This category includes posts about games that don't fit into the other categories - such as about alternate reality games - as well as general game discussion and related news, such as TV shows and books.


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.

Second Look - Boardgame reviews in depth. Check out that cat.“Thomas, would you like to review Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition?” they asked. Would I? I mean, I’ve never played Vampire before. I’ve heard things about it, sure, but played this game that’s been around for over 25 years, a game that changed rpgs, bringing in a new wave of gamers to the hobby? I haven’t. Friends have played it. I’ve seen Kindred: the Embraced. I’ve attempted to play the Jyhad CCG. I’ve thumbed though a few titles in the line over the years such as Hunter: the Vigil, Changeling: the Lost, and Wraith: the Oblivion. I’ve heard of years and years of world building, metaplot, and lore so thick White Wolf killed the line at least once to make it easier for new players to join in.

So yeah, let’s take this new edition from the position of a completely new player to the World of Darkness. I don’t have many assumptions about the setting or the game apart from you probably start a campaign with a scene as you, a mortal, before becoming a vampire; there are vampires from different bloodlines secretly running things; and there’s an official LARP that is simultaneously awesome and universally hated with a passion that burns like the sun.

I’m also eternally unclear about the differences between White Wolf, CCP Games, Paradox, and Onyx Path, but that’s something else. (This version is created by White Wolf, has graphic design by Free League, and is distributed by Modiphius. Disclaimer: Modiphus is a graphic design/layout client of mine.)

So. What does Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition (V5) look like to a first-time player?

Thick. There book is 406 pages long. Do I have to read all of that to play? Open book, Thomas. Dive in.

The art style of the book is centered around the use of digitally-manipulated photographs, which is… interesting. There are stock photo resources used here and original photographic assets, which is a technique I’ve seen (and used – I do layout and graphic design for other RPGs) in other horror role-playing games set in urban settings during contemporary times. (Chill and Unknown Armies are two I’ve worked on that use this technique, so to me, it doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary.) The layout is easy to read with a two- or three-column layout per page with plenty of whitespace and room for the copy to breathe. It’s light and open and suddenly those 400+ pages don’t seem like much of a threat.

We open with twenty-eight pages of in-world fiction presented as a collection of papers, screenshots on phones, and the like, collaged as if the reader is going through a stack of papers on someone’s desk. It’s very… clean? I recall in earlier editions of World of Darkness games, the front chapters were filled with hard-to-read in-world fiction, scribbles on notebook paper. Here, this serves to be an introduction to what vampires are in the game, that there’s a “masquerade violation” that’s got to be dealt with violently, and what clans are.

Oh, an early example of play before concepts are introduced. This is done rather well. It’s one of the best example of plays I’ve seen. A concept is introduced with a page reference to later in the book. We’re not just reading from a script like so many other games’ examples of play – we have a bit with dialogue, a summary of what’s going on, some decision points our game’s Storyteller is doing, a look at some of the mechanics, and a definite feel of how the game designers believe Vampire is to be run. Here’s a thing: players are adding world-building elements.

Onward: lots of quick overviews of clans and larger groups/movements. Rules seem simple: stat + skill to get a dice pool of ten-sided dice, 6s or higher are successes. Pairs of 10s are even bigger successes: 10s alone aren’t awesome, buckets of them are. You’re rolling against a target number; if you fail you don’t do the thing unless you want to, as long as something bad happens. Perhaps you took damage. Perhaps you were caught on a CCTV camera. Perhaps you didn’t notice you dropped your cellphone right there.

Combat in roleplaying games can take a long time to slog through. Vampire “strongly recommends” that you take no more than three turns to resolve an ongoing conflict. “Too much dice rolling slows down the drama and becomes harder and harder to describe creatively.” There’s an emphasis on getting more story in a game of Vampire than a second-by-second recording of blows and the whittling down of health stats. (Besides, there are plenty of other games for that.)

One third of the way through and it doesn’t feel like the size of the book is imposing. Continue through character creation and we see we’re using relationship maps, so yes, more emphasis on all the players helping to create the world you’re playing in. You should create your characters together, because that’s group play. First, create yourself as a human.

“And then, some monster kills you.”

That sentence is written in red with a lot of space above it and a lot of space below it. Yes, the game earlier did state that you’re not playing good guys in this game, but here, some monster kills you and now you’re going to play a monster.

Halfway through the book and we’re looking at life as a vampire and all the horrible things you must deal with: hunger, power, and your own humanity. A slew of optional rules come in (just in case you do want a blow-by-blow health attrition fight), and then we’re at Cities. Here’s how cities work. Here’s how domains work. Here’s several hunting grounds you might find. Here’s how to make your city into a city run by vampires.

We’re very close to the end of the book. There’s a whole section of Storyteller advice on how to run a game of Vampire. There’s a sample chronicle (campaign setting/storyline). A packet of opponents that might be thrown against your coterie of vampires. And we’re out.

