Wits & Wagers Epic Geek Edition

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.

Second Look—The Last Spike

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.I’m a big fan of Columbia Games. I love the whole look and feel of their games, and Wizard Kings and Hammer of the Scots  both helped reinvigorate my love of board games in my mid 20’s. My kids are big fans of Slapshot, and it still comes to the table often with them. I have to admit I was a bit hesitant about The Last Spike. While I like train games, this seemed a bit more abstracted, and more focused on money management than anything.

That’s exactly what the game is…and it does a really great job at it. I sat down with my 10-year-old and 5-year-old to play, and I was surprised at the small rulebook and easy gameplay. Everything boils down to how you manage you money, how you purchase cities, and how you keep your opponents from earning more money.


In The Last Spike, you’re all working together to make a continuous railway from  one end of the board to another. You have to pay to lay tile, and buy city cards to earn money when tracks between that city and another is complete. More cards in that city equals more money. There’s also free cards you can get by being the first person to lay track next to a city. The person with the most money at the end of the game wins. It’s a race to make sure you have the most money while quickly completing the rail. You also need to be careful, because completing a segment of track completed may earn you money, but may earn one of the other players more money. Sometimes it’s worth trying for another route that may take longer, cost a bit more, but keep the other players from surpassing you in funds.

It’s a fairly quick game. I played with my two boys in about 45 minutes, my 5-year-old winning the game after stockpiling Saint Louis cards and cashing in huge towards the end of the game. The game keeps the same aesthetic of other Columbia Games with a cardstock board and wooded blocks with stickers for the pieces. It all boxes up in the same bookshelf format Columbia is known for.

This may not be a game for everyone, but it’s certainly a game that it’s audience will enjoy. That being said, it’s a Columbia game that has a broader appeal than their wargame line. The game had a successful Kickstarter campaign, and I’m hoping it spreads out further into the gaming community.

A copy of The Last Spike was provided free for review by Columbia Games.

Spin Master LogoFor its third-quarter financial results just reported, Spin Master Corp. earned revenue of US$386.8 million, an increase of 31.7 percent over the same quarter of 2014. Product lines that were major contributors include Paw Patrol (which the company expects will represent 20 percent of total sales by the end of the year) and Star Wars. Product launches for Meccanoid, Bunchems, Chubby Puppies, and Little Charmers also helped fuel growth, while the company experienced declines in the Zoomer, Digi Bird, Flutterbye Fairy, and How to Train Your Dragon lines.

Spin Master’s “activities, games & puzzles, and fun furniture” segment grew 25.4 percent, with year-to-date sales totaling $131.2 million. Bunchems, Text Cool, Knit Cool, and Marshmallow furniture were the top performers in this category.

Also factoring in to the company’s strong third quarter was a schedule of earlier deliveries. Due to specific efforts to move product earlier this year, as well as the impact of the port strike last year, Spin Master is shipping about 3 weeks ahead. As a result, the company expects fourth-quarter revenue to be slightly lower, though the overall second-half should still be up.

Reflecting expenses from its recent IPO, the company’s net income in Q3 was down 7.3 percent to $51.1 million (52¢ per share).

Spin Master continues to pursue acquisitions and recently closed on the purchase of Cardinal Industries. That pushed the company in to the number 2 position for U.S. market share in games.

One of the company’s hottest products this season, the Air Hogs Millenium Falcon, is tracking to sell out in early December.

Regarding future products, Spin Master has started work toward a relaunch of Bakugan.

Game Bandit - Scouring the net to find the cheapest discount boardgames and best free boardgame prizesSaturday, November 14th is Neighborhood Toy Store Day. Many local shops will be holding special events. Give them your support.

November 21-22 is the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. Here’s a coupon [PDF] for $2 off admission. Or get free admission when wearing ChiTAG officially licensed clothing.

Pathfinder accessories are 50% off direct from Paizo through December 6th.

Syrinscape’s Pathfinder Player Character SoundSet 4-Pack is also 50% off.

Enter Educational Insights’ Gobble Gobble Sweepstakes for a chance to win either of two game bundles (both with a retail value of about $130).

U.K. Online retailer Chaos Cards is giving away, via Facebook, the winner’s choice of either Fury of Dracula or Dead of Winter.

BoardGameGiveaway is giving away Mysterium from Asmodee.

Games with dragons are 15-60% off in Eagle & Gryphon Games’ Dragon Sale.

So Chic Life is giving away a $500 prize pack from Spin Master.

Sign on to the Toy Industry Association’s Pledge to Play and be entered in to a sweepstakes for a prize package of toys worth $250.

The prize in Patch Products’ sweepstakes is $200 worth of Patch games. Entering requires watching and commenting on a short YouTube video about the company’s Chrono Bomb game.

Like The Army Painter on Facebook for a chance to win the company’s Technique Bundle. It’s the company’s eighth anniversary, so it’s giving away eight.

