Tag Archives: Repos Production

Episode 69 – Essen Day One!

The doors fly open and tens of thousands of gamers swarm upon the Messe Essen for Spiel 2013! Meanwhile, at the other end of the halls, Michael settles in for another round of interviews direct from the show floor. This time around, we’re delighted to welcome folks from companies big and small, from first time visitors to well-established names. Oh, and there’s some REALLY interesting talk about the upcoming 7 Wonders expansion that’s due for release next year… Babel! Download the show directly by clicking this here link, or hunt it down through your iTunes.

This episode’s guests:

Thomas Provoost from Repos Production – http://www.rprod.com/

Henning Poehl, designer of The Rats in the Walls – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/147581/the-rats-in-the-walls

Colby Dauch, lord ruler of Plaid Hat Games – http://www.plaidhatgames.com/

Asynchron Games’ own Olivier Chandry – http://www.asyncron.fr/

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

Dave Cousins from North and South – http://www.northandsouthgames.co.uk/

Jamoma Games’ Jacob talks Suburban Dispute – http://jamoma.com/

dv Giochi’s Barbara Rol and Bang! The Dice Game co-designer Michael Palm – http://www.dvgiochi.com/

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Wicked Little Town – Rampage review

Rampage COVER

During my childhood – as has often been mentioned here on the site and the show – I played a lot of video games. Still do, in fact, during those down times when there isn’t a pile of cardboard sat on the table. It’s interesting when these worlds collide, as generally it can lead to some pretty decent results – see the range released by MB in the eighties based on classics like Pac-Man, Zaxxon and the criminally underrated Turbo, for example. Now, many years on, we have a new addition to the stable as Repos Production presents Rampage. While not officially based on the Bally Midway arcade original of the same name, the premise is certainly very similar – giant monsters are destroying the city! The twist though? You’re the one doing the smashing and crashing.

Yup, in Rampage you get to stamp, crush and generally wreak havoc on Meeple City, dashing all the buildings within to the ground and eating the tasty inhabitants within. There are also vehicles to hurl, powers to trigger and a surprising amount of decision making to get involved in. Designed by Antoine Bauza and Ludovic Maublanc, this is a very different creation to games that they’ve previously been responsible for but what is life without mixing things up a little? Why shouldn’t the guys who created titles like 7 Wonders and Cyclades go off the deep end and create a dexterity game with massive kaiju? Thankfully the world allows for such madness, because Rampage is a bloody hilarious experience that also happens to be a great game too.

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Behold beautiful Meeple City! Stunning beaches! Breathtaking vistas! Giant flesh-eating monsters at every turn!

 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that setting up the game takes a little time. You’re creating buildings that are dotted about the board by stacking meeples upon thick card ‘floors’, repeating until each one has three floors aside from the massive central stadium that is only one storey high. Everywhere you see a little meeple icon, randomly place one on that spot to ensure that the buildings are stable – for now, at least – then choose your monster’s starting corner. Players are then given three cards, one each from three different stacks that give you a characteristic and power (which everyone can see) as well as a secret super power. This is a one off boost that, once revealed, must be discarded. Once those are sorted out, it’s time to commence destruction.

Each player has their own monster lizard – no giant gorilla or werewolf in this game, sadly – that comprise of two wooden bits, the Paws and the Body. You get the chance to perform two actions per turn from a range of four, of which moving is the most basic – just put your body to the side and flick the disc that represents your paws to where you want it to go. I’d suggest a few practice flicks before beginning the game properly so you get your eye in as that disc is pretty solid, but with practice you’ll be hurtling about Meeple City in no time. If you’re in the same colour coded neighbourhood as one of the game’s four wooden vehicles, you can pick it up and throw it at a building (which is done by balancing the wooden piece on your monster’s body and flicking it) – this, with some decent aim, can be a very destructive action, so is a pretty strong choice. For even more ruination, you can pick up your body and drop it on a building as long as your paws are touching the sidewalk that surrounds it.

Finally – and most stupidly – you can unleash your monstrous breath. Literally. This is the most mental part of the game, where you must place your chin on your monster’s head, breath in and bloooooooow. Of course, being hunched over means that you can’t get a lot of air in your lungs, but it’s hilarious when you set yourself up to unleash hell on the city and end up with a pathetic gentle breeze that barely moves a meeple. Not that that’s happened to me at all. Oh no. Or my mate Ben.

