3 Rapid Reviews: Architects of the West Kingdom, Azul: Stained Glass and New Frontiers

Who has time for full-blown reviews anymore? If you want them, you can find them – a sea of them. But if you want something quick, here you go – quick takes on recent games I’ve played. Nah, I didn’t play them seven times, I won’t explain the rules in excruciating detail, won’t give you the path to victory based on countless plays. I’ll give you the gist, something I find interesting, and what I think. So – here we go:

3 Rapid Reviews

Architects of the West Kingdom

The Gist: The fine Raiders of the North Sea from Renegade Games (in the US) introduced us to the connected game systems of designer Shem Phillips, who has constructed a lot of different middle-weight games using his mix of worker placement, card deck variation, and tight resource management. While the others in his first trilogy may not be the strong winners that Raiders of the North Sea has proved to be, they have their charms and made me excited for Architect of the West Kingdom, the lead title in a new series. Architects hearkens back to Raiders in a pleasant way, in both its commitment to an interesting implementation of worker placement and snappy playtime that makes you feel like you had a pleasantly middle-weight experience even with relatively light play.
What’s Interesting: There’s much to like in Architects, but the compelling piece for me was the management of a large number of workers, some of whom are permanently removed from the game when you do build actions, and some of which you can claim back, both through ‘capturing’ them yourself, or when other people do it to break up your group on a space. Before I played, a friend of mine said, “Oh, you won’t like the ‘take-that’ element of the game.” Should couldn’t have been more wrong; this is an intriguing way to let a player stop a dominant component, but it probably isn’t worth it to just ‘mess with people’ (which is NOT fun, in my view). Architects is a really good design.
My Take: Architects of the West Kingdom is good enough that I’m in the market to trade for it, but not go splurge on it new. I think it’s a very good game and I’m keen to play it more, but it doesn’t add something so new and vital to my game collection that I need it RIGHT NOW. I think it’s good to modulate those urges.

3 Rapid Reviews: Azul - Stained Glass of Sintra

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

The Gist: The original Azul from Next move and Plan B Games, is one of my favorite light games of the last decade. This gem from Michael Kiesling deserved took home the SDJ honors and I’ve gotten a lot of play out of this simple-to-explain and challenging-to-master title. While I expected an Azul Dice Game (surely coming), a card game, and more, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra showed up first instead (well, if you don’t count those Jokers and alternate tiles – yes, I have them all). ASGS gives you new scoring methods, with the distribution that is the centerpiece of Azul staying the same.
What’s Interesting: ASGS gives you a lot more choices in how you allocate the tiles you collect. With options to move your glazier around and put smaller and larger sets of tiles into your glass windows, ASGS feels like a more gamer-friendly version of the original. There’s certainly more to consider than the original game and it feels like a pleasant variant for people who love Azul but have overplayed the original game.
My Take: I quite like ASGS but I’m not sure it is a truly necessary purchase for the average individual who likes Azul and gets what they want out of that game. As a completist and lover of variants of games I adore, ASGS will stay in my collection. But for minimalists or Marie Kondo fans questioning the amount of joy brought to them by each game taking up precious shelf and life space, sticking with the original, more attractive Azul will work (the ‘glass’ tiles are less appealing, in my view). The game also doesn’t have anything to do with Sagrada, the nice stained-glass window game that is a trifle more gamer-y than Azul, nor will it replace that game.

3 Rapid Reviews: New Frontiers

New Frontiers: The Race for the Galaxy Board Game

The Gist: The wonderful Tom Lehmann finally brings the Race for the Galaxy story full circle in New Frontiers, new from the revitalized Rio Grande Games. If you know the history of RFTG and Puerto Rico, you’ll know that RFTG began life as the Puerto Rico Card Game. But then the designer of Puerto Rico did his own (San Juan) and we got RFTG. Now, New Frontiers brings its more compelling theme (IMNSHO) to the board game world. Yes, the similarities are there, but Tom has found touches to bring to the experience in both the logistics of tracking your progress and a new sense of freedom to the RFTG mechanisms. It’s like he Caverna’d his game.
What’s Interesting: Really, just enjoying the implementation one of the great game systems in modern board games. Tom is a precision designer of the highest order and it’s easy to see how he tuned this wonder to work so well, providing a different experience from RFTG, but one that also doesn’t just stand-in as sci-fi Puerto Rico. I find New Frontiers looser, which means it won’t get ‘solved’ in the way Puerto Rico was. Also – have you SEEN the components? (Keanu Voice): Whoa.

