Modern board games are games created after 1900 or so, including early games such as Monopoly and Scrabble, to the latest games from Europe and around the world.

Do you hate when you’re playing a game and the loose bits get knocked all over the place? Tired of using bowls, Tupperware, or whatever else is laying around to try and keep all those bits organized? BitCrates are here to solve all your bitly woes.

BitCrates are small containers made of brushed aluminum and hardwood Walnut. They’re easy to pickup, stack, line up, and hold all your board game bits. They’re gorgeous, and extremely solid. I received a nice wooden box that contained 8 BitCrates to put through their paces, and I can’t image playing certain games without them now. Ticket to Ride is a great example. Each player can keep all their trains in a BitCrate, which makes it much easier than keeping them in a pile on the table, or trying to pick them out of the plastic bags while playing. You may have also noticed BitCrates in my review of High Heavens. They’re perfect for holding all the plastic rings needed during the game.

The best part? They’re a gaming luxury that doesn’t cost a fortune. Pledging $35 to their Kickstarter project, which is already funded, will get you 4 BitCrates without a case. $60 will get you 4 BitCrates and a case. $90 will get you 8 BitCrates and a case, and is the set I have and I highly recommend.

c38b284b258632aea7ada6787c10e746_originalSure, you can store your bits in cups, plastic containers, bowls, or whatever you have laying around. They’re not going to look/feel half as nice as a set of BitCrates. These are gaming accessories built to be functional, impress, and last. I doubt I’ll be playing at bit-heavy game without mine ever again.

You may want to hop on these quickly, though. There’s just 6 days left on the project. Like I said earlier, they’re already funded, so you’re  guaranteed to get some if you pledge enough.

A set of 8 BitCrates in a wooden case was provided free for preview.

Second Look—High Heavens

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Having seen High Heavens a few years ago a PAX East, I was excited to finally get a copy of my own. I really enjoyed the game when I demoed it, and I’m glad to see not much has changed in the time I’ve spent waiting to play again.

High Heavens is a game of epic battle between the Norse and Greek Gods. Setup and play is super simple, with a nice deal of depth provided by the Gods’ powers and spell cards. Each turn you have 3 actions to summon Gods from your hand, cast spell cards, or have your Gods take action. Actions include moving, attacking, and using some special powers. Each God has a stat for movement, health, range, and melee/range damage. The goal of the game is to wipe out all the opponent’s Gods, or destroy their home base.

One of the coolest mechanics of the game is the rings. High Heavens comes with a pile of stack-able rings. There’s red rings that indicate health. Your Gods will sit upon a tower of these until their health is gradually chipped away. There’s also orange rings for attack bonuses, silver rings for armor, green rings for poison, and black rings traps. You can always tell the condition of a God by looking at the stack they’re standing on. The last color ring is white, which represents obstacles that can be placed on the battlefield. It’s worth noting that weapons and armor a God has are dropped when the die, and can be picked up by other Gods to use.

IMG_20150924_104341I ended up playing this one with my 8-year-old daughter, as she’s really shown an interest in games with miniatures. She picked up the rules extremely quickly, and after a close game, she managed to take down my home base after wiping out a majority of my Gods. I have to say I really thought I had the game locked down, but some cleverly played spells turned turned the tide in her favor.

So in closing, I still enjoy the game as much as I did when I demoed it 2 years ago. The final components are really top notch, from the plastic minis to the rings and the excellent Neoprene board. I look forward to checking out some of the add-ons to the game, the largest being the addition of Egyptian Gods.

A copy of High Heavens was provided free for review by Wild Power Games.

Miniaturized King of Tokyo

hYY0hkjReddit user, raremind, posted some pics today of his miniaturized King of Tokyo set that he can easily pack up and store in his bag. The project is pretty impressive, and cuts down the size of the game a good amount. In the end, it’s all stored in it’s own bag, and has a much smaller footprint than the original game. I especially like the use of tokens instead of the cardboard stand-ups, and the use of a paper slider for health and VP really trumps the dials in my opinion.

You can check out all the pics he posted over on imgur. If you like what you see, give him an upvote on reddit.

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.The computer game Portal is an interesting puzzle game with the player using a portal gun—a device that creates wormholes on walls—to navigate through a (usually) trap-filled testing chamber controlled by a demented AI who promises cake at the end. Portal is one of Valve’s award-winning games and a flagship product on the Steam gaming service. In 2012, the computer game company began to develop a tabletop game based on Portal, eventually teaming up with Cryptozoic Entertainment in 2013 to continue development of the game. Now available for pre-order, we’ve had a chance to play the game.


Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game is a game for 2-4 players, each heading up a team of test subjects. Three rows of hexagon-shaped test chambers are connected to form the board (the “laboratory”). Each turn, GLADoS (the active player) removes a test chamber from one edge of the board, and places it at the other end. The effect is an infinite board, much like Thunder Road. When a test chamber is removed, whichever player has a majority of test subjects on that tile gains the rewards listed on the tile which might be the ability to move a gun turret, adding one or more test subjects to the laboratory, or slices of cake. All test subjects are removed from that tile, so you’re sacrificing test subjects to possibly gain a reward. If there is any cake on that tile, it is incinerated. As soon as one player has no test subjects on the board, the game ends. The winner is the player with the largest number of cake slices in the laboratory.

The cards in Portal have “play now” abilities on the front (“Aerial Faith Plate: Move one test subject of any color to an adjacent chamber”), and characters with abilities to be used by all on the back (“Cave Johnson: To earn cake from an activated chamber, all test subjects in that chamber must be the same color.”). Play that card and it sits on top of the discard pile with a character from the game and a rule that stays in play until that character is covered up. So: how to best play the two cards in my hand to not give the other players a powerful ability they can use right away?


The game is all about positioning: With only three test subjects on the board, can I maneuver them to a position where they will be picked by GLADoS? Should I have a test subject pick up my opponent’s cake slice and merrily run a tile that will be incinerated or should I pick up one of mine and move it to a safer room? That’s where the puzzle of this game comes in: positioning and moving your test subjects around.

I can see a bit of analysis paralysis creeping up in this game. Even with a small number of test subjects for a player to manipulate, the player can only choose one chamber’s test subjects to move. Take Ticket to Ride as a counterexample: TTR has only a few things a player can do on your turn, just like Portal does. However, Portal has the chance to trigger AP in some players due to the size of the board and the immediacy of GLADoS removing test chambers.

portalgame_3dSpeaking of GLADoS, there’s a standee counter for it which you’re supposed to use to indicate which chamber is being removed, but in practice it’s completely useless. Also speaking of completely useless: throw away the insert. The insert is usable as long as you don’t actually remove anything from the punchboards: no place to store the useless GLADoS standee, the cake pieces, the test subjects, or the portal markers. (We’re talking the Asmodee edition of Mission: Red Planet bad.) Cool companion cube and turret figures for the game (even if one of the panels on the turret seems to have arrived broken).

Our two-player games were around twenty minutes long. We’re going to give this a spin with three players later this week.

The game itself is fun and filled with a lot of short-term strategy decisions. I was going to recommend it, but… the MSRP is $50. Quite frankly, it doesn’t feel like similar games at that price point. The packaging has a bit to blame for this: the box has faux-aging on it, like it’s been beaten up a bit and well-loved/used over the years. The back of the box features a bland photo one might see on a family boardgame from the early 1970s. While it all fits to recall the computer game, the boardgame’s exterior has that look from a time before games cost $50; the physical design of the game says “cheap”.

I’m also irrationally upset with that insert.

But that’s balanced by the gameplay. We found it fun. Gameplay is also strategic (which I really enjoy). And the game does come with a Steam code for Portal 2, so…consider this a $40 game with a $10 computer game bundle, I suppose.

A copy of Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game was provided free for review by Cryptozoic Entertainment

Game Bandit

Game Bandit - Scouring the net to find the cheapest discount boardgames and best free boardgame prizesUSAopoly is giving away 250 games, a different game to each of five winners in each of the 50 states.

Select d20 games and d20-inspired games are on-sale for 15-40% off at DriveThruRPG.

Everything Board Games is giving away Campaign Trail from Cosmic Wombat.

For a chance at one of five Cube Quest games, enter Gamewright’s contest on BoardGameGeek.

Mummy Vs Work is giving away Gobblet Gobblers from Paul Lamond Games (UK).

Coupon code “FALL15” gets you 15% off from, plus free shipping for orders over $25.

Leave a comment on Our 3 B’s YouTube video for a chance to win Stinky Pig from Patch Products.

BoardGameGiveaway is giving away Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs X-Men from WizKids.

Crowdfunding Highlights

coinsThe “core part of the team” of Conquistador’s The Best Damn Gaming Coins Ever! campaign are back with a new metal-coins-for-games accessory they’re calling “The Best Damn Gaming Coins Ever! Two”. Included in this campaign are seven new coin sets, plus the original campaign’s thirteen sets: Chinese, Mongol, Perisan, Indian, Anglo-Saxon, and more. Already funded, if they hit the $30k mark, they will have paper (cardstock) bills with “famous women of history”. Also on the campaign page, a suggested pairing of sets and board games: Fresco with the Renaissance coin set? Don’t mind if I do! Five bucks gets you a handful of coins, twenty-five gets you an entire set of 78 coins, and fifty dollars for the deluxe collection of 117 coins.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned Will Hindmarch’s Patreon. Nathan D. Paoletta, Will’s co-host of the Design Games Podcast, also has a Patreon for people that wish to support his ongoing game design process. Nathan has developed indie roleplaying games like Annalise, carry, World Wide Wrestling, and more. “It’s part design journal, part Patron-participation, and part early bird access to all of my published work.” Suggested patronage levels begin at $1 per month.

