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.

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.

In an interesting turn of events, a popular card game is getting a subsequent board game version instead of vice versa as is typically the trend. Space Race, now on Kickstarter, is a more fleshed out version of it’s predecessor with more cards, a premium table presence thanks to it’s components, and more robust strategies. The gameplay is similar to what fans of the card game already know – this is a simultaneous action selection game where the actions to choose from dwindle over time as players compete for cards and points. What separates the two beyond the obvious physical differences is that scoring happens more often in the new one, changing how important breakthroughs are in comparison.

“Space Race is a unique engine-building strategy game for 1-4 players (5 with the Deluxe Bundle). You become a director of a newly formed Space Agency and your mission is simple: lead your country onto the pages of history as the nation that has conquered the Universe! Hire astronauts and scientists, develop technologies, initiate space programs, and celebrate astonishing breakthroughs.”

While this is a big step from it’s previous card game version, the same typical dynamic applies – one is a lighter game with a much smaller footprint while the other is the opposite. That said this new Kickstarter doesn’t so much reduce it’s predecessor as much as it embellishes it, and that’s a great thing for a game that really deserves attention drawn to it’s excellent core mechanic. There’s even two expansions on offer during this campaign that add more cards, projects, and rocket miniatures modeled after historical space-faring designs. If you’re interested in learning more about Space Race, check out the Kickstarter crowdfunding page to read the full rules, watch reviews, and see community feedback and updates.

The day has come, the final two decks have been released for the popular living card game Ashes: Rise of the PhoenixbornThe Grave King and The Protector of Argaia join the ranks of the other deck archetypes. With these last two marks the end of the series as we know it, as these Phoenixborn complete the remaining combinations of dice among the six schools of magic within the game. The story has finished, the game has been rounded out, and the end of the era is here, but Plaid Hat is very proud of this long-running LCG and has a proper send-off in mind. Along with these last two decks is the announcement of a reprint of the base game and one final tournament to rule them all.

“To celebrate all that Ashes has given our studio and fans, we’ve organized to have one last no-holds-barred tournament here in Dallas, Texas. In association with Common Ground Games, we are pleased to announce that the Ashes Complete Your Collection Tournament will take place on Saturday, June 22nd from 12:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. There will be participation prizes including one limited edition neoprene playmat for each participant, as well as several all-new alt-art Phoenixborn cards. The winner will receive one playmat for each of the original seven Phoenixborn as well as an Ashes poster signed by designer Isaac Vega himself.”

To participant in this tournament, there is a survey you must complete which is a fine investment for the chance to be a part of the history of this game. Collectors of this series can finally complete their collections by buying these decks right now through Plaid Hat’s website or by waiting a few days to pick them up from their favorite retailer. It may be a bittersweet end to the series for some, but it an ideal one that Plaid Hat has prepared for knowing this is the best time to do it. If you are interested in learning more, check out the release on Plaid Hat’s website for details about these new decks, the tournament, and future related announcements.

Great news for all – Ares Games will be bringing Ludus Magnus Studio’s games to worldwide distribution with English language support. This partnership will begin with the retail edition of the huge Kickstarter success, Black Rose Wars. This mage vs mage battle royale for 2 to 4 players, designed by Marco Montanaro, features some of the highest quality miniatures in the market and is just the sort of excellent product to be paired with Ares Games’ outreach. While this new version of Black Rose Wars will be different from the one backers received, mostly to fit a better price point, it’s gameplay will remain intact.

We love what Ludus Magnus Studio is doing– their games have amazing gameplay value and beautiful components. This young and energetic studio was very successful on Kickstarter, but their creations deserve to reach an even wider audience, and we will work together to make this possible,” said Roberto Di Meglio, Director of R&D of Ares Games.

Ares Games will also be distributing the retail version of Ludus Magnus’ current Kickstarter project, Dungeonology. Designed by Diego Fonseca and Danilo Guidi, this game flips dungeon crawling on it’s head by posing players as scholars who are studying the dungeon and it’s inhabitants rather than ransacking it. As of writing this, it has already been funded six times over proving that it’s novel concept is worth the look. If you’d like to learn more about Ludus Magnus Studio’s games, or more about this partnership, check out both companies websites for all current projects, details, and updates.