BIG cubes


My Take: You can always tell I love and was ready to buy the game after one play. That said, if you don’t love Race for the Galaxy, then what is wrong with you? I mean, sorry, if you don’t like RFTG, then New Frontiers may not be your glass of blue milk. Yet, if RFTG frustrated you because of the luck of the draw or the tempo, New Frontiers may be more palatable for you so give it a try.

5 Quick Questions About Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth from Peer Sylvester and Osprey Games

5 Quick Questions About Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth from Peer Sylvester and Osprey Games

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. People seem to love our interviewette for tabletop designers that is a quick read. We promise no TL;DR. Let’s see how Peer Sylvester, excellent designer of many games (old favorite of your editor: King of Siam), including the new Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, does, shall we?

Game Designer Peer Sylvester

BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth?

Peer Sylvester:After getting killed in the Amazon with Lost Expedition you can now get killed (separately, cooperatively, or alone) in the post-apocalyptic world of Judge Dredd.

BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?

Peer Sylvester: Lost Expedition got inspired by the great book “The Lost City of Z” about Percy Fawcett’s last expedition in 1925 (ed. note: also a film on Amazon Prime). Exploration is difficult to implement well in a game (if you want to it to be surprising and yet not too luck-dependent) and I wanted to see how I would come up with a solution. I also wanted to implement the theme (of the story well). Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth was the opportunity to translate my original game into an interesting IP (ed. note: intellectual property). I couldn’t pass that up.

BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?

Peer Sylvester: There are not many game Judge Dredd games. If you like Dredd, you don’t have much choice. But if you don’t (know Dredd): It’s a quick, easy cooperative game, that can also be played solo or with two players, head-to-head, so there is a lot of variety. Plus the artwork is just great.

BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?

Artwork Copyright 2000 A.D.

Peer Sylvester: I actually didn’t design this one. I designed the original game and most of the mechanics are translated. This was developed in-house by Osprey Games. I only advised on the design (mechanics, cards, etc.) as a consultant.

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth. Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?

Peer Sylvester (ed. note, added game info): The game plays with one to four players, in 30-50 minutes and is for ages 14 and up. The game is now available on Amazon and at game stores, online and brick-and-mortar.

Joke Time: I am German; I don’t do jokes.

Editor’s End Note: Judge Dredd is one of my favorite properties and I don’t think any game has yet captured the IP effectively (although I do still have a nostalgic love of Block Mania, the old Games Workshop title). As a fan of Peer’s original game, and this movement of Storytelling Games in general, I’m excited to see his mechanisms applied to Judge Dredd’s unique world. The Cursed Earth sequence is perfect for this concept.

To learn more about Dredd, watch the more recent film, Dredd. I cannot recommend the Sylvester Stallone film, although they did try to capture the humor of Judge Dredd (poorly). You can also read the comics, which are excellently illustrated and written. The Cursed Earth isn’t necessarily the starting place (this is), but it is a compelling storyline.

PRESS RELEASE: Next Move Games announces 5211, the first in a new series of small box games!

PRESS RELEASE: Next Move Games announces 5211, the first in a new series of small box games!

Next Move Games is ecstatic to announce 5211, the first game in a new series of small box games to add its award winning catalog!  5211 is a fast playing, type-matching card game with unique scoring methods that reward clever plays! Designed by Tsuyoshi Hashiguchi and illustrated by Chris Quilliams5211 is an addictive game that begs to be played over and over!  
5211 is expected to debut at Origins 2019, but fans who attend Cannes 2019 will be able to see it first hand. Designed for 2-8 players aged 8 and older, 5211 will be your new favorite card game. While players could get lost forever in the simple elegance of the game’s design, an average game of5211 should only take about 20 to 30 minutes to play.
5211 will serve as the flagship to a new series of small box games by Next Move Games. Be on the lookout over the summer as it is expected to release at Origins 2019 and be available in retailers shortly after. MORE ABOUT 5211

New Year’s Resolutions and 2018 Snaps

New Year’s Resolutions and 2018 Snaps

Boardgaming has been in my blood forever and I’ve been in the hobby seriously since the early 80’s, but grew up on card games with the family even as a toddler. This deep into the hobby, exploring it further is part and parcel with staying engaged. All this time in, I’ve lost none of my love for the hobby but 2018 brought about some great things and lousy things, too.

