I had the great pleasure to sit down and speak with Mike Selinker, the developer of such board game classics as Betrayal at House on the Hill, Pathfinder the Adventure Card Game, and my personal favorite, Gloria Mundi. Interestingly, Mike noted that he declined to be involved in the creation of Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, so that he could play the game without knowing the outcome of all the stories, a luxury he never had with House on the Hill. However board games are just the tip of the iceberg, as Mike is equally known for his work in puzzles, having contributed extensively to Games Magazine and international puzzle competitions.
In 2013, Mike and his company Lone Shark Games Kickstarted Maze of Games, a massive puzzle book in novel form that was in development for 18 years. Maze of Games followed the story of Colleen and Samuel Quaice, siblings in 1897 trapped within a series of deadly puzzles by a skeletal entity called the Gatekeeper. Just to make things worse, these puzzles are presented out of order, so putting the evolving story of the children in order is an essential part of the grand overlying solution. A successful Kickstarter for the audiobook read by Wil Wheaton followed in 2014. 5+ years have passed, and it appeared the book had still not been fully solved, so the team at Lone Shark started preparing a Kickstarter to publish an official solution guide. With only weeks to go until the KS was due to launch, a surprise email revealed that a team of 13 people had finally found the answer. Lone Shark quickly reformatted the Kickstarter, excited that the puzzle was still inspiring people so many years later.
The Maze of Games Omnibus has just launched on Kickstarter and includes not only the original Maze of Games novel, but also The Keymaster’s Tome, a solution guide handwritten by the protagonists, audiobook versions of the Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, and a full radio drama The Gatekeeper’s Variety Hour, both with the voice talent of Wil Wheaton. Finally, the team included a special escape room announcement. Mike and the team at Lone Shark have often envisioned a real world version of the Maze of Games, and such a thing has come to reality thanks to Epic Team Adventures in Seattle.
The Kickstarter for Maze of Games Omnibus continues through April 3, and the books are scheduled to be released in June 2019. For more details on the books, the audiobooks, and the escape room, check the Kickstarter page here.
Portal Games recently hosted PortalCon 11 in Gliwice, Poland, where they celebrated 20 years of the Board Games that tell stories. At the celebration, owner and Portal head honcho Ignacy Trzewiczek announced several new games and expansions coming from this amazing company in 2019. There are a ton of new announcements, all of which can be read in the press release from Portal, or seen live in the Keynote Address given at PortalCon.
Several new games set in the Imperial Settlers (BGG #145) universe were announced. First on the list is Empires of the North, a standalone card game designed by Ignacy, featuring Scotsman, Inuit and Vikings. Each faction comes with 2 unique card decks allowing a variety of game play styles. 2-4 players can each try to lead their faction to victory by dominating the opposition, developing their economy or defending their land. Also from the big man is Imperial Settlers Roll and Write. Just as the name implies, this new roll and write game takes place in the empire building world of Imperial Settlers, and focuses heavily on engine building, with each big move giving bonuses towards the next. The game includes two modes, one a traditional 2-4 player competitive point scoring challenge, while the second is a new adventure mode. This single player game comes with a pad of 48 unique challenge sheets to complete, each with its own starting points and goals. And just to round out the Imperial Settlers fervor, Portal Games has announced the Imperial Settlers Big Box, a 5 year anniversary of this award winning game, complete with all of the factions and expansions. The Big Box will be exclusively available direct from Portal Games, and includes a plastic insert to hold everything, new commemorative anniversary cards, as well as oft requested single piece faction boards for the Amazons, Aztecs and Atlanteans.
Also coming from the President of Polish Play is a reprint of Prêt-à-Porter, the 2-4 player surprisingly brutal fashion industry board game. Players take turns hiring new employees, gaining managers, designers and models, all in an effort to destroy the competition. This third edition is coming to Kickstarter in 2019, and features new art from acclaimed illustrator Kwanchai Moriya (Dinosaur Island, Catacombs).
Portal also announced new armies for their arena combat board games Neuroshima Hex and Monolith Arena, both from designer Michał Oracz. The Sand Runners are the latest army to dominate the world of Neuroshima Hex, and are a “specialized army of veteran warriors who clashed with the Moloch in the early days of the war”. The Sand Runners feature a double sided HQ tile for versatility, and come with a new Sand Storm tile type. The new army for Monolith Arena are the Academics, focusing on runes, upgrades, and the ability to dramatically weaken their enemy – in fact, their banner directly slows enemy tiles. The Academics armies are few in number, but devastating in ability.
