GAMES NEWS! 13/07/20

Optimised Digital Betrayal, Head Empty: Brain Smooth, A Not-So-Secret Pandemic, Tired of the Tweets
Matt Lees 49 comment(s)

Tom: Fictional scenario with humorous implications!

Ava: Harmless pre-amble with light twists of jokery!

Tom: Slight pun, sensible query?

Ava: Query resolved, questionable segue into the news!

Ava: I can’t not talk about that teaser trailer for Pandemic Legacy Season 0. My understanding is that if I’d tuned into the stream last tuesday, I would’ve been able to watch Matt complete a teaser jigsaw with a secret code on the back. I’m really hoping Tom was watching and knows if we’ve gleaned any exciting spoilers.

Tom: I was not present for the assembly, though I did pop in to quickly clip Matt looking his daftest.

Matt: In my defence, I am incredibly daft. It turns out I’d vastly underestimated both the time and energy required to ‘Do A Jigsaw’ – five hours of live-streaming a muddy brown puzzle left me shamefully too wiped out to actually solve the mystery behind the clues I’d uncovered. I still don’t know exactly what I missed, but I gather I missed *something* quite vital – the next day I even went so far as to heat up the accompanying note in a wok in the hope that a heat-sensitive message would reveal itself. You can’t mark me down for effort, I guess?

Ava: So it seems like the new Pandemic Legacy is a prequel, taking place in olden times. Quinns shared something in the company slack that I don’t think I’m allowed to say anything about, but it was accompanied with statement that “Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau are clearly having a lot of fun here”. Frankly, that’s exciting enough for me (as someone who failed to get through a season 1 campaign for interpersonal issues I am IN NO WAY BITTER ABOUT.)

Matt: It’s amazing how many people I know who found their Season 1 playthrough unfortunately torpedoed, usually just before the bit in the campaign where things really get REAL.

Tom: I’m having such a strange time of all the Season 0 announcements – It’s an event that I should be incredibly excited for, having effectively used Season 1 and 2 as a cardboard bonfire around which my closest friends of University gathered. With Season 0 on the horizon, though, I’m physically willing myself not to be excited for it – because I know there’s no way I can meaningfully get that same group together again consistently, maybe forever.

Matt: I felt the same way when Jaws of the Lion arrived.

Ava: This is an awfully glum start to the news.

Tom: Agreed.



Let’s talk about Beans.

Ava: Is it okay to just keep releasing variants of the same game forever with increasingly tenuous puns? No. But I’m going to let this one slide because Excalibohn is extremely fun to say.

Tom: They missed a trick – I think Excalibohnanza is WAY more fun to say – but only if you stress and savour the beginning before a swift crescendo of speed and ferocity towards the end, with an appropriate level of theatrical pizazz to boot.

Matt: Tom, you have my vote.

Ava: After Bohnaparte, I think they’ve fully committed. Consistency is as important as pizzaz in the seamy underworld of pun-branding.

Excalibohn is the newest entry to the Bohnanza bonanza, and promises the same game of planting, trading and desperation, only now the beans are magic. Special powers and magic potions can be triggered on your turn to manipulate the core game’s simple but tight trading mechanism. I suspect it has to walk a pretty fine line to keep the game functioning while appealing to those who want a bit of extra fiddle? Otherwise this might just be bean trading with added take that, which would be awful?

Matt: MAGIC Bean-Trading with MAGIC Take That.

Ava: That’s still awful though, isn’t it?

Matt: In my mind it was easily their best album.

Tom: Before that mammoth 6 hour Lords of Vegas stream, Mike Selinker said something to the tune of ‘Bohnanza is the best game ever made’. Now, I don’t remember exactly what he said afterwards, but I’m almost certain that it was ‘I can’t wait for them to add magic potions to it though, because that would be VERY cool and good’, and I thiiiink that’s perfectly fine to use as a pull quote for the box, Uwe.

Matt: Gosh though, THAT GAME! I’ve yet to do a little post about it on the main site, but that’s easily the best game of Lords of Vegas… ever? A very long video, but what a ride.

Tom: You know what I need in my life right now? More thoughts. I just can’t get enough of the blighters! They’re always scurrying around, hiding under important events – I just want some good clean thoughts for my brain canals! What’s a boy gotta do to get some THOUGHTS around here?

