Review: Ginkgopolis

Review by: Grant Rodiek

You can read my review policy here.

Quick Notes: Ginkgopolis is a game for 1-5 players for which you should set aside 60 minutes to play and setup. The setup isn’t quick, but it isn’t arduous by any means. I’ve played the game with 2-5 players a total of 5 times. The other members of my group have played it without me 3 more times.

The game’s rules are relatively short and well presented with a handy quick reference guide on the back. Plus, they’re full of examples.

The green sections are step by step examples.

The game ships with an official single-player variant in the rules, but I haven’t tried it. The game is best with 3 or 4. With 5 it is a bit more volatile and ends a bit too quickly. With 2, the drafting just isn’t as exciting, though it does have a more predictable feel (for those who like that).

Setup for 3 players

The Review: Ginkgopolis is a sharp, well-paced game where every player is a city planner building a futuristic, granola, sorta Dr. Seussian metropolis. The game has two end conditions, each an exhaustion of resources, and the player with the most points is the victor.

The game’s primary mechanics are drafting and area control, two personal favorites. Players will draft one of the four cards in their hand and place it face down to use in one of three ways. The cards are delightfully simple and essentially dictate which tile will be affected by the action. Actions execute in player order. The actions are:

  • Play a card to gain resources. This is the “lame” action. More skilled players mitigate how often this action is necessary.
  • Play a card and tile to expand the city outwards. This gains you a one-time resource bonus, plus you are controlling a piece of the city.
  • Play a card and tile to expand the city upwards. This is expensive, but crucial for controlling the city. You also get a permanent passive bonus.

Look to the pictures throughout this article for more details on how to play.

Blue gives tiles, red gives the building currency, yellow gives points.

The game’s 3 resources are points (for winning), tiles (for building), and a currency (to pay for building and denote control/contribution). Points are earned throughout the game, from end-game bonuses (these are some of the permanent passive bonuses above), and from winning districts.

There are 3 colors of tiles. A district is formed when 2 or more tiles of the same color are adjacent to each other. As players place tiles upwards and outwards, they place tokens to mark their contribution. The player with the most of these in a district will win many points.

The starting grid. Notice there is a red district in the top left, a yellow district in the top middle, and a big blue district in the bottom right.

Ginkgopolis feels dynamic and perfectly volatile. It’s because the drafting feeds into the  shared tile laying/area control mechanic. Unlike 7 Wonders, which often feels like a solitary affair (I know it isn’t), in Ginkgopolis you’re vying for control over districts and carving out the portion of the city that is yours. When you build upwards you can maintain the tile’s current color (ex: blue on blue), OR you can pay a penalty to change the color (ex: blue to red). It is the city-building equivalent of punching a hole in your enemy’s front lines.

Many a final round sees one player thinking he controls a blue district, only for another to place a red tile in the center of it. This cuts the blue district in half and, depending on the distribution of tokens, may completely shift ownership. It’s a real delight for those who like to mess with others, but don’t care for punishing aggression. Plus, as every player only takes on action per turn, the board evolves in a manner that is very reasonable.

I really enjoy Ginkgopolis’ strategic heft, in that it is not very strategic. The game is highly tactical, but clever, devious players can hold onto a great tile (resources are kept secret) and use these tactical choices to meander towards a fluffy, strategic vision of sorts. For example, midway through the game I can see that my high number blue tile would really help me cement control over a really valuable district. I can spend a few turns building towards its placement.

The game relies more upon gut checks than solving an equation. That makes the game easy to consume, relatively easy to learn, and really exciting when your hunch pays off. It isn’t mathy and it’s never entirely predictable. Sometimes, you just don’t have the cards or the tile, so do what you can and stay in the game. This uncertainty leads to great tension and I feel the game often rewards the better Ginkgopolis player, not the resident statistician.

One of my favorite hunch-having elements is the discard hand mechanic.  Twice per game, every player is able to discard his entire hand, at a cost, in hopes of drawing 4 new cards that present better options. One of the reasons I win frequently is that I know when to do this. People will ask “You sure you want to do that?” A 10 point swing later, hell yes I’m sure.

The top of the card dictates the part of the board your action will affect.

Some Euros present a slew of symbols and complex hieroglyphics you need to learn. Ginkgopolis’ skips the cuneiform and instead uses a number/color system that  throws much of that away. The end result is that players focus on making choices towards building the city. You aren’t learning the game’s language, but the game’s strategy. The passive bonuses DO use some symbols, but there are only a handful and many times my friends just figured them out without look up.

If I were to play the yellow 2 card, I’d affect the yellow 2 tile.

The key takeaway is that the majority of the game is: This card does something to that tile. What do YOU want to do to it?

This starting set of passive bonuses gives me +1 Point and +1 currency when building outwards or +1 tile when building upwards.

Were the game just tactical hunches it would grow old quickly, but the game has several layers that really add variability and depth. At the beginning, every player is given 3 character cards at random which determine starting resources and initial passive bonuses. These bonuses tend to sync up, which means every game you tend to pursue a different strategy. This works much like the Civilization boards in 7 Wonders or character cards in Tokaido. Essentially, it’s most of the fun of asymmetric factions without the burdensome learning curve.

Really discerning, advanced players will begin to think about cards not only in how they will affect the current board, but how gaining that card’s passive bonus will help them sprint to the ultimate victory. It’s a very good layer that can be skipped your first few plays.

I also find it’s easier to draft defensively in Ginkgopolis than 7 Wonders. By this, I mean I choose to take a card more to hinder an opponent’s efforts than help my own. There is less information to parse in Ginkgopolis and you don’t need to look at your opponents’ personal boards. Everyone is affecting the center tiles, which lets you focus your mind and eyes there. It’s simple and deep, which is where I love my games to lie on the axis.

I love the presentation of Ginkgopolis and it would be a disservice not to call attention to it. I grabbed the game off the shelf purely because of the art and, knowing nothing about it, merely did a quick sanity check on Board Game Geek to ensure it wasn’t terrible. The box is full of wooden components, playful colors, and beautiful cards and tiles adorned with the game’s goofy, futuristic style. It reminds me a great deal of Dr. Seuss and that is the highest compliment I can give. Many pass on euros for a lack of theme or boring presentation. For me, Ginkgopolis is a visual treat with effective player communication.

The Conclusion: Ginkgopolis hits so many right notes for me. It features simultaneous drafting, which means every turn comes with a fun choice and there is practically zero downtime. It plays in an hour or less, which is my ideal play length. It’s interactive, but not in a mean way, which means I need to not only pick the right choices, but outwit my opponents. I like playing against people, not the game itself.

The game is dynamic and ever-changing, which makes it difficult to solve. It’s beautiful, which shows that extra dose of love and craftsmanship to what could simply be another game about medieval castles.

We’ve played the game about 8 times in just the past month. It’s the type of game where if I don’t bring it into the office my co-workers yell at me. I consider this the finest addition to my collection in quite some time and if you like drafting, area control, fuzzy strategy, and good tactics, this could very well be a “must buy” for you.

This is my first review. Tell me what you think!

Hyperbolic Review Policy

Post by: Grant Rodiek

I created this site to discuss board games. Primarily, board game design, design philosophy, the games I create, their development, and the games of my peers. Over time the site has evolved to include interviews (typically of people I think are interesting around the time they have a Kickstarter project or new game released) and other elements.

I constantly find myself wanting to discuss at greater length the games I’m playing. I typically engage in opinion sharing on Twitter, but frankly the medium is insufficient at times for more than “Like” and “Do not like.” I’ve always avoided the notion of writing reviews like the snotty filthy child fights taking a bath. No no no!

The thing is, I need not be afraid of writing reviews. I just need to do it on my terms.

The too long didn’t read is this: I want to write at length occasionally about the games I’m playing. The word for that is “review.”

Here are my terms. is not a review site. Reviews aren’t why I created the site, they won’t comprise the majority of its content, and they aren’t how I hope to attract the majority of my readers. That, to me, means a lot of things that are really important to me:

  • I have no pressures of content creation. I very well might write one review every 6 months.
  • I will never play a game because I want to review it. I will play the games I want to play and review those about which I have something to say (good or bad).

