Tag Archives: Days of Wonder

Episode 48 – Essen 2012, Day Three

Welcome to Day Three of The Little Metal Dog Show’s coverage of the Essen 2012 Fair. It’s another long one, clocking in at just under 100 minutes of interviews straight from the show floor with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the industry as well as newcomers aplenty. In this episode I get to talk to the following luminaries…

Seth from Mayday Games – http://maydaygames.com/

Editions du Matagot’s very own Fabien – http://www.matagot.com/

Doug Garrett of Garrett’s Games and Geekiness – http://www.garrettsgames.com/

Todd Rowland from AEG – http://www.alderac.com

Kuznia Gier’s Piotr – http://www.kuzniagier.pl/english.html

Thomas from Repos Production – http://rprod.com/index.php?page=news

Feuerland’s Frank only had a few minutes – http://www.feuerland-spiele.de/

Travis from Indie Boards and Cards – http://www.indieboardsandcards.com/

Days of Wonder’s Adrien – http://www.daysofwonder.com/en/

Revision Games’ Juha talked Iron Sky and Arctic Union – http://www.revision-games.com/

Sander and Tim from Sandtimer Games – http://www.sandtimer.be/home.html

If you want a direct download of the episode, it’s here – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/wtt9dp/LMD_Episode48.mp3

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Episode 32 – Essen 2011: Day Two

The second of four Little Metal Dog Shows live from the show floor at Essen! From award winners like Qwirkle and 7 Wonders to brand new releases, this one’s an epic. With twelve interviews with game designers old and new, this latest episode should give you a good flavour of what goes on at the world’s biggest board games fair… Download it here!

This episode has interviews with the following splendid people…

Christine Goutaland from Days of Wonder – http://www.daysofwonder.com/en/

Jeroen from Splotter Spellen  – http://www.splotter.nl/english/index.html

Repos Production’s Thomas Provoost – http://www.rprod.com/en/index.html

Kris Gould from Wattsalpoag – http://www.wattsalpoaggames.com/default.aspx

Flatlined Games Eric Hanuise – http://www.flatlinedgames.com/

Colby Dauch from Plaid Hat Games (who was really there representing Playdek) – http://www.plaidhatgames.com/ / http://www.incineratorstudios.com

Bart from White Goblin Games (and Mark Chaplin, designer of Revolver) – http://www.whitegoblingames.com/

Michele Quondam from Giochix.it – http://www.giochix.it/edizhome1e.htm

Susan McKinley Ross, designer of 2011 Spiel des Jahres winner Qwirkle – http://www.ideaduck.com/

Radoslaw Szeja from Kuznia Gier – http://kuzniagier.pl/english.html

Nobuaki “Tak” Takerube from Japon Brand – http://japonbrand.gamers-jp.com/

Anna Genovese from Ghenos Games – http://www.ghenosgames.com

I’m joined – as I was for Day One – by Paco Jaen from GMS Magazine, a fantastic site and podcast that you really should check out over at http://www.gmsmagazine.com/

Episode 33: Day Three should be available soon…!

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A Whole New World – Small World Underground review

As it so often goes, let’s begin with a confession. The first time I played the original Small World, I utterly utterly hated it. Chris (the splendid fellow who helps me answer questions on the Little Metal Dog Show podcast) brought a copy round for a bunch of us to play. We’d actually spent the whole day playing loads of different games while slowly working our way through a few little drinks and by the time Small World hit the table (at around 11pm) I was far from in the mood to learn a new game with a million pieces that involved thinking.

Five of us were huddled around the table as Chris attempted to explain the rules, most of which I seem to recall ignoring in a fit of “can we not just get on with it?”. Naturally I did terribly and – of course – declared it was awful and completely disregarded the game for months on end. Perhaps six months later I was coerced into a game at the local club I go to and realised that which most others already know: I am an idiot. Because Small World is actually pretty darn good.

Phillipe Keyaerts’ game of fantasy armies attempting to dominate their homelands is a masterpiece of simplicity and timing – and thankfully it’s way simpler than it initially looks. And now Days of Wonder have a follow up for us to throw ourselves into: Small World Underground.

What's in the box? Why, lots of stuff, of course!

If you’ve ever played the original, you’ll pick up Underground in no time at all. For those who’ve not played it, the idea is nice and easy to get your head around. Before the game starts, a selection of races are laid out before the players, each of which is also allocated a special power. As these are combined randomly, there are a ridiculous amount of combinations that can occur. Players select a race and power combo, take a set amount of tokens from the box and proceed to place them around the board, taking over as many little areas as possible.

Another combo is added for the next player to choose from, then they do the same thing: take their tokens and dot them around the board. And so it goes on for a couple of turns as people place their little avatars about the board taking control of areas until… the space runs out. And then the game turns supremely nasty as it actively encourages you to beat on your opposition, muscling in on their territories. Small World is mean.

