PAX Unplugged—North Star Games

North Star Games has brought to the American market The Quacks of Quedlinburg ($55), winner of the 2018 Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur’s Game of the Year) award. Nothing to do with ducks, the game is about concocting miracle cures from such fantastical ingredients as toadstools, mandrake, spiders, pumpkin, and crow skull.

Each round, players draw ingredients from their personal bags and place them around the swirling spaces of their cauldrons. Depending on how far they’ve gone that round, and assuming they’ve managed to avoid blowing up the concoction, they’ll score victory points and purchase additional ingredients.

Some of the ingredients also allow for special actions when placed in the cauldron. For example, crow skulls may allow a player to draw bonus ingredients and mandrake may help prevent blow-ups. Alternate ingredient books are included with the game to vary these impacts.

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TCGplayer has received a $10 million equity investment from Radian Capital. The company says the money will allow it grow staff while it expands its collectible market portal and retail support service from CCGs to board games, roleplaying games, comic books, sports cards, and video games.

Mayfair Games is closing up shop and has sold all its remaining game assets, as well as its majority stake in Lookout Games of Germany, to Asmodee North America. Lookout will continue to operate as a design studio of Asmodee.

Spin Master has signed a distribution deal with Toysmith for a variety of toy brands, including games and puzzles from Spin Master’s Cardinal subsidiary. The arrangement, which takes affect in June, will see Toysmith as exclusive distributor to the specialty market for the covered ranges.

North Star Games has instituted a minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policy, which is “non-negotiable for all North Star Games’ resellers and will be strictly enforced to ensure the continued value of its brand.” The company also issued a statement saying that, effective immediately, except for two unnamed parties, all sellers will be restricted from participating in Amazon’s Third-Party Marketplace. North Star promises to monitor product listings and suspend or terminate the accounts of those sellers that do not comply.

Hasbro has signed on as the master toy licensee for Power Rangers (Saban Brands), UglyDolls (STX Entertainment), Super Monsters (Netflix), and Top Wing (Nickelodeon), though only the announcement for Power Rangers specifically mentions games.

According to NPD, Mattel’s UNO card game was the top selling game in the United States in 2017.

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Inspired by the success of Happy Salmon, a 2018 TOTY Game of the Year finalist, North Star Games is launching two more in what the company is now calling the Happy Planet Games line.

Tying together the line is a focus on light-hearted, high-energy fun. And really cute game pouches!

Funky Chicken follows its precursor with four new moves: spinning, hip-bumping, swinging, and arm-flapping. I played it one day down at the North Star office (on the condition there would be no pictures) and I can tell you it’s just as silly.

Monster Match is a fast-play game where players race to find illustrated monsters matching the features rolled on two dice (for example, 5 eyes or 3 legs). Improving on the standard grabbing game, this one allows slower players to be more competitive by limiting the field of cards to smaller batches and having a Zilch token for when there are no matches.

Both Funky Chicken and Monster Match will play up to six and are expected to retail for $18.

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ASTRA 2017—North Star Games

North Star’s next party game is Blurble. Expected in September at a retail price of $20, Blurble combines The Name Game with the difficulty of saying one word while looking at a picture of something else.

The game includes 348 illustrated cards and each time one is pulled, all the players try to be the first one to name an object that begins with the same first letter as the pictured item. The tricky part, of course, is not blurting out the name of the pictured item itself.

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North Star GamesNorth Star Games is hiring. The company is looking for a Content Marketing Manager and a Customer Service and Shipping Coordinator. The former will run the social media program and company website. The latter will be responsible for distributing samples, demo copies, and replacement parts. Both positions are located in Kensington, Maryland, just up the street from me. Get the job and we can hang out!

Among a few others positions, Asmodee North America is searching for an Organized Play Coordinator to run international Catan tournaments and a Licensing Coordinator for administrative functions related to licensing partners.

Open positions with Panda Game Manufacturing include Web Developer and Prepress Specialist. There are actually two of the latter, one of which requires fluency in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

GTS Distribution needs Account Representatives in Woburn, Massachusetts; Hauppauge, New York; and Jacksonville, Florida. Responsibilities include sales to retailers and representing GTS at industry events.

Paizo has openings for a Webstore Coordinator and a Technology Manager, the former to consider products and deal with suppliers, the latter to manage “internet operations strategy.”

MYMIC needs someone at the Pentagon with a Top Secret clearance to support war games and tabletop exercises.

SAIC needs two people to help with the “execution of analytic games, tabletop exercises, conferences, presentations, and reports,” one a Defense Policy Analyst with a current TS/SCI clearance, the other a part-time Student Intern.

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Toy Fair 2016—Happy Salmon

Toy Fair New York 2016Raucous demos of Happy Salmon (April, $15) were drawing attention, and orders, to North Star Games as I stopped by at Toy Fair. And so was the cute packaging. But here’s how the game plays…

Every player gets the same set of 12 cards shuffled in random order. As fast as they can, they call out the action on their top card, trying to find someone with a match. When a pair of players match, they high-five, pound it (fist bump), switcheroo (switch places), or happy salmon (sort-of wiggle their arms together) as indicated on the cards. Whoever goes through their deck first is the winner.

Happy Salmon

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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.

A pilot for a Wits & Wagers television game show has been ordered by CBS. That news was teased, then quickly retracted by North Star Games yesterday on Twitter. Apparently, the announcement was premature, based on contractual restrictions. Confirmation and additional information may be available as early as next week.

 North Star Game Show Tweet

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North Star GamesUp until now North Star Games has been known mostly for party titles. The company’s flagship product, Wits & Wagers, is a trivia game where players bet on which one of them has the best answer. Its two most recent releases are Clubs, a trick-taking card game in the same vein as Spades, and Happy Birthday, which has players giving each other strange and silly gifts.

Today, however, North Star is in the process of launching a strategy game division. For the first product of that division, North Star has turned to Kickstarter and chosen a game called Evolution.

I had the opportunity recently to spend an afternoon at North Star Games’ office speaking with company founder Dominic Crapuchettes about the new venture, as well as playtesting Evolution. Dominic shared with me some of the history behind North Star Games, talked about how he sees the company developing in the future, and addressed the role of Kickstarter in those plans. The game I enjoyed a lot. It’s smart, engaging and thought-provoking without being overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »

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Toy Fair 2013—North Star Games

Toy Fair 2013 Logo

North Star Games first foray outside the party-game field is Clubs, a light trick-taking card game. Cards are numbered 1 to 15 in four suits but only clubs count for points.

Players can also earn bonus points for getting rid of all their cards. The last player with cards each round, though, gets no bonus points and no points for clubs—a big fat zilch!

Rounds continue until one player hits 50 points.

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