Dice Tower Newsletter

Mike Austin

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.

The winner’s of this round of Dice Tower Awards were announced this last week at Dice Tower Con, recorded live for YouTube as well. The nominees were selected by a panel of roughly 100 people, with voting shortly after managed by Jason Levine. A hearty thanks to everyone who participated. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees, which made for a fantastic list of games who all deserved the award, but of course there can be only one victor in each category. So without further ado:

Best Game of the Year
Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone

Best Artwork
Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone

Best Board Game Production
Mechs vs Minions
Chris Cantrell, Rick Ernst, Stone Librande, Prashant Saraswat, Nathan Tiras

Best Cooperative Game
Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Nikki Valens

Best Expansion
7 Wonders: Duel – Pantheon
Antoine Bauza, Bruno Cathala

Best Family Game
Ice Cool
Brian Gomez

Best Game from a New Designer
Terraforming Mars
Jacob Fryxelius


Best Game from a Small Publisher
Roll Player
Keith Matejka

Best Party Game
Captain Sonar
Roberto FragaYohan Lemonnier

Best Reprint
Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Nikki Valens

Best Strategy Game
Terraforming Mars
Jacob Fryxelius

Best Theming
Captain Sonar
Roberto FragaYohan Lemonnier

Best Two Player Game
Star Wars: Rebellion
Corey Konieczka

Most Innovative Game
Captain Sonar
Roberto FragaYohan Lemonnier

Gen Con has often been a cannot-miss event for Stone Blade Entertainment and their fans, and 2017 is no different. Their popular deck-building series, Ascension, is not running out of steam anytime soon and is poised to receive it’s eleventh expansion this year, Valley of the Ancients. Featuring a bevy of new cards, this newest addition adds Temples which are powerful cards which can be both earned and stolen, as well as new card mechanics that use your discard pile. However, in addition to this new expansion there will also be a World Championship tournament, as said in the press release:

“Do you think you have what it takes to be the best Ascension player in the world and take home $2,500? If you’re attending Gen Con 2017, you can test your mettle against a sea of excited Ascension fans in our annual Ascension World Championship. Ultra PRO and Stone Blade Entertainment will host this Swiss tournament event on August 19 at 10 AM.”

To make sure all competitor’s have an even playing field, the tournament will be played using the newest expansion. There really is no better way to debut a new set to a competitive card game than with a tournament, and with the mechanics of the new set focusing on careful use of acquired and spent cards this year’s should be memorable. If you’re interested in the World Championship, you can find out more and sign up at this link. If you’re interested in learning more about Valley of the Ancients in particular, check out the official Ascension website where they will soon post more about it.

For a one-of-a-kind adult camping/convention hybrid, it doesn’t get much better than Epic Nerd Camp. Ever wanted to learn sword fighting, archery, horseback riding, while having a huge board gaming library available on the same campground? Look no further than Starrucca, Pennsylvania to find just that. 2017 marks the 2nd year of the event and tickets are on sale now. As described via their press release:

Annually held, Epic Nerd Camp is a camp/con experience that focuses on building community through social activities, learning hero skills, expressing creativity, and making lasting friendships that come from summer camp. […]There’s so much to entertain at Epic Nerd Camp. You just pick what you like and you can improve your skills and/or learn new ones.”

Available activities include Arts & Crafts, such as making chainmail or cosplay outfits, LARPing, swordplay, archery, wall climbing, juggling, swimming, and more. There will also be an air conditioned gaming room with an impressive board gaming library which will also host special events. The camp takes places across two sessions which either or both can be attended, from August 12th – 16th, and then the 16th – 20th. If you’re interested in Epic Nerd Camp 2017, check out their website and their YouTube channel for more information!

Potion Explosion, published originally by Horrible Games and later by Cool Mini or Not, invited up to 4 players into it’s zany Harry Potter-esque potions class for a fun time using marbles and chain reactions. The game is unique in how it uses marbles and gravity with resource management and set collection, and it’s quite fun if not at least delightful to see on a table. Now the game’s first expansion, The Fifth Ingredient, is coming soon and once again players will return to the classroom for potion mixing madness. As per CMON’s announcement:

 “Professor Humblescore is back, and he has some new tricks to teach. The Fifth Ingredient adds new Potions, Professor tiles, Reward and Scolding tokens, a Ghastly Cauldron, and a wild new ingredient: Ghost Ectoplasm!”

