Ultra PRO has announced the upcoming release of Stone Blade Entertainment’s popular card game Ascension, entitled Ascension: Gift of Elements.  The following is a quote from their Facebook Page:

We have great news for you, at the show we will have an advanced copy of Ascension: Gift of Elements slated to be released early next year. Come check out the future set of Ascension before it’s released and as ask the games designer, Justin Gary, questions about how he came up with the ideas for the newest addition to the Ascension family.

More information can be found on the game’s BGG page.

Vasel’s Law* is finally producing fruit for a grail game on a lot of people’s lists, The Pillars of the Earth.  This announcement came across BoardGameGeek’s twitter feed and calls out Thames and Kosmos as the publishers.  Planned release is for late 2017/early 2018, most likely to coincide in some way with the release of the latest book in the Pillars of the Earth series in September.  Hopefully this game can live up to it’s status as grail game for so many people, and I am personally eager to find out myself.

*Vasel’s Law states that if a game is truly great, it will be reprinted


The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund is one of the most beloved charity organizations in the hobby gaming community, with the commitment to provide financial assistance to members of the gaming community at large who have suffered personal hardship.  Each year, the JVMF holds a charity auction, which is held on and is anticipated heavily by the gaming community.  The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund is preparing to kick-off its annual auction for 2016, and hopes to exceed last year’s auction proceeds, in which $78,700 was raised in 2015.

The auction will officially begin at midnight on Sunday morning, 10/23/2016 on BGG and will run until November 14, 2016.  Be watching BGG and The Dice Tower on Sunday morning and show your support by participating in the auction.

near and far

Ryan Laukat of Red Raven Games announces a sequel to the story-driven “civ-building”, or actually town-building, game, Above and Below entitled Near and Far.  In Near and Far, up to four friends are searching for the Last Ruin, which purportedly contains a legendary artifact that grants their greatest heart’s desire.  In the game, players will be recruiting adventurers, hunting for treasure, and competing to be the most “storied traveler”.  Players will need to manage their food and equipment to survive the long journey, and sometimes special encounters will befall a player, in which another player will then read from the Book of Encounters.  Players will read over ten game sessions to reach the end of the story.

A Kickstarter project to fund this new game is expected later in 2016.  For more information on the game, visit Red Raven Games’ website or the game’s page on

Quined Games is proud to announce the release of three new Master Print titles in 2016:


Vanuatu: a medium-heavy Euro that transports players to the South Pacific, where they will “try to catch fish and find treasures, welcome tourists to the archipelago, and draw beautiful sand drawings, a tradition that is on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.”  The Master Print edition will include the “Rising Waters” expansion, which adds a whole new level of tension to the game in the form of Global Warming.  This edition will also introduce The Governess, a new character to the game. The new edition will feature all new artwork by Konstantin Vohwinkel, and is scheduled to launch on Kickstarter in late April 2016.

For more information on Vanuatu, visit its page on

La Cosa Nostra Box Art

La Cosa Nostra:  From the publisher: “In La Cosa Nostra, you take on the role of a mafia boss.  During the game, you will hire new gangsters to do the dirty work and collect your money.  To get the big deals, you need to cooperate with the other families — but never rely on those “friendships”. The others will take the first opportunity to stab you in the back, so you better do it first…”  In cooperation with author/ designer /artist Johannes Sich, Quined Games will bring a redesigned English version of this game to Kickstarter in June of 2016.

For more information on La Cosa Nostra, visit its page on

3D Box papa paolo

Papa Paolo:  An all-new game by Fabrice Vandenbogaerde (Warlock) where players are managing a pizzeria and have to deliver pizzas to the hungry inhabitants of Naples.  This interactive strategy game is set for launch in the fall of 2016.

For more information on Papa Paolo, visit its page on

cap america legendary

The iconic American hero Captain America will be celebrating his 75th anniversary this year, and Upper Deck will be releasing a small box expansion for the Legendary Deck Building Game dedicated to the captain.  The new expansion will include new Heroes and Villains, as well as two new Masterminds and four challenging new Schemes.

Upper Deck would like to reveal the first “spoiler” for the new expansion, the keyword Savior. This keyword appears often on the cards of this set, and ask you to look at a player’s victory pile.  Here is a description of the keyword in detail:

If you have three or more Bystanders in your victory pile, then you are a “Savior.” Many cards, such as Liberate the Prisoners, will give a player a benefit if he or she is a Savior. In this case, if you are a Savior, you get to draw a card. It’s as simple as that.

