Kickstarter Preview—Tak


I hesitated for a while to write up Tak. Given the few games I’ve played, I’ve clearly just scratched the surface. But then again, that’s what I already enjoy about the game. With such simple rules, there’s so much to explore. Tak is one of those abstract games that manages a lot of challenging play in a very uncomplicated package.

I’ve also never read the novel from which the game is derived, The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. And yet, perhaps even more than the interesting game play, it’s the imagined history and culture of Tak that has me so engaged.

The game works like this… On your turn you either place a piece (called a “stone”) on an empty square—standing up or laying flat—or you move a single stack of stones already on the board in a straight line, dropping some from the bottom of the stack in every space along the way. Generally, you can’t place a stone on top of a standing stone, that is, unless you do so with the special capstone piece to flatten it. Winning is accomplished by connecting any two board edges with a contiguous line of flat stones, and that is called a “road”.

Tak players of antiquity played with hand-carved pieces of various shapes and sizes. Some were just wooden squares or rounded stones; some were intricately decorated. Standard colors, shapes, and sizes for the pieces vary from time to time and place to place. Travelers typically played 5×5, using simple wooden pieces and an improvised board (or no board at all). Court players typically played the larger 6×6 game. Capstones could be highly specialized, and Tak players often carry their own personalized capstone, even if they don’t carry a whole set.

…So the instructions go, interspersing rules with brief lessons on the game’s archaeology, etiquette, unique terminology, and varying styles of play—short but one of the most enjoyable board game rule books I’ve ever read.

Cheapass Games’ Kickstarter project for Tak has just 10 days to go but is already funded 10 times over. Backers have options for different stone sets, beautiful wood boards, and a book with more on the game’s fictional history.

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bc648af536cb732f9f7811e104a8877c_originalWant to help a good cause, and get a cool game in the process? Shenanigans: The Musical is up on Kickstarter, and helping fund the project also helps The People’s Orchestra, an organization that makes orchestra accessible to everyone, as both audience and performers, regardless of their wealth or status.

For a pledge of £10 (around $14) you’ll get a copy of the game and all it’s expansions if the project is funded.

So what’s the game all about?

The orchestra is in crisis. Someone can’t play their instrument and needs to be booted out. Of course this artiste doesn’t want to be caught. Also, a lot of the musicians have their own agenda they’d like to achieve. Supporting 4-10 players, the game is similar to Mafia/Werewolf, except after the descision to kick a member out of the orchestra is made, the game is over. I love this simple rules graphic from the Kicktstarter:


We had a lot of fun with this one, and the fact that it doesn’t take as long as similar party games of its styles makes it simple to setup and play again multiple times in a rather short time, cycling players if needed. This makes it great for hectic family gatherings where there’s a lot of kids, and adults, that may need looking after.

Shenanigans is simple, humorous, and excellent with large groups. It’s a refreshing take on Mafia/Werewolf style party games, and is much quicker and fluid.

A prototype copy of Shenanigans: The Musical was provided free for preview purposes.

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Fleet Commander is a lightweight, tactical space combat game that recently hit Kickstarter. It had a previous release as Fleet Commander: Ignition and an expansion, Beyond the Gate. Capsicum Games sent me a copy of both to take a look at the game and give my thoughts for the Kickstarter campaign.

First impressions? Wow, the ships are REALLY nice, as are the dials and stands they rest on. The rules? Very clean, well writtern, and easy to understand. Gameplay? At first I thought the game between my son and I would end too soon. It really seemed that I, going first, had a clear advantage over him. That changed about 20 minutes in, and we both really started utilizing the dice and battlefield to its full potential.

There’s 3 pools of dice you can choose from on your turn. Attack, defense, and movement. You can only take a few each round, and each dictate how you can attack, move, and from what direction you can defend from. You can also roll a “special” face on the die which you store on your command bridge to save up and use for a special attack. You can even save a limited amount of regular die rolls on your command bridge to use on future turns.

As for the board, it’s modular. Ignition came with enough for a 5×5 grid, and the tiles can be arranged in any order to shape the battlefield. The set being Kickstarted right now comes with MUCH more, 50 to be exact.

The game is excellent, and I’ve really enjoyed playing it with my kids. The only part that really bums me out is that the newest set on Kickstarter contains tons more stuff than the base game and expansion that I currently have.

Fleet Commander is a winner, and is already funded with 20 days left to go. Make your $97 pledge to make sure you get a copy. You won’t be sorry.

A copy of Fleet Commander: Ignition and Beyond the Gate were provided for preview purposes by Capsicum Games.

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Kickstarter Preview—Escape the Nightmare

Escape the Nightmare is a new game up on Kickstarter by 3DTotalGames, the same people who brought us 404: Law Not Found, and Wizard’s Academy. This one, however, has a much different feel than the previous two. It’s a cooperative game where players are working together to try and escape a nightmare they’re all trapped in. This is done by trading cards to make sets and defeat Wardens. On top of this, there’s a countdown that comes with the “It’s Coming” card, where the game ends if the card can’t be traded in time to reset the timer. Oh yeah, the more you trade the more your methods of communication will be restricted by the cards. You may even lose the game if you have to perform an action, or prove a fact, that you can’t do at that time.

