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.

Two new products are slated to arrive soon from Stronghold Games – Friedmann Friese’s Futuropia and the Piece of Cake expansion for Kitchen Rush. The former new game from prolific designer of F-named games, Futuropia is described as a “luck-free” economic game where players compete to build an ideal civilization – one where citizens no longer need to work but instead have enough food and energy to live in leisure for the rest of their natural lives.  It’s a fun theme with some serious science fiction roots not entirely divorced from it’s predecessor, Power Grid, which is certainly reason enough to have a piqued interest. Futuropia allows for 1 to 4 players and takes roughly 90 minutes to play.

     “To ensure you always encounter new challenges, we offer multiple game set-up variations, which create a variety of gameplay situations, ensuring new experiences and replayability. The solo game offers you an option to learn the mechanisms and processes of Futuropia before you play it with other players. See our hopeful future in…Futuropia!”

Kitchen Rush: Piece of Cake is, on the other hand, simply an expansion to the frantic real-time cooperative game slash restaurant simulator. It adds plenty more new options to the game, including board extensions, desserts, mini-orders, and a new hourglass for use as a specialist worker. Kitchen Rush is excellent and challenging on it’s own, but if perhaps you find it a bit stale or would like to broaden the types of actions in the game, Piece of Cake is there for you. Both products are scheduled to release to retail in January of 2019, so if you’re interested in either of these items be sure to check out your favorite store to pick up a copy.

 

While mergers within the board game industry are something we’re all becoming accustomed to, it’s interesting to see such a thing occur between two publishers that have both been making waves within the past few months. As announced via Facebook, NSKN Games, publishers of recently hot games Teotihuacan and Dice Settlers, have merged with Board & Dice, publishers of The Networks and Multiuniversum. They will continue forward under the Board & Dice brand, and games from both categories will feature this branding in future print runs. This move won’t come to any detriment to the quality of their content or their fans, but instead will help leverage both publisher’s abilities to broaden their catalog and bring about even more cool games.

“We have both worked together on many fields, we are friends outside working hours and what’s probably most important – both companies have excellent and successful games in their portfolios. We want to move to the next level in the board games industry and we know we can do this together by joining our potentials under one refreshed Board & Dice brand.”

In addition to this merger was an announcement of plans for the upcoming year under the combined brand’s Facebook page. This plan includes an expansion each for Teotihuacan and Dice Settlers, a new game in the Exodus series, a surprise design from Daniele Tascini, and the following new titles: INUIT, World Shapers, Dust in the Wings, Sierra West, and Escape Tales 2. It looks like there’s a bright future in store for the publishers, and their already extensive catalogs will certainly serve them well in the days to come. If you’re interested in learning more about Board & Dice, and this merger, check out their website for further updates, news, and product information.

Want to enhance any game in your collection quickly and easily without have to scour the internet for variants or house rules? Quined Games has you covered with their next release – The Game Changers. This is not a full game, of course, but more like an 80-card expansion for your whole collection. With these cards, you can add new end game scoring, turn a cooperative game competitive and vice versa, or even alter the flow of the game with fun solutions for analysis paralysis or making mistakes.

“The Game Changers box gives you the possibility to give more or other fun to any of your games. It can give the games that you know and love so well a new and fresh impulse, but it can also freshen up your worn and torn games and even give the boring evergreens a second life. It’s up to you to use, or not use, any of the Changers.”

Now of course not all of these will work with every game, your mileage will vary. Each card is essentially going to amount to the same value as a fun, harmless house rule, so if that’s something  you already do then this pack of cards is a no-brainer. However, even if you aren’t into variants but have thought about it from time-to-time, this simple pack of 80 cards is a harmless way to dip your toe into the water and it may even inspire many more cool ideas. If you’re interested in learning more about The Game Changers, or other releases from Quined Games, be sure to check out their website for their product pages and articles.

Cool Mini or Not has a big batch of new products coming very soon. Announced via press release, CMON has updated their release schedule to show a large number of titles all being available for retail in time for Christmas. With such a wide variety of games suitable for players of all preferences, it’s safe to say this is one publisher ready to please for the holidays. The following list of games are all slated to release on November 23rd:

  • Narcos, the cooperative board game based on the hit Netflix original, pits players as characters from the show trying to manage a growing narcotics empire.
  • Newton, one of the hottest euro-games of the year, has players take on the role of young scientists following in the footsteps of the greatest minds of 17th century by traveling Europe, studying, earning money, developing new tools for the pursuit of knowledge.
  • Both versions of Railroad Ink, a striking roll-and-write challenging players to build networks on an ever shrinking dry-erase board of options. Each version includes two unique expansions, and both versions can be combined to mix up the options and the fun.
  • The Grizzled, Armistice edition, is the new CMON re-release of the favorite cooperative game now featuring a campaign mode and pre-painted miniatures.
  • 5 new products for A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game. A Night’s Watch Starter Set brings many of the brave and grizzled watchers of the wall to the table, and they pave the way for 4 new add-on packs – The Sworn Brothers, the Ranger Hunters, the Stark Outriders, and the Lannister Halberdiers.