In looking back, I usually like to review my resolutions and plays. I usually set two to three per year but take it easy. They are to direct things, not to be painfully rigid.

1) Play 100 New Games – I’ve done this for more than 10 years and it’s always fun. In the last two years, I’ve hit the number early on (game conventions help) and cruised well above the value while focusing on my other resolution. This will take place again in 2019.

2) Play 300 Different Games – Well, I failed at this one. I will end up topping out at around 240. But I will try again next year because I love a variety of games to play. With my 100 new ones, that means I can go 200 deep into owned games as well. This helps with managing the collection because some of those games get a final tryout and then off to the flea market or trade pile. So, I will attempt this again in 2019.

3) NEW RESOLUTION: Play all 100 of my top games. Late in December, someone started this funny thing of ‘If I could only keep 7 games.’ I don’t know what kind of crazy world that is, but I don’t want any part of it! Someone online asked me how many could I limit myself to…and I said 100. So, I tweeted out my 100 game list. I will play all of them this year to make sure they deserve their spot on the list.

Quick Review of the Overall Play List

Full disclosure: I record electronic plays, regardless of whether my opponents are carbon or silicon based. This is because the experience of the play still exists in my mind so trying to invalidate those plays like they don’t exist is not useful to me. If you told someone you’d never played Race for the Galaxy because you had never played it FTF, but you’d played Keldon’s brilliant app 1,000 times, that’s not an accurate depiction of your experience at all.

Quarters

Ganz Schon Clever – 32 plays (most iOS) – I hit the 300 mark on this meaty roll-and-write, then stopped playing. GSC has an addictive quality and I’ll admit many plays were after I said, “Oh, just one more play.” I narrowly missed acquiring the game over the holiday in a gift exchange so I’m not sure it will ever make the jump off iOS onto my shelf. What a year Wolfgang Warsch had with this game, The Mind, Illusions and The Quacks of Quedlinburg. Glad someone liked 2018!

Spite & Malice – 32 plays (all iOS) – A go-to train game while I am listening to books on tape. I can play this simple game with minimal attention and I haven’t truly tired of it yet. Spite is a perfect two-screen companion, I say.

Cribbage – 27 plays (most iOS) – Cribbage was the game I most played with my Dad and this year, I played it with my son (first time) and on iOS a lot because I lost my Dad in late January. I am writing up a separate note about Cribbage, my dad and me to come out in January.

Almost Dimes and Quarters

Glass Road – 22 plays (most iOS) – I love this Uwe Rosenberg game. In a fast-playing game that lasts 35-45 with experienced players, there is a lot of game. I have the out-of-production app on my old iPad but no longer on my phone so I expect my Glass Road plays will drop. I guess I will drop this number in 2019. That just means it will need to hit the table more often (it’s on my Top 100 Games List).

The Game – 21 plays (all iOS) – Another mindless game that I play on the train with an audiobook. That makes a 25 minute train ride feel like 5 minutes. Probably fewer plays in 2019 because Spite & Malice and Love Letter are more popular with me now.

Unpublished Prototype – 21 plays recorded (probably a lot more) – This tapered off in the latter half of the year due to sheer busy times. I expect it to pop back up in the New Year with some help from my buddy Ta-Te Wu.

Ascension – 18 plays – Another book companion that I can play on the train. The UGLY new update probably killed this one for me, which I’d say was an addiction before. While I deeply dislike what they did to the game’s UI, I’m kind of grateful so I could open up and play more different games.

Dungeons and Dragons – 17 plays – The headline for my 2018 gaming is my return to RPGs after nearly 30 years (last played seriously in 1989). This infringed on the board games a bit, but it made my son and friends very happy – and, thus, me. More on this in a separate post. Now is a great time to get back in, by the way, as Amazon has the $50 main books on sale for $20. It’s like the 80’s again!