There is one rule that should be mentioned regarding Savior. You will notice there’s one other effect on Liberate the Prisoners above. If you’ve already played an Avengers card before you play Liberate the Prisoners, you get to rescue a Bystander. What if you have two Bystanders in your victory pile, then you play a different Avengers card, and then you play Liberate the Prisoners after that? Does that third Bystander count towards being a Savior or not? The answer is that it does. The general rule is if a Hero card rescues a Bystander, that counts towards any Savior ability on that Hero.

More “spoilers” from this new expansion set will be released soon.  To read more about this expansion, visit the forums on here.

jvmf 2015

Starting it’s 5th year, the Jack Vasel Memorial fund 2015 auction has started over at BGG. For those not aware (and you can get more info/details over at the fund was established in April of 2011 in memorium of Jack Vasel, Tom & Laura Vasel’s son – who passed away several months after birth. The fund was established to help board gamers through difficult times. The auction is the biggest source of funding for the auction and continues to grow with each passing year.

There are TONS of really cool board games and board game accessories available to bid on. All proceeds will go into the fund. You can visit the auction page over at BGG here.

Picture of Snakes & Lattes in Canada

Picture of Snakes & Lattes in Canada

There’s something about the board game hobby that solicits compulsive acquisition. Many of us are able to tame those impulses through sheer force of will or financial necessity, but for the rest, learning about, commenting on, obsessing over, and ultimately acquiring board games is more than just a hobby.

Small World caught my eye

Small World caught my eye

Falling Through the Ice

My introduction to board games happened only a few years ago. I was already interested in roleplaying and comic books, and was a regular at The Source Comics & Games in Roseville, MN (highly recommended if you find yourself in the Twin Cities). Despite the floor space that board games occupied in that amazing store, I hardly noticed as I perused comic book back issues and the latest Pathfinder sourcebooks. I remember at one point Small World caught my eye for its whimsical fantasy art, but one look at the price tag and I was right back to the comic book bargain bin. I was sure those big pricey boxes just weren’t for me.

Like so many before me, it took just one great board game experience to open the floodgates. One of my good friends, someone I met though comic books and roleplaying incidentally, invited me over for an evening of board games. We played Dominion and Tales of the Arabian Nights, and I was utterly mesmerized by the clever designs and interesting decisions. It’s funny that neither of these games are really my cup of tea today, but at the time, I was truly spellbound.

Shortly thereafter, I moved away from Minnesota and found myself in a new city: Portland, OR. For some strange, wonderful reason, that evening of deckbuilding and storytelling stayed with me. Wanting to meet fellow geeks like me, I signed up for a local board gaming meet-up group and quickly got deeper and deeper into the hobby. Hours perusing BoardGameGeek lead to me to discover The Dice Tower and it’s wonderful network. I watched countless reviews and top 10 lists, obsessively consumed podcasts and articles, and began filling online retailer shopping carts with a dazzling array of games (Dominion and Tales of the Arabian Nights among them).

Paralyzed by the Cold

I definitely overextended myself in those early days. My collection grew more quickly than my discipline to make informed decisions about what sorts of games I really liked. It was all about theme then, and plastic bits. Some of those early purchases are still in my collection today, but the vast majority never even got a chance at my gaming table.

On top of pining after new games, I had discovered a hard truth: there were some really good games that came out long before I had even a passing interest in the hobby, and that some of those games were *gasp* sold out! Never to be reprinted again. I was devastated; my compulsive need to acquire could not abide something so tempting being so desperately out of reach. Game like Merchant of Venus and Fury of Dracula were the sort of theme-rich experiences I craved, but even on the secondary market, they were just too difficult or costly to attain.

My list of grail games grew long and longer: Endeavor, Age of Discovery III, Fief, Starcraft, War of the Ring: The Collector’s Edition, Kremlin, Dune, Glory to Rome: Black Box edition, and so many others. Occasionally I would get lucky and find one of these enigmatic lost treasures through a geeklist auction or a local seller, but more often than not, I was left to dream and lament my limited funds.

Fury of Dracula is being reprinted by FFG

Fury of Dracula is being reprinted by FFG

Swimming for the Surface

At the height of my frustration, I remember an episode The Dice Tower podcast in which Tom Vasel emphatically encouraged the board game community to be patient when it comes to difficult-to-find games. Whether they were out-of-print, temporarily sold out, awaiting domestic distribution, or missed Kickstarters, there were mountains of other available board games that deserved our attention. He was completely right, of course, and the last several months have really proven him out. For example:

It’s incredible how much previous editions of some of these games commanded on the secondary market, only to be replaced with, in many cases, superior versions. As Tom implied in that wise podcast segment: patience is a virtue.