I jest, of course, thoughts are mostly horrible things I want to reduce, re-use and recycle.

Tom: Our Innermost Thoughts asks the question ‘What if thoughts; but good?’ This Kickstarter looks to be a dinky little zine containing a collection of (mostly) solo RPGs about self-discovery and reflection in times of turmoil – which is right up my proverbial alley, at the moment. Of the bunch, I think I’m most intrigued by ‘Frequency’, the only two-player game in the series, which is chiefly concerned with the difficulty of communication between different languages and ideologies. As well as that, I’m tickled by ‘Letters From A Book Binder’, a game about writing synopses of fictional books and sharing those stories with others.

Matt: I’m only slightly disturbed that the image they’ve gone with reminds me immediately of ‘The Cabin In The Woods’ and the fantastically stylish German Misery-’em-up ‘Dark’. Please can I instead have these thoughts in a leisure centre cafe with a mug of hot chocolate, thanks.

Ava: I think I covered Dead Reckoning super briefly a long time ago, but that was when it was just a little twinkle in the publisher’s eye. Now we’ve got the full thing on Kickstarter, and we can form some hasty opinions on the basis of superficial information.

Matt: As first-mate aboard the HMS Hasty, I’ve gotta say I reaaally dig the use of colour in that box art?

Ava: Dead Reckoning is a piratical ‘4X’ game with card-crafting crew and a dice-ship battle-shenanigan. You’ll be sailing the high seas while sliding cards into sleeves to show your crews equipment and stats. If you ever get into a fight you’ll be pouring little cubes through a cardboard boat and into a little walled board that will tell you how battling you’ve been. There’s a lot of odd touches here, that make it harder and harder to assess if this is exciting or not. My fancy is tickled, but so is my meh.

Tom: The fancy bone’s connected to the… Meh bone! The Meh Bone’s connected to the… Excalibohn! The Excalibohn’s connected to the…

Ava: Tsukiji Market and Tokyo Metro, both from Jordan Draper’s Tokyo series, are getting expansions. The former’s precise economy will now have a whole load of new fish. While Metro’s worker placement route navigator will relocate to Osaka and promises a quicker game.

It’s probably not quite worth linking to a set of kickstarter expansions, and I’m essentially just trying to goad myself into not buying them. Covering stuff in the news tends to deflate my hype for things- maybe more than makes sense. Is that okay? I don’t know if that’s okay. I do however know that I’ve already bought both games being expanded here, and both times the exact same thing happened.

The game arrived, I admired the lovely pieces, and then I started reading the rulebook – at which time I’ve then glazed over in a way I can only describe as unprofessional. I don’t know what it is about these rulebooks? I’ve tucked into GMT rulebooks that would make Tom Brewster cry. But these tiny rule books never quite go properly into my brain.

Matt:I don’t know if that’s unprofessional, really? Rulebooks are so rarely universally readable, and it’s definitely the part of the job I struggle with the most. Teach me a game and I’ll get it all perfectly, no further questions. Focussing on a booklet for more than two minutes? Eep. Still, good to know which designers your rulebook-brain doesn’t quite gel with?

Ava: But here’s the problem. I’m still tempted. More fish for the market! More moves on the metro! I want it. I shouldn’t want it. But I want it. Urghhhhhhhh.

Tom: If it helps, I also found that the tiny Tsukiji Market rulebook burrowed its way into my brain with the elegance of a whisk through bricks. But Clams, Nori, and Swordfish? Maybe a swift kick in the expandable backside will get me to actually play the damn thing. This is the kind of logic that crumbles empires. What do I want?

Ava: If you want even more punishing decision making, pretty much the entire Jordan Draper back catalogue is available as add ons. I can only speak to Import/Export, which I would describe as ‘a great game if you already know you like Carl Chudyk-style confuse-a-thons.

Tom: I can equally speak for Tokyo Game Show, Colourful and Praise as being wonderful little boxes, also – The first of those exuding vast quantities of Warioware-esque charm when unleashed upon any unsuspecting family, but your own will provide the best results.

Ava: Ooh ooh. Some odd little news, in an article about people trying to teach a computer to play the infamously ruthless backstabbing negotiation wargame Diplomacy.