Once your actions are done, any meeples that are in your neighbourhood are eaten, up to a maximum of the amount of teeth you currently have. Yes, teeth are important, and the amount you have are shown on your player board. You’ll always have a minimum of two, but your starting six can be lost by getting into fights with the other monsters or being responsible for meeples escaping. If any of them tumble out of their buildings and off the board, they’re deemed runaways and placed on a special side board. At certain times – every three or four, generally – something bad will happen to the monster who let the final meeple escape and complete a set. It’s not exactly a fair way of dealing with fleeing meeples as one player could get hit with every single punishment, but it’s certainly funny when that happens…

There are actually six different meeple colours in Rampage, and points are only given at the end of the game for each set of six that you manage to collect, thus emphasising the importance of a balanced diet. Each rainbow set brings in ten points, while any that are left over are worthless. Floors that are collected through the game give you a point each, regardless of size, and are grabbed any time you’re responsible for clearing one off. Bonus points may also be gained from your cards and – surprise! – whoever has the most at the end of the game is the bestest monster. The game ends when either the last floor has been eaten or the runaways board is filled, but either way you’re looking at a playtime of between thirty minutes to an hour.

Things are... well, not going to great in Meeple City.

Things are… well, not going to great in Meeple City.

Rampage is raucous, silly, wonderful fun. Sure, the decision making is limited, but there’s enough in there to silence the critics who have decried it as dumb. Do you attempt to slam into an opponent and hopefully limit their meeple munching abilities later in the game or try and sidle up to a nearby building and prepare to drop onto it from a great height? Planning for that balanced diet can be a tricky too, so moving around the board as you seek precisely what you require is a challenge in itself. Of course, the main issue is that of your dexterity – if you’re unable to flick that Paws disc of yours efficiently, you’re pretty much going to be screwed when it comes to Rampage, but I’d urge you to practice. Dismissing this as a stupid party game because you’ve not got the skills or patience to get good at it is a ridiculous notion – devote a bit of time to it and you’ll see that this is a (not so) little gem.

On that subject, there’s been plenty of comment on BGG about the price being too high for what can be boiled down to a simple game. However, you look in the box and tell me that you can’t see where all the money goes. More wood than you can shake a stick at. Gloriously thick tiles that are designed to take plenty of damage. Individual art for each card. As always, Repos have excelled in their production quality and it’s fantastic to see the company taking a chance on something that’s very different to their normal releases. Yes, it’s far from the most serious and deep game in the world, but it’s such bloody fun! And after everything is done, isn’t that why we play games? For the fun and enjoyment? Put aside any qualms you may have and give Rampage a go – the kid inside you will be delighted.

Rampage was released through Repos Production and was designed by Ludovic Maublanc and Antoine Bauza. Released at Essen 2013, between two and four players can get in on the destruction of Meeple City (though I reckon that more is better – plenty of opportunity for smashing other monsters up). Copies are a bit hard to find at the minute, but expect to pay around £40 when it’s easier to get. Let the destruction begin!

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Who Do You Think You Are? – Mascarade review

Of all the games sitting on my shelves at home, one of the most worn down boxes has got to be the classic Citadels. It hits my table on a regular basis, especially if I’m playing with a larger group, and it always gets chucked into the games bag if I’m heading off somewhere new. Just so you know, the others being Love Letter, Council of Verona and – if I know it’s a particularly filthy crowd – Cards Against Humanity. All of these games manage to pack a huge amount of gameplay options into tiny packages, and now I’m delighted to say that there’s a new addition to the list. Brand new from Repos Productions, Mascarade is going to be your new favourite party game.

Now, I’m not talking party game along the likes of Wits & Wagers, fantastic though that may be. Mascarade is firmly planted in the eurogame end of the genre, but don’t let that confuse you – it’s still incredibly accessible, built around a simple ruleset with one target needed to win: get your hands on thirteen coins.

(Officially there’s another path to victory – have the most money when someone else is made bankrupt, but that happens comparatively infrequently. Basically, focus on building up your wealth and you’ll be just grand.)

As the game begins, you have a handful of six coins – so you’re nearly halfway there – and a role card placed face down in front of you. These can either be selected randomly from a pool of XX cards or chosen from a table included in the instructions leaflet that gives suggested set-ups for each number of players. To serve as a reminder of the characters in play, each card is represented by a token in the middle of the table with an icon to help you remember what abilities they have.

