Mike Austin

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.

Fast & Fhtagn, a furious card game of racing in a Lovecraft-inspired world for 3-6 players, is coming out this April. Atlas Games is promoting the game to any willing FLGS (Friendly Local Game Stores) with exclusive promos (via this submission flier). Custom promos are awesome! Check out it’s description from their product page:

Fast & Fhtagn is a component rich card game where players jockey for position on crowded, dangerous city streets. As the pack hurtles through an ever-changing urban landscape, racers must squeeze out their adversaries, accumulate style points, and keep their vehicles running smoothly even as dangers rain down and other drivers plot inhuman violence against them.

From what details I can find, Fast & Fhtagn seems to be a spiritual successor to another Atlas published game – Cthulhu 500, and is presumed to be a remake with better components and rules. In being forward, I think the name is great! I hope the game series takes off, just so we might see 7 sequels. 2 Fast, 2 Fhtagn, anyone? Check it out this April!



Kickstarter news is storming through as the success of board game crowdfunding continues to climb, and it can be hard to keep up with it all! Which is unfortunate for games with unassuming titles like Victoriana, because I have to be honest – the Victorian-era is beloved and ripe for use in theme and artistic licence (Steampunk notwithstanding). It is easy to assume a game is pasting on a theme to create easy appeal, but that would be a mistake as assuming often is. I’m here to state the record that Victoriana is doing something special.

Victoriana is a cooperative board game for 1-4 players. In Victoriana, players take the role of famous Victorian characters. Following a trail of clues through sprawling 19th century London, these characters must investigate a dire conspiracy that threatens Queen and Country.

victoriana components

What is spellbinding about Victoriana isn’t the theme per say, but it’s inspiration. The game is designed as a sort of love letter to Victorian-era literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and everything about it draws from that romance – the aesthetics, the heroes, the villains, the schemes, the feeling. Admittedly, the board reminds me of Arkham Horror, another cooperative game of chasing a big villain and combating it’s minions. However, Victoriana is making a soulful appeal to a major part of literary history in a deeply unique way to really make it stand out in the cooperative genre. I can’t deny that my love for the source material draws me in, makes me curious about the game and wish it the best of success – not just as a funding campaign, but as justice to that fantastically classic and enchanting period of English literature. If you too are charmed by Victoriana, follow their Kickstarter and Facebook page for it’s progress and updates.



Fireside Games announced a new airship building game for 2-5 players coming Summer 2016 known as Dastardly Dirigibles. Check out this description from the press release, or follow the link to their official webpage for more info:

This game features tarot-sized cards that are played in a constant action format where each time a part is added, ALL players MUST add the SAME part–which may replace an existing one. Build your airship from different parts of 9 beautiful suits, using Special cards to your advantage or to thwart your opponents. The round ends when the first airship is complete. But you score only the suit used most in your airship. The player with the highest score after 3 rounds wins!

The Steampunk theme is sure to please, and it has a force-to-follow card format similar to classic Euchre but with 9 suits and special cards. Certainly interesting and worth looking out for this summer!

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The crowdfunding campaign for Xenoshyft: Dreadmire is alive and well, currently over 600% of their goal and climbing! In the middle of shattering most of it’s established stretch goals, Cool Mini or Not announced via campaign update another expansion for Xenoshyft, currently as an optional purchase and presumably available for future retail. Xenoshyft: Immolation is a fire-themed expansion that, like Dreadmire has showcased, adds it’s own unique mechanics to your opposition – in this instance, dealing with mounting fire.

When facing these deadly adversaries, the players will not only have to worry about their raw strength and cunning, but the level of Immolation around the base as well- Enemies will gain unique and special abilities based on how hot the crucible has become. Should players allow it to become too high the very Base itself will begin to suffer damage as slag and fire run rampant!

Adding an expansion during a Kickstarter campaign is not new territory for Cool Mini or Not, and in the past has been a successful way of “turning up the heat”, driving up funding, ramping up campaign attention, and adding more bang for the backers buck. It’s interesting that Immolation is continuing the design trend of not just adding more monsters, troops, and items to the game, but also having it’s own unique mechanism to have to deal with and manage – a new spice for every addition, as it were. Xenoshyft is an awesome cooperative experience, and I for one welcome adding a bit more kick to it.

