Spieleschmiede, a German “Kickstarter type” site for board games, has two projects up for card games in the Black Pocket Series of games by Reiner Knizia, Zero and Ghosts.  Both games are quick, family weight filler card games and feature simple rules to be able to be picked up and played quickly.

ghosts comp

In Ghosts you are trying your best to not get scared through the taking of fear tokens.  How you avoid taking fear tokens is by playing cards to where the total doesn’t go over 7, but with cards that go up to what looks like 3, it’s seems like you can easily hit that number, but that is where clever card play comes in.  If the ghost card is a different color than the previous one, the number is added, upping the total, if the colors are the same the total does not change and play reverses direction, fog cards have the same effect except they don’t change the direction of play.  But inevitably you might have to play a card that pushes the total over 7, in that case you don’t play the card but instead take a fear token.  You will continue to play a card, draw a card until the deck runs out, thus ending the round, and if you happen to have survived the round without taking any fear tokens you bolster your courage and are able to discard up to 3 of your fear tokens.  The person with the fewest fear tokens after three rounds wins the game.


Zero is another quick card game where the object is to get the fewest number of points through collecting sets of either the same number or the same color.  The game will start with everyone getting 9 cards dealt to them and then 5 additional cards placed face up on the table, on your turn you can either swap a hand card with one from the table or pass.  When you pass the first time nothing special happens, but when you pass a second time you trigger the end of the round and everyone else gets one final play before you stop and count points.  Another way the round can end is if someone manages to get a hand worth zero points, then they can call out zero and the round ends immediately with everyone else counting up their points.  How you get or avoid points is easy, if you have five of the same number those five cards are worth nothing, if you have five of the same color those five cards are worth nothing, any cards that fall outside those two conditions are worth the number on the card.  This sounds easy but there are seven colors (suits) and each color ranges from 1-8 so getting the elusive zero hand, a set of 5 of one number and 5 of the same color with one overlapping card, is not as easy as it seems.  At the end of the round whoever has the lowest score is the winner, and with fast playing rounds you can expand it to whoever has the lowest score after a set numbers of rounds wins.

Both campaigns are running now on the Speileschimede site and so you can go to the Ghosts page to pledge for a copy or the Zero page to pledge for a copy of that game.  Also available on the campaigns are sleeves for each game as well as the ability to add on the another game in the Black Pocket line, Korsar (aka Loot).  Just keep in mind when pledging that this is a German based site and service, so shipping to your home country may be more expensive than usual due to VAT.

mare nostrum

Mare Nostrum: Empires from Academy Games and Asyncron is a new version of Mare Nostrum a 2003 empire-building game both designed by Serge Laget. With updated rules, components, board, and new ways to win it takes what was great in Mare Nostrum and improves on it. It is also currently blowing through stretch goals on Kickstarter and adding huge amounts of gameplay as it does.

Mare Nostrum is an empire-building game in which 3-5 players lead their individual ancient empires to dominion of Mare Nostrum. You grow the fame and glory of your empire by expanding your influence into new Provinces, then extending your Trade Caravans, building Markets, and founding new Cities and Temples. You can recruit Heroes and create Wonders to help your cause. But beware of your “friends” because they may look upon your gains with envy and greed…

Mare Nostrum is a re-introduction by Academy Games and Asyncron of the original 2003 release with updated rules, counters, and map board. This edition includes many new components and multiple new ways to win!

There were a lot of changes to the original game made before the launch including two more victory conditions, another resource type, additional buildings, a revamped trade system, and custom battle dice to name a few. Also a lot of the stretch goals add game play like the Punic Wars rulebook that adds in two player support. A lot of these stretch goals will be combined into the Atlas Expansion that will be included free for a backers. Yes your pledge on Kickstarter will get you the new game and an expansion that will be separate at retail. The artwork has also been redone by the talented Jean-Marie Minguez.

mare nostrum pieces

In the game players will start with an empire that has a unique bonus and try to expand by using resources to build markets, cities, caravans, etc.. They will  expand into adjacent provinces through influence or military might and acquire new heroes and and wonders. This will be paid for by taxing cities and collecting goods from caravans. Battles will be fought by Legions who will be able to travel the seas with the use of Triremes. As your empire grows it will move up three tracks: Trade, Culture, and Military and the leader in each will gain additional powers and benefits.

As stated above Mare Nostrum: Empires is rapidly adding on stretch goals including component upgrades, new events and heros, small expansions, additional tracking boards, and 3D components for legion tokens, fortresses, and ships. It is also available in multiple languages including English, French, German, Polish, Italian, and Spanish. If this sounds like your kind of game or you are looking for a sub two hour civ type game then you need to check out the Kickstarter for Mare Nostrum: Empires.