The Mind – 15 plays – All in person and probably would have been higher if we’d not misplaced my copy. Will be high in 2019 as well. This game intrigues all of the people to whom I introduce it and I feel like it’ll get more attention in the future. I still agree that Azul deserved that SDJ win, but The Mind is a keeper.

Codenames – 14 plays – This might be higher because I tend to record for a session, but Codenames remains a wonderful pre-gateway party games. And with my homebrew holiday editions hitting (and one especially for my company), we’ll always play some number of Codenames games. My wife also got Codenames Harry Potter for Christmas and that will surely come out soon.

One Deck Dungeon – 14 plays (all iOS) – This is an attractive iOS game, much more enjoyable than playing the game in person, which I found fiddly. But I expect to buy the DLC for this one in 2019 and keep playing it as a pleasant second-screener. This is definitely the case (also with Friday, another high-play game for me) where I think the app experience beats the physical game hands-down – if purely on administration.

Azul – 9 plays – I’m surprised this isn’t higher. Azul is a wonderful old-school euro with gorgeous pieces that I’d always enjoy playing. No surprise it came from a master like Michael Kiesling, who also had one amazing year with the glorious Heaven and Ale. We also have the new version, Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, which is a pleasant variant but won’t replace the original.

Four Against Darkness – 7 plays – Another sign of the return to playing more RPG-style games. I was intrigued by this solo-style game that you play and also draw out as a kind of art project.

Terraforming Mars – 7 plays – Well, it’s just a great game. Yes, the graphics are wonky. Yes, it’s swingy on luck and the variants are too numerous. But is there any more compelling theme? Not for this lover of science fiction and space travel. I even read Red Mars, the book that inspired the game, this year, with plans to hit the other two in the series in 2019 (it’s really hard-SF for those who might consider it).

Simon’s Cat – 7 plays – This simple game caught my attention after buying it on clearance. I didn’t know the charming cat-based web series, but it had a cat and it was cheap. As a pleasant, light trick-taking game, Simon’s Cat is a winner. It helps that Liam, one of the charming sons of my good friend, took a liking to it and he’s made sure Simon’s Cat is on the list for each game day. That’s always a welcome request.

Summing it up

I’ll be honest – I wish I’d played more heavy games this year. I wish I’d played more games head-to-head with my son, who is now away at college during the week. I wish I’d had more time to spend on game design. But 2018 was the hardest year of my life, in terms of loss, profession, and immediate family needs. I’ve forgiven myself for those things I didn’t get done this year and achieving board game goals is the easiest of the lot. As I used to say on the podcast, it’s only a game. That’s one thing I really love about this part of my life.

Yes, board gamers compete and play hard. But considered how much of the rest of my life has stakes that are ridiculously high, this hobby (and my reading) is the place where I can just have fun and spend time with people I like. It’s the way I refuel for the hard stuff. It’s the best method of relaxation and while some might feel the stress of gameplay, this is all good stress for me. Thank goodness for boardgames, I say – and for a New Year in which to work, love, achieve and – definitely – play.

Happy New Year! May your 2019 be grand! – EB

5 Quick Questions About Builders! with Tyler Omichinski

5 Quick Questions About Builders! with Tyler Omichinski

Editor’s Note: As a kind of content geek, I try new formats. People seem to love our interviewette for tabletop designers that is a quick read. We promise no TL;DR. Let’s see how Tyler Omichinski, one of the designers of hot new game Builders! does, shall we?

BGB: Attention is money, my friend! What is the elevator pitch for Builders!?

Tyler: Builders! The Building-Building Deck Building game is a fun and fast paced game about competing to be the best construction company by any means necessary. Build a deck of employees, use them to construct zany floors in skyscrapers, and knock down the stuff your opponents have built.

Ed. Note: BGB fully endorses the amusing subtitle of this game.

BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?

Tyler: There were three main things that came together for this game.

One of the designers, Nat, is from the trades and loves deck builders. He pointed out that most construction games focus on the end result rather than the people involved in the process, so we worked to make that a reality.

This led into, once we were focusing on the people behind major projects like these, to ensure that it was inclusive. The industry is getting better for this sort of thing, but there are unfortunately still places that we can and need to get better, and the response we’ve been getting for this has been amazing.

Thirdly, most of our experience in game design is in RPGs or cooperative games, so we wanted to cut our teeth on something relatively light and accessible to get started on our own project.

