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NEWS: Fox & Chicken is coming soon to Kickstarter…

So, a while ago we attempted our first Kickstarter campaign for Keep Running!, a quick playing card and dice game for up to eight people. Frankly, we aimed for the stars but landed on our asses. Despite doing our very best to spread the word about the game, it just didn’t seem to capture the imagination of the Kickstarter users… maybe it was the time of year (ending it on Christmas eve seemed like such a good idea!), perhaps it was the game itself… who knows. Either way, Keep Running! didn’t set the world alight. We’re still positive about it though and are determined to relaunch it later in the year.

We learned a lot of stuff from that campaign, though. We realised that there were a lot of people who were interested in the projects that we’re dreaming up here at Sprocket Games and The Little Metal Dog Show. We found new ways of getting information about the game out there and are grateful to friends old and new who helped us in our journey. And now, with our latest project, we hope that they’ll hop on board again.

Our latest project is a new take on a classic game. If you have even the vaguest awareness of gaming, you will have invariably played Werewolf. Some people also know it as Mafia, but whatever the name, the premise is the same. Players are given secret roles, some good, some bad. The bad guys have to team up and wipe out the goodies, while the good guys must eliminate the bad. Some special roles can be thrown into the mix that skew the rules somewhat, but you will either win or lose as a team. There’s always a lot of shouting, accusations, pointing and laughs… and we’d like to present our version of the game to you now.

Forget the werewolves. This time around it’s vulpine violence you’ll need to deal with when you play… FOX & CHICKEN.

FnC COVER

We’ve spent ages refining Fox & Chicken to make it as appealing as possible. Starting off with hastily scribbled hand-drawn cards one night, we eventually ended up making a full version with great (but simple) cartoon art to play with our friends and family. Then people starting asking for copies of their own and we thought… well, why not open it up even further and see if anyone else is interested? And that’s where we are now.

FnC BATTLE

Next week, we’re going to be launching Fox & Chicken on Kickstarter. We have a modest target that we hope will be attainable. Getting a copy for yourself will be very affordable (no matter where you are in the world!) and we hope that people see it as a great value for money purchase that provides a great gaming experience. We’ve also got some plans up our sleeves that will hopefully draw even more people in, including creating a range of minigames that are exclusively playable with the Fox & Chicken deck. We’re even going to open up the process to everyone, encouraging backers to come up with their own minigames for which – if we choose to include them – they’ll be rewarded with credit and free copies of the game.

FnC FERAL

Now, we know that games like Werewolf and Mafia can be played without the necessity of cards, but we’d like to think that the version we’re offering is worth pledging your support to. We’ve made sure that our printer is using the highest quality thick cardstock to guarantee that they’ll last you ages. There’s some nice ideas floating around our office regarding stretch goals (including limited edition bonus cards)… and now all we need is to hit that big green button to launch our campaign.

We hope you like the look of what we’ve created. If you’re interested, spread the word where you can and let folks know that we’ll be launching NEXT TUESDAY. That’s April 2nd, 2013. We’d love to get Fox & Chicken from our table to yours, so let’s do it!

Sprocket THANKS

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Down To Business

So, it’s time for an announcement of sorts. The Little Metal Dog Show has been running for some time now – since April 2010 in fact – and since way before then I’ve been tinkering away in the background with game ideas and designs. One of them, a co-design with Mark Rivera called Ace of Spies (you may have heard me talking about it once or twice) should be hitting people’s tables before the end of the year. Another, Pocket Universe, is currently with the folks at Game Salute who are doing everything they can to make it as shiny and lovely as possible. And now I’ve made the decision that ‘it’s time for me to try and strike out on my own.

It’s been percolating for a while, but now it’s time to officially put Sprocket Games into full-on action. And I’d like to announce that our first game, Keep Running!, will soon be wending its way onto Kickstarter as we battle for the attention and support of you, the gaming public. And I’m very excited.