Ava: This is the same people who famously beat expert Lee Sedol at Go, but now they’re moving into what I’m going to describe as a much wobblier game. Teaching a computer how to lose friends seems somewhere between cruel and ridiculous, but I’m kind of curious as to where this is going, even if I’m somewhat skeptical about just about every claim I hear made about AI ever.

Tom: Next up: Blood On The Clocktower.

Ava: It turns out, that really the focus here is not so much on betrayal, lies and manipulation, but is actually more to examine ways for AIs to collaborate with other systems and actual humans. Of course, I would’ve thought a game that didn’t rest upon inevitable backstabs might be a better way to teach collaboration. This is training an AI to work with humans right up until the optimal moment of betrayal. The more I think about this, the more ominous it seems.

Tom:Cruisin’ for a skynettin’?

Ava: With puns like these, who needs terminators.

Matt: I’m screengrabbing this for the pun-police, fyi.

Ava: Twitter this week has been a tiring mess. Twitter this year has been a tiring mess. Twitter is a tiring mess. There, nailed it.

This week has been hard, though.

Prominent Black game designer Eric Lang got suspended after being the apparent target of bad faith trolling for his eminently reasonable views on racism. He’s been reinstated, and he’s had some brilliant words to say about how we need to be working on fixing the culture of social media so that we don’t leave the space to be a place where trolls manipulate systems for abuse. Honestly, it’s big important stuff (and I say that whilst also wrestling the most successful author of all time appearing to have been love-bombed into a cult obsessed with stopping me from going to the toilet ever, which is fun). It’s our responsibility to make sure game spaces (and the social spaces that surround them) are welcoming to everyone welcoming, and intolerant of everyone intolerant.

Matt: That’s the crucial part of it, really – we’ve always managed to keep Shut Up & Sit Down’s community quite broadly kind-hearted, but it’s a softness that is primarily crafted with hammers.  And even then, we’re constantly getting stuff wrong, all of the time! I hope we’ll continue to be open to recognising that, and striving to be better. I worry that social media as it currently exists may be a lost cause though, if I’m honest. Still – solidarity with those finding the current cultural climate tough. Having come over to this industry from Video Games, I’m steeled for this stuff more than anyone should have to be.

Ava: There was another pretty important thread to highlight, considering we’ve been cautiously hopeful about small improvements from the Wizards of the Coast’s D&D team. Orion D Black reports their experience as a freelancer being ignored by management that didn’t really want anything apart from the appearance of diversity. Wizards of the Coast have tweeted apologising and taking the criticism seriously. That said, everybody I’ve seen talking about this has been noting that words are not enough when there have been clear and consistent demands made for a long time. I’m increasingly glad we’re spending our RPG stream time working on a smaller indie game, and hope we continue to shine more light away from the big, unwieldy behemoth that most people think of when they hear the words pen-and-paper role-playing.

Tom: More like pen and paper TROLL playing AMIRITE? I’m not particularly active on twitter (I haven’t even got the app – I just access it through a google homepage that’s set to ‘Duck Game’ developer Landon Podbielski’s Twitter page after I googled him one time ages ago) but even then, when I do check my feed it’s nothing but nihilism and anger towards those using their huge, profitable, and ultimately stable platforms in ways that are less than savoury.

Matt: I will be unbelievably happy when Twitter shuts down, and yet I also can’t stop using it?

Ava: IT’S SO GRIM! I wish I could walk away from twitter but it’s always been a useful way to stay connected to the communities I care about, and it does do that, it’s just hard when those communities feel steadily under attack. As a more positive end note though, I’ve now got an official email address, so if anyone wants to send news tidbits to highlight, I’d really like to increase the diversity of the games news, both in the sense of highlighting more work from marginalised creators, but also in bringing a spotlight onto a wider range of curious board game adjacent media, business or other larks. Give me a shout on [email protected], we want to hear from you about the people we’ve never heard of, the things we aren’t aware of, and the stuff that never happened.

Wait. Maybe not that last one, although I am totally here for impossible gossip.

Tom: Impossigoss.

Matt: The Impossigoss Engine has been activated?! But that’s IMPOSSIGOSS? If you’re at a loose end this week and fancy listening to our voices, tomorrow myself and Tom will be hanging out with Twitch chat for “Through The Ages and Chill”. You are all invited. And this Thursday should be a lot of fun – we’ll be doing another Print & Play Along session with Metro X. Grab a copy of the file here.