Episode 83 – Pre-Essen Special with Tony Boydell!

Hot on the heels of our last episode, here’s a pre-Essen Special where LMDS regular Tony Boydell (designer of Snowdonia, Ivor the Engine and more!) and I discuss what we think will be some of the highlights of this year’s show. Four days of gaming greatness in southern Germany basically becomes nerd Christmas with hundreds (and we mean hundreds) of new releases to choose from, published by companies who flock to the world’s biggest gaming event every year. There’ll be controversy, there’ll be excitement and there’ll be the pair of us lovingly reading out our lists of Japon Brand pre-orders.

Enjoy the podcast and we’ll see you at Essen! Watch out for the special episodes too, packed out with interviews straight from the show floor!

Direct this episode from here – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/8kv263/LMD_Episode83.mp3 – or grab it on iTunes!

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Episode 82 – Resorts and general Lounging!

Good day to you, dear listeners! Another episode of The Little Metal Dog Show appears to entertain you and give you another peek into the worlds of the folks who make the games we love to play. This time around it’s Ben Harkins from Floodgate Games, discussing what he’s been up to over the last year; we’re talking Epic Resort, his brand new title that launched at Essen, as well as Legacy and his lovely little card game, King of Clubs. After that, I’m joined by Alex Gregory, creator of The Lounge – currently on Kickstarter, this new Mafia title aims to make the world’s favourite big group game even bigger!

Links? Why not.

Direct Download for this episode: http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/kvn7rb/LMD_Episode82.mp3

Floodgate Games site: http://floodgategames.com/

The Lounge on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/971008843/the-lounge-a-mafia-game-0?ref=nav_search

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Episode 81 – Skyway Jabbery!

A mini-episode of sorts this time around (mainly as it’s a little time sensitive!). I’m joined once again by Philip duBarry, this time to go indepth on his new game of steampunk heists and immense airships, Skyway Robbery. Currently on Kickstarter (for another two weeks at the time of writing) it’s a truly engaging title that sees you travelling around the world, visiting exotic locations and attempting to get through some truly tricky traps in order to steal valuable items and build your reputation as the finest thief around. We talk about developing a veritable beast of a game, the perils of putting such a major endeavour out for crowdfunding and much more!

This episode’s links:

Skyway Robbery on Kickstarter – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phantasio/skyway-robbery?ref=nav_search

Direct Download for Episode 81 – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/bfrpu7/LMDS_Episode81.mp3

Follow Philip on Twitter – https://twitter.com/pdubarry

Short and sweet! Thanks for listening and see you after Essen for the next episode!

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We Are The Royal – King Down review

KD Pieces

I have never been a huge fan of Chess. I dabbled a little at school, occasionally swapped my usual haunt of the library for the Chess Club when I wanted a change of scenery (I was never one to go outside – imagine!). Once I was convinced to attend a local competition where I was knocked out in the first round by a 6-year-old… I was 14. While I’m well aware of the rules and a couple of openings are stuck inside my head to this day, Chess has never really been a go to game for me. My eye, however, has occasionally been caught by some of the variants that make their way into the nerdy world of games – not to say that Chess players aren’t nerds; they’re just an entirely different class of them – as they sometimes offer something more than just the pure game so beloved by many that drives me to tears.

And so when Saar Shai, the mind behind Kickstarter darling The Agents, gave me a shout to see if I’d be interested in checking out King Down… well, who am I to say no? I thought his first big hit had some great ideas and I was intrigued to see how he’d change a centuries-old classic to appeal to the modern gaming audience. If you take a look at the crowdfunding campaign that’s running now and surpassed its $50,000 goal on the first day, you’ll see one of the reasons: a metric crapton of minis. Thankfully, he’s thought that it may be an idea to actually include a game in there as well as a LOT of plastic, and it’s really not bad at all. In fact, I’d say it’s downright entertaining.

