ll have you nodding with recognition and nostalgia. That alone may make it worth your attention. JAMES WALLIS

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… PATHFINDER ADVENTURE CARD GAME

If card games based on RPGs are your thing, Khan of Khans gives you a new way to experience one of the classic game worlds in a fast and accessible format.

WE SAY Great Western Trail it ain’t, and the background is richer than the game, but if you fancy being a llama-riding cattle-stealer then Khan of Khans is ‘high-steaks’ entertainment.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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P L AY E D

A GAME OF THRONES: CATAN – BROTHERHOOD OF THE WATCH High wall, high price

Designer: Klaus Teuber, Benjamin Teuber | Artist: Various

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atan is as popular as ever. With the steady release of multiple expansions and variants, plus Catan VR on its way, there seems to be no territory this game has not conquered. It's logical then, inevitable almost, that the giant of board games would meet a giant franchise, Game of Thrones, and come together in A Game of Thrones: Catan – Brotherhood of the Watch. Equally inevitably, there are two stances to take on this game. A cynical view, perhaps, is that both properties saw this is a fail-proof way to enrich their coppers and, frankly, who could fault them for that business thinking? A more optimistic stance is that both franchises have huge fanbases, and a release of this crossover would satisfy and even excite a lot of them. At the end of the day, if the game is good all cynicism goes out of the window. Good news for Catan fans; this version of the game is still very much Catan, with some fun minor additions, although the base game itself can still be played. Less excitingly for Game of Thrones fans, this might not be what you expected. There are no Lannisters, Starks, Targaryens, political machinations or stabbing in

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WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ 128 player pieces ◗ 40 wildling pieces ◗ 131 cards ◗ Two six-sided dice ◗ 12-sided dice ◗ Four large plastic

wall sections

◗ Two card trays ◗ Special number token ◗ Six frame parts ◗ 21 terrain tiles ◗ 21 number tokens ◗ Five trading posts

60m

the back – unless, of course, you count a traditional Catan feature, the thief, here encapsulated by our favourite kissedby-fire, Tormund. A Game of Thrones: Catan has entirely concerned itself with the Wall, and players guarding it against the wildlings, who are trying to break through. The Catan part of the game remains ever-present. Players still build settlements and roads, roll the die, get resources, trade them and spend them to build more until the winning number of points is acquired. A Game of Thrones adds guards to protect the Wall and a third 12-sided dice for the movement of the wildlings. Taking a leaf from Star Trek Catan, this version of the game has cards that give their players special powers and can be exchanged after several uses. These cards are still a good addition to the game, allowing players to get more resources, have less costly exchanges or kicking the wildlings back beyond the Wall. Having those abilities

3-4

14+

£80

always gives players something to do, especially if through unlucky rolls they're lacking resources. Guards, on the other hand, require resources to be ‘built’ and slow the game down. These changes, while adding a new dimension to the game, are not significant enough on their own to justify a whole new version of Catan. Undeniably, it looks extremely pretty on the gaming table; the Wall is such a recognisable Game of Thrones landmark that even those unfamiliar with the franchise know the image of it. There is something awe-inspiring seeing a mass of ice tower over everything, and A Game of Thrones: Catan recreates it beautifully. Catan is a fairly flat game and having the Wall preside over the gaming board with guards on top of it is a sight to behold. However, everything else is on par with the standard set, with settlements, roads and cities probably being the most disappointing in the miniature set. The wildlings come in three forms – giants being the most impressive – and every type has their own ability. They look nice, but are nothing extraordinary. A Game of Thrones: Catan is an enjoyable game, where new mechanics fit well within the established ruleset. Yet, despite the Game of Thrones name being plastered across its box, multiple miniatures and the stunning view of the Wall, the price tag feels hefty. Maybe one has to be a devout Catan or A Game of Thrones devotee to justify this purchase; this Catan is still very much Catan, and the traditional version still satisfies all the same needs. ALEX SONECHKINA

WE SAY Whether you are looking for more Catan or another Game of Thrones property, this game will be ready to satisfy both, but for a price.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… CATAN

The Game of Thones version of Catan goes even beyond its Star Trek edition by adding new features and mechanics that spice up the familiar gameplay.

February 2018

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16/01/2018 11:44


LEGACY OF DRAGONHOLT

Choose your own adventure in the world of Runebound Designer: Nikki Valens | Artist: Various

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on’t be misled by the word “legacy” in the title. This is not a legacy game. In fact, Legacy of Dragonholt isn’t, strictly speaking, a game at all. That’s certainly not how Fantasy Flight is describing this intriguing release. More aptly, the box proclaims it as “A Co-operative Narrative Adventure” set in Terrinoth, the same high fantasy world as the studio’s Runebound and Descent games. The legacy of the title instead refers to something literal in the aforementioned narrative: a thorny issue of local inheritance, which forms the story’s central source of mystery and conflict. As soon as you squeak open the box, you’ll see what we mean. Certain components are noticeable by their absence. Like a board, for example. Or dice. There are no minis here, nor meeples. The only cards present are a slim deck of items, which you’re advised not to look at until instructed. (Each has a letter on its reverse to distinguish it.) There’s a map of the eponymous village, a reproduction of a handwritten letter that kicks things off and a small journal for perusal when the plot allows. The heart of the game is found in a set of seven A4-ish-sized books, filled with numbered entries that will strike a sense of instant familiarity for anyone who’s ever read a Fighting Fantasy gamebook.

30-80m

WHAT’S IN THE BOX? ◗ Character

creation book

◗ Six quest books ◗ Village book ◗ Letter ◗ Map ◗ Journal ◗ 20 item cards ◗ Six activation tokens ◗ Six character sheets

That’s right: Legacy of Dragonholt is essentially a choose-yourown-adventure book with added trimmings and production value. If you were feeling especially charitable, you might describe it as a GM-free RPG – and that’s exactly what we were hoping for when our group first got stuck in – but it becomes quickly clear that it doesn’t really sing as a shared activity. After creating their own characters (an orc apothecary, perhaps; or maybe a half-catfolk brawler) via some pleasantly stat-free, thematic guidelines, players are given activation tokens which they use to take turns at making plot-progressing decisions, checking off story point boxes and tracking the passage of time as they go. But that’s about the extent of the active involvement. Everything else requires either reading out, or listening to, often long chunks of narrative found by flicking backwards and forwards through the various quest books, with little visual or tactile stimuli other than the aforementioned paper props. In short, for most gaming groups, it will get old real quick, missing even a pure theatre-of-the-mind RPG’s appeal

13+

1-6

£50

thanks to its limited-choice offerings and broadly linear momentum. That said, Legacy of Dragonholt works very well as a solo activity – just like those Forests of Doom and Citadels of Chaos, except without all the tedious dice rolling, and with some commendably progressive story details (primarily along LGBT+ lines). Designer Nikki Valens (Eldritch Horror, Mansions of Madness) writes vividly and engagingly, and constructs the branching narrative in such a way that you really feel your decisions making a difference to the world as you explore and set off from the titular hub on your various quests – successfully or otherwise. Whether that makes it worth the premium pricing is up for debate. 50odd quid is a lot to ask for something that could, honestly, fit into a few paperbacks. You may just prefer to pull out your old Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstones. DAN JOLIN

WE SAY An impressively- (but expensively) mounted text-based, branching-story adventure that’s best appreciated as a solitaire, off-the-tabletop experience.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… FIGHTING FANTASY

If you were once thrilled by ‘80s interactive gamebooks like The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, turn to 347. Otherwise, Test Your Luck…

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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P L AY E D

FALLOUT

Atom bomb baby or nuclear waste? Designer: Andrew Fischer, Nathan Hajek | Artist: Various

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he first proper Fallout board game since the venerable roleplaying video game series debuted more than two decades ago has taken its time to arrive, but it’s landed with the force of an atomic bomb. This is a streamlined adventure game crammed with little details, from the way that levelling-up steadily requires more experience points as players fill out their personal row of SPECIAL (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck) skill tokens to the unique starting equipment and traits for each of the five different player characters, capturing the different feel of the wasteland’s diverse inhabitants while providing a good bit of replayability. If you have any familiarity with the video game series, you’ll be right at home here – this is a board game that feels like Fallout through and through, whether you're popping off single-use perk abilities or engaging with the intense VATS combat, translated to a simple rolling (and rerolling, based on your equipment and stats) of three attractive custom dice to calculate hits and misses

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WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ 21 map tiles ◗ Four scenario sheets ◗ Five plastic figures ◗ Five character cards ◗ Five character

SPECIAL tokens

◗ 75 encounter cards ◗ Four player boards ◗ 12 pegs ◗ 100 quest cards ◗ Three VATS dice ◗ 27 enemy tokens ◗ 35 SPECIAL tokens ◗ 14 perk cards ◗ Two power tokens ◗ 54 caps tokens ◗ 12 trait tokens ◗ 34 loot cards ◗ 25 asset cards ◗ 11 unique asset cards ◗ 23 agenda cards ◗ 10 faction tokens ◗ Eight quest markers

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when battling enemies and resolving quests across the semi-randomlygenerated map of hex tiles. While you’ll be doing plenty of fighting, it’s the quests that glow at the centre of Fallout like a pool of radioactive waste. A healthy deck of quest cards operates as a dynamic choose-your-own-adventure system, adding and removing different cards from each scenario as various events and actions trigger repercussions. For instance, you might decide to stop a woman from kicking a dog in one scene, only to discover the pooch wandering the wastes later on and have it join you as a companion. Smaller one-off beats are contained within a larger arcing storyline based on a number of different scenarios inspired by Fallout 3 and 4, with interesting revelations and twists throughout. There can be an element of trial and error to finding some of the outcomes or progressing certain plots – especially when needing to roll for success – but the atmospheric

1-4

14+

£60

writing and branching storylines kept us hooked throughout, returning game after game to search out the different outcomes and soak in more of the universe. As players influence the world, warring background factions can gain or lose power – and even win the game, resulting in all players losing. The world-changing impact that decisions have helps the collection of cardboard and plastic feel alive, delivering the spirit of a light roleplaying game in an experience that can be learnt, set up and played in a couple of hours. You’ll obviously benefit the most if you’re already a Fallout fan, but hunting down synths, hacking robots or talking your way into a vault is huge fun regardless. Outside of the love-it-or-hate-it reliance on dice rolling and rerolling, Fallout’s weakest aspect comes as a result of the decision to make the game competitive. Players acquire agenda cards by completing quests, which grant influence points based on certain conditions – hit a number dictated by the player count and you win. The issue is that these cards are drawn randomly and feature generic objectives rather than quest-specific achievements, meaning that one player can pull ahead with a few lucky draws and win out of the blue. It’s a bit of a letdown and breaks the otherwise strong feeling of mood conjured, but is absolutely worth overlooking to just explore the immersive world and see how its captivating stories play out. MATT JARVIS

WE SAY If you can get past the iffy competitive scoring system, Fallout will reward you with a world that you’ll want to spend hours digging into every corner of in search of its various stories and quests. The combat is punchy, the writing sharp and there’s just enough roleplaying-lite happening here to dig in the hooks and not let go.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… RUNEBOUND

Fallout fans will get the most out of its board game debut, but adventurers after another fascinating universe to explore will still find plenty to enjoy.

