Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Episode 77 – Accessing The Agents!

Two new interviews on your favourite Little Metal Dog Show this time around! First of all I get to speak to Richard and Emily Gibbs from 64oz. Games, the team behind a new Kickstarter project that aims to make the games we love accessible to blind and partially sighted players through the use of Braille. It’s an excellent project and I definitely recommend checking it out – we’ll also be working with them in the future to make our own releases from Sprocket Games accessible too! I also get to speak to the man behind The Agents which blew up last year into something of a phenomenon. Saar Shai joins me to discuss the game, the campaign, and his plans for the future…

Links? We got your links right here, buddy.

Download the show from iTunes or get it direct - http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/dpr4x3/LMD_Episode77.mp3

Visit the Sprocket Games Of Mice And Lemmings page (seriously, it’s a really good game!) - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/108292040/of-mice-and-lemmings-from-scott-almes-and-sprocket

Visit 64oz Games’ Kickstarter, making games Blind Accessible! - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/64ouncegames/board-games-now-blind-accessible?ref=live

Saar Shai’s The Agents site - http://www.playtheagents.com/

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Can You Dig It? – Pay Dirt review

Pay Dirt cover

That Tory Niemann is a talented guy. While he only has a couple of games under his belt, when one of them happens to be Alien Frontiers you really should sit up and take a look when it’s announced that he’s got something new up his sleeve. Having moved away from Clever Mojo Games and set up with Crash Games, he’s preparing to unleash something that I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on before it’s even appeared on Kickstarter. Prepare yourself for some hard work and low temperatures – Pay Dirt is coming!

Thematically, we’re dealing with present day gold mining in the wilds of Alaska and there’s only one way to win – simply get more nuggets that your opponents before the ground freezes and the game ends. Starting with a small team of five workers, a little spending money and a bunch of really rather crappy equipment, you slowly get yourself up to speed and work your way through the poor quality claim that you begin the game with. Thankfully, there’s a few nuggets in that patch of land that you should be able to process with some hard graft.

Each game round is split into four phases – Auction, Workers, Hardship and Income. This seems like the ideal time for a quick rundown…

The Auction Phase is where you get to bring useful things and hard-working hardy types into your operation. Three different options are open to you; new equipment will speed up your processing, new claims could bring in a lot more gold, while new personnel allow you to skew the rules a little (and potentially grant you extra workers, giving you more options in the next round). Whatever you choose, everything on offer has a minimum bid that must be covered but with no upper limit it’s very easy to find yourself short on cash! A nice twist in this phase means that the chosen item type isn’t available to the next player, so it’s highly likely that someone will screw over their opposition.

Buy yourself some good stuff in the Auction - your starting Claim won't offer up much gold...

Buy yourself some good stuff in the Auction – your starting Claim won’t offer up much gold…

Once the Auctions are done with, the Worker Placement phase begins. As mentioned earlier, each player begins with five meeples but more can be added to your crew by picking up personnel cards in the Auction each round. Depending on where they’re placed, they’ll either help move Pay Dirt tiles through your processing system (or deal with the wear and tear brought about through regular use), or head to the central board where special Camp and Claim Gear can be bought and those precious nuggets can be sold to bring in some much needed cash.

A quick word about the processing. At the beginning of the game, your setup is… well, dilapidated to say the least. Each player starts with a low quality Excavator, Loader and Wash Plant, and these three pieces of equipment are split into three sections. Placing a worker on one of the three heavy machinery spaces drags a Pay Dirt tile across one single space, and they only turn to gold nuggets when they hit the spot that it furthest to the right hand side. At the same time, you’re also somewhat in the dark as the tiles you’re investing your workers in to move are secret and random, bringing in anywhere between two and six nuggets depending on the ground type. Better gear will cut down on these spaces with the best equipment only showing one space – less workers will be needed and everything feels so much more efficient! The only problem… you’ll have to pay a high price for the finest machines.

Two spaces instead of three may not seem a big leap, but if it saves you a worker it can prove invaluable!

Two spaces instead of three may not seem a big leap, but if it saves you a worker it can prove invaluable!

