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.

Imperial Assault is not lacking content, but Star Wars is an ever-expanding property that allows for growth in equal measure among the products utilize it. Fans can soon expect Star Wars Rebels to soon join the party as a small box expansion and four ally/villain packs introduce the crew of the Ghost and their adversaries to the campaign or skirmish matches. The Tyrants of Lothal small box expansion includes new characters and enemies which bring stories from the Lothal sector to the table, while the Spectres, the mercenary Hondo, and Grand Admiral Thrawn himself are all available separately to aid in combat or participate in unique scenarios. As described on it’s product page:

“Fantasy Flight Games is proud to announce Tyrants of Lothal, a new expansion for Imperial Assault, available for pre-order now from your local retailer! Tyrants of Lothal is not releasing alone either, so be sure to also pre-order the Ezra Bridger and Kanan Jarrus Ally Pack, the Sabine Wren and Zeb Orrelios Ally Pack, the Thrawn Villain Pack, and the Hondo Ohnaka Villain Pack to upgrade your Imperial Assault experience!”

 

It’s very nice to see this show earn such an earnest inclusion to an already good game, and mechanically speaking there’s a lot to offer the competitive scene as well. Beyond the inclusion of powerful new characters, both allies and villains, there’s also more cards, abilities, and death troopers that will make skirmishes more interesting or the Imperial player more daunting, depending on the mode of play. Furthermore,since Rebels is canon and it has done a lot to bridge characters between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, there’s a lot of fun scenarios that could be made using other available characters, such as Darth Maul and Obi Wan for example, along with the Spectres. If you are interested in these expansions or future content for Imperial Assault, be sure to check out their product pages and the Fantasy Flight Games website for future announcements.

Asmodee, which has the largest catalog of games under it’s wide umbrella thanks to it’s partnerships with Days of Wonder, ZMAN Games, Fantasy Flight, Catan Games and more, has announced it’s Modern Classics line. This new category is for games that are easy to get into yet offer tremendous depth and make for excellent staples in any new or existing collection. The titles in this series together cover a wide range of mechanisms and modes-of-play and each one is considered a gateway of it’s respective genre. As stated by Asmodee in their announcement:

“Modern Classics refers to a small group of pioneering titles that have left a lasting legacy on the board-games market and have stood the test of time to remain preferred gateway purchases in a constantly changing landscape of products. […] Each of the highlighted titles is easy to learn but hard to master, making them well suited for any gaming situation that you might encounter. The Modern Classics range consists of the following games: Ticket to Ride Europe, Catan, Carcassonne, Dixit, Pandemic, and Splendor.

While this really is just a matter of showcasing for new customers, the games chosen here are, I feel, irrefutably ‘Modern Classics’ and deserve to be called as such. These quintessential games also cover a lot of ground as well, certain to prepare even the newest of gamers for the great many strategy games that lie beyond. Just with these six games there’s card drafting, network building, tile laying, set collection, storytelling, cooperation, trading, and resource management game mechanisms. Hoo! The question I have now is, will there be any more games added to this list in the future? Only time will tell.

While we are spoiled for choice when it comes to party games based on vocabulary or word-play, there’s always room for a bit of a twist – especially if the twist rhymes! Designed by Adam Wyse, with art by Shane Houston, and soon to be published by Mayday Games, Poetry Slam challenges parties to guess words relevant to a given topic that are hidden in poems created by each player. The game will pop onto Kickstarter this spring season and is expected to release at Origins Game Fair in June 2018. As described in the press release:

“The Poetry Slam competition is on and all you have to do to win is compose a rhyming couplet to get the rest of the beatniks to guess your secret word! The game is played in three easy steps. Players start out by writing words based on a word prompt (similar to Scattergories), then you write a couplet using your word. In step three you read your couplet for the other players and they have to try to guess your word.”

Creating couplets each round certainly appeals to a different kind of audience than some party games, but there’s a pleasing amount of strategy involved in trying to hide a word in one. Not only does that stretch the creative muscles so-to-speak, but it also encourages a manner of composition intended to shift focus away from some words and towards others. Young writers especially might find a lot to learn through play, but no matter what it’s bound to be fun just hearing what your friends or family come up with. If you’re interested in learning more about Poetry Slam keep on eye on Mayday Games’ website for further announcements when the Kickstarter launches.