February 2018

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16/01/2018 11:44


TALES FROM THE LOOP: OUR FRIENDS THE MACHINES & OTHER MYSTERIES Prepare to be thrown for a loop

Designer: Various | Artist: Simon Stålenhag, Reine Rosenberg

I

t’s hard to tell which is the more impressive feat: writing an adventure directly inspired by Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller', or the fact that it somehow works. Really, though, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. At its heart, Tales from the Loop is a game about putting inventive new spins on popular culture and nostalgia; its first supplement, Our Friends the Machines, kicks that into overdrive. The slim book is home to three unconnected tales that riff on everything from Transformers to moral panic over ‘video nasties’ and Stephen King-esque horror. True to the original game’s setup, each sees a group of playercontrolled kids explore their town, solve mysteries and struggle with the weird sci-fi consequences of a nearby research facility. As well as this, it holds eight wonderful mini-adventures directly inspired by an array of ‘80s pop hits – an idea that sounds utterly insane but somehow works in practice. These are not only great ways to burn through an evening of gaming, but also make it very clear who the game is aimed at. It’s hard to imagine actual nineyear-olds getting excited about Cindy Lauper’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’, for example.

The final section of Our Friends the Machines is a few pages on how to ‘hometown hack’ and create your own setting, complete with its own loop. Though it feels somewhat out of place compared with the rest of the book, UK fans will be happy to see that the example they use to demonstrate the process is a small town on the Norfolk Broads. As it is, the main bulk of content is the three long-form adventures that could last anywhere between one long evening and a few weeks of gaming. All the stories are all well-written but the titular Our Friends the Machines is perhaps the standout of the three, with a plot involving self-aware AIs, mind control and a new range of transforming toys. To be clear: the adventures are not simple linear paths to guide your players down. Rather, they provide locations, NPCs and a general overview of likely events or set pieces to play through, and expect that the GM will fill in many of the blanks themselves. Where other adventure books provide a strict set of instructions that would shame Ikea, this simply hands you the raw materials, a few tools and a rough sketch of what you’re working towards. The closest you’ll get to a clear order of play is a small flowchart towards the beginning of each section.

2+

Some may find the lack of direction unsettling – after all, the fact that so much of the work is done for you is one of the advantages of published adventures – but it fits in perfectly with Tales from the Loop’s overall aesthetic. If you’re happy with the game as it is set up in the main book, you’ll probably be happy with Our Friends the Machines. Bizarrely, the biggest letdown somehow manages to be the art. As you would expect, the actual quality is exceptional throughout, but it’s disappointing that the images on display rarely seem to have much bearing to what’s on the rest of the page. An adventure about an insidious brainwashing programme designed to force the town into an idealised version of 1950s suburbia is illustrated with images of unrelated technology and urban scenes, for example. Despite the unique and beautiful nature of Simon Stålenhag’s paintings it all comes across as a little generic. Overall, though, Our Friends the Machines is a great purchase for anyone interested in Tales from the Loop. Even if you don’t think you’ll run the adventures directly, there's so much great material here for GMs to ‘borrow’ from – and that’s not even counting the Hometown Hack section. RICHARD JANSENPARKES

£25

WE SAY There are a few flaws here and there, but they’re minor indeed compared to all the great content on show in this book. Not one for GMs who aren’t happy to improvise, though.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED... TALES FROM THE LOOP

If you own Tales, you owe it to yourself to pick up the RPG's first full expansion.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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P L AY E D

HARRY POTTER: HOGWARTS BATTLE A lesson in Defence Against the Deck Arts

Designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf | Artist: Joe Van Wetering

I

f you had told us that a new Harry Potter spin-off would turn out to be one of the most surprising and satisfying gateway deckbuilders of recent years, we would’ve assumed you had been chugging one too many pints of butterbeer. Then Hogwarts Battle apparated onto our table and cast its spell over us. Hogwarts Battle is in so many ways deckbuilding by the numbers. Taking control of Harry, Hermione, Ron or Neville, players start with a small selection of spells, items and allies (slightly tailored to each character, so Harry gets Hedwig while Hermione has the Time-Turner and Crookshanks, for example) and magic up influence (resembling knut coins) in order to acquire cards from a central board and gradually bolster their power. Hardly revolutionary, we’ll accept. More powerful cards can be used to attack a gauntlet of villains who, along with Dark Arts events drawn each round, will dish out damage to the heroes and gain control over a series of locations. The heroes can’t die,

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but getting stunned means another control token going on the current location – if the final location falls, it’s game over. As more villains combine powers and things chain together, the action can get surprisingly tense. There’s a good variety of events and abilities that can pop off, but they’re all grounded by an easy-to-grasp flow that means player turns and spells bounce back and forth with a joyous swiftness – a single match can be got through in under an hour easily, and you’ll immediately want to continue. Part of the reason for this is that, unexpectedly, Hogwarts Battle has taken a leaf out of the spellbook of legacy games. There are seven boxes to open over the course of the game’s campaign-like structure, loosely following the plot of JK Rowling’s seven novels (despite the visuals being based on the eight films) and steadily introducing new cards and even gameplay mechanics. While locations are specific to each chapter and represent the main set pieces of the movies, each fresh batch of villains, items, spells and characters

30-60m

2-4

are mixed into their respective decks for future matches and drawn at random, resulting in a kind of remixed 'greatest hits' feel to proceedings. Without giving too much away about exactly what each box contains – that’s half of the fun of playing through, after all – following the rough structure of the books works perfectly with the deckbuilding action. As the heroes progress through Hogwarts, their character cards are eventually replaced by their older selves, unlocking more advanced innate abilities and other surprises in addition to the growing reserve of cards available for purchase. Things never go too far into left field, but there’s a real sense of reward and progression to opening the next package after a hard-fought victory. All of this is delivered with an outstanding presentation that puts most TV and film tie-ins to shame. Even opening the main box is a pleasure (we won’t spoil why), with the cards making generally admirable use of screenshots from the films with very few exceptions. The components are all of top quality, especially the weighty metal skull tokens that represent the villains’ control – you almost feel the tension notch up every time one is added. In a particularly pleasant detail, the back of the rulebook includes slots to store the additional rules from each opened package, while dividers are supplied to keep all of the cards neatly organised. Even the tokens come ready pushed out! Hogwarts Battle doesn’t evolve the deckbuilding formula, but it comes close to perfecting the essentials. What you get here is an impeccablymade package that consistently goes beyond simply being a solid card game or serviceable spin-off to delight with its evolving gameplay and interwoven theme. With the magic of Harry Potter as enchanting as ever, it could well be the next great gateway game. MATT JARVIS

11+

£50

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ Game board ◗ Four dice ◗ Seven game boxes ◗ Four player boards ◗ 252 cards ◗ Eight metal villain

control tokens

◗ 70 cardboard tokens ◗ Six additional game

rules sheets

◗ Nine dividers

WE SAY We’re as shocked as anyone that a Harry Potter game could be this good! Hogwarts Battle earns its place in the deckbuilding pantheon with a gameplay loop that can’t be resisted, surprises that keep things constantly exciting and fresh, and a presentation that nails it at almost every turn. It’s magical.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… AEON’S END

Working together to build up your power and take down baddies feels incredible, whether it’s Death Eaters or The Nameless.

February 2018

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16/01/2018 11:45


THROUGH THE DESERT Don’t eat tasty-looking camels, kids! Designer: Reiner Knizia | Artist: Samuel R. Shimota

T

hrough the Desert is the latest re-release of the same game by designer Reiner Knizia and a part of his tile-laying trilogy. Though mechanically the game remains the same, its components have seen an update, with a slightly more modern and detailed look. However, one of the main visual attractions of the game – its pastel-coloured candylooking camels – have remained deliciously unchanged. There is an attractive cleanliness to the way Through the Desert is played. Points are scored by building chains of caravans from a starting camel, trying to encapsulate oases, watering holes and even areas of the map to score bonus points. On their turn, players only have a maximum of two actions, which is one movement repeated twice: adding camels to the map. Within this prosaic simplicity, there is a myriad of choices. The position of the camels and the sequence in which the caravans are built is important. Although the gaming map looks large at first, it gets populated quickly, and where opponents have located their camels, which colour they are or what their expansion plans are can also be significant. There is even a simple choice of whether to build two camels of the same colour or instead opt for different hues.

