Here’s a quick look at the ‘death & damage’ side of the latest chip for the Kickstarter project. Here’s the link to the update. These chips will be used as health and damage tokens in games.
Full disclosure: I’m currently running a Kickstarter campaign to create a board game related accessory (hopefully that’s not news).
Almost every blog and podcast now features a discussion about Kickstarter and its potential impact on the board gaming hobby. Why should this blog be different? Here are a few of the themes that almost always surface:
1. The quality of the games that will be created by first-time creators will lower quality compared to those from established publishers.
2. Eventually, the creditability of of Kickstarter-funded game development will be harmed by a project that either fails to deliver what was described, or delivers nothing at all.
3. The Kickstarter ‘craze’ will begin to wane as a result of the above two themes.
So, are these 3 theories accurate? In 5 years, what impact will Kickstarter have had on the hobby? No one knows the real answer, but here is my opinion.
I’ve been in the board gaming hobby for at least 10 years, and in that time, the number of games being brought to market each year continues to rise. This growth trend was in motion before the Kickstarter mania. Now with Kickstarter, even more games are created and marketed each year. Another equally gamer-friendly trend is the rise of IOS gaming, which logically should have taken market share away from the board gaming hobby as consumers could simply pay the small fee for the IOS version and not need to invest in the physical copy of the game. According to many game publishers, the IOS versions actually end up causing more sales of physical copies. So, simply put, more games are hitting the market than ever before in the hobby games market.
In many ways, the growth in board gaming seems similar to the rise in PC\console games. In both PC\console gaming, the number of games published each year seems to rise. If you look at the Wii platform, which appears to have fairly loose publishing requirements, there are tons of games published each year. If you were to chart these games, they probably would fall into a bell curve with some incredible games..and some terrible games. If you just look at higher number of games being published, logic would dictate that game buyers should be treated to some great games.
The net effect of the increasing number of games on the market will likely be that gamers will become more selective in their purchases. In recent years, an avid gamer could take chances on games that were not proven and\or not from established publishers. I foresee that serious gamers will become more cautious in their decision making to determine if to add a game to their collection or not. To attract these more selective gamers, more elaborate Kickstarter campaigns will become required to rise over the sea of average offerings. I would predict some very large-scale campaigns from established publishers will soon begin to appear. The marketing appeal of Kickstarter is simply too large for even established companies to overlook. Expect highly polished videos and some really unique reward offerings.
I imagine that some established publishers might be concerned that the Kickstarter phenomena may start to shrink their slice of the gamer’s budget. I would expect that they will react with one of their best weapons that will be hard for independent publishers to compete with….using licensed properties. Regardless of how good some of the independent games are, the use of recognizable characters and themes is a strong draw for some gamers.
The fact that the Kickstarter funding platform exists may drive the entire industry to improve. Gamers will have even more games to pick from. Producing games that will rise above the average titles will be the challenge for publishers to meet. This could translate into great times ahead for gamers.
The last point I will make is that Kickstarter’s project structure allows game designers to get immediate input from players before the game goes to print. In my opinion, this is the most exciting element of Kickstarter. Small issues will often be resolved and this may allow some games to make the leap from an average title to a great title.
So, are the 3 premises correct?
1. Quality will suffer – In terms of quality, yes, the quality of games from established publishers will be better than most independent games. If they aren’t, what extra value is being provided?
2. Kickstarter credibility – Quite possibly a scandal will happen, but I think it’s unlikely to derail the viability of Kickstarter as a path of game publishing.
3. The Kickstarter craze will subside – I doubt it. I believe that the campaigns will get very ambitious and elaborate to attract backers and those companies who are able to find the formula for engaging gamers will raise lots of $$ for their projects.
Of course, this is just the opinion of a gamer who is optimistic about the future of the hobby.
We’ve just posted a great new strategy guide for Dominion. This guide covers all of the core strategies and helps players avoid common mistakes. Enjoy.
Dragon Rampage is the latest offering from Richard Launius, designer of several popular theme-oozing games, including Arkham Horror and Defenders of the Realm. In this dice-based dungeon romp, the players are members of a party of adventurers traveling through a dragon’s lair. Along the way they are pilfering gold, stealing treasure and attacking the dragon — all through rolling a set of custom dice and assigning the results to various actions. But moving through the dungeon comes with its dangers; the dragon attacks every round, and whoever has earned the dragon’s ire that round is in danger of taking damage.
The game ends after several rounds when one of three endgame conditions are met — either the players defeat the dragon, one of the players manages to flee the dungeon, or one of the heroes is killed. At that point scores are tallied and the winner is determined. And based on which condition triggers the endgame, the scoring system changes. If the game ends with a player fleeing the dungeon, players are rewarded for being closest to the exit. But if the game ends by slaying the dragon, players are penalized for trying to escape — after all, those closest to the dragon when it dies deserve the glory.
