This game is something else! I saw many fun games at Gen Con but Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr from Hub Games pairs gameplay with a meaningful experience, such as I haven’t seen before.

At the basic level, Holding On is a cooperative worker-placement game, where the players manage hospital staff as they work with heart-attack patient Billy Kerr.

At a deeper level, though, gameplay presents the opportunity to learn something about modern medical care. Each game round represents 1 day and consists of three work shifts. During each shift, the players have to decide between allocating resources to physical care, addressing Billy’s direct medical needs, and palliative care, making him more comfortable and establishing a closer, trusting relationship with him.

But that’s not what this game is really about. What Holding On is about is the troubled life of Billy Kerr. And that is revealed, slowly, through 10 scenarios, during which the players are able to help the patient recover memories of his earlier life. Partial-memory cards with limited text and hazy images can be replaced with clarifying overlays if the right choices in care are made. And while I wouldn’t (in fact, can’t) spoil the whole story, I can reveal that Billy’s history is a complex one involving The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The story, I’m told, is based on real facts and paints an honest picture of a complex character.

The game, then, promises to give players a lot to think about.

Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr should be available at Essen Spiel for $40.

Gen Con 2018—USAopoly

Recent releases from USAopoly include Samurai Jack Back to the Past ($35), based on the animated series, Thanos Rising ($50), a Marvel comics cooperative dice game, and Blank Slate ($25), a family-friendly fill-in-the-blank party game.

Coming next month is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Gemstone Mining Game ($35). Based on Quartz, the push-your-luck game of collecting crystals from Passport Game Studios, this Disney version works with up to seven players, each as one of the dwarfs.

In October, USAopoly ships Harry Potter Codenames ($25), with art from the films and gameplay similar to Codenames Duet but multiplayer.

Later in the fall, we’ll see Fantastic Beasts Perilous Pursuits ($30), a cooperative dice game where the goal is to put the beasts back in the suitcase.

While it wasn’t on display at the show, I was told there would be another expansion for the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle deck-building game sometime in 2019.

Strange Board Games

These are some weird games!

Pimple Pete from Spin Master is a game in which the players take turns pulling squishy pimples from Pete’s face until one triggers the Mega-Zit on his nose to squirt.

 

Another from Spin Master is Silly Sausage. It’s a pattern-matching action game meant for kids ages 6+, “Twist Me, Stretch Me, Poke Me…”

It’s not the first dexterity game involving chopsticks but Flying Sushi Kitchen from Redwood Ventures challenges players to catch ping-pong balls as they float on air jets coming out of bamboo stalks. The balls are supposed to represent sushi but for some reason are painted with smiley faces!

And then there’s WizKids’ A’Writhe, which is basically… Cthulhu Twister!?! Players contort their bodies to put hands and feet on location mats in specific patterns to summon the great old ones.

Gen Con 2018—Gigamic

What I really want is the giant-sized Pylos but Gigamic’s new games look fun too.

Kaosmos ($30, due at retail this fall) is a space-themed reimplementation of Mad City (with was published by Mayfair). Not to be confused with Chaosmos from Mirror Box Games, this title is a real-time tile-laying game, where players assemble individual galaxies of nine planet tiles and score points based on contiguous zones of same-colored planets. Additional points are awarded for the length of asteroid paths the players manage to keep uninterrupted in each of their galaxies.

Squadro ($35, fall) is a simple-looking abstract where players race to get their four pieces back and forth across the board. The twist is that if one player’s piece blocks the path of another’s, the so-called blocked piece jumps ahead and the blocking piece is sent back to the start.

Crowdfunding Highlights

Deus lo Vult is a board game for two to four treacherous and greedy marauders and murderers. Based on opulent European manuscripts of the 12th to 15th centuries, the game draws heavily on the military games played by the medieval aristocracy all over the world: shogi, xiangqi, chaturanga, and backgammon. You control an army of crusaders trying to loot as much treasure from the Holy Land as possible. At the same time, you hinder the progress of other players using the mutually shared army of the Saracens. God is watching the Crusades closely and often intervenes with Divine Will events that you may use to your advantage. I give the designers a lot of credit. It is not easy to approach a game where religion is involved. Get invading while it’s hot, only three days to go on this one at the time of this post. You can find it here.

 

Since I heart Japan, our next stop takes us to the RPG world of Oddity high.