30-45m

2-5

14+

£45

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ 180 plastic camels ◗ 30 plastic riders ◗ Five plastic palm trees ◗ Game board ◗ 45 waterhole tokens ◗ Five caravan tokens ◗ 44 point tokens

There is something so liberating in knowing that everyone starts with the same number of camels and can only do one thing on their turn, from which so many possibilities stem. There are no special power cards, tokens granting extra abilities, secret multipliers or point-givers. Everything is out in the open for every player to see, take in and make their move. In fact, the only hidden aspect of the game is the strategy other players adopt, and whether you can predict what it is and stop them from completing their objective. Following its own rule of twos, Through the Desert’s gameplay is divided into two parts. Arguably

even more important than building caravans is placing the starting camels. Once the camels are placed, there is no moving them, which makes a mistake in the first few minutes become especially pronounced as the game goes on. For example, placing a camel next to an opponent’s camel of the same colour (camels belonging to a player are distinguished by the colour of the rider) may limit the manoeuvring options significantly, as later their caravans cannot be adjacent to each other. On the other hand, it is an excellent strategy to try to block someone from getting the points. Though the Desert can be won and lost in this initial stage of placing. While clever moves later in the game can sway chances somewhat, players who start with a good position have a strong advantage. It’s important to note that there aren’t only two or three good starting spots and, once they are claimed, everyone else can wave a white flag. Waterhole point tokens are redistributed randomly every turn and even locations of the oases, although less variable, change every game. The map also has two sides – one includes a river, crossing which will earn five extra points. There are a lot of variables each time and a multitude of good and bad positions to consider. This flexibility during setup happens to be the reason why Through the Desert scales very well from two to five players. This new re-release of Through the Desert is a welcome sight. It has given this seemingly forgotten classic a fresher look while retaining everything that was essential to its clever, yet simple, gameplay. ALEX SONECHKINA

WE SAY Abstract, but not without its own character, Though the Desert is a game of tense strategy that is effortlessly executed.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… GO

Through the Desert has more character and colour, and can accommodate more players, but it does a great job of embodying the core mechanics of Go.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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P L AY E D WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

◗ Game board ◗ Two double-sided

character cards

◗ Two card holders ◗ Two player aids ◗ Two token boxes ◗ 18 card dividers ◗ Four Love Stories

ED

FOG OF LOVE

IT

Commit yourself to one of the most unique gaming experiences in years Designer: Jacob Jaskov | Artist: Mike Højgaard, Lotte M. Klixbüll Jaskov

P

art board game, part RPG and part compatibility test, Fog of Love is unlike anything else on the tabletop. Described as "Romantic comedy as a board game," it’s a hilarious and often touching experience that simulates the relationship between two made-up partners as they navigate the rocky waters of romance. Your alter-ego (no need to panic, couples – you don’t play yourself here) is created using a smooth process that quickly generates their occupation and personality from a pool of cards (you can freely select their gender, race and other aspects). Traits help to influence your decisions throughout the rest of the game, but also serve as a form of hidden personal goal – so a disorganised character might be trying to attain a certain lack of discipline in their life by the end of the game, for instance. Best of all are your three features, which are picked by your partner and make each character feel realistic and fleshed out, often with the side effect of being laugh-out-loud funny when combined. In one game, we had a cute but clumsy baker with crooked teeth dating a banker with body odour, while another saw a pilot with shaky hands fall head over heels for the squeaky yet sensuous voice of a priest. There’s plenty of material here for those willing to roleplay their creations – the ample potential for the latter half of the game’s rom-com

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tagline to set off roomfuls of laughter makes it just as entertaining when playing in teams or even as a spectator. The game’s movie-inspired feel is strongest in its structure, which is divided into chapters comprised of a varying number of scenes, played back and forth from each player’s hand and drawn from specific decks that lead certain acts to be more sweet, serious or dramatic. Each scene prompts a typical situation – an argument at a restaurant maybe, or an attempt to make breakfast in bed – and is steered with a Mr & Mrs-style secret selection of the options available by each side before both parties reveal their choices and effects take hold based on their individual decision and whether they matched their partner or not. It’s simple yet far more impactful and fun than you might expect, thanks to the sharp writing on the cards and the inevitable outbursts of debate (after a disagreement) or joy (with a match). The result also affects each character’s satisfaction, plus their overall disposition, which is tidily broken down into six core elements – discipline, curiosity, extroversion, sensitivity, gentleness and sincerity – that shift up or down over the course of the game, resulting in a final balance in each half of the couple that dictates the way the story concludes. As you progress through the game’s different stories – each comes sealed in a booster pack-style packet and provides a certain setup, such as being high

CE

card sets

O R'S C H OI

◗ 110 scene cards ◗ 38 trait cards ◗ 60 feature cards ◗ 36 occupation cards ◗ 14 destiny cards ◗ 30 tutorial cards ◗ Eight choice tokens ◗ 70 personality tokens ◗ 10 ‘5’ personality tokens

WE SAY 1-2h

2

17+

£48

school sweethearts – more intriguing mechanics begin to feed into the once simple maintenance of your relationship; you might decide to keep a secret from your partner, for example, and hope they don’t accidentally spoil a surprise party or forget your anniversary before the fate of your courtship is revealed. Early games end on a scale locked to the positive end of the spectrum, with partners calculating their individual happiness but destined to remain together no matter what, while later playthroughs can result in tragic breakups – particularly devastating if one partner reveals their own desire to try and make it work in the face of rejection. While there is gameplay in the placement of tokens and pursuit of specific defined goals, Fog of Love is best approached as a storytelling or roleplaying game that just happens to include a board. The gameplay mainly helps to keep things moving forward and offer up a framework for players’ imaginations; the biggest draw here is the story you craft together, trying to balance your own personal satisfation with your desire to connect with your partner before you discover whether it really was meant to be. For all the laughs and absurdity possible (something many of the scenes don’t shy away from), it’s surprisingly effective at capturing the highs and lows of a relationship that feels real – one that will only leave you thankful of the time you’ve spent together. MATT JARVIS

Fog of Love is a fascinating combination of roleplaying and board game-style goalchasing, with a good dash of natural humour and drama chucked in for a near-perfect mix. Those after more of a ‘gamey’ game might find the focus on storytelling leaves them little to do, but if you’re willing to embrace the chance to weave an engaging tale with someone else, this is an unforgettable time.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… …AND THEN, WE HELD HANDS After another emotional twoplayer game about trying to achieve the perfect balance? Allow us to introduce you.

February 2018

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16/01/2018 11:46


STAR SAGA

Will the sequel to Dungeon Saga let you play among the stars? Designer: Stewart Gibbs | Artist: Scott Johnson and others

S

tar Saga’s Kickstarter campaign proclaimed it as ‘the sci-fi dungeon crawler’ and, as the sister-title to 2015’s Dungeon Saga, which had crowdfunded for over a million dollars, that seems like an attention-grabbing headline. Is it an accurate description? Absolutely. Star Saga is a game about exploring space corridors, slaughtering every space being you meet, opening space doors that go ‘shhhp’ and finding space chests full of space loot. This is sci-fi in its pulpiest form, and dungeoncrawling in a style that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever butchered an orc. In fact, it’s more than a successor to Dungeon Saga; it’s Dungeon Saga in space. The rules have had a tune-up, the characters and bits are different, there’s some custom dice, but it’s basically the same game with a different campaign. If you loved Dungeon Saga and want to try it with

WHAT’S IN THE BOX? ◗ Six plastic

mercenaries

◗ Five plastic bosses ◗ 24 plastic minions ◗ 43 plastic furnishings ◗ 33 cardstock tiles ◗ 10 custom dice ◗ 11 character cards ◗ 66 regular cards ◗ 56 small item cards ◗ Mission book ◗ Counters ◗ Templates

20-90m

1-5

14+

£60

less magic and more lasers, then stop reading here and fill your moonboots. For the rest of us: Star Saga is a campaign-based skirmish game that comes on like the bastard child of Space Hulk and Imperial Assault. One player is the Nexus, playing the baddies, and everyone else controls one or two characters who have RPG-style stats, all in a chunky £60 box stuffed with stuff. The figures aren’t quite as nice as, say, the ones in Games Workshop’s recent Shadespire, but Shadespire has eight minis for £40. Star Saga has 35 and some of them are massive, plus roughly a zillion bits of space-dungeon furniture and doors. It is a very exciting boxful. Then you read the rulebook. The rulebook is a mess.

This is the heart of Star Saga: it is a very good miniatures game, with very good miniatures, explained very badly. The rules are confusing, starting with the setup. The game is set in the GCPS. The only place I could find that says what GCPS stands for (the Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere) is on the back of the box. What is it? It’s not explained. The enemy player, who in Dungeon Saga was a necromancer, is called the Nexus here. What is the Nexus? It’s not explained. Why are we bashing this space-dungeon? Something about some files. There’s no quickstart, no easy-in, no concessions to novice minis players. The rules themselves are complete, and once you understand them the game runs fast, with several clever ideas, but until you reach that point you’ll be flipping through the rulebook a lot. Everything you need is in there, but not necessarily where you’d expect to find it. The mission book’s layout is cramped, with bits of information hidden away in nonobvious places. It’s not an easy game to start playing. It’s worth persevering, though, because once it clicks it’s a lot of fun, well balanced with good tactical choices and each of the 12 scenarios mixes its primary objective with secondary objectives that emerge as things progress. There are rules for playing co-op with an artificial Nexus, and a neat narrative system. Star Saga reaches for the heavens, but a game that aims so high is competing with Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop, who deliver complete packages with well-explained rules and solid backgrounds that drive their games’ core narratives. Despite all the wonderful things in its box, Star Saga’s lack of those is the element that holds it back. JAMES WALLIS

WE SAY Star Saga is a cracking game that explains itself very poorly. But if dungeon-bashing in space sounds like fun, this is worth the effort.