One of the biggest hits Portal and Ignacy had in the past year was the web-integrated Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game, and the first campaign expansion, Detective: L.A. Crimes, is coming soon. Detective is one of the most engrossing, slowly enfolding, experiential crime story games made, and L.A. Crimes promises to bring more real life sleuthing, this time in the drug infused world of 1980’s Los Angeles. L.A. Crimes is due to be in stores March 2019, with the new mechanics of Stakeouts and Observation, 5 new characters, and 3 new cases. Also announced was Detective: Alexa Edition, wherein players can complete the 6th case in Detective, all narrated and run by the Amazon Alexa. Portal games has stated the Alexa edition is “part of an effort to bring board games to new players”, making the experience akin to an interactive radio drama. Finally, the world of Detective will be expanded even further by the Detective Signature Series. Portal Games has invited celebrated designers to use the framework of the Detective board game to create their own narratives. The first two master designers picked to frolic in the gritty world of suburban crime are Rob Daviau (Pandemic: Legacy, Betrayal at House on the Hill) and Mike Selinker (Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Lords of Vegas, Betrayal at House on the Hill), both masters of story telling in their own rights.
Since Mayfair Games folded their hand earlier this year, we’ve been slowly learning the fate of the games in their catalog. Now, we have some clarity on Lords of Vegas. Z-Man Games will take over publishing for the Lords of Vegas line of games, which includes the base game and the UP! expansion. It appears that Z-Man will start by selling the existing Mayfair stock of games.
“James and I are thrilled to have Z-Man continue the legacy of Lords of Vegas,” says Mike Selinker, the president of Lone Shark Games and co-designer of Lords of Vegas. “When we were presented with the opportunity, many people from Asmodee and Z-Man told us how much they loved and played the game. So it was a no-brainer. We think our fans will like what Z-Man plans to do for Lords of Vegas in the coming years.”
Perhaps the biggest part of this news for existing fans of the game is that the designers and Z-Man will continue development of the ‘Underworld’ expansion, which had been in the works with Mayfair. Personally, Lords of Vegas is one of my favorite games, so I am glad that it gets to continue on with a publisher like Z-Man. Hopefully Z-Man will take the opportunity to improve the production quality for future editions of the game compared to the Mayfair version, and possibly revisit the 1950’s era aesthetic.
If you are not familiar with Lords of Vegas, it is an area influence game, with plenty of push-your-luck and the kind of high stakes you would expect from a Las Vegas casino-building themed game.
You can read the full Z-Man announcement on their website.
Gateway games – the fun, easy-to-learn games that suck people into the hobby, are a very important part of growing the board gaming hobby. In order to make games accessible to anyone, Calliope Games has decided to create The Titan Series. From the Kickstarter:
The Titan Series is a line of gateway games—casual, family-friendly tabletop games—being created by some of the best game designers (“Titans”) in the world. Each a legend within the gaming industry, these Titans are responsible for such wildly popular games as Magic: The Gathering, King of Tokyo, Shadowrun, MechWarrior, HeroClix, Quarriors!, Risk Legacy, and many more.
Their plan is to release nine (or more) gateway games over the next 3 years. If you back the entire project, it will average around $16 per game – significantly less than the $30 retail price that they’re aiming for. Calliope is also relying on the backers to help with the game creating – honing the rules, choosing art, and voting on names.
Currently, the first three games (coming out in year 1) are:
- A worker placement game by Zach (Golem Arcana, Got ‘Em!) & Jordan Weisman (BattleTech, HeroClix, Shadowrun) with bidding, bluffing, and deduction
- A risk management game by Paul Peterson (Guillotine, Smash Up) where you move and manage your dice along pathways
- A party game by Richard Garfield (Magic: The Gathering, Netrunner, King of Tokyo) where you get points for responding the same way as other people
Calliope plans for year 2 to have games by Eric Lang (XCom: The Board Game, Quarriors!), Seth Johnson (HeroClik, Golem Arcana), and Mike Selinker (Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Axis & Allies, Betrayal at House on the Hill). Year 3 will feature Mike Elliot (Dice Masters, Thunderstone), Rob Daviau (Betrayal at House on the Hill, Heroscape, Risk Legacy), and Mike Mulvihill (BattleTech, Shadowrun). Additional games will be unlocked in the stretch goals.
