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.

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Wizards of the Coast owns two of the most iconic brands in tabletop gaming, and now after many years fans of either game can now enjoy the rich lore of Magic: the Gathering along with the flexible toolkit of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing system. Plane Shift: Zendikar is a free PDF download that provides official rules, settings, and information needed to bring the world of the Planewalkers to anyone’s RPG excursion. Most notably, there are now Wizards-ordained racial modifiers and abilities for the Kor, Merfolk, Goblins, and more!

You can think of Plane Shift: Zendikar  as a sort of supplement to The Art of Magic: The Gathering—Zendikar, designed to help you take the world details and story seeds contained in that book and turn them into an exciting D&D campaign. The easiest way to approach a D&D campaign set on Zendikar is to use the rules that D&D provides mostly as written: a druid on Zendikar might call on green mana and cast spells like giant growth, but she’s still just a druid in the D&D rules (perhaps casting giant insect).

The two come together like ice cream and pie, and I feel like the timing is perfect given the steady progression of MtG’s story and settings as of recent years. Fans of one franchise are rarely stranger to the other, and I’m particularly glad to see the marriage of the two come in such a convenient PDF format. Check out the official Magic webpage for more updates and information.

heroes of air

Gamelyn Games, creators of the increasingly popular Tiny Epic series, has a new project slated for next year that will be just as epic…but no longer tiny.

Heroes of Land, Air & Sea is a 4X-style board game with miniatures that tells the epic tale of orcs vs. humans, dwarves vs. elves, battling kingdoms, and the individuals who turn the tides of war. […] Players must explore the territory around them, build up their work force, fortify their army, and develop their kingdom — all through careful action selection, exploitation, war, and resource management.

This is an interesting shift for Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games and you can tell they are taking this seriously; Despite the 2017 launch date for the Kickstarter campaign, the team has already set up a BGG listing and a youtube trailer! Some chatter among the community are nicknaming Heroes as the Big Edition of Tiny Epic Kingdoms, but a discerning eye toward their description of this newest foray suggests there’s a bit more going on. The exploration, combat, and economics have all been expanded to include more opportunities and risks. With the recent successes of Tiny Epic Western and House of Borgia on Kickstarter, it feels very appropriate for Gamelyn Games to ramp up their product line and shoot for a full-bodied 4X experience. More interestingly is that if they can make a good one in a small box…just imagine what they can put into a big one. Look out for their Kickstarter on January 26, 2017.

YAAH 6 COVER

From Flying Pig Games comes the newest issue of Yaah! Magazine! Their sixth issue features more articles and scenarios deftly geared toward popular war games. Whether they be previews or new scenarios to add to your games, war gamers and fans of Flying Pig Games alike all have something interesting to look forward to with the newest issue. Check out these details from the publisher:

This issue has articles on GMT’s Next War series, Stronghold 2nd ed, Waterloo 200, Airborne Commander, They Come Unseen, and more. Scenarios for Combat Commander, Night of Man, Sticks and Stones, and Shadows in the Weald. Then there’s this issue’s game. Designer Arrigo Velicogna’s Lion of Malaya finds a motley assortment of Indians, Australians, and Brits trying to hold Singapore and Malaya against the Imperial Japanese war machine.

Issue #6 is scheduled to ship in May. Flying Pig Games publishes a new issue of Yaah! Magazine every 4 months, so any new or avid readers should be able to expect issue 7 around September. More information about the highly-acclaimed magazine as well as other products from Flying Pig Games can be found on their homepage. 

ascension x

Ascension X: War of Shadows is a new standalone expansion to the beloved deck building series. Coming this July and available for order on May 27th, this newest entry to the Ascension series follows the trend of it’s predecessors of adding in a new twist to the otherwise time-hardened mechanics of the long running series. As described via press release:

New dual-cost Heroes and Constructs require players to use both resources to acquire them and receive incredible power! As the balance between Light and Dark shifts, cards gain additional powers depending on whether it is Night or Day.

Containing 177 new cards, more honor tokens, and a new board, Ascension X is ready for both new and loyal fans. Dual-cost mechanics are a welcome addition to the characteristically rich environment of Ascension, and I imagine the new cards will have power worth their investment. As a fan of the original game, it’s always a pleasure to see the series grow and evolve. One can tell the pride that Stoneblade has in their product and it’s lineage – look at that cover art! It’s gorgeous! Stoneblade is really putting something special in this box, and eager fans can get their hands on it soon!

misk school for boys

From Garrett Herdter and Fun to 11 Games comes a reverse deduction game sure to please – Miskatonic School for Boys. Having been playtested and demoed under the name “Delirium”, this game has gotten a lot of attention at championships, unpub events, and blind tests. Now it has been given the full Lovecraft treatment and is campaign ready to be funded on Kickstarter! Check out the brief and tantalizing description below:

The game takes place during the final 3-day test in the “Human Behavior” course. Each day of the test starts with the Lovecraftian horrors (players) in control of random human students from the school. Each horror uses deduction and deception to figure out which student they are in possession of (no mirrors in the classroom) before the other members of the class.