Keep Running! is a simple game to play with a lot of player interaction – it ticks many of the boxes of the kind of stuff I enjoy playing, and I hope you will agree. It’s based around the idea of folks hurtling through the woods, trying desperately to escape the bear that is chasing them. The old joke goes that one guy stops to pull on some trainers. The other guy, still going, yells back that there’s no way on earth he’ll be able to outrun the bear, trainers or not. The first guy shouts back that he doesn’t need to outrun the bear… he just needs to outrun him.

This is the game of that little scenario. It’s a mean and nasty little affair, filled with plenty of opportunity to screw your opponents over but with a dash of dice-driven luck in there to ensure that not everything will go exactly to plan. Your objective is simple – be the last one standing and you win the game. Between three and eight players can take part, and games (even with the maximum amount of players) take less than 30 minutes. Keep Running! is a perfect little filler, ideal to bridge the gap between two heavier games or to round off an evening of play. I’m currently working on a video to explain precisely how play works and you’ll be able to try out a print and play version of the game before you even think of committing to supporting the campaign. If you’re a reviewer who’d like to try it for yourself (before the P&P files go up) let me know and I’ll get a copy to you ASAP.

Why Kickstarter? Well, it’s both a way to gauge interest in the game (though everyone who has played it so far has said positive things) as well as raising the funds to actually produce it. Sure, there are a lot of other people out there doing the same thing, but I’d like to think that Keep Running! will be good enough to stand out from the crowd. The game has been extensively playtested by groups from all around the world, tweaked and modified to within an inch of its life… and now it’s ready to go.

A few further details; The game will be entirely produced in the UK meaning that we’ll be able to keep the time between campaign and production down to a bare minimum. It also means that should any issues arise while the game is being made, we can deal with them almost immediately (as opposed to having someone do stuff on our behalf on the other side of the planet). We aim to keep the price as reasonable as possible so folks from all around the world can get a copy if they so choose.

There will be a limited run of copies, each one numbered and signed by myself and the artist, Stephanie Burrows (full disclosure – she’s my wife as well as one of the best artists I know; her work on the project so far has really captured the fun and madness that the game exudes). As this will be the first official Sprocket Games project, we’re sure that there will be some hurdles to overcome – there always are when it comes to game production – but we hope that you will support us in the same way that you’ve supported the site and show since its inception.

That doesn’t mean that the Little Metal Dog Show is going anywhere, though. The podcast will continue – after all, we’re tantalisingly close to episode 50! – as will reviews on the site. It’s just that I want to really do my best to produce games that I think people will enjoy to a high degree of quality as well as write and talk to people from this hobby of ours.

So yeah! As the time draws closer, I’ll put more information up here about the game and campaign, but for now that’s pretty much it. Keep Running! will hopefully be the first in a long line of stuff from us and I firmly believe that Sprocket Games has the ability to be something really special.

Now it’s really time to get down to business. Won’t you join us?

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Spiel des Jahres 2012 – The Nominations!

It’s that time of the year again where a panel of judges huddle around their big table at a secret location somewhere in Germanyand fight it out to decide the shortlist for the Spiel des Jahres. As always, despite it only having been announced a couple of hours ago, the usual bickering has sprung up in various corners of the internet where The Hardcore Gamers declare that everything isn’t as good as it used to be and why was this game nominated and the SdJ don’t know what a good game would be if it bit them on the ass.

Despite the accolade being called the Game of the Year, these people forget that… well, it really isn’t for them. Since the award’s inception back in 1978, its focus has been on nominating and promoting games that are good for families and friends to play together. Sometimes the winners cross over into the kind of things that even the nerdiest of gamers will enjoy – think Ticket to Ride, Dominion and the like. Sometimes the jury picks a comparative stinker (I’ll mention no names) and the world ends YET AGAIN – for those Hardcore gamers at least.