King Down is actually being pitched as ‘The Prequel To Chess’ – a rather bold statement considering its creator is a relatively new designer – and while it certainly feels very familiar when playing, there’s enough of a difference to consider it something that can stand on its own. The first major switch is that the game is planned to play with up to four people, though at the moment only the rules for two are available. Rather than use just the board and pieces, each player also has to handle a deck of cards that bestow special abilities upon your side, and there’s no taking the King to win; instead, this is a race to score eight victory points. These can be gained by taking (and keeping) opponents’ pieces and occupying the four central squares of the board, called The Capitol in a very Hunger Games style.

All pieces bar the King have been renamed (though I’ll use the standard names here) and there are also five extra piece types that have been introduced;  Beast only moves around the board when it can Take, while Bow attacks enemy pieces from a distance. Bash is sacrificed when it Takes, Block is invincible and Cog… well… that’s not been revealed yet. The pieces look very lovely indeed, just like the standard ones that can be used for a regular game of Chess.

KD 3D Prints

Players begin with a smaller amount of pieces, none of which are actually on the board. To bring them into play – or indeed do anything in the game – you’ll need to spend Action Points, and each turn sees you start with four. There’s a range of basic actions that you’ll be using most of the time: Call (4AP) brings a piece of your choice into play on your home row, and Move (2AP) allows you to move your piece like you would in a normal game of Chess; Bishops on the diagonals, Pawns one forward, that kind of thing. You can’t take anything using that Action though – that requires a Take action costing 3AP, basically an amped up Move. Finally, you can Draw a card from your deck for 1AP.

Those cards, as mentioned before, give you special powers and abilities that also require the spending of Action Points. They’re split into two types, Calling Cards and Spells. Calling Cards are specifically targeted at certain pieces to either bring them onto the board cheaper than a standard Call or boost their abilities if they’re in play. Spells allow you to do all manner of oddities, from stealing back already taken pieces, moving to any position on the board or even saving a piece from danger and returning it to your stock. No matter they type, each card has a cost printed on it and remains in play until the beginning of your next turn as some have lasting effects.

King Down has proven an interesting little game to play. I think that a lot of the focus in the campaign is going to be on the admittedly lovely miniatures, but the game does deserve time in the spotlight as well. Chess has been boiled in a pan with a shot of Eurogame Sauce and has turned into something that even I can enjoy. Rather than a stilted affair that is dependent on knowing countless openings and how to react to them, learning the rundowns of thousands, perhaps millions, of previously played games, King Down presents the basic rules that pretty much everyone is aware of and puts the choices in your hands. Do you start with your King in the far left corner, then aim to surround it with other, more powerful pieces? Perhaps you’d think it better to race to the Capitol and take over the spaces you’ll find there? Or should you take a super aggressive tack and attempt to steal as many opposition pieces as you can? King Down has given Chess something I’ve always found sorely lacking – choice.

KD Kings

Now, instead of reacting to your enemies’ moves, you have options on your side. Yes, in Chess you may have an optimal move that you should pretty much always do, but with King Down there’s an awful lot of things to do, all of which can be seen as viable. Where many variants have been rather dry, this one is far more appealing to someone like me who has a love of modern board games. Yes, there’s a danger of Analysis Paralysis creeping in with King Down, especially with players who may have forgotten the basics, but this is definitely something that I’d have a part of my collection, whereas I’d happily never have played Chess again for the rest of my days.

King Down was designed by Saar Shai and plays between two and four people, with games taking around 30-60 minutes. Currently on Kickstarter, you can pledge for a set for $80 (which will come with ALL the minis). The campaign ends on october 13 with the game scheduled for delivery in March 2015. Thanks to Saar for the advance look at the cards!

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Showgirl – Mai-Star review

MaiStar

Emma returns once again with a look at Seiji Kanai’s latest addition to AEG’s small box line. Generally these releases have been rather entertaining – does Mai-Star continue the trend?