Victorian Masterminds, on the other hand, is an exception and is instead slated to release January 25th, 2019. The hotly anticipated game from Eric Lang and Antoine Bauza where players take on the roles of famous villains attempting to realize their nefarious plans is only a few months away yet I’m positive the wait is well worth it. Of course all dates listed here are subject to change, which is par for the course as many of the titles listed here have had their street dates revised at least once before. If you’re interested in learning more about any of these releases, or further release updates from CMON, be sure to check out their website for announcements and details.

Catacombs is back again, this time bigger and better in almost every way. The positively excellent dungeon crawling dexterity game is now on Kickstarter, this time featuring a bigger box, new insert, updated rules, better border walls, and most important of all – double-sided cloth playmats! Now the game is more streamlined, sturdier, with an improved premium feel and more attractive look, and it will all fit on a standard Kallax shelf. There’s also a new Wydlands expansion to boot, along with all the old expansion content available as add-ons, which means if you’ve missed the train on this exemplary flicking game you’ve got the chance to dive into the action.

     “The surface of the playmats are a very fine cloth weave, which is smooth to the touch. This allows the wood discs to glide across with impressive precision, making every shot satisfyingly consistent. We removed the obstacle holes from the play surfaces, replacing them with obstacle icons, just like in Catacombs & Castles. This allows us to have different obstacle placements between the two sides. With no holes, you can even use your awesome new playmats with your other games!”

For those who already own the 3rd edition of Catacombs from previous campaigns, there’s an upgrade option on this campaign that offers all the new content descirbed above, including the bigger box and new expansion, so you won’t need to buy a whole new copy. As designer Aron West has said in commentary – this is the way Catacombs is meant to be played, as once you play on mats you won’t want to go back to the old boards. This is truly a one-of-a-kind game deserving of evergreen status in many collections, and this is just the kind of deluxe treatment it deserves. If you’re interested in learning more about this upgraded version of Catacombs 3rd edition, check out the Kickstarter campaign, which has successfully funded, for more information, visuals, FAQ, updates, and stretch goals!

Friedemann Friese is at it again with another “F” named game in the Fable Game system, this time using deck building, or rather…deck unbuilding? Fine Sand, coming soon from Stronghold Games, is a deck deconstruction game where players are competing to build sandcastles from the materials around them. These materials are represented by a starting deck of 30 cards, depicting anywhere from sand and stone to structures. Players will spend basic materials to build the structures, which in turn removes the cards from the deck and makes it more efficient at the same time, ramping up an engine until someone triggers game end by removing most of their cards.

“Fine Sand uses the “Fable Game System” introduced in Fabled Fruit, and in addition to a stack of starting cards, each player receives a presorted stack of Fable cards. With these cards, you change your card stack from game to game. Continue to play, or reset and play the game again with the same or different groups. Fine Sand includes an addictive solo campaign!”

It’s quite a fascinating system, a little sleaker than it’s fellow deconstructing title Valley of the Kings, that really turns the genre on it’s head and may prove to be the most impressive Fable Game yet. Even tried-and-true concepts like “trashing” cards have been twisted a bit, since constructing cards already removes them from the deck, trashing instead gives the card to the player on your left – gumming up their system! With the Fable cards, each players starting stack of cards will change from game to game, adding variety and demanding a different approach each time you play. If you’re interested in learning more about Fine Sand, keep an eye on Stronghold Games’ website. While it doesn’t have a product page just yet, it is on their release schedule and certainly they will have more information and updates the sooner we approach it’s retail release date.

Fans of Evolution and North Star Games can now anticipate an upcoming sequel to the richly scientific franchise. Designed collaboratively by Nick Bentley, Brian O’Neill, and Dominic Crapuchettes, OCEANS is billed as their most ambitious game yet several years in the making. While it continues to use Evolution’s excellent theme and art in fun new ways, it will also inter the figurative depth and denizens of the ocean into it’s strategy to create something altogether not for the feint of heart. The game is intended to hit Kickstarter in February 2019 with an anticipated release the following September.

“OCEANS is the latest entry into the Evolution Game Series and, a grand cumulation of effort by North Star Games to design the ultimate gamer’s game. […] Whereas the previous games in the Evolution series were bound exclusively by the science (and the core of this game is as well), OCEANS expands upon it with a new set of cards called “The Deep”. This fantastical set of new cards stretch the boundaries of the game from science, to science fiction by including creatures like the Leviathan and the Hydra.”

However, before the anticipated launch of the crowdfunding campaign, North Star Games is seeking outside playtest groups to ensure the design is as polished as it can be. This additional effort to put their game through more pressure before putting it to Kickstarter further shows the love and care they have in OCEANS and I think it’s a great sign of a good game on the horizon. If you are interested in participating in playtesting, you can follow this link for information and to apply. For even further details, screenshots, and behind-the-scenes looks for OCEANS, be sure to check out their blog and website for all that and more.