Games I review must be published. This isn’t cut and dry, so I’ll clarify. By published, I mean the game is finished and can be purchased and taken home RIGHT NOW from a board game store,, TheGameCrafter, or your storage closet (if that’s what you do, but it seems shady). No previews, no Kickstarter, no games in progress. It’s key to note I’ve purchased 1 POD game in the past year, so it’s not likely I’ll review many. It’s probably more accurate to say I won’t review them.

All the games I review will be ones I buy or have been purchased by my friends. I’m not making a statement with this. Don’t read into it. I just don’t want any pressure to review games or change my PLAY habits. I already get quite a few emails from people who want me to review and provide coverage on their games. It’s the way of things, I get it. Frankly, I don’t want to deal with any of that. I’ll review at my pace on my dime.

I’m going to target games that fit my interests. I think reviews are only valuable if you understand the reviewer’s perspective. It’s not useful for me to review Terra Mystica because I sit down at the table with -20 opinion points before the rules are even explained. I’ll never like that game like you might, so it doesn’t make sense for me to even discuss it. My interests include games that play in 60 minutes or less, are typically interactive, not overly complex (i.e. not 90 page rules), and are more based on player decisions than luck. I love cool components and I’ll forgive theme for clever mechanics. I am not a die hard euro player, but I’m definitely more on that spectrum than Ameritrash. Eurotrash, perhaps?

I cull my collection pretty aggressively. If you want to see what I own and how I rated it, take a look here.

My reviews won’t have numbers. I don’t like them. I give this policy 5 out of 5 corgis, however.

I’d like to chat about my reviews. It’d be fun to discuss them in comments or in an email thread if you want to drop me a line. Feel free to disagree and express your opinion. People put so much weight on a single reviewer’s opinion, which is silly. I love discussing games. So, let’s discuss.

In general I’ll try to provide useful information about the game I’m reviewing at the start. This will include things like:

  • Number of times I played it and with what player numbers
  • Length of the game for us to play (including setup)

If I dislike a game I never play it twice, I most likely won’t review it. Doesn’t seem useful or fair really.

My reviews will provide very little information on how to play the game. I read very few reviews because many go into great depth explaining the rules and this just isn’t useful to me as a reader. Personal preference. I want to know what reviewers think and that’s about it. My reviews will therefore be far more opinionated than informative.

I’m going to try to address the experience and joys (or woes) of the game. If you want to learn to play, folks like Father Geek, Dice Tower, and others will do a FAR better job. I’m more inspired by the Shut Up Show style, though I won’t be funny and that isn’t a goal of mine.

I’m working on my first review now. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them or  Tweet snarky things in my general direction.

Posted in Blog | 6 Replies

The Tempest

Post by: Grant Rodiek

Let’s discuss failure. Creative failure. You know, that common, constant back-pressure that seems to peek out from the shadows at every twist and turn. The creative process is an absolute tempest of failure, mistakes, improvement upon this failure, and from time to time, success. Then, more failure.

It can be overwhelming, at least for me. We work so hard creating things that should be amazing, but they aren’t amazing, or they are, but they don’t find a publisher. It can be as simple as wrong place, wrong time. Or just, you know, the thing you made isn’t good enough. That thing you showed to others is just inferior.

There are many sources of frustration and anxiety for me. There is professional dissatisfaction from my day job, which puts unnecessary pressure on my hobby pursuits. I find myself pulling my hair out from 8-5, then I drive home and continue the process. Suddenly, a simple personal project becomes SO important. No, it HAS to work! The war of attrition takes its toll.

There’s the frustration of not understanding the landscape. Finding a publisher isn’t just about creating brilliance, but also presenting yourself and your games brilliantly. It’s about sales, relationships, networking, and understanding the publishing game. It’s difficult and it can be maddening to watch those who have it all figured out sail past you.

That guy’s getting published? Again? Does he sleep?

It’d be great if publishers were calling and bugging me, but it doesn’t work like that. I know that. I think. But there are times when I hope the rules change to fit my personality and way of doing things. (Hint: They won’t)

The most intense frustration is a result from my creative failures. Sometimes you won’t get published. It happens. Sometimes the world around you is chaotic. But when the things that are fully under your control don’t work and in your own head you have to admit to yourself that it isn’t good enough, it just burns. My recent game Genes/Helix was like this. I spent a lot of time designing it and working with peers. I quickly tested it about 5+ times and it was working. Then I took a step back and examined it. It worked, yes. But it wasn’t fun. Worse, it was built upon a flawed foundation and just wasn’t going to become fun. Bad idea, Grant. Throw it away. Start over. You failed.

Perhaps you know what I’m talking about? Perhaps you’re just much better at this whole design thing? The goal of this post isn’t pity, but a more a cathartic explanation. It feels good to write about things and share with people who I believe suffer similar woes.

It’s key to look forward and continue moving. As soon as a design fails, go for a run, have a beer, then get back to it. Go read something from your favorite author. Visit the local art museum. Eat something delicious. Find your next inspiration and pursue it mightily. Also, don’t forget the failed ideas because there may still be something to them. Trust me, one day you’ll play a game about beavers, witch trials, a genetic strand, Germans invading America, and a dude named Yohan. All at once! That’s the way to fix ‘em!

Talk to your creative friends about this stuff. I do, constantly, and though I’m sure it drives them insane, deep down, they know they’ll need me when it’s their turn. That assumes your design friends are not robots. Talk about it. Vent. If you bottle it up you’ll just implode and leave the hobby.

Play a better game that does work and think on it. Play a better game and remember why you’re in the hobby in the first place. Ginkgopolis has done that for me lately. My mind first went to blatant rip-off ideas, but now I’m wandering through a forest of thought that is my own. It’s neat. Without Ginkgopolis, I might not have been here. Take inspiration from those who have succeeded.

Set yourself new goals. If you find you can’t quite satisfy a certain pursuit, change the rules of the game and move in a new direction. For example, I’ve been obsessed with creating really simple, Coloretto-like games lately and I just can’t quite do it. I changed my direction to focus on toy-like games with silly components. Blockade is the result and I’m delighted.

Finally, remember that design is hard. All of this. It’s just hard. People don’t get into the NFL, typically, because they are lucky or because they are mediocre. Writers don’t get published, typically, for writing boring or tedious works. Game designers won’t get published by someone who needs to make money from thousands of customers. A 7/10 game just won’t work. This stuff is hard, but if every 10 tries you create an A+ game, then perhaps all of this ridiculous frustration is worth it?

Posted in Blog | Tagged , failure, frustration, moods, the tempest, thoughts | 4 Replies

Hot for Teacher

Post by: Grant Rodiek

Beginning August 5, 2013, I’m teaching a class on card game design on the website Skillshare. You can visit the class page here. Skillshare is a very modern concept. Regular people, typically creative people, teach a class on a very specific topic. Classes are a series of recorded videos and forum communication that lets people learn remotely and at their own pace. Because it’s the internet, the “cost” of the class is essentially one’s experience and time. Instead of teaching English 101 for thousands of incoming freshmen, you can teach a class for 20 interested people. Perhaps more?

This is a really interesting and new thing for me. I wanted to share with you a bit of information on how I ended up teaching an online class, what I hope to teach, provide a justification for the cost, AND most importantly, provide you, my loyal readers, with a discount code.

Discount Code! 

In a time when tuition is rising in real colleges, I want to give you a deal to attend my fake one. Especially those of you reading my blog! If you enter the code “HYPCLASS” (no quotation marks), you’ll receive 50% off. That means the class is $10. This offer is limited to a certain number of people and only for a week and a half, so if you’re interested, take it!

I’m going to reference this post for the next month as I work to promote the class. If you come here and the code is down, use THIS LINK to enroll in the class. If you do, I get a larger percentage of the enrollment fee. If you don’t like me, feel free to enroll via the site. Really, I just want you participating!

How did we end up here? 

A friend and peer was approached by Skillshare to teach this course. He declined, but recommended they speak to me instead. The recruiter checked out my design blog, liked what he saw, and we had a phone call a few Fridays ago. I thought it all sounded awesome.

Firstly, any time anyone comes to you for any reason, even if they heard you clean a mean toilet, it feels pretty good. My ego was inflated (slightly). Don’t worry, I quickly found a way to bring myself back to equilibrium (damn game design). Secondly, this is something I’ve been wanting to do. Not teach an online class per se, but really take this “discuss game design” thing more seriously and sit down to craft an eBook. Something with defined chapters, heaps of examples, studies, discussions with other great designers, and more. This class came at just the right time. I figure if I can put together a great class that people like, then perhaps I can put together a great book.