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… IMPERIAL ASSAULT

If space-fantasy and campaign play with dynamic tactical action is your thing then Star Saga will scratch that itch for you – and, frankly, we prefer its custom dice.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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P L AY E D

SMILE

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

Lucky to leave you smiling Designer: Michael Schacht | Artist: Atha Kanaani

F

urry critters, shiny fireflies, some bluffing, a little bit of calculation, but mostly luck, and a name that seems to fit neither gameplay nor the theme – that is Smile. Smile has players luring adorable but mischievous critters with something that none of them, whether wild or tame, can resist: fireflies. This theme, although it tries its hardest, has very little to do with the actual gameplay. Even its most believable part, where some critters scare each other off, feels tacked-on; the in-game translation of this concept is that critters with the same colour in the top corner cancel each other out. The only real reason for the theme to exist is the art on the cards and box, which, indeed, is gorgeous and humorous. Mechanically, Smile is a bidding game, with a twinkle of bluffing and strategy, and a wagon of luck. Players bid on the lowest point-value card on the table by placing fireflies from their hand. The number of fireflies remains hidden, giving other players an opportunity to either guess at their number or try to count, which is a nice touch. The choice throughout the game is simple enough: either leave a firefly behind or take the card and all fireflies on it. The complication, or perhaps challenge, is that critter cards come

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with different values, even negative ones, and the same colour cards will cancel each other out. Sometimes that may work in players’ favour; for example, it can get rid of a previously picked up negative value card. But, equally, it also has the chance to destroy a high card. The second challenge is the number of fireflies itself. Every player starts with six orange beads but, even by the end of the first round, they can be left with one or none for the next. This is where the unbalanced dichotomy of strategy versus luck comes in. It is fun, exciting even, to plan for the cards already revealed on the table. Players can try to estimate what cards their opponents might go for depending on the number of firefly beads they might have and what cards they have already collected. Some may even put down a firefly in an attempt to bait more beads out of their opponents, only to pick it all up when the turn comes back to them. However, the next round is a complete mystery. The variety of cards in the deck makes estimating the value of the next set, especially midgame, almost impossible. One round might go great but the next disastrous through no fault of the player. Every turn is a reaction to what has already happened, with little chance for planning ahead.

15-30m

3-5

8+

£20

Despite this, Smile is joyous to play. It is snappy, fast-flowing and tickles the brain without overexerting it. While it is unlikely to succeed in keeping players occupied for long, this is a great game to pull out to warm up and get in the mood for something bigger or more involved. It is also a very well-made game. The box is a perfect size for the components, every detail of which has been considered; even the coloured corners of cards have different shapes to make them friendly for colourblind players. The only possible reservation on the component front is the beads, which tend to get slightly clammy, as they are held in players’ fists for the majority of the game. Smile, although not perfect by any stretch, has a lot of virtues. It is beautifully put together and illustrated. Its gameplay, both engaging and entertaining, does not overstay its welcome. And whether or not you want to collect critters, you cannot deny that they are absolutely adorable! ALEX SONECHKINA

◗ 50 cards ◗ 40 beads ◗ Bead bag

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… NO THANKS!

Smile is No Thanks! in almost all respects, except its art and component design is superior. Play the former for its charm, play the latter for its robust mechanics.

WE SAY Despite some of its misgivings – namely a badly-fitting theme and large luck element – Smile does bidding and bluffing very well, and its charm goes a long way to making it endearing.

February 2018

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16/01/2018 11:46


BREAKING BAD: THE BOARD GAME Designer: Antoine Morfan, Thomas Rofidal | Artist: David Ardila, Luis E. Sánchez

W

ith its hidden identities, production and trading of resources (read: meth), tense standoffs, and violently clashing factions, Breaking Bad seems like the ideal TV show to turn into a board game. Unfortunately, this first stab at an adaptation fails to make the most of its promising source material, resulting in a dull, frustrating experience.

Players are members of one of three criminal empires (Heisenberg, Los Pollos Hermanos or the Juarez Cartel), with another one or two people controlling the Drug Enforcement Administration hoping to bring them to justice. The basic premise is to produce and then sell meth, while avoiding ending up in jail or gunned down. This is the first of Breaking Bad’s several glaring missteps: there is player elimination, with combat resolved with a deeply unsatisfying ‘take that!’ revealing of gunfight cards – the first person to run out loses a hit point. Lose them all, and you’re out of the game for good. Turns are otherwise largely spent making meth by occupying labs (which the DEA attempts to seize), and then flogging the meth, with a few other abilities in the mix. It’s a slow process that lacks any of the excitement or tension of the show, with little room for deeper strategy – a proposed alliance

1-2h

3-8

18+

$40

system feels shallow and underbaked, rather than introducing the tense sense of uneasy co-operation it alludes to. There are very slight flashes of something more engaging – most notably in the concept of criminals being put under surveillance by the DEA and having to risk being caught to maintain their drug-making business, and the Grand Theft Auto-esque star ratings that allow law enforcement to make stronger moves as the criminal empires grow in stature – but none of the ideas are fully realised enough to overcome the reliance on antiquated gameplay that recalls TV and movie tie-ins from decades past, instead of today’s modern successors. There is an interesting game to be made of Breaking Bad, but this isn’t it. It’s not broken and not completely bad – just utterly forgettable. Given its source material, perhaps that’s worse. MATT JARVIS

WHO SHOULD WE EAT?

Designer: Mike Harrison-Wood, Chris MacLennan | Artist: Simeon Cogswell, Pablo Hidalgo

Y

ou’re stranded on an island after a plane crash. You’ll need to build a raft, but you won’t make it unless you manage to find some food. Jeff is suddenly looking rather delicious… This is the delightfully dark setup for Who Should We Eat?, a deeply silly party game about cannibalising your friends. The basics are exactly that: each round, players draw cards and choose one to play and one to keep, either helping build an escape raft, collect food or keep the group sane (some come at the cost of other stats). When the food inevitably runs out, someone will need to become dinner, decided by a debate and mock trial. (A wooden conch shell in the box designed to be banged like a gavel adds to the playfulness.) A player that has chosen to keep a knife (or sharp shell or some such makeshift shank) can choose to reveal it during the discussion – for example, if they think they’re about to become brunch themselves – potentially resulting in an

unwilling volunteer for the human buffet if they’re unable to protect themselves. Funnier still is if a second player reveals a knife, resulting in an all-out brawl that is resolved by literally drawing straws. It’s more than a little ridiculous and messy, but it somehow works – especially if you play with pals that are simply down for a laugh, regardless of winning or losing. Friends turned into food return as vengeful ghosts, able to haunt the living and win as a team by sending the remaining survivors insane. The lighthearted way of solving the player elimination problem works: it’s a lot of fun to come after the person still digesting your leg, and the gradual transition from co-op survival to team-based competition makes for an interesting twist. The whole game is filled with details like this that add to the uproarious tone. Players’ characters are randomly generated from role and personality cards, resulting in amusing combinations like an anti-establishment mechanic or sinister

30m

4-10

14+

£25

rockstar, each of whom have slightly different skills (and meat values…) Who Should We Eat?’s sense of humour matters, because it can be chaotic being stuck on the island. The game’s main drawback is a lack of agency caused by the limited selection of cards players can use each round. This is exacerbated by a quest card picked every turn that applies an ongoing trait or ability to a character; while the current leader chooses the quest, to whom it attaches is decided by again drawing straws, stopping the group strategising to maximise their chances of survival. How frustrating you will find this will ultimately come down to personal preference, but wasn’t a huge problem for us given the short playtime and party game feel. Who Should We Eat? isn’t perfect, and certainly won’t be for everyone. Those that are happy to just watch chaos reign for half an hour with friends, though, are in for a heck of a spectacle. MATT JARVIS

tabletopgaming.co.uk

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Take your positions at the iconic Alexandra Palace

ADVANCE TICKETS

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concept.indd 1

15/01/2018 14:39


STAR TREK ADVENTURES T H E N E X T G E N E R AT I O N C R E W

Space: the final frontier. Join us on our continuing mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilisations, and boldly paint where no brush has gone before as we spruce up the TNG models for the Trekkie RPG Words and photographs by Andy Leighton

S

et brushes to paint and engage! Pioneering sci-fi for over 50 years, the latest expansion of the Star Trek universe is the recent Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game. While a great addition to the toolkit for the game’s players, the miniatures released alongside the RPG also have a great appeal for collectors and fans of the shows and films. Both the crews from The Original

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Series and The Next Generation are available to add to your campaign, alongside sets of unnamed Romulans and Klingons. The figures are cast in resin, giving a glorious crispness to the sculpts. Most importantly, the sculpts beautifully match the actors that played the parts, from Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard to Jonathan Frakes’ debonair Will Riker, and is instantly recognisable. Albeit with a few hiccups, given

that one or two models lack definition in the facial features or have bubbles in their eyes, it’s the small details that really make the miniatures shine though; phasers, tricorders and uniforms match the era perfectly, going so far as to include small elements like rank braids on the sleeves. This month, we’re going to take a look at how to paint all of the elements of The Next Generation crew.

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S TA R T R E K A D V E N T U R E S

PAINTS & TECHNIQUES PAINTS USED Abaddon Black Agrax Earthshade Alaitoc Blue Altdorf Guard Blue Averland Sunset Baneblade Brown Blue Horror Bugman’s Glow Cadian Fleshtone Celestra Grey

Ceramite White Dark Reaper Dawnstone Doombull Brown Dorn Yellow Drakenhof Nightshade Khorne Red Kislev Flesh Krieg Khaki Leadbelcher

Liberator Gold Lugganath Orange Martian Ironearth Mephiston Red Pallid Wych Flesh Reikland Fleshshade Rhinox Hide Runefang Steel Screaming Skull Squig Orange

Slaanesh Grey Sotek Green Steel Legion Drab Temple Guard Blue Warplock Bronze Wild Rider Red Zamesi Desert

STAGES

Since there is a large amount of variety in the crew of the Enterprise, combined with matching uniforms, this guide is split into general sections covering the uniforms and tech, but splitting the skin, hair and other details into different sections. This will allow us to cover every element of each crew member, giving you a guide for the full boxset contents.

UNIFORMS BODYSUIT

COMMAND AND HELM

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Khorne Red.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Mephiston Red, leaving the recesses the basecoat colour.

STAGE 3 Add a line highlight of Wild Rider Red, focusing on the hard edges.

STAGE 4 Apply a dot highlight of Lugganath Orange, focusing on the corners.

ENGINEERING, SECURITY AND OPERATIONS STAGE 1 Add a highlight of Dark Reaper across the hard edges, corners and raised folds of the bodysuit.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Averland Sunset.

STAGE 2 Apply a wash of Reikland Fleshshade.

STAGE 3 Apply a layer of Averland Sunset, leaving the recesses the original colour.

STAGE 4 Apply a line highlight of Krieg Khaki.