The intersection of these three factors led to Builders!

BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?

Tyler: Probably the most likely spot to fill is an introductory deck-builder. It’s a good time (45 mins to an hour on average), has a lot of light-hearted humor, and has a good deal of depth to the mechanics without having a ton of them piling on the players, meaning that it isn’t intimidating. It’s a great in-between game, or the kind of thing that on a game-night you can run through a few times in a row.

BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?

Tyler: I mean, that there’s a 12 year old that we met at a con that can school every one of the designers and is probably the best player in the world is a bit embarrassing. That kid is amazing at card games!

Seriously though, there is a couple of small stories hidden within the cards that set up a series of small stories between the different characters. No one has caught on to it yet, and it was a thing that the art team crafted and we fell in love with.

BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Builders! Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?

Tyler: Yeah! 2-4 players, MSPR is 19 USD, for ages 13+. It’s a good thing to bring more people into gaming, and there’s plenty of interaction between players. One of the best parts is that, invariably, almost every table starts taking pictures of the buildings they’ve constructed and giggling about the implications of, I dunno, a dragon hanging out underneath a goat on the roof. You can check it out here.

BGB JOKE TIME

As for a joke, we’re just saying that if you arrange all the occult floors in the game you summon our team into your living room. Be careful!

No, we can do better, what about… what’s the difference between Gloom and Monopoly? One is a game about destroying families, and the other is Gloom.


5 Quick Questions About Dice Summoners with Eoin Costelloe

5 Quick Questions About Dice Summoners with Eoin Costelloe

Editor’s Note: Continuing in our popular interviewette series for tabletop designers, we travel via blog post to Dublin to hear about Dice Summoners from the designer Eoin Costelloe. The game is now live on Kickstarter and nearly funded. But I promised no TL;DR so let’s get to it. We can get all we need to help you feel good about supporting Dice Summoners on Kickstarter with these 5 Quick Questions.

Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Dice Summoners?

Ever wondered what it would be like to pit a Triceratops against an angel warrior, or to fire a magic arrow at a charging zombie? Dice Summoners is a two player game that allows you to do just that. Roll dice, match them with cards, build your army and attack your opponent. It is a game that is quick to set up and quick to play, with high replayability and a mythological theme.

Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?

I’ve loved trading card games like Yu-Gi-Oh since I was kid. So when we thought of an idea to curb the randomness of a deck and replace it with dice, we couldn’t resist. We’ve played a lot of heavy strategy and heavy luck based games that we loved. We wanted to create a game that was a nice balance of both with some cool modern mechanics like a common pool of cards.

Dice Summoners

There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?

This game is fast and quick to play. We think there aren’t enough good two player games out there. This game is great for two people waiting for that friend who is always late for a game night. It has 44 interchangeable decks that make for hundreds of different versions you can play. It’s a painstakingly balanced game, meaning there are many different strategies that players can win with.

This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?

We nearly killed each other trying to make a 4 player version of this game because we just couldn’t get the balance right. We aren’t ruling out a 4 player down the line because we have some good ideas for it but we have some couples counseling to get through before we can start working on that version again.

Thanks for telling us a bit about Dice Summoners. Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?

Dice Summoners is a two player duel using cards and dice that plays in about 30 minutes for ages 14 and above. It’s aimed at players who want a light competitive card game with high replayability. The game has an engaging strategy using dice based action selection and an extensive variety of cards. Immerse yourself in it’s mythological theme as players deplete their enemy’s health to win the battle.


Our Kickstarter is now live so check us out and consider backing us.https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/870869293/dice-summoners
And if board game development doesn’t work out, I think I’ll become an optician. People will say it’s a bad idea but they’ll see. They’ll all see.

Just love these 5 Quick Questions things? There are more here.

Book Impression: Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

Book Impression: Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(mostly spoiler-free)
Port of Shadows is the newest in the Black Company series, my favorite fantasy series when I was a young lad. As much as I respected and enjoyed Tolkien, revered Eddings, was dazzled by Zelazny, was charmed by the Dragonlance books, and enthused about Moorcock, Cook was the guy who wrote the book that inspired my own creation of a D&D world. Looking at Orphel, the fantasy world I created for RPGs back in high school, is heavily influenced by the gritty Black Company novels. While none of them live up the original book, many in the series get close and Cook’s characters are real people like you see in Game of Thrones, not perfect fantasy-book archetypes. I found this far more interesting than regular ‘quest-fantasy’.

