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.

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.

Have you ever wanted to go on a real adventure? To see new places, solve riddles, uncover mysteries, and discover something new about the world (and yourself) along the way? That’s what The Enigma Box is all about. At first glance The Enigma Box looks like a bigger version of the escape room games which have become popular recently, except filled with strange tools, hidden documents, and advanced technology, all to help with an even bigger goal – for you and your companions to find the location of the “Arcanum Arcanorum”, the Secret of Secrets, a discovery which will change our understanding of the world and the destiny of humankind.

Sounds a bit much, right? Too good to be true? But…what if it’s not? That’s the hook, and what a well-crafted hook it is. We see A LOT of Kickstarter campaigns here on Dice Tower News, but I personally have never seen one so intriguing and tempting as this one. The charm of it is in your face from the first description and even the name – “The Enigma Box” – sounds like something cinematic in origin, doesn’t it? Like a plot device or a cool prop from a popular film, except it’s not a prop – it’s a real proposition. See how it’s described on it’s campaign page:

“With all the research, enigmas, and new revelations, the team from “The Rhomb” have designed an international challenge and a new form of entertainment which will change the way games are made, revolutionizing and creating a definitive experience never seen before and giving you a chance to discover the “Arcanum Arcanorum”, the Secret of Secrets” 

While before I had said that it looks like an escape room box, that’s not entirely inaccurate although it does fail to describe the scope of the product regardless of it’s loftiness. The Enigma Box not only features 6000 minutes of gameplay but also has “legs” in the form of continued content after it reaches it’s initial conclusion . Furthermore, this additional content will still use many of the tools originally available in the box, so the experience isn’t as consumable and disposable and it’s certainly not as short lived. However, the value of this is far more complicated than I can analyze or describe here, so if you’re interested in The Enigma Box, please check out their Kickstarter campaign page to learn more.

Do you like party games, ninjas, and bluffing? A unique new competitive game from Pure Fun Games has all this and more and is now on Kickstarter. Shadow Strike Melee brings the same unique mechanic from Hanabi and turns it into an interesting game of brawling and intrigue.  Up to 9 players will hold their hands away from them while trying to pick the highest cards each round in order to wound their opponents while avoiding being wounded themselves. Being wounded isn’t the end of the world, however, as each wound taken allows you to flip a card towards you giving you both insight and a tool to fight back, but take three wounds and you’re out. As described on the campaign page:

 “Take the role of a ninja student during his final trial: An all-out battle with his classmates! Facing other young students, you are cocky and less aware of your own abilities. Players simulate this by facing their cards outward, so only their opponents can see them. This forces players to strategize and bluff in unique and entertaining ways.”

As a big fan of Hanabi, this mechanic of holding your hand away from you has always been a pleasure and something that instantly hooks players the moment they learn it. If that kind of fun can be had from a game about preparing fireworks, an all-out Ninja brawl is sure to work just as well if not in a more easily palatable way. What further distinguishes Shadow Strike Melee from the award winning cooperative game is it’s item cards, which allow you to steal advantages at opportune times. If you’re interested in Shadow Strike Melee, please visit their Kickstarter campaign page where you can find more information, including fully available rulebook and more.

Fruit Ninja, the extremely popular dexterity-testing app from Halfbrick Studios is coming to the board gaming scene with a bang. The Fruit Ninja Tabletop Game Series by Lucky Duck Games is now on Kickstarter and as it’s name suggests, there’s not just one game based on the mobile phenomenon, but three! A deck building game, a dice game, and a party game, which emphasize the prominent features of Fruit Ninja – speed, skill, and strawberries. As described on the campaign page:

 “In order to build our dream game set, we contacted over 50 game designers from all over the world and opened our door to prototype submissions. We reviewed over 20 different prototypes and picked the 3 best games that were: Unique. Fast to Play. Fun and accessible.”

I do have to commend Halfbrick for coming into the board gaming scene as strong as they are, with a level of seriousness and sincerity apparent in a formidable set of games that together appeal to broad audiences. Their design philosophy behind Fruit Ninja is clearly represented in the games they chose, which have incredibly easy rules, a sense of speed and tension, and a distillation of fun. What’s even better is that these games can be backed individually or as a set, and impressively it appears that each one will still give you that authentic Fruit Ninja experience that fans enjoy while still being distinguishable from the other two. So whether you’re interested in any or all of them be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign page to learn more about The Fruit Ninja Tabletop Game Series.