In summary, if you bribe me enough, I’ll tell you whose fault this really is.

Open your folders to the syllabus…

Now, I know what you’re thinking! “Why should I buy the cow,” you mutter, “when I’m already getting the game design milk for free?” Firstly, this milk is high in fat content. Secondly, although I’m sure you’ll hear some similar thoughts in this class as you read on my blog (I am still me), I’m creating all new material for it.

In fact, I’m creating a game entirely for this class. It may be AWFUL. In fact, that might be the most instructive thing I can do! Skillshare classes tend to have projects. It’s a great hands on approach where you actually use what you learn. The project for my class is to create a card game. I’m going to design a new game and build it for the class. I’ll use it as my primary example (as well as others) and hopefully it’s inspirational, useful, interesting, and fun.

You can read about my high level notes on the Skillshare page for my class, but I’ll go over them again here.

  1. I’m going to talk about card games and a little about games in general. This is arguably more for folks who have never done this before, but I’ll try to make it interesting for everyone. You’ll hear about why I think card games are great, some mechanics I love, and other things to get folks started.
  2. I’m going to talk about brainstorming, coming up with ideas, and using inspiration. I’m going to try to distill this into actionable ways you can improve this process and come out the other side better than before.
  3. I’m going to talk about piecing this all together. Taking ideas and turning it into a prototype. Something you can hold, look at, and actually play. This can be a terrifying first step for new folks. I want to make it simpler.
  4. I’m going to talk about identifying issues, focusing on your goals, iteration, and testing your design. Good designers know how to identify problems and fix them. Design doesn’t end when you build the prototype — it’s just the beginning. Plus, taking feedback can be difficult. I want to make it less so.

About the money…

I must admit it was weird for me to think about charging at first. I didn’t create this blog to earn money. I can’t even say I’m designing games for the money. If so, I’m doing it incorrectly. In 2013 it’s strange asking for money to teach a class when people read the New York Times for free, but here we are.

This Skillshare thing is not an income substitute. It’s not a job. I’m not going to nickel and dime you. But, it’s money that supports me in this hobby. I may earn $8 with this class. Perhaps I’ll earn a few thousand (which is crazy talk). Either way, I’m putting this money towards creating prototypes, hiring artists for games like Battle for York and Farmageddon, both of which I covered out of pocket, and attending conventions like GenCon and Protospiel.

This is going to be my focus for the next few weeks as I create the game, write lesson plans, rehearse them, and record them. I’d like to think this will be some of my best stuff, so if you like my blog, if you have a favorite post, I’m hoping this is the best so far. Then, when the class goes live, it will be my absolute pleasure to work with folks in the class to brainstorm and improve their own games. I’ve been providing rules feedback and testing games for my fellow designers for years. I’m going to keep doing that with this class.

If you have questions about this, please ask me. I promise I’m doing my best to give you the best value for your money.

Your input is desired!

If there is something in particular you want to know about in the class, a question you want answered, a topic you want discussed, share it with me below. Or, . This class isn’t for me to talk, but to help people make better games. And for all of us who love games to have fun with something we, well, love.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you in class!

GenCon 2013 Prototype Preview

Post by: The Board Game Design Community

Hello! Welcome to the latest preview post, which combines the efforts of many board game designers to  share what to expect and look forward to at this year’s GenCon. Many of us will be there to test or even pitch these games in hopes of finding a publisher. If you missed my launch deadline and want to be included, simply and I’ll add you to the post.

See something you like? Tell the designer in the comments or using their contact info.

Chevee Dodd’s Intro

With Origins already behind us, I am a few prototypes lighter for GenCon. I have mixed feelings about the games being reviewed by publication. First, there are publishers reviewing my games, which is AWESOME… BUT… I actually liked playing these games and already miss them. I may make up play sets anyways just to play with friends. So, I’m now dipping back into older designs, looking for something to work on. It’s very likely I’ll have something brand-new with me, but these two prototypes will also show up:

Chevee Dodd’s Dead End

Quick Details: 2-6 players, 45 minutes, ages 10+

Description: Dead End is a fast-paced card game where the goal of the game is to out-last your neighbors during the zombie apocalypse. The players begin the game shored up in their homes as the zombies enter the neighborhood and spend their turns finding defenses and weapons to help them hold out. As you play out your turn, more and more zombies enter the neighborhood and you get to choose which opponent they attack! I’ve been working on this game for over a year now and it is just now becoming what I envisioned all along. It’s been torture at times and I’ve had to really work at this one, so I’m happy to be showing it.

Chevee Dodd’s Hexploration

Quick Details: 3-6 players, 1 hour, ages 8+

Description: Hexploration is a not-so-cleverly named game about prospecting and mining gems. As a game, it is a cross between tile-laying and area-control. I love tile laying games, but I’m not a fan of the unapologetic draws, so I added a mechanism that lets you “tune” your tile draws to your advantage. Coupled with an area-control mechanic you need to not only focus on making your areas of the map better, but you need to ensure you can protect your area from your neighboring miners. This is one of the deepest games I’ve designed and it’s been shelved for the past year or so while I let it stew in my mind. I think I’ll be forcing it on my playtesters very soon.

Jay Treat’s Intrigue

Quick Details: 3-4 players , 45 minutes, ages 15+

Elevator Pitch: A trick-taking card game of manipulation and deception.

Description: Deploy agents from different factions vying for control of the city. Success requires working with your opponents, because every player shares one faction in common with another. Can you trick enemy agents into advancing your own cause? The plot thickens when you layer in secret schemes.

Jay Treat’s Assault on Khyber Station 

Quick Details: 1-4 players, 40-60 minutes, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Can you escape from aliens on a crumbling space station in this tense co-op?

Description: Your sleepy outpost among the stars has just been torn apart in a surprise attack. With blast doors slamming shut all around you and ravenous aliens teeming after you, can your team coordinate their unique skills to navigate the wreckage and find the escape teleporter in time to warn Earth?

Jay Treat’s The Last Planet

Quick Details: 2-3 players, 60+ minutes, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: A tactical tile-laying game inspired by StarCraft

Description: Three races vie for dominance on the last inhabitable planet in their war-torn galaxy. Establish your presence, claim valuable resources, and build your war machine before the others can wipe you out. The Last Planet features innovative game pieces whose size and shape directly impact how they play.

Jay Treat, Find him on Twitter @jtreat3.

Mark Major’s Jupiter Deep

Quick Details: 2-7 Players, roughly 60-90 minute playtime. Recommended ages 12+, though it should be fine for younger kids.

Elevator Pitch: Jupiter Deep is a cooperative game about shepherding hapless colonists to safety from a floating colony that is besieged by aliens and falling apart.

Description: As the elite team of robots who have been sent to rescue them, you must combine your abilities to zoom around the colony, blast through the invaders and guide the panicked colonists to the evacuation pod. Jupiter Deep features a randomized board setup and ability distribution every time you play, making no two games quite the same. Moving and defending colonists, and working together to find the best way of saving what you can and cutting your losses can be challenging, and if you fail, it has a “just one more game” effect.

Jupiter Deep won The Game Crafter’s Co-Op Challenge, and continues to be something cooperative gamers enjoy in our local Meetup board game groups and game nights.

Mark Major’s Chimera Station

Quick Details: 2-4 Players (with a possible expansion for 5-6), about 2 hours playtime. Recommended ages 12+.

Elevator Pitch: In Chimera Station, players compete for prestige not just through savvy worker placement, but by splicing components onto their workers that convey special effects and abilities.

Description: Welcome to Chimera Station, a busy hub of intergalactic trade, technology, and commerce. Gather food and money to sustain your race, splice weird alien appendages onto your workers to give them unique powers, and build onto the station to open up new actions.  When the time is right, take control of the command hub to earn victory points! Chimera Station is a genre we’re calling “worker-builder”, where not only do you have a standard worker placement mechanic, but you can add claws, tentacles, brains, and plant parts to displace other workers, grab extra resources, create a self-sustaining workforce, and grab extra points and turns.  As new modules are built, new options open up for gathering resources, using your genetic components, and scoring. Because of this, the game changes quickly based on what your worker’s strengths are.

