Mike Austin

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Mike is a graduate from Indiana University turned freelance writer and activist gaming enthusiast. He spends his free time discussing news and game design, watching youtube, and entertaining friends and his cat, Cicero. Mike can be reached by e-mail at mikeoflore@gmail.com or on Board Game Geek via the username Noblegrizzly.

Terra Mystica is easily one of the biggest and highest rated Eurogames of all time, having inspired a space-themed spin-off in Gaia Project. Yet it has not stopped growing as this Fall we’ll be seeing another expansion for this 2-to-5 player territory terraformin’ game. Merchants of the Seas brings shipyards, Markets, and new maps to the multitude of factions vying for control – even the ones introduced in previous expansions! You’ll be able to send out ships to take special shipping actions, or perhaps play one of the few races that prefers to not get their feet wet and instead try to manipulate trade with other structures. All this can be played independently or combined with previous expansion content, meaning you’ll be able to make the as complex and intricate as your table can handle.

Merchants of the Seas expands on the hit terraforming gameplay of Terra Mystica. Develop your faction’s nautical strategy, stake a claim on distant lands, or focus on the benefits of trade. Plus, a double-sided board and over 30 tiles add countless new avenues to victory.”

There are two main goals with this expansion that should not be overlooked by the promise of added rules – strategic flexibility and balancing. Ships and trading allow for a wide variety of action potential that is, for the most part, independent on your current standing in a game – have water, will travel. Both ships and trading have ways to give you access to distant or action efficient terraforming and building options, making it harder to be built into a corner and opening new tactical decisions to boot. The new maps offer tons of replay potential and include new starting scores for each faction for all the maps that exist, balancing the game no matter how the landscape falls. If you’re interested in Terra Mystica or Merchants of the Seas, check out Z-Man’s website for more rules, images, and preorder information through them or your favorite local retailer.

IELLO has two new games coming to your favorite retailers this September. The first is the all new Ninja Academy, designed by Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Rivière. The game pits 3-to-5 players against one another in a wide variety of dexterity challenges. Challenges are decided at random, and alternate between tests for the whole group or a duel between two players. There’s really quite an assortment of mini-games here, as per the game’s description:

“For example, try to be the first player to place a ninja meeple on each of your fingertips! Try to guess how many ninjas your opponent put in the box just by shaking it! Be the quickest to assemble 5 wood logs vertically! Be strong enough to collect points depending on your score, but also be strategic enough when you bet on the winner of each duel!”

The second new release is an expansion for 8-bit Box called Double Rumble. Designed by the same team as Ninja Academy above, this game emulates NES-era side-scrolling beat-em-ups like River City Ransom and is playable solo or cooperative with a friend! Players take on waves of baddies coming from left and right, and it takes timing, tactics, and special attacks to survive the increasingly difficult waves and reach the boss. Fans of 8-bit Box and the retro games it calls back to will really like the flair of this one. For more information about either of these releases, be sure to check out IELLO’s website in the coming weeks as their catalog updates and watch out for their retail release early September.

Level 99 Games dropped a big announcement for their long-running skirmish game Exceed. Four expansions featuring characters from the popular 2-D platforming video game Shovel Knight will be kicking off Exceed‘s 4th season this December. These expansions will bring Shovel Knight, Shield Knight, The Enchantress, and the rest of the Order of No Quarter, along with a slew of new features, to the head-to-head tabletop game. A well-done YouTube video accompanied the announcement breaking down all the combatants and their strengths.

“Exceed: Shovel Knight will be available in two large boxes[…] and two smaller expansions. The full-size boxes feature everything a player needs to start the game, including rules, a play area, and four complete fighters. Smaller expansions feature just a single fighter. Each fighter in Exceed comes complete and ready-to-play—players do not need to collect or trade to complete their decks. The game is easy to jump into casually, but deep enough to play again and again.”

While this is a huge boon for Exceed and Level 99 Games, this is an amazing time for Shovel Knight fans as well because of the glut of content that’s coming out for the IP. We’ve already reported on Yacht Club Games’ other tabletop entrance, but the original game itself is also getting another DLC soon – The King of Cards. It isn’t coincidence that the upcoming DLC is going to have a 2-player battle mode of it’s own (known as Shovel Knight Showdown) that will run analogous to these Exceed expansions. If you’re interested in learning more about Exceed and Level 99 Games, be sure to check out their original press release and website for videos, rules, and full catalog of products.

