Jack the Ripper

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.


Gen Con 2016—Mr. B Games

Gen Con 2016 logoOn the subject of Liar’s Dice, Mr. B Games has secured a license to republish the original. Expect it in time for the holiday season at a retail price of $30.

Available now from the company is Prospectus ($60), a game about apprentice mages trading in potion ingredients—owl tears, troll sweat, frog juice, pixie dust, and goblin wizz. The prices of these ingredients vary by the results of a crystal ball-like device, in which cubes representing the ingredients may get stuck from round to round. Players, though, can also manipulate the market prices by casting spells.

Mr. B next is shipping Warquest ($120, September), an epic fantasy game with 100 plus miniatures that’s supposed to play in 2-2½ hours. Warquest has both war game and adventure game elements with conquering territory and completing quests both legitimate strategies to victory. Mr. B confirmed to this old-timer that the game drew some inspiration from the 1979 TSR game, Divine Right. Unique adventure locations and characters are interspersed among the larger territories around the map board.

Gen Con 2016—Gigamic

Gen Con 2016 logoA Gigamic presence at Gen Con was part of the French company’s effort to expand its presence in the U.S. market. Perhaps best known for abstract titles like Quoridor, the company also focuses on light family games, three of which it was highlighting at its first-time booth. All are available now.

Tutti Frutti ($12) is a fast-play matching game played with double-sided tokens. Each player holds a stack of tokens in hand and tries as fast as possible to match tokens on either end side-to-side with the same pictures. When all the tokens are claimed, whoever has the most is the winner.

Also a fast-play game, Panic Lab ($12) is about tracking down escaped amoebas. Cards representing laboratory features and unique amoebas—each with a distinct combination of characteristics—are placed on the table in a circle [the accompanying photo, instead of cards, shows a play mat used for demo purposes]. Then the dice are rolled and players try to be the first to point to the correct amoeba as represented by the dice. The extra-tricky part is that to figure out the correct amoeba, they have to follow a path around the circle, which as it gets to certain of those laboratory cards will modify the features they’re looking for or the direction in which they’re supposed to look.

Gloobz ($20) has players trying to be the first to grab the toy that represents either the color or shape shown the greatest or least number of times on a card. Which, greatest or least, is just whichever the players choose before flipping over the card.

Game Blotter - A roundup of crimes, legal cases, and when "the law" gets involved with gamesAfter a 51 year-old Welshpool, U.K. man was accused by his sister of stealing pieces from her Frustration board game, he followed her back to her home and pushed her against the wall. Then when confronted about the incident by his nephew, he punched him in the face. A local magistrate fined the man £635 and issued a restraining order.

Two people were arrested on drug smuggling charges in Northern Ireland after trying to pick up a children’s board game shipped via UPS from Canada that was stuffed with marijuana. Police say evidence leads them to suspect there were other such packages. They did not, however, name the game.

A group of four was photographed playing Mahjong around a table they set up in an MTR train in Hong Kong. However, by the time staff went to investigate, the game was gone.

Swiss Chess player, Yannick Pelletier, was initially refused a visa to attend the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan because of earlier travel to Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenia. After signing a letter stating that the visit was a mistake and promising not to go back, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs relented and granted him that visa.

House-banked gambling on card games is illegal in California, except at tribal casinos. More than 70 non-tribal card rooms continue in business, though, operating under a 2007 letter from the former chief of the Bureau of Gambling Control, Robert Lytle, which declared that as long as the role of dealer was offered to to the whole table every second hand, the game would not be considered illegal even if all the players declined. (When everyone declines, as they usually do, the role of bank is given to a licensed and contracted dealer-of-last-resort. And in any case, the host card room makes money by charging a fee for each hand played.) Lytle left the Bureau, however, shortly after issuing that letter and went to work as a card room consultant. And just recently he settled a complaint that he illegally received information from inside the Bureau on an investigation involving one of his clients. So now, nearly 10 years later, the Bureau is rescinding his letter but has determined that it is OK for the card rooms to reopen the bank position only every 60 minutes, under the condition that if someone new doesn’t assume the role of dealer, the game takes a break for 2 minutes. Card room operators are concerned about what this break will do to their profitability. Tribal casino operators claim that one person acting as dealer for 60 minutes does not meet the statutory requirement that the position be “continuously and systematically rotated amongst each of the participants during the play of the game.”