If you’re interested in the Titan Series, check out the Kickstarter here.
You are an intrepid researcher, unearthing words man was not meant to spell…
So begins Unspeakable Words, an incredibly unusual party game designed by James Ernest and Mike Selinker. This game was already gaining steam when it was picked up for use in the second season of Wil Wheaton’s web series Tabletop. Now publisher Playroom Entertainment is running a Kickstarter to finance a “deluxe” edition, with cool new multi-colored pawns and special artwork by none other than John Kovalic.
According to the Kickstarter page:
In the game, you and your opponents will attempt to form words from the letter cards in your hand. Each letter is worth points – the amount of points is determined by the number of angles in the letter (where the hounds of Tindalos are lurking!). You may try to make the highest scoring word possible, but… you’ll have to test the strength of the word against a roll of the 20-sided die. Roll equal to or higher than the value of your word and you’re safe… but roll less than the value of your word and you lose a precious piece of your sanity, represented by an adorable Cthulhu pawn!
For owners of the current version, the Kickstarter notes that the deluxe edition doesn’t completely replace the base edition. Instead, the base edition can be combined with the deluxe edition to create a super edition of unspeakable proportions.
Check out Unspeakable Words on Tabletop here. Read the rest of the Kickstarter here.
Roll For It! Deluxe Edition
Designed by Chris Leder and first published in 2011, Roll For It is a dice rolling game where players match dice results to cards for points. This deluxe edition features artwork from Echo Chernik, 48 metallic and translucent dice, a velvet dice bag embroidered with the Roll For It! logo, and an embossed tin with hinged lid. The deluxe edition will be available during PAX Prime, August 29 through September 1 in Seattle, Washington.
Calliope Games also announced the Titan Series. This series of nine “gateway” games is a
…collaboration between Calliope and master designers including: Rob Daviau, Michael Elliott, James Ernest, Matt Forbeck, Richard Garfield, Seth Johnson, Eric Lang, Mike Mulvihill, Paul Peterson, Mike Selinker, Jordan Weisman, and Zach Weisman.
The Titan Series will be initially all funded through Kickstarter and delivered to backers. Afterwards, the series will be available in retail stores. The press release also reports that a “sizable discount” will be available to backers of all nine games.
Thunderbox Entertainment has teamed up with Calliope Games to bring Tsuro to the app world for Android and iOS.
“It was important to me that the soul of the game wasn’t lost in Tsuro’s transition from the table to the tablet” comments Ray Wehrs, President of Calliope Games. “Of all the developers who approached us looking to turn Tsuro into an app, Thunderbox proved to be uniquely qualified to enhance the game digitally while maintaining the feel and experience of playing around the table.”
This digital port is expected to release early 2015.
Neuroshima Hex: Mississippi
In this army pack for Neuroshima Hex, the Mississippi army are ready to lay waste to their opponent’s headquarters with their toxic bombs. This faction also has a noticeable resistance to attacks and ability to bypass the enemy’s defense. However, the army’s disadvantages are a low number of Warriors, low mobility, low toughness, as well as a complete lack of armor. Pack contents include 35 army tiles, 5 wound markers, 2 HQ markers, 1 toxic bomb marker, and 5 venom markers.
Neuroshima Hex: Mephisto
In this army pack comes Mephisto. Mephisto is a giant worm, a unique synthesis of flesh and steel, which can be a serious threat to even well-armed forces. The contaminated crater, Mephisto’s territory, is a tempting shortcut route and a source of resources but it often becomes a graveyard for newcomers.
Neuroshima Hex: Sharrash
The main advantages of the Sharrash army are: mobility of HQ, the ability to blow up even the fastest enemy units and to paralyze the slower ones, and also bypassing enemy’s defense lines thanks to the mortars. Another advantage of the Sharrash is a difficult to eliminate Foundation Tile (Hole), which can easily thwart the enemy’s plans.
Boardgames That Tell Stories
A group of the finest boardgame designers answered Ignacy Trzewiczek’s invitation to take part in creating this 268 page book. They shared their anecdotes, tips and memories, making the book a unique trip over different designing styles, and a engaging guide through the world of boardgame creation. Featured guests include Bruno Cathala, Mike Selinker, Vlaada Chvatil, Antoine Bauza, and Michal Oracz.