I excitedly read through Port of Shadows new Black Company book since it’s the first one in ages. Cook is the same guy he was before, lots of excellent plotting (if they are sometimes more complex than they need to be), names that are sometimes awesome and sometimes ludicrous (and he goes full Russian Novel here with people going by three names), and the often lazy writing (the anachronistic phrases members of the Black Company slide into and the tendency to leave all the voices sounding the same. This was always a bit of a problem but it’s maybe worse here than ever before. A good editor could make Cook’s books all the more wonderful but he’s never found his own Maxwell Perkins.

I’d also caution readers who are sensitive about his treatment of women (others have commented on it and his racially-insensitive language in the past), but he’s fully writing about a society with a different attitude that is in line with historical views. My 2018 sensibility made me cringe at times, but I cringed at A Column of Fire earlier this year, too, which is a historical novel. I don’t think Follett or Cook advocate these views, they just write about them. Anyway, a word to the concerned.

While it’s nice to have series star narrator Croaker back after Murgen’s fussiness (who narrated a bunch of Black Company books more recently), the narrative takes some odd turns and there is more focus on an intriguing history than there needs to be (it’s good, but less of it would have been better). There’s also a truly bizarre epilogue that kind of gives Cook the option to kind of dismiss things he brought up that sounded kind of problematic for the lore. Insurance for inconsistencies that hardcore fans might find? Perhaps so.

All in all, a fun read and I hope the next book is also earlier in the timeline like this one. The grittiness of the series (which I re-read this year in anticipation of Port of Shadows) reminds me of the strong influence he was on GRRM’s Game of Thrones. Even a lot of his language goes directly into phrases used in GOT, although Martin does a finer job of turning that language into a real vernacular where Cook just spits out tough-guy talk. This is also one of the longer Black Company books and I’m inclined to think that Cook is best when he is briefer.

If you love the Black Company (as I do, warts-and-all), you will enjoy Port of Shadows for sure – which is why this decidedly three-star review has a fourth one up there. Pure nostalgia, folks – uncut and effective.

Buy it here! Amazon has a great price for it.

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5 Quick Questions About Machina Arcana with Juraj Bilich

5 Quick Questions About Machina Arcana with Juraj Bilich
Editor’s Note: Continuing in our popular interviewette series for tabletop designers, I give you the return of the dark and mysterious world of Machina Arcana – the 2nd Edition of which is now live on Kickstarter. But let’s not get all TL;DR. We just need to get the skinny on the game with 5 Quick Questions.

BGB: Attention is money, my friend. What is the elevator pitch for Machina Arcana?
Juraj Bilich: Getting slaughtered with your friends was never been more fun! Does a surreal orgy of Hellraiser, Giger, Cronenberg, and The Thing sounds interesting?  Are you searching for a hard dungeon crawler with occult undertones? What about a story-driven game wrapped in psychological anxiety and cosmic existentialism?  If these things are tempting, then Machina Arcana is a game for you.
 
Machina Arcana
 
BGB: Making games is hard work, so you best have a great reason for making this thing. What inspired this game?
 
Juraj Bilich: You sound like there was any choice involved. Some people are inspired, while others have an obsession that drives them do great things. But She doesn’t appreciate any of that nonsense. The thing is, She wants to get out into this world.. and the only way to make the pain go away is.. is.. to let her use my hands. My teeth. My blood. It is all for Her.
 
BGB: There are too many games out there. What hole in my game collection does this fill?
 
Juraj Bilich: The unique environment, interactive inventory, combat mechanics and tactical diversity are all enveloped in an integral storytelling experience that provides both total immersion in the dark world and full replay value. There is no need for a game master, and no special conditions based on the player count.
 
Players take on the role of explorers that are thrown into dreadful halls, scratching for survival and progressing through the chapters from one of many horror stories. Even if they manage to stay alive till the end of the story, they will face a special mini game at the finale of each scenario.
 
Machina Arcana
 
BGB: This is Boardgame Babylon, so out with your dirty secrets. What DON’T you want to tell me about this game?
 
Juraj Bilich: I am already working on different modes for the game that completely change the gameplay experience. These include deathmatch, and a puppeteer mode.
 
