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.

For fans of Unearth from Brotherwise Games, today’s news brings word of new life for the family-weight dice placement, set collection game. A new expansion is on the horizon, coming this July, called The Lost Tribe, and with it comes a one-two-three punch of painless enhancements. It’s biggest contribution is more cards to add a fresh coat of paint on the 2017 release, and on top of that more dice to allow for a 5th player. Last, but certainly not least, it adds a solo campaign mode that will broaden the game’s appeal and replayability.

“Unearth: The Lost Tribe continues Brotherwise’s trend of offering huge value and playability at a low price point. Responding to continued requests from Unearth fans, they’ve even included a plastic mini of the adorable Delvers that have helped make Unearth so visually iconic. Unearth: The Lost Tribe comes in a disposable tuck box—all components (but the included mini) can be contained in the base game box.”

Expansions such as these are very inoffensive, and tend to be no-brainers – it’s an all-around improvement to the game. More cards and more players is always a welcome thing, but arguably the best addition is the solo mode. Not only does it give existing owners a little side puzzle to chew on, but those looking for solo games with low overhead will probably want to give Unearth a second glance. For those interested, be on the lookout for Unearth: The Lost Tribe at your favorite retailer this July.

We don’t talk as much as we probably should about must-haves in the gaming room. Part of the hobby isn’t just the games, but how we facilitate them as hosts for game nights, and stuff like comfortable seats, lighting, and drinks are essential. What many will also tell you is some kind of padding on your table is also vital, because it’s not just nice – padding protects your table and your cards while also muffling loud dice rolls. That’s where this Kickstarter we’re highlighting today comes in: Overpowered Game Mats are premium padding for your table or topper custom made to fit any style, size, and shape without any hassle.

“We precision-cut each and every custom game mat with high-end machinery.  Our default shapes are circles, squares, and rectangles, but we can do other shapes such as ovals, hexagons, octagons etc. […] You can upload your own image, choose any solid color, or select from one of our artwork files!  However, we are unable to print copyrighted material, which includes game boards, movie artwork, sports team logos and more.”

If you’ve ever tried searching for just the right kind of padding for your table in a quick and affordable way, you’ve already traveled down that rabbit hole of trying to get the size or color right. Overpowered sidesteps all that by making exactly what you want with any non-licensed image or color your heart desires, with great 3 mm thickness and optional edge stitching. Their online tools make ordering a breeze and totally takes the headache out. Backing on Kickstarter nets you an early-bird discount on these mats, so now’s the time; if you’re in the market for anything like this and would like to find out more about Overpowered’s custom mats, visit their campaign page for full instructions, FAQs, reviews, and updates.

This past weekend, Root by Leder Games took home the Tabletop Game of the Year award at SXSW, and it now sits among the company of previous winners such as Gloomhaven and Arkham Horror: The Card Game. SXSW (South By Southwest) is a large festival in Austin, Texas that, each year, brings together and celebrates multiple creative industries, from gaming to music to film. That’s partly what makes this award so nice: it’s in recognition of a game by a conference that’s not strictly gaming-centric and is undoubtedly awarding Root for all of it’s artistic merits. While I can go on-and-on about how amazing artist Kyle Ferrin’s work is, the illustrations in the game weren’t the only thing being recognized fully at SXSW, and that’s definitely something worth praising.

“Patrick and I were in attendance and it was our honor to accept the award on behalf of the entire staff at Leder Games. Needless to say, this award would have been impossible without the support of our backers. We are incredibly grateful for your continued support.” – designer of Root, Cole Wehrle

Not long after this announcement came the next biggest news for Leder Games – the expansion currently on Kickstarter broke 1 million U.S. dollars in funding, easily dwarfing the money raised by the base game in late 2017. It’s a major feat, demonstrative of the love, care, and hard work that went into making it and it’s ripple effect across the gaming communities. That much recognition is bound to be overwhelming, but it is well deserved – congratulations, everyone! If you’re interested in learning more about this award-winning game and it’s expansion, be sure to check out it’s campaign page for the full rules, print-and-play, FAQs, and updates.

Today Restoration Games gave what is arguably their biggest announcement yet. Unmatched is the restoration of Star Wars: Epic Duels, whose design became the basis of Heroscape. That’s not the only thing that makes this announcement so big, however, as Unmatched isn’t just one game – it will be a line of products featuring a variety of themes and intellectual properties. It’s such an undertaking, in fact, that Restoration Games isn’t doing this alone; They are collaborating with Mondo Games, the publishers behind The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, who will be bringing their extended partnerships to bear.

