GAMES NEWS! 15/06/20

Competitive Firing, Your Friend is A Complicated Human and Making Them Not Sad Is Sometimes Something That Isn’t So Simple, Back-To-Back-Back-To-The-Future, Meeple-Level-Marketing
Matt Lees 82 comment(s)

Tom: Hey there, reader. Are you excited by news? Do you like boardgames? Do you want to make a fortune through-

Ava: What are you doing.

Tom: Shh! Let me finish my pitch.

…As I was saying – you, the reader, stand to gain cardboard riches beyond compare. How? Well, it’s as simple as the power of positive thinking, and SU&SD’s patented Pear-Shaped Marketing Scheme.

Ava: You’re not meant to tell them the SHAPE of the scheme! They’ll put the pieces together!

Tom: But that’s just the shape of the company! You hired me and Mart, and now I’m hiring the… wait… a moment… Is this a pyra-

Ava: STREAM SCHEDULE! We all love the stream schedule and there is nothing shady to be discovered within it. This week, Matt will be deviating from boardgames to play some Slay The Spire on Tuesday, and then Matt and Tom will duke it out in Dice Throne on Thursday. Then, next week, we’ve got some real corkers – we’ll be playing some Gloomhaven Jaws of the Lion on Tuesday, and continuing through MOTHERSHIP on Thursday. Isn’t that all so exciting! Follow our Twitch page now, and you’ll never miss a show. Until you obviously, ineviatably do.

Tom: Ava, it’s so exciting that I’ve forgotten whatever I was just talking about. It’s so exciting that YOU should be a part of it, reader! You just have to mail your entire boardgame collection to the Shut Up and Sit Down offices and soon you’ll be working your way up the corporate ladder that we call home.

Ava: It’s movie cash-in time, and a little more detail about the Back to the Future game I think I skipped over a few times for newsworthiness. I like those films, and this game attempts to pit you against the paradoxes of all three films at once.

Tom: The core action of the game sees players co-operatively returning items to their rightful places in time, by racing their DeLoreans (there are more than one DeLorean?) through tiles that represent the timelines depicted in each movie. Each player will have to resolve events using icons on dice – but if they don’t have quite the right icons showing then they can drop their dice in place, leaving them for a future self (or co-operative partner) to come and pick up in a different timeline. As well as this, you’ll have to contend with the ever-present Biff that haunts each of the tracks, appearing at a different point in time whenever you dispatch him – like quantum breadcrumbs falling out of a quantum toaster all over your quantum countertop when you want to do some quantum cleaning.

… but wait, there’s… TWO Back To The Future Games? And they’re BOTH coming out in June? In fact, Back To The Future: Dice Through Time wasn’t even the one we mentioned in games news last time! We were in fact talking about Back To The Future: Back In Time! What a chortle-worthy incident.

Ava: I can’t believe that’s really what they’re calling them to differentiate from each other.

Tom: The description of ‘Back In Time’ states that the game ‘forgoes any time-travel elements to instead give you the chance to replay the climax of the first Back to the Future movie’ – and that’s awful telling, to me – especially when combined with the fact that the game is being developed by Funko Games. Are we to expect the facsimile of the Back-To-The-Future experience, in cardboard form, or a hollow, lifeless collectible? How am I to know? I have never seen Back To The Future. I don’t think I’m particularly enthused by the ideas presented by either of these games, but the string of buzzwords accompanied by a scattering of dice rolls that make up the description of ‘Back In Time’ isn’t all that inspiring – you go somewhere, you roll some dice, you get excited by the pang of familiarity that comes from Recognising That Thing You Like.

Ava: Back to the future, more like stay in the past, am I right? *waggles eyebrows*

Honestly though, I also can’t believe that the one that’s called ‘Back In Time’ is the one where you don’t even go back in time. You just stay in one time. Where’s the fun in that?

Tom: That is how time works, to be fair.

Ava: Up yours, time.

Matt: Sorry, you’ve NEVER SEEN Back to the Future? We’ve got to go back, Tom! Back… to The Hiring Process!

Tom: oh no

Ava: Fire! Tower! I thought it was going to be about a skyscraper, but actually it’s about forest fires, which immediately put me in mind of the eminently creepy Firewatch, and the board looks pretty gorgeous.

Tom: I thought Fire Tower would be a game about cooperatively fighting fires a-la Flash Point (or similar) but really it’s a game about sending patterns towards the fire towers of other players, who will extinguish said patterns with splashes of water, and the last tower standing wins? I went from ‘eh’ to ‘Oh YeAh’ in an instant – it’s kind of like… A Blokus made of fire? This is all without mentioning the lovely, painterly art style and spicy twists like wind strength and fire breaks. Other major highlights here include the absolutely delicious fire tokens, and that’s all I have to say on this one.

Ava: Don’t you mean delicious-looking fire tokens?

Tom: I mMKnow… *crunch* whot I uh *gulp* said.

