Although my wallet is tapped out for now, I still enjoy contemplating upcoming games, and there are a couple of interesting Kickstarter campaigns on my radar.
I initially didn't consider Root at all because there were no solo or co-op variants for the game. It is essentially a war game in which animal factions with asymmetric powers vie for control of a forest. This past week, solo and co-op modes were added as the result of a stretch goal, but I'm not entirely sold. I can't reliably get specific games to my table unless I intend to play them on my own. And I don't want to buy a game for its solo variant if it's just an afterthought. It's clear, however, that Root is really well put together. The art alone is tremendously compelling, and it's clear that a lot of thought has gone into making the mechanics both fun and accessible. I'll keep watching this one for sure.
2. Dawn of Peacemakers
So many of our games involve violent conflict and aggression. I'm very interested to see what Dawn of Peacemakers will add to the mix. Your goal in this cooperative game is to convince two warring factions to stop fighting each other, even if you have to be a bit manipulative to make it happen. I think that's a great concept for a game. Dawn of Peacemakers can be played as a campaign, which means that you will experience an overarching storyline. The designer has also emphasized, however, that this is not a legacy game. The game scenarios will be replayable, so you can try out different strategies. I would really like to see this one make it, even though I'm not likely to have the funds to contribute myself. So far, though, the funding for this campaign has been a bit sluggish—I suspect because of the $89 + shipping price point.
Last thought: Is the theme of this week actually Kickstarters with cute animal art?
Although I don't have the money to back anything new right now, I am definitely keeping an eye on Kickstarter. So many good solo games pop up there! Here are a few of the possible gems that came to my attention this week:
1. Legends of Sleepy Hollow
This project from Dice Hate Me Games is definitely aesthetically pleasing, and the gameplay looks interesting as well. It's a cooperative game that involves fear as a mechanic that actually affects your characters' abilities, which is something I love. (I know that Level 7: Escape is a bit of a cracked gem, but I love the fear mechanic in that game as well.) I also like that this is a campaign game with replayable scenarios and possibilities for expansion.
2. Perdition's Mouth - Revised Edition
A version of this game was previously funded on Kickstarter, and Perdition's Mouth promises something very interesting: an intense dungeon crawling experience, but with minimal time to set up and learn the game. The game also promises short playtimes. Given that this game compares itself to other games like Gloomhaven, which can have a very long runtime, I am intrigued.
3. Monster Lands
This strategic dice placement game looks like a pretty good time. You build up your power and resources, then fight epic battles against monsters. The art looks good, the game comes with cool custom dice, and I am particularly intrigued by the fact that you can choose how you want to approach your monster battles. (Do you want to build traps? Brew potions? Both of these are options!) I also like that the game's style is more cute than scary. A lot of what I've been playing recently takes such a serious tone. This one might be a good aesthetic breather.
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...
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.
To see a full playthrough of Triplock, click here.
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 usually buy board games based on word of mouth from social media and podcasts. Rarely do I see a fantastic "commercial" for one. That is why the Kickstarter for Escape the Dark Castle feels so refreshing.
This video is truly hilarious. I love it. Kickstarter campaigns usually have videos to showcase their games, but this one is uniquely tailored to the game's theme in a way I would like to see more often. Even better, it was a great way to catch my boyfriend's interest. While Escape the Dark Castle is technically playable by 1–4 people, I did not back this Kickstarter for solo play. Escape the Dark Castle is clearly an "experience game" where the fun is in the interactions you have with your friends. Fortunately, it shouldn't be too hard to get people to play this one!
If you're interested in Escape the Dark Castle—and why wouldn't you be after such a delightful video?—there are three days left to back it on Kickstarter.
I've backed a few Kickstarter projects this year, almost all of which were successful. Now that the projects are funded and going into production, I am sitting around and waiting for my new games to come! I pounced on a few projects that seem obvious for a solo gamer, including Gloomhaven and Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave. Here are a few of the others I'm excited about:
City of Kings
This cooperative fantasy game looks intense. It combines a several different game mechanics, allows for character upgrades and customization, and clearly has a ton of content. Plus it explicitly bills itself as a game for 1–4 players. Hopefully I'll have a great time sinking my teeth into this one in solo mode. I love games with storylines, so this one looks like it will be super enjoyable for me.