Genius Games, publishers of science-themed titles such as Cytosis and Subatomic, has acquired Artana – publisher of history and technology themed games such as Tesla vs. Edison, Lovelace & Babbage, and Einstein: His Amazing Life and Incomparable Science. It’s a perfect match, frankly, with each catalog complementing the other to cover more ground in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focused line of products. Genius games does intend to keep Artana’s branding and will continue to publish games under their name in order to maintain a marketing strategy of publishing games rooted in history under their banner. As per Genius Founder and CEO John Coveyou:

“Artana is a perfect strategic acquisition for us. Like Genius Games, they specialize in telling stories about the real world – in Artana’s case exploring topics in history as well as science and technology. Our Science-focused games have proven a hit in both casual gaming as well as academic and educational settings, and Artana’s varied catalog expands and enhances this appeal. The two companies are a natural fit.”

It’s not often that you see acquisitions like this that make as much sense as Genius’. The two publishers complement each other very well, as both have been laser focused on the kinds of games they push out for the past 5 years. My sincere hope is that this partnership will yield even greater STEM-themed games because their remains nearly unlimited benefits from their success. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Genius Games or Artana Games websites for news posts, products, and more.

Restoration Games is proud to reveal the artist whose work will grace their upcoming revamp of 1981’s Dark Tower – Qistina Khalidah. She is a Malaysian artist who has been doing full-time freelance work for 4 years for covers and tabletop games. Qistina was chosen from among dozens of artists because her voice lends to the kind of uniqueness that Restoration’s original fantasy setting needs. As per the publisher’s Visual Restoration Wizard, Jason Taylor:

“We knew immediately she was the right person for this project. Her work is striking and elegant. Her style of combining patterns and evocative poses with an almost illuminated somberness is perfect for the type of stories we want to tell with Return to Dark Tower.”

There’s no other words for it – Qistina’s work is breathtaking. You can view her portfolio at the following links, and this excellent Artists of Color interview series that is well-worth the read. In learning about her process and inspirations gives an intensity to her art that you just don’t see in a lot of board games today and it will surely be awe-inspiring for consumers. I applaud Restoration Games for including Ms. Khalidah on this project and letting an even wider audience experience and appreciate her craft. Some of Qistina Khalidah’s art for Return to Dark Tower will be featured at Gen Con 2019, so if you are attending be sure to stop by Restoration Games‘ booth #355 to check it out!

Update: Originally this article reported that this International Edition would be an improved version of the original available everywhere. This is not the case, as told by Ravensburger the International Edition will be it’s own product under the new name El Dorado distributed only in regions outside of Ravensburger’s current reach. This has been corrected below.

Prolific and renowned designer Dr. Reiner Knizia announced via twitter that his hit deck-building design, The Quest for El Dorado, will be getting an International Edition. It will be distributed under the new name El Dorado later this year in regions Ravensburger does not currently serve and will have all new art by Vincent Dutrait featured on large format cards. Understandably there were many concerns about whether this would cause compatibility issues with future expansions and those concerns were quickly addressed. The new International Edition will stand apart from the English version of the game and will not interfere with expansion content that is still planned for release from Ravensburger. As tweeted by Ravensburger:

“This international edition of the base game will not be published by Ravensburger, but by other publishers selling into areas we do not cover. Future Ravensburger expansions will be compatible with the Ravensburger base game.”

The Quest for El Dorado is a deck-building racing game where 2-to-4 adventurers cut through thick, unexplored jungle to reach the legendary city. Each turn players will buy more cards that will help their deck run more efficiently, make travel across specific terrain types easier, or help with buying even better cards. The game made such a splash when it released in 2017 that it already has one expansion, adding heroes and hexes, and there’s a standalone expansion is on the way. It’s easy to see, from the pedigree and it’s following, why El Dorado deserves wider distribution and it will be awesome to see this on shelves in many more countries by the end of the year.

Backers of the previous The 7th Continent Kickstarter, and it’s expansion, have been receiving their rewards over the past month, and the creators at Serious Poulp have wasted no time in planning ahead for the system and world they’ve brought to life. For those who missed out on this last campaign and would still like to buy an exclusive copy, they confirmed that stock will be available while supplies last after they’ve completed their inventory in mid-July. Also, excitingly still, there will be a Classic Edition available from their online store in Q4 of this year, which will be a smaller box containing most of the original’s content sans Kickstarter extras (some of which will be sold separately). If all that wasn’t enough, they also announced an all new game on the horizon set in the same universe – The 7th Citdael.

