The Kickstarter campaign for The 7th Continent is coming to a dramatic close, and its second-to-last stretch goal has been revealed: An app-in-development that will allow some augmented reality exploration of the Continent. The response has been mixed.
Some gamers feel that the game is tarnished now, partially through the integration of an app when games should be analog, and partially because the addition of an app will make a portion of the game unplayable if and when that app is no longer supported.
I'm going to come out and say, however, that I think the addition of a few augmented reality cards is cool—we're talking a small add-on to the game (only 5 additional cards) that you won't even use unless you organically discover the "all-seeing eye" item organically while playing the game. The item will also have special rules that make it usable even without an app. That makes the entire tech integration part of this optional, so that the analog-committed can continue to enjoy their games in their preferred way.
To me, the fact that you won't even know how to download the app without the right card adds to the adventure and will keep me playing the game longer in search of interesting surprises. I missed the first Kickstarter, but I backed this round of The 7th Continent because I was promised that I would do things I have never seen or done in a game before. As far as I'm concerned, this app represents Serious Poulp continuing to deliver on that promise.
I am always curious to see discussions of how tech is integrated into board gaming, because I think our arguments about it are actually arguments about who we are as board gamers. Are we open to technology? Are we totally committed to analog play? And what do our answers to those questions say about us?
As someone who also loves video games and who plays a lot of app versions of board games, I think I am already primed for more gaming apps. I am open to what The 7th Continent is trying to do. That said, I will not be happy if down the line I need a separate app for every board game I want to play. Technology that does something cool in the service of a game, that makes sense within the game world, is something I can go for. But I also don't want to download a bunch of extraneous junk and clog up my phone. We'll see how board games continue to develop in the coming years!
Is it just me, or does it seem like great Kickstarters come in bunches? On top of the campaigns with great solo options I mentioned last week, there are two more currently in action.
1. Detective: City of Angels
I'm kind of imagining this as L. A. Noire, the board game. When playing with others, you can play the game cooperatively or competitively. The game also includes a player called the "Chisel" whose job is to provide you with information—sometimes false information—in the most frustrating way possible, just as if you were interrogating real suspects. In solo mode, you interview suspects by working with a case book, much like in Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. I love mystery-solving games, and this one seems like it's all about mimicking the feeling of solving an actual mystery. Plus, I can't think of too many good noir-themed board games, so this will spice up my steady diet of fantasy and farming/trade games... I also trust Van Ryder Games to deliver a great product. Hostage Negotiator has certainly never let me down.
2. Too Many Bones: Undertow
This one is an insta-back for me. I love Too Many Bones and I love Chip Theory Games in general. Their high-quality components and attention to solo play make up for the fact that their games are pretty expensive. I'm excited about having a new set of adventures and enemies, plus two new Gearlocs to play with. But I'm also delighted that the Undertow campaign may include cool stuff for the original game, including a possible campaign mode. If you'd like to try a big, fun, dice-building RPG, then Too Many Bones might be for you. Given that the base game is currently sold out, this Kickstarter campaign is also a chance to pick up the original.
Kickstarter is a dangerous place for a board gamer, with so much interesting stuff going on. After this month, I might need to avoid Kickstarter for a long while. But I also look forward to receiving lots of interesting packages in the mail over the next year or so...
Check out my Let's Play of Castle Ravenloft, in which I try to escape from an evil vampire! Will I make it out alive? It's divided into three parts:
If you've been watching the news (Harvey Weinstein, gross) or reading about women in tabletop on Twitter (#womenintabletop, yay!), you are probably aware that our society is not as inclusive as it ought to be. This is even more true when it comes to people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.