SCIENCE AND MEDICAL

STAGE 2 Add a dot highlight of Slaanesh Grey, focusing on the corners and the top of the raised folds.

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STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Sotek Green.

STAGE 2 Apply a highlight of Temple Guard Blue, focusing on the hard edges and folds.

STAGE 3 Apply a line highlight of Blue Horror, focusing on the corners and raised folds.

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UNDERSHIRT

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Steel Legion Drab.

STAGE 2 Apply a highlight of Dawnstone, focusing on the hard edges and folds.

STAGE 3 Apply a line highlight of Celestra Grey, focusing on the hard edges and raised folds.

MEDICAL JACKET

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Altdorf Guard Blue.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Alaitoc Blue, leaving the recesses the base colour.

STAGE 3 Apply a fine highlight of Blue Horror to the edges and raised folds.

DARK SKIN

SKIN LIGHT SKIN

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Rhinox Hide.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Bugman’s Glow.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Cadian Fleshtone, leaving the recesses the base colour.

STAGE 3 Apply a highlight of Kislev Flesh, focusing down the centre and top of the head.

STAGE 4 Apply a final fine highlight of Pallid Wych Flesh, only adding small lines and dots over the previous coat. STAGE 2 Apply a highlight of Doombull Brown, focusing on the top edges of the features.

ANDROID SKIN

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Zamesi Desert.

STAGE 2 Apply a layer of Screaming Skull, leaving the recesses the base colour.

STAGE 3 Apply a glaze of Zamesi Desert over all the skin.

STAGE 4 Apply a final fine highlight of Dorn Yellow, only adding small lines and dots over the previous coat.

STAGE 3 Apply a final fine highlight of Krieg Khaki.

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S TA R T R E K A D V E N T U R E S

HAIR BLACK

STAGE 1 Apply fine lines of Dark Reaper, from the roots fading down the hair.

BLONDE

STAGE 2 Apply a light dash of Slaanesh Grey at the roots of the hair.

RED

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Squig Orange.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Zamesi Desert.

STAGE 2 Apply a wash of Seraphim Sepia.

STAGE 3 Apply a line highlight of Dorn Yellow, focusing on the tips of the hair fading to the roots.

STAGE 2 Apply fine lines of Doombull Brown, from the roots fading down the hair.

STAGE 3 Apply a light dash of Steel Legion Drab at the roots of the hair.

BROWN

STAGE 2 Apply a line highlight of Lugganath Orange to each strand of hair.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Rhinox Hide.

WHITE/GREY

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Celestra Grey.

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STAGE 2 Stipple on small dots of Ceramite White.

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DETAILS CASES

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Celestra Grey.

STAGE 2 Apply a line highlight of Ceramite White.

GEORDI’S VISOR AND BADGES

STAGE 3 Add a line in the department colour, and a few dashes and dots of Abaddon Black to represent text.

BAT’LETH AND BALDRIC

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Runefang STAGE 2 Apply a wash of Steel to the blades and baldric, and Agrax Earthshade. Steel Legion Drab to the handles.

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Liberator Gold.

STAGE 2 Apply a light highlight of Runefang Steel.

PHASERS

STAGE 3 Apply a coat of Runefang Steel to the blade edges and a line highlight of Baneblade Brown to the handles.

BASES

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Celestra Grey to the casing and Abaddon Black to the barrel.

STAGE 2 Apply a line highlight of Ceramite White to the casing and Celestra Grey to the barrel.

METAL PLATING

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Warplock Bronze.

STAGE 2 Apply a drybrush of Leadbelcher.

STAGE 3 Apply a wash of Drakenhof Nightshade.

STAGE 4 Apply a final light drybrush of Runefang Steel and paint the edge of the base Abaddon Black.

STAGE 2 Apply a drybrush of Squig Orange.

STAGE 3 Apply a line highlight of Lugganath Orange to the rocks.

STAGE 4 Apply a thick coat of Martian Ironearth across the flat areas of the base, avoiding the rocks.

PLANET

STAGE 1 Apply a basecoat of Khorne Red.

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T H E D U N G E O N M A S T E R ’ S G U I D E T O R O L E P L AY I N G

VOICES OF COMMAND Cor blimey, guv’nor! Learn how’ta make yer non-player characters come ter life with a lemon squeezy addition: their own distinct voices Words by Richard Jansen-Parkes

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s far as my regular players are concerned, the Fey Lord of Winter speaks with a thick Yorkshire accent. I never really planned for things to work out that way. Before he actually arrived on the scene I’d expected him to speak with cold, imperious tones that befit a powerful and inhuman being. After the party freed him from an icy prison guarded by hordes of monstrous snowmen, however, I realised that a nameless NPC earlier on in the session had spoken in a very similar way. Suddenly I was searching for a voice while a tableful of players watched on expectantly. And, for some reason, the only one that seemed appropriate was a somewhat sketchy impression of English cricket legend Geoffrey Boycott. It turns out it’s hard to sound haughty and indifferent when you talk like that. Indeed, the rather bizarre choice of tones began to shape the Lord of Winter’s character. Instantly, he began obeying all of the Yorkshire stereotypes, becoming down-toearth and forthright with a workmanlike approach to spreading snow and ice across the mortal realms. Just like that, a single choice of voice transformed him from a distant, morallyambiguous contact to a trusted ally. One inclined to make obscure cricket references, for some reason.

BROAD STROKES When it comes to introducing a new character to your gaming table, few things can shape their first impressions as thoroughly as their voice. This can be intimidating to new DMs, but personally I like to think of it as a blessing. After all, around 90% of what we do at the table involves speaking in one way or another. Think of encountering a guard who speaks with the slow, purposeful tones of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. Now imagine the same meeting, only the guard is channelling Dick Van Dyke’s inspired take on cockney from Mary Poppins. They could say the exact same things but still give completely different impressions – one cold and militaristic, the other friendly, cheerful and definitely not from anywhere near London. Now, getting really good at creating voices can be the work of a lifetime, but most people should be able to at least take a stab at it. I certainly

wouldn’t rate my own skills too highly at all, but on a good day I can probably hit a dozen stereotype-laden accents with some degree of reliability. Most of them are what I like to think of as ‘movie accents’. The Russian is pulled straight from an early Steven Seagal villain while the Australian would disgrace Crocodile Dundee, but they get the job done well enough. Not every NPC needs their own unique voice. A throwaway merchant talking about problems at the local space station will probably do just fine with a slight spin on your own voice, for example, but when you’re dropping in a major villain or ally it can be worth making them sound distinct. If you are playing around with different voices, however, make sure you remember which character spoke with which voice. I can tell you from personal experience that it rather breaks your players’ immersion in the game when you have to ask if the friendly paladin sounded more Spanish or French.

THE KING’S SPEECH There’s more to how a person speaks than their accent, of course. There’s the speed with which they speak, the volume, the way they choose to emphasise certain syllables. Choosing the right combination of pauses and patterns can speak volumes about a character’s attitude and bearing. Again, this is somewhere you’ll want to borrow liberally from popular culture. Plenty of necromancers from my past games have had the loose-lipped, arrogant drawl of Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine, for example. Other memorable characters are voiced with the clenched jaw and cold gaze of Alan Rickman or the unpredictable staccato. Of Christopher. Walken. It would be a waste to tell you when to use a slower voice or when to make it faster and higher, because you almost certainly know all that already. Just be speaking a voice – trying it out in a whisper, even – you can get a feel for the character it projects. Sometimes you’ll have to come up with a voice right there at the table, in which case you more or less have to roll with what comes out. When possible, though, I find it best to at least try and have a general idea in advance. Usually this comes up when I’m sketching out general notes for a session, listing potential NPCs that may or may not crop up. As I imagine characters I try out their voices – which can attract rather weird looks when I’m doing some last-minute planning on the train. Of course, winging it doesn’t always produce bad results. Just ask t’ Lord of Winter, by ‘eck..

Not every single character needs to have a unique accent or speaking style, but giving major allies or villains a distinct tone can add to the immersion of an adventure (Wizards of the Coast)

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UPCOMING EVENTS SPAGHETTI CONJUNCTION Saturday February 10th Geek Retreat, Birmingham

The ‘other’ Birmingham-based gaming show returns to the Geek Retreat gaming café one of the few shows where you can order food straight to your table! Roleplaying games tend to be the order of the day. spaghetticonjunction.wordpress.com

SORCON

Friday February 23rd to Sunday 25th Holiday Inn Basildon, Basildon

EVENT REPORT

BASTION

Aaron Lawn chats about moving the north Wales meetup to a youth hostel and why the gloomy start of the year is the best time for gaming together Interview by Matt Jarvis The first Bastion was only held last year – what changes are you making to the second instalment? This is the second year for Bastion, so there’s not much to change! We’ve scaled up a bit since last year, moving from a conference venue to the YHA Conwy. A youth hostel is a pretty unique venue for a gaming event! Why did you decide to shift to such an unconventional setting? We wanted to make Bastion into a social space for gaming – the YHA lets us offer an affordable place to stay, comfortable areas to set up and play, and plenty of options for food. Outside the change of scenery, what else is new for this year’s show? Other than the bigger and better venue, we’re not looking for new since we’re still in early days. What’s one-of-a-kind about the event itself? We’re modelled less after an expo, and closer to your typical gaming meetup; no dealers, no special guests. A games library is provided by attendees, and we focus on creating an inclusive space to game with friends and soon-to-be friends. January is generally quite a quiet month for gaming get-togethers – why is the right time for you to hold Bastion? For exactly that reason!  January can be quite dark – the perfect time to play games for a long weekend. What are some of the most popular games for people to bring along?

