March of the Ants

Courtesy KublaCon

KublaCon is touted as the largest multi-genre gaming convention west of the Mississippi. My 5 days in San Francisco showed that the power of this gathering lies in its people. Mike Eckert, executive producer of KublaCon, expected his staff of 67 to cater to over 4000 people in this 19th year of the convention. Kubla is spread over 3 hotels south of San Francisco and includes Tournaments, Miniatures Gaming, Role Playing, LARPing, Board Games, Collectible Card Games, Painting and nearly every aspect of our strange little world. Special guests abounded, with the program listing nearly 20 designers, authors (I saw Andy Weir watching a game of Terraforming Mars), YouTubers and industry insiders.

The game development and design scene is very strong at Kubla, prompting Scott Rogers (Pantone, Rayguns and Rocketships), game designer and co-host of Ludology Podcast, to call it “one event in the industry I will never miss.” The Protospiel room, spearheaded by Jeremy Commandeur, housed true greats of the industry, who showed each other extremely early designs in a safe, open environment. I was lucky enough to see Matt Leacock (Pandemic, Forbidden Desert) demonstrating a new dexterity game, as well as Scott Rogers showing off Rayguns and Rocketships the Card Game and Castle Climbers. Early designs available for the public to play also included Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky and Wizardz Bluff, as well as Kickstarter projects Papillon, and Fickle. Open the the public, the KublaCon Game Design Contest has 30-40 entries judged by greats in the industry, with the top 4 games open to play throughout the convention. Past years have all created published games, including critical success March of the Ants in 2014.

One of the most impressive features of KublaCon is the community. More than once I saw people leave their prized games with complete strangers, or even in an empty room, with no fear of anything being stolen. Communities banded together in the long lines, feeding each other and reserving prized places waiting for events. The feeling of community was best seen in a tradition of call and echo, where one person will yell out “Kubla!” and the entire hotel will roar with an echo of “CON!” It just makes one proud to hear a sole 8 year old scream out his war cry and be answered by thousands of supportive gamers. For the very young, KublaCon hosts kids’ gaming and crafting rooms, occasionally dressing them up in armor and weapons and marching the army of gamers-in-training throughout the convention halls, intimidating the masses.

I was able to play great games at KublaCon, both rare and relatively unknown (Smartphone Inc) and popular (you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting Wingspan or Terraforming Mars). Impressive giant scale versions of favorites King of Tokyo, Shadows over Camelot, Azul, Tak, and Captain Sonar adorned the front room. I found fantastic deals in the flea market and dealer hall. But the thing I will remember the most from this convention is that every person I spoke to had the most amazing experiences and stories –  from Disney Imagineers to Google Executives to Game Designers to Cancer Survivors to long distance friends rarely seen, Kubla truly was a convention of the people, and I look forward to next year.

Wizkids has announced Dungeon Hustle, a unique dungeon crawl from designers Ben and Tim Eisner (March of the Ants). In Dungeon Hustle, 2-4 players take up the familiar tropes of fighter, rogue, cleric and mage, moving through a dungeon picking up cards and colored items. The twist is that as long as players keep moving along a path of similarly colored dungeon tiles, they can keep going, forming a “hustle”. When you step on a different color, the hustle ends, and you pick up all the tiles you stepped on. Items are used to fight monsters, complete quests and collect gold, which then can be used to level your character.

Dungeon Hustle will be available at GenCon50, and to the general public later in August 2017. You can read more about Dungeon Hustle on Wizkid’s website here.

march of ants box

March of the Ants is a insect themed 4X game (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) that was successfully Kickstarted two years ago and received good reviews, selling out of their first print run in under a year.  Now Weird City Games has put up a Kickstarter for the expansion, Minions of the Meadow, to be able to deepen the experience while still maintaining the aspects that made the base game successful.  In March of the Ants you are the leader of an ant colony and it is your duty to expand you territory through exploration, make sure your colony is fed by finding food sources, evolving your ant into something stronger, and battling other colonies to be the best.  Minions of the Meadow adds several new aspects to the game including:

  • Major Workers – Each Colony can breed Major Workers, larger ants who evolve with your colony. Use their powers to scout the best territory or lead your armies to war.
  • Aphids – Send your ants to find aphids and form a symbiotic relationship. Herd them to new hexes where they will have more space to grow and provide greater harvests.
  • Tactics – Play Tactics like Feint, Ferocious Expansion and Savage Cannibals to catch your opponent by surprise and turn the tide of battle.
  • Parasitic Evolutions – Infect your opponent’s ants and override their most powerful evolutions.
  • Predators – Summon the Centipede Broodmother and the Trapdoor Spider, terrible beasts who stalk the meadow.
  • Into The Lair – Venture forth to hunt for the Centipede Broodmother in the new solo and co-op game.

These new modules will enhance the game and still keep it a short set-up with a manageable length of just over an hour, much shorter than it’s sci-fi cousins Twilight Imperium and Eclipse.  If this kind of game sounds interesting to you, head on over to the campaign page to pledge for you copy, and if you don’t have the base game, then you can pledge for a copy of that at the same time as well.