Mole Rats in Space



Toy Fair 2017—ThinkFun

At Toy Fair, ThinkFun’s booth was full of puzzles and a few games. We saw the next entry in their Escape the Room line: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat (available now, $22). Containing four packed envelopes of props, puzzles, and clues, the new case has a higher age range. “Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor was big hit for us,” explained Kacey Templin, “but we had a lot of feedback to make the next one a bit more difficult, a bit more adult.” Thus, the recommended age moved slightly forward from 10 to 13 and up.

Color Cube Sudoku (March, $20) replicates a 6×6 Sudoku puzzle with nine colored cubes. Orient, spin, and swap cubes to solve a Sudoku puzzle using colors instead of numbers.

But I thought the coolest thing there was Spin-A-Roo (in stores in March, $20), a number counting game for the preschooler to second grade set. On your player mat, you have four numbers. You race to grab numbered discs off of the central spin-a-roo piece, either one up or down from the numbers you currently are showing. One neat thing about the game is the spinning element on the central unit: just spin it once and the board is repopulated with tiles — it’s actually fun to set up the next round!

RollerCoaster Challenge (summer, $22) is designed by the person that created Gravity Maze. In this, you’re taking several roller coaster elements, and buildling out tracks. You can try one of the forty challenge cards that come with the game, or — as I suspect I’d do — just use it to build your own coaster set. Currently on Kickstarter — ThinkFun’s first foray using the crowdsourcing platform — backers can receive an exclusive ThinkFun-colored blue car.

Toy Fair 2017—B&B Games

B&B Games had a few items on display at Toy Fair this year, including their recently-Kickstarted miniatures battle game, Destiny Aurora: Renegades. Listed at $80, the core set, containing 24 miniatures, will be available in April. The game has two distinct battlegrounds: while your away team is performing a mission on the ground, your ships participate in dogfights. Set up as a story-driven campaign based off of a book series, the game offers several add-ons and upgrades.

Just released the weekend of Toy Fair, Betabotz ($30) pits robot against robot. Players get a basic bot and bid for upgrades. Team up or hinder others on missions in this card-driven game.

 

On June 1st Three Kingdoms Redux will be available for an MSRP of $59.99 from Capstone Games. The game recreates the historic struggles between the Wei, Wu, and Shu states in the Three Kingdoms period in China’s history. The game is for 3 players only, each taking control of one of the three lords. Each side is asymmetrical and players will have to use their own advantages to run their states and protect their borders while trying to unify China.

Three Kingdoms Redux is for 3 players ages 14+ and is estimated to play in around 2 hours.

Play Library, which started with a popup in the Globe Gallery, Cincinnati, opened last week at a permanent location in Over-the-Rhine. Games can be played on-site for free or they can be checked out and taken home with a paid membership. The cost depends on the number of games a member wishes to check out at the same time. Play Library is also seeking sponsors for low-income memberships.

After hosting a series of Magic: The Gathering tournaments in a local coffee shop, Dice City Games wants to open an all-around geeky shop in Wheaton, Maryland. [Hey, that’s just up the street from my house!] The proprietors are seeking support via Indiegogo and have already built up some inventory tabletop games, videos, video games, vinyl albums, and pop-culture doodads.

Kingmakers of Columbus has opened a second location in Indianapolis. It’s a board game lounge that serves drinks and charges $5 for access to the game library.

Board game cafe Well Played opens this weekend in Asheville, North Carolina. The space fits over 100 people. The fare is updated kid food—house-made hot pockets, fresh-baked cookies, mason-jar puddings, grilled cheese, and charcuterie made to look like Lunchables.

Games Inn, a shop which launched four years ago in Hobart, Indiana, has opened Dark Ground Cafe. The attached dining option will focus on healthy dishes and ramen noodles.

South Hill Games recently opened in South Hill, Washington. Though trying to stay small, the shop still has some play space in the back.

Game Bandit - Scouring the net to find the cheapest discount boardgames and best free boardgame prizesThe latest deal at Bundle of Holding is for Traveller20, the d20 adaptation of Traveller and a fantastic resource for any version of the game. The Player’s Collection is priced at $12.95 and is already a pretty good deal but it’s the Referee’s Collection that really ramps up the value, which starting at $27 includes the full rule set, several setting books, more starship guides, separate adventures, and a campaign book.

For the month of March, Academy Games is bundling Fief, the Fief Expansions Pack, and Fief Buildings Pack for $130.

