social

In this dice rolling, hidden role game, it will take a church full of skill, bluffing, and deceit to push your Cardinal’s favorable alignment without getting caught. Will you be the one to fool all the others and end up on top? Or will your shady ways lead to your demise?

Talon Strikes Studios would like to announce their upcoming release of House of Borgia, a new game influenced by Liar’s Dice–but with a twist.  In House of Borgia, players will control one of six Cardinals: Staunch Fundamentalist, Scholarly Theologian, or the Greedy Simonist.  Players will be working to manipulate the Conclave with bribes, poison, nasty rumors, and other dastardly actions.  Gameplay consists of an action-bidding mechanism, through which players will have a chance to manipulate the influence and positions of other Cardinals in the Conclave.

House of Borgia is a hidden-role deduction game designed by Scott Almes for 2-6 players, ages 14+, and plays in 30-40 minutes.  The game is set for a January 27, 2017 release date.  For more information, visit ACD Distribution’s website.

one night ultimate alien

Social deduction games have become a staple of many game gatherings, and Bezier Games has been contributing their fair share to the genre.  The One Night Ultimate series of games, including One Night Ultimate Werewolf (which has sold over 100,000 copies) and One Night Ultimate Vampire (earning $378,000 on Kickstarter) have been top sellers worldwide.

Now, Bezier Games would like to announce a new addition to the series in the form of One Night Ultimate Alien, which will offer not only a strong alien vs. villagers theme, but will also introduce the Dynamic Rules system.  The following is an excerpt from the official press release for One Night Ultimate Alien:

In One Night Ultimate Alien, players are assigned a role, perform actions secretly during a “night” phase, and then have just a few minutes to discuss among themselves who the alien invaders are. All players vote, and the role of the player with the most votes is revealed. If it is an Alien, the Villager team wins. If it isn’t, the Alien team wins. The game takes less than 10 minutes to play, but is so addicting players may find themselves playing game after game for hours on end.

While previous One Night games took advantage of the free One Night app to guide players through night time actions, Alien relies on the app to ensure that each game has a unique set of rules for each role. These Dynamic Rules have never been used in a traditional board game before, and they breathe a gust of fresh air into the social deduction genre.

Bezier Games, Inc. creates board and card games for the whole family, including Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Suburbia, and the original Ultimate Werewolf.  For more information, visit the Bezier Games website.

knee jerk

We all have initial reactions to situations we find ourselves in, and we typically refer to these as “knee-jerk reactions.”  Renegade Game Studios has encapsulated this theme into a game aptly entitled Knee Jerk, a party game in which players will hear a situation presented and must shout out an ending for the situation as fast as possible.

For example, such a situation might be “I Feel Panicked At The Beach Because I Saw ______!”  Players will be able to shout anything to complete the statement, such as “A shark!”, “A smoke monster!” or even “My grandmother in a bikini!”.  The first player to respond receives a point, but if more than one player responds, the host player chooses his or her favorite answer.  The forces players to offer creative, witty responses on the fly.

New scenes and situations (Your First Date, A Haunted Mansion to Outer Space, etc.) are presented in rapid-fire-succession, creating a zany, fast, and hilarious atmosphere.  The game boasts 150,000 different possible situations.   The first player to achieve 3 points is the winner of Knee Jerk.

Knee Jerk is a game for 4-8 players ages 9 and up and plays in 10 minutes.  A definitive release date has yet to be announced.

hoax

Hector Vargas built a glorious multibillion dollar empire on a string of shady business promotions and Ponzi schemes. His life ended rather ingloriously, however, when a champagne cork shot into his windpipe and he choked before anyone could provide aid. Now, you have a chance to inherit his unbelievably large fortune. All you have to do is prove yourself worthy by showing that you are as clever, ruthless, and deceitful as he was.

Fantasy Flight Games announces the upcoming release of a revised version of Hoax, the game of secret identities designed by Bill Eberle, Ned Horn, Jack Kittredge, and Peter Olotka.  In Hoax, players will possess a true, secret identity, and must weave a web of deceit amongst the other players in order to mask their own identity while catching their opponents in their own stream of fabrications.  By investing their own resources to investigate rivals, and by making timely and accurate accusations, players will work to eliminate their competitors and seize Hector Vargas’ amassed wealth.

hoax cards

Changes in this new version of Hoax include a seventh playable character, improved privileges and immunities, reference sheets to track assumed identities and past lies, and a new scoring system.

Hoax is a game for 3-6 players and plays in 45 minutes.  The scheduled release date is the fourth quarter of 2015.  For more information on this new version of Hoax, visit the game’s pages at FFG’s website here.

Stoneblade Entertainment announces that a new card game, Bad Beets, is now available for preorder through July 27 with the free gift of a Bad Beets button.

Bad Beets is a family bluffing game in which players must eat their vegetables by working to get rid of their beets in any way they can.  This might include feeding them to the dog or sharing them with others.  Players are being required to sit down for dinner and must “eat” (or get rid of) their 8 Beet cards before they can “leave the table”.  You can bluff to your heart’s content, but you had better be holding the right card if you get called out!