When I first got my chance to play Potion Explosion, I soon caught the rumor of an expansion that would add a wild ingredient to the mix and have been excited to hear about how it would affect the game. We know now that this new type of marble not only counts as any color of ingredient for potions, but it also consistently causes explosions when impacting with other ingredients to the dispenser. A cauldron is added that will mechanically work to exchange and carry ectoplasm, as well as allowing players to trade for them with certain actions. There are also new potions that can be made and imbibed throughout the game that interact with this new resource as well.

Perhaps the most interesting addition are the new professors. Each one comes with their own rules and tiles that affect a given game, some giving rewards or scolding depending on how well one adheres to their instruction. There’s a lot this expansion adds that can give a game with a good table presence and a unique mechanic the depth that it deserves and I definitely look forward to seeing it. Potion Explosion: The Fifth Element, will be releasing very soon (June 23rd by the CMON announcement) and if you’re interested in more information, be sure to visit CMON’s web page.

The second expansion for Norsaga, Odds and Endings, is available for funding now on Kickstarter. This card game pits 2-4 vikings against each other to tell outlandish stories of their lineage through card play and embellishments. The expansion adds 48 more cards to the game, including Realms, Immortals, and Heirlooms which change the rules and offer new opportunities to players. As described via the campaign page:

“Odds and Endings introduces 3 new decks of cards: heirlooms and immortals provide permanent bonuses once unlocked, while realms change the fundamental rules of the game. It also includes additional base game cards, and updated 2nd Edition basic embellishments which accelerate the flow of the game.”


Not to bore anyone with simply adding more cards to the game, Odds and Endings seeks to make Norsaga more dynamic by adding more difficult decisions and shaking the strategy with these new cards. Heirlooms are definitely the most interesting of the bunch, as their existence in a game prohibits you from doing one of the basic actions of the game, using “embellishments” (Norsaga’s name for special powers). It takes a big sacrifice to flip them, but should you do so you are rewarded by not only gaining embellishments back but having more of them as well. If you’re interested in Odds and Endings, you can back it or find out more information by visiting the campaign page or by visiting Meromorph Games’ wesbite.

Back in November, I wrote about Defiant Development working with Rule & Make to create a board game adaptation of their hit video game, Hand of Fate. Well, it’s finally here on Kickstarter! Hand of Fate: Ordeals is the official board game adaptation of the popular deck-building adventure game found on consoles and PC. 1 to 4 players can either compete or cooperate to build up their heroes, explore strange locations, encounter traps, and combat fierce enemies for fame. As described via it’s press release:

 “Hand of Fate: Ordeals is a strategic dungeon-crawling and deck-building experience set between the original game and its upcoming sequel. […] Players draw from a deck of cards and build dungeons on the board from their inventory. Much like its digital counterparts, the tabletop game’s open-ended design ensures no two games ever play out the same way.”

I mused before about what this game could possibly look like, since not everything from the video game could translate well to the tabletop. We now have more than enough information to answer those curiosities. Ordeals is incredibly flexible with player counts and game modes, and smooths the difficulties of transition by embracing it’s deck-building roots more than the original did. For those unfamiliar with the video game, the deck-building was  only used to create a communal deck where you could choose your boons, burdens, and any equipment you could buy or be gifted. While the board game doesn’t abandon that concept, it interestingly shifts most of the deck-building to a starting set of 10 cards that many board gamers are familiar with.

The deck-building in Ordeals isn’t run-of-the-mill, however, since buying cards requires you to explore and risk running into dangers, each of which involves most of the cards in your deck and not just your hand. The combat and the character building is pretty unique and what this game offers is very impressive, but you can find out more about that on their campaign page where they have a few videos and a rough draft rule-book to discover. For fans of Hand of Fate, this product has a lot that we could have wished for from the same excellent art to a promising, immersive experience. So if you’re interested, please check out the Kickstarter page and keep an eye on Defiant Development’s website for further information.

From Brotherwise Games, the creators of Boss Monster, comes a new dice placement game – Unearth. 2-4 players will control a team of delvers represented by 5 dice and place them on resources or ruins to uncover ancient cities or build new wonders, competing to be the best at reclaiming a lost era. The game features beautiful isometric artwork with adorable characters, an easy-to-teach 16 page rule book, and enough space in the box to sleeve all the cards if you want! More details via the press release:

 “Players take turns rolling dice to claim Ruins, using Delver Cards to enhance their efforts. High rolls help players claim Ruins to earn points. Low rolls allow players to uncover Stones, used to rebuild ancient Wonders that grant special abilities. Ruins and Wonders can each help you win, but players must decide how to balance these two paths to victory.”

