Quinns: Please, everyone, take your places, fasten your seatbelts and keep your hands INSIDE THE VEHICLE AT ALL TIMES as we welcome you to a brand new year of board gaming, a year that promises to be a WILD RIDE.
Paul: Good morning! Good afternoon! Hello! Happy New Year! The Games News has been building up like snow over the holidays and we’ve been doing our very best to clear it, shoveling the path and salting the drive. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to avoid slipping on some exciting new gossip or falling face-first into a pile of previews. Let’s get right into things by talking about… oh no.
Quinns: You LOVE demented robot massacre simulator Robo Rally, an early game by Magic designer Richard Garfield, and I’ve got good news. This week and with absolutely zero warning Hasbro has released a new version, seen above.
Once again it lacks the beauty and variety of the old Wizards of the Coast edition that dominated my childhood, but it does have something even more important- a host of smart changes made by Richard Garfield himself. There’s the new bug cards, which mess up your robot’s orders, as well as more incentive to get players using option cards.
While the production quality still makes me want to stand outside Hasbro’s HQ shouting “SPEND SOME MONEY” through an amplifier and an auto-tuner, this is nonetheless excellent news. Thirty years on from Robo Rally’s original release, it’s terrific to think that new people can continue to discover this game for the first time and feel that very special flavour of joy that comes from watching an opponent roll down a conveyor belt and fall down a well.
Paul: While I have about as much love for Robo Rally as I do for nettles, I’m all for reinvention and redesigns. I’m also all for surprises and one of the most curious things I spotted over the last few weeks was this teaser for Flick ‘em Up!: Dead of Winter. Gunfight tiddlywinks meets post-apocalyptic survival.
These are definitely not the first two games I’d ever think of meshing together, but I immediately like this. A mish-mash of unusual characters fighting back shambling zombies by desperately flicking bullets at them is a perfect marriage of concept and mechanics and I’m really interested to see what the summer brings. That said, if they don’t put the dog in, I’m rioting. I’m kicking off. I’m going into full terror mode.
Quinns: You know what else is exciting? Matagot is exciting. The publisher of excellent games like Cyclades, Inis, Millions of Dollars and the chaotic Captain Sonar has thrilled us again and again with games that are equal parts solid, experimental and sexy.
Last month I spotted a teeny tweet that said they’re finalising a new edition of a 2008 game called Giants, where players are all jostling for space as they compete to build and transport giant Moaïs around Easter Island. I actually remember ogling The Dice Tower’s review of Giants back in 2011, when SU&SD was just a stupid name on Paul’s notepad, so I’m glad I’ll get a chance to play it after all.
Honestly, I’m excited to see anything that Matagot do next, as I’m sure you are. I’m excited to even catch a whiff on a distant breeze. That’s how much Matagot mean to me these days. Along with Czech Games Edition they’re one of the few publishers to have burrowed into my heart.
Paul: Oh yes, I am very interested to hear about whatever Matagot try next, to see whatever Matagot try next, to get my hands on whatever Matagot try next.
Speaking of hands getting on to things, the ever-growing Asmodee have extended their reach even further, grasping for more European acquisitions. If you’re not aware, Asmodee have grown constantly over the last couple of years, pulling more and more companies into their fold, and this time they’ve scored a hat trick across Spain, France and Germany. They’ve acquired Spanish distributor Millennium, the Franco-Spanish EDGE Entertainment and the German publisher/distributor Heidelberger Spieleverlag. That’s a full three course meal they’ve swallowed.
This surely gives them even more reach, even more power and, I imagine, brings them ever-closer to becoming a William Gibson-esque megacorp with the power to take down a small nation. Are you worried?
Quinns: Well, if this kind of mass consolidation within an entertainment industry didn’t end up being bad for the consumers, it’d be a first. It didn’t work out very well for video games, music or movies. That said, if Asmodee develops enough clout to take on Hasbro and unseat Monopoly and Clue’s from their blood-soaked 60 year reign, you’ve got to ask yourself if any price is too high.
Speaking of which, this clip from last night’s Golden Globes, with two actors discussing wanting to go home and play board games, is a remarkable sea-change from a few years ago.
Actually, I want to bring us back to BoardGameGeek’s designer diaries for a moment, so many of which we posted last year and which featured such a wealth of insight and reflection. In particular, I was caught by this look back over the development of the grim World War II game Black Orchestra, which has you trying to assassinate Hitler and bring the war to an early conclusion.
Paul: Goodness me, I remember thinking that this game looked grim at BGG Con, with its list of how many people you might or might not have saved dependent upon when you end the war! If nothing else this diary is certainly a thorough look over how a game can change, often quite dramatically, as it makes its journey through the development process.
Quinns: Yeah. I can’t remember who I was talking to, but I like the advice I heard from one designer that if you’re playtesting your game and one small part of it seems more fun than the rest, maybe just throw away everything in the game that isn’t that.
Completely unrelated, I also want everyone to know that a recent study suggests that rock music makes men perform worse at board games. Can it really be true? This is according to just one report, I should add.
Paul: It would explain so many things about my life, though.
Quinns: I am hoping that one day we can all find some sort of explanation for your life.
Paul: I am hoping that one day we can all find some sort of explanation for my life.
One final thing, which we missed during a busy December was the passing of choose-your-own-adventure author Joe Dever, who wrote the expansive and hugely popular Lone Wolf series. The twenty-nine books sold more than eleven million copies and were actually some of the very first fantasy gaming experiences I ever had, a few years before I got to try any board games or RPGs.
While the adventure book market really declined in the mid 1990s, as I look back now, I reckon Mr. Dever could still give any interactive fantasy a run for its money today. With the release of things like Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! and Ian Livingstone’s Blood of the Zombies as iPad games, there’s clearly still an audience who enjoy these adventures as much as I did, so maybe we can enjoy a Lone Wolf adaptation or reinterpretation sometime. There’s certainly plenty to draw on. Eleven million books is a lot of books, packed with danger, monsters, exploration and inspiration.
AND FINALLY, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone for their tremendous support through 2016, which was a huge year for Shut Up & Sit Down. We rebooted the site (which was no small job), re-jigged the way we do donations to get that running better (also not small), started to transition our catalogue to YouTube (which is still no small job), ran the hugely popular Board Game Lounge at the Game Developer’s Conference (that’s going to be an even larger space this year), visited the UK Games Expo, GenCon and BGGCon, plus had TWO WEDDINGS, all whilst giving you a constant and vibrant supply of board game videos, news, written reviews, features and podcasts. We had millions of hits, millions of views and even found ourselves dragged onto LIVE NATIONAL RADIO in both Britain and Canada. It was all made worthwhile by your tremendous support and by the excellent community that you are.
Quinns: Oh christ don’t remind me, I failed to explain Codenames with 1.3 million people listening.
Paul: The point is that it’s 2017 and we’re going to launch right back into doing yet more SU&SD.
Quinns: Couldn’t have said it better myself. Welcome back, everybody! Time for Team SU&SD to get back to work. We’ll be releasing all the videos and reviews that you’ve come to expect, as well as a couple of new things that almost none of you will expect.
Paul: Oh, yes.