The SdJ panel, every single year, manages to pick a selection of good games. Face it. Sometimes they may not be world beaters, but they’ll at least be fun to play and people – NOT HARDCORE GAMERS – will have a laugh with each other. I’ve seen people complaining that Dominant Species didn’t catch a nomination and I’m now wondering what on earth is wrong with them. It’s a heavy as hell game that takes three or four hours to get through. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but there’s no way on earth that little Jurgen will settle down for an evening with Papa und Muti when that hits the table…

Of course, last year saw the unveiling of the first Kennerspiel des Jahres, the award for a more advanced game which went to the mighty 7 Wonders. This year’s selection is solid (see below) but again, you’re never doing to see something with 24 page rulebook in 10 point type on the list. Many of the complainers won’t have even played the whole list – I know I certainly haven’t – but that’s not what the SdJ and the accompanying awards are for. They exist to raise awareness, to show off some games that deserve a bit of a mass market boost, and not to pander to some bloke who thinks that anything released after 1995 is crap.

Now after all that, what were the actual nominations?

Well, for the Spiel des Jahres, I reckon it’s a good selection. Donald X. Vaccarino’s Kingdom Builder (Queen) seems to be the early favourite and I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment as it hits all the marks for a good family game. A game of spreading your dominance over certain areas determined by card draw, it’s not overly complex, kids will find it easy to pick up and the random goal selection at the start of a game adds a fair bit of replayability. I’ve played it a few times and while it never shook my world, it was a pleasant way of spending time, especially as an end of the night closer.

Eselsbrucke (Schmidt Spiele) – aka: Donkey Bridge – is a story creation game with an element of memory thrown in for good measure. By using randomly generated pictures, players must make up tales then see if their opponents can recall what the objects were. I can’t recall any other games based around using mnemonics, but Stefan Dorra’s involvement could be enough to see this steal the prize.

Finally, Vegas by Rudiger Dorn (alea) is a total push your luck dicefest. Rolling different numbers allows you to place your dice on various mats, each representing a different casino that contains a certain amount of money. At least one dice must be placed after each roll, then – once everyone is done – whoever has the most dice on a mat claims the cash. It looks like one of the lightest ever nominations for an SdJ, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing? Everyone loves chucking dice about, don’t they?

The Kennerspiel is a bit trickier to call. K2 (rebel.pl) would be my call as I really enjoy Adam Kaluza’s game of conquering the mountain, dealing with the elements and – of course – trying to screw your fellow climbers over. I’m actually a bit surprised to see it put into the slightly heavier category but hope that it’ll actually give the game a well deserved boost in publicity. The combination of hand management and making the right call at the right time – plus the fact it’s playable in less than an hour even with five people – means I’d love to see this take the award.

Village (eggertspiele) has been getting some great press and actually has an English language run due out through Tasty Minstrel Games soon. I’ve had my eye on it for a while and think that it looks like a rather solid Euro, but I must admit a little surprise that it got on the shortlist ahead of Ora et Labora. Hopefully I’ll get it to a table soon and will see why the jury took that call – but the reasons can only be good, surely?

Franz Vohwinkel’s Targi (Kosmos) is a game that I actually know very little about. Again, I was a little surprised to see a strictly two player game on the list (though Friday, Friedemann Friese’s solo game about life on a desert island also made the longlist) but this one looks… I don’t know… a little dry? It seems to follow the ‘get resources, make money’ model, but I won’t venture a full opinion until I get to see it in front on me.

Finally, the younger gamers get a look in with the Kinderspiel des Jahres and there’s only one winner in this for me: Schnappt Hubi! from Ravensburger. This was the first game I played at Essenlast year (with the assistance of a very helpful German lady who translated everything for me and my fellow gamers) and I loved it. You’re trying to hunt down Hubi the ghost as he wanders around a haunted house that you build through the turns. The game is centred around an electronic device that lets you know if you’re bumping into a wall or passing through it safely, involves mice and rabbits, and I want an English version NOW PLEASE RAVENSBURGER PLEASE NOW.

Die kleinen Drachenritter (HUCH! and friends) translates as “The Little Dragon Knight” and looks like it’d be a hit in our house. Stacking games go down very well despite the fact nearly everyone who visits is around thirty years old… Anyway, players have had their gold taken by a dragon and must build piles of stuff to reach a certain height, but piece placement is limited by rules involving colour matching. Definitely one I want to check out.

