Game Testing Recap

Hey everyone! As I mentioned in my last blog post, rather than playing other people’s board games I have been working on a board game of my own. I came up with the idea for this game almost two years ago, and I have been fine tuning it ever since. Last weekend, I invited a group of my friends over for a play through of the game and gave them a chance to mercilessly rip it to shreds. Luckily, their criticisms weren’t all that bad, and I’m hoping to make the game even better thanks to their help!

A few highlights from the game testing:

  • 13 players attended, giving us the ability to play 3 separate games with 4, 4, and 5 players. I was able to watch the games and give guidance/answer questions which was extremely helpful.
  • In preparation for the game, I ordered 5 prototype boards and printed out playing cards. It’s not a finished product, but it works well for our purposes and it’s nice to be playing on an actual board rather than cardboard. Below are a few pictures of the board and the pieces!

  • While two of the three games used the standard set of rules I originally created, I gave the third game a set of variable rules to try out. It was a success, meaning that I now have two gameplay options to include in the rules and am even creating a third option for shortened gameplay!
  • I received feedback from every player in the form of a survey, with a number of recommendations for improvement. I am now in the process of making tweaks based on their suggestions.

Now that my friends have helped me with their thoughts/critiques, I am excited to say that the next phase is where all of you come in!

I Want You to Test My Game

 

Now that my friends have given me their thoughts, I am hoping to branch out and get some critiques from neutral parties. Since I know you’re all board game enthusiasts, I’m hoping that you will help me out by giving the game a try and letting me know what you think!

So, what is this game about you ask? And how do you get a copy to try? Both great questions! Currently I am in the process of making some tweaks to the game and getting some better-quality pieces. Once that is complete, I will be sending out a new blog post with a description of the game and some basic mechanics. I will also be creating a new tab on this blog with an online application to receive a copy of the game for playtesting. If the game sounds interesting to you and want to give it a shot, complete the application and I will send you one of the prototype boards to try out. All I ask is that you give me some feedback about your gaming experience, and if you liked it then spread the news!

Alright, that’s all for now- be on the lookout for the next post, I’m excited to see what you all think about my game!!

Board Game of the Week- Joking Hazard (for players 18+)

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  • Game Title: Joking Hazard
  • Release Date: 2016
  • Number of Players: 3-10
  • Average Game Time: 30-90 mins
  • Game Publisher: Breaking Games
  • Website: jokinghazardgame.com
  • Game Designer: N/A
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Disclaimer: This game has adult themes and is meant for players 18 and up. Do not buy this game for children and then get mad at me that it is inappropriate. Please and thank you.

Another Kickstarter funded game that takes a popular comic series and warps it into a fun, ridiculous, and inappropriate game came into my life last week. Joking Hazard is a card game based on the comic Cyanide and Happiness, which you’ve probably heard of if you’ve spent more than five minutes browsing the Internet. In case you haven’t, Cyanide and Happiness focuses on awkward and inappropriate reactions to situations and condenses them into a three-strip comic panel. Joking Hazard takes these elements and turns them into an extremely clever, wild, and raunchy game with Cards Against Humanity-esque decisions and a feeling of depravity that just can’t be beat.

The game is very similar in gameplay to Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples. You have a set of 7 cards, there is a judge that rotates clockwise every round, you play a card facedown and the judge chooses which card is the winner. The differences are fairly straightforward, but are important to the flow and style of the game. For starters, the cards are all single panels of a comic that you use to form a complete strip with two other
panels. The first panel is drawn from the draw pile, the judge places the second panel either before or after the first one, and then each player other than the judge chooses a panel to place at the end, completing the strip. This means that there is only one deck of cards, rather than two like in CAH and Apples to Apples, and each one is meant to be paired with other cards to form the final joke. The person who played the card that the judge picks keep their card to tally the score, and then play continues until you decide it’s time to stop.

The positives in the game come from the amount of creative ways you can play the cards and the game’s ability to keep you on your toes. Because each card is suited for a different situation, there joking hazard wife left meare a huge number of possibilities and directions you can take when playing a card. At first when I read my cards I assumed there was no way I would be able to use some of them, but sure enough a round came along where they were the perfect fit. In addition, the fact that the judge gets to play one of the cards is a huge positive in comparison to CAH and Apples to Apples. The judge actually gets to shape the story the way they see fit, which can very quickly add to the hilarity.