Dog Might Games is offering free worldwide shipping on all its wood boxes and trays this week only. It’s also giving away a $180 flaming birch Adventure Case on April 1st.

Apps from Asmodee Digital are on-sale at discounts of up to 60% for the next several days. Ticket To Ride, Small World 2, Splendor, Mysterium, Potion Explosion, Pandemic, and Colt Express are all included (Android, iOS, and PC), as are even some in-app purchases. Mysterium on Steam and in-app Ticket to Ride USA 1910 are excluded, however.

Until the launch of Mora Games’ crowdfunding project, the company is collecting email addresses for a giveaway of three copies of Wages of War.

Susan Polgar’s The Polgar Method of video Chess lessons is 60% off.

With Passover approaching, Amazon has a coupon for an additional 15% off TorahLine from 613 Games.

Other Amazon deals:

Savage World Bennies are 15% off direct from Pinnacle Entertainment.

EverythingBoardGames is giving away The Village Crone from Fireside Games and, along with the Crazy Like a Box Board Game Community, is giving away one-year memberships and a copy of Rising Sun (currently on Kickstarter).

Hasbro’s Toilet Trouble and Fantastic Gymnastics are $2 off at Toys “R” Us.

For the game’s 15th anniversary, Spectrum Games has a complete bundle of Cartoon Action Hour ebooks for 80% off.

March Madness means 30% off on basketball products from Strat-O-Matic. And the start of spring training means 25% off on card sets for select baseball seasons.

The prices on printed versions of the Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual and Ghastly Affair Presenter’s Manual have been reduced $5.

Complete ThinkFun’s customer survey to be entered in every future monthly giveaway by the company. And don’t forget to mention Purple Pawn as one of your sources for information.

The latest expansion in the Sun & Moon line of Pokémon TCG products, Guardians Rising, hits shelves on May 5th. The new set contains over 140 new cards including Tapu Koko-GX, Tapu Lele-GX, Kommo-o-GX, Lycanroc-GX, Metagross-GX, Sylveon-GX, Toxapex-GX, Vikavolt-GX, and more. More Alolan variets of original Pokémon will also be tossed into the mix.

The two new theme decks will feature the Legendary Pokémon Solgaleo and Lunala.

Guardians Rising will be available in booster packs, Elite Trainer boxes, and theme decks.

A game convention of a different sort took place this past weekend in Baltimore. Rather than featuring the hottest new releases, this annual event specifically focuses on the rudimentary and undeveloped game concepts that have yet to make their way to store shelves. Though attendance is free, it takes more than a passing interest to put in several hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon playing games with half-baked rules and rough pieces instead of nice plastic pawns and printed boards.

Still, around 1,700 people showed up to this year’s Unpub convention and volunteered their time to help inventors and small publishers improve their products. With a sense of adventure, they made their way around 100 or so tables being guinea pigs but also sharing their ideas and perhaps getting an early peek at what could be next year’s hot title.

At these tables, designers floated new ideas, tested untried innovations, and ran their works through the paces. Developing a game from initial concept to final product requires a lot of repeated play. Unpub allows independent and budding designers to take advantage of the crowd of ready playtesters to try different alternatives on the spot.

As explained to me by Jason Kotarski of Green Couch Games, the convention is also a great occasion for publishers. In addition to testing his own games, Jason was there scouting for new projects and even took the opportunity to do some promotion for Ladder 29, a firefighting family card game that his company is currently crowdfunding.

On Friday, before the two days of open playtesting, Unpub hosted a series of professional seminars just for the designers. One was led by Zev Shlasinger, founder of Z-Man Games and currently Director of Board Games for WizKids. Another provided some behind-the-scenes industry insight for those new to the business side of games. A third, by Panda Game Manufacturing, a major sponsor of Unpub, was on the process of game production.

Brent Kinney of Panda told me that the company “feels a strong connection with the independent design community.” It was manufacturing for self-publishers and Kickstarter projects that launched Panda. And the show provides the company not only an opportunity to advise aspiring publishers on manufacturing costs and considerations, but also to learn what types of new components—some of them quite innovative ideas—Panda should consider adding to its capabilities.

Back on Sunday, when I visited Unpub, I had the privilege of playtesting three games. The first was a yet-to-be-named tabletop board game implementation of Japanese-style computer RPGs from designer Luke Peterschmidt. Though this was not the kind of game that I usually go for, I did enjoy learning its combat mechanics and thought they seemed pretty solid. The second was Party Poetry by Sheri Knauth, a game in which the players each secretly contribute one line to a larger poem and then vote on which amalgamation they consider the best. Again, not a game I would usually choose, but I was feeling venturous and was impressed by the poetry that can come out of such a process. The third game, Rain Dance by Matt Loomis and Isaac Shalev, was definitely more my style and seemed nearly ready-to-go. Simple cards allow players to plant, water, and harvest crops, while the choice of replacement cards allows them to flood out the crops of their opponent.

And though I didn’t get a chance to play it, probably the most exciting news out of Unpub for me personally was that Dave Chalker is working on a Midnight at the Well of Souls board game based on the novel series by his father, science fiction author Jack Chalker. During high school, I devoured every one of his books as they came out.

Unpub is a tremendous asset to game designers and a wonderful experience for those interested in seeing some of the process behind their favorite entertainment. Look for it again next year in Baltimore, March 23-25.

Toy Fair 2017—Lion Rampant Imports

Lion Rampant Imports brings several Zoch (Zoch-Verlagg) games to the North American market. The one we were able to demo was Dreams (available now, $46), a game that’s as beautiful as Dixit and plays like A Fake Artist Goes to New York. In Dreams, the players are deities creating constellations in the night sky, based on a common image that is known to all players, save one. While the group places gem-like stars in the night sky, the one who doesn’t know exactly what they’re creating is trying to remain undetected throughout the game. Once all stars are placed, the single player tries to determine which of four images was being recreated while the others try to guess which one of the players didn’t know.

Later this year Beasts of Balance ($100) is coming to big box and specialty stores in North America. Currently the game was only available in mall-based marbles: the brain store, but they’re currently going out of business.

This app-driven dexterity game has you stacking cool sculpted creatures on a sensor, powering them up on the app by placing energy elements, interacting with the app while certain pieces are placed, and evolving and changing the creatures: Toucan and Octopus have formed OCTOUCAN! It’s a crazy fun game that’s been available in the UK for a while now.

Also at the show were two add-on creatures, the Omnibeast and (the Yogscast) Lalnalion, currently available on Sensible Object’s Beasts of Balance website for £15/$20 each.

This article was updated to reflect the locations Beasts of Balance will be available in later this year.

Toy Fair 2017—Gamewright

One of of the larger booths I visited at Toy Fair was Gamewright. Several small games were on display as were some games that are about to return to your game store’s shelves.

In the Port-A-Party line of small games, they had Think ‘n Sync and PDQ, both available in March for $10. PDQ, which we’ve discussed before, has been out of print for five years and returns in a box sized to fit in the Port-A-Party line. In that game, three letter cards are placed in a row and players race to create a word using those letters either left-to-right or right-to-left. Think ‘n Sync is a game that reminded me a bit of Family Feud, except everyone shouts out their answer. Matches gain points.

Rory’s Story Cubes, Fantasia edition, is on its way for a summer release ($8). Fantasia contains three Enchanted dice, three Myth dice, and three Medieval dice.

Cha-Cha Chiahuahua (summer, $16) comes with a bunch of little doggie figures and several disco dance floors for kids 4 and up. Do activities and place your dancing pups on the color-coded dance floor.

Go Nuts for Donuts (summer, $15) is a Sushi Go-like game with bidding instead of drafting. Donut cards are laid out and you select which one to add to your collection; if others are also going for your choice, you all lose out. Each type of donut has different abilities, such as a point reward for having the fewest cards, ability to steal donuts from the discard pile, or a significant number of points for having a large collection of one type.

Imagine (now, $15) is charades with clear cards. Transparent cards with symbols printed on them are layered atop one another to create images others have to guess. A clever way to use see-through cards. Can you tell what’s on the center of the box above?

Tiki Topple (summer, $20) is a reprint of a ten year old game. This new Mensa Select edition has players trying to assemble a totem pole with certain tiki heads nearest the top. Cards that reorder and remove some sections of the pole are used to move your sections up and opponents’ down. But can you tell which tiki heads your opponents are trying to get to the top? It’s a quick game that I really enjoyed playing a demo of — it reminded me a bit of Abandon Ship, but with simpler and shorter gameplay.

This summer, two new entries into the CardVentures line, Vanished and Time Raiders (each $10), will be released. These choose-your-own-adventure-like games join last year’s Stowaway 52 and Jump Ship!. The single-player game is played with oversized cards with story elements, allowing you to jump to additional cards based on your choices to tell a story.

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