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.

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.

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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.


BGG.Con is underway and amidst the excitement and eager gamers, Artana sat down with our own Eric Summerer to show off a very intriguing new title – Chronicles: Origins. Designed by Dirk Knemeyer and Rob Daviau, Origins very literally will be the first of the chronicles series which will take players on a journey of creating a new world from scratch! Via it’s BGG entry:

First, players take the role of leaders of a small and emerging tribe, collaborating to avoid threats, exploit opportunities, and build the tribe to a position of growth and stability. Then, once a variety of tribes have been created, players take leadership of a city-state that evolved from an original tribe and contest the region with their opponents who are the leaders of city-states of their own.

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The game features the legacy mechanism that has been popularized by Risk: Legacy and the recently released Pandemic: Legacy. Judging by the information available, it seems that Artana is differentiating their product from those powerhouses, which turned hour-long classics into week-long affairs, by adapting the evolving game with specialized components, chits, and tried-and-true role playing elements. What really makes it stand out, though, is something called the “Echo System”, which allows the unique creations of each player that stands it’s test of time to easily transfer and continue to later releases of the series. For fans of legacy games, this is a good step forward. We now have a game that’s preparing itself at release for expansive content that allows the legacy game to continue to live and breathe beyond it’s shelf-life. The potential for this design step is incredible, to say the least. I look forward to hearing more about it.


centauri saga

News of board game kickstarters is a weekly occurrence here at Dice Tower News, but it’s refreshing to see one take such a humanitarian avenue as in the recent campaign for Centauri Saga. The kickstarter announced today that it plans to make the funding goal for it’s space-themed title and also give back to the worldwide effort against Polio.

Centauri Saga, by Vesuvius Media, is a 4X game featuring all the exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination the genre is used to, wrapped up with a co-operative twist. While the flaghsip games for the 4X universe, like Twilight Imperium 3 or  Eclipse, boast long play times and competition, Centauri Saga aims to cut the table-time to a medium-weight length (60-90 min.) and pit up to 4 players against deck-generated hostiles. Featuring many impressive ship miniatures and components (and dice!), the game is certainly appealing to fans of space-exploration and co-operative games alike. Vesuvius Media isn’t just out to bring a new and different game to your table, though. They also want to give back to the world that helps to fund it.

“We’re a community-driven game development company,” said Stefani Angelopoulos, a Rotarian and Director of Communications at Vesuvius Media. “We believe that means listening to our players’ feedback, but also giving back to the community.”


Taking the “extermination” portion of 4X to heart, Vesuvius Media has partnered with Rotary International in ending Polio. Polio is a preventable-yet-debilitating disease, and lately has been a thing of the past thanks to the efforts of organizations like Rotary International and UNICEF. However, it is still a nightmare for families in many parts of Africa and South Asia today. Through fundraising it is possible to meet the challenge of eliminating Polio for good, an indisputably great thing.centauri comp

Speaking of fundraising, Centauri Saga’s campaign began on November 1st and, as of writing this, it has reached 57% of it’s goal. With 21 days to go, the future looks bright for the star-faring kickstarter, and even brighter for the people helped by Rotary International’s campaign. With enough help, we could have both a unique sci-fi gaming experience and a world without Polio. So how about it? Do you like 4X games and co-operation? How about fighting a very real and threatening disease while making such a game a reality? Sounds like a good deal to me.