It’s an excellently put together product that looks delightful. The artwork is charming, I especially enjoy how the D8 represents the “leader’s” crystal on his staff, and the D6s represent the heads of the workers hammers. The gameplay and rules as described give a distinct impression of a gateway game to the dice placement genre (which is my favorite genre, so I welcome it), but with two paths to victory which is equally appreciated. If you’re interested in Unearth, look out for it at Gen Con 2017 and at your local retailer on August 17th, and be sure to check out brotherwisegames.com around June 12th for more news concerning this game.

Welcome to the brutal world of underground fantasy monster fighting! In Underleague, 2 to 5 players play play breeders and handlers of dark dungeon denizens and pit their creatures against each other…and bet on the winners! Equip your team and play strategy cards to manipulate combat in your favor, or at least the favor of your bet. Now available on Kickstarter from Cogwright Games, the game features fantastic card art and enough strategy and variability to keep the game fresh and exciting. As described via press release:

“Underleague is a combat-based card game – but unlike many games in this genre, it doesn’t require a ‘lifestyle’ commitment to enjoy. The rules can be learnt and taught quickly even by those with no experience playing card games, and the pre-built decks in the box provide a huge amount of replayability.”

Fantasy creatures and underground fight clubs are not exactly new themes on their own, but Underleague earns it’s merits for combining the two in such a way that feels more fresh than a dungeon crawl or another wizard-vs-wizard game. The game certainly flirts within familiar Magic: The Gathering territory a lot, but the flavor, gambling, and bluffing set it worlds apart. If you are interested, be sure to check out the Kickstarter page for more details, images, videos, and the chance to support this campaign.

It’s safe to say that all of us here at The Dice Tower and Dice Tower News are fans of dice and I’m sure most of us have a favorite set hiding somewhere. I have a cobalt and black set, which reminds me of thunderstorms, that I’m very fond of. For gamers on the go, or those looking for some extra panache to their favorite gaming accessories, this Kickstarter is for you. Critit Dice Safes are hand-made wooden trays, fully customizable by wood, felt, engraving, and even feet if you want! As described on the campaign page:

“We all have that special set of dice…..maybe they were expensive, maybe your first set….maybe your only set! but what ever the reason you can be sure presenting them in these hardwood cases will make you the envy of your friends on game night…and who wouldn’t want that?”

Even if you’re not interested in dice cases, per say, there are other beautiful items available, including embroidered bags and coasters. All of the funds from the Kickstarter go to help creator and carpenter Dominic Marriott acquire better tools for his trade and hopefully start his own specialized RPG accessory store. There’s not much time left for the campaign, but we here at Dice Tower News want to give a shout-out to Dominic and his lovely work and hope we can spread the word and support. If you’re interested, please visit the campaign page and look over all of the wonderful options you can add to your gaming gear and, even after the Kickstarter has ended, be sure to check out critit.co.uk for more.

Coming soon from Looney Labs is a version of Fluxx you may have wondered why it didn’t exist already – Chemistry Fluxx. The newest entry to the series takes it’s propensity for educational, or at the very least informational, cards and themes them with elements and compounds. Definitely better than flash cards you’d have made to study up for a high school exam, this new set will add an introduction to the periodic table and how elements interact with each other while players attempt to bend the rules to favor their winning hand. As explained in the Looney Labs press release:

 “Chemistry Fluxx® is the elemental car game where the rules are always changing. Use atoms and laboratory gear to match the current Goal and win! Chemistry Fluxx® is the perfect compound of chance and skill, where you’ll not only be playing with elements and molecules, but you’ll also be learning about them! Chemistry Fluxx® is so much fun you’ll be playing it more than periodically.”

Honestly Chemistry Fluxx just seems like a no-brainer, for too many reasons and puns to count. For someone who wasn’t too great at learning the periodic table the first time around, I might have appreciated this version much more in my adolescence. Still, it’s never too late to learn more about science and the fundamental building blocks of our universe. If you’re interested, Chemistry Fluxx is set to release on May 25th and if you want see more titles from the education line (such as Math or Foreign Languages), please visit their web catalog for it and other varieties of the ever-expanding card game.