This small card game looks like a devilishly good time—as long as you don't mind losing a lot. I am particularly excited that the game will have a campaign mode, and that there will be several different characters whose abilities will spice up the game. Even better, there is an explicit solo mode. As someone who prefers to play alone, I appreciate it when game developers treat my playing preferences as more than a throwaway marketing thing. Even better, this one should be delivered in July or August, so I don't have that much longer to wait!
Grimslingers: The Northern Territory
I missed out on Grimslingers the first time around, so I'm more than happy to get on board now. I love card games, so it felt like a natural choice. I'm also loving the theme, which is basically wild west meets sci-fi/fantasy. The art for this game looks fantastic. Plus, it is going to be a versatile addition to my collection. There are solo and co-op modes for me to enjoy on my own, plus I can duel with my boyfriend when we have a gaming date night. Awesome.
They say that good things come to those who wait. I just wish the wait weren't so long! I foresee many happy hours of gaming in my future.
I am a fan of both solo and deck building board games. I also, like many people, had a childhood obsession with dinosaurs. Apex Theropod, a dinosaur-themed deck building game designed by Herschel Hoffmeyer, was an obvious buy for me. But I bought the game from CoolStuffInc a while back and was never a Kickstarter backer. I'm really glad I did it that way. What has happened to Hoffmeyer is a classic Kickstarter disaster that we are always risking when we back games on the site.
Apparently Hoffmeyer, who took on a HUGE project by handling all aspects of this game on his own (art, game design, printing, shipping, all of it) has struggled to finish what he started. Rather than post an official Kickstarter update, however, he put this statement in the campaign comments thread on October 13:
Thanks Scott for putting out that info, much appreciated (I know you love to put your skills to good use). One thing to note though is I'm closing the company Die-Hard Games and everything will be ran from my own personal bank account. The company has gone bankrupt after what ShipNaked and WinGo pulled on me. I was waiting to bring this up for awhile now but I quoted $15K (during the campaign's run) to cover fulfillment then got hit with a $35K paycheck later down the road (after huge delays from them, remember in November, trying to get the boat to set sail. I kept quiet on it then.). I would highly suggest no one to do business with them. See below for WinGo. Manufacturing alone was over $60K. These payments have already been filed in my taxes last year so they're on record.
As you can see, the future of Apex Theropod is very much in doubt. Hoffmeyer has claimed that he will be contacting all of his remaining backers individually to fulfill their orders, and will be doing so from his personal bank account. He's been getting a ton of flak from backers who want official project updates rather than hard-to-find comments in the comment thread, and frankly, I understand their complaint. Hoffmeyer wants to minimize customer anger and messages flowing into his inbox, but his backers do have a right to real updates on the project they opened their wallets to support.
I hope everyone ends up happy, but this is pretty rough. It's not the sort of thing that would deter me from ever using Kickstarter again. In fact, I backed Godforsaken Scavengers this week. But it does make me think about how much money I'm willing to gamble on a game "company" that isn't a sure thing.
For continuing updates on the status of Apex Theropod, see the Kickstarter comment thread.
I haven't backed Kickstarter projects before this year, but I'm starting to get used to the idea. Although the first project I backed, Darkest Night, had some issues early on, it was successfully funded. I'm feeling extremely optimistic about it, too. Why? Because I just picked up a retail copy of Victory Point's previous Kickstarter project, Dawn of the Zeds (3rd ed.), and it's great!
The second game I backed on Kickstarter, Sovrano, was not successfully funded. It is, however, possible to order a copy of the game directly from Cambium Games. The father and son team behind Sovrano make all boards and components themselves, so it will take a couple of weeks for your game to arrive, but my copy is gorgeous and I'll be telling you more about it soon.
Now I've backed my third Kickstarter project, and I know this one is going to be a success: Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave. I already own Hostage Negotiator and have written a positive review of it on this blog. The original game was a successful Kickstarter project, and I have no doubts about the quality of Crime Wave, the standalone followup. Clearly nobody else does, either, because the project is about to be 300% funded! Sometime next March, I will be negotiating my way through a new set of harrowing crime scenarios. I can't wait. If you're into solo gaming, but haven't played Hostage Negotiator, I highly recommend that you take advantage of this Kickstarter. Not only can you get all of the new stuff, but you can pick up the original game and all of the abductor packs that have been released for it.
Hmm... maybe I need a rematch with Donna Scarborough, the teacher who loses it when she doesn't receive tenure. Might get me in the mood for a new school year! Check out the video below for a preview from my favorite YouTuber, Ricky Royal from Box of Delights.