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Fire Emblem proved to be incredibly memory intensive, ending up as far more than a re-skinned Famicom Wars, and the team was only able to work around this issue by using a portion of the games memory that was devoted to saving player progress. Keisuke Terasaki acted as the games main director whilst Yuka Tsujiyoko worked on its soundtrack, going on to be the main composer for every subsequent entry into the series.

Unlike many titles mentioned in Chronology, Fire Emblem launched to extremely poor sales over the first few months of its release, gaining slowly in popularity through word of mouth rather than being the recipient of an extended advertising campaign. In terms of gameplay mechanics, the game takes players through a series of battles throughout which units that run out of HP are killed off permanently and cannot be revived.

Some units are more powerful or weaker against others of set types and learning these is essential, as is purchasing and equipping new items.


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Additional characters can be added to the party and occasional plot relevant conversations will take place. The plot itself revolves around the prince of a small kingdom called Marth, who must reclaim the legendary Falchion blade and save his country. Fire Emblem would go on to produce a series of games released exclusively for Nintendo consoles and containing 12 entries at the time of writing. A further selection of spin-off games and remakes further bulk out this total. Plans were made for an epic tale spanning 5 discs, making it one of the largest projects Square had ever produced, however despite already taking pre-orders on the title, it was cancelled in its early stages as the popularity of the disc system waned.

After the release of Final Fantasy, Square offered designer Koichi Ishii the chance to direct a spin-off series set within the same franchise. Ishii outlined the basis of the games story and scenario writer Yoshinori Kitase helped to flesh out the games script, including themes of hope and renewal.

Ishii designed all of the characters included in the final version of the game himself, whilst Goro Ohashi was responsible for the development of the games systems. Nobuo Uematsu allowed the use of his Chocobo theme from Final Fantasy II to be remastered for the Game Boy, and composer Kenji Ito wrote and additional 16 tracks in addition to doing so, fleshing out the world and its themes considerably.

Levelling up allowed the player to choose which stat to boost, and a large inventory of items and AI partners for some segments of the game were included. Combat was designed to run on a special gauge displayed at the bottom of the screen, and whilst the player could attack at any time and in any direction, when the gauge was full additional damage would be done. Attacking early would empty this, preventing a special attack from triggering and forcing the player to choose between killing an enemy quickly or dodging to allow for the time to pass and deal more damage.

Willy actually has long-reaching plot ramifications despite dying in the opening sequence. The game was a commercial success, selling , units worldwide with , of those within Japan. Although the Game Gear never beat out the handheld war, it did lay claim to the only portable Tactical RPGs, a new genre that was only just beginning to find its footing and owing its roots to the combat seen in the Ultima games and Gold Box series. The game follows the adventures of idris, the princess of a kingdom called Arliel.

Taking to arms, she leads a squad of warriors through the lands of Arliel and tackled the elemental governors to reclaim these crystals before facing off against the mysterious Emperor Grym, overlord of the Jyn. The player, starting with a total of 9 characters, starts on one side of a grid-like map and must progress square by square to occupy the enemy castle on the opposite side of the screen. Locations are varied to provide tactical differences and each enemy type possesses an elemental weakness that is matched by one or more members of the player team.

Exploiting these weaknesses is key to winning a scenario as units can attack with melee or ranged weapons and magical spells. The game included a two player mode, accomplished by connecting to another Game Gear via a link cable. One player would take on the role of the princess, whilst another took on the role of her evil counterpart Princess Cham. Both sides then chose 8 additional units to field before battling each other in a turn based fashion. Victory could be accomplished by wiping out the opposing forces or capturing their fortress. Crystal Warriors showed that the Game Gear could rival consoles of the time graphically.

Graphically the game is on-par with many releases on bigger consoles of the time, thanks in part to the colour capabilities of the Game Gear and to the graphics being produced by Kugatsuhime, a Japanese video game company at the time who specialised in animation. Each character is represented both by a sprite on-screen and a larger more detailed illustration that appears when that character is selected to help the player know who is who on the smaller screen size of a hand held device. At the time of launch the game received praise from magazines and reviewed well, setting the stage for the creation of Shining Force and ascertaining the viability of portable games with more tactical complexity than the average JRPG.

The first project of lead designer Takashi Tokita as a full time employee at Square, he replaced Hiromichi Tanaka who had been main designer on Final Fantasy III and who had chosen to reduce his role in development of the fourth title in the series. In all 14 people worked tirelessly on Final Fantasy IV for a year. Nobou Uematsu returned to compose a soundtrack for the latest title in a series with which he was becoming synonymous. The score was well received however, and the quality of the composition in such a limited medium is still considered a triumph to this day.