What began as one family’s ambition to create a board game suitable and variable to the tastes of children and adults is now funded on Kickstarter. Goatfish is a card game that has three modes of play for different experience levels of players and features art and mechanics that are fun for all ages. Designed by a father and daughter team, the game’s core mechanism is based on Go Fish, with custom artwork drawn by the daughter which the father brought to life. Advanced modes add action cards and unique scoring rules so that even a whole group of only adults can find relaxing, strategic fun in the card game. As described via the Kickstarter campaign page:

 “We thought it would be fun to create a new game that was easy for casual gamers or younger players to learn but had more options for player interaction and deeper strategy to keep more sophisticated players engaged. Lillian and I designed Goatfish to be the next step up from entry-level or classic card games with a familiar mechanic to hook players of all skill levels.”

The campaign page features a full current version of the rules, reviews from prominent critics, and videos to help potential backers decide if Goatfish is a good fit for their family.There’s even a playmat available as an addon to give the game a lasting appeal and a nicer experience on the table. If not considering the novelty of the artwork and the clean design, the game is great  example of the good a father and child can create together. If you’re interested in Goatfish, please visit their campaign page for more information.

2017 has been a fantastic year for Renegade Games who have published many exciting new titles this year, such as Ex Libris, Flip Ships, and Sentient. On top of that, though, they have also published the excellent worker placement game, Raiders of the North Sea, bringing it to larger distribution from independent publisher and developer Garphill Games. Bringing one of the more unique and high-quality Kickstarter successes to their repertoire is certainly a boon for new players and fans, but Renegade Games is not done surprising us yet. They have just announced that the two expansions for Raiders, Hall of Heroes and Fields of Fame, will be released later this year as well. As described in their press release:

 “Renegade Game Studios is pleased to announce two expansions for the acclaimed Raiders of the North Sea from Garphill Games. These two expansions add new options and challenges for players as they test their raiding skills in the Kennerspiel des Jahres nominated Raiders of the Noth Sea. Both expansions require Raiders of the North Sea to play and are expected to release Q4 2017.”

While both expansions will be following on the heels of their Kickstarter counterparts, the fact that they will be just as available as the base game is welcome news for such an excellent worker-placement experience. Hall of Heroes adds more ways to get resources as well as quests which can be completed to facilitate other point-scoring goals. Fields of Fame adds a fame track to the game which rewards players for particularly strong crews as well as enemy Jarls mixed in to the foreign settlements which when raided forces players to choose to defeat them for points or flee in shame. If you’re interested in these expansions, please check out the following links including the Garphill Games site, the Kickstarter pages, and the Renegade Games website for more information.

A new entry in the Stone Age series, My First Stone Age – The Card Game is coming soon to impress both families and collectors alike. Following last years’ release of My First Stone Age, The Card Game version is set to come out later this year to distill the experience into a card and memory game. However, that’s not it’s only trick in it’s cardboard sleeve as it also acts as an expansion for it’s predecessor. As described by Z-Man Games’ announcement:

“Following in the footsteps of the 2016 Kinderspiel des Jahres Award winner, My First Stone Age — The Card Game returns kids and families to the dawn of civilization while they join Martin the mammoth and Guff the wolfhound on a quest to build a village. […] To complete their huts, players must locate the fish, arrowheads, berries, and other goods they need along a path of goods cards. Finding the right combination of goods to build a hut can be difficult. Luckily, Martin and Guff can help them along the way.”

 

The game uses an array of cards representing resources that can be kept or passed, but passing a card leaves it available for players face down so that those who remember it can seek it later for completing a building. The game encourages development of both memory and resource management skills, but the small box does more than that. For those who own 2016’s My First Stone Age, this newest addition acts as an expansion with the tiles being added to the original game and the tokens adding additional strategic options for gathering resources. This flexibility with the product is outstanding both for value and practicality, as it allows the newest edition to gain more legs as it’s outgrown the potential of it’s own merits and effectively add depth to a bigger game. If you’re interested in My First Stone Age – The Card Game, be sure to check out Z-Man Games’ website and social media accounts for more information.