“The 7th Continent adventure is coming to an end… but our desire to keep exploring and pushing all the possibilities offered by this system is not. Therefore, in parallel to following-up the end of production, we’ve started working on a new game based on the same system. […] The 7th Citadel will take place in a new unique “Dark Fantasy” world whose gameplay will be significantly enhanced compared to that of The 7th Continent.”

A Kickstarter campaign for this new title will be coming in 2020, with previews to be shared this fall. The teaser image alone is awesome enough to make waves as I’m sure there’s many details that didn’t escape notice nor hype. Most notably is how the tag line compares to the original – It’s identical except for having replaced the word “Survive” with “Build”, implying a much different shift in the backbone of the game than it’s predecessor. For more information about The 7th Continent, the upcoming Classic Edition, and the announcement of The 7th Citadel, look no further than the announcement titled “The Future” and that page’s comments and feedback.

A new distribution agreement has been struck to bring Horrible Games’ titles to the U.S. and Canada. The Italian-based publisher will have all games for the foreseeable future brought to North America by Canada-based publisher and distributor Luma Games. Horrible Games to be carried by this deal include hits like Potion Explosion, Dragon Castle, and Railroad Ink, but this will also include all future titles from the publisher as well. This is a mutually beneficial deal which will see more exposure for both companies across North America.

“Under the new agreement, Luma will distribute all our upcoming games, including Similo and The King’s Dilemma, and take over distribution of backlist games such as Potion Explosion, Dragon Castle, and Railroad Ink as existing stock sells down and new printings are done. Luma will also handle retail and event support for our catalog.”

Keen observers will notice that this is a huge boon for Horrible Games as Luma is taking over the exact same capacity that CMON did for all of their current catalog. While CMON will no longer be distributing the above-mentioned titles after the stock sells, the prolific publisher already has a release schedule and brand presence that is strong on it’s own. On the other hand, Luma has only been able to distribute a select few titles, such as Museum and Memoarrr!, and this partnership will surely escalate their outreach and footprint in the states through Horrible Games’ existing excellent catalog. If you’re interested in reading more about this distribution agreement, or want to learn more about Horrible Games or Luma Games, check out their websites for their own news posts and products.

If you or anyone you know has ever wanted a tabletop-themed shirt with a more sophisticated look, you need not look much further than Shirts by Shurts – embroidered polo shirts for gamers! While creator Garrick Shurts has been producing these for awhile now, they are back on Kickstarter with the inclusion of children’s sizes. Now game-loving kids in your life can sport a fresh ensemble with a polo that they can be fond of. All shirts are available in a variety of styles and colors, so even if you’re more interested in role-playing games or Cthulhu there’s something for you here.

“After 2 successful campaigns and numerous designs and colors, almost 1000 Shirts by Shurts polos are being worn all over the world.  I wear one to work at least once a week. And now I’m back because my kids wanted in on the action.  They wanted shirts just like Dad has.  So now the junior gamers in your life can look just as good as you do.”

Working in a professional environment in my day-to-day, I absolutely see the value in polo shirts that have more personality to them. Most nerdy or “gamer-themed” shirts are short-sleeved tees that just don’t work in the office environments I’m used to. This is a great time to fill that niche, or for the kid in your life that struggles to get dressed for picture day. If you’re interested in learning more about Shirts by Shurts, check out the new Kickstarter for more photos and a full list of sizes, styles, and colors.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Space Invaders, the officially licensed board game is on Kickstarter. This is the real deal, unlike a few other games in past years that have tried to replicate the same feel of the arcade cabinet. 2 to 4 players will move their cannon and shoot aliens competing for points in this deck-building-driven adaptation. Shooting aliens gives you upgrades, bunkers protect you from retaliation, and the player with the highest score at the end of it all will be deemed the best moon defender.

“As long time fans of tabletop games and electronic games alike, we were astounded that, during all this time, nobody had yet developed a genuine SPACE INVADERS board game. […] Our primary goal is to create a fantastic board game experience while remaining true to the original game’s visual presentation and atmosphere.”

While this isn’t an average video-game adaptation, it’s not an average deck-building game either. Really this is as thoughtfully produced and designed as modern board games get, and I justify that statement based on the excellent 8-bit graphic design, the appropriately-jagged components (especially the translucent deluxe edition pieces), and the palpable sense of fun from seeing waves of enemies get wrecked in demonstration. At the time of writing this the project has already funded and is already working towards stretch goals for both it’s standard and deluxe editions, and there’s a commemorative diorama available for purchase for super fans of the arcade classic. If you’re interested in learning more about Space Invaders – The Board Game, check out the Kickstarter page for more images, rules, and updates.