The game will include:

  • 15 Role Cards
  • 50 Beet Tokens
  • 15 Ice Cream Tokens
  • 5 Action Reminder Cards
  • 1 Rulebook

Bad Beets is for 2-5 players ages 8 and up and plays very quickly.  The game is scheduled to ship to retailers on August 3, 2015.  For more information about the game and the preorder, visit the Stoneblade website here.

The board game industry goes through cycles just like any other entertainment industry. With the recent influx of new gamers thanks to the hobby gaining mainstream appeal, new tastemakers are leading the industry in interesting directions. While not all of those directions are particularly healthy, the recent resurgence of party games is most certainly a tick in the win column.

Why are we seeing a party game boom? I think there are a few different reasons. The first, and probably biggest contributor to this shift, is an increasing crop of casual gamers. That mainstream acceptance I mentioned earlier brings with it new faces who’s entry point might have been simple social and party style games. It also seems to me that we’re coming out of a period of rapid heavy game adoption. Where there are peaks, there must come valleys, and even the most hardened gamer needs a bit of a laugh every once in a while.

None of that would matter if the games on the market were junk. I give a lot of credit to companies like Blue Orange Games and R&R Games for publishing some really great quality party games. The market created demanded, and these casual game stalwarts answered it. Did the people bring the games or the games bring the people? Whatever it is that has given rise to this party game-friendly confluence, it’s a really encouraging change of pace.  Let’s take a look at some of the recent highlights.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

But Wait, There’s More! from Toy Vault, Inc.

But Wait, There’s More! builds on the grand tradition of Snake Oil by asking players to sell increasingly ridiculous products to the other players. It starts innocuous enough with just a thing and a feature, but when additional features are added into the mix pushing players to really stretch their sales pitches, the game gets really fun. It’s easy to talk about a vacuum cleaner that can be used in 18 different ways, but now it cures acne as well?! There are already several minis expansions that add more cards, support for additional players, and even new games modes.

Cards Against Humanity

Love it or hate it, Cards Against Humanity is a perennial favorite among adult party gamers. The game revels in unabashedly off-color humor reaching into the deepest depths of offensiveness, so if your crowd is into that kind of comedy and isn’t easily offended, this Apples to Apples clone might be for you. In Cards Against Humanity, one player is a judge that draws a black card and reads it to the other players, normally with one or two blanks. The players have a hand of white cards with a myriad of soul-scarring phrases that they select from. The judge then shuffles and reads the responses, declaring one the winner and scoring that player a point. The judge’s role then shifts to the next player and on it goes often with alcoholic beverages in tow.

Concept from Asmodee

Concept is a clever deduction game in which one player draws a card with a series of words or phrases ranging in difficulty from easy to hard. That player then selects a word and uses the central board and a variety of tokens to illustrate their word or phrase nonverbally. The board contains a myriad of images and icons representing both concrete and nebulous concepts. By assigned the marker for the primary and secondary concepts, and using cubes to mark additional clues, players can deduce the word or phrase and score points. It’s a great set up for what boils down to board game charades. Will your teammates guess the word before time runs out or your sense of shame gets the better of you?

Monikers

The game at the heart of Monikers is actually pretty old. It’s been published as Celebrities and Time’s Up! most recently, but goes by a variety of names and forms. None of those versions are as attractive and broad as Monikers. Regardless of the edition, two teams of players draw from a pool of cards that all feature people or personas.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

These can range from historical figures to fictional characters to celebrities and more. In the first round, players attempt to describe as many of their cards as possible, in the allotted time, without using the cards’ name. Sounds easy enough. In the second round, that same deck of cards is used again but this time they must be described using just one word. Round three ramps things up even more by requiring that no words are used at all, only gestures. I won’t spoil what happens in rounds four and five, but suffice to say, it’s about as funny as party games get.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Bezier Games

The classic social deduction game, usually referred to as Werewolf or Mafia, has been streamlined into a shorter experience representing just one night of werewolves hiding among the innocent townfolk. Aided by a tremendous vocal track by the Dice Tower’s own Eric Summerer, players are assigned roles in secret and attempt to use their guile to uncover the werewolves or to throw suspicion on the humans, whatever the case may be. Add to that a whole pile of different roles with unique motivations, ensuring endless replay value.

Spit It Out! from R&R Games

Probably the newest game on the list, Spit It Out! is a deceptively simple game. The box comes with a whole bunch of cards and two regular dice, and all you have to do to win is answer some very basic questions correctly. Huh? Well there’s a twist. Those two dice are rolled to determine which two of the six questions must be answered incorrectly. Those answer not only need to be wrong, but they have to be in the same ballpark as the correct answer. What color is the sky? You can’t say that sky is “firetruck”, you have to answer with another color. It sounds easy, but with a timer ticking down and the conscious effort it takes to trick our own brains away from the correct answers, it’s great fun.