All that lore, all that heavy weight of the past twenty-seven years of canon and metaplot? It’s not here. Just the basics of being vampires. Not a whiff of Werewolves, Hunters, Changelings, Mages, Mummys, or Wraiths. It feels like I, someone who knows nothing about the history of this game, could jump in and start playing a game where we’re all vampires.

So. For a gamer who hasn’t played Vampire, this looks… rather easy to get into.

A pre-release pdf copy of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition was provided free for review by White Wolf.

 

 

 

Puzzling Pixel Games have currently funded for their debut game The Abandons. Created by Michael Blascoe this solo game centers around a voice inside your head, calling you to go, to the abandons. In The Abandons, you start at the entrance to the abandoned, yet living labyrinth and hope to make it to the final card, the exit, by drawing a card each turn and navigating your way to the end, the exit. Along the way, you may encounter surprises or items to help you. What will you find there? Will you find peace and silence the voices inside your head? or will you spend your last days trapped? The game is $13 and is scheduled to ship May 2018. Soloists can check it out here.

Next up, as if it was raised from the bottom of the murky water from years of slumber is a reprint of Dragon Dice – Swamp Stalkers. Dragon Dice is a collectible dice game for 2 or more players. Originally made famous in 1995 by TSR, Dragon Dice has continued to expand and evolve under the reign of SFR inc. Players use colorful dice to represent armies of different fantasy races which battle to control essential terrain in this fast-rolling game. The first player to capture two terrains immediately wins the game. A total of 40 dice, two playmats and a copy of the 2-player starter set is $35. So begin your adventure. Shipping is scheduled for August 2019.

For the wargamer, I wanted to showcase this game I ran across. Glory Recalled: Hong Kong 1941 is a board wargame based on the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. This is a unique choice for a military game for sure. Created by David Cheng. In his Kickstarter bio, David says “we can do something to recall people’s attention to this precious history and commemorate the forgotten heroes who sacrificed their lives for Hong Kong.” The game uses a semi card-driven system. Players take turns to play cards from their hands to activate a formation of units on the map. Cards may also be used to provide combat support like artillery and air support or for rallying disrupted units. There are also historical and what-if event cards which add replay value to the game. The game will run you approximately $41 The campaign ends August 14th with a shipping date of December 2018. Your defense starts here.

And last but not least, it’s Trogdor!! The Board Game. Now full disclosure I am a massive fan of Homestar Runner, the online webcomic the character Trogdor comes from. To give you a little history, Trogdor was a man, he was a, a dragon man! For centuries, the legendary wingaling dragon Trogdor the Burninator has terrorized the peasant kingdom of Peasantry with his scorching flames and greased-up beefy arm. Now, he has descended from the mountains once again and will not stop until he burninates the entire countryside and all those unfortunate enough to get in his way! Your goal is to burn everything in Trogdors path. Some people shockingly are not good with this in the village and will be trying to stop you (BOOOO!) This co-op game is very true to the spirit of the character and has rocketed past it’s stretch goal of $75,000 (at the time of this article it has raised 10 times that amount). $40 gets you the version with wooden minis and $60 gets you the wooden mins + plastic minis. What are you waiting for? get Burninating!

August will see the retail release of the Lego Ninjago Stormbringer set, a robot dragon programmable with Lego’s Boost system. Suggested retail price is just $40.

Boost is an icon-based programming system designed for builders as young as seven. Programming takes place entirely in a mobile app environment.

Stormbringer can walk, move its head, roar, and shoot bolts from its mouth.

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Toy Fair 2018—Playmonster

Party games were the focus at Playmonster this year, along with some cute spin-offs of earlier kids games.

Relative Insanity ($25 retail, available now) is a party game written by comedian Jeff Foxworthy. It applies the now-familiar structure of one-player-the-judge and applies it to joke writing with 100 Setup cards and 400 Punch Line cards.

In Dictitious ($25, now) everyone votes on player-submitted definitions for fake words.

Utter Nonsense ($25, now), available in Family and Naughty editions, is a game of accents and special voices in the one-player-the-judge, party-game category. These were previously independently published and Target exclusives but were recently acquired by Playmonster [interesting, considering the company also sells Accentuate].

Chrono Bomb! Night Vision ($30, fall) takes the company’s previously released spy-themed activity game of dodging laser security systems (actually strings tied to timers) and adds UV goggles so kids can play in the dark.

Pass the Pup is a combination of hot-potato and action game. Press the dog’s paw to start the music. Whomever is holding the pup when the music stops must do what it says on the next action card.

Already in-print but now getting a refresh is Don’t Rock the Boat ($22, now), a balancing challenge with pirate penguins. In this new version, the individual penguin figures will represent distinct characters and have different weights.