EverythingBoardGames is giving away Snow Tails from Renegade Game Studios.

Get a 25% discount on registration for the Gamification World Congress with coupon code “dopamine”.

Crowdfunding Highlights

This week, no elaborate miniature-filled productions or complex campaign backgrounds, just three games that struck me as different…

Deep Space D-6 is a solitaire worker-placement dice game inspired by choose-your-own-adventure books and early science-fiction RPGs like Star Frontiers. With a minimalist graphic design, the game has its player commanding a spaceship trapped in dangerous territory, fending off attacks, troubleshooting emergencies, and generally trying to survive until help arrives. Gameplay involves rolling the custom dice and allocating them to various crew positions.

Deep Space D-6

Monster Truck Mayham from Dice Hate Me Games is roll-and-move played in real-time. Fast as they can, players roll dice to race their trucks around the modular dirt-track board. Along the way, of course, there are cars to crush, slicks to escape, and buses to jump.

Monster Truck Mayhem

The Great Dinosaur Rush is a game of competitive paleontology, where the players are as much concerned with recognition as scientific integrity. In the dig phase of each round, players collect bones, manipulate museums, and sabotage or even steal from other scientists. In the build phase, players assemble bones in to dinosaur skeletons. Matching recognized species is worth extra points but definitely not required to get ahead.

The Great Dinosaur Rush Skeleton Configuration


Score Board - Boardgame tournaments, competitions and championships results and scoresIt was Yusuke Takanashi of Japan’s fourth time winning the World Othello Championship, which this year took place in Cambridge, U.K. and earned him a $3,000 prize.

The winner of the World Scrabble Championship and a $10,000 prize was 32 year-old Wellington Jighere of Nigeria. To prepare for the event, Jighere had spent the previous 4 months in training full-time. At the tournament, he beat out 450 other players, including perennial favorite Nigel Richards, who only came in eighth.

The top trophy of the World Chess Championship for the Disabled, which took place in Dresden, Germany, went to Alexey Smirnov, representing the Russian chapter of the International Braille Chess Association. Placing 53rd but tops in inspiration was Shailesh Nerlikar of India, who has to play lying down and with the aid of an assistant to make and record his moves.

Viktor Strekalovski vs Shailesh Nerlikar Chess

Feliks Zemdegs scored four Rubik’s Cube world records on his way to the top at Melbourne Cube Days. In one, he beat the previous record (which he held himself) for solving a 5×5 by 0.28 seconds (the new record is 46.97).

A world record-sized Twister mat (27,159.616 ft2—equivalent to 1,200 standard mats) saw play by singer Thomas Rhett and fans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas


World no. 10-ranked Chess player, Wesley So, came in first at the Bilbao Masters, ahead of Viswanathan Anand (no. 3), Liren Ding (no. 8), and Anish Giri (no. 9).

The Trinidad & Tobago National Chess Championship was won by 24 year-old up-and-comer, Kevin Cupid, who has his sights on high-level international tournaments next. The National Women’s Championship was won by Aditi Soondarsingh for the ninth time.

Seven-hundred forty-eight students of California Baptist University playing Bunko set a new world record for most individuals playing the game at a single venue.

Games Workshop has begun taking orders for a Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth board game. Not that the previous namesake board game, published by Fantasy Flight in 2010, was short on plastic figures but this version, direct from GW, is more of a traditional miniatures combat game played on a modular board.

Included in GW’s Horus Heresy are 38 miniatures (a Captain, a Chaplain, a Contemptor Dreadnought, five Legion Terminators, and 30 Legion Space Marines), four double-sided boards, a book of rules and scenarios, command and reference cards, various tokens, and 12 custom dice (taking a lesson, it seems, from FFG).

The game sees two groups of Space Marines (Ultramarines and Word Bearers) duking it out in the restricted space of the caverns under Calth.

Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is priced at $150 and ships November 14th.

Horus Heresy Betrayal at Calth

Twister National Toy Hall of Fame InducteeThe Strong and National Museum of Play have announced the 2015 class of inductees to the National Toy Hall of Fame. Sharing the honor with puppets and the Super Soaker is the game, Twister.

The invention of Twister dates back to 1964 but by 1966 Milton Bradley had already given up and called off further production of the game, which some considered too racy. Then in an appearance on the Tonight Show, Twister was played by Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor. In 1967, it sold more than 3 million copies.

Johnny Carson Eva Gabor Twister

North Star GamesNorth Star Games’ flagship title is getting a new edition, one designed specifically to honor the geeks that helped drive the game’s early success. The company’s Dominic Crapuchettes explained it this way:

The BoardGameGeek community enthusiastically embraced Wits & Wagers from the start, and for this I feel a deep sense of gratitude.  It was because of their fanatical support that Wits & Wagers snowballed into a breakout hit.  It has now won more awards than any party game in history and sold over a million copies!  So we’re celebrating the 10 year anniversary with a version designed specifically for our biggest supporters: Geeks!  This version is the be-all, end-all edition of the game.  It has over-the-top components, stunning art, and unique in-game powers that create a new layer of interactive fun.