Asmodee catan

Asmodee and Mayfair just announced via press release that it has bought the English-Language publishing and brand rights for Catan from Mayfair Games. To facilitate this purchase, Asmodee has created a new branch, known as Catan Studios Inc., for the future development of the Catan series and it’s products. Peter Fenlon, former CEO of Mayfair Games, and a team who has worked intimately with Catan for years have moved to create the backbone of Catan Studios Inc.  Mayfair Games is still otherwise intact, with responsibilities of it’s acquired employees being impressively spread among existing staff. Mayfair Games still holds a controlling interest in Lookout Games, and will assist Catan Studios Inc. in the promotion of the Catan brand in all of it’s continually held events, such as the 2016 Catan tournament Schedule, Catan Day 2016, and the World Championship. Guido Teuber of Catan GmbH, the family-run studio founded by series creator Klaus Teuber, had this to say about the acquisition:

“As we celebrate Catan’s 20th anniversary, we are proud to announce this very strong partnership with Asmodee Group. We are excited about the prospect of adding Asmodee’s special talents, strong crew, and deep, global structure into the Catan program. Alongside Catan Studio we will focus on an even closer collaboration with international publishing partners, especially Kosmos Verlag and USM, to strengthen and broaden the overall Catan story and experience worldwide.”

pandemic languages

Popular across all platforms and skyrocketing up the BGG charts with it’s newest Legacy release, Pandemic the app has now made itself even more available than ever before. Z-man Games announced on Christmas day that the digital version has been updated with a massive list of language availability. As announced via Z-man Games news:

As of Saturday, December 26th, though, your favorite digital game will also be available in Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Chinese! That makes it for a grand total of 16 languages!

Previously only available in English, French, and German, Pandemic is now reaching out to much broader audiences so that they too may experience one of the most popular board games today.

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The X-wing Miniatures Game is going strong with consistent, new content, and has just dropped another release in time for Christmas. The Imperial Assault Carrier is another large ship ready to join anyone’s arsenal. As described on Fantasy Flight’s release news:

Designed for use within the game’s Cinematic Play and Epic Play formats, the Imperial Assault Carrier Expansion Pack contains one Gozanti-class cruiser miniature, two TIE fighter miniatures with a variant paint scheme, eleven ship cards, twenty-six upgrade cards, and all the maneuver dials, damage decks, tokens, and game pieces that you need to fly your Gozanti cruiser and its escort fighters.

Not to be confused with the transport ships of waves past, the Imperial Assault Carrier has docking clamps that allow it to begin with up to 4 of a TIE-series ship type in tow. The Carrier, outside of it’s typical combat options, has it’s own unique rules for releasing the docked ships which allow for incredible tactical engagements. Take a look at the Fantasy Flight release page for more information, including detailed examples of what the ship can offer your Imperial fleet!

I’m very excited to see this game getting more innovative options, both mechanically and visually, amidst the growing number of ships and products that Fantasy Flight has graced the gaming public. For the fans of X-wing minis, the game publisher has certainly not taken their foot off the gas, so to speak, in regards to miniatures quality and worthwhile expansive content. While that effort may be necessary amidst the insatiable hunger that we Star Wars fans have, one cannot deny the “cool factor” represented here.  Check it out at your favorite retailer!

Catacombs has seen a long and worthwhile campaign for a new third edition this year, and I was one of the many backers proud to make it happen. Now available at retail, the award-winning dexterity game has certainly garnered many fans and accolades while being the only stand-alone game in Elzra’s repertoire. So imagine my surprise when, in a recent update, Aron West of Elzra Games teased at future projects within the Catacombs universe. Incredibly curious, I reached out to the game designer for more information, and I am delighted to type that he graciously responded.

M: Catacombs has seen excellent success with it’s latest Kickstarter campaign. Will Elzra be returning to Kickstarter for it’s future releases in the Catacombs line?

A: We expect to, yes.