À propos of nothing, here’s a list of some linked things. Nena. The Mock Turtles. Carl Douglas. Not Seiji Kanai. Now, while most of you are doubtless divining from this group of names that I have slightly questionable taste in music (a fair conclusion), eagle-eyed viewers will have understood the message hidden in the terrible old music references. Namely, that Seiji Kanai, designer of the universally-applauded and endlessly-reprinted Love Letter, has avoided the dread curse of the One-Hit Wonder. I am, of course, referring to the recent international release of Kanai’s Mai-Star by AEG (the game came out last year, but only in Japan, where I continue to not live). So, that’s definitely the ‘One’ bit avoided, now how about ‘Hit’?

I was a little wary coming into Mai-Star, as I thought the Kanai name could be giving it a bit too much hype, but I am happy to report that it is indeed a hit, and, depending on your tastes, possibly even better than his more famous offspring. Blasphemy, I know, but I’ve always thought Love Letter was…good? Like, it’s a disproportionate amount of game for the amount of stuff in the bag, and it’s a good fifteen-minute filler, but I’ve never really been that enamoured of the game in itself. On the other hand, I played something like seven games of Mai-Star within a few days of first discovering it. Anyway, before I keep going on about all the things I like about it, I should probably tell you a bit about the actual game.

MS1

In short, Mai-Star is a card game that plunges you and 2-5 others into the exciting, high-stakes world of competitive geishing. Every player takes on the role of one of six different geisha, and the winner is whoever can geish the best and earn the most money over three rounds, after which they will be proclaimed the geishiest geisha ever to geish. I’ll stop that now. [Thank you - The World] As well as your geisha, you’ll have a hand of visitor cards, representing the crowds thronging to watch you…ply your trade. All of these are worth a certain amount of money, but you’ll need a certain level of skill to attract a high-paying clientele.

Each geisha starts off with varying values for the skills of performance, serving tea and intelligent conversation, and each guest needs a certain skill in one area to be played for points. If your skills aren’t high enough (and by and large they won’t be), you can play guests as advertisers instead, increasing your skills but not providing points. However, if you advertise, you have to draw a new card to replace that one, and this is generally a bad thing – the round ends when one player runs out of cards, and all cards left in other players’ hands are worth negative points, for not meeting your guest quota or something, I guess.

MS2

As you can probably guess from that description, playing Mai-Star is, at its heart, a delicate balancing act of trying to get the right cards, but not too many of them, and this is only made more complex by all the card abilities. As well as each of the six geisha having different abilities, each of which demand different strategies to win, the great majority of guests you play, as well as giving you money, have abilities of their own. Now, a lot of these abilities fall into the vein of destroying other people’s cards/making them draw more/other assorted nastiness, and I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the game from people who don’t like too much ‘take-that’ style interaction in their games. To be honest, if you’re already one of those people, Mai-Star isn’t going to change your mind but I’ve never understood throwing games out wholesale on that basis – especially here. If Mai-Star didn’t have all the dicking-over-your-friends it has, it’d just be irredeemably dry, and as it is, throwing yakuza and sumo wrestlers (along with streams of invective) at your friends is just fun. Also, this element allows the players to inject some of the balance the game is arguably lacking. Don’t get me wrong though, Mai-Star is very much unbalanced in the Cosmic Encounter style, in that every geisha’s abilities are horrendously broken and capable of ludicrous exploitation, creating a kind of meta-balance of equal brokenness. Also, as the game is played out over three rounds, a bad round doesn’t necessarily spell a loss, so players have a bit more time to balance things.

If all that started to get a bit too theoretical and pretentious, just know this – Mai-Star is *a good game*. The cards are beautiful and easy to read, it’s fast, it’s fun, and it features easily the most promiscuous actors I’ve ever seen in a game. Also, I will totally play you at it, and you will probably win. Hey, I said it was a good game, I never said I was good at it.

Mai-Star was designed by Seiji Kanai and was released by AEG in 2014. Between three and six players can woo the beautiful people of feudal Japan with games taking around thirty minutes. Should you desire a copy (and why wouldn’t you?) one can be procured for around £15 – though Gameslore will sort you one out for less than £14. Pick one up then follow Emma on Twitter where she’s @Waruce

…Geish.

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