Restoration Games

While at Gen Con, I had the pleasure of meeting the folks over at Playdek & GMT. I met with Gary Weis , the lead developer for Labyrinth: The War on Terror – designed by Volko Ruhnke, the creator of the COIN series of board games and ex-CIA analyst. Many of you may already be familiar with their development of the app for Twilight Struggle. Well, I got to witness a development copy that was near it’s completion with an upcoming release on the PC and iOS/Android later in the year.

Labyrinth plays very similar to Twilight Struggle however is set in the 2000’s at the peek of the terrorist threat. Additionally, Labyrinth supports
hand management, crisis mitigation and card effects based on actual events!

“Labyrinth features distinct operational options for each side that capture the asymmetrical nature of the conflict, while the event cards that drive its action pose a maze of political, religious, military, and economic issues. In the parallel wars of bombs and ideas, coordinated international effort is key — but terrorist opportunities to disrupt Western unity are many. The Towers have fallen, but the global struggle has only just begun.”

I was able to head over to the Mondo Games booth (3061) who, along with Restoration Games (booth 355) have published Unmatched (a re-theming of Star Wars: Epic Duels). Unmatched is a streamlined asymmetrical battle game in which you pit two different characters (anyone from Bruce Lee to dinosaurs) against one another.

“Unmatched is a highly asymmetrical miniature fighting game for two or four players. Each hero is represented by a unique deck designed to evoke their style and legend. Tactical movement and no-luck combat resolution create a unique play experience that rewards expertise, but just when you’ve mastered one set, new heroes arrive to provide all new match-ups.”

Available at the con was the base game which comes with King Arthur, Medusa, Alice (in Wonderland), and Sinbad. Additionally there were two expansions – the Bruce Lee and Jurassic Park add-ons. There are additional IP expansions slated, such as a Buffy the Vampire expansion pack. Unmatched is a very simple and fast-playing game that will appeal to a variety of players.

Restoration Games is proud to reveal the artist whose work will grace their upcoming revamp of 1981’s Dark Tower – Qistina Khalidah. She is a Malaysian artist who has been doing full-time freelance work for 4 years for covers and tabletop games. Qistina was chosen from among dozens of artists because her voice lends to the kind of uniqueness that Restoration’s original fantasy setting needs. As per the publisher’s Visual Restoration Wizard, Jason Taylor:

“We knew immediately she was the right person for this project. Her work is striking and elegant. Her style of combining patterns and evocative poses with an almost illuminated somberness is perfect for the type of stories we want to tell with Return to Dark Tower.”

There’s no other words for it – Qistina’s work is breathtaking. You can view her portfolio at the following links, and this excellent Artists of Color interview series that is well-worth the read. In learning about her process and inspirations gives an intensity to her art that you just don’t see in a lot of board games today and it will surely be awe-inspiring for consumers. I applaud Restoration Games for including Ms. Khalidah on this project and letting an even wider audience experience and appreciate her craft. Some of Qistina Khalidah’s art for Return to Dark Tower will be featured at Gen Con 2019, so if you are attending be sure to stop by Restoration Games‘ booth #355 to check it out!

But no Ian Malcolm? Why!?!

Mondo Games and Restoration Games today announced that they have acquired the license rights to add Jurassic Park to their Unmatched head-to-head skirmish game system. This splicing of DNA will allow players to pit iconic dinosaurs against the heroes of the film in epic battles, using a initial pair of two-player sets and a solo-hero pack that will be released in 2019-2020.

Unmatched: InGen vs. Raptors will be the first two player set released and is scheduled for a late 2019 release. Sattler vs. T-Rex and a solo expansion featuring Dr. Alan Grant will follow in 2020. Each character deck featured in these upcoming releases will be designed to represent the personality and characteristics of its on-screen counterpart, and no two heroes (or dinosaurs) will battle the same way. Unique maps featured on the game boards will allow players to designate specific terrain to either replicate scenes from the film or direct their own. Finally, players will be able to mix and match heroes and maps to create a customized play experience, just as they would with other Unmatched sets.

All three packs will feature illustrations from Oliver Barrett, who has illustrated other entries in the Unmatched series. It should be noted that these Jurassic Park Unmatched entries will replace the previously announced Jurassic Park: The Chaos Gene game, which will no longer be under development.

To summarize: God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs, God creates Man, Man creates dinosaur board game!