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Bastion is primarily a board game event, but we have some people running RPGs, card games and big social games. What else have you got happening? Conwy, the north Wales coast and Snowdonia offer plenty of options outside of gaming. Speaking of which, what’s the local tabletop community like in Conwy? You can’t really speak about Conwy in exclusion to the surroundings – the north Wales coast isn’t the same as Manchester, Liverpool or Cardiff, and certainly not London! There are a number of established weekly clubs and meet-ups, including one that meets in Conwy and several more within 30 minutes’ drive. Tabletop brick and mortar stores can be found in Llandudno and Rhyl. Regular and occasional gamers have a wide range of ages and backgrounds. How does the wider Welsh gaming scene differ to the rest of the UK? We can only speak about north Wales, where there are fewer gaming events, and it’s not easy to come across a game shop – but that’s due to the lower population density. There are still plenty of dedicated gamers. One of the larger weekly clubs draws members who live up to 60 miles apart. What have you got planned for next year’s third event? We’re happy with running a small, focused event – so other than convincing more people to come and check out Bastion, and keeping the friendly atmosphere, we don’t have any big plans for next year.

Marking ten years of conventions, SoRCon brings together more than 100 people to play all sorts of games, with Eurogames especially popular. The popular Quiz-a-Hunt on Saturday makes for an entertaining evening, too. sorcon.co.uk

REVELATION

Saturday February 24rd to Sunday 25th Garrison Hotel, Sheffield Focused on Powered by the Apocalypse RPGs, up to 80 roleplayers cram into the everpopular Garrison Hotel for this two-day event. revelationgames.org.uk

CONCORD

Saturday February 24rd to Sunday 25th Pineapple Inn, Bristol After expanding from its inaugural one-day event in 2016 to a two-day weekender last year, Concord is back with an expanded trader’s market, extra tournament space – including a Catan national – and an official Fireside Gathering for digital CCG Hearthstone, plus much more. It promises to be an unmissable couple of days. concordgamingconvention.com

AIRECON

Friday March 9th to Sunday 11th Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate

A staple of the UK gaming calendar, Airecon is one of the friendliest cons around and boasts a games library of more than 350 titles that can be played for free, making it a fantastic show for hobby newcomers and diehards alike. airecon.uk

CONVERGENCE

Friday March 9th to Sunday 11th Northwest Gaming Centre, Stockport

Held in the home of local retailer Element Games, ConVergence boasts a healthy line-up of roleplaying sessions, as well as miniatures and board games galore, across its three days. convergenceuk.co.uk

CONCRETE COW

Saturday March 17th The Old Bath House, Wolverton

A day of roleplaying held by Milton Keynes RPG Club, Concrete Cow is open to all sorts of RPGs, with a few board games and traders also popping up at the get-together. mk-rpg.org.uk/concrete_cow

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CLUB DIRECTORY ABERDEENSHIRE

ABERDEEN WARGAMES CLUB

Aberdeen, AB15 4YQ

OLDMELDRUM WARGAMES GROUP

Inverurie, AB51 0AA AYRSHIRE

NORTH AYRSHIRE WARGAMES CLUB Irvine, KA12 0BA

BEDFORDSHIRE

BASEMENT GAMING CLUB Luton, LU3 3AN

BEDFORD BOARD GAMING Bedford, MK40 2SX

BOARD GAMES IN BEDFORD Bedford, MK41 0TU BERKSHIRE

BROAD STREET GAMERS Wokingham, RG40 3AQ

NEWBURY & READING WARGAMES ASSOCIATION

Carmarthen, SA31 3AD

TOWY VALLEY TYRANTS (TVT)

Carmarthen, SA31 2JE CHESHIRE

ALTRINCHAM WARGAMING CLUB

Altrincham, WA14 4PG

CHESHIRE GAMERS Crewe, CW1 2DF

CONGLETON AND DISTRICT LIGHT BOARD GAMES GROUP Congleton, CW12 1AH

ELEMENT GAMES NORTH WEST GAMING CENTRE

Stockport, SK2 6PT

GUARDIANS OF THE GAMES (TABLETOP GROUP) Macclesfield, SK11 6UB

Newbury, RG14 2RA/RG1 4PS

MUG AND GAME

WARFIELD BOARD GAMERS

POYNTON BOARD GAME DAY

Bracknell, RG42 2DD

WARGAMES ASSOCIATION OF READING Wokingham, RG41 5DU BRISTOL

HALL OF HEROES GAMING CLUB

Bristol, BS16 1NU BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

MILTON KEYNES WARGAMES SOCIETY

Milton Keynes, MK11 1JQ

NEWPORT PAGNELL BOARD GAMES CLUB

Newport Pagnell, MK16 8AN

WYCOMBE WARBAND

Beaconsfield, HP9 1LG CAMBRIDGESHIRE

2D6 LODGE

Cambridge, CB1 8NN

CHATTERIS WARLORDS GAMES CLUB Chatteris, PE16 6NA

NEWMARKET KNIGHTS GAMES CLUB Ely, CB7 5HS

PETERBOROUGH WARGAMES CLUB

Peterborough, PE1 1NA

Congleton, CW12 1PG

Stockport, SK12 1RB

VARIABLE MAGERS

Stockport, SK4 3BS

WARRINGTON BOARD GAMES CLUB

Omagh, BT78 1HL DERBYSHIRE

DERBY ON BOARD GAMES Derby, DE1 1QH

SUNDAY NIGHT BOARD GAMING AT THE OLD KING’S HEAD BELPER Belper, DE56 1NP DEVON

BARNSTAPLE SLAYERS GAMING CLUB Barnstaple, EX32 8LS

EAST DEVON TABLETOP & RPG GROUP Honiton, EX14 1HR

EXMOUTH IMPERIAL WARGAMES CLUB Exmouth, EX8 4SW

GAME NIGHT @ CARPE Plymouth, PL4 8EU

PLYMOUTH ASSOCIATION OF WARGAMERS

EDINBURGH

CHINEHAM BOARD GAMERS

Edinburgh, EH7 5EA

DARK WORLDS GAMING SOCIETY

EDINBURGH LEAGUE OF GAMERS ESSEX

BASILDON WARBOYZ Basildon, SS16 4NW

COLCHESTER WARGAMES ASSOCIATION Colchester, CO3 5RH

ESSEX WARRIORS

Chelmsford, CM1 3DU

SOUTHEND-ON-SEA ROLEPLAYING SOCIETY

EAST NEUK TABLETOP GAMES Anstruther, KY10 3DJ

KIRKCALDY MEEPLE CLUB

TORQUAY BOARD GAME CLUB

FLINTSHIRE

DORSET

SOUTHBOURNE TABLETOP & BOARDGAMERS Bournemouth, BH6 3AA

Kirkcaldy, KY2 6LF

DEESIDE DEFENDERS Chester, CH4 0DR

FGC FLINTSHIRE GAMING CLUB

Bryn-y-Baal, CH7 6SZ

ANTONINE BOARD GAMERS

WINSFORD WARHAWKS WARGAMING CLUB

WORLDS AWAY

GLASGOW GAMES ROOM

DUMFRIESSHIRE

UNPLUGGED GAMES CLUB

Winsford, CW7 4AT CLEVELAND

Ferndown, BH22 9AN Bournemouth, BH2 5RQ

GLASGOW

Glasgow, G64 4EN Glasgow, G20 7QE

REDCAR IRONBEARDS

ANNAN GAMING CLUB

CO ANTRIM

DRAGONSLAYERS

THE FIVE ARCHES GAMING CLUB

GLOUCESTERSHIRE GAMES BUNKER

CO DURHAM

DUNBARTONSHIRE

PORK CHOP GAMING

Dumbarton, G82 1QQ

GREATER MANCHESTER

Redcar, TS10 1RH

Belfast, BT7 1NN

DARLINGTON’S DOGS OF WAR

Darlington, DL3 7LX

DURHAM RAIDERS

Croxdale, DH6 5HJ

Annan, DG12 6EF

Dumfries, DG1 3JR

DUMBARTON WARGAMES CLUB EAST SUSSEX

1066 WARGAMING CLUB

GAMERS@HART

St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 8BL

CO LONDONDERRY

EASTBOURNE ELEMENTAL

Hartlepool, TS26 9DE

THE SIEGE BUNKER

Londonderry, BT48 7JL CORNWALL

THE GAMES TABLE

WEDNESDAY NIGHT GAMING

Bude, EX23 9BL

Redruth, TR15 3QY CONTY TYRONE

Eastbourne, BN21 3XQ

FAMOUS COLLECTABLES Bexhill-on-Sea, TN40 1DU

EAST YORKSHIRE

WOLDS WARGAMERS Driffield, YO25 6SS

FIRESTORM CARDS OPEN GAMING NIGHT

POTTERS BAR GAMES CLUB

Basingstoke, RG24 8FB

Glasgow, G41 3AB

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Cheltenham, GL51 4XA Cheltenham, GL50 3HA

TABLETOP MANCHESTER Manchester, M15 4ST

Waltham Cross, EN8 9AJ Potters Bar, EN6 5BT

FORDINGBRIDGE GAMING CLUB

ST ALBANS BOARD GAME CLUB

PORTSMOUTH ON BOARD

THOR’S HAMMER GAMING CLUB

Fordingbridge, SP6 1AS Portsmouth, PO1 1PT

SOUTHAMPTON SLUGGAZ

Dunfermline, KY12 7DS

Hitchin, SG5 1XL

NORTH LONDON WARGAMES CLUB

FIFE

DUNFERMLINE WARGAMING AND ROLEPLAYING FELLOWSHIP

NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE WARGAMES CLUB

Fareham, PO15 6TL

SOLENT WARGAMERS CLUB

Plymouth, PL3 5TB

Torquay, TQ2 7AD

Basingstoke, RG24 8LT

Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1BD

WESSEX WYVERNS WARGAMES CLUB

THE DICE AND DAGGER GAMING CLUB

Cambridge, CB24 4RP

OMAGH WARGAMES CLUB

Warrington, WA1 2SX

ROLL WITH IT!