Mark Major

Ed Marriott’s Scoville

Quick Details: Ages: 10+, 2-6 Players, 40-120 Minutes

Elevator Pitch: Scoville is a pepper cross-breeding game where players compete to produce the hottest peppers.

Description: The town of Scoville has hired you to meet their need for heat! Your role as an employee of Scoville is to cross-breed peppers to create the hottest new breeds. You’ll have to manage the auctioning, planting, and harvesting of peppers, and then you’ll be able to help the town by fulfilling their orders and creating new pepper breeds. Help make the town of Scoville a booming success!

Ed Marriott’s Trading Post

Quick Details: Ages: 10+, 2-6 Players, 40-120 Minutes

Elevator Pitch: A western Trading Post is struggling to grow and they want you to help them meet their needs.

Description: In Trading Post you are working to develop the trading post by building new buildings, exploring the territory, and of course making trades! But you’ll have to make the trades that will work out the best for you and the worst for your opponents. Players compete to maximize their value to the trading post. The player who contributes the most will be the winner!

Ed Marriott, find him on Twitter @EdPMarriott

Payton Lee’s Escape from Monster Mansion

Quick Details:  3-8 players, ~45 minutes, all ages

Elevator Pitch: Fight all manner of monsters in a survival game of strategy, team-work, and diplomacy.

Description: You’re a member of the renowned Monster Movie Film crew. The tables have turned as you find yourself trapped in a Mansion full of REAL Monsters! Explore and fight your way out of the dynamic dungeon that changes with every play. Guard against treachery as each player has a secret agenda that only they know about. Let the games begin…

Payton Lee

Eric Leath’s Gyre

Quick Details: 2-3 Players, ~30min playtime, Ages 13+

Elevator pitch: Gyre is Connect-4 all grown up. Twist, Push, Lock, and Blow up your opponent’s pieces, and perhaps even your own to achieve victory.

Detailed pitch: Gyre is an abstract strategy game using circular cards and a polarity mechanism to drive game play. Through the use of opposite (+/-) or like (-/-, +/+ poles, players can cause the board state to drastically change in their quest to line up 4 icons before their opponent(s) can do the same. Special power cards like Locks, Nukes and more can make things even more interesting if used cleverly.

Eric Leath

Van Ryder Games’ Tessen

Quick Details: 2 players, About 15 minutes

Description: Tessen is a real-time card game designed by Cardboard Edison and soon to be published by Van Ryder Games. The game pits two players against each other in feudal Japan. Tiring of constant warring between the clans, the Shogun has challenged the warriors to put down their swords and take up their Tessen–their iron fans–to gather eight mystical creatures.

Players will attempt to gather sets of animal cards while attacking and defending with warrior cards. To win, players will have to move fast and think even faster! Van Ryder Games will be running tournaments of Tessen every day at Gen Con. No previous experience with Tessen is required to participate.

AJ Porfirio/Van Ryder Games’ Hostage Negotiator

Hostage Negotiator art continues to come in and the game is getting very close to ready. In Hostage Negotiator you will clash minds with some unscrupulous character who has taken hostages to fulfill some want or need. Manage the threat and save the hostages in this exciting solitaire game!

Cardboard Edison’s Skewphemisms

Quick Details: 4+ players, 30-45 minutes

Description: Skewphemisms is a word party game based on the wondrous wordplay of alliteration.

Players will attempt to guess the everyday expressions that are suggested by a series of alliterative clues. The fewer clues you need, the more points you get. The game requires players to both work independently AND on teams. Teams will score higher if they work together, but they must watch out for the “point pilferer” who can jump in and steal the team’s points with a well-timed answer!

Sizzlemoth’s Double Up

Quick Details: – 2 to 6 players. 20-30 minutes, ages 10+

Elevator Pitch: Double Up is a family/party dice and card game where you pick the challenge! Use your action cards to complete that challenge with ease and collect the points when your opponents fail.

Description: The starting player attempts to match a pattern on a card using a specified number of dice and a hand of roll modifying cards. The player has a fixed number of attempts and dice, as indicated on the card, to successfully complete the challenge. If successful, the rest of the players must attempt the same challenge card and beat it in as many or fewer attempts than the original player.

Sizzlemoth’s Robot Builder (working title)

Quick Details:  2 players, 5-10 minutes, Ages 10+

Elevator Pitch:  One of the two rival robotic engineers who have been pitted against each other to prove who is the ultimate robot designer. Quickly assemble your robot and pit him in a battle against your rival!

Description:  We are currently just coming out of the early concept stage of this game, the mechanics and overall play of the game is sure to change before GenCon. The general idea is to have players build their own robots and then battle them, using action cards and power sources to maximize the effectiveness of their robots.

Sizzlemoth’s Shipwrecked! (Working title)

Quick Details:  2-4 players, 30~ minutes, Ages – ??

Elevator Pitch:  After losing a devastating sea battle – the ship, only a few of the crew, and all the rum have washed up on a deserted island. You and your shipmates must work together to find a way off the island or throw one helluva pirate party. Don’t waste too much time though, the heat of the island is unrelenting and who knows what lurks in the jungle.

Description:  Another project that is just coming out of early concept stages. Shipwrecked has cooperative gameplay where players win together or lose together. You play as unique pirates, each having their own traits that help them on the island. Players will have to explore their options early in the game to try and figure out what the best way of getting off the island will be. Wait for a passing ship? Build your own ship? Or maybe they’ve given up hope and have just decided to throw one last pirate party! Collecting resources and completing challenges will bring players closer to completing whichever goal they decide to tackle.

Sizzle Moth or find him on Twitter @sizzlemoth

Cole Medeiros’ Star Captains (working title)

Quick Details: 2-4 Players, 45 – 60 minutes, ages 12+.

Elevator Pitch: A space adventure board game where players captain a star freighter, modifying its hardware, filling its cargo holds and commanding crew to explore the galaxy seeking adventure, fame and fortune.

Description: Star Captains is a space adventure board game. Players have one ship throughout the game, and seek to modify it and hire a unique crew to best achieve victory. While focused on theme and story, it features stunning artwork, easy to learn mechanics that play quickly, and promotes player interaction and strategy. The game is in prototype phase, and we are working to put a lot of polish into the final version to create a truly cinematic experience alongside some slick mechanics.

Cole Medeiros or find him on Twitter @TheGubsGuy

Rob Couch’s Frankenstein’s Legacy

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 45 – 60 minutes, Ages 13+

Elevator Pitch: Frankenstein’s Legacy is a deckbuilding game about assembling your own horrible Monster.

Description: It is the year 1975.  You are part of a team of scientists who has just stumbled upon the lost journals of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.  Now, using modern technology, you have decided to recreate and improve upon the revelatory breakthroughs of the legendary Doctor.  But your colleagues have the same goal.  You must decide whether to play it clean, or fight dirty to become the first to create your own grotesque monster, and shake the very foundations of the natural world as we know it.  Players in Frankenstein’s Legacy are competing to be the first to assemble a complete monster from four body parts, then shock life into the creature.  But before you can build that body, you must successfully test each part on your Workbench.  Every time you test, you burn a gold fuse.  So be careful.  If you burn up all your fuses, you won’t be able to pay Igor to go scrounge more body parts.

Rob Couch’s Rocket Wreckers

Quick Details: 2 players, 10 – 20 minutes, Ages 10+

Elevator Pitch: Rocket Wreckers is a fast paced, asymmetrical hand management card game about two fearless heroes having a fistfight while riding a 200 foot tall rocket speeding through the sky.

Description: A decades long war between the Verum Alliance and the people of the Steel Fist is about to reach its climax.  The Verum Alliance has launched their Great Weapon: A massive rocket, speeding toward the capitol city of the Steel Fist, flown by a brave pilot.  But a saboteur from the Steel Fist has hitched a ride and will be doing whatever it takes to make that flying bomb fall from the sky.  Rocket Wreckers is a game about making difficult choices.  Each card has two abilities, one of which must be combined with an ability from another card when played.  Every time you play a “linked” pair, another potential combination is lost.  In addition, each player has unique and different goals:  One is trying to go the distance to reach the target, the other is trying to make the rocket crash.

Robert Couch or find him on Twitter @poorly_designed.

Brian Henk and Clayton Skancke’s Body Builders

Quick Details:  3-8 players, 15-25 minutes, Ages 8+

Elevator Pitch:  Don’t bother looking for your soul mate…  build them instead!  Lock your dice, roll for your scavengers, and go steal some body parts to build the mate you’ve always wanted!