One downside to the game that I saw was that there are definitely times that your cards aren’t a good fit to the panels that have currently been played. This is an issue that comes up with any of these games, but the times when everything is a dud seems more noticeable when shown in comic style. This was rare when I played, but after a few more run-throughs I wouldn’t be surprised if it became more noticeable. In addition, the game seems to be a lot better in small groups. I’ve played once with 4 players and once with 10, and ultimately the game with 10 was still fun but it took longer and felt like some good cards got lost in the shuffle.

Joking Hazard 1

Ultimately this is the type of game you want to have for get-togethers, parties, and alcohol related shenanigans (if you are the type for that). I once again want to stress that this game is not one you want to be playing with or around your kids, but when you have a group of fun loving adults it is a great game to have in your collection.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Bards Dispense Profanity

Before I get into the game review portion of this post, I wanted to share some good news with everybody. A month ago, I had one of the best moments of my life when I asked my Girlfriend to marry me- for some crazy reason she said yes, so I am officially engaged! It is definitely a moment I will cherish forever, and not just because I asked her in the middle of a Laser Tag session (yes, we are nerds) but also because of the pure joy we both had in the idea that we will get to spend the rest of our lives together. OK, now back to what you’re all here for, reading reviews about new games that you can judge vicariously through me!

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I got Bards Dispense Profanity as a gift for my fiancée- she is an English major and I had read good things about it, so I figured it was worth a try. We tried it out with my roommates a few nights ago, and it didn’t disappoint. As you probably guessed, this game is a parody of Cards Against Humanity, the popular card game where you play inappropriate cards to try and get hilarious reactions out of the group. The game mechanics are exactly the same as CAH- you take turns playing as judge, the judge picks out a “prompt card” and the other players play a card to fill in the blank of the prompt card. The judge then reviews the cards and chooses the one he/she thinks is best, whether that is funniest, most accurate, or basically whatever they feel like choosing. The way that Bards Dispense Profanity varies is that the game’s play cards are all direct quotes from Shakespeare plays. For those of you who don’t know much about Shakespeare’s writing style, it may look fancy but in reality it is quite dirty. This can lead to some very entertaining answers, especially to people well versed in the Hamlets and Much Ado about Nothings of the world.

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The best part of the game that I found was that it is a fresh take on a game I already know and understand. I didn’t have to learn how to play the game, I simply opened up the box and dealt out the cards, and we were off to the races. It’s nice playing a game bards-rulesor the first time and feeling like everybody knows what to do, and even better it doesn’t feel like the same game you’ve always played because of the new cards and style. I also appreciate that the game is a bit more highbrow in its profanity- in no way does the game avoid dirty jokes, but it does find a way to make them more intellectual. Finally, the game is a great for social events and can be played with any number of players.

The downsides to the game parallel the issues with CAH- the gameplay can get stale on multiple play-throughs and there is no defined stopping point for the game. Also, even though I appreciate the fact that the game mechanics were identical to CAH, I do wish that they had added another component somehow. Similar game styles can feel like rip-offs very easily, and while the different cards are fun new content I feel like that’s the only draw of the game. Finding a different style or some new element would make the game more interesting. The closest they got is that some of the prompt cards direct you to judge based on other player’s preferences, which was a cool idea, but was not used enough to be a big part of the game.

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If you’re looking for some adult but classy fun, I think Bards Dispense Profanity is a pretty good choice. While it mirrors other games already in existence, it does bring its own flair and can be a great time for people who are fans of literature. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find the nearest performance of Macbeth…

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Codenames

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  • Game Title: Codenames
  • Release Date: 2015
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames
  • Game Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Yes

 

I have seen plenty of reviews of the game Codenames online, and it looked like everybody enjoyed the game as a whole. I put the game on my list to try a long time ago and never got a chance until this past weekend, when I went to a Birthday party with a group of board game enthusiasts. We divided up into two teams and ended up playing two rounds before moving on to other activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed both rounds and the game strategy as a whole. At first I thought that you needed an even number of people to play, but after playing I do believe you could have an odd number of players if you really wanted to.

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Codenames is a two-team competitive card based game focused on one team member providing clues to the other team members that relate to specific code names. The game is set up by placing 25 “agent” cards down in a 5×5 row- these cards have a word on them, which is the code name of the agent. Then the team members chosen as Spymasters choose a Map card that shows which agent is on which team. Only the spymasters are allowed to see the map card. The map is set up to show which of the cards on the 5×5 grid are red agents, blue agents, civilians and the assassin. The object of the game is for the spymaster to provide a one-word clue to their team that relates to as many of the codenames as possible that are assigned to their team color. The other team members then guess which code name (or code names) the spymaster is trying to get you to choose. If the team is able to find all of their teams’ agents, they win. However, if they choose the opposing team’s agent, that agent is revealed and the other team has one less word to guess correctly. Guessing a civilian doesn’t hurt, but it does end your turn and leaves you unable to guess again if you wanted to. Guessing the assassin means that your team automatically loses, so the assassin should be avoided at all costs.