Similar issues continue to be debated in Florida, where an administrative law judge found that a Jacksonville poker room’s contract with a specific player to act as bank effectively results in a house-banked game.

The former chairman of the Irish Chess Union (ICU) is suing the organization for defamation. At issue is an ICU blog post commenting on his job as an arbiter at a Chess tournament.

An Information Technology Agreement negotiated by members of the World Trade Organization eliminates tariffs on electronic products, including video games and games “operated by coins, banknotes, bank cards, token, or by any other means of payment.”

Steven Russell, CEO of Rite Publishing, was killed in an automobile accident.

In a concurrence on a case involving the regulation of mobile billboards, federal circuit court judge John Owens explained his problem with the controlling Supreme Court precedent by referencing a Monopoly board. He took issue with the fact that while a Los Angeles city ordinance prohibits mobile billboards, cars with equally ugly decals would not “go to jail” but would rather “treat my curb like the upper left corner of a Monopoly board” (a reference, I believe, to the Free Parking space).

New Jersey state Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli introduced legislation that would require school districts to offer varsity letters for all competitive extracurricular activities, such as participating on Chess teams, not just for sports.

Seven people were arrested on gun and drug charges after neighbors complained about a street dice game in Flint, Michigan. Patrolling detectives found “validated gang members” playing a street dice game in Richmond, California. They stopped, broke up the game, and ended up arresting one on gun, drug, and probation violation charges. Police arrested three for illegal gambling after breaking up a dice game in Monroe, Ohio.

Shooting broke out at a dice game in Dallas. Two people were wounded. Both are expected to recover. No arrests were made.

Two men in Washington, D.C. were shot (one of them died) when another two attempted to rob the formers’ street dice game at gunpoint. The assailants have both been arrested and are being charged with first-degree felony murder.

A former Director of Transportation for Toys “R” Us has pleaded guilty to embezzling $1.9 million from the company.

Gen Con 2016 logoIello’s latest is Sea of Clouds ($30, now), a set collecting card game in which the players are sky pirates gathering treasures, artifacts, and rum. They can also pick up pirate cards, which help them in combat against their neighbors. To collect the cards, players go through a type of draft, each on their turn looking at a stack and then deciding whether to keep it or add another card at random from the draw pile and move on to the next.

Shipping to retail later this month are Schotten Totten ($15) and Oceanos ($40). The former is a reprint of a well-known Reiner Knizia title (also published as Battle Line) but is new to Iello. The latter was designed by Antoine Bauza and has players collecting animals and treasures from the ocean in submarines that they can upgrade with better propellers, periscopes, fish tanks, and other features.

Looking further out, Iello has planned for September Aladdin & the Magic Lamp ($25), the next in its Tales & Games series. Game-play for this 20 minute, 2-5 player title incorporates set collection and secret action selection.

October will see release of Around the World in 80 Days in a beautiful gilt slip-case. I didn’t catch much about game-play, other than it’s for 2-6 players and takes about 45 minutes.

Then in November, Iello delivers The Mysterious Forest, a cooperative memory game based on the Wormworld Saga web comic.

And sometime later comes Farm Friends, an expansion for Happy Pigs with blocky cows, sheep, and chickens; Bunny Kingdom, a card drafting, area control game by Richard Garfield; and a Cthulhu Monster Pack for King of Tokyo.

Gen Con 2016 logoDid Gen Con Indy seem even more crowded this year? That’s because of the turnstile attendance, which measures the number of people attending the show each day. The 2015 show had 197,605 admissions throughout the show; this year the numbers increased about 2.5% to 201,852. However, the unique attendance numbers were slightly down — instead of 61,423 people attending last year, Gen Con 2016 had 604 fewer people attend. Of the 60,819 attendees, a slightly larger percentage of them purchased full 4-Day passes than in the previous year.

Leonard Hoops — the head of Visit Indy, the city of Indianapolis’ tourism board — said that the gaming convention “drives more than $67 million in annual economic activity” to the city, with past conventions bringing in “more than $50 million” in 2014 and $47 million in 2013. This year, he estimated the impact of the convention at $71 million.

While still a large number, with the return of the Future Farmers of America’s convention to Indianapolis in October, Gen Con won’t be the largest show in town. “Indiana is ready and committed to support this event and welcome with open arms the 64,000 FFA members who will come to our capital city each of the next nine years,” said Governor Mike Pence. However, Mayor Greg Ballard stated that the National FFA convention has an “estimated $36 million in annual economic activity” for the city, about half of Gen Con’s.