But making your game night more inclusive does not have to involve an incredibly complicated process of self-reflection and social overhaul. At least not right away. You can start very simply by trying a few of the following things:
1. Don't make assumptions about people's gaming backgrounds.
That guy with the geek-chic glasses may never have even played Catan before, while his girlfriend is an avid war gamer. Until you actually talk to someone, you just don't know what their interests and relative gaming strengths are. I can't tell you how many times people at gaming meetups have looked at my boyfriend like he was the hardcore board gamer, or how many GameStop employees have assumed that a PS4 game is for him. Why create an uncomfortable situation by making assumptions? Just wait and let people tell you about themselves in their own good time.
2. If you are playing with someone who is unfamiliar with games, be kind.
Nobody popped out of the womb knowing how to game. And some things come easier to people than others. When you have a new gamer in your group, try to remember that there was also a time when you didn't know how to discuss the fine distinctions between worker placement and action selection. There was a time (and there probably still are times) when a quick verbal explanation of a game taught you nothing about how to play it, and it took you a few turns to get into the rhythm of things. Don't lose patience with people who are learning, even (especially) if they don't learn as fast as you think they should. As a teacher, let me tell you: You might think that something is easy/obvious, or that your explanation was crystal clear, but prepare to be shocked by how wrong you are.
3. Don't dismiss people's concerns without actually listening.
If something was bothering you and you brought it up in a mature, reasonable way, wouldn't you be pissed if the other person just waved a hand and dismissed you? That is how women feel all the time when they say that something is making them uncomfortable. No conversation, group tradition, or joke is so important that it needs to be defended to the death against a reasonably stated concern. Try actually listening to people and at least wondering for a moment if they might be onto something.
4. Joke, but don't tell "jokes."
I am a smartass. I routinely tell my students that they are failing my class, or that they don't get a bathroom break, or that their next test is two hours long. Why is it funny? Because I have an actual relationship with my students. Also, those jokes are "mean," but they are also totally outlandish. Sarcastic jokes stop being funny when they hit too close to home. You don't have to totally change your personality to please other people. Go ahead and be a little bit edgy and sarcastic. But "edgy" and "sarcastic" are not the words I'd use to describe gross jokes about women's bodies or racist remarks. If you're the sort of person who makes those "jokes," you probably already know that.
5. Be respectful of other people's tastes in games.
We all like to bag on Monopoly, and I'm not saying we have to like it. But if I went to a board game group and said that I used to love playing Monopoly as a kid, I would immediately want to run screaming into the night if the people I had told dismissed me so coldly. If I had worked up the courage to go to a game meetup and try to make new friends, I would be crushed. Even among more experienced gamers, I see a distinct hierarchy that places heavier games at the top and party games at the bottom. If you're having fun, a game is a game is a game.
These suggestions will work in any situation, with any new gamer. And they are not just about "pandering" to certain demographics. These are basic rules of engagement that will make your game nights more fun, no matter who is at the table with you.
Given that an expansion for Near and Far from Red Raven Games has just hit Kickstarter, I was curious about the base game. I got lucky at a Meetup last night and had a chance to try it out.
I will start by saying there is plenty to enjoy about Near and Far. The game is easy to pick up. It's engaging. The art is beautiful, and there are lots of ways to make progress so you don't feel stuck. I can absolutely see this game being right for certain players.
But for me, it wasn't the right fit, and I am glad I figured it out in time. My issue is not that I didn't have fun. If asked, I would certainly play Near and Far again and do it with a smile.
My issue is with the integration of story elements (or lack thereof) into the rest of the game. Near and Far primes you to think of it as a grand story to co-create with your friends. The game maps are printed in a book. The game also comes with a storybook that you read at certain points à la Tales of the Arabian Nights. But there are only certain spaces on the map that come with story sequences, and if you focus too much on them you might miss the real point of the game: amassing victory points.
The stories also have no long-term consequences for the rest of your game (at least in the one-off game I played). Even if your reputation drops or something, you can just go to town and pay money to improve it again. In fact, if you want to win Near and Far, you can mostly proceed without paying attention to the story aspects of it at all, except to try to earn banner tokens.