As a follow-up to the absolutely fantastic Yeti in My Spaghetti, this year Playmonster has Yeti, Set, Go! ($22, summer). Each player gets a yeti and by bopping them on the head, kicks meatballs up the mountain. Points are totaled depending on where the meatballs land. Though not a licensed product, expect some cross-promotion with the movie, Smallfoot, scheduled for September.

And finally, not games but still very cool, Playmonster is adding two more machines to the Marbleocity line, Chaos Mountain and Archimedes Screw ($25 each, spring). They can be hand-cranked or motorized and linked to other elements of the series.

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Toy Fair 2018—Star Wars Toys

Here are a few pictures of Star Wars toys from New York Toy Fair. Not games but I thought you might enjoy them nonetheless, including the Lego Kessel Run Millenium Falcon ($170, April), Hasbro’s Furreal Friends Chewbacca, and the 4 foot long Jabba’s Sail Barge available via HasLab crowdfunding. [Click for even larger images.]

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Following up on its recent launch of the adjustable Beyblade Burst Switchstrike line, Hasbro revealed at New York Toy Fair this week remote control Beys, a multilevel stadium, and the most powerful launcher yet, all to be released in the fall.

Beyblade Burst Digital Control Kits feature Bluetooth-connected tops that allow players to speed-boost their Beyblades mid-battle, switch spin-direction left or right, and initiate an Avatar Attack accompanied by flashing lights. Included in each kit are a Command Launcher, a Battle Platform, and one remote control Beyblade Burst Top (either Valtryek V3 or Fafnir F3) for $40.

The Beyblade Burst Evolution Switchstrike Battle Tower is a two-level battle stadium for two players on one side and a two-level stadium for four players flipped to the other side. For $50 retail, the tower comes with two tops and two launchers.

And for a 50 percent improvement in launch speeds, there’s the Beyblade Burst Xcalius Sword Launcher. It’s part of the Beyblade Burst Evolution Xcalius Set ($20), as is a right-spin Xcalius X3.

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Today marks 10 years since Yehuda Berlinger posted the first article on Purple Pawn, a brief story about board games mentioned in the Sally Forth comic strip. I hope in that time that you’ve felt informed and entertained. We’ve tried our best to make a positive contribution. With 8,370 articles published so far!

Purple Pawn presents a unique voice in the game field, covering all types of tabletop games—board games, card games, collectibles, roleplaying games, war games, miniatures, and more. Games with modern movie tie-ins and traditional games played by generations. Games for the dedicated hobbyist, as well as the casual gamer.

Of course we report news of product releases but we also work hard to document the business side of the game industry, provide tips to the game consumer, and highlight the significant role that games play in culture and society.

Purple Pawn would not exist if not for the vision and guidance of its founder, Yehuda Berlinger. Thank you, Yehuda, for letting me keep it going when you decided to move on to other game-related endeavors!

Thank you also to our various contributors over the years: Ben Clark, Thomas Deeny, K.C. Lee, Lory Gilpatric, Phil Kilcrease, Randy Snyder, Richard Bliss, Josh Street, Rob Kalajian, Sam Mercer, and Tracy Tang! In the early days it was Yehuda as the snarky commentator, Josh as the fanboy, and me as the straight-man. Ben provided an amazing inside look at the business side of games with the Paper Money podcast. Sam gave us some cool graphics. Rob—who, other than Yehuda and I, was with Purple Pawn the longest—was of tremendous support to me personally, did a wonderful job of covering the independent publishers, and also solved many technical problems behind the scenes. Thomas, who is still with Purple Pawn, has an amazing knack for identifying the hot trends and controversies.

And of course, thank you to our readers!

Large-Group Escape Room To-Go

Clue Chase, which operates several escape rooms in Midtown Manhattan, is launching Escape-To-Go, a live puzzle activity that can be played at the customer’s location. For Contagion, the first story-line offered, actors provide guidance to individual teams as they work to solve puzzles that represent finding and disabling devices armed with deadly pathogens.

Clue Chase says its Escape-To-Go service can support groups of to 500 people split into teams across multiple tables. Each team is given a central item, such as “specially rigged devices [or] briefcases with hidden compartments”, and a variety of puzzles. The event is timed to last 70 minutes.

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Pitch Your Game to Target

Game and toy inventors hoping to see their design on the shelves of a major retailer have a unique opportunity over the next month with Target. The company has launched what it’s calling the Target Open Innovation Project and is taking applications for direct meetings at New York Toy Fair in February.

We want early access to inventors and companies with fresh ideas and in exchange, will offer the opportunity to pitch your idea to a panel of Target Toy buyers and get feedback from experts in Mass Retail. We intend for these meetings to produce a meaningful pipeline of innovation for our Toy Assortment.

Initial applications are due January 17th and require information on the product’s target audience and how it differs from current products. Also asked is whether the inventor has performed any market studies, patent searches, or cost analysis.

Target is looking for products in the following categories: games, dolls, activity sets, pre-school toys, and imaginative play.

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