There’s a new Vampire: The Masquerade board game that will seek crowdfunding in June and it’s literally too big not to share. That’s because it’s a MegaGame – an appropriate name for such a large-scale thing, typically involving more than ten people split into teams around multiple tables or rooms. Publisher Everything Epic and designer Ben Kanelos want to bring that kind of experience to board gaming for ease of approach and faster play. Vampire: The Masquerade – Blood Feud, coming to Kickstarter, will allow 4 to 32 people to play as vampires or humans within teams, each with different abilities and group-dependent goals involving politics, diplomacy, trade, and combat across a big city map.

“Blood Feud uses a large room or two separate rooms with 2-4 tables. One game table features the Cityscape and Orders, the map where players move their forces around the city and order them to fight and take control of important territories. The other game table features the Council and Market where players use their best diplomatic and resource management skills to make sly trades, buy upgrades and player level-ups, as well as make large political decisions that will shape the destinies of teams to determine whether they win or lose!”

Some might read the above two paragraphs and think, “What makes this so different from Werewolf, really?” After all, they’re both occult/horror themed games of intrigue for large groups of people, right? That would be neglecting a huge part of what makes a MegaGame so fun and unique. It’s not just that it’s built for a huge group of people, but that it’s got so many points of interactivity that it feels more akin to live action role-playing with layers of decision-making and sudden consequences for every action and inaction.

This publisher and designer both realize the prohibitive nature of MegaGames (their difficulty in organizing) and what makes them great, so it’s fantastic that they’re bringing this in a more manageable format for our hobby to truly appreciate. Moreover, the history and nature of the Vampire: The Masquerade setting lends itself to negotiation, strong-arming, and role-playing. It’s a perfect theme to use as an entry point for a game this ambitious. If you’re interested in learning more about Vampire: The Masquerade – Blood Feud, check out the Everything Epic website for more information and be on the lookout for it on Kickstarter this June.

If you’ve ever liked low-budget films, have you also every wondered how fun it would be to make them? There’s a carefree joy to them that’s infectious. Movie Empire, designed by Karsten Schulmann and featuring art by Allan Ohr, reminds me a lot of that, and it’s now on Kickstarter. If you’ve every actually wanted to try your hand at making B-movies, or if you just like classic movies tropes and worker placement games, this project will be worth the look.

“Movie Empire is a mix of worker placement and set collection for 1-4 players. And as Hollywood is a shark tank, you have 2 styles of play with the (completely optional!) black dossier variant, that adds a take that mechanic to the gameplay. Let the clubbing and stabbing commence!”

Mechanically speaking, it’s built on solid tried-and-true mechanisms and proudly lacks an auction mechanic, so that alone is attractive to particular tastes. However, it’s not just all that wrapped up in a fun theme – It’s got a solo mode and optional variants too! The illustrations are fun and spoofy, so there’s a lot here to like. Seeing that this game has already reached it’s funding goal, there’s more than enough people who agree with me! If you would like to learn more about Movie empire, check out it’s Kickstarter page for more information, rules, FAQs, community feedback, and updates.

For fans of Unearth from Brotherwise Games, today’s news brings word of new life for the family-weight dice placement, set collection game. A new expansion is on the horizon, coming this July, called The Lost Tribe, and with it comes a one-two-three punch of painless enhancements. It’s biggest contribution is more cards to add a fresh coat of paint on the 2017 release, and on top of that more dice to allow for a 5th player. Last, but certainly not least, it adds a solo campaign mode that will broaden the game’s appeal and replayability.

“Unearth: The Lost Tribe continues Brotherwise’s trend of offering huge value and playability at a low price point. Responding to continued requests from Unearth fans, they’ve even included a plastic mini of the adorable Delvers that have helped make Unearth so visually iconic. Unearth: The Lost Tribe comes in a disposable tuck box—all components (but the included mini) can be contained in the base game box.”

Expansions such as these are very inoffensive, and tend to be no-brainers – it’s an all-around improvement to the game. More cards and more players is always a welcome thing, but arguably the best addition is the solo mode. Not only does it give existing owners a little side puzzle to chew on, but those looking for solo games with low overhead will probably want to give Unearth a second glance. For those interested, be on the lookout for Unearth: The Lost Tribe at your favorite retailer this July.