Description: Take on the role of a mad scientist who is attempting to build themselves a mate.  Unleash your 3 scavengers to invade your opponents trying to steal arms, legs, torsos, and heads from them to help you build your one true love.  Players will not be bored in this one as each turn every player gets to lock one die on a value and then roll the other two dice to improve their scavengers in hopes of defending against invasions or maybe invading someone else.  Not only will your dice roles improve your scavengers, but you can also roll for goals to try to win some body parts outside of invasions.  Drawing from the invasion deck will add a little drama to each invasion so don’t get too cocky before the battle.  This game plays in 15-25 minutes and requires a fairly equal amount of strategy and luck.  Which mate will you build?

Brian Henks or find him on Twitter @ForbiddenLimb

Jason Slingerland’s Sandbox Showdown

Quick Details: 2 Players, 12 and up, 30-45 Minutes

Elevator Pitch: It’s time for a showdown in the sandbox. Gather your toys and get ready for a battle. In this board game players each control a different faction of toys trying take control of a sandbox.  Each toy has access to use a unique power to help the player control the board.

Description: It’s time for a showdown in the sandbox. Gather your toys and get ready for a battle.  In this board game players each try to take control of the largest area of the board (A giant sandbox) by using a playset of 10 toys (A deck of tiles).  Each toy when placed on the board has access to a unique power that allows you to control the sandbox in different ways.  Each turn players earn Marbles, which help them pay the cost of placing the toys and using their powers.  The gameplay is fun and fast to learn but also allows for a high level of strategy as players progress through the game.  The prototype consists of 4 playsets: Space Toys, Farm Toys, Fairy Tale Toys and a Construction playset.

Matt Loomis’ Strength & Honor

Quick Details: 2+ players, 30-60 minutes, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Strength and Honor is a deckbuilding game for 2 or more players where players create armies and unlock powerful abilities while battling for glory!

Description: Each player has their own supply of cards to purchase from broken into different sets.  With each purchase, a player will unlock another card in the series.  By playing combinations of different units into their army, they unlock abilities that are always available.  At the end of each round the armies will battle one another with the winner earning glory and the losers mourn their dead.  The player with the most glory at the end of the game wins!

Matt Loomis’ Rite of Passage

Quick Details: 3-6 players, plays in about 30-60 minutes, for ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Rite of Passage is a set collection game of bluffing and deduction for 3 to 6 players where players attempt to develop the best traits which best meet the needs of their tribe.

Description: Each player will begin the game with a piece of knowledge about the type of warrior the tribe needs.  Each round, players will select two traits which allows them to perform various actions, then they will secretly choose one to keep while discarding the other.  As the game develops the true value of the traits will be revealed, and the player with the highest value of traits at the end of the game is the winner!

Matt Loomis’ Cosmic Kaboom

Quick Details:  2 – 4 players, plays in 15-30 minutes, for ages 8+

Elevator Pitch: Cosmic Kaboom is a dexterity flicking game for 2 to 4 players where players fly around space to collect energy cubes that will power up giant space bombs to eradicate the planets of their enemies.

Description: Each player will flick their spaceship around a modular board that is created by 4 cards and 12 planet tiles.  After collecting enough energy cubes, players will toss a space bomb tile onto the board in an attempt to blow up their enemies planets and be the last race left standing!

Matt Loomis, or find him on Twitter @mrtopdeck

David Chott’s Lagoon

Quick Details: 2-4 players (higher player numbers will soon be tested for viability), plays in about 45-60 minutes

Elevator Pitch: Each player leads an order of druids competing to control potent mystical sites in the world of Lagoon. These enchanted lands each confer a unique power to the druids occupying them, providing players an ever-changing field of abilities that can be combined in surprising ways. Deploy your team of druids across Lagoon in search of the sites that best serve your agenda, harness their power, consecrate them as your own, and carefully make allegiance with immortal forces beyond all of you.

Description: Each player controls up to five druids, using them to explore a hex-based world where each hex site confers a different ability. The game begins with just one site, but quickly expands as players explore new sites from a bag of hex tiles. The color of each site indicates which of three immortal forces that site is tied to, and players must leverage one color to subdue and score sites of another color. Over the course of the game, druids will gain and lose powers, sites may move, sites will be scored and leave play, druids will be exiled and summoned forth again, and so on. Eventually the last site will be explored, and one of the three immortal forces will predominate in the world of Lagoon. The dominant force will then grant favor to the order of druids that subdued the most sites of the other two colors, making the player controlling those druids the winner.

Find David Chott on Twitter @dchott

John du Bois’ Bread and Circuses

Note: John bringing both games to GenCon for testing purposes only.

Quick Details: 4-10 players, 20-30 minutes

Elevator Pitch: Players act as Roman nobles trying to manipulate events and their fellow nobles to achieve their secret objectives and make the greatest profit from a revolting peasant population.

Description: Each round, players discuss among themselves who will provide the peasant population with Bread or Circuses to keep the peasants placated. Affecting each player’s decision is the Event card drawn at the start of the round, preventing a peasants’ riot, the monetary benefit of playing a scarcer resource, and each player’s secret Motivation. After negotiating, each player declares whether they are playing a Bread or Circus, and chooses secretly whether they will provide Bread, provide Circus, or Abstain entirely. Players receive money for honestly declaring what good they will receive and which good they played (or abstained from playing). Players who played Bread get paid per Circus played by the group, players who played Circus get paid per Bread played by the group, and players who played Abstain reap the rewards of both Bread and Circuses – unless the peasants don’t get at least one Bread and at least one Circus, in which case the peasants riot and the abstaining nobles are robbed. The player who is able to leverage his allies and resources to reach a certain amount of Gold first wins.

John du Bois’ Civilization Dice

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 20-30 minutes

Elevator Pitch: A dice-building civilization-building game in which players add buildings to a shared civilization hoping to build the most monuments and most diverse set of buildings.

Description: Play starts with three dice, each of which contain an equal number of basic resources (farms, lakes, and forests). Each turn, a player rolls the dice, uses the actions from his or her constructed buildings to improve his or her available resources, and builds one available building from one of six building groups (military, civics, commerce, industry, recreation, monuments), adding that building group to the dice as a shared resource and claiming the building’s action for their exclusive use. Players earn Victory Points by building individual Luxury Buildings and Monuments, building sets of Basic and/or Luxury Building groups, and by taking actions from certain buildings. The player with the most Victory Points when resources or building space becomes scarce wins.

John du Bois and find him on Twitter @JohnDuBois

Michael Iachini’s Alchemy Bazaar

Quick Details: 2-5 players, 90 minutes, ages 13 and up

Elevator pitch: In this “worker movement” game, rival alchemists send their apprentices around an Alchemy Bazaar to gather ingredients and complete formulas in a race to gain the most wisdom.

Description: Each player is an alchemist with one or two apprentices to send around the Bazaar to gather ingredients, formulas and actions, all in an effort to end the game with the most wisdom. The board is made up of tiles, which represent shops in the Bazaar. A few tiles are added each round. The core mechanic of the game is “worker movement.” Players can have their apprentices move to various shops in the Bazaar, gathering resources, and may then pay an increasing cost to have the apprentices continue moving to other adjacent shops. Any shop where an apprentice has ended its turn is unavailable for other apprentices to use, but those apprentices may leave that occupied shop for free to move elsewhere.

Michael Iachini

Jeremy Commandeur’s Cold War Agents

Quick Details: 3 to 8 players, 30-60 minutes, ages 12 and up.

Details: A game of mystery and espionage.  Set during the 1980s at the technological height of the Cold War.  Everyone is not who they appear to be. Who is friend and who is foe?  Identify your team and expose your rivals first to win.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Pass the Paint

Quick Details:  1 to 8 players, 20-30 minutes, ages 12 and up.

Details: Draft paint colors and use them to make more valuable colors. Complete paintings for extra points.  Collect the most valuable set of paints to win.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Escalation Alpha

Quick Details: 2 to 10 players, 20-30 minutes, 8 and up.

Details: Quickly bid and try to hit the target.  If your bid wins, you get a power up. Play smart as the target jumps every round and your resources are rapidly running out.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Pyramid of Pleonexia

Quick Details: 2-6 players, 30-45 minutes, 8 and up.