But it doesn’t stop there, because once you’ve decided that your current race has outlived their usefulness, you put them into decline, flipping the tokens over on the board. You still score for them, but now you have a second race at your disposal complete with a brand new power. Time this switch right and you could end up with a massive advantage over the other players – and that’s exactly what you need.

A few of the available races' tokens. Personally I'm a fan of the Kraken.

Small World Underground takes everything from the first game and ramps it up ever so slightly. The included races and powers are a bit darker in theme and are all completely new ヨ they’re also compatible with the original game and all expansions. There are brand new maps to play on, specifically designed for two to five players, all fitting into the Underground theme. The major differences though? First of all, each board has something new for players to contend with – a river that requires crossing if you’re to expand enough to win! Only one of the races, the Kraken, can actually stay in the water, so you’ll have to consider strategies carefully.

There’s also the addition of special relics and ‘places of power’ that bestow special abilities upon the race that controls a given area. However, it’s not quite as easy as walking into a space and taking them – these spaces have monsters that need to be vanquished first. Once beaten, these powers grant some very useful boons, though they’re selected randomly at the game start and placed face down on the board so you’re never 100% sure what you may stumble across.

A few of the possible combinations available in Underground. There's fifteen races and twenty-one powers, which makes... many many combos.

Gameplay, once you get into the swing of it, is nice and simple especially if you’ve had any experience with the original game. However, even players who are new to the franchise shouldn’t have too much of a problem picking it up. The game comes complete with big help sheets that give you all of the information you’ll need about the races, powers and special relics, and as there’s only a few combinations available in a round you won’t need to refer back to it that often. Components are of the high quality that you would expect from a Days of Wonder title and production throughout is second to none.

There’s a rather large question looming above Small World Underground, however. If you already own the original version, is it worth picking Underground up? It’s a bit of a cop out, but yeah… if you’re a fan of the series, you should get on this one. If you’ve not got a copy of the first game, Underworld is definitely the one you should go for – should you dislike the Relics and Places of Power, you can always just phase them out of the game. While they’re not exactly necessary, they certainly add extra flavour to your plans for domination. Looking at it objectively, this is pretty much Small World version 1.1 – not a big enough leap for it to be called a true sequel, but certainly well worth playing. Another excellent addition to the DoW catalogue and one of the finest, nastiest games I own.

Small World Underground was designed by Phillipe Keyaerts and released by Days of Wonder in 2011. Between two and five players can vie for control, though I’ve found it best with four – games take about 60-90 minutes. It’s available now from your local game store or – of course – online for around £40 / $50. Now, Corrupt Dwarves or Royal Cultists…?

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Episode 15 with Days of Wonder’s Mark Kaufman and the return of Daniel Solis!

It’s taken a little while to put Episode 15 together, but at last… here you go! Once again, there’s a pair of interviews for your listening pleasure, beginning with a discussion about the past, present and future of Days of Wonder with one of its co-founders, Mark Kaufman. DoW are (of course) responsible for some incredible games, not least Ticket to Ride, Memoir ’44 and the excellent Colosseum. We discuss how technology is impacting on the company and how they become one of the most recognisable names in the industry, as well as their upcoming new release – Cargo Noir. After that, it’s the return of one of my favourite folks to talk to: Daniel Solis. Following his last appearance on the show, I had many emails asking when he’d return, so who am I to fly in the face of public opinion? We talk about designing in public, something Daniel has occasionally been known to do, and what’s more important – theme or mechanics?

Chris gets another episode off – preparing for a wedding is taking it’s toll! – but I hope this week’s competition makes up for it. You may be aware that one of my favourite Trading Card Games is the brilliant World of Warcraft TCG and I’d like to share the love. Thanks to the guys over at Tomy, The Little Metal Dog Show is giving away TWO Worldbreaker Epic Collections. Doesn’t matter where you are in the world – everyone is eligible to enter. There’s a question in the show that requires an answer which needs to be sent to littlemetaldog@gmail.com, making sure you’ve put ‘WoWTCG’ in the subject header. Closing date is Saturday 12th February 2011! Winners will be chosen at random from all correct entries and will be contacted via email, as well as on here.

Now, if you fancy an extra entry, you could always become a fan of the show over on Facebook! Yes, I’ve finally succumbed to the march of progress and put a Little Metal Dog Fanpage up. Have a look, spread the word, and keep an eye out over there for exclusive updates and upcoming competitions… you can find it at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Little-Metal-Dog-Show/118250901580941

Thank you, as always, for listening and supporting the show! It’s available now on iTunes or directly from this link right here – enjoy!