Finally, for those who enjoy their games with a slightly more disgusting vibe, Kosmos present Klaus Teuber’s Spinnengift und Krotenschleim (“Spider Venom and Toad Slime). Another memory game, it involves recalling where certain required ingredients have been placed to help out a bunch of scatty witches. Correct selections will let players add tokens to the cauldron which will eventually trigger the appearance of monsters – and who doesn’t enjoy that? Again, I want to try it, if only because its designer is a former four times award winner, including taking the 1995 SdJ with Settlers of Catan.

Another year, another bunch of fun sounding games that I can’t wait to play. The Kinderspiel winner will be revealed on June 11, while the two grown up prizes are announced on July 9. But who will it be?

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A News-y Type Post

Well, it’s been a very busy week here at The Little Metal Dog Show, but it’s probably a good time to sit down and look back at what’s happening now and in the near future…

The big news is, of course, that Ace of Spies has now launched on Kickstarter. It’s been up there for a few days now and (at this exact moment) we’re just over 20% of the way to our target with 160 backers pledging a total of $8081. With a bit of maths, you’ll work out that our target is actually $40,000 – a hefty amount, but we’re being honest when we say that’s what we need to fund it. Many campaigns seem to sell themselves short, leaving their designers out of pocket even if they manage to hit or exceed their target. With Ace of Spies we know that should we hit our target, we’ll be able to produce a great product that is fun to play.

The fact that we’ve also rolled in the cost of shipping into the pledges seems to have caused a bit of controversy too. If you’ve not seen the campaign, you can get a copy of the game wherever you are in the world for $40 flat. No excess international fees. No exorbitant shipping just because you don’t live in the US. It’s $40, plain and simple, yet we’ve had some people get in touch asking why they should have to “subsidise” international backers.

My answer is simple. They don’t have to do anything. There’s no laws out there demanding that the entire population of earth pledge to back Ace of Spies but many people are choosing to do so. If you don’t like how we’re running the pledge levels or shipping… well, there’s not much you can do about it – this is how we’ve decided to run it. We’re taking a hit on the money to make sure as many people as possible get their hands on it – and I can guarantee that you’re going to be getting a lot more than just cards in that box. We’re deliriously happy with how it’s going so far and hope it continues.

Saying that, if we could pass some worldwide law, that would be nice. $40 x 6 billion = a ridiculous amount of cash. I could afford to go on one of those Virgin Galactic space trips. In the meantime, if you’ve not seen Ace of Spies for yourself, you can check out the Kickstarter page right here or get a quick runthrough on how the game works by watching this video what I did make.

Me and co-designer Mark also pop up on the latest episode of the fantastic show by @dicehateme and @monkey238 – The State of Games. We talk about how Ace of Spies came to be and what we’ve got planned for the future. It’s a great podcast – even if I’m on it – and always worth subscribing to. So do so!

Now that the game has launched, I can get back to a routine of sorts so we’ll be getting back to regular reviews. Over the next couple of weeks you can expect to see write ups of Rex from FFG (based on the classic Dune game system), Wings of Glory (little planes!), 7 Wonders Leaders and the rather interesting Total Strategy-Z. You’ll also be subjected to the terror of regular updates from the forthcoming Risk Legacy campaign I’m running, plus (of course) a brand new episode coming very soon featuring Geoff and Brian Engelstein and much more!

Right. Back to clicking F5 on the Kickstarter page…

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NEWSPLOSION: Ace of Spies, Sprocket Games, Continue Magazine and UK Games Expo

Man oh man. Have we been busy here at Little Metal Dog Towers.

I know, I know, folks always say that when a site has been slipping when it comes to updates, but seriously: stuff has gone mad round here. Thankfully it’s all good stuff so I figured before getting back into the cycle of reviews (there’ll be a new one tomorrow, actually) I’d give my dear readers a bit of an update of what’s going on.