All equipment is prone to breaking down – must be that harsh Alaskan weather – so you’ll need to regularly devote some your meeples to fixing things up. Every time a new Pay Dirt tile is moved onto it a bright red ‘wear’ cube is added to a machine’s space, and should the amount of cubes equal the amount of symbols shown there it seizes up and refuses to work. Some of the equipment provided by the cheap and cheerful ‘Flimco’ will actually break down totally if not fixed immediately, so it’s a very fine balancing act that keeps things moving on! At least your workers are efficient; using one of them for repairs removes two cubes, and they can be used on both your processing equipment as well as the Camp and Claim Gear that you might purchase up in town that bestow small but vital bonuses on you and your operation.

Once workers are dealt with (and placed on their handy “Unused Labor Force” space on your playmat) we move to the Hardship phase. Whoever has the lowest amount of gold draws cards from the Hardship Deck equal to the amount of players around the table. They then choose a card for themselves and pass the remaining ones to the next lowest scoring player, until eventually the leader is handed a single card that will undoubtedly screw them over. Perhaps it’ll cause extra damage to their equipment or they’ll be forced to hand over a load of their money to someone else? Whatever happens, this (for me anyway) is the best and worst part of each round: best because it’s really rather entertaining, worst due to the fact that there’s not a single good card in the Hardship Deck. Well, there is actually one; the only problem is that it’s in there with twenty-nine other cards that are utterly bloody awful.

Hardships are generally awful - hence the name. Some (like this) last a round, others are a one off effect. Also note the temperature drop in the top right...

Hardships are generally awful – hence the name. Some (like this) last a round, others are a one off effect. Also note the temperature drop in the top right hand corner…

Another thing to think about is that the card in front of the leading miner is the one that triggers the fall in temperature. A drop can be anywhere from one to three degrees, and when that meter hits zero or below there’s only one more round left in the game. Everything wraps up with Income, where each player receives $2 from the bank regardless of their position in the game. As long as it’s still warm enough, play continues and the cut throat action continues apace.

While the version of Pay Dirt I’ve got at the moment is a prototype, it’s pretty much a finished product that’s ready to go to the printers. The art is done, the pieces are pretty much there (though I was sent some actual American coinage instead of plastic money – oddly, it seems to be cheaper!) and though the rules concise, they’re well written and cover all potential questions. Sure, it’s not the final version of the game, but knowing how well produced previous releases from Crash Games have turned out, I can only hope that Pay Dirt continues the streak of high quality products.

Like Alien Frontiers before it, Tory’s newest game hits that sweet spot of demanding that you think about everything you’re doing in the game while still remaining wonderfully accessible. Each action you perform, every decision you make, the worker meeples you place… they all need to be deeply considered. It’s quite easy to dig yourself into a hole (pun not intended), though thankfully it’s possible to get yourself back into the game with a couple of well constructed rounds. Pay Dirt is beautifully balanced and players will find themselves involved in tight games after only a few plays to get used to how things works. Once you’ve got the processing system down and understand moving your tiles from left to right, you’ll be grand.

The usual warnings apply for those of you who suffer from Analysis Paralysis. With each turn requiring a finely executed plan that could potentially contain up to ten different actions (assuming you somehow maximise your workers, which is admittedly rare), things could get tricky and time consuming. However, most people will simply get on with the dirty business of digging for all that gold and treat Pay Dirt as it should be treated – as a thoroughly enjoyable game that you’ll want to come back to again and again. It deserves to be as successful as Alien Frontiers and I can’t wait to see how well it performs when it hits Kickstarter shortly.

Pay Dirt was designed by Tory Niemann and will be published by Crash Games later in 2014. Between two and four people can play with games taking around an hour. The game is now on Kickstarter – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crashgames/pay-dirt-designed-by-tory-niemann-of-alien-frontie – head on over there and get your money behind this excellent game!

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Kickstarter Catch Up!

There’s a few interesting things going around on Kickstarter at the moment, so I figured it’d be a good thing to point you in the right direction of them!

