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

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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- Dungeon Roll

  • Game Title: Dungeon Roll
  • Release Date: 2013
  • Number of Players: 1-4
  • Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Edge Entertainment
  • Website:  boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/138778/dungron-roll
  • Game Designer: Chris Darden
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

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Dice games seem to be rarer to me than the other types of games out there, so whenever I find a game focused around dice rolling I always go out of my way to give it a try. My friend pulled out his copy of Dungeon Roll last weekend and I was immediately intrigued. The game is based on the classic Dungeons and Dragons story; a mysterious stranger goes into a tavern and recruits a party of adventurers to complete a task for him. These adventurers journey out into the world and fight monsters, gather treasure, and gain experience as they move toward their goal. This theme is then simplified from an all-encompassing and complex tabletop game to a straightforward dice-rolling mechanic where the goal of the game is to get the most experience of the group after three rounds of play.

Dungeon Roll Cards

To start off the game, each player is given a Hero card that has both a passive and an active ability (passive can be used any time, active can only be used once per round). These abilities can be used each round to help defeat monsters, change dice rolls, and any other number of abilities to help you succeed in the game. Each Hero card has two sides, one regular and one upgraded. If you are able to get at least 5 experience points in one round, you are able to flip your Hero card over to the upgraded sidDungeon Roll Party Dicee and gain even stronger abilities. Once each player has a Hero card, the player who starts first rolls the white party dice to assemble his/her “party”. This party can consist of up to 6 different options, including five different classes (Champion, Wizard, Fighter, Rogue, and Cleric) and also a scroll dice which allows you to reroll any dice once. Once the party has been assembled, the player to the left of the one who rolled the party acts as the Dungeon Lord. The Dungeon Lord is in charge of rolling enemies for the party to fight.

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There are four different monsters (goblin, skeleton, slime, and dragon) and there are also treasures and potions that you can pick up after the monsters are destroyed. In order to destroy any goblins, skeletons, and slime, you have to sacrifice party members by removing the dice from your party. If a dragon is rolled, it is taken out of play until there aDungeon Roll Treasuresre 3 dragon dice total. Once the third dragon is rolled, the party has to fight the dragon, which can only be defeated by sacrificing three different class dice. Once you defeat a dragon, you can an extra experience and can grab a treasure chip from the treasure chest.
The more enemies that a party defeats, the more experience points the party gets and subsequently the more dice the Dungeon Master rolls. The player’s turn ends either when they decide to leave the dungeon, or they run out of dice cannot defeat all of the monsters, which causes the party to fail that round. If the party left the dungeon, the player keeps all of the experience earned up to that point. If the party dies, the player doesn’t get any experience from that round. Once three rounds of the game are finished, experience points are calculated and the person with the most points wins.

The game is certainly engaging and I had a lot of fun when I played with my friends. There is a lot of luck involved, but there are also important decisions about how you use your dice and your treasures that need to be taken into account. It took some time figuring out the best strategy for conserving versus using dice, but once you get the hang of it the game moves fairly quickly. The Hero card abilities also add an important layer of strategy, especially the active ability you can only use once per round. The game works better with a smaller amount of people, because with four people there are always two players that aren’t doing anything while the party and the Dungeon Master complete the turn. Apparently the game can also be completed with one player, but without other players to compare scores to I feel like this isn’t as exciting as with 2-3 people.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Kickstarter Campaign: Sans Allies

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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!

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