I love story-driven games, and when we started playing, I was sure that Near and Far would be right up my alley. But the fact is that the game's story elements are sporadic, not connected with each other, and not particularly essential to victory. I like the story of a game and its victory conditions to intertwine. Near and Far doesn't quite succeed in that respect, at least not for me.
I am excited to announce that I have uploaded another Let's Play to YouTube. I had a lot of fun making this one, and I'm looking forward to whatever comes next. I had been both curious and anxious about making videos for years, and now that I'm doing it I don't know why I waited so long. This is fun!
In this video, I play Triplock, a steampunk lock-picking game from Chip Theory Games. Their solo mode has it's own storyline, but I took some liberties....
As usual, Kickstarter has several interesting board game projects in progress, with more to come! Also as usual, several of them are solo friendly. Also, expensive AF. Here are the projects I've been watching this week:
1. The 7th Continent
This game is getting huge buzz, and for good reason. It's an ambitious exploration game that makes use of 1000+ cards. It offers visual puzzles and crafting/hunting requirements that most board games do not. My attraction to it is that I love games that generate stories, and The 7th Continent seems ripe with possibility. It's also, however, a huge punch to the wallet—a reality that you'll have to face very soon if you want a copy. This Kickstarter campaign is billed as your "last chance" to get the game, which will not be going to retail. Normally I am immediately turned off by projects that have a "now or never" marketing campaign, but the reviews I have heard and read are very compelling. This is also a game that seems ideal for 1–2 players, which makes it perfect for my own at-home gaming needs. We'll see what happens with this one.
2. Gloom of Kilforth
This is another expensive project, but I'm absurdly excited about Gloom of Kilforth. Card-driven fantasy quest games with die rolls are right up my alley, Especially when the art is ridiculously beautiful—I can't wait to get my hands on this one just to spend time looking at all of the cards! Gloom of Kilforth is also a game rich in story, in which your character gains skill and experience in ways that look oh-so satisfying. And as unscientific is this is, I have a feeling about Gloom of Kilforth. I didn't back it the first time around, but I'm sold on it this time, and my instincts are telling me I am going to love it.
3. Forest of Fate: A Storytelling Survival Adventure
This project is much smaller and less buzz-heavy, but I am very interested in what I'm seeing. I love games that let you experience new stories, either alone or with your friends, and Forest of Fate is compelling on that front. This game reminds me of Tales of the Arabian Nights, but with a twist. You get a storybook that tells you what happens next, but you have slightly more control over events in your story—you choose which characters undertake a challenge, and challenge requirements vary depending on the direction from which you approach each obstacle in your path. I'm very curious to play this one, both solo (running two characters) and with friends and students. Even if it doesn't turn out to be great, I think Forest of Fate has a lot of potential.
4. Sunset Over Water
As much as I love heavy fantasy board games, I need a palate cleanser from time to time. I think that Sunset Over Water will meet that need for me. In this game, you are a painter looking for stunningly beautiful landscapes to paint. I love that theme, and given that this is the same team that did Herbaceous, I completely trust that the cards will be beautiful. Sunset Over Water is also being advertised as an accessible, easy-to-learn "coffee house" game. I need a few more of those in my life, especially since this game might be the type I can lure my boyfriend into playing with me. Also, at $19 ($39 if you want both this game and its predecessor, Herbaceous), the price is right. There is about a week left on this one, so have a look ASAP if this sounds like your sort of thing.
From the moment I saw the art for Triplock, I was sold on it. I was crazy about the steampunk theme, the cool characters, and the fantasy of pretending to be a badass picker of locks. As the Kickstarter campaign developed, I became even more excited. Triplock not only came with a dedicated one-player mode, but had plenty more content in the pipeline to keep solo games fresh.
I'm still waiting on some of the solo expansions, which should ship in November. But I am more than entertained by what I have for now. Triplock is a challenging game that demands creativity and focus. It may also be a game that shines even more in solo mode than it does as a game for two players. If you want an intellectual challenge, as well as a game with the capacity for tremendous growth over time, I think Triplock is a great choice for you.