Ava: Disgusting. This is actually a Kickstarter for a reprint and expansion of a 2019 game. The expansion promises ‘Fire Hawks’ that can circle around your tower and transplant fires to pastures green, as well as all new cards, a solo mode, and the opportunity for eliminated players to become the ‘Shadow of the Wood’ (whatever that means).

I can’t believe that we’re already so deep in 2020 that a game about forest fires can feel like a vaguely reassuring thing, and not the genuinely terrifying horror of recent (but feels like a million years ago) history. Oh and also I guess the odds are there’s a forest fire happening right now and I don’t even know about it. Wow, I’m sad.

Ava:  On the subject of sad, we’re looking at kickstarter ‘Your Friend is Sad’. Is this too sad for a Monday? Or is it just an overly simplistic game with an overly simplistic representation of solidarity and mental wellbeing?

Tom: Yes.

Ava: Okay, okay, so I don’t think this above is untrue, but I do also want to give the game a little bit of a fairer shake.

Your Friend is Sad is a simple enough hand management game about trying to match the colours of ‘brain goop’ cards in your hand with a series of mood boosting activities laid out in the centre. The first person to cheer up the collective friend eleven times wins. There’s some cute drawings and some really strong simple copy on the cards. This is the genre of kickstarter that has a billion stretch goals of different webcomic artists who may do some nice art for it if things go well. Further down the page the game also has a note about actual depression, and how just saying ‘cheer up’ isn’t helpful. I think it still remains more than a touch un-nuanced, but maybe there’s something sweet here.

Tom: The phrases ‘simple enough hand management’ and the fact that ‘your friend is sad’ are two things that, in my mind, aren’t exactly compatible. Depression is a strange thing to game-ify, and certainly not a subject matter that begs for simple mechanics. Ah well. It looks like their heart is in the right place, at the very least.

Matt: It’s a capital H “hmmm” from me. HMMM.

Ava: Right. So. There’s a fair few games about tea, and I always do a bit of a wince as despite my recent stream obsessions, I’m actually quite uncomfortable with the weird British patriotism attached to the love of tea, a product mostly associated with Britain because of the gross horrors of colonialism.

Tom: Ahh, the great british taste of yorkshire tea. Grown by good british yorks from the roots of the york plant, native to yorkshire.

Ava: You joke, but I do remember a few years ago someone on twitter quitting Yorkshire Tea when he found out it wasn’t actually grown in ‘god’s own county’. Though it is a blend designed for the local water supply, so does not taste as good if you drink it somewhere other than Yorkshire!

Anyway, I think Chai, and new expansion High Tea, dodges some of those problematic bullets by actually trying to be about the varied tea drinking cultures of the world, and that’s quite sweet.

Ava: The game itself has you collecting colour matched groups of ingredients from the market, rooting around the pantry, grabbing customers and fulfilling their tea needs. I like the look of the market, which features chunky plastic tiles that slide along to create match three style groups and a tasty little puzzle. The High Tea expansion adds that diversity I was looking for, giving each player a unique tea culture, with a specific bonus action to help them on the way. From Turkish Samovar to Tibetan Butter tea, there’s a lot of lovely art and honestly I do really want some tea now.

Tom: Quick, Ava, say something negative so we don’t get accused of shilling for Big Chai.

Ava: About halfway down the page they nonchalantly use the pun ‘diversi-tea’ and even as a professional purveyor of terrible, terrible puns, that was beyond the pale.

Tom: Tea is CANCELLED.

Ava: Oof. This actually looks pretty ugly and the game sounds a little bland, and I lost a close friend to a car crash so the theming actually is a bit upsetting to me. So why am I still talking about Crash, on Kickstarter now by Czacha games? Well, it’s because it’s by my favourite designer, and I just can’t ignore that weird, lovely man, and his strange, convoluted games.

Crash is a trick-taking-ish game of player created multi-car pile-ups, where you attempt to derail other players as everyone escalates until everything has gone too far. Cards played have to increase in value whilst matching symbols to indicate that they are doing..the right kind of crash? Once you’ve played a card you nominate the next player, and if they can’t place a card, they’re out of the round. It sounds like nonsense! But it’s also pretty cheap and it’s by my darling Carl, so I’m not sure I can steer clear of this one.

Tom: The trouble with trick taking (ish or otherwise) games is that it’s frightfully tricky (hah) to make them sound exciting or understandable to me, a trick-taking novice – and the only way to decide if they’re worth your money or not is to have a bit of a play. It’s nice, then, that Mr Chudyk has personally printed and played the game just for you – it’s available as a pdf on the Kickstarter, and would likely be fairly easy to homebrew. Rumour has it that if you say ‘Carl Chudyk’s Crash’ three times into a mirror he will send a copy paper version to your home address – complete with glitter-glue, stickers and felt tip pen.

Ava: Hey look, there’s an interview with Frank West, the creator of Isle of Cats, a game that my caveated positivity has led people to think I didn’t like. Am I linking this just to point out that I do actually really like cats?

Tom: This interview was really amiable until Frank West brought up your podcast appearance right at the end, continually referring to you as ‘Hater of Games; The Villain Ava Foxfort’. It all got a bit sinister.