It’s frantic, anxiety ridden, and quick.

I was going to sit down with my kids to give this one a shot, but he cards are a bit gruesome. You can leave certain sets out, as the experience is customizable, but I figured this one was best left for the adults. As an aside, when I say the cards are gruesome that doesn’t mean they’re horrible. The complete opposite. The art is beautiful and disturbing, and fits the theme of the game perfectly.

To get a full appreciation of the rules, you can check out the following video:

Escape the Nightmare can be played in around 5-10 minutes, and can get pretty loud. It’s a great filler game, or even to break in the start of a game night. The only caveat is that the art/theme of the game may not be for everyone.

3DTotalGames has a great track record, and Escape the Nightmare is no exception. It’s a fun little game that’ll grind your nerves into the ground. The theme is a bit different and darker than their previous offerings, but that’s by no means a bad thing. The best part? A $15 pledge (the only pledge level they have for the game) will guarantee you a copy when the game is funded.

A prototype version of Escape the Nightmare was provided by 3DTotalGames for this preview.

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If I described Moroz Publishing’s Swords and Bagpipes to you as a board game about the First War of Scottish independence, there’s a good chance you’d immediately think “war game”. That’s certainly where my mind went when I first heard about it. As it turns out, though, Swords and Bagpipes is really a game of deduction and bluffing, albeit nicely integrated in to an historical setting.

Each round, the players, representing noble houses of Scotland, are asked to choose a side in the current battle—either to ally with England or stand for Scottish independence. Before that, however, they have an opportunity to collect taxes or recruit and mobilize soldiers. Then after the players have seen what their fellow noblemen are doing and considered the potential rewards associated with choosing either side on that round, they select and reveal choice tokens simultaneously. The players who supported independence earn more gold if Scotland wins, while the players who supported England are paid the same bribe no matter the result, except that they have to split it.

You see, the Scottish nobles in this game care mostly about gold. Assuming Scotland holds out against England (that is, suffers fewer than four defeats), the winner is the player with the most money. On the other hand, if the troops of England’s King Edward have advanced far enough (four or more victories), the winner is the player with the fewest number of daggers. Every time a player sides with England, they draw a card with 1-3 daggers. Thus by the end of the game, everyone is likely to have a few daggers and the question becomes either who made the most money off the war or who was the lesser traitor.

In general, I like this game and hope to play it more. It’s not what one expects in a game tied to specific historical events. Yet it fits well. And the need to choose sides while trying to guess which sides the other players will take makes for an engaging and sometimes tense game.

Two things about Swords and Bagpipes do bother me a little—as in enough to mention but not enough to dissuade me from playing again.

First is the artwork. I do not care for the cartoonish big-headed characters featured on the board, box, and cards. It’s a style that isn’t a good fit for a serious historically-based board game.

Second is a portion of the bagpipe cards. Bagpipe cards represent special actions or bonuses that add a little variety to the game. They’re granted to players who sided with independence on a turn when Scotland wins. And overall, they’re a fine additions that spice up the game a bit. However, presumably to balance the value of the various cards, some can be held and played a second time. It works, I guess, yet the approach feels a little clumsy or inelegant.

Swords and Bagpipes is up on Kickstarter, already funded with 20 days to go. A copy of the game can be had for a pledge of $32 plus shipping.


A complimentary prototype copy of Swords and Bagpipes was provided by Moroz Publishing for review.

CORRECTION: The game ends immediately when the English win four battles.



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Stockpile—A Kickstarter Preview

Stockpile LogoStock market games have a reputation for being, well, boring. And though I couldn’t say that Stockpile—which has players buying and selling stock certificates with the goal of accumulating the greatest net worth—is a laugh-out-loud kind of experience, I am quite comfortable recommending it as a very interesting and engaging strategy game.

First of all, Stockpile really is easy to learn. The game proceeds in rounds of buying and selling. Buying takes place in a combined auction of various bundles—primarily stock certificates, but also trading fees and the occasional bonus action—assembled by the players themselves. Selling takes place in normal round-the-table turn order, each player having the opportunity to sell any number of stocks at the current market price.

Second, buying and selling are both spiced up with a bit of hidden information. At the beginning of every round, each of the players is dealt a set of company and forecast cards, which are later used after the selling phase (at the end of the round) to adjust market prices. In between, as the players add certificates from the draw pile to the stockpiles for auction, each places one face-up and one face-down.

Simple mechanics with a twist of secret knowledge makes for some interesting choices and results in some tense moments, in both the auction and selling phases. For example, the selling phase can see runs develop on a particular stock when one player sells it and the others suspect insider information.

As company stock values move up and down in the market, they may occasionally split, go bankrupt, or pay dividends. Relatively easy to track, these thematic details further enhance the sense of market volatility without appreciably adding to the complexity of the game.