After watching Formula One racing, Sakaguchi was inspired to revamp the turn based combat system into the Active Time Battle system ATB , which allowed for every character on screen to be acting according to their own timer and added dramatic tension to fights. This system was realised by Kazuhiko Aoki and Akihiko Matsui.

The decision to assign classes to each individual character in a rotating rosta rather than focus on job swapping as seen in Final Fantasy III was decided based on the narrative structure of the game and the concept of the lead character redeeming himself on his journey became a major focal point, although the games script was heavily cut for length in order to meet the cart restrictions on the SNES. Amano returned to design characters and artwork, pleased that the newer system allowed for more depth of illustration than the NES had offered. Towns look simple but they are a pleasure to navigate and full of hidden items.

Direct references to death were also removed despite several characters in-game dying on screen as a part of the narrative. Remakes for various platforms including the Playstation, Game Boy Advance, PSP and a complete 3D revamp for the Nintendo DS have been produced over the years, with the game remaining as popular as ever due to its strong central narrative and endearing characters. Environments looks simple, but are through their design and presentation more complex structures rather than relying on the wow-factor of later SNES titles. Sound too is muted as the change to the sound chip in the SNES brought unexpected challenges to a composer more used to working with earlier hardware.

Luckily the game shines in its ability to tell a story. A third act that sees you and your wife awoken from being turned to stone by your own children. The games main strength lies in its ability to disrupt your expectations. Dragon Quest V also introduces the concept of monster taming to the series, allowing you to draft monsters you encounter into your party. This is accomplished by leaving an empty spot in your line up and if your strong enough a monster will offer to join you.

Dragon Quest V was later remade for the Playstation 2 in by Atre Piazza and Matrix Software, incorporating fully 3D graphics replicating the style and environments of the original title. Unfortunately this too never saw a release abroad. A manga was also released at the time, drawn by Chino Yukimiya which ran from to , keeping interest in the game alive far longer than other titles of the period.

The development team was headed by writer and novelist Kei Shigema, who provided a story designed to be considerably different to the RPGs of the time. Exploring the capabilities of the Sega CD allowed the team to use real video playback in full colour rather than the bit that the Mega Drive would be capable of alone, and so animator and artist Toshiyuki Kubooka oversaw the planning of multiple fully animated sequences that would be partnered with real voice-over work to better immerse the player in the Lunar world.

Having largly worked on shooting and platforming titles, Game Arts founded a subsidiary company to handle the games various resources named Studio Alex after the protagonist of the game. Although many assets made it into the finished title, some additional ambitious material had to be scrapped whilst in development in order to make the deadline for release. Bucking the recent trend to incorporate Science Fiction elements into their story, the group dedicated themselves to an entirely Fantasy based narrative, with focus put on the history and mythology of their fictional environment.

The game opens on the town of Burg where a young man named Alex idolises the fallen hero Dyne. There he meets Quark, an ancient dragon who senses potential within Alex and sends him on a series of trials to meet other dragons and become a Dragon Master. The music for Lunar was composed by Noriyuki Iwadare, Hiroshi Fujioka, Isoa Mizoguchi and Yoshiaki Kubodera who used the CD quality capabilities of the medium to create a soundtrack more advanced than any other at the time, with an opening theme sung by Mayumi Sudou in the Japanese version.

Voiced sequences in cutscenes in both the Japanese and English versions totalled up to only 15 minutes of dialogue in the whole game, but at the time was a huge addition to any RPG title. Whilst the original release contained performances by well known anime actors and actresses, the English language equivalent focused on a cast of previously unknown performers. The full English cast would later reassemble to reprise their roles for the games remake on the Playstation.

Unlike many games at the time, Lunar was built in close collaboration with Working Designs, a small California Based publisher who had localised their titles in the past. Realising that handing a script totalling 4mb in size to translate would be a mammoth task, both sides worked closely throughout the production process and ultimately the translation itself only took 8 weeks. This offered a chance for Working Design to make suggestions, with chief write Victor Ireland introducing new concepts to the game up to and including influencing its finale.

Light hearted comments and jokes were sprinkled into the translation throughout to make the game lighter in tone in its earlier segments. At launch , copies of Lunar were sold in Japan, amounting to the full production run in its year of release and selling nearly as many copies of the game as there were Mega CDs in circulation at the time. As the first game in what would become the Lunar series the title established many of the themes and characters that would reoccur throughout its run.

