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.

Dwarves have been one of the most endearing fantasy races and a staple in fantasy fiction for years, and it’s not hard to see why. They are a respectable, hard working bunch, who can hold their own in drinking and fighting. It makes a lot of sense why the stereotypes surrounding dwarves are highly representative of a fantasy adventure and equally no surprise why there have been so many games themed solely on their personality.  Despite the wealth of games made about them, it doesn’t stop more from being made because there’s still a lot of appeal available and ground to cover, which is why I’m writing today about Treasure Mountain now on Kickstarter. As described on it’s campaign page:

     “A dwarf themed board game for 2-4 players, using a unique bumping worker placement mechanic based on the size of your dwarf’s beard. […] Your dwarf clan has been chosen by King Grimsteel to mine the vast riches buried within Treasure Mountain. You must dig deep, keep your axes close, and beware of the pillaging dragons that inhabit the mountain in search of treasure.”

Mechanically speaking, the game’s most interesting feature is worker bumping, or the ability to bump a worker out of a space in order to use it at the cost of giving the previous occupant a bonus. It’s not a new mechanic (it’s very prominent in games such as Asking for Trobils and The Gallerist), but it is an interesting one that plays in a very thematic way in Treasure Mountain as it allows players strategic freedom for a high cost. The rules are very solid and feature variants which reduce the luck of the game and can make for a richly tactical experience. If you’re interested in learning more about Treasure Mountain, be sure to check out it’s Kickstarter campaign page for the full rules and a few excellent and thorough preview videos.

Agents of Mayhem, the latest game in the Saints Row series, was released in 2017 on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. It continued the franchise’s trademarks of high-octane first-person action, wild story missions, and absurdist humor. Now in the midst of the first quarter of 2018 the series is making it’s first leap into the board game scene bringing all of those qualities to the tabletop world. Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon is on Kickstarter now and brings the game to life with a 3D board. As described on the campaign page:

   

 “Agents of Mayhem – Pride of Babylon is a team vs. team skirmish boardgame for 2 to 4 players. The game is played on a modular 3D board that is fully destructible. You and your opponents will play through a radiant story where every choice you make will have effects that ripple throughout the campaign.”

However, I’m pleasantly surprised by what I see as it does appear to be a thoughtfully made skirmish game with excellent looking miniatures and a tempting campaign structure, and with it being (as of writing this) over 300% funded it appears the public agrees with me! The 3D terrain really works as an attention-getter, and it seems like they’ll be getting the best use in this game than any of the few other games to have such a feature. If you are interested in Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon, check out this link to it’s Kickstarter page to learn more.

Solarius Mission is a space-faring eurogame from the creators of La Granja, Michael Keller II and Andreas “ode” Odendahl. It’s unique for being a 3X game, exhibiting all the features of the 4X genre minus the “eXtermination” (or combat), making for a relatively peaceful space epic as players expand, exploit, and explore the galaxy. Unfortunately, Solarius Mission saw a limited language distribution in 2016 via Spielworxx, although it still impressed many players with it’s familiar mechanics from La Granja and those inspired by Ora et Labora. Fortunately, Flying Lemur Games has announced that they’ve partnered with Spielworxx and obtained English language rights for publishing and they plan to start via Kickstarter, improving the components while they are at it. As described in their press release:

“This is a big game with lots of components – dice, cubes, tons of cardboard, minis, and cards – so we are pleased to be bringing it to Kickstarter within the next few months,” says Mischa Harris, CEO of Flying Lemur Game Studio. “And, we’re going to do it right, with a deluxe version to really make it pop on the table.”

This is excellent news for people around the world that have been waiting to play this game, especially fans of La Granja and deep, brisk eurogame sensibilities. Solarius Mission is a game that really deserves to see a wider audience, being a member of a small club of space-themed games that lacks interstellar conflict yet still keeping the gratifying sense of technological progression and discovery. It’s nicer still that this game will go through Kickstarter first, as the visuals of the first edition were frankly simple and lacking and could use the deluxe treatment. If you are interested in Solarius Mission and it’s upcoming Kickstarter, keep an eye on the Flying Lemur Games Twitter page for announcements and dates.

Two new WizKids games are on their way this April with interesting descriptions. The first is A’writhe: A Game of Eldritch Contortions – a team vs. team game where players must ” place an appendage on top of an Arkham landmark to complete a specific pattern.” One player cannot do that on their own, however, so they must touch an appendage of the opposing player to complete their own pattern. It sounds like C’thulhu meets Twister with a bit of puzzle-solving added in, which is a cool mix.