I visited North Star Thursday to get the lowdown on this new Wits & Wagers Epic Geek Edition. The game is distinguished from original Wits & Wagers in three ways.

First, Epic Geek comes with an entirely new set of questions, every one of which is focused on a major geek brand or topic—Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Marvel superheros, and more. The idea is that the questions will cover things that are not only geek favorites but also are now well-known enough in the general culture for geeks to be able to share the game with their family and friends.

Second, the player boards, on which individuals or teams write their answers, have received a major upgrade. Epic Geek player boards are both larger (8×5 inches) and decorated with original work from famous geek artists such as Boris Vallejo and John Kovalic. The board art and associated betting tokens have each player representing one of six genres: fantasy, science-fiction, vampires, parody, superheros, or zombies.

Third, the genre each player represents confers a unique thematic power. The superhero player, for example, is able to move another player’s betting token to the correct answer, and in return for helping the downtrodden is awarded a bonus token by the figurative town mayor. The fantasy player has the power of dragon flame. Once per game, they can burn down another player’s wager, removing all their betting chips from the board. The parody player is the “wizard of odds” and can switch any two payout ratios.

Mockup Box for Wits & Wagers Epic Geek Edition

North Star is planning to have the game in time for Gen Con 2016 (actually the company’s 11th anniversary and apparently a reference to This Is Spinal Tap) but in the meantime will be running a Kickstarter project to fund some very cool enhancements. As an exclusive for Kickstarter backers, there will be a series of Epic Geek cards with questions and answers provided by designers, including Alan Moon, James Ernest, Andy Looney, and others—one personal question each and one question about the person’s favorite geek subject. Among the stretch goals planned are:

  • A seventh player board, most likely representing either a cartoon or monster genre.
  • Specialized question packs—seven cards, each with two questions about science, music, or extra geeky topics like Firefly or Dr. Who. (These’ll be grouped in to “Super Geeky” and “Ludicrously Geeky” packs.)
  • A collection of cards with every question from every edition, plus a larger box so all of it can be stored together.
  • Miniatures (a dragon, a vampire, a zombie, etc.) to help ID the genre being represented by each player.

North Star Games’ goal with the Wits & Wagers Epic Geek Edition Kickstarter project is to raise $100,000. The project is scheduled to launch this Sunday, the 8th Wednesday, the 11th. However, North Star is also soliciting fan input regarding genres, topics, and potential questions via a GeekList on BoardGameGeek. There are even cash prizes for participating.

North Star Games is a Purple Pawn advertiser.

UPDATE: Revised launch date for the Kickstarter project.

Kickstarter Preview—Boogie Dice

This preview is a long time coming, mostly because the package containing the prototype die had gotten lost in the mail! I finally received the die, in perfect condition thankfully, thanks to some helpful contractors working at the house it was actually delivered to!

The die is really cool. It doesn’t just roll by itself. It lights up, and can be programmed for different games by using generated tones. The game that came with my die, Bots Battleground, uses the die in a pretty cool way. The die dictates how a round plays out by using color, and timing it’s own rolls. The game not only relies on how well you play your cards, but your careful monitoring of the die and your timing.

I have to admit that if this was just a self rolling die I wouldn’t be too impressed. The ability of the die to change color, and be programmable, put into the “very cool” category.

As of this post the Kickstarter project has 7 days to go, but it fully funded. Put in your pledge, and you’ll be guaranteed some dice depeding on your pledge level. $22 will make sure you get a die, charger, and all of the stretch goals.

I can’t wait to see the finished product, and what kind of games are made to take advantage of the dice.

A prototype Boogie Die, along with a copy of Battle Bots, were provided free for preview by Saar Shai.

Hasbro Gaming LabHasbro Gaming Lab has selected the five finalists in its search for the next big face-to-face party game. More than 500 entries were submitted to the competition launched in August and the chosen games, now soliciting funds on Indiegogo, are:

Warning! Signs—Which has players coming up with funny explanations for difficult-to-interpret pictographs.

Irresponsibility: The Mr. Toast Card Game—In which players get points by playing cards that allow Mr. Toast to have fun but lose points when others play cards that burden Mr. Toast with typical life responsibilities.

Hexes!!—An action game for adults. That means for example, play a particular card on someone and force them to sing everything they want to say or be out of the game.

Sunk!—Which combines an action game with a physics/dexterity thing. Players on their turns pour drops of water in to a floating cup and hope it doesn’t sink.

Touchy Feely—Also an action game but played in the dark. Cards with action challenges (like standing on one’s head) are passed around while the lights are still on. Then someone flips the switch and everyone has to complete their actions in a way they’ll be able to prove when the lights come back.

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