Huntingdon, PE29 3TF

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CARMARTHENSHIRE

CARMARTHEN OLD GUARD

Portsmouth, PO1 1PT

Southampton, SO17 2JZ

THE SOUTHAMPTON GUILD OF ROLEPLAYERS

Southampton, SO14 0LH

THE THIRD COALITION WARGAMES CLUB

New Milton, BH25 5BT

WATERLOO TABLE TOP GAMERS

Waterlooville, PO8 8RG

WESSEX WARGAMES WINCHESTER

Winchester, SO22 4QB

WESSEX WYVERNS GAMING CLUB

Ringwood, BH24 2NP HEREFORDSHIRE

DICE AND DECKS Ross-on-Wye, HR9 5HR

HEREFORDSHIRE BOARDGAMERS

Hereford, HR4 9EA HERTFORDSHIRE

BLACK WOLF WARGAMES CLUB Hitchin, SG5 1XL

CALAMITY COMICS HATFIELD Hatfield, AL10 0JJ

FINCHLEY GAMES CLUB London, N12 7JE

St. Albans, AL3 5PE

Borehamwood, WD6 5PR

WATFORD WARGAMES CLUB Watford, WD17 4PN ISLE OF MAN

KB TABLETOP GAMING Isle of Man, IM4 4LA KENT

ALL AROUND THE BOARD

Westgate-on-Sea, CT8 8RE

ASHFORD (KENT) BOARDGAMES CLUB Ashford, TN24 9AJ

BEXLEY REAPERS WARGAMING CLUB Bexley, DA5 1AA

CANTERBURY CRUSADERS Canterbury, CT1 1RT

GRAVESHAM WARGAMING AND TABLETOP GAMING CLUB Gravesend, DA11 9EU

GREENWICH & BLACKHEATH BOARD GAMES AND BEER CLUB London, SE3 7JQ

MAIDSTONE WARGAMES SOCIETY

Maidstone, ME17 4AW

MEDWAY AREA BOARDGAMERS

Maidstone, ME14 1ED

MILTON HUNDRED WARGAMES CLUB

Sittingbourne, ME10 4BX

GWENT REAVERS TABLETOP GAMING CLUB

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD GAMES CLUB

SEVENOAKS & TONBRIDGE ASSOCIATION OF GAMERS (STAG)

GWYNEDD

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD WARGAMING CLUB

TUNBRIDGE WELLS WARGAMES SOCIETY

ARBBL

HERTFORD BEER & BOARDGAMES

WHITSTABLETOP

BLACK HOLE WARGAMERS

HITCHIN HERETICS

LANARKSHIRE GAMERS

GWENT

Abertillery, NP13 3DJ

CONWY WARGAMES CLUB Llandudno, LL30 3LB HAMPSHIRE

Andover, SP10 1DQ Petersfield, GU32 3HS

Hemel Hempstead, HP2 6BJ

Hemel Hempstead, HP1 1LD

Hertford, SG14 1HH Hitchin, SG5 1XL

Sevenoaks, TN15 9HA

Tunbridge Wells, TN3 0PR Whitstable, CT5 1DA LANARKSHIRE

Motherwell, ML1 1BS

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LANCASHIRE

BLACK TOWER WARGAMING

Blackpool, FY4 4ND

BURNEY WARGAMES CLUB Burnley, BB10 3EU

BURNLEY BOARDGAMERS Burnley, BB10 3LF

DICED TEA

Oldham, OL1 2DB

DUNGEONS & FLAGONS Manchester, M1 7HL

HOUSE LANCASTER GAMING GROUP

Lancaster, LA1 1EE

PRESTON BOARD GAMERS Preston, PR1 7DP

SALFORD AND MANCHESTER GAMING HAVEN Salford, M8 0TW

THE HUNGRY DRAGON GAMES NIGHT

Manchester, M21 0AE

THE LIVERPOOL WARGAMES ASSOCIATION (LWA) Liverpool, L1 6HB

THURSDAY SCYTHE BOARD GAMERS Liverpool, L3 8HE

LEICESTERSHIRE

LEICESTER ALL SCARS Leicester, LE1 3JR

LEICESTER PHAT KATZ Leicester, LE3 0QY

SECTION 31

Leicester, LE1 1PA

SONS OF SIMON DE MONTFORT

Loughborough, LE12 8TX

THE LEICESTER WARGAMES AND FANTASY GROUP Leicester, LE3 0QU

LINCOLNSHIRE

BOSTON TABLETOP GAMERS Boston, PE21 6QQ

GRANTHAM FRIENDLY GAMERS Grantham, NG31 6LJ

GRIMSBY WARGAMES SOCIETY Grimsby, DN32 9HT

LINCOLN BOARD GAME GROUP Lincoln, LN1 3BJ LONDON

CROSS GAMING CLUB London, SE1 1DX

SELWG

London, SE6 2TS

OXFORDSHIRE

WARWICKSHIRE

TANELORN WAR GAMING CLUB

ABINGDON WARGAMES CLUB

STAFFORDSHIRE WARGAMING GUILD

AFTERNOON PLAY

THE PHOENIX GAMES CLUB

AMBROSDEN GAMING CLUB

TAMWORTH GAMES CLUB

BOARD GAME CAFE SUMMERFIELD

THE ROLE PLAY HAVEN

NORTH OXFORDSHIRE WARGAMING CLUB

TAMWORTH LIBERATORS GAMING CLUB

OXFORD GAMING CLUB

THE VINE INN GAMERS

OXFORD ON BOARD

STIRLINGSHIRE

London, E11 3DB London, E13

London, E15 2HU/SE13 6LH MERSEYSIDE

FORGEMASTERS GAMING CLUB

Wirral, CH63 6HD

LIVERPOOL LION BOARDGAMERS

Liverpool, L3 9NS

SOUTHPORT BOARD GAMES GROUP

Southport, PR8 1NH MID GLAMORGAN

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Uxbridge, UB10 0RY

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Uxbridge, UB10 0RY

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Shrewsbury, SY1 1PH

King’s Lynn, PE30 4DN

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NORTH YORKSHIRE

YORK GARRISON WARGAMING CLUB York, YO32 4AQ

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

BATTLEFIELD HOBBIES Daventry, NN11 8RB

PHOENIX GAMING CLUB Rushden, NN10 9YE

THE BRACKLEY & DISTRICT GAMERS (AKA THE BAD GAMERS) Brackley, NN13 6LF

THE PIT GAMING CLUB

Wellingborough, NN9 5TU NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

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Nottingham, NG17 8LA

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Bury St. Edmunds, IP30 9LH

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IPSWICH COUNTY LIBRARY BOARD GAMES LIBRARY

Shrewsbury, SY1 2DT Telford, TF1 2BW SOMERSET

MID SOMERSET WARGAMES CLUB

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Rugeley, WS15 2AT

GAMES @ THE BIRD

Shrewsbury, SY1 2DT

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Norwich, NR3 4HX

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AFTERMATH GAMING CLUB

Tamworth, B79 7DJ

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TABLETOP TUESDAYS London, N16 8BX

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Bath, BA2 6AA

Wells, BA5 2PU

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THE FROME BOARD GAMES CLUB Frome, BA11 1PU

TRINITY WARGAMING CLUB Taunton, TA1 3JG

WARGAMING @ RADSTOCK Radstock, BA3 4BD

WESTON WARGAMERS CLUB

Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1NF

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Weston-super-Mare, BS22 8PD SOUTH YORKSHIRE

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ZONE OUT GAMES CLUB Doncaster, DN1 2PX

STAFFORDSHIRE

Haverhill, CB9 9JE Ipswich, IP3 0FS

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Ipswich, IP2 0RG SURREY

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EAGLE GAMING CLUB Londonv, SW18 2PT

HAMPTON COURT GAMERS East Molesey, KT8 0BT

SOUTH LONDON WARLORDS London, SE21 7BT

STAINES WARGAMES ASSOCIATION Egham, TW20 0QT

Devizes, SN10 5AD

GRANGE LIVE GAMING

WEDNESDAY KNIGHT GAMERS

Birmingham, B1 1QP

NUNEATON ALTERNATIVE GAMES ASSOCIATION OCTOBER WARGAMES ASSOCIATION

DRAGOON’S DEN

Birmingham, B16 8SY

THE WOKING WEIRD BOYZ Woking, GU22 7TA

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SUSSEX

Chessington, KT9 1PF

BRIGHTON WARLORDS Brighton, BN1 1UB

Birmingham, B13 9EA

POSTAL ORDER GEEK MEET

WEST MIDLANDS

REDDITCH WARGAMING SOCIETY

Coventry, CV3 5GT

Birmingham, B13 9EA Solihull, B90 3GG

Worcester, WR1 1DN

Redditch, B97 5YE

WYRE FOREST GAMERS

Kidderminster, DY10 1RP YORKSHIRE

WEST SUSSEX

AIREBOROUGH COMMUNITY GAMERS

Bognor Regis, PO21 5EU

BEYOND MONOPOLY

BOGNOR REGIS GAMING ASSOCIATION

BOGNOR REGIS MILITARY MODELLING AND WARGAMING SOCIETY Bognor Regis, PO21 5SB

CRAWLEY GAMING CLUB Crawley, RH10 5DF

Leeds, LS19 6AS York, YO24 1AQ

HEADINGLEY GAMES CLUB Leeds, LS6 3HN

HOLMFIRTH GAMING CENTRE Holmfirth, HD9 7HP

CRAWLEY WARGAMES CLUB

HULL’S ANGELS

Crawley, RH11 9BQ

Hull, HU1 3HG

DUNGEON CRAWL-EY GAMES CLUB

LEEDS GAMING

Crawley, RH11 7QG

WEST YORKSHIRE

London, SE1 2TF

Bromsgrove, B60 2DZ

SCIMITAR WARGAMES GROUP

SURREY GIRL GAMERS SWIGGERS

WORCESTERSHIRE

Nuneaton, CV10 8LJ

STAY ON TARGET

Woking, GU21 4AL

Salisbury, SP1 3TA

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Woking, GU21 5BG

Chippenham, SN15 3WL

Coventry, CV6 4FE

PLAY MORE GAMES!