Character Meeples

Character Meeples

The awesome team over at Meeple Source are currently in the middle of their first campaign, attempting to bring a whole new range of meeple designs to their range with the assistance of backers from around the world. Having been lucky enough to get my hands on a bunch of them recently, I can attest that they are Very Lovely Indeed – and it’s not just standard sized meeples that they do. There are special mini ones for use in Lords of Waterdeep (as well as special tokens for use in the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion), Tzolkin corn cobs, Tiny Epic Kingdoms sets and more random wooden bits than you can shake a stick at. The main focus though is on their lovely meeples and the campaign has been a tremendous success already. Loads of new designs have been unlocked and backers can get their hands on a single set of eight meeples for as little as $10. For those looking to splash out, you can even pledge for a set of four hundred meeples which will invariably pimp out your entire games collection!

Dice & Slice

One of my dear friends, Paco Jean from G*M*S Magazine, is looking to do a gaming web series with a difference. Combining cooking with games, Slice & Dice is unlike any games show you’ve seen before, and I can also guarantee that Paco is a bloody good cook. Have a watch of the pilot video up there and you’ll see that he’s a natural on camera – not surprising considering how much video output he does over at G*M*S. The project has already funded, but if you know of any games companies out there who are looking for an interesting way to plug upcoming games, send them over to the Slice & Dice Kickstarter page.

Town Center – Fourth Edition

Town Center 4E

You will take my copy of the First Edition of Alban Viard’s Town Center from my cold, dead hands – that cardboard box with its hand-stuck cover filled with LEGO bricks is going nowhere – but it’s true to say that the game is hard to get hold of. That’s a pity because it’s a really good game – building up stacks of blocks that interact with each other as the rounds continue, stealing the ones that you know your opponents really need, it’s a very satisfying and challenging gaming experience. Now being published through Ludicreations, a copy will set you back a reasonably priced $50 which includes shipping.

Tokaido Collector’s Edition

Tokaido Collectors

 

Tokaido, Antoine Bauza’s game depicting a journey across Japan, is a beautiful thing to begin with but the new Collector’s Edition is set to push the boundaries yet further. Adding a whole bunch of extra things into the box including minifigures, a fistful of metal coins, extra wooden components and even a soundtrack to accompany your playing of the game, this is truly the ultimate Tokaido experience. A copy will cost $115 if you want the level that comes with all stretch goals, though there are cheaper options available. The question is, following the beautiful Takenoko remake, does this make Antoine Bauza the first designer to have two special edition versions available of his games?

 

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You Otter Know – Otters review

Otters cover
Rules in life to follow: First of all, never apologise for the use of a terrible pun in the opening of a review. It shows panache! Style! Grace! Second, never turn down the chance to play a game for kids. In both instances, always try such things when the opportunity makes itself available – after all, there’s not that many games out there that are built around the theme of otters aimed at small people. Or any, in fact. New market, yay!
Michael Iachini’s last release, Chaos and Alchemy, was a comparatively heavy affair when lined up to his latest design, a quick to play (and quicker to learn!) card game called Otters. It’s about – surprisingly enough – otters who are looking for new places to play and gambol. Otters, apparently, love to play (seriously, the do, look it up). In Otters, there are nine playgrounds (each represented by a coloured card, so you have three sets of three) that you and your opponent will fight over, three of which will be in play at any one time. Each time play comes round to you, you’ll get to place two cards by the playground (or playgrounds) of your choice. Manage to be the person whose card is the one that helps equal or exceed the total for that playground and you claim it immediately, scoring that amount of points. A new one comes out, and once the last one is taken the game ends. Highest score, as you’d expect, is the winner.
Dawwww! Otters!

Dawwww! Otters!

