Games News! 12/06/2017

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Quinns: Morning everybody! We’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that during last week’s “Stream of Annihilation” where Wizards of the Coast announced a whole load of new Dungeons & Dragons products via Twitch, we found out that dinosaurs are coming to the D&D world!

The bad news is that they seem to have zero interest in renaming the brand “Dungeons, Dragons & Dinosaurs”, or DD&D. Imagine! After a few more years of announcements they could be selling Dungeons, Dragons, Dinosaurs, Diplomats, Dinghies, Derby’s and Dancers, or DDDDDD&D.

Paul: A couple of board games came out of this announcement. We’re getting the Dungeons & Dragons: Tomb of Annihilation Board Game, which can be combined with all those D&D board games that came out in 2011, and we’re also getting Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. Which is–

Quinns: Oh no

Paul: Which is a Dungeons & Dragons-themed version of fabled box of nonsense Betrayal at the House on the Hill.

Quinns: Oh, no.

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Paul: Can I be excited about this? Well, possibly! I really like the core concept of this game being rethemed as a sort of dungeon delver, with you and your friends exploring all sorts of twisting underground labyrinths. And also because the original Betrayal did have some very good scenarios. It won its merits purely on whichever story and twist you ended up playing through, giving me games that were all over the quality spectrum, right from devious to garbage. If the design here is consistent in its conniving, this could be terrific.

Quinns: Hmm. I’m a little less excited? Say what you like about Betrayal at the House on the Hill, that game’s horror movie storytelling made it unlike any other game in my collection. I’m not particularly stoked to see this ersatz sequel with its more traditional theme. This feels like an ex-lover calling you up and saying “Let’s give it another shot! I’ve changed! I only eat wallpaper paste now!”

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Paul: But! These board games aren’t the only news to do with Dungeons and/or Dragons that burst out of the Stream of Annihilation! The stream itself takes its name from the newly announced Tomb of Annihilation, a new dinosaur-filled adventure that echoes Gary Gygax’s cruel classic Tomb of Horrors. That ridiculously tough dungeon crawl was, depending upon who you asked, either incredibly devious or just a hundred different ways to be a jerk to your players, all day, every day. Although since the Tomb of Annihilation is an adventure for heroes level 1-11 (wow!) and has Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward as a story consultant (wow!!), we can expect something much friendlier.

Quinns: But wait, there’s more! The very best of D&D 5th edition’s experimental playtest rules are being collated in a book titled Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and then we have this beauty:

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Some of the oldest classic D&D adventures are being reprinted in beautiful new “retro” editions containing additional scenes, helpful essays on running them and even commentary from veteran D&D creators! So cool.

Paul: Yep, the game is old enough now that, to some people, it’s as much a cultural curio or a collectible as it is something to be played. It’s almost… living history?

Quinns: But history that you can step into! It excites me so much that as a Dungeon Master that my Keep on the Borderlands would feel a little different to anyone else’s, and my players would take a different route through it.

That said, my interest in fantasy RPGs has me running campaigns of Blades in the Dark and Symbaroum with an eye to eventually reviewing them for SU&SD, and then once I’m done with them I’m sure something else will catch my eye. It’s a little sad, but I expect that if I play D&D again in the next ten years it’d be for the goofy kitsch value, and if I buy these modules (or the Tomb of Annihilation) it’ll just be to read them.

Paul: What’s that creating a dust cloud on the horizon? It must be the news galloping toward us of an as-yet untitled expansion for Magic Maze. Apparently, this will be with us before the end of the year, hopefully in time for Essen.

Quinns: We talked about Magic Maze back on podcast #55. This is a co-operative game of trying to steer four heroes out of some kind of interdimensional shopping mall, but (a) you’re working against the clock and (b) you can only communicate via the placement of a giant red pawn that hints that someone around the table is VERY ANGRY. We said this game was quite good, and clearly the Spiel des Jahres judges agree (and then some) because it’s one of their three nominations for their game of the year.

There’s no word yet on precisely what the expansion will add, though the above tweet says it’ll add more than 10 new rules. There’s something uniquely dismal about reducing this hobby to the number of rules in a given box, isn’t there?

Paul: Magic Maze looks glorious, but mostly I’m annoyed that a company exists called “Sit Down Games.” I feel we might forever be confused with each other, switched accidentally at conventions, or seated next to one another in every social event ever.

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Quinns: Fans of publisher Z-Man’s indefinable brand of good-looking, high-quality games should know about a few interesting developments. First off, they have a new internet web site where you can find out the latest Z-news or simply browse their catalogue, pawing at the .jpgs of games that appear on your monitor while producing a high-pitched keening sound.

Second, the latest Z-news includes word of a new Richard Garfield card game called SpyNet. Obviously, I want it more than words can say.

Thirdmostly, remember Windrider Games, the new studio responsible for the fancy new editions of Ra, Citadels and Tigris & Euphrates? Not only has that studio been merged with Z-Man as part of Z-Man being bought by Asmodee, but Steve Kimball, who was head of Windrider Games, is now the head of Z-Man Games.