If you’ve got an eye for photography, a love of board games, and a clever idea in mind, there’s an opportunity that may be open for you. It’s an official photo contest to fill in IELLO’s 2018-2019 calendar, and the theme is “A IELLO inspired world”. They want to see you out in the wild, camera in hand, posing their characters amid the real-world in fun ways. One grand prize winner and 11 runners-up will receive gift cards, promos, and exclusive new releases! As described on the contest’s page:

     “From Kong taking over the Empire State building, bunnies (from Bunny Kingdom) at the petting zoo, or a majestic landscape with Unicorn ready to run through it, the world is your playground and we want to see our characters in it! Take a photo of our character(s) in your surrounding world to make the world a little more IELLO. Remember, the more creative the scenario the better!”

IELLO has many incredible and anthropomorphic characters to choose from, so there’s a great deal of play in what can be done here. Personally, I hope we get to see the honorable mentions for this contest along with the winners, because there’s bound to be a lot of delightful and deserving pieces. If you’re interested in entering the contest, be sure to read the rules on this page and then go to this link for the submission process. The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2018, and the winners will be announced on May 14, 2018. For those of you planning and preparing to enter, or have already entered – good luck and have fun!!

The Empress has died, the crown is up for grabs, and the whole galaxy is having a bit of a tiff about it. While that may not be the most enthralling theme out there, I’d be remiss not to follow that by saying that Imperius is one of the most thoughtfully designed drafting, bluffing, and scheming games I’ve seen so far this year. From Kolossal Games and on Kickstarter now, this science-fiction-themed cavalcade of cardstock is simple and elegant to look at and learn, but offers some real brain-burning challenges and mental gymnastics. As briefly described on it’s campaign page:

     “Imperius is a game of intrigue and conflict for 2-4 players. Outwit and outmaneuver rival factions to score victory points. Play continues until one or more houses earn 20 victory points, which will trigger the end of the game. The house with the most victory points at the end takes the Crown Imperius and rules over the Known Universe.”

While each player is the owner of one faction in play, all of the faction cards are shuffled together, along with event cards, and drafted. Choosing your own faction cards allows you to control your fate, but picking another faction’s card allows you to manipulate theirs. After drafting, cards are played in turn order onto planets in an effort to wrench points from them, but any two cards on a given planet can be played face-down to keep your opponents guessing or entrap them. If you’re interested in learning more about Imperius and it’s gameplay, be sure to check out this paid preview by Boardgame Corner as well as the Kickstarter campaign page where the game has already been funded!

The Second Edition of A Game of Thrones: The Card Game still has a long road ahead of it to catch up to the amount of content that was released for it’s predecessor. However, fans can agree that the streamlined rules of the second edition breathe new life into the long-running series and the steady release of new content for it is just as fresh as ever. That is why it’s exciting news that the fifth big expansion, Sands of Dorne, is available now. As described by it’s announcement on Fantasy Flight Games’ website:

     “In the southernmost reach of Westeros lie the sweltering deserts of Dorne. Under the rule of House Martell, this region stands separate from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, divided geographically by imposing mountain ranges, and culturally by an indomitable spirit and a thirst for vengeance. Today, you have your chance to join them.”

This new expansion brings many hallmarks of the deserts of Dorne, House Martell, and the Sand Snakes to the intense tactical mechanics of the card game. The theme of these cards embellish patience and whittling down opponents over time, even when things aren’t going your way. Featuring more of the incredible second edition artwork and attractive new strategies with existing cards, the new expansion is a great addition for fans and new players alike. For more information about this expansion, be sure check out the thorough write up on Fantasy Flight’s website which has previews, explains synergies, and more!

Star Wars: Legion hit retail just a week ago, and the buzz has been good to the newest miniatures game from Fantasy Flight. As Luke and Darth Vader hit the table in fresh skirmish combat, fans are bound to anticipate the rest of the stable of characters to join the fray. The Fantasy Flight Games machine is on top of it, having already announced that the Han Solo commander expansion and the Rebel Commandos Unit expansion are expected to arrive during the third quarter of 2018. As described on their respective product pages:

“Within the Han Solo Commander Expansion, Rebel leaders will find everything they need to add Han Solo as a commander to their Star Wars: Legion armies. A single unpainted, easily assembled miniature features Han Solo with his DL-44 heavy blaster pistol drawn and ready to fire. […] Within the Rebel Commandos Unit Expansion, you’ll find a squad of seven unpainted, easily assembled Rebel Commando miniatures. […] These two expansions let you create your own battles on Endor or any other planet from the Star Wars galaxy.”

The addition of Han Solo is no surprise really as it was just a matter of time, especially since Leia was already announced and the game wouldn’t be doing the IP justice without everyone’s favorite smuggler. That’s not the least of which to say that Fantasy Flight aren’t already the masters of tantalizing expansions and Legion is a ripe new product line for which to add a lot more content for years to come. It’s a very good thing, then, that we see a lot of cool new features being introduced in these new expansions that shake up the game’s scenarios – I’m particularly a fan of the sniper rifles the Rebel Commandos can wield! If you’re interested in reading more about these expansions, or future Star Wars: Legion content, be sure to check out Fantasy Flight’s website for these and future announcements.