The second game is Endless Pass: A Viking Saga – A press-your-luck combat game with variable player powers. Players control vikings defending against a group of shadowy, vicious creatures known as The Endless, while also fighting against your fellow vikings for bonus points. As described in the product description, “The last viking standing or the first to acquire ten glory, while surviving the turn, wins the game. If none of the players survive, then the player with most glory is declared the Conqueror in Valhalla.” The guts-and-glory theme of the game really shines through with that description and with a 30-minute estimated playtime I can see multiple games of this being played back-t0-back, which is very good for push-your-luck games.

Both terrific uses of the C’thulhu and Viking themes. It’s good to see WizKids pushing more punchy titles like these for the Spring season and I expect we’ll see even more like these as the year continues. Both games will be releasing in April, so if you’re interested be sure to go to your favorite retailer to seek a copy. For more information on either title or for more releases from this publisher, please be sure to check out the WizKids website for more information as it’s released.

Plan B Games, the publisher that brought us the crazy popular Century: Spice Road, it’s much anticipated sequel, and the excellent Azul, has announced a new publishing branch they have titled Next Move Games. Next Move Games, much like Plan B, is focused on creating short, punchy, and high quality games that focus on elegantly simple rules and exemplary table aesthetic but feature incredible strategic depth, so the program doesn’t seem to have changed much. The only noticeable difference is that each game from Next Move will only have 4 letters in the title in order to drive home the point of their design and publishing goals, which leads us to their first of such titles – REEF. As described on their press release:

The first title REEF was created by acclaimed designer Emerson Matsuuchi – best known for designing the Century series. During the game, players serve as the reef itself, alternating turns and carefully selecting which colors and patterns in which to grow and expand – the more beautiful the reef, the more points they will score! […] While it could take thousands of years for a coral reef to grow, we expect a game of Reef to only take about 30 – 45 minutes.”

What a gorgeous game box, wouldn’t you agree? Even if that graphic is described on their press release as “Visual still in development”, I feel their progress thus far is a pretty good sell. Given that this is yet another game in a line following from Azul, I have nothing but good expectations for  REEF and Next Move. However, we may not learn much more about REEF until it’s debut on June 13th at Origins (much the same as the sequel to Plan B’s Century: Spice Road). If, like me, you want to find out more about Next Move’s future games and more information about REEF, please check out their website for more information and future updates!

2018 marks the 14th season for The Dice Tower and it’s network of gaming reviews, news, and convention coverage. The Dice Tower, and Dice Tower News by extension, has grown each year to bring more content at increasing quality, but only due to the generosity of you – all of our viewers and readers!  It is because of you that we are able to do what we love and give as much as we can back to the community. So it is once again time that we humbly ask for your support with the 2018 fundraising campaign.

Of course, as with years past, the campaign provides a ton of incentives in the form of gaming gear, promos, and exclusives! There are decals, bumper stickers, and coasters of the new caricatures, and more dice than ever including a metal pair with the logo. Promos for some of the hottest games of 2017 including Downforce, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Aeon’s End, Terraforming Mars, Dragon Castle, Alien Artifacts, Dinosaur Island, and so much more! There are also excellent stretch goals that bring more content from the crew, like more top 100 videos, live playthroughs, and also the potential for a twitch channel for live-streaming.

There is always the option to donate however much you want regardless of perks, as any and all support is greatly appreciated. If you’ve ever benefited from a review, preview, top 10 list, news article, or convention coverage, please consider supporting this Kickstarter campaign. On behalf of all of us in the Dice Tower Network, we value your many years of viewership and patronage, and we hope to continue serving you great content in the years to come. Thank you!

The upcoming miniatures game from Fantasy Flight based in the Star Wars by box art alone is enough to get fans of the property and they’re games excited. For more scrutinizing gamers, though, it would take a thorough glance at the mechanics of the game to really draw interest. That’s what Esdevium Games has done with this preview of how movement works in Star Wars: Legion and boy-oh-boy is it fascinating stuff. Between streamlined rules for troop movement and very cool, intuitive, and clever rules for turning vehicles, there’s a lot of good ideas going into this new line of games that are definitely worth a look. You can of course read the write-up of it here, but here’s a bit of a taster for those curious about the content:

“Movement in Star Wars: Legion is fast and organic as you use the game’s jointed movement tools to quickly send your squads sprinting across the battlefield. […] Moving an entire squad of troopers can be accomplished in a matter of seconds. First, you align your unit’s movement tool with any point on the base of the unit leader, adjusting the direction of the movement tool however you choose. […] After the unit leader has been moved, however, you don’t need to go through a tedious process of measuring movement for every miniature in the unit. Instead, you simply pick up your other miniatures and place them in cohesion with the unit leader!”