WHITE EAGLES WARGAMES CLUB

CHIPPENHAM BOARD GAMES CLUB DEVIZES & DISTRICT WARGAMES GROUP

MID SUFFOLK GAMING CLUB

Stowmarket, IP14 4SH

Salisbury, SP4 7LN

DREAMDEALERS GAMING CLUB

Ipswich, IP1 3DE

TOLWORTH 1ST FOUNDING

Lichfield, WS13 6EB

Birmingham, B16 0EZ

BIRMINGHAM WARGAMES AND BOARDGAMES CLUB AKA DRAGOON’S DEN

CHASE WARGAMES CLUB Burntwood, WS7 0JL

Birmingham, B15 1AY

WILTSHIRE

BOSCOMBE DOWN & AMESBURY WARGAMES CLUB

Pulborough, RH20 4DR

BOARD IN THE VILLAGE Bradford, BD14 6RF

GAMING CLUB BRADFORD

Leeds, LS1 3DL

LEEDS NIGHT OWLS Leeds, LS6 1LJ

SHEFFIELD AND ROTHERHAM WARGAMES CLUB Sheffield, S2 2TP

SHEFFIELD BOARD GAMES Sheffield, S3 7HG

Bradford, BD1 2DX

HALIFAX BOARD GAMERS Halifax, HX1 1SJ

KEIGHLEY TABLETOP COMBAT Keighley, BD20 6EB

OTLEY BOARD GAMERS Otley, LS21 2AU

LIST YOUR CLUB FOR FREE AND SEE FULL CLUB DETAILS ONLINE AT tabletopgam ing.co.uk/clubs

tabletopgaming.co.uk

92_93_clubDirectory_v2 MJ.indd 93

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16/01/2018 11:48


Is there anything we need for gaming that they don’t have here?

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Board Games, Card Games, Role Playing, Board Games, Card Games, Role Playing, War Games, In-Store Gaming and Events War Games, In-store Gaming and 100 Ballards Lane, Finchley, London, N3 2DN | Tel: 020 8346 2327 Events | www.leisuregames.com Come and visit our Bricks & Mortar shop in North London and be amazed at the range of games we carry in stock! 100 Ballards Lane, Finchley, London N3 2DN Tel: 020 8346 2327 Email: shop@leisuregames.com

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15/01/2018 13:32


SHOP SPOTLIGHT

LOST ARK GAMES Mick Paget talks about the store’s move from Buntingford to Stevenage and why some people visit even if they don’t plan to play Interview by Matt Jarvis What makes your store stand out? We have a separate retail area so that shoppers can get on with their shopping in peace, and most of our square footage is dedicated solely to playing, with specially-designed and -built tables optimised for card, board and tabletop wargaming. Keeping the two areas separate works really well. We have a gaming library available and charge just £3 to play all day. Funnily enough, a lot of our customers also pay this fee and come in to work on their laptops, chat, study, paint or play against each other with mobile gaming devices! They enjoy the space we provide, as well as the odd distraction with a chance for a quick game when the opportunity arises. We are massive music lovers here, too, so there is always music on in all the areas – it only goes off if it’s too distracting. You moved from Buntingford to Stevenage a few years ago. Why did you decide to move? Buntingford was a small, friendly town but not a major shopping destination. The vast majority of our customers loved the shop so much they would travel in from larger surrounding towns despite driving down lots of lanes to find us. Through their love of Lost Ark and my stubbornness to continue I kept going. Then Steve Booth came on board and injected new blood into the business. When we were able to afford it, we moved to Stevenage. Stevenage is 20 minutes from King’s Cross and right by the A1, so it’s dead easy to get to us. We were, and still are, a small shop and the move necessitated finding a large and flexible space that was affordable long term and easily accessible by car/rail/bus. Our shop occupies half of a first floor of an office block, which does make it awkward on the first visit to find us as it

February 2018

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is physically not on street level – but once you do, you realise it’s so centrally positioned and easy to reach, it really works. We’ve got maps on our website and a massive banner outside which really does help to find us. Our trade and customer base has grown yearon-year and we’ve gone from strength to strength. We are now stocking so many different great games we struggle with the space for them, but we view Lost Ark as a hidden treasure – an Aladdin’s cave jam-packed full of games. New customers to our store are usually gobsmacked by the range of products we carry, and love the friendly gaming atmosphere we create here. If you’re new and want to stay and play, we’ll introduce you to other gamers and, before you know it, you’ll have broken the ice with a game or two and made new friends. What is the local gaming scene like in Stevenage – how does it compare to where you were before? There are many more gamers and a surprising number of clubs in the local area catering to board games, card games and wargaming. Our playing areas are always open to members of these clubs outside of their usual meeting days. Because of this, the variety of games being played here has become more diverse, too. Gamers come from far and wide to visit us. You have a pretty busy events calendar! What are the biggest get-togethers you run? Our Fantasy Flight tournaments and Magic events go down well and the most popular evening event we run is the weekly RPG night. All DMs and GMs play for free and we regularly have 30 to 40 players come every week. I think what makes that evening madly successful is that they create their own

entertainment entirely, which makes it deeply involving, personal and such fun for everyone. The most unique event we offer is a retro video gaming night! Over the years we’ve collected all the old consoles and we get them all out on a Saturday night every few months, have burgers and play old video games on old TVs all night. It’s pretty unique, completely unrelated to selling board games, but gets massive interest and draws new people in who didn’t know about us. Which games did well over Christmas? We’ve worked really hard to get a Bolt Action community going here and that’s doing very well. For RPGs, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything for Dungeons & Dragons: Fifth Edition has done fabulously well. TCG-wise, Magic: The Gathering remains the favourite but we have a fabulous Yu-Gi-Oh! community here too. With board games, last year’s hit was Dark Souls and the evergreen Pandemic still remains an incredibly popular game. What were your favourite games of last year? Massive Darkness was my personal favourite while Steve went for Lobotomy for the most original theme and Fate of the Elder Gods for the most Cthulhu summoning. Which releases are you most excited for in 2018? It’s a bit of a golden age for gaming at the moment and there are many great new games on the horizon. We’re especially looking forward to stocking Gloomhaven, Resident Evil 2, Lords of Hellas, Star Wars: Legion, Folklore… The list is endless and the future for games is looking very bright for players. What else are you planning for the next 12 months? Who knows what this year will bring? We’d like to improve the store by potentially make the retail area larger and giving it a spruce up with a view to eventually moving to larger or more prominent premises. Mainly it’s about keeping up our commitment to our visitors to make Lost Ark a fun destination for a day or evening and a great place to shop and play. We’ve been up and running for six years now and a lot has changed in that time. We are immensely proud of the business and community we have managed to grow from nothing to what it is now. We have needed to really connect with our customers and understand their needs, as well as navigate through a rapidly expanding range of games in this boom time and find the very best ones to put on our shelves.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

95

15/01/2018 14:30


SHOP DIRECTORY

GUERNSEY

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HERTFORDSHIRE

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Friendly Local Table Top Game Store specialising in Pokemon, Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Games Workshop and Board Games based in Rhyl North Wales. Small but well stocked and friendly atmosphere! Visit us on 6 Russell Road, Rhyl, LL18 3BU just off the High Street Phone: 01745 360415 Email: sales@portalgames.co.uk Find us on Facebook for more details

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SNAKES AND LADDERS

ne of the most famous and instantly recognisable board games of all time is the childhood favourite known in the UK as Snakes and Ladders. Like many games we know so well, Snakes and Ladders has an interesting history. The game originated in ancient India, where it was known as Moksha Patamu. The original game appears to have been designed to embrace the Hindu philosophies of karma, a causality theory based on good or bad deeds, and samskaras, which are rituals marking life events. In Moksha Patamu the snakes led you down towards ‘asuras’ – which are power-seeking, demon-like deities – while the ladders allowed you to climb up to either a god or a version of heaven such as Kailasa, Vaikuntha or Brahmaloka. Early board games in the UK were usually viewed as a vehicle for religion and education rather than the pursuit of pure entertainment. The game’s mechanics are very simple; essentially, Snakes and Ladders is a game of pure luck with no opportunity to introduce any strategy or use any skill to alter the outcome of the game. However, the seemingly simplistic nature of the game suits its philosophical background as it emphasises the ideas of fate and destiny. When you roll a die it can be thought of as the hands of fate, with your destiny becoming determined by the pattern of the board rather than some random act. The boards were often balanced between the number of snakes and the number of ladders, and took the number of squares traversed between each snake or ladder into account to ensure an equal balance. All of this makes perfect sense in the original Indian interpretation of the game. When the game was first published in England in 1892 the cultural and religious iconography was removed and replaced with more traditional British scenes reflecting Christian virtues and morals, each snake or ladder linking good or bad causes to their appropriate effects. For example, one of the boards in the Museum of Gaming’s collection dating to 1920 contains a square labelled ‘kindness’ that leads a ladder up to ‘reward’, while a square labelled ‘gambling’ leads down a snake to ‘ruin’.

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The game and title are not held under copyright and sets were manufactured in great number – as they still are today. The styling and themes of the game have changed somewhat, though; early English editions were often illustrated with exotic images of India or given some generic oriental themes. The squares in modern-day boards do not make any attempt to represent morals and the game is simply taken down to its fundamental mechanics. The board is not always balanced either, making the game less fair and more subject to being thrown in one player’s favour by pure luck. While early editions may have kept to the original idea of teaching cause and effect, modern boards dispose of this concept – without this the simple mechanics do not translate into a great game.

Words Phil Robinson Phil Robinson is a game

historian and the founder of the Museum of Gaming, an organisation that explores and documents the history of gaming through its collections, exhibitions and research.

tabletopgaming.co.uk

16/01/2018 11:50


IN MARCH’S ISSUE

ON S AL E FEBRUARY 28 T H

Juggle politics, conflict and honour to lead your clan to victory in feudal Japan. Eric Lang tells us about his incredible follow-up to Blood Rage

10 YEARS OF PANDEMIC

Matt Leacock reunites with the designers and artists that have worked on his infectiously popular co-op hit to celebrate a decade of battling disease

CIVILIZATION

The empire-building classic is back! Creator Francis Tresham reveals how one of the tabletop’s most influential titles came to be

GAMING RETREATS The best places to go on a jolly hobby holiday

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09/01/2018 10:12:31 10/01/2018 12:08

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Batman: Gotham City Chronicles: As the makers of Conan prepare to take their superhero extravaganza to Kickstarter, we check in and see what...

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