Spyfall from Cryptozoik Entertainment

Spyfall is a social deduction in which players are given secret roles and a secret location. One of those roles is the spy and unlike their fellow payers, the spy doesn’t know the location. Obviously not a very crafty spy. In any case, players take turns asking each other questions.

Image from BGG

Image from BGG

The non-spies are trying to determine which one is the spy, and the spy is trying to figure out the location. The fun comes from the ridiculous questions. Knowing there’s a spy, the players will be pretty dodgy not wanting to reveal too much information. All the while, the spy is all-but grasping at straws trying to piece together the subtle clues found in the other questions. Though it rarely happens, if the spy can outwit the other players, it’s a pretty amazing win.

This is just a small slice of the party game pie, and you really can’t go wrong with any of these selections as long as your group is a good fit. Throwing a party game night is a great way to introduce non-gamers to our hobby. It’s also a nice way to break up your regular game events with something a little unexpected. Next time you plan a game night, consider shelving the heavy euros just this once for a night of goofball fun.

*The statements made in Contrarian Corner do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Dice Tower or Dice Tower News. These are my opinions, in the grand tradition of gamers arguing about the hobby, and are just as likely to be brilliant and insightful as they are misguided and wrongheaded. Reader discretion is advised.

con in your store

Trouble with Dreams

One of the most common attributes us board game fans heap upon our beloved hobby is that it is inherently a social experience. We wear that idea like a badge of honor, shielding us from the stereotype that geeks are antisocial basement dwellers. After all, to even play most games, you have to do it with at least one other human. That’s social, right?

Some of us are members of meet-up groups that get together for games, or play games at the local FLGS during the week. Many of us have regular gaming groups that consist of individuals we’ve known for years. At least a handful of us have even been to conventions full of fellow gaming aficionados. That’s got to be social, right?

Well no, not necessarily. And that’s a good thing!

Novocaine for the Soul

The fallacy that often plagues this concept of games being inherently social is the sense that human proximity and minimal communication qualifies as social interaction. It might satisfy the text book definition of social, but are those interactions meaningful? When you sit down at a gaming table full of strangers, how many of them introduce themselves or engage you in conversation that isn’t about the game in front of you? How many times during the game are you communicating anything other than the game state or the end of your turn? Do you remember the names of the guys and gals you just spent your afternoon with?

Depending on who you are, you might deeply engage with your fellow gamers right from the start and draw real social value from even one-off gaming experiences. For many of us, however, the answer is most often no. Gaming with strangers does not elicit meaningful, memorable, lasting social experiences. These temporary gaming partners are a means to an end: human strategy automatons moving their opposing pieces on their turn to help, hinder, challenge, meddle, or whatever else the game entails.

career interaction

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Humans spend all day, every day making social decisions. Do I strike up my barista in conversation or just offer them a friendly smile? Do I call my parents today or save it for the weekend? Do I send this strongly worded email now or sleep on it so a cooler head prevails? The same is true when we interact for entertainment and leisure. Not everyone we sit across the table from is our next best friend or even someone we might ever see again. That’s human nature.

Climbing to the Moon

I want to take a minute to talk about Carl Jung. Jung was a renowned Swiss psychiatrist in the early 1900s credited with many advancements in modern psychology that are still used today. He also originated a way of looking at personality that we’re all very familiar with: introversion and extroversion. Simply stated, introverts tend to be energized by solitude and introspection, while extroverts thrive on crowds and interacting with people. It’s not so much a binary measure as a spectrum, with many of us falling somewhere in the middle (aka ambiverts).

susan cain

In America however, there’s a very clear and pervasive extroversion bias. People with a gift for gab and an easy manner with others are perceived to be more attractive, seem to make more money, and appear to be more successful. Studies indicate that the truth isn’t so cut-and-dried. I encourage anyone interested in the subject to read Susan Cain’s wonderful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for a deeper examination of this fascinating societal construct.

What does this have to do with games? A couple things, actually. For one, it’s this extroversion bias that contributes to us holding so strongly to the notion that board games are inherently social. Societal norms compel us to fight against the loner geek stereotype with all the ammunition we can muster, including nonsense such as player count.

Hey Man, Now You’re Really Living

Board games aren’t inherently social, but they are a platform for people to socialize while gaming. That doesn’t mean everyone is going to want a meaningful social experience out of their game time. Back to Jung. Although introverts are capable of expressing extroverted traits and vice-versa, doing so takes effort. In the workplace, where stakes are high, an introvert can be the center of attention at a company happy hour, and an extrovert can sit alone in their cube for hours staring at spreadsheets. It’s draining, mentally tiring, and so we turn to leisure and entertainment to give us a recharge. Is an introvert interested in their game night being a drain just to satisfy societal norms? Probably not.

Instead of perpetuating extroversion bias and fighting geek stereotypes, let’s be mindful and understanding. It’s just as valid to choose to limit your engagement with your gaming partners at it is to treat them as instant friends. We should not suppress extroverts or try to force introverts “out of their shells”, but instead focus on making sure that the gaming table is a place where all of us can recharge.