The biggest part about this game is the strategy of choosing words both as the spymaster and a team member. For the spymaster, the goal is to choose a word clue that can be linked to multiple agents on your team without misleading your team and causing them to choose the other team’s card or the assassin. There is also strategy in choosing a word that only could apply to one card, making sure that there isn’t any misunderstanding and effectively “playing it safe”. On the other side, the team members choosing the agents must strategically choose how many cards, and which cards, they want to choose. They can choose one card they are sure of, or they can choose multiple cards and take more of a risk. This is usually dependent on which team is winning and how confident you are that your spymaster is indicating a certain card.

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The most impressive thing about this game is the sheer number of variations: the game consists of numerous code name cards and map cards, so the possibilities of the cards on the grid and the options for agent card layouts are effectively limitless. The game encourages teamwork and strategy and is great for groups of close friends and strangers alike. Finally, the game is easy to set up and quick to play, so it is a perfect party game. The one downside I could think of with the game is the fact that while you can play with an odd number of players, ultimately it is easier/better to play with an even number so that no team gets an advantage. There are also a number of “player’s choice” rules revolving the hints that can be made, such as using Pronouns, that need to be addressed before the game starts. If your group forgets to go over these rules, it can cause confusion.

Overall I recommend Codenames as a great party game with a lot of fun strategy in a simple package. While the game says up to 8 players, you could certainly find a way to include more people if you choose, making it ideal for larger groups. In addition, the game can be played in small groups with the same effect, so don’t skip on it with 3-4 players either.

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Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- Zombicide

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  • Game Title: Zombicide
  • Release Date: 2012
  • Number of Players: 1-6
  • Average Game Time: 45-180 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Guillotine Games
  • Website: https://zombicide.com/en
  • Game Designer: Raphael Guiton
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Online

I got my copy of Zombicide way back in February, but didn’t get a chance to play the game because it looked so complicated and I wanted to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to learning the rules. The game sat on my shelf and was passed over for games like Hanabi, Exploding Kittens, and Ticket to Ride all spring and summer. Finally I was able to try it out last weekend with my roommates and my girlfriend. Not long after opening the box, I realized that I had truly missed out on playing an amazing gem of a game before that night.

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Zombicide is an in-depth, interactive cooperative game based on surviving the zombie apocalypse and achieving specific mission objectives. The game has ten missions, each of which has a different board layout and strategy, so it is a completely different experience every time you play. The game is very intense; the rulebook is about 30 pages long and it took us at least half an hour to get everything set up and ready to play. Still, once we learned the game mechanics it was the best game I have played in a long time. It plays very similarly to Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I play D&D, are you surprised?) You roll to attack, you gain experience and level up to get more experience zombicide-amypoints, you equip weapons that you find by searching a room/area, and you have the option of trying to be sneaky or barging in guns blazing. The underlying premise is to move from different “zones” on the map and either defeat zombies, find items, or reach objective points depending on the situation at the time. All while this is happening, more zombies are arriving and looking for a way to get to you and eat your brains. There are rules for combat, item usage, and taking damage, and after each turn new challenges form that you have to overcome. Because the game is cooperative, if a character dies your team can still win; it is possible to sacrifice yourself to keep your teammates alive as they reach their mission objective.

Zombicide is a great way to spend an evening for a number of reasons. It is extremely engaging and is set up to add difficulty as the game progresses, creating a fun gaming experience all the way through the mission. Because the game is cooperative, there is a lot of discussion around player actions and what moves everyone should make, which encourages communication and combined strategy. The game is truly immersive, making it easy to get engrossed in a mission and suddenly look at the clock and see it’s 1 AM. And yes, I am speaking from experience… Finally, the artwork and models used for the game are great because they have a fun and unique style. With 4 different types of zombies, 6 player options, and a number of different maps, you see the designer’s talent all over the board with Zombicide.

zombicide-maps

I think the game’s biggest issue would have to be its length. Of the ten missions that are available, only one of them is under an hour (not including the tutorial), and there is one that is listed as being around 3 hours long. The game is set up to be very lengthy and evolving, and while that is a lot of fun it is also difficult to dedicate that much time to a game. It’s definitely more tailored towards hardcore gamers, but it is also a lot of fun for casual players if they are willing to dedicate the time to playing. In addition, the game takes up a lot of space, so it doesn’t work well as a travel game.

