Tag Archives: Jason Kotarski

Keep The Faith – Fidelitas review

Fidelitas Box

Collaborations can be great. Two incredible minds coming together, working alongside each other to create something truly wonderful… it’s a thing of beauty to behold. Of course, some team-ups can be utterly wretched (Paula Abdul and MC Scat Kat, take a bow) but generally two heads are better than one. Oddly, multiple designers on a single game isn’t something that happens that often, but some great titles have been borne of teamwork; Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling have been an award winning pair several times with games like Tikal and Asara, for example.

A fresh new collaboration now seeks your support, with two great current designers now coming together to create something that is both small and special. Jason Kotarski (creator of The Great Heartland Hauling Company and FrogFlip) and Philip duBarry (the man behind Revolution and some of AEG’s Tempest series) have joined forces to make the card game Fidelitas, and a lovely little thing it is too.

In a town, far, far away, the citizens live an unhappy life of being downtrodden by the local elite. There is only one thing to do – rise against them! However, it would seem that all of those capable of doing so got too drunk and can’t remember quite what they’re supposed to do… and this is where you and your fellow players step in. Ladies and gents, it’s time to incite some good old-fashioned revolution. Grab your pitchforks and flaming torch!

Actually, that’s not a good idea – the nobility’s guards would have you chopped into pieces in moments. What you need to be is sneaky. Whisper a few words into the ears of the right people. Get your most powerful allies into the right places and, once the word is given, a concerted attack can begin! Unfortunately, there can only be one leader (a bit like in Highlander) so everyone is trying to manipulate the same people in this terrified town; you’ve just got to make sure that it’s you.

On the table at the start of play sits a line of cards representing the town itself, four of which have two locations that are particularly prized by a certain guild. The Tavern, sat in the middle of the line, is a special place that’s beloved by all (surprise!) and  has its own ability which we’ll cover shortly. Meanwhile, the two end cards also point to other locations, the harbour and the castle. It’s these places where we’ll make our stand!

Cards are divided into two types: Missio and Virtus. Missio are your secret missions, the cards that tell you what type of people you need to be moving and where they need to end up. Meet the necessary requirements and you’ll score the points shown at the bottom of the card. Score a set amount of points (6 with four players, though you can aim for more for a longer game) and you are seen as the voice of the rebellion and win the game! Truly, you are the Mockingjay.

Or you will be if the people actually listen to you. The Virtus cards are where they are all to be found, and each person will have their own ability that needs to be taken into consideration. Each turn, you can play someone to one of the two locations of their own guild, then follow the instructions written on their card to start moving other people around the town. The previously mentioned Tavern has no guild affiliation, so instead a player must discard a Missio card when someone is sent there. Also, instead of having two differently named locations, the Tavern is just one big place – however, you must consider which side of the bar to sit, as it were. Where you are in this wicked little town is VERY important.

When you’ve played your Virtus card and done the ability upon it, you may turn in a Missio card for points (assuming that the requirements have been met. This may be gathering a certain amount of characters at a named location, or get guild pairs (ie: two people from the game guild) into a number of places. If the target has been met, you flip the card up and declare your total score, draw back up to two Missios and pass play to the person on your left. And the game is as simple as that – play a card, follow the instructions, score points (hopefully) and move on!

If there’s one word I can use to describe Fidelitas, it’s clean. Having played a fair few rounds of it now, I’ve noticed just how well put together the game is and also seen the influence of both Jason and Philip in there too. Fidelitas is a beautifully balanced game where any mistake that’s made is down to you – the position of certain characters may open up the opportunity for other players to complete their own missions, but through multiple games you’ll learn how to not get yourself into that kind of tangle. I’ve had several incredibly satisfying moments playing a Baker card allowing me to move any two cards to new locations, doing so, then swiftly scoring a Missio while simultaneously ruining the best laid plans of the other players. You’ll hear a lot of muttering under breath when a copy of Fidelitas hits your table.

I mentioned the influence that the designers had on the game and honestly see their fingerprints all over it. The compact game set-up and lean card count says Jason to me – his love of smaller, shorter games shines through in Fidelitas – while I feel that the theme and relative complexity come from Philip’s side. I think that his sterling work on his Tempest games have rubbed off a little on him (seriously, go play Canalis, it’s incredibly underrated) and I’m honestly surprised that this effort wasn’t made part of the series – it certainly would’ve fit incredibly well. Regardless, the two have come together and made a very enjoyable game indeed.

Of course, the game is only in prototype stage at the moment and – at the time of writing – seeking funds on Kickstarter. However, the copy provided to me showed off the beautiful comic art very well indeed and the game cards are well laid out, so a hat-tip goes to both artist Jaqui Davis and graphics chap Darrell Louder for their sterling work. It can be hard getting the message across on a relatively simple card game, but they’ve done admirably.

