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.

Image from Wall Street Journal

Image from Wall Street Journal

When I was young, I was encouraged to play a lot of Scrabble to practice new words and develop a richer, deeper vocabulary. The kind of practice that would help a young man to grow into reading and writing. Of course my adult years are occupied with reporting the board gaming world – so that’s certainly come full circle. It’s truly a wonderful game! Among my growing years and time spent with this hobby, I have always been vaguely aware of how intensely competitive the game of Scrabble could be. Turns out it is a proud sport in many parts of the world, and pleasantly so in cultures where English isn’t a primary language.

That’s where this article from The Wall Street Journal comes in. Posted last month, it is a truly captivating piece about how the world of competitive Scrabble has been turned upside down by a strategy of using short words instead of long ones. The premier of this meta-shattering strategy is due to 2015’s World Champion, Wellington Jighere, who hails from Nigeria. He has stunned a meta long ruled by seven to eight letter words by instead using shorter words, ideally four or five letters long. Commonly longer words have been seen as advantageous, securing more than two score multipliers while racking in big points. However, this style has it’s risks…

Risk one: Every extra letter on the board is another opening for an opponent to land their own seven-letter blockbuster. Risk two: Every letter played gets replaced by a random tile from the bag. A bad draw can—and often does—leave players stuck for several turns without vowels or decent letter combinations.

Jighere’s short word strategy fights both of these risks by securing multipliers without compromising positioning for an opponent, while also saving valuable letters to save future turns and maintain scoring momentum. The brilliant man and his team dominated the championships last year to the abundant applause from his country and the fascination of the gaming world. It’s very fun to know a classic and weathered game such as Scrabble still has room within it’s competitive sphere to be impressively tilted by new strategies. I highly encourage anyone interested in Scrabble or gaming strategy to read the rest of the article over at The Wall Street Journal. A brilliantly written and remarkable read!

Robert A. Kouba, designer of BattleLore (Second Edition) and Battles of Westeros, is working with 8th Summit‘s team, the publisher’s of Run, Fight, or Die and Agents of Smersh, to develop and launch the SVG (or SoloVerse Games) system. As it’s name implies, the new series of card games are designed for solo play, but will be sold in many single deck packs that will allow for a mix-and-match customizable experience. The first installment, known as Supehero Solitaire, will be a line of single decks consisting of a single hero facing off against a single villain. These decks can be dismantled and recombined to pit different heroes against different villains.

A single deck with its scoring markers are all you need to begin playing. However, most players will want several decks to experience the ability of customizing their gaming experience by swapping entire suits of cards. The decks are self-contained and there is no need to purchase boosters. Each deck will include 10-20 tokens but a game may be played with generic tokens, so SVGs are extremely portable. For the avid player, a core box will be available that stores multiple decks.

More themes are coming, including a mystery theme, so if comic book-style superheroes aren’t your thing there is more in the wings waiting for you. Their introductory line is certainly hitting a lot of the same chords that Sentinels of the Multiverse played, but with such a solitaire focus and different trappings on the way it is sure to appeal to many different crowds. No word on a release date as of writing this, but there will be demos of two decks at the upcoming Origins Game Fair. Until then, check out their website for the clean art and more information!

New dangers are coming to Terrinoth with two new expansions coming for Runebound (Third Edition) in the third quarter of 2016. Fall of the Dark Star and The Mountains Rise continue on the theme set by the last two expansions of being a wave in two parts – one a Scenario Pack and the other an Adventure Pack, both offering new powers and new dangers to your journeys.

Fall of the Dark Star is a new Scenario Pack that introduces an entirely new scenario along with thirty new adventure cards and a new ten-card story deck that correspond to the new scenario. The Mountains Rise, on the other hand, is an Adventure Pack that can be added to any scenario with new adventure cards, assets, and skills. Each expansion also includes new combat tokens and a new hero, giving you new ways to experience Terrinoth every time you play!

The Fantasy Flight expansion-churning machine is well oiled and running smoothly, offering even more cards, characters, bells and whistles, and the themes they play upon are sure to please fans. The Dark Star runs on a theme of prophetic doom and corruption, and mechanically introduces risk vs reward in the form of corruption cards. The Mountains Rise cater to those that love untamed wilderness and barbarians, featuring skills, events, and quests relating to survival in harsh lands and against strange beasts and savage invaders. For those wanting to raise the stakes of their Runebound adventures, be sure to check these expansions out this fall!

Cryptozoic_Entertainment_hxm0o8

Cryptozoic Entertainment, the publishers of popular Intellectual Properties such as the DC Deck-Building game, The Walking Dead board game, and the Ghostbusters board game, will be launching a demo program through Publishers Services Inc. (PSI). Using this fulfillment service, they can better reach retailers across the country to introduce their games to prospective customers. As described via their own news release:

This exclusive program is for brick-and-mortar locations only and allows retailers to purchase select Cryptozoic titles at 75% off MSRP. Each year, retailers can purchase one copy (per retail location) of each available title at the discounted price directly through PSI.

The program will launch will a limited availability of products to start, with more to follow. Retailers will be able to choose from Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre, The Walking Dead board game, The Walking Dead board game: The Best Defense, Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game, and Ghostbusters: the Board Game. If you are interested in taking advantage of this program and offering your customers a quality game at a very reasonable price, visit this link to apply and find out more information!

From This and That Games, the publishers  of Comrades and Patriots, comes your daily dose of adorable – Sea Turtle Scurry is their newest game come to Kickstarter.