This edition also made Alex considerably more talkative and fleshed his character out considerably. Breaking away from the constraints of working on a hand held device enabled a much more ambitious project to be conceived. Drafting Tomomi Kobayashi, who would serve as character illustrator for the whole Saga series from that point onward, a distinctive look and feel was conceived that was very different to the sister-series Square was producing in Final Fantasy or would continue to develop with the Mana series. Set within the fantasy world of Mardias, a creation of the God Marda, the player is encouraged to take on the role of one of 8 different characters who each have very different backgrounds, homes and starting points within the games narrative.

The story centres around the aftermath of a war in the heavens between gods, which spills out onto the world of Mardias when the loser is imprisoned there and drained of power by 10 Fatestones. Two other lesser gods who have been stripped of their powers and a gathering evil from within Mardias seek to release Saruin from prison and begin their revenge. Each of the 8 main characters within the narrative has their own reason for becoming involved in this conflict.

Any character could equip any weapon, which are treated as singular items, meaning that whilst a character may be extremely proficient in using one sword, switching it out for a more powerful sword would require that a proficiency be built back up again. Weapons directly feed into battle formations with attack ranges featuring heavily. On launch the game was a commercial success despite its reputation as a tough game to beat, selling over 1. Remakes for the Wonderswan Colour and Playstation 2 were also well received, with the Wonderswan edition having a small graphical face-lift whilst the Playstation 2 port added 3D graphics and a completely rearranged soundtrack by composer Kenji Ito.

It also added voice actors to all of the major characters and a theme song sung by Masayoshi Yamazaki. Both received praise equal to the original and sold extremely well, but never saw a release outside of Japan. An army of 12 characters can be fielded into any battle from a selection of 30 possible recruits.

This means that instead of moving all of your characters and then passing the turn on to the enemy, the action order of every individual is mixed and keeps the flow of a battle changing as enemies or allies fall. Engaging in a battle will bring the screen to a more detailed rendition of the actions being taken, rendered entirely using huge sprites that brim with detail, before dropping back to continue the battle. Despite being a sequel to a successful title, Sega allotted only a minimal budget to the development of Shining Force.

Whilst releasing to modest success in Japan, the English translation of Shining Force contains several odd and confusing errors or omissions that muddy the narrative. Most obviously the backstory of the games protagonist Max is omitted entirely, with the original having him be an amnesiac who washed up on the beach and was rescued by the character of Lowe, who serves as his best friend. This causes a major loss of stakes when the two finally clash and hampers the story.

An iOS port of the original game was produced that emulated the Mega Drive, although it was less well received due to the quality of the emulator Sega was using at the time. It has since been pulled from the App store. Closely tied to both the original and Shining Force II, they were exceptionally well received and brought the same core gameplay to the mobile market.

Both deal with a war between the forces of Cypress and worshippers of Iom. Contacting fellow Origin employee Doug Wike for concept art, he was provided with a proof of concept animation that depicted the games interface and a creature moving toward the player in real-time.

This animation would be the guiding light for the games production and a constant source of reference throughout development. Neurath later would found a production company called Blue Sky Productions in New Hampshire with the sole intention of making Underworld a reality. On his team were Doug Church as a programmer and Doug Wike as lead artist, with Paul himself acting as lead designer.

After some time the group produced a technical demonstration of their real-time 3D environment which they took to the Consumer Electronics Show. The two companies quickly worked out a publishing agreement with Origin suggesting that the games be reworked to fit into the pre-established Ultima universe. Production was less than smooth however. A profession writer was brought onto the project to write scenarios and dialogue but left the team not long after and instead they wrote the games narrative between them as they went along. Using the Ultima license and world to ground them turned out to be for the best, preventing them straying too far off base.

The second producer on the project quit at the end of their first year and for a while they were without one at all with Spector assuming the role in person. The final four months of the games production ran much more smoothly and saw the game finally come together. A masterpiece of design, but a troubled development cycle plagued this game.

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The Underworld engine uses two dimensional sprites for characters but features 3D objects and uses physics to calculate the motion of thrown objects and missiles. A smooth lighting model was implemented but removed as it made the engine run extremely slowly. It is small things like this that make players feel like they have missed important things in the rules and, ultimately, lead to unsure play and disputes. As for the box lettering I would say drop the stylized version and use the pseudo military font that is used in the manual. It is far easier to read than the curvy distressed version on the cover.

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The game was shipped instead of printed because the PNP files were confusing. It appeared there were over 70 sheets of paper to print from one file, and there were 5 files. This was due to formatting issues, where each card took up a full page, but there were no directions on how to print it to match the formatting they wanted. This is important because sights like The Game Crafter o Print and Play Games have requirements that work with files like this because of how their printing and cutting machines work, but for people printing at home you have to be a little more cognizant of the restrictions they face in both equipment and time.

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As we have shown we are quite willing to print and construct complex games, but those games are only complex because it is warranted. In the case of a game like Agent Saboteur it is all standard sized cards and a rules insert so for a Print and Play it is a good idea to format it so that you use a little paper and ink as needed to make the game playable and, if possible, attractive. Note that the game shipped to us was great, exempting the graphic design issues we discussed, so the files were great for something like the Game Crafter. The cards were all centered well, the stock was great, the colors were vibrant.

All in all it was a good looking game, just not in a format that we were able to bring to the table ourselves. For anyone looking to make a print and play there are a few resources you can go to for help. Two Monkeys Studios has a great guide for this that you can find here , and there is a great skill share you find by Daniel Solis here.

Normally Olivia writes the blog posts and I edit them. This time we switched it up because we took my first game, Pao Chuk, to the store to test. The premise is such: The Chinese New Year is approaching, and a catastrophe has occurred in the warehouses storing the fireworks for the celebration. It is up to you and your rival pyromasters to restock the warehouses and put on an amazing show. The pyromaster with the most favor on the New Year wins the game! This is very much a prototype in progress so there are no files available for PnP yet.

This was the first play through outside of the house and we really wanted to put the prototype through the wringer. This will have to be significantly tested further after the numerous changes this playtest brought. The goal is obviously to build fireworks for the general public, fulfill special orders for influential people, and gain the most favor among the three factions so that you will be proclaimed the Greatest Pyromaster in China. At the beginning of the game, each player is given 2 Hidden Market Information cards and chooses one. There are three different Favor tracks: At the end of the game, you apply any modifiers from the Hidden Market Information revealed, apply a 10 Favor bonus to the players who have the most Favor on each track, then add up all the Favor.

The one with the highest final tally wins. There are cards laid out in a 3 x 3 grid, stacked 4 high. The top cards are the mines you can access. Each card had 4 different metals on them. The metals are representative of what you need to have the firework actually be the color you want. For example, Strontium produces a red color but is a grey metal. I know, what a shock!

I decided instead of the typical resource cubes to use beads just for prototyping so you could actually build your firework and have it stay together on a trimmed pipe cleaner. Which is important for scoring at the end. The initial idea was you would place your worker on a mine and choose one of the metals on it. Once that mine was depleted, you had dug to a deeper layer and flipped a new card. You can see the changes we made in the playtest section.

In addition to the mines, you could also visit the town, which contains a market, and access to 3 different types of safety materials. Water at the river, charcoal from the forest, and clay from the clay pits. The market allows you to buy and sell metals and safety materials.

The price of the resources go down as you sell them, and up as you buy them. Any number or workers can be placed in any section of the Town with no blocking. Here you can also refine the metals you have to make the rarer of the two colors, not available through a basic metal — purple and orange. They are logically produced by combining the metals that create red and blue for purple and yellow and red for orange.

You refine two metals together and get ONE of the corresponding metal. Green is naturally produced by burning Barium. Here there are originally 6 workers that have special abilities affecting gameplay that you can hire. When you hire a new worker, if there are less than 6 workers available, a new one flips out. Hiring a worker gives you an additional worker to place, so if you lose the worker card, you lose a placement worker as well. If you fail to pay their wages, the rival to your left can choose to pay their wages instead of hire them on.

If no one wants to pay them, they go back to the recruitment office adding to the ones already present. Commoner work orders are usually easier and provide some points on the Commoner Favor track and cash. Noble work orders are more difficult, providing points on the Noble Favor track and are worth more cash. Imperial work orders are much more difficult, and give points on the Imperial track but do not provide cash.

They provide more points per firework than the lesser orders. Work orders must be fulfilled to be claimed. Once they are completed, a new order takes its place. These are all shuffled together, so a Commoner Order might be replaced by an Imperial Order. This is a player board, where players build and store their fireworks.

There are three different sizes of fireworks you can build; Basic, which requires 2 metals and 1 stabilizer; Improved, which requires 3 metals and 2 stabilizers; and Advanced, which requires 4 metals and 2 stabilizers. For each catastrophe that occurs on the dice, something negative will occur. Our current idea is:. A rival can pay his hospital fees and take him, but if no one pays, that worker is out of the game.

This was my game. I was a little nervous, and very grateful for the playtesters who sat with me through the first test. The first thing we noticed was 8 rounds was not going to be enough time at all. Each worker collected one resource when placed on a gathering point. A basic firework took 2 metals and a safety material. That was a minimum of 3 placements. We extended it to 12 turns but everything went much too slow. In addition, when gathering a safety material, you will now gather 2 instead of just 1.

One other problem is the beads roll around a lot. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to share them with us! Whew, we are back. GenCon was great, recovering from GenCon while also getting ready for the first week of fall classes was not so great. It is another tile laying game, but it is very different. This time it is a set collection game also with you racing to make the best flower Bouquets.

Get the files here. Your goal is to collect flowers and then turn them in as bouquets sets in order to score points. The first person to get 35 points wins the game.


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  • The reason is because each tile has a flower name on each side and when you place the tile each player gets a flower of the name that is facing them. You can score one bouquet per turn at the beginning of your turn before you place a tile, so it is really the flowers everyone else is giving you that mean the most on your turn. One thing that does differentiate your own tile placement is that you can earn bonus flowers and bonus points by laying a tile so that it matches edges with a previously played tile.

    This helps to inform the placement of tiles because sometimes it is worth it to give someone a flower they need if it means you will get two flowers or a few extra points to push you to victory. The tile laying mechanic and the method of gaining flowers is great. Players loved how they had to pay attention to what everyone had and not just race to victory. The colors are really bright on the tiles and easy to differentiate along with having the name of the flower printed on the tiles and cards so there are no issues with color based vision impairment.

    Additionally the game plays in about 10 to 15 minutes and is a great game to banter over. The strategy is good enough that at one point I was set to win on my turn, but I got greedy and played a tile that allowed the person right before me to gain 3 bonus points, which was exactly what he needed to shoot past me to victory. As with Jue De Lune the bad was in the theme. On the other hand I had another person hear the name and theme and squee excitedly.

    I worry that the game is not engaging enough for 2 so it does have a narrow player count, , but for a light game that is fine and if you wanted to bump it to 6 you could just make hexes instead of squares. There is no real ugly in this design at all. The closest I would say for a needed change is really just a production issue that would be fixed by a publisher, and that is that the flower cards are full sized but really should be micros to save table space and space in front of the player, also make the flower images more vibrant to make them stand out from a distance more since player inventories are so important.

    If you have read any of the previous blogs this is probably the easiest PnP to make. Print the tiles on a full label sheet, stick them to some chipboard, and use a rolling cutter for nice straight cuts. Chris did a great job making this game super PNP friendly especially considering the number of components. As always thanks for reading! You can check us out at Blankwallgames. Oh how time flies! Until then you can chew on this piece about an awesome new game in the works from award winning designer Grant Rodiek.

    You can check him out and read his thoughts on games and gaming at Hyperbole Games. Blockade is a two sided tactical war game that pits Mars vs. Earth in an epic space battle. The game will be played out in a series of campaigns and scenarios that will pit the two teams against each other in various ways, but the current base scenario is either point battle, or a timed battle out to a certain number of rounds. Our play testers played to 10 points. The structure is turn based with each side activating one unit, either a Squadron of Capital ships or a wing of fighters, each turn.

    Fighters and Battle Cruisers get 2 actions per activation Destroyers and get 3. An action can be used for either of the following options: Move one space or rotate to a new facing. During an action you can also freely change the formation of a squadron in order to protect weak points or display more weapon banks when you prepare for an attack and also make one attack. The rotate action is very important, by the way, because you can only fire weapons that are pointing toward your enemy and can only hit the portions of the ship that are visible to you. After you have placed all three activation tokens the removal of the tokens is very fluid.

    You only pick one up when you place one and you pick which token to remove. So you have to be careful not to leave one of your ships languishing in space, because it may not be ready when you need it. This also means that your enemy can see which ships are the most ready at any one time and, therefore, know where it is relatively safe to sit. The last thing that really makes this game tense is the tactic cards.

    These cards break the rules and let you do unexpected things in order to get an edge. The proper use of tactics cards will be the deciding the factor in most games if our play tests were any indication. It is sometimes hard to tell if your enemy just did a bone head maneuver or lured you into a trap while holding on to a shields up or tractor beam tactic.

    Aside from altering the rules the tactic cards also add a lot to the narrative of the game. At one point the Mars commanders stretched out their Destroyer Squadron into a single file line and executed a full broadside maneuver, which we imagined as a barrel roll, as they passed over the larger more intimidating squadron of Battle Cruisers.

    Their guile paid off and they managed to wipe out two of the exposed Cruises in one pass, turning what looked like a crushing defeat into a winnable situation for them. To do this he designed the ships as wooden blocks with holes for damage pegs. This makes the ships easy to move and play with and gives them a heft that feels nice in the hand. In the PnP I tried to stay as true to his vision as possible by using triple thick chipboard with Yes Paste to give the ships a weight and thickness that would make them easy to work with, and thumb tacks for the damage markers to keep the peg idea for the ships.

    It is not hard to imagine that when this goes to print it will have some awesome sculpted ships. The only bit that caused a frown moment in the game was when the Mars team shot down 4 out of the 5 ships in a fighter wing. It was a frown for the Mars commanders because they would have to take another turn to finish off the fighter wing for points but could otherwise ignore it, and it was a frown for the Earth commanders because they had one fighter sitting on the board with nothing they could really do with it.

    A single fighter does have some tactical benefit, you can run it at other fighters and hope to whittle them down, but most of what you do with one fighter seems to be last option kind of ideas and not an active tactical choice. Grant is working on this though and has some really interesting ideas. One I thought of after sleeping on it was a possible Kamikaze maneuver on weak spots.

    You could sacrifice the fighter to roll a crit die against a capital ship. Alternatively allowing fighters to clear debris with yellow lasers might also give them some use. Either way, it is something he is working on and I have confidence that a clever resolution will be coming down the pipeline. I am not an artist and hand drawing a large octagon is very difficult. Luckily I was close enough to not have too much trouble, but there were a few times that a ship in the center had to be reassigned. Also I think the board might be just a bit to large. Handling the large board is also a bit of a pain logistically.

    Blockade is a very fun and engaging game with a very easy entry point but deep strategy. Almost every choice is meaningful and you really have the ability to make clever plays to keep yourself in the game. If you are headed to GenCon find Grant and pester him until he plays this with you. Any issues the players had either have fixes in the work but were minor anyway or will be resolved by the publisher when this one gets picked up.

    I honestly think that someone like Hasbro should snap this one up because it feels like the logical and incredibly fun evolution to Battle Ship. It was my fault though. I had read the blogs about the game and requested the files so I could take it to the table. This is a little different from when someone hands me a game because I feel if you are going to hand me a game I will make it how you say because you feel it is where it needs to be. Making them was pretty easy I just pasted three sheets of chipboard together, then stuck the ship print outs over the top, sprayed the whole thing with a few coats of acrylic to give it the right texture and I was ready to cut them out.

    This led to a problem. I first tried to use a box cutter and that worked kind of well, but took so much effort and time that I gave up. I then went and bought a Dremel tool and used it. After about a week of these things sitting around my house I was getting a bit desperate, but then I remembered my Cutco scissors. They worked great, but took a lot of hand strength. So after a week and a half of working at it I finally had some ships.

    The board was pretty easy, but due to some mis-measurement I accidently messed up my angles. It was serviceable though so I went with it. For everything else I used pieces I had laying around the house that we have been slowly collecting for this purpose. For the cards I just went with paper over magic cards in penny sleeves. You can follow Grant on twitter herrohgrant if you would like to see more about his design thoughts and how his games progress. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to come home to a rather awesome surprise. A box from Daft Concepts was waiting for me on my dining room table.

    It was just a cardboard box, but it might as well have been a giant wooden treasure chest because inside were wonders to behold. I warn you know that my pictures do not do these enough justice. Chris Urinko had sent me a sample set of his many awesome designs for Daft Dice along with a few complimentary wooden business cards with a pop out laser cut die inset in them.

    And to hold the great bounty he also sent along two of the decorative dice boxes. First the business cards: Ultimately, for you I did, and I was glad I did because the dice are far from a novelty item. They are sturdy and roll well. The size is great for the hand and they snap together so perfectly they require no glue. I have been rolling em around and playing with them for a few weeks and they are still awesome. These would make a great swag item at a convention, especially if you could get the cards stained or colored in some other way before or after the cutting.

    As primary business cards they are a little thick though. Seeing how they are made I wonder if a nice stiff card stock could be used, but they might sacrifice the sturdiness of the dice. Either way they rock pretty hard core. Moving on we have the larger set of wooden puzzle dice.

    These things are like the smaller business card version only larger and laser etched with thematic faces. I love the weapons that match the number faces for sides Like the business card dice, these things are sturdy and great to roll. After that we have the laser translucent acrylic. These are great for gamers who want colored dice. The only down side is they are harder to read from a distance, but that is easily outweighed by being able to finally get some dice to match with the neon sneakers and wind breaker.

    Now you can really roll in style and get your swag on in the club or the con. Next up we have the mirrored acrylic dice. These things are, figuratively speaking, the jewels of the set. They sparkle like awesome and, due to the dark backing, are actually really easy to read. I made jokes about matching your outfit with the neons, but these are the real bling here. I would not suggest playing in bright lights, but if you are of the basement dwelling geek kind these will become your precious in no time.

    Just keep them out of the reach of those nasty hobbitses as they will yoink them first chance they get. As with the wooden dice, both versions of the acrylic are stout enough to take some abuse and the laser cut designs are flawless. The last one is the solid acrylic. This is by far my favorite of the set. The detail in the faces is exquisite. The one Chris sent showed off the standard numeral design as well as the extremely detailed and beautiful Cthulu design. My only problem was that you really could not see all these beauties had to offer from a distance. I found though, a hidden benefit, you can easily do a color fill with some sharpies or any other paint you have to tint the grooves so that you can add some nice color accents to really make the designs pop.

    For mine I tried a few things, first I did a white fill on one of the faces with red ink and it looked great. Not too opaque, but just perfect for easy identification. On the Cthulu side I got creative and colored the whole face with a blue sharpie then went back through with isopropyl alcohol to clean all the flat bits.

    What I was left with was a blue highlighted fill on all the detailed groove work around the face. Absolutely gorgeous and I wish I could get a full polyhedral set of these. No more crown royal bags, regal though they may seem. Instead Chris has designed two different laser cut precision crafted boxes. The two we were sent came in the pop off top variety and the sliding matchbox style. The box with the pop off top has decorative feet and reminds me of a Persian treasure chest.

    The matchbox style is a little more simple but is my favorite because I love the sliding top. Something about the perfectly lasered grooves and easy sliding action just screams professional craftsmanship to me. I would honestly buy a set or two of dice just to have an excuse to also buy the boxes to put them in. They are very novel and seem much more stately than tumbled dice.

    It looks like you are using some great heirloom dice passed down through generations when you break out the wooden dice and the solid acrylic is honestly a work of art. The fact that you can order dice with your own designs makes this concept even more amazing because they are significantly cheaper to order on a small run than cast dice and allow for MUCH greater detail in the faces.

    By Sunday everyone who had been at Protospiel for the whole weekend had started to feel it. But we all pressed on as there were still more games to play, more testing to be done, more feedback to be given! I truly have high hopes for this one. It is a win on all levels. Thematically it is great, and the themes tie in to the mechanics beautifully. There are some minor layout and design issues but a publisher would fix those.

    We offered some advice about how to let some of the pizzazz show through but everyone at the table really liked where this one was and where it was going.

    The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on November 6, ·

    You play as greedy mad scientists willing to cut corners and ignore logic and reason as you build insane hybrid creatures for 5 eccentric billionaires. You are kind of a cheap scientist though so rather than go collect your DNA samples in the time tested peer reviewed methods you just grab a bucket and head down to the local sewer system for some sleuthing. As a side bonus I got to redeem myself for the earlier math failure by helping cut down the deck size for him without screwing up the card ratios. We had worn out the AC Saturday night and it was still muggy in the room Sunday so after the game I went out with a few others to the lobby area to take over the hotel restaurant tables instead.

    I had forgotten to take a picture of Mail order Mutants so I went back and borrowed the game for a quick photo shoot. I also ran into the guys from Studio Cypher while they were playing a few rounds of Sol Forge. They invited me to try out Tattle Tale, and of course I said yes.

    The game was very neat. The idea is that the active player picks his enemy as well as his ally. We played a three player game so there was only one choice to be made, but it was still a nice mechanic. In the game you and your ally choose whether to work together or betray each other while your enemy tries to correctly predict what you will do. Your choices also affect two levers that trigger the end game as well as hidden roles within the game. There is a lot packed into this little game and it plays very smoothly and simply. It is also carried by great art. I went into the game thinking I would downplay my position and move in for a win, but read my card wrong and played like a total moron.

    This served to confuse the other guys at the table while I thought I was brilliant because they were playing into my hand. I reread my role and realized nope, I was just playing like an idiot. I switched gears and managed to pull out a one point win in the end. I liked the game and immediately sought out a publisher I thought would also like it. Luckily I found him and the Cypher guys at the same time and got them to sit down together. After I watched them play it out a bit I was pulled into a game that I actually had been dreading, but felt obligated to play anyway.