Overall, while no real-time zombie game, Stockpile does a great job of finding fun in the world of finance.

A game of Stockpile takes about an hour and handles up to five players (in fact, it probably works better with the full complement of five, which is how I played it each time). The Kickstarter project was launched today by Nauvoo Games with a goal of $25,000 and an estimated delivery date of July 2015.

A prototype copy of Stockpile was provided free for review by Nauvoo Games.

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Billed as Magic The Gathering meets Final Fantasy Tactics, Phoenix Covenant hit Kickstarter and is already off to a great start.

I first got a chance to sit down and play the game at Connecticon this year, and since have received a preview version of the game to take my time with here at home. Played on an 8×6 board, players pit their decks against each other trying to knock the other’s hit points down to zero. This can be done by making it across the board and attacking, or by attacking the other player’s reinforced hard points. Decks include units, structures (that can be built on hard points), commanders, and more. Commanders have the ability to pull new units onto the field near them, instead of in the summoning areas of the board.

Depth is served not only via the units and their stats, but also by weak points, armored areas of cards, and a bit of resource management with your Mana and Command Points. While the board may seem a bit large at first, units have a good range of motion and the action is rather fast paced. Cards work well together, so making sure you’ve got a deck that meshes well is important to victory. If it sounds interesting to you, you can download the manual and a print-and-play demo. The game really only takes 10-15 minutes to learn how to play, as the core rules are relatively simple.

I played this most with my 9-year-old son whose a huge fan of MtG. We’ve had a great time with it, and I really can’t wait to see the final product once the project is funded. Speaking of which, a $15 pledge will get you the full print-and-play version, while a $50 pledge guarantees you a physical copy of the game. There’s also some great perks at higher levels, and some sweet looking stretch goals.

A preview copy of Phoenix Covenant was provided free for review by Adam Porroni.


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Kickstarter Preview—HOOCH

It’s Prohibition, and you’re working to create a crime syndicate from the ground up by earning a reputation in the town. That’s pretty much the basis of HOOCH from Talon Strikes Studios. I was lucky enough to be given a hand-crafted, personalized prototype of the game to preview for the current Kickstarter Campaign.

HOOCH comes with a LOT of stuff. It’s a card game, but it feels much meatier than your average card game, and leans more towards what you expect from some modern board games.  The game plays 3-6 players in about an hour, and it keeps you working for your victory the entire time you’re immersed.  The game takes a bit of time to learn, but it’s rewarding, and not overly difficult. The basics of the game are building a family, taking over storefronts, selling booze, and protecting everything from the other players.

Surprisingly you can snag the game for a very low pledge point, considering what you’re going to be getting. $39 will get you the base game and all stretch goals if the game is funded. Looking at the way the campaign is going, it looks like that’s going to happen.

HOOCH is deep, a little bit complex, and a very rewarding game to play. Give it a chance, and I’m sure it’ll win you over.

A copy of HOOCH was provided free for preview by Talon Strikes Games.

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Kickstarter Preview—Hogger Logger

What do you get when you put a pig in a lumberjack outfit?

Well you get a hogger logger, but that has very little to do with Hogger Logger, the card game.

Hogger Logger is a fast-paced game of high and low. A card is placed face up with several face down cards below it. Each turn a player must choose a face down card and guess if it is higher or lower than the face up card. If they’re correct, they guess again. If they’re wrong, play moves to the next player. The player that guesses the last face down card wins the round.

Simple, right?

Well you’ve also got a hand of cards you can play from to change to the value of the face up card. You can also earn action cards that let you bend the rules in various ways.

Here’s a video of some dudes playing the game for the first time:

I’ve got to say the game is pretty fun, if not a bit simple. It was easy enough for my 4 year old to play with us, and the kids really got into the whole guessing/playing cards/guessing aspect of the game.

The pig in the lumberjack outfit didn’t hurt either.

Seriously, though. $14 gets you a copy of the game, and you’re guaranteed one now since the game is fully funded. While it’s not for the most die-hard games, it’s a fun game for the family to play without too much of a time commitment to both play and learn.

A preview copy of Hogger Logger was provided by Hogger Logger for review.

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Many people are already familiar with designer Saar Shai after his 2 amazing successful runs on Kickstarter with The Agents. Now he’s posted a new project for King Down, a sort of expanded Chess with interesting characters, spells, and more.

I’ve had a chance to play an early version of the game using the rules, the game’s cards, and my own chess set. The game is already pretty tight, quick, and highly entertaining. It’s both immediately familiar, yet fresh and new feeling at the same time. I can only imagine how the experience will be compounded by the addition of the pieces I’m seeing on the Kickstarter page.

King Down is already funded, and was so almost as soon as it was launched. A$65 pledge guarantees you a copy of the game, and from the looks of things that price is a good one for what you’re going to get.

I’m looking forward to playing a finished version of the game for a more official “Second Look”, but I can assure you this one, just like The Agents, is going to be a winner.


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