Steve sent Team SU&SD a lovely email this week bringing us up to date with all of this, which was quite possibly his first mistake in his new role as it gave me the opportunity to nag him about reprinting Arboretum. More on this as it develops (or as I continue to bother him).

EDIT: Steve responded! What a lovely man.

“Estimating the correct amount of stock, especially for an initial printing, is one of the great mysteries of publishing. While the Z-Man team of before my time had great confidence in Arboretum, you just never know when a certain title is going to resonate and take off—which is precisely what happened with Arboretum. And, unfortunately, even the reprint quantities up until now were not enough to satiate ever-growing demand. So the short answer is yes, Arboretum is in the queue for a reprint.
“As the new stewards of a catalog that includes several highly sought after products, we’re systematically going through and queuing up reprints with priorities based on highest demand as well as foreign publishing partners who are involved (some of them have been out of stock for longer than we have). Due to the high volume of many titles that we need to play catch up on, I cannot yet announce a definitive release date for an Arboretum reprint.”

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Paul: Now for something that completely surprised me this weekend. British publishers River Horse, known for holding such fancy board game licenses as Labyrinth and Terminator, have now also scored the license for Pacific Rim board games and RPGs. The news is still very early days, with little to say than that this will obviously be about giant robots fighting strange monsters, but there’s (literally) huge potential here.

Quinns: River Horse’s Tales from Equestria RPG did look quite nicely made when I held it in my very own hands at the UK Games Expo, which gives me an amount of hope for their Pacific Rim roleplaying game. The question is, if you go from friendly ponies to deadly robots, are those transferable skills?

Paul: Hahaha. MOST ASSUREDLY. As for the board game, well, I hear the Labyrinth game was not fantastic, so I’m not going to be holding my breath.

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However, it may well be worth restricting my respiration for Deception: Undercover Allies, which has comfortably sailed past its Kickstarter goal with still three weeks to go. This expansion for Deception: Murder in Hong Kong adds, according to its creators, “more.” More roles, more clues, more scenes, more of everything for a game that you liked a lot, didn’t you?

Quinns: I really did. It’s like The Resistance but based on creative interpretation of clues as opposed to math (or if you prefer, it’s like Mysterium but with lies). And I’m particularly taken with this new role of the Inside Man, who can take away one player’s ability to guess the solution to the murder. That’s amazing. So as the Inside Man you could either do that to a clever player who’s getting close to the truth, or to someone whose guesses are massively off-base in an attempt to give credence to their mad ideas. Lovely stuff!

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Sticking with Kickstarter, Pip and I had a chance to try Kitchen Rush at the UK Games Expo the other week and it certainly managed to whet our appetites.

Paul: That’s a lot of sand timers. WAIT. SAND TIMERS AS WORKERS.

Quinns: YES.

Paul: OH MY GOD.

Quinns: RIGHT? So, in this game players are co-operatively running a kitchen. Want to go and take a customer’s order? Place one of your sand timers in the restaurant area. Want to grab some ingredients? Place one of your sand timers in the store room. And then realise the store room doesn’t have what you want, and so you’re screaming at one of your friends to run out and buy pasta, and then you realise you don’t have the money to buy pasta, so someone has to send a sand timer to go and be the maitre d’ and seat some new customers just for the tip money…

It was lots of fun, and silly yet solid in equal measure. If anyone has the money and inclination to back Kitchen Rush, I think they should do it… so long as they go and check it’s not video game Overcooked they want instead. I found that game more solid, more silly, much more better looking, and it’s almost a quarter of the price.

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Our final Kickstarter game of the week is the gorgeously rich-looking Hand of Fate: Ordeals, a rare Australian project that has also long since left its funding target far behind. This is a deckbuilder based on a videogame that has you fighting monsters a la the Thunderstone of old, except with stunning woodcut artwork.

Paul: I’m a strange boy. My initial response to this was “Oh, it’s really just another deckbuilder,” and then I immediately remembered I liked deckbuilders, so it was tickling the right toes. Then I also realised I did like the style and the presentation, so I’d be at least willing to give this a good shot. And yeah, you’re absolutely right, this is an extremely attractive prospect to boot. What a charmer.

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BUT WAIT. There’s just one more Kickstarter I want to mention, though it’s not a game! It’s actually a… 2.2 kilogram d20 called The Table Breaker, which is decorative and yet also entirely functional. That’s 4.8 imperial pounds or the same weight as a large bag of flour, a bottle of coke or a chihuahua. Throwing this die would be like throwing a chihuahua. But also metal. A metal chihuahua. Do you want that? Do you want a large metal die?

Quinns: Haha. The Kickstarter has a subheader titled “Why architectural aluminium?” I’d have preferred one just asking “Why?”

Paul: Why does this exist? Well Quinns, why do you exist? What is happening?! LOOK AT THE COST OF THE POSTAGE.

I’m calm.

Quinns: It’s already reached its funding goal, you know.

Paul: I’M CALM