The cards you’ll be using to get your hands on these much desired playgrounds, decorated with otters aplenty, are numbered. There are plenty of ones and twos, plus a smattering of threes, but also a fair few special ability cards that will help you get closer to those target numbers. These will let you throw down an extra card, flip another off the top of the deck or move one otter from one playground to another, but my favourite is undoubtedly the zero-valued Alligator.
Now, while Otters is a simple game, this card brings in a little bit of screwing your opponent over – someone that I encourage in anybody over the age of a couple of months. You see, the Alligator prevents the other player from playing any cards to that spot, so it’s the perfect card to reveal if you’re going get your hands on some of the higher value playground cards. Also, collecting the same colour sets doesn’t just bring you in the points marked on them – getting all three of a kind scores a bonus.
No swings? What kind of playgrounds are these?

No swings? What kind of playgrounds are these?

Rounds take a matter of minutes and you’ll have a whole game done in under ten, so it really is a perfect game for children (or grown ups with horrifyingly short attention spans). The whole thing comes in a mere fifty-six cards so it’s super portable, and copies are available for a $12 pledge on Kickstarter. Get yourself a couple of decks and you open up the possibility for a three or four player version of the game which is pretty nice – again, while it’s far from The Campaign for North Africa, it’s an enjoyable way to  in extra people for some Otter related larks. And while this may not be the highest game on your wish list, I’d still say go an have a look at the Kickstarter page. Who knows? It could be the game that you get to play with that person who never ever plays anything. Doesn’t matter if they’re a few years old or grumpy grown-up who thinks games are dumb – after all, who doesn’t love Otters?

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The Takeover – Mob Town review

Mob Town COVER

You know when you get a song stuck in your head and it goes on and on, round and round, until you’re driven half cracked by it? Normally referred to as an earworm, it’s one of the most awful things your brain can do – it’s like having all of the RAM inside your head devoted to one single process and you can do NOTHING else until the cycle wears itself out. I’ve noticed recently that the same thing happens to me with games. I play something, then replay certain sections of the game over in my mind. Whether it’s a satisfying round of Amerigo or something dumb I’ve done in an online game of Carcassonne, it can get annoying. Sometimes, though, I find myself going back because I’ve simply enjoyed a game and want to play again: Hello Mob Town, you splendid little bugger!

A while ago, Phil from 5th Street Games sent me a prototype copy of his currently running Kickstarter campaign which – as of earlier on today – managed to hit its funding goal. I hereby guarantee that every single person who receives a copy of Mob Town is going to have a bloody good time because I honestly reckon that this is going to be in my end of year best-of list for 2014. Quite the statement for a game that’s not even been properly published yet, but I stand by it; Mob Town is dirty, low down, sneaky and straight-up awesome fun. You WILL want a copy when you play it, if only because it pretty much gives you a license to freely hurl abuse at your fellow players.

Between two and four people can play, each one taking control of their own gang. Over the course of three rounds, you’ll look to score points by taking over properties in randomly generated towns, with whoever has the highest total at the end of the game crowned the best mobster. There are five different property types, each of which have four cards numbered from 1 to 4 – so, twenty cards in total – but not all of them are used in each round; it’ll be between twelve and fourteen, depending on how many are playing. There’s also a draw deck that is filled with the animal hench-beasts that you’ll use to exert your influence over the towns, each of whom are also given a numeric value, as well as a set of Agenda cards for each player. We’ll cover those shortly.

ResourceDeck_0002_Fox_0000_Fox1.jpg

Five separate animal factions will help you take over Mob Town – but the Fox is easily the best!

On your turn, you have a whole bunch of options available to you – however, you can only do one action when play comes round so the game moves at a pretty decent pace. Most of the time you’ll be drawing cards from the deck or trading one in to grab a bunch from a face up selection in order to boost your options. Should you see a property in the town that you like, you pay its cost by discarding from your hand, but you can’t just put down anything. You see, each of the property types can only be “bought” by two different animals: Hotels can only be taken over by Snakes and Foxes, for example, while Weasels and Rats are used to grab Factories. When taking over a property, you can use any combination of the necessary cards to pay the cost, then you put one of your tokens on the card to show your influence over the property. Unfortunately, just because you’re in control of a place, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way… Your opponents can wrest a property from you by paying its value plus however many tokens are on it. This can lead to plenty of back and forth battles for certain cards in the town, especially if a couple of players need it to meet an Agenda.