IGG_Logo_Frame_GOgenta_RGB-display-9e89b0ee4ed6955cbc2ad46bd6e3f906I can’t count the number of times I found out about a crowdfunding campaign too late. Thankfully, IndieGoGo has an interesting feature called InDemand: campaign creators can opt to have a successful campaign extend past the campaign’s end. If you’re like me and miss a campaign’s funding period, you can still jump in on a successful campaign after that campaign has ended. Here’s two playing card decks that have ended but are still offering perks to backers.

carsonHow many male scientists can you name? How many female scientists — besides Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace — can you name? Any? Women in Science is a card game featuring 44 female scientists. Doubling as a standard playing card deck, the game itself features scientists, engineers, and astronauts with mini-biographies. It’s a simple rummy-like game with players creating labs (“melds”). $20 gets you a copy of the game.

EduStack Playing Cards for Math and Astronomy sounds like a very dry title for an extremely dull educational project disguising itself as a game, but no — these playing cards are really nice. There’s a deck about some math concepts for $10, but what really caught my eye was the Star Stack, a deck about constellations for $12. Bump that up to $42, and you get a lovely book with stories about the constellations (and scientific facts), a poster star map of the northern and southern hemisphere, and a sticker featuring the design on the card backs. Shipping to non-India locations is $8.

Toy Fair New York 2016The Toy Industry Association is launching a new event to take place concurrent with New York Toy Fair. Play Fair will open to 25,000 members of the public at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan this coming February. As Toy Fair runs February 13-16, 2016, I’d assume Play Fair will be the 13th and 14th, though no official announcement has yet been made. Ticket prices will be $30.

The idea behind Play Fair is to provide a venue for toy and game companies to directly engage their consumers, as well as to provide an alternative for the children every year denied entry to the business-to-business exclusive Toy Fair.

No doubt the move was also spurred on by the rise of social media, both in terms of tantalizing the public with behind-the-scenes peeks at Toy Fair and the significant impact kid reviewers and consumer-to-consumer networking can have on building buzz.

[via Fortune]

Toy Halls of Fame

A new Toy Halls of Fame exhibit opens this weekend at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. The exhibit combines The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame, which focuses on iconic toys and games, and the Toy Industry Association’s Toy Industry Hall of Fame, which recognizes the people who make them.

As with the other exhibits at the National Museum of Play, the Toy Halls of Fame puts historical and educational information right alongside interactive displays. The 5,000 square-foot space includes installations that allow visitors to:

  • Create, move, and pop, via motion-capture technology, virtual bubbles in a 20-foot bubble tower.
  • Orchestrate a music and light show by playing a Crayon piano.
  • Use cranks, pulleys, and cords to manipulate a kinetic toy sculpture.
  • Aim an air cannon at a massive mobile hanging over the atrium.

Opening festivities Saturday and Sunday include a toy character parade, dance parties, and a Yo-Yo competition.

Chess Game Overhead ViewComputer programs for Chess are already quite adept, playing at a level that exceeds the best human grandmasters.  Currently, though, they work on a brute-force approach, using raw processing power to evaluate all possible subsequent moves. That may change.

Matthew Lai, a graduate student at the Imperial College of London, has developed a Chess engine that, using neural networks, applies pattern recognition techniques to narrow the decision tree. The program, which Lai named Giraffe [PDF], honed its pattern recognition skills by playing against itself for a period of 72 hours and comparing the results of each decision to a database of Chess games.

Now after considering the global state of the game, piece-specific factors, and a map of the spaces threatened and defended, Giraffe is able to predict the best move 46 percent of the time and select a top-three that includes that best move 70 percent of the time, all without looking ahead. This rates Giraffe at about the level of a FIDE International Master.

The beauty of this approach is in its generality. While it was not explored in this project due to time constraint, it is likely that this approach can easily be ported to other zero-sum turn-based board games, and achieve state-of-art performance quickly, especially in games where there has not been decades of intense research into creating a strong AI player.

[via MIT Technology Review]

AI Game Designer

artificial intelligenceWatch out human game designers, your days may be numbered!

An artificial intelligence named Scheherazade, created by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed choose-your-own-adventure games that test nearly equal to those developed by a human.

At this point, human authored interactive narrative still remains the most cost-effective means of generating an interactive narrative experience. However, open interactive narrative shows promise in reducing authorial burden in the near future. Scheherazade-IF and the lessons we learned in creating and evaluating it serve as a first step in creating human-quality interactive narrative with almost no human authoring required.

This was among the conclusions reached after a study [PDF] that had the AI produce interactive fiction for two scenarios, one involving a bank robbery and the other a date to a movie.

In fact, this is not the first time a programmed system has authored a game scenario. What allowed these results to test so well, however, was a crowdsourcing approach adopted by the researchers. Alternate stories for the way each scenario might unfold were collected through the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. From the language of those stories the AI assembled the branching narratives.

[via CNET]

« Previous Page« Previous Entries  Next Entries »Next Page »