BGB: Thanks for telling us a bit about Machina Arcana. Let’s wrap up with the key specifics (play time, number of players, and the link to the game) and also, since I think you can tell a lot about a person by understanding their sense of humor, what’s a good joke to close this interviewette?  
 
Juraj Bilich: Machina Arcana is a cooperative steampunk horror game for 1-4 players. It has a modifiable duration and difficulty setting. For the complete scenario it can take up to 4 hours, while in shortest mode you can finish the game in 30 minutes.
 
Considering the occult and dark images and stories, the game is not for kids (ages 14 and above). Our Kickstarter launch date is 4th of September (10AM EST time)!
 
In the end, I want to thank my dad for always believing in me, he has the heart of a lion… and a lifetime ban from the zoo.
 
 
Editor’s Note: Why, yes, there are MORE 5 Quick Questions Articles. You can find them here…

PRESS RELEASE: DIZED OPEN EARLY ACCESS AND KICKSTARTER ANNOUNCEMENT

PRESS RELEASE: DIZED OPEN EARLY ACCESS AND KICKSTARTER ANNOUNCEMENT

Tuesday, August 14, 2018 (Helsinki) – After a successful showing at Gen Con 2018, North America’s largest board game convention, Playmore Games’ Dized app has released in open early access on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Players can download it for free on their smart devices. Used in conjunction with board games, Dized removes the most common barrier to playing games: learning the rules before playing. Through interactive tutorials, players are guided through their play sessions without any previous knowledge of the board game, much like how video games teach players today.

Dized’s interactive tutorials differ from videos. They adapt to the number of players, seating positions (if required by the game), turn flow, and more, ensuring players are constantly interacting with the board game, each other, and the app for a learning experience like no other. Gone are the days of waiting for the designated rules reader of a group to figure out the game before playing or constantly scrubbing through a tutorial video to find exactly what you need.

The open early access gives every user access to interactive tutorials for the award-winning games Blood Rage from CMON and Kingdomino from Blue Orange Games completely free, with Brain Games’ ICECOOL premiering on the app later this month as well. Dized’s first set of publisher tools arrive this month and promises to grow the app’s content even further by allowing companies to create living rules and FAQs for their games. Future interactive tutorials and living rules are planned with fan-favorite companies like CMON, Steve Jackson Games, IELLO, Horrible Games, and more already partnered.

As part of the app’s growth plan, Playmore Games will launch a Dized Kickstarter campaign in September of 2018 that will allow the team to further their external tool sets by providing the game industry with one for creating their own interactive tutorials. Currently, tutorials are made in house, which is a significant bottleneck when combined with the app’s overall development. The campaign also allows Dized to be introduced to a wider audience through Kickstarter’s passionate community of backers supporting projects they believe in.

“Board games are all about community, and Dized wants to support that by ensuring families, friends, and all other types of game groups can come together to play more games by removing unnecessary barriers. Getting that community support is vital to accomplishing this dream, and we believe Kickstarter will help us reach that goal,” explains Playmore Games’ CEO Jouni Jussila.

Playmore Games will continue to update users about Dized’s upcoming Kickstarter project and the app on its social channels, including Facebook (@getdized), Twitter (@getdized), Instagram (@getdized), and their website (www.dized.com).

About Dized
Founded in 2014 by enthusiastic players and game designers Jouni Jussila and Tomi Vainikka, Playmore Games’ goal is to show there is a better way to learn and enjoy board games together. While the board games industry is booming, a significant obstacle remains: learning rules is a slow and tedious process. Playmore Games’ first app, Dized, will offer smart tutorials, setup guidance, a blazing fast rules lookup tool and other exclusive features to make the board game experience all about fun.

About Playmore Games
Dized is being built by Playmore Games, founded in 2014 by Jouni Jussila and Tomi Vainikka. After a successful release of the Race to the North Pole board game, the company has been developing the smart device application. Dized has been in development since 2015 and is a registered trademark of Playmore Games.

iOS Review: Hardback by Tim Fowers

iOS Review: Hardback by Tim Fowers

Hardback is the delightful sequel to Paperback, the deckbuilding word game from always-interesting designer Tim Fowers. This is a sequel worth having 

As a second-generation bibliophile, I do love games with a book theme. I had the pleasure of playtesting Tim Fowers’ delightful Paperback (which originally had a longer title that might have gotten him in trouble with The Beatles’ record company) so I knew this excellent twist on the deckbuilder genre was going to be a hit.