M: The teaser image in the latest update looks like an expansion, similar to Cavern of Soloth. Are all 3 products in the pipeline strictly expansions to the base game?

A: No, the first game is a card game set in the Catacombs world, designed by one of the co-designers of the original edition of Catacombs, Ryan Amos, and myself. The second is a new standalone, competitive game that uses our Dexterity Game System that is the foundation of Catacombs. And the third is an expansion to the current cooperative Catacombs game (Wyverns of Wylemuir).

M: The newest edition of Catacombs is really chock full of content. What kind of additions can fans expect in future Catacombs products?

A: New character classes (the wyverns, for example), new game boards with different obstacle types, possibly expanding the RPG / story telling element in the game. We feel there are lots of possibilities.

Color me excited! More components, options, and storytelling elements – News of new Catacombs content is fantastic enough, but a card game and a competitive dexterity game? Certainly good things to look forward to, especially when you consider the care and attention to design exemplified in the newest edition of their flagship game. There’s some big shoes to fill in for the new ventures, but knowing the heart and the community at the wheel, I believe we will be impressed.

Thanks so much to Aron West for taking the time to answer and share with all of us the exciting future of Catacombs. I for one am glad to report that we have even more adventures to look forward to.

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Do you like owning unique dragons and worker placement games? Simurgh, from NSKN games and designer Pierlucca Zizzi, fits the bill and as of writing this is still available on Kickstarter. Having already met it’s funding goal and receiving positive reviews from many sources, this dragon-taming adventure feels ready to hit any respectable gaming shelf.

The game borrows many ideas and mechanisms from worker placement’s past but certainly combines them in such a manner to keep it unique and differentiate it from it’s forefathers. Fans of Manhattan Project will enjoy seeing the ability to recall workers as easily as putting them onto the board, while veterans of Lords of Waterdeep will admire the fantasy feel and the ability to pick-and-choose worker placement options as you could with the buildings from that title. While resource management is a staple in the worker placement genre, Simurgh adds a bit of a curve with it’s prolific and majestic dragons. Each dragon is unique in artwork and effect, and takes their own resource (dragon tokens) to boost your resource management as a free action, giving players a much welcome sense of flexibility and power.

There is no such thing as fawning too much over the dragon artwork. Seriously, go to the Kickstarter page and check out those bad boys! The game has certainly been previewed extensively ever since Essen 2015, with our own Tom Vasel  providing a video review complete with the Dice Tower seal of approval! It’s growing fan-base has already managed to not only make it’s funding goal, but almost triple it as of this publication. NSKN games is not only campaigning for a rich base  game either, but also an expansion – “Call of the Dragonlord” – in this campaign as well. As described on the Kickstarter page:

Simurgh: Call of the Dragonlord is a premium expansion telling the next chapter of the history of the White City. Adding new tiles, a new board and the Wizard – a new Vassal that brings his powerful magic into the epic struggle of White City’s factions.

Resource management, modular worker placement options, and stunning dragon artwork really makes Simurgh an incredible package. If interested, there’s still 8 days left to back it and grab yourself or a friend a copy.

simurgh comp

ticket to ride banner digital

Days of Wonder announced that their incredibly popular digital version of Ticket to Ride has been overhauled from the ground up to accommodate a mess of features. The new version is a free update to everyone who has bought the digital game before, or available on IOS, Android, and Steam.

“In addition to the exciting cross-platform asynchronous multiplayer mode, players will enjoy an intuitive user interface, new social media capabilities to share exciting moments, and fresh content such as the Indian map, the first vertical map to be available on Ticket to Ride digital.”

As a fan of Ticket to Ride and it’s digital installment, this is very good news – It is evidence that refinement of the game has not been neglected. With asynchronous multiplayer, sharing a game with friends from incredible distances or varying degrees of involvement is much more pleasant and reinforces casual play. The user interface now adapts to orientation and personal preference better, which is essential nowadays with how fast we juggle mobile devices. Plus, there’s more maps, and anyone who loves Ticket to Ride, physical or digital, always welcomes more maps. Overall, good stuff!

So if you don’t already own the game, I do recommend it if you’re a fan of the franchise, and it’s available on pretty much everything and even better than before.