Also of note is that this is the first release from Jason Kotarski’s brand new publishing company, Green Couch Games. We at The Little Metal Dog Show wish him the very best for Green Couch and hope that all future releases match up to the splendidness of Fidelitas! This is truly a great filler, the ideal candidate for your table when you’ve got twenty minutes or so to spare and feel like playing something that will tax your brain a little. Not too heavy, but not feather light either, Fidelitas will be making it into the Best of the Year lists of a fair few gamers when the time comes around.

You can back Fidelitas today on Kickstarter, with the campaign running until September 1, 2014. $19 will get you a copy of it delivered in the US, with international pledges running a little higher (UK gamers, you’re looking at $28 which isn’t bad at all). Designed by Jason Kotarski and Philip duBarry, it will be released in early 2015. Between two and four can play (though I’ve found it better with four) and games will take you around 15-20 minutes. 


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Episode 62 – Sweep the Board

On today’s show I’m joined by Jason Kotarski, designer of The Great Heartland Hauling Company from Dice Hate Me Games. We discuss his relative newness to the world of design, how boardgaming is the new punk rock and his new game – currently on Kickstarter and being released by LMDS’ own Sprocket Games label – FrogFlip! Following that, podcast royalty abounds in a chat with Stephen Conway from long-running games show The Spiel, where we cover everything from documentary film making to their charitable foundation as well as Italian card games from five hundred years ago…

Links? Links!

Direct Download: http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/pixmjb/LMD_Episode62.mp3

FrogFlip! on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/108292040/frogflip-from-sprocket-games

The Good Folks over at Dice Hate Me Games: http://dicehatemegames.com/ (seriously, listen to their podcast too)

The Spiel’s site: http://thespiel.net/

Scopa on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1602645836/scopa-classic-italian-card-game-gamers-edition?ref=live

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Sprocket Games announces their brand new release: FrogFlip by Jason Kotarski!

So, time for a little announcement!

As many of you know, The Little Metal Dog Show recently set up a spin-off games publishing company called Sprocket Games. Just over a month ago we successfully crowdfunded our first release, Fox & Chicken, the production of which is now coming along very nicely. We’re aiming to get copies of the game into the hands of our backers within the next few weeks, which many people have found surprising – however, we prefer to use local companies here in the UK which means we can turn production around on a much quicker basis than if we’d used facilities abroad. Anyway, safe to say, things are going well.

What we’d like to announce today is our prospective second release, a brilliantly silly dexterity game from the designer of The Great Heartland Hauling Company, Jason Kotarski and his awesome little girl Claire! FrogFlip is an easy to learn, quick to play game that fits perfectly into the Sprocket Games ethos of producing games that are fun for all. The aim of the game is simple – flip your Frog counter from the side of table in a bid to hit the right lilypad as determined by the scorecards. Touch the correct lilypad and you score the points shown, but manage to land on it and you’ll score double! FrogFlip takes seconds to set up and minutes to play, is totally portable and you can Flip your Frogs pretty much anywhere! Whether you’re at the restaurant waiting for your dessert (no bonus points for landing in the wine) or looking for something to pass the time at your game group, FrogFlip is the perfect filler no matter what you like.

Jason previously made FrogFlip available through The Game Crafter, but Sprocket Games plans to turn the new edition into something truly special. From laser-etched wooden discs to entirely new art throughout (as well as the potential for some VERY limited edition sets in some interesting materials…), FrogFlip promises to be the greatest little game you’ve ever played.

Here’s a little video by Jason where he talks about how the game came to be and – of course – how it works. We loved the game so much here at Sprocket Games that we wanted to make it even better, so we’ll be launching a Kickstarter in July to produce it and turn it into something awesome.

FrogFlip is ostensibly a two player game but can easily be expanded to four. Games generally take less than fifteen minutes and pretty much anyone can play – if you can flick a coin, you can Flip a Frog! This little game by Jason and Claire is sure to delight and entertain, so for more information on when we’re launching, please follow @SprocketGames and @JasonKotarski on Twitter. If you’re a reviewer and would like to check out a copy of the game before the campaign, get in touch with us via email: michael@littlemetaldog.com.

We’re really excited to be working alongside Jason (and Claire!) to get their game into the hands and onto the tables of as many people we can. We hope you’ll come along for the ride too!

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Lovestruck – Great Heartland Hauling Co. review

Heartland COVER

Time for a guest post from one of our American cousins! The charming Eric Leath – also known as @Full_of_Chit on that there Twitter – has been in a great big convoy across the USA! Kind of. Here’s what he thinks of Dice Hate Me Games’ newest offering, The Great Heartland Hauling Co.

Growing up in Ohio for the past 28 years, I’d like to think I’ve had my fair share of agrarian experiences: Milking goats, stepping in cowpies, running through cornfields, etc. Even then, however, there was one thing I never got to check off my list. I never got to sit in a big rig and experience the joy and wonder of the open road. Some of my friends’ fathers were truckers, and upon returning home they would regale us with stories of far away lands and cities with ridiculous names.

From mundane trips to Boring, Oregon to dodging raindrops in Spunky Puddle, Ohio to experiencing Intercourse* with a trailer full of pigs (*Intercourse, Pennsylvania that is; don’t get any ideas) there was simply something about travelling from coast to coast and city to city that seemed enthralling.