Rising Sun has already shipped out to backers and is closing in on it’s retail release. The game has done very well among it’s backers and play-testers, currently sitting at #83 on BoardGameGeek’s top 100 – within a stretch of it’s older brother Blood Rage. Not unlike said sibling and other high-quality, high-strategy miniatures based games, CMON has expansions in mind and one is already slotted for retail release on March 30th. Dynasty Invasion adds several more options to Rising Sun and new way to shake up the strategy after it’s initial clans and monsters have made their mark. As described by CMON’s press release:

 “The Rising Sun: Dynasty Invasion expansion includes two new complete Clans to join in the war for the fate of Japan, seven Lucky Gods, and 15 Season cards. […] With new Clans, new Gods, and new Season cards, the Dynasty Invasion expansion offers a completely different challenge for Rising Sun. Players will have to adjust their strategies and learn the ways of these invaders if they hope to win the favor of the Kami and choose the future of Japan.”

The new clans add more variety and replayability to the game, featuring the inscrutable Moon clan who starts with low honor and twice the force, or their opposite – the noble Sun clan – who have high honor and use it as a weapon to take coins and victory points. Interestingly, neither clan can use the monsters available to the other factions in the base box and instead can only take on the new Lucky Gods which strategically contrast to the existing denizens of ancient Japan. With new seasons cards to bring about these new gods and new strategies, along with many new and excellent figures from CMON as we’ve come to expect, this is an excellent expansion for those with the retail release of the base game or for backers who may have passed on it during the funding campaign. If you are interested in learning more about Rising Sun, it’s expansion, or any future content from CMON, but sure to check out their website for current and future announcements.

The news broke  this Wednesday that three industry veterans have started up a new design studio out of Worthington, Ohio – Laboratory H. They are Jeff and Carla Horger, designers of games such as Thunder Alley, Grand Prix, and Orient Express, along with Jonathan Anglin, graphic designer and art director. Previously the three came together to venture into publishing as Nothing Now Games, but have now switched gears to focus on design and development and leaving the printing, shipping, and fulfillment to their new partnership with Mr. B Games. As stated in their press release:

   “Laboratory H, LLC announces its first steps in the board gaming industry. This trio of industry veterans has assembled to create a creative lab dedicated to producing unique, challenging and fun games. In addition to announcing its founding, Laboratory H would also like to thank Mr. B Games for bringing our company into the fold as an affiliate studio of the established senior company.”

There’s a lot of history here that has culminated to this point of origin for Laboratory H, but it’s good to see this is the end result. This is a positive restructuring of skills and abilities to bring about new games and new opportunities. They appear to have one tentative title coming to Kickstarter this fall, Dark Domains, so we will need to keep our eyes peeled on that and what else the future may hold. If you are interested in learning more about Laboratory H and new games in the pipeline from them, I suggest taking a look at their website for more news and announcements.

The idea of a fire in a library invokes a sense of concern towards the well-being of humanity – the gravity of losing information, creativity, and history is a little more than what we can possibly imagine. Just as it was with the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the loss is essentially a thing of mythology as the extent of damage is still not fully understood. We are however long past the days of papyrus scrolls and steep consolidation of knowledge with the advent of the internet, but libraries nevertheless remain incredible resources filled with invaluable collections for the benefit of everyone and deserve protection and support. That is why this game on Kickstarter, Fire in the Library, has such an interesting theme and is worth taking a look. As described on it’s campaign page:

Fire in the Library is a press-your-luck game from Weird Giraffe Games by Tony Miller and John Prather with art by Beth Sobel and Katie Khau. Players are heroic librarians rescuing books to accumulate knowledge and earn bravery all while avoiding the flames before the library collapses! […] History is burning—take chances, be brave, SAVE BOOKS!”

A very noble premise, like Flash Point for academia, with gorgeous art to boot. The push-your-luck gameplay is very reminiscent of similar games like Dead Man’s Draw, Celestia (previously Cloud 9), or Diamant (previously Incan Gold), but where the player interaction comes directly from manipulating the odds of success within it’s bag o’ cubes. It’s altogether tactile and quick while being extremely easy to teach, making this suitable for parties and families. It even includes rules for solo play, which isn’t very common for games in this genre. If you are interested in Fire in the Library, be sure to check out it’s Kickstarter page for more information, reviews, and a how-to-play video!