Details: Treasure hunting, exploring, and a race against the clock. Explore the Pyramid, overcome obstacles, collect as much treasure as you can and then escape before time runs out.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Blockade Runner

Quick Details: 2 to 6 players, 20-30 minutes, ages 8 and up.

Details: Be the first to move your three ships through the asteroid belt to win.  Collect power ups and drop traps for your opponents. Clever bluffing and planning ahead will be rewarded.

Find Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyNorCal

Grant Rodiek’s Battle for York

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 60 minutes or less, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Take control of one of four asymmetric factions in this quick playing, card-driven area control war game that features no dice.

Description: I wanted to create a war game that played quickly, was relatively easy to learn, and featured no dice. The result is York, a game of careful hand management, special abilities, and area control that, without dice, is governed more by player decisions than luck. The game also features 5 unique factions, one for learning the game, then 4 advanced, asymmetrical factions.

Grant Rodiek’s Blockade

Quick Details: 2 players (or 2 teams of 4), 45 minutes or less, ages 10+

Elevator Pitch: Arrange your space fleets in the best formations to outlast and batter your opponents in this light, tactical, spatially-driven game. 

Description: Blockade’s primary components are rectangular wooden blocks. There are 3 blocks to a squadron, each with different weapons and weak spots, which means you need to physically re-arrange the blocks to best defeat your opponent and survive the battle. Games are scenario driven with fast, simultaneous turn planning, a simple dice mechanic to resolve combat, and Action cards to allow for decisive, exciting moments!

Jonathan Wolf’s Space Camel ’72

Quick Details: 2-5 players, ~30min per player, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Build a crew and run exciting and dangerous heists on the moons of Jupiter to build your rep and make it rich!

Description: Players are independent ship captains sailing around the moons of Jupiter in CM-31 “Space Camel” class Transport ships, attempting to make a name for themselves or just get rich.  Players recruit a crew, and then buy and sell goods in various markets to make money, or take on dangerous heists to earn reputation or make it rich quick.  Players will have to be on their toes, as taking on heists will injure their crew, damage their ship, and get them Flags (essentially how Wanted by the law you are), and Alliance cruisers are patrolling Jovian space looking for criminals to bring to justice.  Score points by earning Rep by completing jobs, and Good Days by making moral choices or running heists right under the Alliance’s nose.  But if you have no Rep and you have no Good Days, you can still win if you make it rich.  The board is a hex grid representing the Jovian system, populated with Alliance Cruisers, job Handlers, extra missions, and player ships, while Heists feature a push-your-luck dice rolling mechanism with dynamic obstacles that make each heist a unique set of challenges to overcome.

Epic Slant Press’ Havok & Hijinks

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 15-25 minutes, ages 13+

Description: You’re a young, underachieving dragon that never really paid much attention to your parents or the elders. That is unfortunate because you’ve just found yourself kicked out of the nest! It seems that your folks are tired of you eyeing their hoard and want you to build your own. You’re not alone either: the parents of your friends had the same idea. Now you’re out in the world of Vallhyn and you have to compete with other young dragons to build the first respectable treasure hoard.

What is your favorite game on the list? What are you most excited to play? Share it with us in comments below!

Posted in Blog | Tagged 2013, , cool dudes, cool dudettes, cool ladies, design community, , preview, promotion, publishers | 9 Replies

Details on Good Genes


Post by: Grant Rodiek

Two weeks ago I revealed that I was working on a new, standalone Farmageddon game. I provided details on a high level, but was sparse with specifics. Well, I’ve been testing this game and it’s going well, so now I feel comfortable discussing it more specifically.

Before I go too far, I want to thank Phil Kilcrease, David Chott, Stefan Dewer, Adam Buckingham, Todd Edwards, and Nathanuil DeMille. All of these lads have spent a bit of time reviewing my rules, critiquing the design, questioning my assertions, and really pushing me. As a result, the game has come out of the gate swinging. I’ve never had a game play this well from the start and it’s a result of such thorough design and review at the outset.

The second quick matter of housekeeping is that I don’t think the game is a Farmageddon “universe” game anymore. That was the intent, and scientific manipulation was and still is my inspiration, but tying it to Farmageddon isn’t right for this game OR Farmageddon. For now, I’m calling it Good Genes, which is amusing to me. If you have a better name, throw it out in the comments!

Now onto the main event! Good Genes is a game for 2-5 scientists that plays in 25 minutes or less. There are two main mechanics driving the experience. Firstly, I’ve taken inspiration from Match-3 games like Bejeweled and Scurvy Scallywags to create a match 3 table top experience. Secondly, as players collect genes from the center grid, they add them to their experiment. Their experiment is a series of punchboard disks with straight slots cut into the sides. The end result is a highly tactile, molecular experiment like collection of genes (like the image at the top of the article).

The result is that you have a game that plays quickly, looks really neat, and has a nice layer of strategy. Let’s discuss the Match 3 aspect.

In a digital Match 3, the game does all the upkeep for you. You might have massive, cascading chain reactions and it forces you to play quickly with an embedded timer. I didn’t want this to be a real time game, nor did I want players to endure minutes of fiddly upkeep every turn. As a result, ONLY a match of 3 matters — matching 4, 5, or the L shape doesn’t matter. I didn’t want players spending hours sorting through every possibility. Secondly, only the match YOU create is counted. If you make multiple matches, well, you setup an opponent. But, you don’t need to keep counting and tracking things.

After Genes are removed from the board, you push all genes inwards from the direction of a marker that rotates around the board. You then draw from the bag to fill in empty spaces.

On your turn, you take one of three actions:

  • Gene Swap: Basically swap any two genes in the board to create a set of 3, which I call a “triple gene.” You get to add the two swapped genes to your experiment and discard the rest.
  • Gene Grab: If there’s an existing triple gene, you just take one of them, add it to your experiment, and leave the rest.
  • Mutation: This is the meat! To do this, you remove a gene from your experiment and place it onto a gene in the center grid, which I call the gene bank. You then take a special action based on the gene’s color.

There are 6 gene types in the game, each with a special action. These let you manipulate the board more precisely, but at the cost of spending a gene from your experiment. This mechanic is required due to the way players score points. Let’s talk about that to wrap this up.

Every player has 2 Hypothesis cards. These give the player goals to build their experiment in a certain way. Things like having pairings of white and orange genes, or not using specific colors in certain situations. When you use mutations, you can more precisely dictate what is added to your experiment, or removed, and how.

Also, you can use these Hypothesis cards to hinder your opponents. Oh, I see you need orange. Well! I’ll just use this aggressive gene to remove that set from the board. I’m hoping this provides a Coloretto or Ticket to Ride style of blocking, indirect aggression.

I’m testing the balance of the mutation actions and of the scoring options (primarily the Hypotheses). I’m also looking for opportunities to really up the quality of the experience, which is the type of thing that only comes about from deep thinking and multiple testing perspectives.

I will be bringing this game with me to GenCon and I’ll be seeking a publisher. I think with the right graphic design, a few illustrations, and an emphasis on the components, this game could look gorgeous, toy-like, and ultimately meet a low price point.

If you’re interested in reading the rules, you can do so here. Comments are allowed in the doc (and encouraged). If you’re interested in creating a PNP, . It’s relatively easy, especially if you have a circular punch.

So, what do you think?

Posted in Games | Tagged , genetic scientist, good genes, molecules, science, strategy game | 6 Replies

The GenCon 2013 Prototype Preview How To

Post by: Grant Rodiek

In case you don’t follow me on Twitter, or you do and you’d like more information, here it is!  Much like the Preview Post we created at the start of the year, I’d like to work with the design community to create a GenCon 2013 Prototype Preview post. This will hopefully include dozens of designers and their games. The idea is that the post will show off all the cool games coming to GenCon to give the community an idea of what to experience. And perhaps, just maybe, a publisher might see something he/she wants to demo?

If you’d like your game(s) included in this post, with the following information:

  • Name of your game
  • An image of your game setup or being played
  • Basic information (player #s, length of play, age)
  • The elevator pitch: a quick line covering your game at a high level
  • The detailed pitch: a few sentences or bullets explaining the game in greater detail
  • Your contact information IF you want. I can embed it into the post so hopefully it prevents you from getting spammed?

