Second Look—Spy Alley Family of Games

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Spy Alley Partners LLP contacted me shortly after Toy Fair this year and offered to send me their Spy Alley family of games to review. The games, Spy Alley, Spy Alley Junior, and the Spy Alley Dice Game, all have the same theme of trying to guess the hidden identity of the other players before yours is figured out. Each game is exceedingly simple to play, and in my opinion, a bit boring. The worst of all being the Spy Alley Dice game, which almost feels broken.

Not wanted to pass judgement before giving the games their due, I made sure to play with each of my kids (minus the baby, of course) to see how they liked each one. Spy Alley Spy Alley GameSpy Alley was worth a few minutes of fun with them, but they really disliked Spy Alley Junior and the Dice Game, saying that the original game was easy enough as it was. It wasn’t long before they were asking for different games to play.

To be fair, these games are targeted to a more mass market audience, and my children have grown up playing just about everything that’s come across our doorstep. Then again, there’s plenty of mass market targeted games that they really enjoy.

There’s really not much more I can say about these games than I recommend you steer clear of them. There’s better stuff out there to spend your money on.

Copies of each title were provided free for review by Spy Alley Partners LLP.

Dale-of-Merchants-contentsReaper Miniatures launched their third Kickstarter campaign for their Bones miniature line this morning. The Texas-based company originally held their first campaign for the miniatures in August of 2012, raising nearly $3.5 million to fund the miniature molds and move production of the line from China to the United States. The first campaign’s Vampire level at $100 originally included 100 miniatures but stretch goals took that over 225 miniatures. (I still have only a third painted!) Bones 3 is only running for 18 days, ending on July 25th at 8 PM EDT.

Dale of Merchants: The Guild of Extraordinary Traders by Snowdale Design (above) looks crazy cute. This deckbuilder has the players taking on the roles of animal (why? because.) merchants setting up stalls in a marketplace to showcase their wares and join the guild. The playthrough videos and artwork shared look fun (the campaign features a series of Rahdo Runs Through videos for you to check out). Game-level rewards start at $24. The campaign ends on July 31st.

map-throne-room-smallOn Patreon, Dyson Logos is creating cartography for fantasy roleplaying games. With pledge levels starting as low as five cents, it’s easy to support this mapmaker. All of his maps are available for free at his blog, Dyson’s Dodecahedron, but pledging $1 per map or adventure gets you 300 dpi versions of the maps before they make it to the blog. A $5 per work pledge unlocks the PDF versions of any forthcoming book and the Dyson’s Delves I & II books. Dyson’s stuff is really fantastic. (Currently, the Patreon is just under $25 in pledges from unlocking another milestone: releasing the back catalog of maps under a commercial open-license.)

Oh man, I do love me some fantastic playing cards, and this month there’s some great-looking ones on Kickstarter. Let’s start with the Wasteland 2-inspired Wasteland Playing Cards, illustrated by Jackson Robinson. This has already blown past the funding goal and will be funded on July 31st. $12 for the basic deck of cards ready for the Apocalypse (seriously — I’d love to find a way to hack the Apocalypse World RPG to use this card set). Or perhaps you’re a fan of the golden age of piracy? Well, in that case, check out the Seven Seas Master Collection by Brain Vessel Creative. Pirates, sea creatures, and two different ship-themed decks await, with individual decks starting at $12.

z-in-game-playAnd look what I just stumbled across! 9 Kingdoms Publications are in their final days of a Kickstarter campaign to produce an expansion to ApocalypZe. (That’s the original game on the right.) You might recall a while back I reviewed the zombie survival card game (tl;dr: it’s pretty darn good). The original game came with pre-constructed decks and extra cards to build out your own deck. This expansion adds two more decks and six additional cards, and they’ve revisited the graphic design of the cards so they’re easier to read. In addition to the expansion, they also have booster packs to beef up your decks on offer. $25 gets you the expansion, the base game (plus the extra stuff from that game’s KS) is a $40 add-on. Or just go $75 for everything (base, expansion, and boosters).

Game Bandit

Game Bandit - Scouring the net to find the cheapest discount boardgames and best free boardgame prizesThe grand prize in Toys R Us’ Ultimate Minions Birthday Sweepstakes is travel for four to Toys R Us in Times Square and a $500 gift card.

Pinnacle Entertainment is running a haiku contest. The best haiku about the world of Lankhmar gets a $50 credit at Pinnacle’s web store.

Answer a market-survey questionnaire and be entered in to a drawing for $500 worth of Rubik’s Cube products.

Build a fort—full-sized from stone and wood, or miniature from toys—and send a pic to Osprey. The best three get copies of the publisher’s Fortress 108 book.

If you can figure out how a trait card from North Star Games’ Evolution would resolve a scene from a famous movie, the company will give you 50% off on an Evolution goodie pack. One person will even get the goodie pack for free.

One randomly selected person who orders the standard Spinward Traveller poster for $80 will instead receive the original painting valued at $4,500.

To enter Board Game Theater’s giveaway, like, follow, and comment on various social media sites. The three prize packages include Star Realms sets and other goodies.

EAI Education is having a sale on cubes and dice.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Arion Games has put all its PDF and POD products on-sale for 40% off.

Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana

Green Ronin has announced the August release of both their Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook and Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana setting. For those who’ve been watching Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave show on Geek & Sundry, you’re probably just as excited as I am about this news.

Both books will be full-color hardcovers, and Titansgrave will also contain a double-sided poster map. The basic rulebook clocks in at 144 pages, while the Ashes of Valkana will be 96. They’ll be priced at $30 and $25 respectively.

I plan on snagging both as soon as I possibly can and getting a game going as quickly as possible.