Overall, if you’re looking for an intense gaming experience with a high level of difficulty and a great game mechanic, this is the game for you. While not applicable to all situations, I guarantee that if you take the time to learn the game you will have a great time and will want to play it again.

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Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

A Defense of Pokémon Go

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This article is about a topic that is not really related to what I normally post on this blog, but over the past few weeks it’s become something I am passionate about and want to voice my opinion on. As I’m sure you’re all aware, a little over a month ago one of the most anticipated and exciting apps hit the streets. Pokémon Go took the entire world by storm, crushing the previous record for downloaded apps and creating a phenomenon previously unprecedented in the gaming community.

With the fervor of the new game also came a significant amount of criticism, some of it warranted and some of it not, based on a number of real world events and outcomes directly associated with the app. A few people acted irresponsibly and put Pokémon Go users in a bad light, but a vast majority of the people playing the game do so in a safe, pokemon go dragonitepositive, and fun way. As a Pokémon Go player myself, I’ve seen countless media outlets bashing a game they do not understand and have not played, and so I have decided to write my own defense of the app to explain why it is a benefit to our society and not a burden.

A few notes before I get started: I am writing this a month after Pokemon Go’s release for two reasons. First, I did not want the article to get swept up in the hype of the game. Second, the game still had some glitches to sort out (and it still does) so I wanted to wait and let the major bugs and issues get fixed before commenting. Also I want to note that I am not trying to promote the reckless use of this game- it can be used improperly, and I want to stress that you should use it in a safe and respectful way at all times. Now then, let’s get down to it!

1) Safe to play (if used correctly) – A lot of the concern initially about Pokémon Go was the IMG_3736idea of safety. People argued that the game would promote actions such as running into traffic, using your phone while driving, and overall ignorance of a player’s surroundings
while they stare down at their phone screen. While there have been some people who have certainly taken on this style of play, I would argue that the people using Pokémon Go in this way are people who would be doing it regardless. In addition, the game itself lends very easily to safety and awareness: you are constantly reminded to be watchful of your surroundings, and you don’t have to look at your screen constantly when playing so it is very easy to look up and be aware at all times when you play. As I said earlier in this article, a few people acting irresponsibly has caused a large number of safe players to be criticized for playing, and while understanding the safety concerns of the game is important I firmly believe that Pokémon Go is as safe as any other location-based app on phones today.

2) Rewards activity and fitness- I have been working on being more active over the past
few months, and Pokémon Go has increased my desire to do so substantially. I have been running about 3-4 times a week, and every time I use my app when running to rack up distance and catch new Pokémon. I’m sure that I still would have been going on runs even without the game, but I can honestly say that it makes it more fun and helps motivate me to run farther and faster than ever. I know I’m not the only one too: I have heard plenty of stories online of people losing significant weight because of the game. Naysayers have been arguing that we shouldn’t need a video game to motivate kids to go outside, but honestly why should it matter why people are being active as long as it’s working?

3) Does not force players to go to cemeteries or historic landmarks- This is one of the aspects of the game that I felt was a flaw when it was initially launched. For those of you who haven’t played Pokémon Go, a significant portion
of playing is finding landmarks in your area that can either provide you with items or cause battles with other players at “gyms”. Most of these areas are set up in high-traffic and noticeable locations, including churches, libraries, museums, and historic landmarks. None of the stops are directly on businesses (though they can be close- more on that later), but the areas have brought about some major controversy. A number of prominent historic landmarks and locations meant for grieving, such as Arlington National Cemetery, had Pokestops assigned to them and brought players to the location for the sole purpose of playing the game. This is a distraction and an insult to those trying to mourn and it never should have been set up that way, and those players who decided to play the game without thinking of their surroundings were extremely disrespectful. That being said, I know I would never set foot in a location that I thought would be negative or difficult for peoplIMG_3735e, and I know that a vast majority of the players feel the same way. In addition, it is a very simple process to request a Pokestop be removed, and it takes very little time for Niantic to do so. While I agree that this should not have been a part of the game, ultimately it is something that will be fixed moving forward and will have a minimal impact on society.

4) Promotes business and is used for marketing efforts- As mentioned previously, no Pokémon Go locations are directly on private businesses and I don’t foresee that changing in the future. That being said, there are a number of landmarks that are close enough to a shop or restaurant that they can be reached while you are there. Small businesses have taken advantage of this by creating Pokémon Go promotions in a number of ways. For example, some restaurants will give you a discount if you drop a “lure” on a Pokestop nearby, which attracts other players to the area. There are also promotions for the three different “teams” that are a part of the game. This type of advertising has only been happening at small businesses and local shops as far as I have seen, so the game is promoting mom and pop type stores rather than large chains.