Theme-wise, Dragon Rampage is a winner. There are six different characters, and each has its own deck of hero cards which suit a particular play style and set of goals. There are plenty of interesting artifacts which provide helpful and sometimes downright super-powerful special abilities. The specifics of the dragon’s attack also change every turn, governed by a random card draw and just how angry the players made the dragon that turn.
The core mechanics are basically the same as the game Dice Town… The different faces of the dice represent the different actions you can take — healing and/or blocking the dragon’s attacks, attacking the dragon, moving through the dungeon, grabbing artifacts, stealing gold from other players… The more dice you roll of a particular symbol, the better chance you’ll have of beating out the other players for that action. Most actions have a consolation prize so that whoever comes in second or third also gets a lesser benefit. I love Dice Town, and don’t mind the occasional bad luck that comes with a game heavily reliant on dice, but there are a few things that make this mechanic fall flat in Dragon Rampage:
* Sequential turns. In Dice Town everyone is rolling simultaneously, so things move along quickly. Plus, you get to see what dice the other players are keeping when they do their re-rolls, so can adjust accordingly with each re-roll. In Dragon Rampage, you have to wait for everyone to individually take their turn, and though the final player of the round loses all tie-breakers, they at least have the advantage of knowing exactly what they need to beat on any given action space. The player who goes first, despite winning all tie-breakers, is at a disadvantage because all they can do is hope their choices ride to the end of the round.
* Re-rolling is not usually a good idea. On each die, one or two of the faces shows the red dragon. The more of that face you roll, the more likely you are to be the one who takes damage when the dragon attacks. To make matters worse, you can’t re-roll those dice. Worse still, every dragon you rolled is one less die that gives you a chance to do an action. So not only are you taking damage and unable to exercise the re-roll ability to its maximum effectiveness, but you have fewer dice to contribute to actions that turn. So if you are lucky enough to roll 7 “good” results on your first roll, it’s almost foolish to dare a re-roll.
It basically ends up being a bastardization of the “Yahtzee” mechanic that has become so common in dice games (roll, choose which dice to keep, re-roll the rest), and not for the better. Richard Launius would have done well to take a page out Matt Lecock’s book. There’s a similar mechanic in that designer’s dice game Roll Through the Ages, with the disaster results. In that game you can’t reroll disasters either, but disasters carry a good effect to go with the bad (they provide you with extra resources), and if you roll enough of the “bad” results you can actually turn the tables and damage your opponents instead. In Dragon Rampage, rolling red dice is simply bad. Yes, there are some card effects that can change that, but whether or not you have access to one of those cards is complete chance. More often than not, you won’t be able to do anything about it. Whatever strategy the re-roll mechanic might have given to the game is almost completely neutered by the punishing effects of the red dragon results.
Now, if the game played faster I probably wouldn’t mind so much. But going first, rolling three dragons on your first roll, and then having to sit back and watch as the other players roll better and push you out of the one or two action spots you managed to secure with your limited dice is agonizing.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the rulebook, which is a serious letdown. This is not a complicated game by any means, yet once again Eagle Games dropped the ball. In what has become a troubling trend with their games — Railways of the World, Defenders of the Realm and the Age of Discovery: Builders expansion are just a few that suffer from a similar problem — the rules are too short, and incomplete. We have an entire paragraph explaining the difference between a “1” gold token and a “5” gold token, but no explanation of how to resolve endgame scoring if two or more players tie for one of the conditions. One rule says heroes can play any number of hero cards during their turn, but there is nothing in the “hero card” section about playing hero cards during other points of the game, which seems necessary with many of the cards.
A couple notes on components: As with the similarly-laid out Defenders of the Realm, the graphic design isn’t for everyone. Personally I didn’t mind it. But at this price point I definitely felt the pangs of not having any colorful artwork on any of the cards. The player boards were warped right out of the package and, this’ll seem an odd complaint, but I felt the dice were TOO big. There’s something to be said for being able to give a handful of dice a good shake — purely from a tactile standpoint — and with these dice you can’t do that.
All of these little misses in the rulebook add up, and while the game is technically playable out of the box, we still had to waste time combing the rules for answers that couldn’t be found and, in some cases, just making up the answer by group consensus because we didn’t want to spend any more time doing online research.