I’ll be gathering emails this week. I’d like this to go live in June 24th, so that should be plenty of time to get your information to me.

Let’s do this!

Posted in Blog | Tagged 2013, designers, , how to, , preview, publishers | 2 Replies

The “Big” FLABS Reveal

Post by: Grant Rodiek

For the two of you who were curious about my vague design known as FLABS, it’s time for my big reveal. That seems hyperbolic…

FLABS is an abbreviation of Farmageddon LabsFarmageddon Labs is an entirely new, standalone game that exists within the Farmageddon universe. I really like Farmageddon as a setting. It makes me smile and it has ever since Brett showed me his first sketch for Sluggo Corn. It’s silly, over the top, colorful, and family friendly. I think there are a million things I can do with this setting. As long as I create within it carefully and respectfully, I think people will be fine with a return to the dusty plains of Sluggo.

I’m working on the game with help from Phil Kilcrease of 5th Street Games. I would very much like this to be the first game I fully publish myself. But, if that’s not meant to be (i.e. I lack the courage to do so), I’ll try to find a publishing home for it.

Farmageddon Labs is a prequel to the card game that’s out now. It is designed around the question: Who created the crops? Why are they like that? What bizarre science created that situation?

With those questions driving and focusing my design, I also set out to meet the following goals:

  • Low price point. Farmageddon is a $15 game. I don’t think people will adjust well to a $50 Farmageddon, and really, that doesn’t interest me much regardless. $25 or less is my target and I’m currently within that realm. Under that, actually.
  • Fast play experience. I’m targeting a 45 minute or less game. Unlike the original Farmageddon, which can have a complex, order of operations, mutli-action turn phase, Labs is take one action and go.
  • No take that. Farmageddon has lots of this, so I don’t think the next one needs it. My hope is two-fold: Give existing Farmageddon fans a completely new experience and bring in new fans who may have been turned off by the first Farmageddon. 
  • A very clean, elegant experience. I’ve been working towards this with all my games with mixed success. I seek to make this a more systematic game, not one involving card text and tricky actions to balance. Whereas the original Farmageddon was more on the Ameritrashy side, this one will be more on the Euro side.
  • Tactile and toy-like. This is my new favorite focus and Labs fits within it.

Overall, Farmageddon Labs is aimed at being a very accessible, broad appeal, simple, deep experience that matches games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan. NO, I’m not saying this game is as good as those. That’s silly. But, that’s the space to which I want my games to belong. I’m targeting those customers.

I’m not fully ready to reveal all the mechanics and elements yet, as I don’t want to look too stupid when they don’t work. My hope is to bring a functioning prototype to GenCon for testing and feedback. Then, ship some prototypes to existing Farmageddon fans for blind testing. This won’t be an easy game to print and play.

The game has already gone through three major revisions. For iteration 1, I spent 3 hours on the phone brainstorming with a good design friend of mine. The game that emerged was neat, had some cool elements, but was overall very derivative.

After it went through the gauntlet of 2 or 3 peer reviews, one friend told me I could do something more interesting than the cards I had.

I thought about it, threw a lot of it away, and moved with my second iteration. This is where I had a great “a ha!” moment that is the basis of every iteration since.  After more peer review and more thinking, I paired this with a second mechanic to fully flesh out the game.

Typically, I’d prototype before this point, but the game has an uncommon component that isn’t the easiest to build. I also wanted to put a lot of thought into it. I’ve found lately that if I personally rush too quickly to testing I don’t arrive at some of my best designs.

Here are some of the elements, at a high level, the game will have:

  • Players take 1 of 3 actions on their turn. All actions affect a central board…of sorts. 
  • There is chit pulling to update the board.
  • The game steps slightly outside my comfort zone and features no cards
  • …but not too far as there are multi-use components.
  • Very strong spatial components. Two, actually.
  • Hidden scoring goals.
  • The rules are a mere 2 pages (plus another 1 or 2 to list content).
  • Players are all scientists.

I’m pretty excited about Farmageddon Labs. I’ll be sharing the rules with some folks for early input and I’ll be building the prototypes to begin testing. Stay tuned!

Interview with Byron Collins


I have a lot of respect for Byron Collins and I saw his recent Kickstarter project as an opportunity to interview him. Byron is the type of scrappy entrepreneur I would like to be myself. He sets high standards, goes above and beyond to support his community (check out all the post-release content!), and has great ambition. 

His recent Kickstarter project is for Eastern Front, a standalone addition to his Spearpoint 1943 game. Spearpoint is a great entry-level war game for folks interested in conflict. It’s portable, plays quickly, has tense, exciting dice rolls, some historical elements, as well as deckbuilding at the outset (like Magic, not Dominion). I own a copy myself and recommend it.

Below, my comments are labeled HG. Byron’s are BC

HG: Tell us about yourself and Collins Epic Wargames. What do we need to know?

BC: I am a 1 man company and have been from the start.  I am solely accountable for anything that is related to my company or my games.  I treat that responsibility and our fans with great respect.  The only thing I do not fully do is some of the artwork for some games (others I’ve done all the art except the cover).  I rely on some great artists like Marc von Martial and Mark Mahaffey to carry me through on some projects.

While I will accept any failure or shortcoming I may have, I will not take credit for all of the successes.  Without great fans, these projects I’ve so enjoyed creating and bringing to this niche market- would not exist.  What you need to know?  3 things:

  1. I stand for a quality made-in-the-USA product.  Everything is printed stateside.
  2. I strive for bringing you the best possible games I can.  My heart is in them.  It’s my passion.
  3. I help others.  I’ve been a presenter at the GAMA Trade Show regarding self-publishing and I’ve blogged on it and helped many in the Board Game Design forum over on BGG.  Gaming and creation of games is much bigger than my little 1 man company.
Spearpoint 1943

Spearpoint 1943

HG: Can you walk us through Spearpoint at a high level? Describe the game and if you would, give us a little history on the franchise.


The Expansion

BC: Spearpoint as a system plays in two ways- one is as a fast, tactical, abstract, quick-and-dirty, portable filler wargame– when played with just the cards.  Two is as a boardgame when played with the optional Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion.  The two ways feel completely different, but have enough crossover in the rules that it’s easy to transition from one to the other.

Where the original Spearpoint 1943 is all cards (Editor’s Note: And dice for combat resolution), the Map Expansion takes those same cards, adds a few rules, and turns it into a full-on board wargame with a miniatures feel.  In fact, you can replace the cards on the terrain map with miniatures.  The line is growing.  Spearpoint 1943 Eastern Front, on Kickstarter at the time of this writing, expands the system further to a different front with all new cards and the addition of the Red Army.

HG: What inspired you to make Spearpoint?

BC: Spearpoint came about when I was demonstrating combat from my first game- Italian Campaign Introduction- which is a very in-depth game.  The combat portion was quick enough to demo at conventions to get people interested in the full campaign game.  While sitting there doing a demo, some friends in a neighboring booth said “those combat demos are working great- people love the quick combat.”  The idea to turn that portion of a larger game into its own standalone game was sparked right there.  I believe it was Historicon 2009.

HG: How is Spearpoint unique from other war games?

BC: The original has a single sheet of rules that’s really easy to pick up yet offers enough of a tactical flavor to feel like a much heavier game.  Where it really succeeds is telling a good story.  When you play the game, you will remember the “oh YES!” and “oh NO!” moments.  You remember exactly what led up to your victory – or defeat – and you can quickly relay that over a beer with friends.  A lot of wargames are “fun.”  This one is fun and accessible to the intro-wargamer.  It’s a great gateway wargame.

HG: Why did you choose to take Spearpoint to Russia? Why the Eastern Front?

BC: By popular demand.  A while back, I polled my e-mail list subscribers on “where to go next?” with several options— Eastern Front, British / Commonwealth Forces, Pacific, etc. and the fans we love chose Eastern Front.  So it’s a direct result of that poll that drove the line this direction- and I think it was a good choice.

HG: I’ve been reading more about the Commonwealth forces – they did some incredible things throughout the war. I’d love to play that expansion at some point. I agree with the vote though – the Eastern Front is the obvious next step. What is different about the Eastern Front version?