Pokemon Go Promotions

Businesses aren’t the only ones benefitting from Pokémon Go- museums, libraries, and zoos all have gotten a boost in attendants since the game came out. I have a friend who works at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, VA and he has told me that the Museum has started promoting Pokémon Go and spending money to place lures on the Pokestops in their exhibits. This has dramatically increased their attendance, with a number of people coming to the museum due to the game and the museum’s marketing efforts. Some areas may not have had this level of enthusiasm, but a number of places are taking Pokémon Go in stride and it has done nothing but help increase popularity and participation.

5) Helps build friendship and social interaction- It’s surprising to me how many people I have met playing Pokémon Go around my neighborhood. I can’t say that I have met anyone I will be lasting friends with, but whenever I’m out and playing it’s almost a sure thing that I will meet someone else doing the same thing. The game’s gym system is set up so that you can attack opposing gyms as a group, so finding people on the same team as you builds a bond that you wouldn’t expect. You can be as social as you want while playing the game. It doesn’t force you to make friends, but it certainly encourages it. I have seen numerous stories online about people meeting through Pokémon Go and becoming good friends, and that is only going to continue as time goes on.

The bottom line with Pokémon Go is this- I recognize that it certainly has some issues, but the game provides a number of positives that shouldn’t be discounted. The people criticizing the game, while providing some valid arguments, need to understand that they are only looking at a very small part of the picture and can’t truly understand the benefits with the narrowed view of the game the media portrays. Pokémon Go will continue to improve and grow on its successes, and as the issues lessen the strengths will only grow. I for one am looking forward to being a part of that growth as I proudly use the app and live my childhood dream of being a Pokémon trainer.

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Board Game of the Week- Space Sheep!

  • Game Title: Space Sheep!
  • Release Date: 2013
  • Number of Players: 1-8
  • Average Game Time: 20 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Stronghold Games
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/141035/space-sheep
  • Game Designer: Anthony Rubbo
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Online and some local game stores

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I love Star Wars, and I love puns, so when I saw this game on the shelves at a local store in Pennsylvania I knew I had to play it. My girlfriend got it for my birthday, but I haven’t been able to try it out until last weekend. I expected the game to mostly be about Star Wars-based puns, but the game-play is actually very unique and fun. Fully customize-able based on the numbers of players and the level of difficulty desired, the experience is different every time you play.

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Space Sheep is a collaborative game where everyone works together to either win as a group; if you run out of cards before completing your goal, everyone loses. The object of the game is for you to move all of the sheep and shepherd tokens to the appropriately colored solar system. This is done by playing Tactics Cards, which are played to move either the sheep or shepherd (or both) to a different location based on the solar system they were in previously. In addition, there is a timer that is continuously going throughout the game, and if it runs out then the Wolf gets to attack and you lose tactics cards. The game ends either by the group winning and getting all sheep and shepherds to their correct systems, or the group runs out of tactics cards to use and loses. The game relies heavily on communication from player to player, as well as understanding that sometimes you have to move pieces to the wrong system in order to eventually get all of them to the right system.

The collaborative effort portion of the game is part of why it is so much fun. Talking through your turns and figuring out how to use the cards in your hand based on what other people can do is a lot of fun. In addition, the timer makes things interesting and keeps the game at a fast-paced level. The ability to customize the game is helpful because you can play with any number of players and adjust the difficulty based on who is playing. The game also would work well for children, because it’s cute and fun and also helps promote teamwork. Finally, for someone who enjoys Star Wars and cheesy puns, reading through the instructions for the first time is almost as enjoyable as the game itself.

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The downsides aren’t too drastic, but they are worth noting at least; first, the game takes a long time to figure out. Because there is a timer, it can be frustrating at the beginning stages when you don’t have time to decide on your best option for a turn. That, plus the numerous puns in the instructions which grow less entertaining after the first or second read through, can make the first part of learning the game tiresome. However, once you play through a few rounds the strategies and game-play become more apparent, and so the game becomes much smoother. The fact that the game is customize-able is one of its strengths, but also one of its weaknesses. If you don’t know much about the game, it’s tough to decide on how difficult you should make it right away. I recommend making it easier to start and then working towards the harder difficulties.