misk school for boys comp

Ever since playing the brilliant Tobago, I’ve wanted there to be more reverse deduction games to really sink my teeth into. Miskatonic School for Boys is really looking to scratch that awesome itch. An exciting aspect of the genre is the “race” it creates. To make an example, Tobago is about treasure hunting and once the location of treasure is “revealed” all the players may race to grab it. Fun to 11’s new production produces a similar feel – All players are quickly trying to form the best guess of who they are in the game. The earliest guess gains bonus points, and forces all other players to submit an answer, ready or not, as well. Given the 19 months of testing and reviews throughout it’s adolescence, Miskatonic School for Boys looks to be a truly worthwhile game to add to any collection. Check out the Kickstarter for more info!

dice bazaar

New to Kickstarter, a dice rolling family game for up to 4 players – Dice Bazaar! Developed to be a fun, light yahtzee-style game, Dice Bazaar invites players to match product prices through die rolls, rerolls, trading, and luck! Check out the description below, straight from the Kickstarter campaign page:

On your turn, roll your player dice. Use those dice, plus any items you’ve already purchased, to pay for goods like spices, tea kettles, pottery gems and even cobras. Each of which have a certain appraised value. Each time a player makes a purchase, the merchant changes his prices by re-rolling his Price Dice. Once two items are sold out, the merchant goes home for the day. The shopper that got the most valuable items for their money is the winner!

dice bazaar comp

The Kickstarter campaign is off to a brilliant start, having accrued several reviews by prominent Kickstarter critics and having easy-to-understand rules available for all to see. Even more impressive, the developers have also included two ways to try the game before you even back it, by making it available through print-and-play and the digital platform, Tabletopia. While the game really is just Yahtzee style dice rolling, the theme, art, and ease of play are certainly appealing for those looking for a nice, light dice game as a filler. Check it out!

ave roma

A unique worker placement game has just hit Kickstarter! Ave Roma, from A-Games, has a ranked worker drafting mechanism that is sure to turn some heads. This brief description of the game’s phases straight from their campaign page gives insight to the flow of it all.

Each round consists of three phases. First, you send your workers to various action locations, to collect supplies and gain influence through their labour. In the second phase, you collect new workers, which will also determine the player order for the next round in the third phase.The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.

ave roma board

Ranked workers and worker drafting (or reallocation) by themselves are not terribly new mechanics, but put them together and you have something really unique going on! The particular order of drafting workers after placement followed by determining first player really opens up for some particularly interesting choices. By the look of the game, it’s not just about planning workers to pick up later, but also where to place them to reduce risk of giving an opponent a distinct advantage in the next turn. That makes for a delicious cocktail deep strategy for any worker placement fan.  To find out more, please check out Ave Roma’s Kickstarter page!

Heart of crown

Japanime Games announced via press release that the English edition of Heart of Crown, a hotly anticipated deck building game, will be coming to retail in 2016 and anticipates even greater things for the series. Having concluded a very successful Kickstarter campaign, the publisher hopes to release the game at retail in September after the initial shipments due to Kickstarter backers. Not to rest on their laurels, Japanime Games is very excited to share news about expansions, a PC release, and a special event at Gen Con this year.

Japanime Games is also producing the first two expansions in the series, Far East Territory and Northern Enchantress, as well as the Heart of Crown PC Game. Late backers can contact Japanime Games to pledge at http://www.japanimegames.com/hoc-list.html. Japanime Games is celebrating the release of Heart of Crown at Gen Con in Indianapolis, IN during their company Princess Party at The Rock Bottom Brewery August 5th.

Heart of Crown has a lot to offer fans of deck building games or Japenese Pop-culture. The artwork is unique and lively, and leaves room for surreal locations and people without looking too “toony”. The game itself, and it’s mechanisms, offer unique twists that distinguish it from it’s closest comparisons in the same genre – from both Dominion and Tanto Cuore. It’s achiles heel has always been it’s incredibly limited audience due to lack of localization, but hopefully it’s fans, both old and forthcoming, will benefit from it’s English release and proper Gen Con exposure.

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The winners of the 10th annual Golden Geek Awards were announced this Monday, and both the winners and runners up were outstanding titles deserving of the reward. Pandemic: Legacy, the smash hit of 2015 which swiftly climbed the top games list, collectively walked away with 4 awards, including Board Game of the Year! Congratulations for Codenames and Mysterium for winning their most appropriate categories. I’m VERY surprised that 504 did not win most innovative title, but I suppose that’s a discussion best left to the BGG forums.

Hit the link to view the full list, including the RPGGeek and VideoGameGeek winners or, if you’re curious who came close to podium finish, click here to view the full list of nominees.

Colony, a new city building game from Ted Alspach, Toryo Hojo, and Yoshisa Nakatsu and Bezier Games, Inc., is available for pre-order and will be coming to Essen 2016! Check out this description from the press release:

In Colony, each player constructs and upgrades buildings, while managing resources to grow their fledgling colony. In a clever twist, dice are used as resources, with each side/number representing a different resource. Some resources are stable, allowing them to be stored between turns, while others must be used right away. Buildings provide new capabilities, such as increased production, resource manipulation, and additional victory points. Using dice-as-resources facilitates a dynamic, ever-changing resources management mini-game while players work to earn victory points by adding building to their tableau on their way to victory.

Each game of Colony is different depending on a limited array of buildings and modular options such as trading or attacking. Markets and dice-as-resources are not terribly new mechanics, but Bezier Games is no stranger to terrific city-building games, such as Suburbia, and I’m sure this newest game will be a big hit at Essen this year.