    I had seen this game floating around and the little bit I had seen of it made me cringe some. I sat down anyway because in the end the only way to judge a game is to play it. I was very pleasantly surprised. I realize this means that I gave the designers far less credit than they deserved, but I was also pretty surprised when they announced it. Stab a Panda possibly getting a name change is actually a great game. If you play long enough and pay attention you will learn a lot about the people you are playing with.

    This is probably the most interesting party game I have ever played and I really hope it makes it to GenCon, but I have no idea what stage of publishing it is in. I was horribly outplayed by pretty much the whole table, but I had fun anyway. We were mostly killing time while waiting for another publisher to finish up a session so that one of the designers could show off a game. While that was going on Matt Loomis invited me to try out Rite of Passage, a great light euroish game he designed.

    If you were not told that Rite of Passage was a prototype you would think you were playing a published game. It was a very clean prototype with great graphic design and very fitting art. Rite of passage was very interesting because it was almost like a hidden role game only you were building your role based on partial information with more information being revealed as you went. Each turn you would select two actions to take then keep one of the selected action cards as a trait you were building.

    At the end of the game the traits are worth certain points based on what trait cards each of the players were holding. The only tweak I saw was that one of the traits seemed a bit weaker than the others due to a mechanics interaction. I really liked that the game had a lot of back and forth strategy and that in the end it came down to me forcing Julie to attempt a game winning dice roll which she made.

    It was also nice that, after using one of the actions to look at each others hand, we managed to hose Matt by sitting on the fact that one of the traits was worth 4 points. I got there just in time to sit down to a 6 player game of Cold War Agents. Unfortunately I forgot to get pictures and write down the designer. Players chased each other around the board plying questions and trying to figure out who was a Communist and who was not.

    The first half of the game was great as we jockeyed for information trying to out all the members of the other team without unwittingly revealing our own team members. He responded with squirrels and I blind guessed he was Russia. It came out later that I was right. I wanted to try the trick on everyone else but no one was willing to answer. Most of the designers playing the game had suggestions and mine was that players should be able to throw it all on the line to prematurely out someone if they were sure of which country they belonged to.

    I think the two concepts can be married but it will take a bit of work to do it. It reminded me a lot of Mastermind in the mechanics and a bit of Clue. I would like to see this shine through as its own game as we really did have fun with what felt like the first half. I also spent a good bit of time talking to Frank, from Game Salute, and Eric and I got to try a very interesting little game he had come up. I got to draw him a board for it on the bag and we brainstormed how to theme it in a way that would be pitch-able.


    1. IMA SEKAIKAN GA KAWARU (Japanese Edition).
    2. Americas Overseas Garrisons: The Leasehold Empire.
    3. Are You an Author?!
    4. Hansel and Gretel.
    5. The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 602.

    I think we came up with a winner and I really hope he follows through with it and that it is as genius as I think. After that Eric and I went out for a late bite to eat and got to enjoy the chaos of Ann Arbor under construction on a Sunday night. We rolled into the hotel far later than either of wanted and headed to our respective rooms. I had intended to sleep in but a phone call from JT looking for David woke me up. It turned out to be a good thing because it gave me enough time to get my little smart car packed up and still have time to do a little last minute networking.

    Mick and I discussed Mail Order Mutants and an idea I had for a publisher he might want to approach, and then I got to talk with Seth Jaffee about an idea I had been kicking around. I love Tasty Minstrel and have an interest in working with them so it was nice to talk shop and seek some guidance on designs they would be interested in. The trip home was long, and not uneventful, but it also a story for another time as it has little or nothing to do with board games. Day three started the same way as day 2.

    Things like eating or getting dressed are annoyingly mundane so I try to make them as routine as possible so I can spend time doing things that actually matter to me. This time when I got to the convention hall no games were running yet but two people were talking about a design problem with a game. Eventually we asked Mick Sullivan to bring the game down. Off he went to get Road to Nottingham and I used the time to jam in a quick game of Highway Hijinks with a new group while we waited for him to come back with it.

    Road to Nottingham is currently a two player re-theme of another game he was working on in which players were trying to escape from a sinking island. Some of the mechanics were still based on the old theme and were a bit clunky in the new game but the core idea was actually very awesome. When we got done we spent an hour or so looking at some ways to bring the mechanics closer in line with what he was wanting to do with the new idea.

    He came up with some great ideas and over all I think this will polish up to be a nice addition to the co-op genre. After trying out Road the other tester, Ben Kanelose, asked if we wanted to try his game. Pay it forward and pay it back is pretty much the theme of protospiel so it is always a good idea to test for someone who tested for you. He brought out a social manipulation game called Bitten.