Gen Con has a contract with the the convention center through 2020. The 50th Gen Con convention will be held in Indianapolis, August 17-20, 2017.

Second Look—Hanna Honeybee

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Hanna Honeybee is part of HABA’s My Very First Games line, a line aimed at kids 2+ years old. Having a 2-year-old in the house,  I jumped at the opportunity to give the game a try. The game is very simple, with colorful components and a great little gimmick that had my little guy squealing with delight.

Let’s start with that. Hanna Honeybee’s box is also an important part of the game. There’s a cardboard insert that fits into the box with a slot on the top and a ramp on the bottom. In each game flower tiles are inserted in the top slot and flipped over to their honey side before being sent out the bottom. Every time we play my son exclaims “Honey!” whenever a tile comes sliding out. Laughter follows for a while and we can continue play.

There’s two ways to play Hanna Honeybee. The first involves rolling a die and moving the wooden Hanna token over to a flower of that color. Then the tile is inserted into the box and the honey that comes out is placed in the honey pot. Players work together to fill the honey pot with 6 honey tiles. Be careful, though! If you roll a wilted flower then one of the flowers is removed from the game. The goal here is color recognition, taking turns, and following mutli-step directions.

302199_4c_f_mes_hanni_honigbiene_usa_01The second way to play adds a little memory into the game. All the flower tiles are flipped to the honey side, and the players must try and find the color flower that they rolled. Didn’t find the right color? That’s OK! You can take another turn if you can successfully name the color of the flower you did turn over. Once you find the right color Hanna can take the flower, turn it into honey, and place it in the honey pot. Once again, 6 honey tiles in the honey pot wins the game, and a wilted flower roll removes a tile.

Like I said before, the games are very simple. However, they’re great for a 2-year-old. My toddler asks to play all the time, and always multiple times in a row. He loves moving Hanna to the flowers, and loves placing them in the hive to be flipped even more.

You can snag Hanna Honeybee for $27.99 from HABA’s site. I highly recommend you do if you’ve got children in the age range. I know we’re happy with the game, and will be gifting copies to family members this holiday season.

A copy of Hanna Honeybee was provided free for review by HABA.

 

Second Look—Mystic Vale

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.Mystic Vale, a game I’ve been eagerly awaiting since I first saw the initial thoughts on the system during Toy Fair 2015, is AEG’s new deck building game. The gimmick here? AEG’s Card Crafting System. Instead of buying cards each turn, you’re buying advancements that can be sleeved into your base cards. Through various card combinations you’ll get more mana to spend, icons to purchase Vale Cards that give you even more power, and victory points. VP can either be active, earned every time the card is drawn,  or inactive, awarded at the end of the game. The game ends when the VP pool is emptied, then all VP are calculated. Highest VP wins the game. The video below lays out everything fairly well:

How does it play? I’ve played with my kids, and we all really enjoyed it. My 6-year-old really took to the game well, and pulled a win during our first game! The push-your-luck element initially seemed to be a pain, but with clever card crafting really comes into it’s own and can be a powerful tool to getting many cards out on the table. The card crafting system has some cool combos that can be made, and feels like it can really be expanded on in the future.

My only real complaints are that the game takes a bit to ramp up. Initial turns seem a bit slow and unproductive only to have the pace of the game rapidly increase for a shorter endgame once you’ve crafted some powerful cards. There’s also no real player interaction. It’s very much a solo game of trying to ramp up and empty the VP pool.

Mystic Vale is a fun deck builder, and the card crafting mechanic is pretty cool. Ramp up is a bit slow, but that’s something that could probably be fixed by seeding some already crafted cards into the base decks. I highly recommend playing it first before purchase, if possible. It may not be for everyone, but I can tell it’s a game that’ll get a lot of play in my house.

A copy of Mystic Vale was provided free for review by AEG.

The 2016 Diana Jones Award

cropped-eric-bio-picIndustry professionals consider the Diana Jones Award to be the unofficial kickoff of Gen Con.

Held the night before the game convention opens, the award was presented to Eric M. Lang, the designer of many, many board games including Chaos in the Old World (nominated for the 2010 Diana Jones Award); several living card games for Fantasy Flight Games; and XCOM, the first boardgame that integrated an app for smartphones, tablets, and computers to play against the people at the table (and one of this writer’s favorite boardgames).