Ultimately, there’s a lot I could have liked about Dragon Rampage… the varying hero abilities, the wide range of artifact cards and special abilities, the multiple paths to victory and having to adjust your plans based on which way the wind is blowing… But ultimately I just found the game to be TOO random and frustrating. And more importantly, just not fun. There are certainly some who will enjoy this game for what it is — a light, random romp through a dungeon with a healthy bit of “screw the other guy to help yourself” thrown in. If you enjoy the more random, old-school adventure games like Talisman and Dungeon Quest, then you’ll probably love Dragon Rampage. To quote a popular GameKnight saying, “it’s right in your wheelhouse.” But if you like to have some control in your games, you probably want to skip this one.
Dice Town and Roll Through the Ages are just two examples of dice games that do it much better. I’ll concede that their theme and chrome don’t stand up to Dragon Rampage‘s, but sometimes theme alone is not enough. Dragon Rampage could have been a fun game, but the punishing effects of bad rolls are too punishing, and for what it is, the play time and down-time are simply too long.
Reviewed by Jeff Hannes
UPDATE: Although you may have missed the Kickstarter project, GameKnight will be offering these chips for sale in the near future (May\June 2012). If you want to be alerted to availability, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and put GameChips in the subject line.
GameKnight has just launched it’s first kickstarter project. Follow the link to find out all about this great new accessory for board gamers.
My project is to create GameChips, a customized set of poker chips to meet the needs of board gamers.
Many board games use some form of game currency. The problem is that currency components included with games range from ok to terrible with some rare exceptions. Here’s some of the in-box components:
- Cardboard tokens: Usually you need to punch these out yourself. They get worn out pretty fast, and sometimes they get torn when you are trying to punch them.
- Paper money: This is probably the worst type of game currency. It rips, tears, and creases. Try taking a game to the beach and watch it fly around.
- Plastic chips: A little better than paper or cardboard, but these are often very thin and difficult to stack or pick up.
- Metal coins: Usually these don’t work that well because they are too small to stack. Most don’t have a denomination printed on them.
Poker players and casinos found the right solution. They realized that the best replacement for currency is the poker chip. Not only are poker chips fun to handle, but they stack easily and make a cool noise when you throw them into a pile.
Unfortunately, standard poker chips have a few problems that make them less than perfect for board gaming. Most sets of chips don’t have the right denominations for board games. For example, how many poker chip sets do you find with the value of 3? In board games, seeing a coin with the value of 3 is not uncommon. Some sets have chips with no values at all. However, this requires gamers to keep track of the various colors and their values. Finally, most poker chips have designs that don’t look right when playing board games.
This answer is to create GameChips, a custom set of chips to meet the needs of board gamers. The chips will have all the commonly used denominations for board games. The graphic design of GameChips will feature easy to read denominations, and a look that will fit right in with wide range of board game genres.
The graphic design follows a natural progression of materials. The low value chips (1/2/3) have been designed to look like they are made from wood, clay\brick, stone respectively. The mid-range chips (5/10/20) chips have been designed to look like metal (copper\silver\gold) and the high value chips have been designed to look like gems (emeralds, sapphire, black diamond).
GameChips will be ceramic, just like many casinos use. Ceramic chips are considered to be the most durable and will last many, many years. The other advantage of ceramic chips is that the graphic design can cover the entire chip.
Below is a grid that summarizes the rewards for reach level of support:
In addition what is shown below, users may customize the mix of denominations for a reward level. For example, let’s say you want 100 chips, but don’t really want just 1’s & 5’s as shown below. All you need to do is pledge your support for the “New Gamer” reward, and send me a message that you want to customize it (within the
9 10 denominations that I’ll be creating for this project of course), and we’ll work out the details.
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Dungeon Petz is a recent game by veteran designer Vlaada Chvátil. His design credits include: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, Galaxy Trucker, Space Alert, Dungeon Lords, and Mage Knight.
My Wednesday night gaming group brought this to the table recently so here is a brief review based on the initial play.
As with other games, I’ll rank the game on a variety of aspects, and provide an overall rating.
Become the leader of an imp family that has just started a new business – breeding and selling petz. Sound simple and safe? Well, we forgot to mention that those petz are for Dungeon Lords. This means magical, playful, sometimes angry monsters that constantly desire attention and at the very moment you want them to demonstrate their qualities to buyers they are sick or they poo. Sometimes you are even glad that you got rid of them – but the profit is unbelievable.
Dungeon Petz is a standalone game set in the Dungeon Lords universe created in the board game of the same name. The game consists of several rounds in which players use unusual worker placement mechanisms (players simultaneously prepare different-sized groups of imps in order to play sooner than others) to prepare themselves for the uneasy task of raising creature cubs and pleasing their different needs represented by cards in order to sell them as grown scary creatures to Dungeon Lords. In the meantime they also attend various contests in which they show off their pets, scoring additional points.