Now, thanks to designer Jason Kotarski and Chris Kirkman of DiceHateMe Games, you too can experience a little bit of that Big Rigger rigor with Great Heartland Hauling. In this game you—as you might have guessed already—take on the role of a trucker, picking up and delivering 4 different goods [Cattle, Pigs, Soybeans, and Corn] to towns across the country.

Pile up! Oh no!

Pile up! Oh no!

To start, a grid of cards is laid out on the table (more players, more cards) and populated with 5 cubes of its native good (i.e. one of the aforementioned crops or animals). On a player’s turn, they will take 3 actions:

1.) Move across the heartland. This may be done by playing gas cards from your hand to move a maximum of 3 spaces. If you don’t have any gas cards, you’ll need to spend some of your hard earned cash to move. A trucker never rests, and your clients don’t take excuses. It should also be noted that you can’t stop in a city in which another player is located, nor can you stop at the Distribution Center (the middle card of the layout), so blocking certain areas of the board can be a good strategy.

2.) Next, you’ll need to pick up or deliver goods. To do this, play a card that corresponds to the good you’re picking up or delivering. If picking up, put the cube in the designated area on your scorecard and proceed to step 3. If delivering, take the cube from your truck, place it on the city card, and move your score marker up the appropriate amount of spaces. You may also pick up a non-native good, but that’ll cost you a bit extra (i.e. 2 cards per cube rather than 1). Considering the maximum capacity of a card is 8 cubes, and it might very well be in your best interest to pick up some non-native goods.

2b.) At times in the game, you may find your engine starting to get gunked up a bit. In this case you may pay $1 to discard as many card from your hand as you desire. Think of this as an Oil Change or a Fuel Injector boost/flush.

3.) Finally, refill your hand to 5 cards. Additionally, check to see if anyone has hit the score threshold (ranging from 30 to 50 points depending on the number of players). If someone has, all other players get one last turn before the game ends.

Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got ourselves a convoy!

Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got ourselves a convoy! *pulls cord*

If this were the entirety of the game, it would be a pleasant experience, though admittedly not one with a lot of replayability. Thankfully, DHMG has packed the game with enough horns and mudflaps (the trucker equivalent of bells and whistles, I’m assuming) to keep gamers occupied until their next well-funded Kickstarter game is delivered. First is the Badlands add-on, which expands the game to a 5 player experience and augments the base game with 2 extra cities. These cities are placed on the outskirts of the initial layout; while they don’t have any native goods, they make up for this shortcoming by having payouts for 3 goods rather than the normal 2. On top of this is the Truck Stop inspansion, which allows players to stop on certain cards and pay an amount of cash in order to gain various special powers such as Ethanol (use corn as fuel) or extra fuel or cards in hand.

If that weren’t enough, each of the city cards in Heartland Hauling is double sided, which allows for an advanced variant that introduces Closed Roads, Weigh Stations which charge for trucks over capacity, and Toll Roads that nickel and dime inefficient travelers. Truthfully, the only bad thing about all these different ways to play is that the game box can barely fit it all.

But enough about the components and how to play; does all this extra “stuff” equate to a good game? To that, I can give an unabashed “Yes.” The game scales well from 2 to 5 (our 2P games even seem to be more cuththroat than our 5P experiences) as well as from novice to experienced gamer due to all the accoutrements thrown in. I’ve had the opportunity to play with 2,3,and 4 as well as with the Truck Stop, Badlands, and Advanced Routes and I can truthfully say that I enjoy all of the options. While there wasn’t a lot of blocking in our two player game, the optimal pick up and drop off combos caused sites to reach the 8 cube capacity quickly, meaning we had to then analyze what the second best option was or how to utilize non-native good pick ups to our advantage. 3 and 4 player games, on the contrary necessitate not only a Plan B, but often times a Plan C, D, and E. It’s also not written into the rulebook, but there’s a certain level of social diplomacy one can garner in the game as well. Players can swindle a deal for “if you go here now, I’ll stay away from this area of the board.” Knowing Mr. Kirkman’s love of social games, I bet he’s smiling as he reads this.

Mind you, this game probably won’t do anything for those looking for a super-heavy pick up and deliver game (e.g Merchant of Venus and its ilk), but virtually everyone else should find something to enjoy. There is a modicum of take-that due to players blocking certain areas of the board or loading a city up to capacity, but it never feels especially spiteful. Likewise, there’s enough to the base game without Badlands, Truck stops, or advanced variants, that you won’t grumble (much) over teaching the game to newcomers.

Overall, Heartland Hauling is a welcome addition to the Dice Hate Me Games family. It’s accessible yet deep, and should provide hours of fun for you and your convoy. As they say around our table when playing this game: “Go Pig or Go home.”

The Great Heartland Hauling Co. was designed by Jason Kotarski and released by Dice Hate Me Games in 2013. For more information, check out the DHMG site! Also, don’t forget to follow guest reviewer Eric Leath on Twitter if that’s your kind of thing. Thanks to him for the article!


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