When your turn comes around, you choose to perform one of three actions. First, you could look at your card – they’re all face down, remember, so the only way to guarantee knowledge of what’s in front of you is to look. Option two is to take your card along with another player’s, shuffle them together and re-deal them, potentially swapping the two roles. The third option, however, is where Mascarade gets dirty…

This is where you declare to the group what your role is. Of course, you may not know what you’re holding at that moment in time, but the onus is on you to keep track of the character cards as they move around the table – or to try and do so, anyway. Should you choose this action, you simply say who you are and trigger the character ability… unless someone else pipes up and says that they hold the role you named.

If you go unchallenged, fantastic! You perform the ability and play moves on to the next person. If someone else declares you a liar though – or more than one person does, because those cards do move around a lot – you must both reveal your cards. Only the true character will get to to their ability, while the pretenders must pay a one coin fine to the central bank. It’s moments like these that all players must pay attention to as it opens up the table to more information that will hopefully give you the edge you need to get the thirteen coins you need to win.

Mascarade is a game built on two pillars; being able to track information that moves about the table, and having the bare-faced cheek to lie to other players’ faces when things aren’t going your way. If you can bluff your way through a couple of rounds you can easily pull in plenty of coins, but that then leaves you open to attack from characters who can steal from your pile. The trick really seems to be to plan ahead enough to stay in the middle of the pack until you’re ready to make your move and rush for the win – but of course that means that you’re going to have to follow the card movements perfectly or you’re going to end up on your ass.

It certainly gives off that vibe of Citadels minus the buildings – especially with the very lovely art and the money changing hands on a regular basis – but complaints about its older sibling barely stand up in Mascarade. Where in Citadels you could easily be picked on and effectively neutralised for round after round through clever use of the Assassin, all players are always involved and have to constantly be paying attention to what’s going on. Failure to do so leads to financial punishment and lots of “But I thought I was the Witch!” type shouting. It’s a wonderful, cruel, joyous and horrible game that should be a part of your collection, and I’ll put money on it being on the shortlist for the Spiel des Jahres 2014.

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Mr Wonderful – An interview with Antoine Bauza

I’ve been lucky enough to recently do a bit of back and forth emailing with Antoine Bauza, designer of such great games as 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories and Takenoko. Here’s what happened…

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Michael Fox: So Antoine, let’s begin with less of a question, more of a request: could you tell me a little bit about your gaming history? What kind of things to you like to play and what got you into the hobby?

Antoine Bauza: I’ve played every kind of game throughout my life; traditional family boardgames as a kid, a lot of roleplaying games as a teenager, Magic: The Gathering and others. I’m also fond of videogames. At the end of my studies (I did chemistry and computer science), I attended a game design school in France and after that, I tried to find work in the video game industry. I didn’t meet with much success; it was a bad time for videogames in Europe and it was very hard to find a job focused on on game design (which I was looking for because I suck at programming, graphics and making music…). So I took another path and became a school teacher! I started to play modern boardgames around 2003 or 2004, and started designing my own games around the same time. After several unsuccessful prototypes, my first game was published in 2007: Chabyrinthe from Cocktail Games.

MF: What were those early games like? Anything that you’ve drawn ideas from since hitting the big time?

AB: Honestly, I cannot remember precisely those early games. There was something about washing machines, one about wrestling, another about stray cats fighting for a neighborhood… The only one worth remembering is Ikebana, the big brother of Hanabi… It was my first finished prototype.

I remember I sent it to Repos Production because a friend of mine told me they were nice people. They did not publish the game in the end but the CEO, Cédrick, called me to talk about the game and give me some feedback. I really appreciated that he did that because usually publishers don’t even bother to respond to unknown designers… Then a few years later we ended up working together on Ghost Stories and 7 Wonders.

MF: Of course, those two big hitters really helped you make your name on the designer games scene. Could you tell us a little about Ghost Stories? I’ve played it a few times but have never managed to actually win… did you intentionally design it to be so punishingly hard?

AB: Ghost Stories is my only heavy (well, not so heavy I guess) game and the first cooperative game I designed. And yes, it’s a hard game and we intended it to be like that because both Repos and I are mean! Seriously though, we wanted to make a challenging game because we love co-ops and we think many are too easy for expert players. But to tell you the truth, the game is not so hard and when you know it well you cannot lose at all in easy mode and almost never lose in normal or nightmare mode. The White Moon expansion does make the game a little easier. The Black Secret expansion, well… that depends on the player who’s in Wu-Feng’s shoes… Try to find a nice guy to do it!

MF: How about 7 Wonders then? What was the genesis behind that? And did you always have it in mind that you’d be able to play with seven people?

AB: I wrote down the complete genesis of 7 Wonders on my blog but yes, the first idea was the make a light strategy game playable up to seven because there were always seven people showing up to my regular games night.

MF: Were you surprised at how well 7 Wonders was received by gamers? It seemed to come from nowhere and was suddenly on everyone’s table!

AB: Well, we knew the game was certainly going to be a success. We did a lot of demonstrations at a lot of conventions, toy fairs and we had a lot of very nice feedback before it had been released. We were confident when the game finally came out but we never expected to have this amazing level of success! You never know if such things are going to happen, that’s part of the magic!

MF: One thing I love about 7 Wonders is the opportunity for expansion. You’ve already had Leaders and Cities released and I know there’s a forthcoming Wonders Pack too. I heard a rumour that you’re planning on eventually doing Seven Expansions – is there any truth behind that?

AB: Well, my publisher planned the seven expansions… I’m just going step by step! Currently I’ve got two prototype expansions in development – codenamed Armada & Babel – but there is still a lot of work to do on both so I cannot guarantee anything right now !

MF: Do you actually get to play it much yourself? And do you have a preferred strategy or Wonder board that you always like to get?

AB: Sure, I’ve played a lot of games but I did stop for a while. Taking a break, you know, clearing my mind and getting ready to be able to work on the next expansion. I can’t say I have a favorite Wonder or Strategy but I try not to stick with just one way of being efficient! (Secretly though, I like to try playing without resources, using lots of Yellow and Green cards, but shhh! Don’t say it at loud!)

MF: Ha! We know how to beat you now, Antoine! You’d better watch out in future! Now, could we move on to Takenoko? It’s a curious little game that’s been very well received – even Wil Weaton mentioned it recently on Twitter! How did the idea for it come about?

AB: It all started on my first trip to Japan, back in 2003 when I visited Ueno Zoo. At the entrance there is a funny statue that caught my eyeThen when I got back to France, I started think about a bamboo growing game with two pandas… that was almost nine years ago.

MF: NINE years?! I didn’t realise it had been in development for so long! I suppose the success of 7 Wonders helped get the attention of publishers so you could push your other designs?

AB: Yes, sometime it takes time… The prototype had many many versions. The publishers (Matagot & Bombyx) worked for a very long time on the wooden pieces and miniatures. 7 Wonders did open some doors with foreign publishers – mostly in Germany and the US – but for now, all my games are published by either French, Belgian or Swiss ones, so the success of 7 Wonders isn’t that relevant yet… I’ll certainly take this opportunity in the future, because I like to work with different people and companies.

MF: So what are you working on at the moment, Antoine? Anything you can tell us a little about?

AB: This year I’m actually spending less time on boardgames. I want to experience something different before I get bored! Right now, I’m working on a small videogame project that involves some game design but concentrates mostly on story writing. But I’ve still got some boardgames in the pipeline: those 7 Wonders expansions, a brand new cooperative game (codename Sinbad) and a brand new resources-and-card-based development game that’s pretty different.

MF: Exciting times then! Are there any designers out there you’re a fan of? Anyone whose games you particularly enjoy playing or keep an eye out for?

AB: Besides my fellow french designers like Bruno Cathala, Bruno Faidutti, Ludovic Maublanc and others, I always like to keep an eye on Vladaa Chvatil – he’s an amazing game designer. I like Rob Daviau’s work too!

MF: All good designers! Have you managed to try out Risk Legacy?

AB: Of course ! I think Risk Legacy is the most innovative boardgame since Magic: The Gathering!

MF: High praise indeed, Antoine! Now, finally, is there any advice you have for aspiring designers? Any suggestions you may have to help improve their games and get them noticed by publishers?

AB: I’ve seen several aspiring designers spending all their time and energy on a single idea and prototype. I believe you have to make gameS (plural!) to learn how to make gameS! You also have to be a good observer and listener, paying attention to the people playing your prototype, catching what they enjoy and what they don’t like. Then when it comes to publishers, you’ve got to actually see them and play your game with them. I don’t believe in any of that “sending the rules by email” stuff…

MF: Fantastic. Thanks for your time Antoine – it’s been a pleasure!

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Dead Star – City of Horror review

CityofHorrorCOVER

I’ve said it pretty often that the reason I love to play games is the social interaction you get from them. Whether you’re working co-operatively trying to save the world or striving to screw over your opposition, there’s little better than sitting around the table and playing something, anything. There are, of course, a selection of games where the cruelty is as important as the interaction, games where the main focus is on being mean, striking out for yourself and screw the consequences for everyone else. Diplomacy is probably the finest example of this genre, a game where friendships are crushed in the pursuit of victory, and now we can add the newest release from Repos Production to the fold. City of Horror is here, and it’s not pulling any punches.

The only way to win? Survive.

Actually, that’s slightly overdramatic. In reality you need to survive in a better fashion than everyone else. Played out over the course of four rounds, you and your fellow humans seem to be the only ones left in a city that is rapidly getting overrun with zombies. A rescue helicopter is on its way and will pick up everyone left at the end of the final round – perhaps. As the game opens, you’re given a selection of these characters ranging from abandoned children to business types… even a heavily pregnant woman is thrown into the mix. Each character card is double sided and must be flipped over showing that you have used their special ability – doing so means that they’ll be worth significantly less points should they manage to escape the city, however.

Now, we say city, but really it’s a section that has descended into chaos. It’s always built at random, but there will always be an Armoury, Church, Hospital, Bank and Water Tower along with a crossroads in the middle of the board. The survivors are randomly given a starting location, but before you even begin there’ll be problems. There are only a limited amount of spaces in each place which means some folks could well end up out in the open, stuck at the crossroads where the danger is even greater.

Someone's going to get eaten. Someone is ALWAYS going to get eaten!

Someone’s going to get eaten. Someone is ALWAYS going to get eaten!

At the beginning of each round a card is flipped showing where the zombies will spawn or shamble to, along with supply drops of extra Action cards and syringes of antivirus. These syringes (also available from the hospital by trading in cards) are vital; if you don’t have at least one for each of your survivors by the time the helicopter comes, they’ll be left behind to join the ranks of the undead.

The actual play of the game is very straightforward. Once the zombies are spawned, players will (hopefully) move a single character to a new location, ending up in the Crossroads if there’s no room at their chosen destination. You then work your way around the six areas, working out if there’s going to be a zombie attack in each one. If conditions are met, all players (not just those at the location) are allowed to contribute to killing off enough undead to stop the attack. If this happens, great; move on to the next place and start again. Unfortunately, most of the time – and especially when those Action cards start running low – the attack will happen, and this is where the magic starts…

You see, not a huge amount of stuff actually happens in City of Horror. Over the course of play you’ll only actually make a small amount of decisions; the emphasis is on doing everything you can to save your own hide, and this is why the game is so good. If an attack is going to happen, someone will die; you need to do whatever you can to stop it from being one of your characters. At this point, the game comes into its own as you try your damnedest to prevent the zombies from claiming your character as dinner. Anything goes. Any deals that you can cut are valid and there’s no penalty if you back out on them, aside from the fact that you may well end up being hated by your friends. When that vote happens and someone is thrown to the baying horde, alliances and vendettas are created and shattered in moments. There’s little more entertaining than pulling a fast one, promising you’ll side with one person then stitching them up. Don’t worry about offending them; they’ll be planning to do exactly the same thing to you as well.

A metric ton of cardboard! Everything is double sided adding plenty of replayability.

A metric ton of cardboard! Everything is double sided adding plenty of replayability.

Repos have put together a great package in City of Horror. The city tiles are thick and sturdy, and although the first print run did have a minor issue with warping (nothing that couldn’t be sorted with the assistance of a heavy book) the latest print run has had no reported problems. All components are of good quality and the artwork is suitably horrifying and comedic in equal measures. Also, this is the only game I can think of that comes with a pre- and post-birth character; yes, the Pregnant Woman can have her baby mid game. Good job too, it gives her two votes…

And that is why this is such a great game to play. Between the amount of though that has been put into realising the theme to the simplicity of the rules, from the sheer cruelty of how you know that not everyone will make it out alive… it’s a brilliant and entertaining romp of a thing, filled with arguments, broken promises and more “I can’t believe you did that” moments that you’ll be able to stand. The prequel, Mall of Horror, was entertaining enough but had some limitations. City of Horror expands the experience, offering a much wider range of options and giving players the chance to truly do everything they can to survive. The team at Repos Production have come up with a gem that will play out differently every time and is well worth picking up. Just don’t expect to be friends with everyone when everything is over…

City of Horror was released in 2012 by Repos Production and Asmodee. Designed by Nicolas Normandon with art by the fantastic Miguel Coimbra, you can pick up a copy from the guys at Gameslore for £32.99. Between three and six can attempt to survive the zombie onslaught and the whole thing will take you between 60 and 120 minutes. Well, it should do if you last that long and that’s far from guaranteed…

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