As a whole, I got Space Sheep expecting it to be all about the parody, but soon found that the theme was only a secondary part of a clever and fun game mechanic. I don’t expect this game to be one I play every week, but I do think that it’s a great game to play with friends and would be fun to pull out at parties and group gatherings. I also plan on trying to play the game by myself soon (a solitaire option is possible) to see if that’s as fun as playing with a large group. No matter what though, I’m glad to add the game to my collection, because nothing beats getting a chance to “Ewe’s the Force…”

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Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Kickstarter and its effect on Board Games

A
few months back I wrote an article about the internet revitalizing board games, where I listed Kickstarter as a major contributor to board games being revitalized over the past few years. That, coupled with my recent activity supporting some upcoming games on Kickstarter, has made me realize how big the tool has become for many game designers and enthusiasts alike. Being able to fund a game without the backing of a larkickstarter-logoge publishing company may not seem like the most effective way to get to where you want to go, but taking the game to the masses and hoping the concept draws enough support is certainly becoming more common. There have been over 9,000 board games that were created and published through a Kickstarter campaign, including significantly popular games such as Exploding Kittens, Zombicide, and Dark Souls- the Board Game. Still, there is a limitation to the effectiveness of Kickstarter, and it has to be noted that it is only one of the many avenues for finding new and exciting games on the market. Here is a list of pros and cons for using Kickstarter as a means to fund your board game ideas:

Pros:

  • You have full control of the process- For people who want to have full control of the creative process, having a publishing company come in and make decisions on how to proceed would be very bittersweet. There are plenty of people who probably feel like the freedom to make decisions without other interested parties is a blessing. While it does also equate to more work, for someone who has dedicated time and effort to creating a game a little extra management isn’t going to ruin things.
  • Gather a strong fan base before the game is created- The great thing about Kickstarter is that your game doesn’t even have to be published and it can still grow a huge following. Depending on the number of backers and the prizes each backer signed up for, you could already have a large number of people to send games to right away. In addition, Kickstarters thrive on social media expansion, so the more a Kickstarter is advertised the more likely it is to gain more traction once it is finished.
  • Easier access to funds than through publisher- It’s difficult to make the case that a Kickstarter game is going to have significantly more funds than if the game was published by a game company (Exploding Kittens being the possible exception), but there certainly is an ease of access that helps Kickstarter campaigns become beneficial to game designers. Once a successful Kickstarter campaign is completed, funds are transferred to the game creator within a matter of weeks to begin the creation/distribution phase. Gaming publishers, especially larger ones, most likely would take a lot longer to go through the process of devoting resources to a game.
  • Lower risk post-funding- Because of the clientele already built up with the campaign, a game that is funded through Kickstarter already has a good following and a group of customers lined up to purchase the game. Because of this, a game funded by Kickstarter has less risk than one that is published directly from other funding. That isn’t to say that there is no risk whatsoever, but after the funds come through the game has a group of supporters right away to take advantage of.
  • Cost-effective alternative to self-publishing with personal funds- There are certainly some people out there who have the ability to use their own money to create a game themselves, but for those of us without that kind of funding available having an option to receive funding directly from the consumer cannot be understated. People who never thought they would have a chance to bring a board game to life have suddenly received that opportunity thanks to Kickstarter.

Cons:

  • Goal must be met in order to receive funding- The biggest con about Kickstarter is that if you miss your goal, even by a dollar, you do not receive any of your funds. This means that you could spend countless hours promoting the game and making a working prototype, only to not receive funding because you weren’t able to generate enough backing.
  • Start-up costs incurred for prototypes, incentives, etc.- Ultimately you can’t just start up a Kickstarter with an idea- you have to have put a lot of time and resources into it if you want it to succeed through a Kickstarter campaign. This is true if you were going to fund your game any other way, but it is enhanced when using Kickstarter because of the rewards programs usually created in a project. In order to incentivize backers to pledge higher amounts, a campaign will provide additional incentives to people who give greater amounts to the campaign. While this does benefit the designer by giving them a clientele to work with right away, it also means that the costs of the initial game creation can potentially be higher than in other situations.
  • Less name recognition than if game is published- This isn’t always the case, and is only really applicable when compared to a game that is published by a larger gaming company, but Kickstarter funded games don’t always carry the same weight as with a major publishing company like Hasbro or Iello. It’s also more difficult to get a Kickstarter funded game into the hands of major stores, because the large companies have a significant investment in getting their games on shelves.

 

While there are risks involved in setting up a Kickstarter campaign for a board game, ultimately if done well and with a good idea it can be the perfect way to create something you never thought you could. Any aspiring board game designers out there should give a long thought towards using Kickstarter for your next game idea!