Sea Turtle Scurry is a game of baby sea turtle racing, from the nest to the ocean. Players lay tiles, play cards, and even hitch a ride on each other on the way to their new home!

Players use their tiles to create a path for the turtles to travel, choosing a side and facing to help their turtle and hinder their opponents. Cards are used as actions or to scurry and forgo a card’s benefit to charge across spaces after incurring penalties for terrain. Turtles can even crawl on another’s back and hitch a ride, unless the ridden turtle crawls onto a rock, which can dampen any hitchhiker’s plans. The game is educationally conscious, as each card features facts about the endangered animals, and made lovingly to spread awareness of one of the most precious marine species. Be sure to check out their Kickstarter on June 7th, going on until June 28th 2016, for more information.

knuckle sammich

From the creators of Kobolds ate my baby! and  Schrödinger’s Cats comes a take-that party game fresh on Kickstarter – Knuckle Sammich, which has proudly (as of writing) made it’s funding goal. Featuring artwork found in the full-color beer-and-pretzel’s RPG, Knuckle Sammich brings the fun and eclectic world into a mechanically interesting game for 2-8 players.

You have a card in your paw* that tells you your meat and what you taste like. On your turn you get to draw a new card, and then choose which of your two cards you want to play. You play a card face up on your plate. Some cards have an effect when played, others while they are on your plate, and a few while they are in your paw.

*Kobolds have paws, not hands.

The goal is to eat as much as you possibly can, and whoever has most cardboard sammiches at the end, after there  are none left to take, is the winner. Some cards let you eat other players, either outright or if you can guess what their meat or taste is on their card in hand. Eating a player  simply eliminates them for a round, but it still earns you a sammich. If the adorable kobolds, shenanigans, and the praising of King Torg interest you, be sure to check out the Kickstarter campaign today!

my wu xing cards

My Wu Xing is a small card game for 2-8 players coming from Game Salute on June 3rd. Wu Xing, or the five elements – Metal, Water, Fire, Wood, and Earth, is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy that was used since before and exceptionally during the Han dynasty to explain the unexplained. Creation, dangerous phenomena, and even the basis for actions and emotions. My Wu Xing seeks to not just be a fun card game, but also teach players about the interactions with those elements as well as corresponding concepts within Wu Xing and how they affect each other and nature.

The game pits the player’s Wu Xing (water, wood, fire, earth, metal) against the universal elements and the other players’ elements.  There are also both auspicious cards (Infinite Dragon) or inauspicious cards (Destructive Star) which can change game play at any time. The last player who has elements in their hand wins. If no one has any elements remaining, the player with the most elements in hand wins.

The game is reasonably short and filler tier (max 30 min. estimated), accommodates a lot of players, and carries a lot of historical and philosophical concepts through beautiful illustrations. Definitely looks to be a solid product from Game Salute. Be sure to check it out this summer!

cthulhu ios

The fan-favorite Cthulhu Realms is coming to mobile due to the fantastic work of the same people that brought Star Realms to the digital scene. Cthulhu Realms is a deck building competitive game where players use conjuring power as currency to buy new cards and play minions and locations in order to damage your opponents sanity. If you go insane, you’re out! The last player remaining, or the player with the most sanity when the market deck is depleted is the winner. The upcoming mobile app is available now through Google Play and will be coming to iOS App store soon and will feature a slew of awesome content and multiplayer options for the paid version.

Full App Features: Drive people insane across the globe. Play the AI on 2 difficulty settings. 8 additional campaign missions. Battle your friends face to face with Pass and Play. Play against many more opponents online. Challenge a friend to online Player v Player combat.

Since Cthulhu Realms is mechanically very similar to Star Realms, which has seen impressive popularity on digital platforms, this newest game-to-application entry has a lot of experience behind it to be a worthwhile download. That experience, I expect, will come in the form of consistent patches and bug fixes, a very stable online environment, and a very challenging single-player experience you wouldn’t get from the physical version. Check it out on your favorite app store soon!

blood bowl mini

The fan-favorite fantasy football game is due for a new edition and modern polish, and Games Workshop is cooking one up as we speak. Blood Bowl, the Warhammer-infused tactics game of brutal sportsmanship had it’s 4th edition teased during the Warhammer Fest 2016 event in UK this past weekend. A lot of materials, including the cover art, are quoted to not be final, but the details thus far are solid and the sculpts were impressive regardless and prominently on display. The details, as described by Rictus of Recalcitrant Daze (a stoic reporter of all things Games Workshop), are as follows:

The release is hoped to be end of the year. Box set contains the first two teams, Orcs and Human in plastic. The pitch is double sided with a Human pitch on one side and an Orc pitch on the other. The rules have not been changed, they are the rules which has been around for a while now. In total there will be six teams in plastic (Human, Orc, Skaven, Elf, Nurgle and Dwarf).

The materials are still subject to the design process, as the availability of resin models will not be immediate. Niceties such as resin models or a different material for the pitches are being considered, but it all boils down to projected costs. Despite the lack of a confirmed release date and box details, the picture is still pretty clear – a new Blood Bowl is coming and it’s going to look good.

twister

Did you know that Twister hit the scene after appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson? May 3rd, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of that fateful television debut. Did you also know that two years before being patented and marketed by Milton Bradly, Twister went through a few prototypes called Kings’ Footsie and Pretzel? I honestly can’t say which name is my favorite!

Twister has had a significant impact on pop-culture throughout the years, and today it still inspires variants, fun, and laughter. Hasbro will be celebrating the anniversary all over social media with #twister50. If you have any fun videos, or variants to the classic game, be sure to share them over Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday!