It’s that time of year again – the time for the Dice Tower and it’s contributors to vote for the games worthy of an award among a variety of categories, not the least of which is the best game of year. These are the best of the best according to the panel of judges on games released in English in 2018. You can see previous winners, along with this year’s nominees, on the Dice Tower Awards website, and look forward to the winners being announced at Dice Tower Con later this year.
Best Family Game of the year
My Little Scythe
Chronicles of Crime
Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame
Endeavor: Age of Sail
Scythe: Rise of Fenris
Terraforming Mars: Prelude
Roll Player: Monsters and Minions
Great Western Trail: Rails to the North
Root: The Riverfolk
Best Game from a Small Publisher
Root – Leder Games
Chronicle of Crime – Lucky Duck Games
Underwater Cities – Delicious Games
Vindication – Orange Nebula LLC
Obsession – Kayenta Game
Best Cooperative Game of the year
Chronicles of Crime
Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame
Mythic Battles: Pantheon
Best New Designer
Wolfgang Warsch (Quacks of Quedlinberg, The Mind, & Ganz Schon Clever)
David Cicurel (Chronicles of Crime)
Catherine Stippell (Nyctophobia)
Ivan Lashin (Smartphone Inc.)
Tim Eisner (Grimm Forest)
Best Party Game
Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame
Chronicles of Crime
Game of the Year
Chronicles of Crime
Architects of the West Kingdoms
Last year, Restoration Games announced their intention to bring back Fireball Island during the Dice Tower Live show at Gen Con. Their project erupted onto Kickstarter and funded exceedingly well, to the tune of 2.8 million dollars. It was no secret then that Restoration Games was going to set it sights to bigger and bolder projects. Today during the same annual show, we learned what the next one will be – Return to Dark Tower, co-designed by Restoration Games’ own Rob Daviau and Isaac Childres, multi-award winning designer of Gloomhaven.
This restoration project is based on the 1981 classic, Dark Tower, a competitive adventure game featuring an electronic tower that took inputs and tracked stats, battles, and equipment. Players would navigate the board to bolster up their forces and brave random encounters on their way to the titular tower in the center in the hopes of being the player to ascend it and quash the denizens within. It was no surprise why it was such a hot toy at the time, being this device-driven game in a high fantasy setting. It’s equally no shock that the game was so highly requested, and now it will get the full Restoration Games treatment with no less level of attention that Fireball Island got, with it’s own Kickstarter to boot in 2019 for a projected 2020 release.
“Daviau and Childres—along with Jacobson and Restoration’s Tinker-in-Chief, J.R. Honeycutt—have been working behind the scenes for months to develop the core game mechanics. The game strives to provide players with interesting choices about which quests to pursue, how to best use resources to keep the growing evil in check, and when to make that final decision to assault the tower. Jacobson revealed that, while the game is still early in development, one of the reasons for the announcement’s timing was to allow them to do significant playtesting without fear of the story leaking.”
The only detail we know that’s been set in stone is that this new iteration of the game will be cooperative. Rob Daviau is quoted via press release in saying, “We always believed that, had it come out today, Dark Tower would have been a cooperative game. The real threat is that imposing tower. It will take all of the players working together to defeat it.” This is a very cool development, and I agree, cooperative games like Legends of Andor have accomplished some of what Dark Tower originally set to achieve within a framework of one of the most classic fantasy tropes – an adventuring party. This shift is a good fit for Dark Tower, and with the team of rockstar game designers and developers at the helm there’s a lot here to be ecstatic about. For more information about this project as it unfolds, be sure to check Restoration Games’ website for updates.
Resotration Games is making a name for itself by taking old games from decades past and retooling them to modern standards. They have had great success so far with the redone versions of Indulgence, Stop Thief!, and Downforce, all of which have gotten excellent reviews. But now we get to the one that everyone has been talking about, that everyone has been requesting, and one that Tom has personally been asking for, and that is Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar. Back in the day this game was more toy than game, in that it was just a roll and move game where every now and then you tossed marbles into the Vul-kar idol and they rolled along their designated paths knocking people over. This may be entertaining for younger kids, but we want and need something more, and Restoration Games aims to deliver.
In the new version of the game you are tourists trying out the new attractions at a dangerous new park (sounds like a familiar dinosaur movie), and as we know, that kind of visit always goes swimmingly. And by swimmingly, I mean nearly everyone is killed. So your job is to snap some pictures to show you went, grab some treasure along the way, and get off the island before Vul-kar’s wrath dooms you all. In this version of the game the dice are replaced by cards, and each card gives you a number of movement points and then a special action you can take. Some of the special actions let you rotate trees for protection, rotate the Vul-kar idol where the marbles come out, launch some marbles, or even move other players into danger. Once you snap at least three pictures you can call the hello-copter and get off the island. But in the end, it’s the most points that wins so you better grab some valuable treasure along the way or you may end up surviving the trip, but losing the game.
The game itself looks epic and the toy factor is still off the charts, but at least the game will play much better and offer choices and strategy instead of just blind luck. The base game itself comes in at only $60 plus shipping, which is actually a really good price considering. Also available in this campaign are three expansions, each offering new gameplay elements for the game. The Last Adventurer can be added for $25 and adds a whip wielding fifth player to the game, player powers, and gives snakes and a giant boulder to Vul-kar for his use. Wreck of the Crimson Cutlass can be added for $40 and adds a whole new board to the game that allows you to explore a shipwreck, just don’t get shot by the cannon. And finally Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees can be added for $15 and adds to the danger of the island with a tiger and swarms of bees. You can check out more on the Kickstarter page and back for your copy today!
The classic crime-scanning board game from 1979, Stop Thief!, was renewed by Restoration Games in 2017 via Kickstarter and brought into the modern era by replacing it’s electronic component with a mobile app. 2 to 4 players compete to capture thieves who invisibly wander the board, hinting at their location with little more than the sounds of their movements. The beloved gameplay of the original was polished, but the feelings it evoked were expertly preserved. During it’s Kickstarter campaign, a few stretch goals were unlocked to add modes of play that didn’t exist in the previous edition, all of which take advantage of it’s app-based integration and modern game mechanics. One of those, a cooperative mode, is available now and just requires an update to the app to play! As announced by Justin D. Jacobson via Restoration Games’ press release:
“In this new mode, two to four players work together to take down the “Atlantic 7” before they make off with a pile of loot. Cooperative mode offers an exciting new play style that many players enjoy even more than the traditional competitive mode. The new mode uses components in the original game and requires no new components.”
I’ve already played this new mode a few times with friends and family before writing this, and I have to commend the team at Restoration Games for succeeding to implement a fresh, fun, engaging, and challenging alternate way to play. Now Stop Thief! can appeal to a wider audience, and for something that’s as simple as a free app update it adds a tremendous amount of value to an already quality product. There is actually still a few more modes on the way (a 1-vs-all mode where a player controls the thief and a solo mode), and if they are anywhere near as good as what we’ve seen thus far then that bodes well for this finely-adapted title. If you are interested in Stop Thief! and Restoration Games future releases, including it’s upcoming crowdfunding campaign for Fireball Island, be sure to check out their website for more information.
Those of us who have played and appreciated such ‘restored’ classic games as Stop Thief and Downforce have been anxiously awaiting the chance to see what Restoration Games will offer us in their latest project, a new iteration of the cult classic Fireball Island. We are now one step closer to dodging giant boulders and running pell mell for our lives as the company today announced that the game will soon be appearing on Kickstarter.
Restoration Games prides itself on its creative practice of never merely ‘reprinting’ a game but always re-thinking and re-fashioning it to meet modern standards and allow new levels of player participation, choice, and excitement. As their announcement defines this mission, “Find the “soul” of the game, turn that up to 11, and build a great game around it.”
With Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar this means that the game ” will offer an experience that has: an amazing table presence, moments that will cause players to scream in delight and agony, enough strategy to keep gamers engaged but not so much that kids and casual players can’t partake in the fun, variety to reward repeat plays, a playtime under an hour. In short, we will make a game that honors its legendary predecessor and the fond memories of its fans, while at the same time offering a great time for people who never played the original.”
The Kickstarter is expected to launch its first boulder down the shoot on April 3, and the publication date is presumed to be available at that time as well.
In the meantime…Get your Pit Helmets and Running Shoes ready for dodging those Fireball Marbles!
Restoration Games just dropped a big announcement at GenCon, and that is their next restored game is going to be the highly sought after game, Fireball Island. Those who know about this game know that at it’s core, it’s just a roll and move game (Surprise!), but what made it special was the toy factor. In this game you are moving over this 3D plastic terrain and the angry idol in the center would sometimes roll “fireballs” down the path, taking out bridges and maybe even some players. Manage to grab the idol’s ruby and get it off the island and you win!
Restoration Games definitely has found memories of this game, and after a long year of negotiating with the license holder, they have been given the go ahead to create a new version of the game. Not much has been said about it other than it being worked on by the in house designers, Rob Daviau, J.R. Honeycutt, and Justin D. Jacobson, and will feature plastic elements molded by the talented Noah Adelman. More information will be revealed as time goes on, and if you are at PAX Unplugged in November you will get to find out more at their “Blueprints” talk. The rest of us can read the press release below for more information, and then patiently await the launch of the Kickstarter at some point in the future.
Indianapolis, IN – August 18, 2017. Today, Restoration Games announced they are releasing Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar in 2018. The announcement was made in front of a sold-out crowd on the Dice Tower Live Show at Gen Con, the show at which Restoration Games first introduced themselves last year.
First published in 1986 by Milton-Bradley, the game is remembered for its highly kinetic action and unique production. The original game board is a three-dimensional, injection-molded plastic tray, featuring peaks and valleys and chutes for marbles. Atop the board rests Vul-Kar, an imposing idol from whose mouth the titular red marbles careen. In the original game, the players are explorers, seeking to traverse the mountain, steal Vul-Kar’s gem, and return to the dock, all without ending up in a heap of ash and cinder at the bottom of some gulley. However, the game play itself was simplistic, little more than the straight roll-and-move, common in that day, with a little lose-a-turn take-that thrown in.
The restored version of the game, now called Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar, takes the players back to the island some 30 years later. Angered by the transgressors, Vul-Kar laid a dark curse upon the island, rent it asunder, and unleashed a host of terrible threats. What perils await and why the players are there now has not yet been revealed.
The restored version of the game features thoroughly revamped play, designed in-house by Rob Daviau, J.R. Honeycutt, and Justin D. Jacobson. The game will also feature all new art and a new model for Vul-Kar. Noah Adelman of Game Trayz, the man behind the lauded Mechs vs. Minions insert, is the architect of this new version of the island. Restoration Games indicated they would reveal additional information about the game in the following months, including at their “Blueprints” talk at PAX Unplugged, a tabletop game convention in Philadelphia on November 17-19.
The game is being manufactured under license from Lund and Company Invention, L.L.C. and Longshore, Ltd. Under the terms of the license, Restoration Games has complete control over the final design of the game and distribution rights in English for the United States, Canada, the European Union, and Australia. Longshore retains distribution rights for other languages and territories. Other terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. Longshore, Ltd. is proving to be the perfect partner too. The project manager, Wai, had this to say, “I had a lot of fun and good memories with Fireball Island as a kid. This game has since become a classic and achieved a bit of “cult” status, and we are really excited to help bring this one back! I look forward to playing the new version with my own son.”
“When we first reached out to Bruce Lund about acquiring the license, he said our timing was propitious,” said Justin D. Jacobson, president of Restoration Games. “But it took almost a full year to complete the deal. In the end, the hard work was worth it. We’re so thrilled to be able to bring this game back. It’s a cultural touchstone and a true icon of gaming. If ever a game deserved another turn, it’s this one.”
Jacobson also revealed that Fireball Island was, by far, the most requested game for them to restore in surveys, website submissions, social media, and face-to-face interactions. Restoration plans to run a Kickstarter for the game. The date for the campaign has not yet been set.
About Restoration Games
Restoration Games is owned and operated by attorney Justin D. Jacobson. Design is overseen by their Chief Restoration Officer, the award-winning designer, Rob Daviau. Together, they find old games, modernize them, and bring them back for today’s gamers. Their first games, debuting at Gen Con this year, include Stop Thief, Indulgence, and Downforce.
Additional information can be found at www.restorationgames.com/fireball-island.
Restoration Games and the Restoration Games logo are trademarks of Restoration Games, LLC. Fireball Island is a trademark of Longshore Ltd., used under license.