While the jointed movement tool isn’t a new development itself, it’s a welcomed component that isn’t being abused as much as it’s being expanded upon in Legion. From the example of vehicle movement, the vehicle bases have notches where the jointed movement tool must be placed, which effectively reduces the arc by which the vehicle can turn which emulates the limitation that high momentum has on changing direction. It’s well-thought out and works well to instill a lot of confidence in the design behind something that could otherwise be just another Star Wars game. If you’re interested in hearing more about Star Wars: Legion, be sure to visit Esdevium Games website for more previews like this and be on the lookout for when the game releases early 2018.

The first big expansion book for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, has broken multiple records within the series and is now officially the fastest selling D&D book in the series’ long history. In order to fully appreciate the gravity of that first sentence, I must point out that D&D books have been in print for 43 years, since 1974. So that means that the big ol’ beholder on the front cover isn’t any kind of deterrent – D&D’s still got it, baby! As broken down by the source article from DDO Players website:

I feel this also speaks to the popularity of the 5th edition of D &D. Xanathar’s isn’t a stand-alone product, after-all, it’s a supplement that requires the base system to play and works with all of the streamlined rules that came with it. In it’s own way, I’m glad to see that as well because 5th edition’s changes from 3.5 and 4th are very welcome and intuitive and this just reinforces the work that went into it and I expect we’ll see it grow with this kind of acceptance and support. If you haven’t seen the new edition yet and you’ve read this far, maybe now’s the time to check it out while this thing is flying off the shelves, relatively speaking.

The long-running Wings of Glory series has a new, unique expansion on Kickstarter that is definitely worth checking out. Tripods & Triplanes takes the World War 1 theme of the base series and mixes it with H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds“, bringing in the notorious walking machines with unstintingly large red lenses. Two generations of Tripods are introduced, bringing a new dynamic to the otherwise aviation-focused system, as well as a fun sci-fi theme to spice things up. As explained on the campaign page:

“Two different generations of Tripods, one more advanced than the other, land on Earth, in two waves of invasion. Their alien technology and deadly weapons make them terrifying opponents for the Earthlings… Fortunately, the recent advances in weapon technology during WW1  give Mankind a fighting chance against these monstrous invaders…”

The fully-assembled and painted models are very impressive and sculpted to fit the narrative being built to include them. There are also additional pledge levels for more models to expand any new or existing collections. While the introduction of land-vs-air combat isn’t new territory for this system, this is a truly creative way of bringing it to this particular fan-favored set. So if you want to add some heavy alien tech to your wars along with cool stretch goal content, be sure to check out the Tripods and Triplanes Kickstarter page for more information.

If you’re interested in history, set-collection, captivating artwork, and a unique hand-management experience, you may want to check out Museum – now seeking funding on Kickstarter. Designed by Olivier Melison and Eric Dubus, Museum approaches a simple, elegant design with high production value and layers of player conflict and depth to keep choices fresh and interesting. The exceptional Vincent Dutrait has outdone himself, having illustrated over 180 beautiful artifacts from history that players will be pondering over as they curate their own museums of antiquity.  Players will be gathering artifacts from the corners of the world and being careful to choose which to display, as opponents nip at each other heels for the items in storage and public opinion can change the value of the more precious stash. As described on the campaign page:

Museum’s rules are easy to learn, making it an ideal game for families and younger players. However, it also contains some subtle nuances that more veteran gamers will be able to challenge themselves with.”

The set-collection and end game scoring of Museum are impressively simple, but it doesn’t take long to find that the real  draw of the game comes from the player interaction rather than the goal. From the start, players are drafting cards, denying options from one another, while having to be careful not to open up new opportunities inadvertently. The only cards that are safe are in a players display or in their hand, as all cards in the discard are available for purchase as well. This adds a twist to the colloquially known “rest action”, making it not just a means of pacing and collecting yourself, but it also allows you to block other players from accessing previously discarded cards. This, along with the shifting market and public information, creates a deeply tense social experience.

Museum has a carefully crafted touch to it which shows through in more ways than one – the rules (which can be found on the Kickstarter page) are very clean and concise, the graphic design is top-notch, and the amount of extra content on offer is also praise-worthy. Judging squarely on what’s presented, the hand-management reminds me of games like San Juan, having to be careful how to buy cards and with what, mixed with a simple structure and tension like the more recent Century: Spice Road. All of this makes a game that I’m certainly going to keep my eye on after this article is published. If you are also interested in Museum, be sure to check out their campaign page for all the information and announcements.