We don’t talk as much as we probably should about must-haves in the gaming room. Part of the hobby isn’t just the games, but how we facilitate them as hosts for game nights, and stuff like comfortable seats, lighting, and drinks are essential. What many will also tell you is some kind of padding on your table is also vital, because it’s not just nice – padding protects your table and your cards while also muffling loud dice rolls. That’s where this Kickstarter we’re highlighting today comes in: Overpowered Game Mats are premium padding for your table or topper custom made to fit any style, size, and shape without any hassle.

“We precision-cut each and every custom game mat with high-end machinery.  Our default shapes are circles, squares, and rectangles, but we can do other shapes such as ovals, hexagons, octagons etc. […] You can upload your own image, choose any solid color, or select from one of our artwork files!  However, we are unable to print copyrighted material, which includes game boards, movie artwork, sports team logos and more.”

If you’ve ever tried searching for just the right kind of padding for your table in a quick and affordable way, you’ve already traveled down that rabbit hole of trying to get the size or color right. Overpowered sidesteps all that by making exactly what you want with any non-licensed image or color your heart desires, with great 3 mm thickness and optional edge stitching. Their online tools make ordering a breeze and totally takes the headache out. Backing on Kickstarter nets you an early-bird discount on these mats, so now’s the time; if you’re in the market for anything like this and would like to find out more about Overpowered’s custom mats, visit their campaign page for full instructions, FAQs, reviews, and updates.

This past weekend, Root by Leder Games took home the Tabletop Game of the Year award at SXSW, and it now sits among the company of previous winners such as Gloomhaven and Arkham Horror: The Card Game. SXSW (South By Southwest) is a large festival in Austin, Texas that, each year, brings together and celebrates multiple creative industries, from gaming to music to film. That’s partly what makes this award so nice: it’s in recognition of a game by a conference that’s not strictly gaming-centric and is undoubtedly awarding Root for all of it’s artistic merits. While I can go on-and-on about how amazing artist Kyle Ferrin’s work is, the illustrations in the game weren’t the only thing being recognized fully at SXSW, and that’s definitely something worth praising.

“Patrick and I were in attendance and it was our honor to accept the award on behalf of the entire staff at Leder Games. Needless to say, this award would have been impossible without the support of our backers. We are incredibly grateful for your continued support.” – designer of Root, Cole Wehrle

Not long after this announcement came the next biggest news for Leder Games – the expansion currently on Kickstarter broke 1 million U.S. dollars in funding, easily dwarfing the money raised by the base game in late 2017. It’s a major feat, demonstrative of the love, care, and hard work that went into making it and it’s ripple effect across the gaming communities. That much recognition is bound to be overwhelming, but it is well deserved – congratulations, everyone! If you’re interested in learning more about this award-winning game and it’s expansion, be sure to check out it’s campaign page for the full rules, print-and-play, FAQs, and updates.

Today Restoration Games gave what is arguably their biggest announcement yet. Unmatched is the restoration of Star Wars: Epic Duels, whose design became the basis of Heroscape. That’s not the only thing that makes this announcement so big, however, as Unmatched isn’t just one game – it will be a line of products featuring a variety of themes and intellectual properties. It’s such an undertaking, in fact, that Restoration Games isn’t doing this alone; They are collaborating with Mondo Games, the publishers behind The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, who will be bringing their extended partnerships to bear.

“Unmatched pits two or four players against each other, with each player taking the role of their own hero. Each hero is represented by a unique ability and a custom deck of action cards, and each set comes with a double-sided board with different battlefields. The first two sets in the line are Battle of Legends, Vol. 1 and the eponymous Robin Hood vs. Big Foot. The Battle of Legends set includes King Arthur, Alice, Medusa, and Sinbad. Heroes from any set can be played against each other, making for surprising and exciting matchups and tons of replayability.”

These first sets will debut at Gen Con this year, but that’s far from all of it. There will be a Bruce Lee limited edition pack and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer set expected to release later this year as well. This is exactly the kind of thing fans have been clamoring for since Restoration Games started taking requests, and it’s fun to see it come alive at last and with so many cool characters to kick it all off. Unfortunately this one article alone won’t do it all justice, so to learn more about Unmatched be sure to visit Restoration Games’ website for further reading and updates.