During the recent Dice Tower Con 2019 festivities, I was given the rare opportunity to help playtest an early version of Restoration Game’s upcoming title Return to Dark Tower. The original Dark Tower game (1981) was a vivid Christmas memory for me, occupying my every dream when it released in my 13-year old world. The large, foreboding, rotating black tower, electronic buttons and lights, and fantasy story told a story of battle and conquest, admittedly with 8-bit beeps and boops. Plus it ate D cell batteries like a manic golf cart.

Return to Dark Tower (2020) by designers Justin Jacobson, Noah Cohen, legacy game deity Rob Daviau, and Gloomhaven creator Isaac Childres, is now a story driven cooperative game where heroes work to gain resources, strengthen their armies, and wage war on the powers within the tower. The board is reminiscent of the original 4 regions, each containing a player’s buildings. And in the center of the board will be the namesake tower.

The tower will be a marvel of engineering, a robotic cube tower with multiple rotating rings, designed by the team behind the exceptional Beasts of Balance. The game uses an app, which can communicate with the tower, turning rings to target players and regions. Each turn the tower rotates and changes, raining devastation upon the board.

The game I played went magnificently, and we quested throughout the land, eventually breaching the tower walls. The guardians within were no match for our group and we emerged victorious. From this early play test, I am personally excited to see how this game turns out in 2020, hopefully rekindling my 13-year old obsession with the Dark Tower.

Today Restoration Games gave what is arguably their biggest announcement yet. Unmatched is the restoration of Star Wars: Epic Duels, whose design became the basis of Heroscape. That’s not the only thing that makes this announcement so big, however, as Unmatched isn’t just one game – it will be a line of products featuring a variety of themes and intellectual properties. It’s such an undertaking, in fact, that Restoration Games isn’t doing this alone; They are collaborating with Mondo Games, the publishers behind The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, who will be bringing their extended partnerships to bear.

“Unmatched pits two or four players against each other, with each player taking the role of their own hero. Each hero is represented by a unique ability and a custom deck of action cards, and each set comes with a double-sided board with different battlefields. The first two sets in the line are Battle of Legends, Vol. 1 and the eponymous Robin Hood vs. Big Foot. The Battle of Legends set includes King Arthur, Alice, Medusa, and Sinbad. Heroes from any set can be played against each other, making for surprising and exciting matchups and tons of replayability.”

These first sets will debut at Gen Con this year, but that’s far from all of it. There will be a Bruce Lee limited edition pack and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer set expected to release later this year as well. This is exactly the kind of thing fans have been clamoring for since Restoration Games started taking requests, and it’s fun to see it come alive at last and with so many cool characters to kick it all off. Unfortunately this one article alone won’t do it all justice, so to learn more about Unmatched be sure to visit Restoration Games’ website for further reading and updates.

Restoration Games has announced they are releasing Conspiracy: The Solomon Gambit at Origins Game Fair on June 12, 2019. This modernized version of the original Conspiracy features a robust rules update by the Restoration design crew and stunning new art from the award-winning Matt Griffin.

The original Conspiracy, from 1973, was designed by Dr. Eric Solomon. It featured a unique mechanic:  Players move secret agents around the board, trying to bring the mysterious briefcase to their HQ and win the game. However, the trick is that the agents don’t belong to any of the players. Instead, players secretly pay the agents. Other players can challenge a move by revealing how much they had paid off, to decide the outcome. This mingles blind bidding with shared piece control – an intriguing combo.

The Restoration Games design team, consisting of Rob Daviau, J.R. Honeycutt and Justin D. Jacobson, kept the core concept from the original intact but made changes to accommodate the tastes of the modern gamer. Some changes include:

  • The number of agents has been decreased from 8 to 6 to increase player interaction
  • Train stations were added for easier movement
  • Each agent has a special power that activates when they are moved
  • A significant endgame change

The subtitle of the game signals the appearance of Dr. Solomon in honor of the game’s original designer who appears if no one has won after a certain number of rounds. Dr. Solomon enters the scene and at the end of each subsequent round, a die is rolled, which could immediately trigger the end of the game. If this happens, the player who has paid off the most to Dr. Solomon wins. This creates an interesting choice for players: Do I pay off the agents that can help get the briefcase to my HQ or do I pay off Dr. Solomon and play a defensive strategy?

Rob Daviau, Chief Restoration Officer for Restoration Games says: “It’s thinkier than most of our other games. You are playing cat-and-mouse the whole time. The core conceit – you aren’t sure who you are in control of – is magical.”

The announcement from Restoration Games was made in front of a packed audience at the Dice Tower Live Show on the Dice Tower Cruise somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

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!