Oddity High is a tabletop RPG about the life of a Japanese high school student – one who’s also got one foot firmly in the bizarre. It’s influenced from the ground up by anime, manga, and video games that take the life of a high schooler and drive it off the deep end: Haruhi Suzumiya, the Persona games, Hatoful Boyfriend, and many more. You’re a high school student that’s probably nowhere close to being ordinary. Whether you’re dealing with aliens, psychics, ghosts, demons, eldritch gods or sentient cats is up to you – but whatever it is, you’re in the thick of it. Fortunately, by happenstance or by design, you’ve got a gang of like-minded, equally-abnormal friends at your side – and with their help, you’ve got a fighting chance at surviving it. Just don’t forget that you’re also going to need to survive high school, as well. Oddity High is powered by the Apocalypse Engine, the system used by legendary and award-winning games such as Dungeon World, Monster of the Week, The Sprawl, Urban Shadows, Fellowship, and many, many more. It has 11 days to go and has already doubled its funding goal. If you back this project, just don’t pick vanilla.

The final project this week could use a little love if it’s going to make it. Dreeples are dragon meeples, and I think they look great! I think of the pictures shown their most practical use would be for Tsuro, but I do enjoy the picture of using them as replacements in monopoly. This campaign is also for an original a game called dreeple wars if your looking for a little more damage to inflict. The dragons are set to ship and burn villages near and far in December. 22 days to go in the current campaign.

One of several world-record domino felling attempts over the weekend in Nidda, Germany was ruined by a fly. Other records, including ones for largest wall and largest spiral, were achieved. However, a setup of mini-dominoes fell prematurely when a fly landed on one of the pieces. Not enough time was available before the scheduled event to reset the mini-dominoes, a process that requires the use of tweezers.

Gen Con 2018—Calliope Games

The next three games in Calliope’s Titan Series games are due later this year.

Everyone Loves a Parade ($25) has players designing parade floats to match the styles and decoration preferences of the crowds. Card play also allows manipulation of the crowds and position in the parade for turn order.

In Spy Master ($30), players control teams of agents, sending them on various missions around the world. To complete a mission and claim its victory points requires playing cards to move agents in to position and to collect specified types of intelligence (surveillance, blueprints, dossiers, or espionage). Each round, the current Spymaster divides available cards for the other players to choose.

Intriguing enough, that’s just the basic game. According to my source at Calliope, not once mentioned explicitly in the rules, there are also instructions for an advanced game hidden and hinted at somewhere in the Spy Master box.

Ship Shape ($30) is a kind of three-dimensional puzzle game in which the players attempt to smuggle the most valuable contraband in the holds of their sailing ships. They bid on crates that are stacked tiles with different gaps. During the bidding process, these gaps provide the players with limited information about upcoming crates. After the auction, they can try to stack these crates to maximize contraband value.

Game Bandit

Game Bandit - Scouring the net to find the cheapest discount boardgames and best free boardgame prizesMiniature Market is running a huge Back to School Sale on games but get on it quickly. It ends tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM CT.

Available at Humble Bundle are 20 game design and puzzlecraft books for a package price of $15. Spend more, support charities.

Deals currently running at Bundle of Holding include:

Dragons and Things is giving away a $20 Syrinscape gift card. Follow and retweet before 6:00 PM PT today.

Decision Games August Deal of the Month is $89 for Advanced Pacific Theater of Operations (regularly $120).

Thousands of titles are included in Osprey Publishing’s 30% off Summer Sale.

The Bridge World is holding a Summer Sale on Bridge books and software, 20-75% off.

Amazon deals:

Calliope Games is giving away a copy of Menu Masters.

Scott King is giving away a variety of games and accessories to 15 winners. Prizes include the games Azul, Pioneer Days, and Nmbr 9.

R&R Games is running a picture contest with a copy of Cave Paintings going to 10 winners.

Additional giveaways:

Gen Con 2018—Show & Tile

Show & Tile from Jellybean Games is a picture-making party game, where instead instead of drawing pictures by hand, players create their images using tangram pieces. The idea, of course, is to guess other players’ words from their pictures and to have them guess your word from yours.

Show & Tile should reach retail within a month priced at $25. Jellybean also has a $5 promo pack of extra word cards in four specific categories: world, jobs, sci-fi & fantasy, and adjectives.

Gen Con 2018—Monsterpocalypse

Ten years ago, Monsterpocalypse was a prepainted collectible line. Now it’s being relaunched by Privateer Press as a traditional unpainted, non-collectible miniatures game.

Gameplay is about eliminating your opponent’s giant monsters. Each side gets one large monster figure and a number of smaller units, such as tanks, airplanes, or little monsters. A turn can be taken as either a monster turn or a unit turn. Units are spawned to the board by spending white dice. And in addition to attacking an opponent’s monster, units can also be used to occupy buildings, thereby granting power-ups to a player’s own monster.

At Gen Con, there were two versions of a $50 starter box, each with one monster, five units, dice, card stock apartment buildings, and a paper battle map. Blisters with five additional units were priced at $20-25.

The new Monsterpocalypse is scheduled to hit retail next month. Look for more monsters and building types, the latter of which will provide different kinds of power-ups.

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