While I like the physical game, in iOS form, Paperback is one of my most-played games. The game captures the wonderful feel of Scrabble with the clever mechanisms of deckbuilding optimization. This is a tight design that delights this wordsmith. I really enjoy coming up with the best word for the letters I’m dealt.

With that in mind, I was delighted to hear that Tim decided to return to the concepts of Paperback with a sequel. The game takes the deckbuilder concept and refines it to give the game a different, more open feel.

Hardback versus Paperback

Hardback plays like Paperback on a basic level. You are building words with the cards you draw in deckbuilder-style (if you’re reading this blog, I’m going say, you get it.) Points are scored by playing letter formed into words that give you enough money to buy additional letters that may have special powers. While the letters are in rows (Ascension-style), you can also buy victory point cards that act as wild cards and big words get you a bonus card once in a while. Also appealing: your change can be used to ‘Buy Ink.’ This lets you flip cards without losing their benefit. No more leftover change with no value, which was a gripe with Paperback.

The difference is that Hardback lets you turn every card into a wild card if you would like to do so. This gives you a lot more opportunity to come up with the words you really want to create. But it’s not a free-for-all or something. Turning the individual cards into wilds actually sacrifices the benefits of the card, which may be gaining cash to buy more cards or it might be awarding victory points.

Hardback

Genre Cards

Hardback also includes Genre cards, much like the faction cards in Clank!, are cards that interact with each other when you have more of them. Thus, having more Horror or Mystery cards in your word will get you some bonuses, as stated on the cards. So, instead of a restriction based on only the letters you have, your choices are about what you sacrifice to get the right combination of letters and benefits. As much as I love Paperback, this is a really interesting implementation of the original concept.

Hardback played solo has the same addictive quality of Paperback. As much as I can enjoy the game in person with other players, like Dominion, it’s really competitive solitaire. Thus, they both work better (for me) as solitaire experiences. The gameplay is compelling and it’s one of those peanut games (i.e., you can’t play just once).

Graphic Design Challenges

If I have a complaint about Hardback, it’s that the digital version is rough on the eyes. While I admire the excellent artwork of Ryan Goldsberry, whose delightful visions have appeared in all of Tim Fowers’ games, Hardback feels like a slight misfire from the logo page onward. While his development of the snappy style of Paperback takes the feel backward in time, it has also gained an ornate look that makes it hard to read.

Capturing the mood of the different book genres with different fonts is a good idea. Yet, in practice, it makes the game look less appealing. Some of the genre fonts (the Romance font is probably the worst) are hard enough to see on my iPhone 7 Plus that I’ve bought a different letter just to avoid it. The flashy letters are even less appealing when contrasted with the tiny size of the iconography (including the Flip spot).

The cards aren’t the only problem. The game has so many fonts elsewhere that are hard on the eyes as well, including the Submit button that is on a kind of flag or something and the various stylized but oddly large card names elsewhere. Worse, the score marker is so subtle that I didn’t notice it at all my first game. When you do notice it, it’s hard to tell numbers – you can just basically say you are winning or losing. That’s fine for me, but players with a more pointed need for precise will suffer at the colorful and perhaps overly-stylized score tracker.

The Final Word

Hardback is a delightful offshoot of the original Paperback that absolutely deserves a spot on your shelf. As a solo game players on you mobile device, it’s a winning title that well suits my ask that games be playable in a 5-8 minute timeframe. This is about as long as I want to really hold the device while playing. Longer games are fun but I need to use the iPad for them.

Lovely but squinty art aside, Hardback is a winner. The game is definitely worth the money to add this compelling little word game to your digital collection. Here’s hoping that Softcover, eBook, or perhaps Limited Edition is the name of the inevitable third game in Fowers’ trilogy.

Hardback is available now for download to your iOS device.

Boardgame Babylon Rating for Hardback

BIN (Buy It Now) PIN (P)lay It Now TIF (Try It First) NMT (Not My Thing)

Disclosure: A complimentary copy of the app was provided by the publisher for independent review.