Multi-game sets have garnered a funny reputation over the years. Everyone knows of them, easily recognizable from their inclusion of Chinese Checkers and other such boards and pieces allowing anywhere from 3 to 30 abstract games to be played. Yet despite a decent value-for-money proposition they are never very popular products, often fated to wind up has coffee table pieces and rarely talked about within our board gaming hobby with any amount of affection. Playford Games seeks to change that a bit by making one such set that’s bursting with theme and uniqueness, and also bringing some new abstract games into the mix with their newest release, The Ancient World Multi Game System. It comes packed with 25 different games, supporting anywhere from 2 to 8 players, all the while showing off images and flair from the Age of Antiquity. As described via press release:

“The Ancient World Multi Game system was designed to capture the beauty and simplicity of classic strategy games like Chess and Go and infuse them with more player interactions to create a shared social experience.The system consists of modular sets of double-sided wooden game tiles that can be used to play up to 25 different abstract strategy games. Each game draws its theme from a different civilization or event in the Ancient World, from the wars of Ancient Egypt and Rome to the Silk Roads of China and the court intrigue of Byzantium.”

What’s even better is that these games support a wide variety of ages and learning levels making this fantastic for families. Each game with The Ancient World‘s 4o page manual is marked with a difficulty level and highlights the story, skills needed, and the level of competitiveness or cooperation required. Looking at it’s lovely, carefully designed aesthetic and uniquely crafted games reminds me of a lot of Looney Labs’ Pyramid Arcade and how unique and fun it accomplished to be, which is good news for Playford Games because that’s a good comparison to make and I doubt I’m the only one that will do so.  If you are interested in learning more about The Ancient World Multi Game System, check out their website where you can read about all the models and games included, and if you’re at Essen be sure to check out their 5H115 where they will be demoing and selling them.

Everybody reading this knows that getting a board game going has it’s pain points – setting it up, teaching it, or learning it. Those are not attractive parts to tabletop gaming for sure, especially in comparison to the immediacy of other forms of entertainment. The team behind Dized recognized this, and sought to leverage modern smart-device app design to make learning games less troublesome. While the app is available for download right now on iOS and Android, and it has a lot of support from users and publishers alike already, the developers are on Kickstarter right now seeking further funding in order to build the app into the best it can imaginably be, and they are offering in-app rewards and promos to boot!

“Dized’s fully-voiced, interactive Tutorials are able to react to what’s happening in your game, so you can learn as you go, turn by turn. Dized acts like the friend that already knows what to do, introducing a game’s rules on a need-to-know basis while adapting to the actions of the people at the table. If the need arises to refresh your memory, Dized’s Rules have you covered. Dized Rules are like fast, searchable FAQs able to respond to all the questions you might have.”

So some of you may be thinking, “wasn’t Dized on Indiegogo before?” You’d be right, it was successfully funded on Indiegogo last year. It’s back on Kickstarter now because the platform has a bigger community, which means more outreach and support, and also because the developers have bigger plans and features in mind. Besides expanding the list of available games, on the docket of additions are “adaptive profiles” which customize the teaching experience based on what the app learns of it’s user, the games they’ve played and the concepts they’re already familiar with. It’s ambitious stuff and it takes a bigger team to make it, and with this push they can really push Dized into the next level. If you’d like to learn more or support Dized, check out the app’s campaign page for videos, reviews, community feedback, updates, and more.

 

If you like take-that style games, tile laying, wild treasure hunting adventure, and/or mazes, Centershaft: Fallen Elements could be a game for you, and it’s seeking funding right now on Kickstarter. Designed by George and Hattie Anthony, with art by Tyler Johnson, this game pits 2 to 4 players against one another in a rat race to find four elemental gems and leave via the hub tile. Yet this maze is dangerous, as it’s filled with dangerous natives, guardians, and is constantly being twisted and trapped by everyone involved. Featuring excellent hand-crafted illustrations, premium components, and miniatures,

     “The four opportunists must venture, not fully aware of the dangers, into a subterranean labyrinth. Seeking what they believe are rare gems, they soon discover the stones contain elemental powers. Threatened, they find themselves maneuvering quickly through warp portals, battling natives, and avoiding traps in an ever-changing maze. […] Be mindful. Opponents enamored with obtaining the power of the gemstones will stop at nothing to take what you’ve got. Remember to journal each elemental landmark and track your steps wisely… the path back to the Centershaft may not be as easy to return!”

There’s a lot of familiar elements within this game that remind me of another fan-favorite, maze-crawling, take-that game – Fantasy Flight’s Wiz War. I have a lot of fond memories playing it many years ago, laying traps to stifle people, threatening the game state by picking up a treasure nobody expected, and rotating tiles to alter the maze in zany ways. Centershaft echos a lot of those things, but with a much more dynamic tile-driven grid filled with suspense and external threats that can shift and evolve in many more organic ways than Wiz War could have imagined. If you are interested in learning more about Centershaft, check out the Kickstarter campaign page for plenty of video previews, complete rules, FAQs, and updates!