The International Gamers Awards have been going on since the year 2000, celebrating and recognizing gaming a truly global scale by having a committee of judges from all around the world. Each year they vote for the best game within the General Strategy category, which is split into two sub-categories: Multiplayer and 2-Player. 2017’s finalists have been announced and it’s immediately noticeable that this year’s competition is fierce. So without further ado, the nominees are:

General Strategy Games – Multiplayer nominees

A Feast for Odin
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Publisher: Feuerland Spiele

Century: Spice Road
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Publisher: Plan B Games

First Class
Designers: Helmut Ohley
Publisher: Hans im Glück

Gloomhaven
Designer: Isaac Childress
Publisher: Cephalofair Games

Great Western Trail
Designer: Alexander Pfister
Publishers: eggertspiele

Key to the City: London
Designers: Sebastian Bleasdale and Richard Breese
Publisher: R&D Games

Lorenzo il Magnifico
Designers: Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli and Simone Luciani
Publisher: Cranio Creations

Magic Maze
Designer: Kasper Lapp
Publisher: Sit Down!

Scythe
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier
Publisher: Stonemaier Games

Image from the English 2nd Printing

Terraforming Mars
Designer: Jacob Fryxelius
Publisher: Fryx Games / Stonemaier Games

The Colonists
Designer Tim Puls
Publisher: Lookout Games

Ulm
Designer: Günter Burkhardt
Publisher: HUCH!

Yokohama
Designer: Hisashi Hayashi
Publisher: OZAKU Brand

General Strategy Games – 2-Player nominees

 

Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Designers: Nate French and Matthew Newman
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Caverna: Cave vs. Cave
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Publisher: Lookout Games

 

Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
Designer: Diego Ibanez
Publisher: Devir

Santorini
Designer: Gordon Hamilton
Publisher: Roxley

Star Wars: Destiny
Designers: Corey Konieczka and Lukas Litzsinger
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The Steampunk theme is one that will forever remain endearing for some, and I’m no exception. However, nowadays it takes something a little more than a typical card game with a theme I like to grab my attention. So what about a game that has a Steampunk theme that does something really cool with cards?! That gives us Noxford, the newest game from Quick Simple Fun Games releasing this month. It’s essentially a tile-laying game that uses cards instead of tiles which everyone is placing in a shared space in a mad bid of territory control. Here’s a brief description from the publisher:

“Set in a Steampunk universe, Noxford gives you the opportunity to seize control of the Victorian city that you build over the course of the game. In turn, players place either cards depicting influence of their syndicate or neutral cards representing rich districts (victory points) as well as barracks (which cancel syndicate influence around those areas). Cards must be placed so that they touch at least two cards already in play and must have at least two edges aligned on the edges of the cards that it touches.”

We’ve seen this type of card placement before in a game called Honshu, which featured bidding for cards to place them in your own personal town for points and resources. Noxford, on its face, is quite a bit more sinister than that as it forces all the players to build one city, a city where points come from neutral cards that must be played and also protected and fought for in order to be scored. If it lives up to Quick Simple Fun’s namesake, Noxford will be a game that I will be looking out for when it releases. If you too are interested in Noxford and other Quick Simple Fun releases, please check out their website for more information.

If you’re anything like me, which since you’re here and most likely interested in board games that means you’re not far off the mark, you’re probably also interested in mobile and Steam versions of popular board games. Digital board games have been a growing market, apps flying out of their little digital shopping carts so-to-speak, and those licensed by publishers also tend to have extra polish and features which make them even more attractive. That’s why the word about several new releases coming from Asmodee Digital is particularly exciting. The list, announced at Gen Con and cited from their press release, is as follows:

Coming very soon:
Ticket to Ride: First Journey (Steam, Mac, iOS & Android)
Carcassonne (Android & Steam)
Smash Up (Steam, iOS & Android)

To be released before the end of 2017:
– Abalone (Steam)
– Milles Bornes (Steam, iOS, and Android)
-A new text adventure game set in the much-loved Catan universe, called Catan Stories (iOS & Android)

Slated for 2018:
Zombicide
Scythe
Terraforming Mars
Bananagrams
Gloom

Digital games are wonderful for their ease and convenience. I use them especially as tools to help learn and teach games very effectively, or to preview games before deciding on purchasing the physical version. I especially welcome digital versions of Scythe and Terraforming Mars which will allow a new audience of gamers to experience those games for themselves without having to invest too much into them up-front. If you’re interested in learning  about these and future app releases, be sure to visit Asmodee’s website and social media pages for more information.