“Unmatched pits two or four players against each other, with each player taking the role of their own hero. Each hero is represented by a unique ability and a custom deck of action cards, and each set comes with a double-sided board with different battlefields. The first two sets in the line are Battle of Legends, Vol. 1 and the eponymous Robin Hood vs. Big Foot. The Battle of Legends set includes King Arthur, Alice, Medusa, and Sinbad. Heroes from any set can be played against each other, making for surprising and exciting matchups and tons of replayability.”

These first sets will debut at Gen Con this year, but that’s far from all of it. There will be a Bruce Lee limited edition pack and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer set expected to release later this year as well. This is exactly the kind of thing fans have been clamoring for since Restoration Games started taking requests, and it’s fun to see it come alive at last and with so many cool characters to kick it all off. Unfortunately this one article alone won’t do it all justice, so to learn more about Unmatched be sure to visit Restoration Games’ website for further reading and updates.

For anyone who enjoys programming, deduction, and/or cooperative games, keep reading. Designed by the excellent Nikki Valens (designer of Mansions of Madness 2E and Legacy of Dragonholt), Quirky Circuits is coming from Plaid Hat Games this summer and features some of the most adorable miniatures ever created. 2-to-4 players cooperate in one of twenty-one scenarios to complete their goals before their batteries run out. Using the same scenario book system that other Plaid Hat releases such as Stuffed Fables and Comanauts have used ensures quick and easy setup to support the fast and engaging gameplay.

“Players place programming cards face down, only knowing what types of cards their friends have played – movement, turn or quirk. Quirk cards must be played before a player uses any other card in their hand and every player must play at least one card per round. Using deductive reasoning, all players will move the robo-buddy around the board, trying to complete its mission!”

“Quirky” really is an appropriate adjective in the title, because that’s precisely what I wanted to write several times during this article to describe it. Everything about the look of the design is cute, fun, compact, and to-the-point, and that’s a great advantage for this game. Not to be understated, Quirky Circuits fits an excellent niche in the market right now, being a much more accessible point of entry to teach programmed movement and deduction, in stark contrast to the long-lived Robo Rally. Moreover, this is only the second cooperative version of such a mechanic after the heavyweight Mechs vs. Minions, where the speed of setup due to Plaid Hats innovation will really shine in comparison. If you’re interested in learning more about Quirky Circuits, check out Plaid Hat’s news and product pages for updates, pictures, full rules, and availability.

If you’re a fan of narrative driven games, historical themes, deck-building, punchy two-player experiences, or all of the above, you will be interested in Undaunted: Normandy coming this August from Osprey Games. It comes with some whopping credits behind it, designed by both David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin (both of whom created the recently popular War Chest) with art by Roland MacDonald (whose brilliant, sharp illustrations are featured in Western Legends and Stop Thief!). This campaign-style game follows the history of the US 30th Infantry Division, where one player operates a deck representing those US troops as they drive into occupied France, while the other player controls the German opposition. Both participants must manage troops, reinforcements, and casualties as they simulate this titanic point in WWII history through tactical choices and card play.

“Undaunted: Normandy is a deck-building game that places you and your opponent in command of American or German forces, fighting through a series of missions critical to the outcome of World War II. Use your cards to seize the initiative, bolster your forces, or control your troops on the battlefield. Strong leadership can turn the tide of battle in your favour, but reckless decisions could prove catastrophic, as every casualty you take removes a card from your deck.”

While there are no shortage of war games that are capable of providing a tension-filled window into the Invasion of Normandy, this is no-doubt a much faster, more personal approach. Where there is a lack of miniatures, there’s an excellent use of Roland McDonald’s work that provides fresh, evocative faces of the stakes both players know. It may not have an expansive spatial element to it, but the struggles your deck will go through should more than impress. If you’re interested in learning more about Undaunted: Normandy, check out Osprey Games’ website/blog for further reading and announcements.

Not to miss out on the blossoming digital games market like many of it’s kin, the award-winning Evolution from North Star Games is available now on Steam, iOS, and Android. This new desktop and mobile version boasts new artwork, animated cards and environments, a campaign mode with many A.I bosses, and all the same great gameplay that put Evolution on the map. Cross-platform multiplayer means you’ll be able to play anyone, anywhere, from any preferred device. After 4 years of development, North Star Digital Studios is confident they have made the experience as streamlined as possible so that online matches are ten minutes or less.

“Within moments of playing their first game, even new players will understand why the Evolution board game became an award-winning franchise with more than 1.6 million players around the world. Anyone can jump right into the diverse ecosystem on PC, Mac, iOS or Android.”