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Still Fighting It – Memoir ’44 review

It’s got to be said, I’ve always been a little wary of war gaming. The genre strikes me as pretty complicated and – despite the patience of friends who’ve attempted to teach me a couple of them – they have a tendency to fry my brain. Of course, regular readers of the site will know that occasionally the planets align, pigs fly and I somehow manage to understand how a game works. Admittedly, the game needs to be reasonably straightforward for this to happen, so thank heavens for Days of Wonder and their excellent Memoir ’44.

Based on Richard Borg’s Commands and Colours gaming system, Memoir ’44 was actually simple enough to pick up despite the initial daunting feeling I got when I first opened the box. I’ve actually played another one of the games in this series before – Battlelore – but despite the fantasy theme (which I normally enjoy) I really didn’t get on with it. Admittedly I didn’t get the chance to get it to the table as much as I would have liked, but Memoir seems to have hit the spot – right place, right time, I suppose. Over the past few years I’ve become more interested in (relatively) recent world history and this game, of course, is steeped in the stories of World War II.

This is a two player effort (unless you’re taking part in an Overlord game, more of which later on) that sees one side taking the role of the Allied forces, the other Axis. The game’s rulebook contains a selection of scenarios based on actual events for you to play through, seeing if you can either keep history as it occurred or change the past. As well as the rulebook (as with most DoW products) the production values are ridiculously high and you get an awful lot packed in the box. The double-sided board is where your battles will take place, one side a beachfront , the other a countryside setting. You also get a stack of large hex tiles, printed up with all manner of rivers, towns, forests and hillsides – these will be placed on your board before the game starts as mapped out in the scenarios from the book.

An awful lot of stuff in a relatively small box!

Of course, the thing that makes a Days of Wonder game are the quality of the pieces included and Memoir doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. There are nearly 150 actual army units, split between infantry forces, tanks and artillery, along with a stack of wire bales, sandbags and hedgehogs (those spiky things made out of three planks of wood). Everything is remarkably detailed considering their size, and it’s all shared equally between the two colours. It really appeals to your inner 5-year-old, evoking memories of playing with your toy soldiers. Speaking of playing, Memoir is actually rather easy to pick up – the trick is to win through strategy.

Each scenario is explained in the rulebook, complete with a map of where both players’ forces begin. There are objectives to complete in order to claim victory, normally meaning that you have to collect a set amount of medals. These can be attained by occupying a certain area of the board or (more usually) by wiping out an opponent’s unit. The whole game is card driven, with each player manoeuvring around the board using one card per turn. The board itself is divided into three parts – general movement cards show a highlighted section and how many units can be selected, while special actions could mean anything from all armoured units attacking to a sole infantryman running riot.

Combat is resolved using dice and is dependent on a few factors – what you’re attacking, the unit you’re using, the distance between you… thankfully, after a couple of turns it all becomes quite straightforward. If you’re attacking infantry, you’re looking for as many soldiers to appear as possible. Rolling tanks will destroy armoured units, grenades take down anything, while green stars mean no effect. You may also be forced to retreat if a purple flag appears. Explanations in the rulebook are clear and I soon found myself working out rolls myself with no problem. However, if you’re not someone who enjoys a little randomness in their gaming, Memoir ’44 is probably a game you should pass on. You’re reliant on luck, and even the most strategic mind can be scuppered by poor dice. On the flip side of that, games are quick, with simpler scenarios often coming in under an hour – ideal for that quick gaming fix that’s a little meatier – and you can plot your revenge swiftly!

I mentioned the Overlord game earlier, which is a variant of the standard game that allows for more players. Of course, with more players comes more equipment, meaning you’ll need more than one set to use. Multiple people on each side are led by a General who secretly issues orders which are then performed on the now-oversided board. These battles are much longer but take an already excellent game and turn it into something truly special. If you get the opportunity to try out an Overlord game I really recommend you do so – the investment of time is more than outweighed by the experience.

However, two-player Memoir ’44 is how it will normally visit your gaming table, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better introduction to war games. Sure, it’s a far cry from the deeper simulations like Advanced Squad Leader, but Richard Borg’s vision of WWII battles is in no way a throwaway affair. Going up against an experienced opponent will challenge even the most hardcore – after all, you never know what the enemy is thinking. If you still need convincing, Days of Wonder currently have an online version of Memoir available from their website. Download it from this page, register for the open beta test and away you go. See you on the battlefield!

Memoir ’44 is produced by Days of Wonder and was first released in 2004. Designed by Richard Borg, the base game is available for around £30 both online and at your local game shop. If you enjoy it, you may also like the huge range of expansions, from Air Support units to new boards depicting other battlefields from World War II, as well as a book detailing full campaigns. These expansions are in no way necessary though, and that base game will keep you entertained for a long time.

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