First of all (and definitely most exciting) is that Ace of Spies, the card game designed by myself and Mark Rivera has been picked up by a US publisher and will be released later this year (after it goes through a Kickstarter campaign that begins on April 20th, of course). Here’s the blurb that will (probably) go on the back of the box:

“A card game of stealth and sneakiness! Players act as spymasters, collecting sets of cards in order to complete missions. Only the greatest player will be declared The Ace Of Spies! By taking two cards at the start of each turn, you’ll build up a selection of Agents, Tools, Intelligence and Locations that will allow you to hopefully finish more missions than everyone else. More missions mean more points – as long as they’re complete! If they’re left incomplete by the end of the game, they score negative points and pretty much ensure you’re not going to win…

Four separate decks are needed to play the game. The Mission Deck cards state what combinations are needed in order to complete a mission. The more specific the requirements the more points the completed mission is worth – some can be very difficult to finish but will prove very lucrative, but there’s always the risk they’ll count against you.

The other decks represent three different cities – London, Paris and Berlin – and contain the Agents, Tools, Intelligence and Locations you’ll need. Intervention cards can be used as instants and will allow you to turn the game in your favour (as long as you play them at the correct time. Should that all important card you require be lost in the discard piles, you may be able to retrieve it, but that’ll come at a high cost. Between two and five spymasters can attempt to become the Ace of Spies! May the most devious and sneaky win!”

We’re both very excited but can’t reveal much more about the game as yet, but can say the following:

1. The game looks amazing. The publishers have got some ridiculously talented artists on board and have really brought Ace of Spies to life.

2. It’s been playtested to within an inch of its life and we’re honestly incredibly happy with it. The game’s accessible enough for relative newbies to get into it but also has enough in there for more experienced gamers. We reckon we’ve struck a good balance and hope you do too.

3. There’s some pretty cool things planned for Kickstarter backers. We’ve listened to what kind of stuff people like (and more importantly what they DON’T like) and reckon that there really is something for everyone.

If you want to keep up to date on what we’re up to with Ace of Spies, you can follow us on Twitter under the @Ace_of_Spies account. We’re also (finally!) on BGG and there’ll be a Designer Diary about our adventures going live over there sometime around the start of the campaign.

Seriously folks. This is going to be AWESOME.

The launch of Ace of Spies also means that I’ve taken a big step too; I’ve set up a brand new company called Sprocket Games that will act both as design house for other publishers as well as (hopefully) putting out our own games. It’s a bit terrifying and everything is all babysteps at the moment, but I’m loving the fact that I’m designing more games that I really hope players of all kinds will enjoy. At the moment there’s about five ideas at various levels of development; a couple are in early stages of artwork being done (including Pocket Universe which you can check out for yourself right here! – there’s no flashy art on it yet, but it still works!), while the others are still being tested.

A couple of publishing companies have expressed interest in some of my designs, so keep an eye out for updates here on the site. Especially if you’ve ever wanted to know what happens when penguins stop playing nice and get really pissed off.

Next up, I’ve been writing! Like, proper writing for a magazine and everything! You can check out my apparently pretty good scrawlings over at the lovely Continue Magazine. For issue #1 I contributed a couple of pieces; one on the battle for Merchant of Venus between Stronghold Games and Fantasy Flight, and another on the late James St. Laurent, the designer of legendary board game Crude. The magazine has a fantastic group of contributors and I heartily recommend checking it out. A digital copy will cost you all of £3.15 (which is about $5 for you Americans) – plans for a print version are also in the works.

Finally, we’ve been organising stuff for the upcoming UK Games Expo which again takes place in Birmingham, this time over the last weekend of May. Like last year there’ll be streaming video demos online of brand new games and well as interviews with designers and such stuff. For those actually attending the event, we’ll be showing off Ace of Spies and running seminars and talks aplenty. There’ll also be the first UK showing of the excellent documentary by Lorien Green, Going Cardboard, alongside a Q&A session with her! If you’re going, give us a shout and we’ll see if we can get some games in.

Right. That’s about it. I need to get back to the drawing board (literally) because… well, I like to eat and I have to earn some money.

Cheers for sticking with me!

Michael

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