That’s not all though, as North Star Games is celebrating that launch in the best way manageable – by giving away 10 free copies of the physical edition of Evolution every day for 100 days since it’s launch. All you have to do to enter is play an online match each day to be eligible. It’s well worth it to not only support the game and it’s fresh online community, but to also snag some free games for you or your loved ones. If you’re interested in learning more about Evolution: The Video Game, or other North Star Games Products, be sure to visit the appropriate app stores or their website for photos, gameplay videos, and future updates.

WizKids has a new family weight game now available at a store near you. In Bumúntú, 2-to-5 players act as African tribal leaders, seeking wisdom from the animals of the wilderness. Players will move carefully across a grid seeded with various animal tiles, each one with different movement abilities (a la Hive). Collecting these animal will gain their favor, a value determined on a leaderboard that all players affect. Strategy and planning are thus key in this game and what could be a gentle stroll through the wilds will end up being a tense skirmish for supremacy.

“A common theme in African folklore is that animals are wise creatures who teach humans to do good and moral things. In Bumúntú, based on the Bakongo culture of central Africa, you are a tribal leader seeking to befriend the animals. Trek through the jungle, follow the animals’ guidance, and earn their favor. Successfully earn the most favor and the animals will help bring your people to prosperity.”

The comparison to Hive is the most apt I can make, although this is much more a family weight game with set collection rather than a head-to-head competition to trap the opponent. Bumúntú has a wider variety of animals and variable scoring that can swing each round, making this a good game for teaching pattern recognition, long-term planning, and spatial movement to children and new gamers alike. If you are interested in learning more about Bumúntú, check out WizKids’ product page for more pictures, full rules, and a full list of local and online retailers.

Next Move Games is not laying off the gas just yet. They have one more new release joining Tuki at this year’s Origins Game Fair, and this one is the start of a new line of small box games. 5211 is a re-implementation of a game known as 5 Colors, a design from 2017 that seems to have had a limited distribution. What Next Move has done is brought on the excellent Chris Quilliams for all new art and adjusted the components to allow for up to 8 players. This is great news, because 5211 will be leapfrogging off an already established rule-set that was already conducive to a party game audience, while receiving the components to appeal to that wider audience and with distribution and art to back it up.

“5211 is a fast playing, type-matching card game with unique scoring methods that reward clever plays! Designed by Tsuyoshi Hashiguchi and illustrated by Chris Quilliams, 5211 is an addictive game that begs to be played over and over! […] While players could get lost forever in the simple elegance of the game’s design, an average game of 5211 should only take about 20 to 30 minutes to play.”

The game is played over multiple rounds until the deck of cards has been depleted. Each round, players will simultaneously choose and reveal 2 cards, then two more one at a time. The color most represented by played cards scores, unless it’s too many which causes it to bust and the second most color scores. If there’s a tie for most, they both bust, and the next highest color scores. It gives the game this sort of trick-taking feel within a set collection game, where every card played is a gambit of trying to figure out what colors your opponents will be inclined to play. If you’re interested in learning more about 5211, check out Next Move’s website and it’s BGG description, and be on the lookout for the game breaking into retail shortly after Origins.

The next big title from Stronghold Games has a deluxe edition now on Kickstarter! From designers Bobby West and Alan R. Moon, the esteemed creator of Ticket to Ride, comes Aftershock – a competitive area control game for 3-to-5 players. The story goes that the San Francisco Bay area has been rocked with earthquakes so you are trying rebuild infrastructure and repopulate the city in relative safety in spite of the destruction. What comes from this is a drafting and hidden action selection game mixed with a little bit of route building to create something that may sound familiar, but is all-together different than anything on the market today.

     “In Aftershock, players will spend money to acquire planning cards, which are used to increase population, build bridges, and determine where aftershocks occur. Spend money wisely to acquire aftershocks that will allow you to move people into and out of the demolished areas. Planning and careful negotiation are essential in order to maintain your population and score your best-planned cities and bridges.”

There’s a bit of mind-gaming to this one that makes it really click. While the actions you can take are public and bought from one another (drafted in a way that may remind of Isle of Skye), the targets of those actions are hidden and victim to turn order, which will lead to a lot of twisted thinking as you try to anticipate where your opponents will go so you can take advantage of their situation. You can see that Alan Moon touch to the game in the drafting and route connections, but can see that this collaborative effort has brought about something much more intriguing than his older network-building fare. This Kickstarter campaign is also an excellent opportunity to get the deluxe version of this game for the same price as the standard retail version post-release, so if you’re interested in this one be sure to check out their page now to see a full rules breakdown, Previews, FAQs, and take advantage of this deluxe offer.