BC: The system rules are very similar to the original Spearpoint 1943 with a few tweaks.  Also by demand we’ve included tracking counters with the Eastern Front version.  The cards are all new- though some German units must repeat because to exclude them would not be very realistic (such as the Tiger I, Panther, etc.).  There are some major differences with Infantry and Crews.  Infantry and Crews are not all the same.  Before, a Tank Crew was a Tank Crew.  Now, a Tank Crew may be Green, Regular, or Veteran.  With more experience comes more ability, but at an added cost to your Reserves deck build.

HG: Those counters will really improve the experience. Great idea. Do you have any favorite movies or books that cover this aspect of the war? Did any of these inspire you in creating the game?

BC: The Rick Atkinson books are great.  Some of the US Army pubs are also inspiring.  You can find a lot of those online (if not all) such as Fifth Army at the Winter Line.  The Scenario “Man vs. Beast” in the Spearpoint 1943 Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion was inspired by Saving Private Ryan (the scene where they take on a Tiger Tank in the middle of a village).

HG: Saving Private Ryan is my favorite movie. I’ve watched it so many times. The film scene I want to capture (at some point) in a board game is Easy Company taking that battery of German .88s from Band of Brothers.

What do you think is the right balance between historical accuracy, simulation, and fun?

BC: If you are not having fun playing whatever game you’re playing, what’s the point?  It must be fun first.  It must have enough historical accuracy to feel real and be plausible.  And last would be simulation.  In my opinion, a game that tries to simulate every single aspect of every minute in a soldier’s life drowns players in those details.  I try not to do that.

HG: What are some of your favorite war games?


BC: Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel by Academy Games is a great game.  I also like games in the World at War series by Mark Walker and Lock N Load Publishing.

HG: I’ve only played my copy of Storms of Steel a little bit, but it’s such a well-designed, fun game. I’m going to look up World at War.

I really hope to I can’t help but ask you about Polyversal by Ken Whitehurst. What can you tell us about Polyversal? When can we expect to see this game?


BC: Yes, that’s correct.  Polyversal is a huge leap for me.  Stepping out to publish a 6mm sci-fi mass combat game is quite a departure from light card wargames.  What’s great about Polyversal is the Poly in the name is really an applicable term.  In boxed sets of the game, we’re working with multiple miniatures manufacturers in the range of 6mm to supply minis for the boxed games.  Bringing together at least 5 manufacturers at the moment is not an easy task.  The core of the game is easy to pick up and teach.  It’s a lot of fun.

And working with the concept artist, Bruno Werneck, who did concept art for Tron: Legacy, Thor, the new Star Trek, and other movies, has been amazing.  We’re going with top notch artwork for this game and it’s gorgeous so far.  While we continue to develop the game, you may very well see a two-phase Kickstarter approach to Polyversal:

  1. To help fund artwork
  2. For production of the game itself

Why?  We want to break up the project into smaller chunks.  We need funding to afford Bruno’s services.  And, we don’t want to keep people waiting on a game while we rush to get artwork done as part of a production Kickstarter. That’s just not cool.  More info about the game is available at

HG: Wow, really cool! Bringing in such talent must be incredibly exciting. I love hiring my favorite artists. Anything else you want to add?

BC: Yes, we have a current active Kickstarter project for our next game AND a current contest going for it.  Go help us out and pledge to get a great standalone card wargame, Frontline General: Spearpoint 1943 Eastern Front.  The system is fun and is getting high marks as it gains momentum. The second game in the series (Village and Defensive Line Map Expansion) is also nominated for a 2013 Origins Award in the Best Historical Boardgame category.

Some Helpful Links!

  • Link to Kickstarter
  • Link to BGG Contest
  • Link to our website
  • Link to our FB Page
  • Twitter Feed

I want to thank Byron for taking the time to talk to me. If you have any questions for him, post them in comments below. Check out Spearpoint!

Blockade’s Story Development


Post by: Grant Rodiek

Crafting an exciting, coherent story is something very important to me for Blockade. I honestly believe the game can stand on its own without such a feature, but I think the game lends itself to scenario gameplay and therefore, why not try to craft a story? It’s a creative challenge I wish to undertake and a way to differentiate my offering.

RPG gamers will giggle and scoff at my efforts as they’ve been embracing story for decades. But, it’s still not a terribly common feature for many board games. The games I’ve played that incorporate story heavily are:

  • Risk Legacy
  • Mice and Mystics
  • Memoir ’44

All of them do so in a very different way, so before we move forward, I’m going to succinctly break them down.


Risk Legacy’s story is built entirely by the players. The designer brilliantly crafted plot points, laid the foundation, then put it on the players to enjoy it and experience it. YOU are the characters and villains. In the game, when specified events take place, you crack open envelopes that permanently change the world and introduce new mechanics and scenarios. Little fiction is presented in the traditional sense, but it wholeheartedly embraces the notion that the game is an interactive experience and instead of telling you the story, you are the story.

Mice and Mystics is probably the most traditional example of game storytelling out of these three. You control characters who are a part of the story and move through a predetermined narrative path. Now, being great designers, Plaid Hat fills the story with opportunities for variance. You’ll fight different enemies, the dice will cause you to fail dramatically or succeed decisively. You’ll alter the makeup of your adventuring party. My favorite, is that you’ll have epic boss fights, like the appearance of Brodie the cat, or be given side-path opportunities within the mission.


You can see the score sheets and mission trees for Memoir.

Memoir ’44 is an interesting hybrid of pre-determined narrative structure and mechanical variance. The game is historically based, but the historical scenarios could be swapped with the fictional stories of Mice and Mystics. Where Memoir is most interesting is that, like Risk, there is persistence between your missions. Mice and Mystics is largely binary: you move forward or you don’t. In Memoir, your performance will dictate the next scenario in how many extra units you can bring forth, as well as your need to gain more points (play riskily and aggressively) or play it slowly (more conservatively).

For Blockade, I seek to merge a bit of a mix of Mice and Mystics’ narrative style and optional objectives with Memoir’s streamlined, persistent progression. As much as I love Risk, I want to be a bit more heavy handed with my narrative AND avoid the “one time use” component issue (which didn’t bother me as a consumer, for what it’s worth).

Here are the details and style choices I’m working with so far.

  • I will create nameless main characters who have ranks (to recognize them), but no gender or names. My hope is that YOU feel it’s YOUR story.
  • The point of view may alter between sides. Sometimes it’ll be from the perspective of the Martian player, others the Terran player. And perhaps, even other characters, like members of the Jovian Confederation and so forth.
  • Other characters in the game WILL have names. I will try to make you care about them so that if I kill them (from your actions), it means something.
  • Every mission will be designed to be played by two players squaring off, or 2 teams of 2 players. In some cases, I may alter the tuning to be more fun for more players (typically just more Units to control).
  • There will be (hopefully) 2 main campaigns. Each campaign will feature a series of 3-4 short stories, which will be 3-4 scenarios apiece.
  • I intend to design more campaigns over time. Even better, I’d love to work with a community to do so as well (wishful thinking?).
  • When you play a campaign, you will play the designed missions in order.
  • Players can play these short stories individually or full campaigns that tie them all together.
  • Your decisions and performance in previous mission will alter these missions. So, you start with Mission 1, then you’ll play Mission 2a or 2b, then play Mission 3a or 3b or 3c, and so forth.
  • Variations can be pre-defined (you get this many ships because you won) or varied (roll this many dice, for every direct hit, add a gun emplacement to the map). My design goal is to reward you for your successes and add reasons to replay the scenarios. Note I don’t intend to have a runaway leader issue.
  • The scenarios will be made available in a PDF or, depending on manufacturing options, in a book. Players will scan/copy the pages and mark them up to log progress and info as it’ll factor into the campaign.
  • Scenarios will vary gameplay by altering fleet compositions and starting positions, objectives, environmental affects (asteroids blocking sections, hitting ships, nebula scrambling radars), new objects (merchant ships, a ship to salvage or capture, defense platforms, star bases).
  • I’ll be using games like Starcraft and TIE Fighter as inspirations to alter the scenarios in tiny ways. The game will still revolve around blowing up enemy ships, but with simple twists.
  • Setup time will be quick. Place these ships. Place this small handful of environmental things. GO.


I previously sought to create an incredibly open, varied, choose your own adventure style campaign. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t very feasible for a variety of reasons. I wrote the first three missions, which I’ll now edit and modify to work with the new direction. If you want to read them, with the understanding they are works in progress, feel free to do so here!

Read the Current Campaign

Thoughts? Concerns? Questions?