Board Game of the Week- One Night Ultimate Werewolf

ONUW Logo

  • Game Title: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 3-10
  • Average Game Time: 10 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Bezier Games
  • Website:  http://beziergames.com/products/one-night-ultimate-werewolf
  • Game Designer: Ted Alspach, Akihisha Okui
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

This board game of the week is thanks to my girlfriend, Mary, and a group of our friends. I had heard a lot about “that Werewolf game” from them for a few weeks until I finally got a chance to try it out myself.  The result was a group of 7 people in their mid-20’s arguing about how I was obviously a werewolf, even though I continuously told them that I wasn’t. Lack of trust aside, the game is based around the childhood game “Mafia” and is a fun and engaging way to spend your time. The game is very fast-paced, so the expectation would be to play the game at least 2-3 times in a row in a single sitting.

ONUW Roles

One Night Ultimate Werewolf starts with everyone choosing what “roles” they want to include in the upcoming game. The game comes with 16 different roles that all have different effects during the game. Every game must have at least 2 werewolves, 1 seer, 1 robber, 1 troublemaker, and one villager. Depending on the number of players in the game, additional roles are added before the game starts (must have three more roles than the number of players in any game). Once the role cards are chosen, they are shuffled and one card is given to each player and the remaining three are left face down with nobody viewing them. After you check your role, the “night” phase of the game begins. This is where the Mafia style of game mechanic comes into play- during this phase, everybody closes his/her eyes, and players with certain roles “wake up” (open their eyes) at specific times to complete tasks related to their roles. These actions change depending on which roles were picked, but the order for when everyone opens and closes his/her eyes remains the same no matter what. Once all of the roles have completed the necessary tasks, the night phase ends and it switches to the “day” phase.

Once it becomes the day phase, everyone openly discusses who they believe is the werewolf. The werewolves then try and divert the blame from themselves by accusing others, while the villagers are all trying to determine who the werewolves are. You can say anything you want during this time, but you cannot show your role to another player- they will have to take you at your word. The day phase usually only lasts about 5-10 minutes and once time is up, everyone votes for who they believe the two werewolves are (this is done by pointing, either at a person or at the face-down cards in the center if you think nobody is a werewolf). The two people with the most votes are then accused of being the werewolf and must show their card. If one of them was the Werewolf, then the villagers win. If neither of them was the werewolf, the werewolves win.

ONUW App

There is, in fact, an app for that

This description of the game is very basic and glosses over details of how the different roles affect each other. There are certain roles that switch role cards between players, look at other player’s roles, or even take on the role of another card that you view. After the night phase, you could find yourself in a situation where you have no idea what role you currently have in comparison to when the game began. This makes your strategy and the voting process all the more complicated, and certainly adds to the intrigue of the final results. Another big factor in the game is the speed- it is supposed to be a very quick game which only allows for a specific amount of time to discuss and vote. In order to help with the timing portion of the game, I highly recommend someone from your group download the free app that goes with the game. This app not only keeps time for you throughout the whole game, but also announces the phases of opening and closing eyes during the night shift according to the roles your group is using.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a difficult game for me to review- on the one hand, its gameplay and fast-paced style are quite engaging. On the other hand, there are some flaws in the way the character roles are structured, and the time limit feels constricting at times. I like the fact that you can choose what roles are involved in every game, but I am not a huge fan of the idea that your role can change without you knowing it. The fun of the game is certainly apparent- bluffing and trying to trick your friends into thinking you are one thing when you’re actually another is a staple of many board/card games. Still, the concerns should definitely be noted; knowing what the game is about is important, and will make it more fun because you’re going in with a full understanding of what to expect.

ONUW Text

I feel like you have to be in a very particular mood if you want to play this game- it is certainly a lot of fun when you get a group of people involved, and the positives certainly outweigh the negatives, but I would recommend understanding the rules and formulating a strategy before you dive headfirst into the game.

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Kickstarter Campaign: Sans Allies

sans allies logo

Over the last 6 months of blogging, I have been lucky enough to connect with a number of other bloggers who share my passion for board games. Geoffrey Greer, writer of Past Go Gaming & Geeking, has been a big part of that connection. Geoff is a teacher with a passion for history and geeky topics, so he has a ton of great articles about a number of interesting subjects from Monopoly in American Culture to Howard the Duck. Going back the past few months, it’s rare to see a post I’ve made that doesn’t include a like or a comment from Geoff. I have always appreciated his activity on my blog, and the articles he writes are all very cool, so when I heard about his new game I jumped on the chance to try it out. Geoff and his wife Valerie have created a solitaire game called Sans Allies that is currently on Kickstarter. They have also added a prototype online, which I printed out and played over the weekend. Below is a brief description of the game and its rules, as well as a few important points about the game’s strengths and why I think you should back it on Kickstarter!