Let’s start with Theme. The theme of this game is original, and fun. What is most surprising is that the whimsical theme seems completely out of place on this particular game. Since the theme sounds so light and playful, I had expected the game to be light in strategy as well. Boy was I wrong. Even still, the theme by itself is awesome and very well implemented throughout the game.
This is a heavy strategy game. If you are the type of player who likes to compute and optimize your play to yield the highest score you will feel right at home with this game. There are so many options to consider each turn, and while luck does have some impact, this game is a heavy euro dressed in a dire bunny suit. Since each turn you must draw cards that determine what ‘needs’ your petz have. If you were a good planner you will likely be able to keep your pets happy, clean, and safely locked in their cage. However, the luck of the draw could put you in a position where your prize pets become diseased, mutated, or worse.
The components in Dungeon Petz are well above average. Each pet is designed on a rotating wheel so that the longer you have the pet, the more valuable (and needy) it becomes. Each player also has a supply of little imps that are used in a fairly unique worker placement mechanic. If I had a nit to pick, it would be about the size of the game board. There is so much going on in this game, all of the actions are crammed onto a small game board. Overall, I think almost everyone who has a chance to play would probably agree the components are very well designed and of high quality.
There are a lot of mechanics in this game. My favorite mechanic of the game is the way the designer chose to implement the worker placement mechanic. Players must secretly assign imps and coins into groups. After all player have decided, the groups are simultaneously revealed. The turn order is based on the largest groups to the smallest groups for placement. This allows a player to decide if they want to concentrate on winning one or two crucial actions for the turn, or perhaps have more actions but risking that the actions they want may be occupied by other imps. The reason I didn’t go even higher with this rating is simply that the game feels like there is too much to think about on a turn and players prone to paralysis may need a lot of time to assess all of the possible permutations that need to be considered. I tend to think that the mechanics of the game should allow easy to understand yet meaningful decision making. In this game, the number of decision needed per turn are overwhelming.
I really wanted to like this game. It has everything going for it. Great theme, components, sold mechanics. For my personal taste, this game has too many decisions, and each decision requires math and analysis to determine what action will yield the largest number of points. Of course many games require this type of analysis, but usually there are not quite so many different things that need to be considered at the same time.
Overall Rating: 6/10
If you like heavy strategy games and the theme appeals to you, this game has a lot going for it. Reflecting back, I wonder if the fact that it had such a light theme and such heavy mechanics might have skewed my opinion. If the game had the feel of a heavy euro, my expectations of the game might have been very different.
GameKnight has just added a bunch of Twilight Imperium resources to the site including a comprehensive strategy guide. If you’re a fan of TI, head over and check it out. Special thanks Stefan Sasse for providing permission to repost this excellent strategy guide originally posted to boardgamegeek.com
It hit the table last night and we tried a 3-player game. The rulebook wasn’t the easiest read, but we got the majority of the rules figured out and started to play.
The game feels like a combination of Settlers of Catan and Kingsburg, and perhaps a bit of Dice Town. Given I like all three of these games, that’s not a bad thing.
The gameplay happens very quickly once players become familiar with the options that are available each turn. Since your choices are constrained by your die rolls, your choices are not too difficult to evaluate.
My initial reaction is that the game does a lot of things right. The mechanics seem to be well designed, however there are a bunch of exceptions to rules when selecting actions that players need to keep in mind when playing. I would need more plays to fully evaluate this aspect, so I’ll defer elaborating on this until after a couple of plays.
Fun Rating: 7.5/10 – I had a good time playing, it plays fast, and I almost always felt that I had decent options available regardless of the dice results.
Strategy: 6.5/10 – A lighter strategy game where chance can help or hurt a player’s strategy frequently.
Theme: 8/10 – This game has a strong western theme. The mechanics, design, and components all contribute to a well-themed game.
Components: 8/10 – The components seem above average in quality. A minor nit would be that the cards have a shiny\laminated look and feel. My personal preference is towards cards that have a linen look & feel.
Mechanics: 7/10 – Certain rules have exceptions that make trips back to the rulebook happen more often that I would like. After a few plays, I think this score might improve. Overall the mechanics work well with the game.
Keep in mind the above review is based on a single play. I am hoping to get this back to the table soon and I’ll be able to see if my initial thoughts are on target. I would suggest if you are a fan of Kingsburg, Settlers of Catan, and like Western themes this game will probably be a worthy addition to your collection. Stay tuned for updates after more play time.
Update after 2nd Play
Got this one back to the table a few days later with 4 players. My opinion remains almost the same. It’s a good game, that could be great with some streamlining of rules. After the game, there were a lot of ideas thrown around on how to make some minor improvements. If we get this one back to the table soon, I’m considering playing it with some house rules.