Score Board - Boardgame tournaments, competitions and championships results and scoresBrigitta Sinka of Hungary has broken the world record for total number of simultaneous Chess games played in a lifetime. The record was previously held by Cuban grandmaster Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942) and now stands at 13,600 (though by the time you read this, she’s probably played a few hundred more).

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen crashed on home turf, finishing in the bottom half of Norway Chess 2015 (also the first stop of the $1 million Grand Chess Tour). The winner was Vaselin Topalov, with former world champion Viswanathan Anand coming in second.

Bridge has been admitted to the 2018 Asian Games (to take place in Indonesia) by the Olympic Committee of Asia. Its bid (as well as that of Chess) for admission to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, however, was denied.

The winner of the World Crokinole Championship, Justin Slater, has been gunning for the position for 5 years, twice in that time coming in second.

A new world record has been set for solving a Rubik’s Cube with feet. Jakub Kipa did it in 20.57 seconds at the Radomsko Cube Theory in Poland.

The United Kingdom’s National Schools Top Trumps Tournament, sponsored by Winning Moves, started with 2,000 school-level tournaments, narrowed in an online round, and went to a live final. Coming out on top was William Gooch from Elloughton Primary School in Yorkshire.

NAWCQ Champ Noah ReidYu-Gi-Oh! events are divided in to two sections, one, Dragon Duels, for younger competitors (currently those born in 2002 or later), and one unrestricted. At the North American World Championship Qualifier event in Nashville, the winner in the open section was Noah Reid of Georgia; the winner in Dragon Duels was Austin Wesley Colling of Ohio. Both received similar prize packages included a trophy, complete sets of Secrets of Eternity and Crossed Souls boosters, an iPad, and expense-paid travel to the World Championship in Kyoto, Japan.

Indian Chess players performed well in recent tournaments. The world’s 25th ranked player Pendyala Harikrishna defeated defending champion Vassily Ivanchuk (ranked #27) in the final round  of the Edmonton International to claim the trophy. Abhijeet Gupta won the Commonwealth Chess Championship with a score of 8.0/9.

Nine year old Mhage Gerriahlou Sebastian of the Philippines qualified as Woman Candidate Master after winning gold and silver medals at the 16th ASEAN + Age Group Chess Championship.

A dedicated player who along with her late husband founded the Trinidad and Tobago Scrabble Association in 1985, Patricia John finally won the local Scrabble Masters Tournament herself and will be representing the country at the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association Championship, November in Perth, Australia.

Colt ExpressThe 2015 Spiel des Jahres—German Game of the Year—has been awarded to Colt Express from publishers Ludonaute and Asmodee and designer Christophe Raimbault. Colt Express is a game of competitive train-robbing in the old west, played on three-dimensional rail cars. To win, one has to not only steal the most loot but also keep it away from fellow bandits. And then there’s the big bonus for firing the most bullets.

BS_lid_FR.inddThe Kennerspiel des Jahres, or Expert Game of the Year award, was given to Broom Service from publishers Alea and Ravensburger and designers Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister. A remake of the earlier Witch’s Brew, Broom Service is a game in which the players collect ingredients for magic potions. Choosing a selection of roles to act on each round, they must also choose for each role whether to go with the stronger but riskier “brave” action or the safer “cowardly” action.

Karolina StyczynskaA 24 year old Polish student who decided to take up Shogi after reading the manga Naruto has become the first foreign woman to be invited to participate in a professional Shogi training program in Japan. Karolina Styczynska scored three wins and one loss in a recent Tokyo tournament, earning a 3-kyu title and promotion to the C1 class. If she meets certain requirements of the program within 2 years, she’ll earn a 2-kyu title and be considered a professional.

[via The Japan Times]

Dueling Mahjong Championships

Mahjong tilesThe end of this year will see two major international Mahjong tournaments.

On November 11-15 in Jeju Island, South Korea will take place the Fourth World Mahjong Championship under the auspices of the World Mahjong Organization. Qualifying tournaments are being planned for China, though the specifics have not yet been announced. Member national organizations will also be able to register competitors directly.

Then December 4-6 in Hong Kong somewhere, World Mahjong Limited will hold the World Series of Mahjong with a prize package for the top 32 players of US$575,000. This one also plans qualifying events in multiple countries, as well as an online qualifying series.

CORRECTION: World Mahjong Limited informs me that they have not yet set a venue for the World Series of Mahjong.

Metamorphosis Alpha

Metamorphosis Alpha by Signal Fire StudiosLong in the works (Yikes, I covered the announcement 6 years ago!) and somewhat different than originally planned (it was supposed to be based on 4th Edition D&D), Metamorphosis Alpha from Signal Fire Studios is now available in ebook form. Not to be confused with the 1976 edition recently reprinted by Goodman Games, this version retains the setting but pairs it with new rules based on the company’s System 26 dice-pool mechanics.

For those of you unfamiliar, Metamorphosis Alpha was the first science fiction roleplaying game. The setting is the starship Warden, a 50 mile long colony ship, which is malfunctioning and has been knocked off-course. Its residents have been subject to generations of mutations. And the humans on-board have mostly reverted to primitive tribal societies.

MtG for Rent

SpareDeckSpareDeck is a service that rents out Magic: The Gathering cards, individually or by the deck. The idea is to allow players to try out new decks, or even play them in competition, without the tremendous upfront investment often required.

SpareDeck ships cards without sleeves and “slight play wear is fine.” However, there is a verification and approval process, and if a card suffers any significant damage (such as folding or tearing) the renter will need to pay its replacement cost.

Cards and decks can even be reserved in advance to ship on a specific date.

A quick check of some of the common archetypes showed an Abzan Aggro or Green-Red Devotion available for around $42 including shipping for a 3 day rental.

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