Sans Allies is a single player game with a very similar style to Pyramid Solitaire. The game has a 20th century war theme and revolves around fighting through enemy lines to capture the Enemy Capital before time runs out. The Enemy Capital is always at the very top of the pyramid, which means that in order to reach it you have to make your way through a number of different types of land, all while trying to build up your own forces and stop the enemy from developing their “ultimate weapon.” The game mechanics seem daunting when you first open up the instructions, but they are quick to pick up as long as you thoroughly read through the rule book before you play and then keep it on hand the first time you try the game. All in all, it only took me about 10-15 minutes to learn the “Limited War” gameplay (simplified rules) and only an additional 5-10 minutes to learn the “Total War” rules (complete rules). The first game I played took about an hour, but once I got the hang of it and was playing at a faster pace I found myself finishing a round in slightly over 45 minutes.

The game feels a lot like a single-player version of Risk to me – in order to “invade” a space and move closer towards the Enemy Capital, you roll two dice and either lose or maintain troops based on the number you rolled. This means that how and when you sans allies cardsdedicate your troops to an invasion is a crucial part of the game. You gain troops each turn, but after every turn the enemy has a chance at improving their ultimate weapon, so you can’t sit around and stockpile troops for too long. Sans Allies is also similar to the game Axis and Allies because there are different types of troops that can be used; you have personnel (ground troops), vehicles (tanks), aircraft (planes), and ships. Each type of territory you try and invade has specific types of troops that can and can’t access it. For example, only aircraft and ships can invade sea territories, and only aircraft and personnel can reach mountain territories.

There are plenty of other rules and tactics to the game, but I don’t have the space to go into everything in this post. Instead, here are the main reasons why I believe that Sans Allies is well worth backing on Kickstarter:

  • Easy to pick up – I mentioned before that it took me about 20 minutes total to learn the complete rules of the game (both Limited and Total War rules). This may seem like a significant amount of time, but that is mostly because I read through the entire instruction book once and re-read specific chapters beforeSans Allies 1 trying to play the game. This meant that by the time I actually started playing the Limited War version of the game, I only had to check the rules a few times for my first play through. When I upgraded to Total War for my second play-through, I felt comfortable enough with the Limited War rules that I only checked the rules for Total War additions. Ultimately I’ve played through the game four times in total, and feel like I know pretty much everything I need to play the game moving forward.
  • Challenging (but not too challenging) Gameplay – I’ve found that game difficulty is a big part of what makes a game good or great. If a game is too simple, it’s boring, but if it’s too complicated nobody will want to play it. Sans Allies found a good balance with its combination of strategy and luck, giving it a feel of a game that isn’t easy but is certainly beatable. I won each game that I played, but there were definitely some rounds that were pretty close and I never felt like the game was “in the bag.”
  • Easy to Carry (good travel game) – Speaking of in the bag, since the game is mostly made up of cards and no boards are necessary, it is the perfect game to take on a trip. Whether it’s a family vacation or a work function, sometimes having a game you can play during your travels can be a lifesaver. Most people bring a deck of cards and play solitaire, so why not enhance your experience by bringing a more complex travel-sized game instead?
  • Cheap – Large-scale board games are getting more and more expensive as time goes by; most games nowadays cost around $50-$60, and while they are usually worth the price in my opinion it’s difficult to justify buying certain games because of the price tag. Smaller games usually register around the $30 range, so Sans Allies being $20 for this Kickstarter is a good deal in my opinion. I have enjoyed playing the prototype online, but as someone really into the aesthetics of a game I’m seriously looking forward to getting a copy of the real thing!
  • Good way to pass time – As someone who is almost constantly busy, this isn’t something that I experience very often…but I could see Sans Allies as being a great game for people with an hour to kill who want to do something different for a stretch. It’s also a game that you can leave and come back to if necessary without losing your place in the game.
  • “Scratches the Itch” – Geoff used this phrase in his video about the game (you can find it on the Kickstarter page) and I think it’s extremely accurate. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a strategy game, and maybe you don’t have anyone around to play with or you don’t feel like getting a group together at the time. Sans Allies is the perfect game for that situation, because it’s a game that gives you what you’re looking for in a fun and engaging way.

So there you have it – I really hope you consider giving this game a shot. You can try out the prototype yourself, or just take my word for it and wait until the real game is out. Whatever you decide, I hope you know that any pledges you can make are much appreciated. If you have any questions about the game, you can contact Geoff at geoff@pastgo.net or on Twitter at @PastGoGames. And once again for good measure, here is the link to the Sans Allies Kickstarter. Thanks to anyone who is able to provide their support!

sans allies kickstarter