Spend the cards, take over the properties, win the round. Simple, no?

Spend the cards, take over the properties, win the round. Simple, no? Actually… no.

Oh yeah, Agendas! This is where they come in. At the start of each round, you’ll need to choose two of them then work towards fulfilling them by seizing control of the right places. Some of the Agendas demand you control the majority of a certain building type, while others are all about focusing on having the most connected properties or simply more than anyone else. Manage to meet the requirements of your Agendas and you’ll score a bonus at the end of each round – sure, it may only be three points for each one met, but that can be the difference between first place and last. Thankfully, should your plans go awry, you also have the option to switch an agenda out from your hand for something that could potentially bring in points. Should you get trapped in one section of the town, you can also pay other players to pass through areas they own in the form of cards from your hand – you always have options!

Finally, players each have three Briefcase tokens at the start of the game that can be traded in to introduce a new building from the remaining town cards – very useful in to bring in even more extra points and get those valuable Agendas met, but there’s a catch; each unused token is worth a further two points at the game’s conclusion, so spending them is a big decision. Rounds finish when “The Law” card appears, whether it’s drawn from the deck by a player or added to the line of those available to pick up. Each owned property earns the controlling player the amount of points printed on it, Agendas are checked and scored, then a whole new randomly generated town is made.

(A quick aside about how each town is created – it may be the most ingenious way I’ve seen to make a randomised playing area. Each of the town cards has an arrow pointing either north, south, east or west, and once the first card is put down, it’s simply a matter of following the arrow and placing the next one. If there’s no space right next to the card, just keep going in the signified direction until there is space! This simple process creates all manner of town layouts, from long and spindly to all bunched together, and though it’s an often heard cliche, you’ll never see the same town twice!)

ResourceDeck_0014_TheLawCard.jpg

The Law stops EVERYTHING – even games of Mob Town!

And that’s it – but why is Mob Town stuck so firmly in my brain? Well, it’s undoubtedly down to the devious tactics that come into play during the game’s three rounds. Even with two players, the limited amount of space on the board combined with the Agendas that have been secretly chosen mean that they have no choice but to confront each other; get four people around the table everything gets very busy very quickly! Looking back at the games I’ve played, I keep thinking about whether it would’ve been better to switch out Agendas mid-round, or introduce new buildings at the expense of those valuable Briefcases. Any game where I find myself second-guessing my actions well after it’s been packed away has got to be worth anyone’s attention.

There are a couple of issues that I think need addressing before 5th Street Games go into production, the main one being the scoreboard. Stopping at 25 points when you can easily score 50 or more over the three rounds is annoying, though far from gamebreaking. Also – and this might sound really dumb – it’d be nice to have a little clarification on what animal gangs each player are in control of. I mean, each of the colours come with a symbol (bones, paw prints, that kind of thing), but the rulebook doesn’t specify what beasts they represent. These are tiny, nitpicking issues that can be sorted out with a couple of sentences in the rulebook and a differently set out score track, and if those are the worst things about a game when it’s in prototype form, you should definitely be at least looking at the Kickstarter page right now.

Mob Town is a wonderful way to pass a half hour, scaling well no matter how many people are sat at your games table. Even though it’s light on rules, there’s a lot of player interaction and plenty of potential for screwing over your opponents. The card art is very cute indeed (also done by the game’s designer, the talented swine) and the information you need to access is clear, so thumbs up on that score. All in all, this isn’t just one of the best Kickstarter games at the moment – this could easily be one of my favourites of all time. I can’t wait to see what the final version ends up looking like, especially now that there’s also a bunch of extras available via the City Limits expansion that change the game up even further. Go check it out – it’s running until March 10, 2014, and it’s pretty bloody excellent.

Designed by Danny Devine and published later this year by 5th Street Games, Mob Town plays with between two and four people with games taking around 30-40 minutes. A copy on Kickstarter will set you back $25 ($35 with the City Limits expansion), and there’s even a Print and Play version of the game to try out for free. Give it a shot – you could have yourself a new favourite filler!

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