The essence of Triplock is that you set up a lock by creating poker chip sandwiches: put one yellow mechanism between two brown failsafes. Your job is to manipulate the chips by rotating, swapping, and flipping the stacks until you have achieved a specific combination of symbols. Your goal combination is determined either by a win condition in a solo scenario or by cards that you draw called diagrams. Diagrams give you a few choices of mechanism combos to pursue, each of which is worth between one and five points. (In the two-player version of the game, players race each other to ten points for the win.)
As always, there are a few catches: Your actions are somewhat limited by the roll of two dice. Sometimes you roll the actions you want, and sometimes you have to use special skills to manipulate the dice as well as you can. Not only that, but a real-life or AI opponent will constantly mess with you, making it difficult to set up the lock combinations you want. And on top of that, you have to rely on your memory: You can only peek beneath (or remove) the failsafes under certain circumstances, and then you have to remember which mechanisms are located where. The result is a delightful puzzle that you won't successfully solve every time. But you will very much enjoy the effort.
Triplock also has something to offer beyond puzzles, and that's a storyline. Each character has a developed backstory, and in the solo version of the game, you encounter a masked stranger whose secrets are more difficult to crack than any safe. The cards have the occasional typo or clunky sentence, but I'm still hooked and hungry for more. I have completed the first set of solo scenarios, called "The Station," and I am excited to find out what will happen next. The storyline grounds the otherwise-abstract gameplay for me, and places the increasingly difficult solo challenges into a context that makes sense and that makes me want to keep pushing to find out what happens next.
The one caveat I have about Triplock is that it is absolutely not the game to play if you want to game while watching TV or in settings where you will be interrupted a lot. This is a memory game, and you have to hold so much information in your head to succeed. That means that Triplock is quick and fun, but it isn't exactly casual. Make sure you set it up in a place where you can really concentrate, or else you'll end up frustrated.
Overall verdict: If you're into games for 1–2 players and you enjoy memory challenges, Triplock is a must-buy.
I am happy (and slightly nervous) to announce that I have made my very first Let's Play video! I decided to film Sagrada because it's both fast and fun. Please give the video a try, and subscribe to my channel if you like what you see.
When MoviePass dropped its monthly subscription price to $9.99, I couldn't resist. When using MoviePass, you can see as many movies as you want, with only a few restrictions: You can only see one movie per day, you can't see a 3D or IMAX movie, and you can't see the same movie over and over again. Also, unless the theater offers e-ticketing, you have to purchase your movie tickets on site. That seemed fair enough to us, so my boyfriend and I both signed up. While we had to wait a bit for our cards, I am more than happy with the results.
MoviePass definitely has its detractors, most notably AMC. But what theater companies are forgetting is that without a service like MoviePass, it costs a lot of money to go to the movies—and a lot of movies are a gamble these days. Do I want to watch The Hitman's Bodyguard? Sure! Do I want to drop at least $30 on date night if it's just a whatever action flick? Hell no! I'd rather watch it on Netflix a year from now!
We went to see Battle of the Sexes yesterday—a good movie, by the way—and watching the previews was an amazing experience. Robert and I like to turn to each other after each movie trailer and give our verdict on whether or not we want to see the film. This time around, every time we said "maybe," one of us would add, "Let's make it a yes! We can see it because we have MoviePass!"
With MoviePass, I no longer have to carefully evaluate which films are worth my money. I can see everything, try everything, and not leave the theater angry when I see a movie that is just okay. And in an era when TV is bringing so much more artistic flair to the table, sometimes I need a little bit of a push to watch things on the big screen. MoviePass is doing that for me, and probably for a lot of people like me. That can't possibly be a bad thing.
My name is Liz, and I play a lot of games. By day, I am a teacher. By night, I am an avid gamer.