The other nominees for this year’s award were:

ConTessa, a gaming organization whose goal is to increase the number of women playing, running, and creating roleplaying games. The organization runs gaming events online and in person, including seminar for women in gaming. Gen Con 2015 saw the first track of ConTessa events run within the convention, “innovatingly creating a con inside a con”.

Fall of Magic, a storytelling game created by Ross Cowman, is printed on a five-foot-long cloth scroll that is unrolled and revealed during play. This artifact as game has a tactile component that brings the players together as they travel in a fantasy world to the birthplace of magic to discover why it is dying.

Larpwriter Summer School, a week-long course about LARP design. The course, began in 2012, is “packed with lectures on design and theory, design exercises, educational games, and playing larps.” The Larpwriter Summer School is part of a larger cooperation project between organizations based in Norway and Belarus.

Pandemic Legacy, a boardgame by Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock, is the game Pandemic, but where actions in previous games have effects in future plays of the game. The Diana Jones committee says “a Pandemic Legacy campaign is an experience unlike anything else in gaming, and the waves it has created are felt across this and many other areas of interactive entertainment.”

Diana Jones Award

The award, named for the still-readable part of the burnt Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game logo encased in the lucite pyramid, was originally awarded to Peter Adkinson in 2001. The Diana Jones Award trophy is returned each year to the DJA Committee for the next award ceremony. This is the sixteenth year for the award ceremony.

The trophy itself is a lucite pyramid mounted on a wooden base, created to “commemorate the expiration of [TSR UK’s] licence to publish the Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game and the subsequent destruction of all unsold copies of the game.” Within the pyramid are burnt pieces of the last copy of TSR UK’s Indiana Jones RPG logo and game elements, including the infamous Nazi™ cardboard tokens. The DJA site claims the award was liberated from the TSR Hobbies office by “forces unnamed” before winding up in the hands of the Diana Jones Award Committee.

Second Look—Aurora

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.“Who are we? Where are We from?”

I first saw Aurora at CT FIG 2016 while playing Elements at the Rampage Games booth. Not having time to play that day, Rampage sent me a copy of my own to checkout. I finally had a chance to sit down and play with my kids, and was surprised what a competent little set collection game it is.

Aurora is a game about creating star systems that can support sentient life. It was a submission to The Game Crafter’s Learning Game Challenge, and made it to the finals.

Each round you’re creating or expanding star systems trying to meet all the requirements for intelligence. Every card in your star system also provides a certain amount of either Water, Carbon, or Oxygen. Building your levels of these resources earn you bonuses throughout the game. There’s also event cards that can be played to help yourself or hinder other players. Once a round is over you can save up to three cards, pass the rest to the player on the left, then draw up to 6 cards for a max hand size of 8. Play continues until either one person develops intelligence, has life in three star systems, or maxes out their resource tracks. It plays in about 30 minutes, and the kids and I had a blast while playing.

A546EA2A-DE5C-11E5-99B2-01E05D26D2FFThere are a few pitfalls, though. The rules aren’t as clear as they could be, and make the game seem a bit more complicated than it really is. Also, the colors on some of the components, especially the reference guide and rule book, blend a bit and make the text hard to read in some areas. Overall these aren’t really deal breakers, but are items that can be fixed to make Aurora a much more solid package.

Aurora packs a lot of game into a deck of cards. Between the multiple paths to victory and drafting mechanics, it provides a good amount of depth is a short period of time. It’s also easy enough to play with kids. My 6-year-old was able to grasp the game well enough to play on his own after a few rounds, and my 9-year-old pulled out a surprise victory by developing intelligence on our first play of the game.

A copy of Aurora was provided free for review by Rampage Games.

Game Bandit

Game Bandit - Scouring the net to find the cheapest discount boardgames and best free boardgame prizesTOR is giving away a Pathfinder Tales novel, Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner.

With every episode, Man vs. Meeple gives away a copy the game they reviewed. The latest is Vast from Leder Games.

Retweet by August 7th for a chance to win Grimtina’s Guard, a Tunnels & Trolls adventure from MetaArcade.

Steve Jackson Games is giving away a bunch of stuff over the next week, some at Gen Con but much of it via social media.

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