Breathing the Air

Patience is exactly what helped me overcome my compulsive acquisition. I began making more considerate decisions about the games I order, and awaiting sales so that I could pay less even if that meant trying out the new hotness a few months later. I parted with a lot of the games in my collection that just weren’t good fits for myself or my game group (again, Dominion and Tales of the Arabian Nights among them), and began removing games from the grail list knowing that the cream of that crop would see life again in one form or another.

It’s not that I did something other gamers didn’t. In fact the bell curve of my board gaming addiction is very reminiscent of the stories I hear from my fellow game group collectors. They ramped up quickly only to learn that quality meant more than quantity, and that being part of this hobby isn’t a competition. I still get excited and place the occasional preorder, but I’ve gotten much closer to finding a balance and if you think you compulsive acquisition is out of control, you can too.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

Eric Martin, over at Board Game Geek, recently visited the Tokyo Game Market and posted a really good article about his experiences here.

The majority of releases at Game Market are card games of some type, partly because they’re small and therefore can be displayed more easily at the minuscule stalls available for exhibitors and partly because they’re easy to produce compared to a game with wooden pawns or punch-out cardboard tokens. Name cards — and the exchanging of them — are a cultural touchstone in Japan, and name card producers can just as easily be game card producers. Publisher Tagami Games, for example, released 原始人の晩餐 (Banquet for Early Humans), a game in an AMIGO Spiele-sized card box jam-packed with 160 half-sized cards.

While we all have some degree of familiarity with cards, designers keep finding new things to put on them or new activities to do with them, new ways to hold them or place them or stack them or throw them. One example of this: Six weeks prior to Game Market, designer Shimpei Satochallenged designers to create a card game that consisted of only two types of cards. You could have different artwork on the cards if desired, but if the artwork had a functional meaning, then you were violating the spirit of the challenge. A number of designers released new creations that fit these guidelines, such as Susumu Kawasaki‘s bluffingish deduction game 15 ○ 9 ×, just as years ago designers took on the ¥500 challenge — a price ceiling that required designers to think small, with Seiji Kanai‘s Love Letter being one such result (as detailed here), and with the chance publication of that game by AEG and the subsequent shift within the international industry in terms of what’s viable making Love Letter the most important release this decade in my eyes.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

(Curiously enough, Sato did not himself release a two-card design, instead selling a new start player die at his stand along with copies of Komodo’sJushimatsu and Nanahoshi. How do you use it? Roll the die and see to whom the triangle points. If you’re stuck on deciding which game to play, roll it to determine a genre.)

You can read the entire article over on BGG here. (BGG) is naturally one of the most well-known and well-used websites for all things board-gaming, and therefore is the source of some of the most interesting data on board game trends.  Towards the end of 2014, BGG user A. Mandible (user name grasa_total) created a “Geeklist” that presented multiple top-20 categories of board games, each ranked by the frequency of certain key words in games’ comments on the BGG site.

Only games ranked in the top 1000 overall on BGG were eligible to make the list.  Some of the frequency-words used for the categories include “dice,” “filler,” “luck,” “fun,” and so forth.  A. Mandible makes it clear that the games on these lists are not necessarily represented accurately in that category, just that the word appeared often in the comments.  This is expressed in his comment thus: “Think of it as a cross between conventional wisdom and what people actually think.”

Here is a sample list created by counting the games in the top 1000 that have the word “luck” in the comments:

What fraction of comments use ‘luck’?
1. Thebes (679 / 1746)
2. Port Royal (56 / 145)
3. Lords of Vegas (176 / 578)
4. Incan Gold (410 / 1453)
5. Can’t Stop (586 / 2161)
6. Diamant (414 / 1637)
7. The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus (73 / 301)
8. Infiltration (109 / 459)
9. Pantheon (47 / 221)
10. Ninjato (80 / 395)
11. Dragonheart (81 / 440)
12. Archaeology: The Card Game (130 / 731)
13. Rallyman (62 / 354)
14. Silverton (56 / 322)
15. Um Reifenbreite (74 / 428)
16. Oregon (121 / 700)
17. Pickomino (210 / 1260)
18. Masons (113 / 682)
19. The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac (159 / 1010)
20. Rosenkönig (65 / 414)

To view this interesting Geeklist and all of the various keywords and categories, visit the Geeklist here.