Ava: I do hate games. It’s a good interview though. Frank seems like a nice enough guy, and I’m glad Isle of Cats has been so successful. It’s the sort of solid, accessible game that thanks to the family variant, you could put in front of literally anybody and get started, and while I think the drafting and buying process is a little faffy, it does mean that there’s a more complex and point salady game there for those that want it.

Continuing our ongoing journey through the ‘things that you can play for free, because everybody’s a bit worried about people needing to stay stuck at home’ zone, Asmodee have thrown out a print and play mini expansion for Ticket to Ride that’s literally about staying at home. Building little routes around the house like some kind of over ambitious model railway enthusiast. You’ll need a copy of one of the standard editions of Ticket to Ride to play, so you can borrow the trains and the cards, but that doesn’t stop this being a bit sweet.

Matt: My brain skipped a beat here and somehow simply read aloud: Alan R. Moon, Stay at Home. No further comment, your honour.

Ava: Taking the lockdown freebies one step further by requesting a donation to the NAACP if you download it, CMON has put up a complete print and play version of their game Foodies, which had been flying under my radar for a while. It’s a nice gesture, and Eric Lang was a bit into it on twitter saying it was one of the first games he guided through the CMON development process when he became their head of designy stuff. Maybe I should look up his actual job title. Or find something out about this game.

Tom:It’s about food! You’re managing a food court, hiring chefs to make exciting dishes that’ll get slotted into a grid so you can draw in various patrons for, you guessed it, POINTS – the most delicious of all currencies. It looks fairly straightforward, but also has an absolutely lovely Pixar-esque illustration style that makes me want to be friends with every chef in the game.

Ava: Magic: The Gathering is trying to be less racist by removing some troubling images from its enormous online database, and making certain cards unavailable in tournament play. It’s a simple bit of news and only a small number of cards, but it’s a start! Good to see the big players taking action, and I hope we continue to see people thinking about the way their representation affects the lives of their players, and how welcome (or not) they make everybody feel at the table. They’ve also been reaching out with the aim to commission more work from BIPOC writers. It is however important to note that Wizards of the Coast have been under fire lately for much wider racism problems, as in this open letter from Zaiem Beg, a member of the Magic The Gathering community.

Matt: It’s great to see action like this, absolutely – but my gut tells me that the culture of Wizards still has an awfully long way to go… We’ve always been reticent to give too much coverage to Magic: The Gathering on the basis that the community they’ve fostered attracts so much toxicity, and it’s clear that internally they don’t take problems nearly as seriously as we’d personally expect: Despite multiple, serious accusations of covering for alleged abuser Zak Smith in 2019, Mike Mearls then distanced himself by downplaying the involvement of Smith as a playtester on D&D 5th Edition (despite crediting them in print as a consultant). No official statement was ever made by Wizards of the Coast, and it remains unclear if any action was ever taken internally – with Mearls now working with a different role within the company that as far as anyone external is aware may well have been a promotion. On that basis it frankly doesn’t seem right to applaud Wizards for cleaning up their act when it comes to their copyrighted archive of assets – or for moving to offer work on a freelance basis – when frankly the recent silence of the company hangs heavy around their necks, like a massive brass albatross.

Ava: I  do hope that Wizards are really listening and making changes as this stuff gets raised, but I also know how bad large organisations are at changing this sort of culture. Heck, it’s hard for small organisations to change their culture.

Matt: Absolutely! It’s hard as hell. I just hope they’re recognising at this point that any problem at the bottom usually slides down from the top.

Ava:Dropping into our inbox this week was a press release from Dissident Whispers, a collective pulling together a collection of RPG scenarios raising money for Black Live Matters bail funds. It looks like a nice project, and may be worth taking a look at.

Tom: The renders of the anthology itself look absolutely gorgeous, with an avalanche of exciting graphic design that’ll propel you headfirst into about a billion oneshots. One of those is a fresh new one-shot for Mothership – which we’ve been having a jolly old time playing on stream- exciting!

Ava:And on a similar note, it was mentioned in the comments last week, and I’m pretty sure everybody knows about it now, but just in case, there’s still some hours left for the incredible 1500 game itch bundle of games donating proceeds to NAACP and the Community Bail fund. It’s a ludicrous bargain, and the reason I skipped over it last week was because I thought it was all video games, but there’s some juicy role playing PDFs in there too.

Tom: To take a dip into videogames-mode for a moment and give my personal recommendations – this bundle has got some corkers. A Mortician’s Tale, A Short Hike, Celeste, Minit, Diaries of a SpacePort Janitor (my personal fave), Nuclear Throne, Pikuniku, Hidden Folks, Glittermitten Grove (better known as Frog Fractions 2), Quadrilateral Cowboy and The Stillness Of The Wind and Starseed Pilgrim. GOSH. All wonderful works.

Ava: There’s now so many games in the bundle that it’s actually quite hard to dig out the specific pen and paper stuff, but I do know that Blades of the Dark, a masterful whalepunk sneaky theivey simulator and Lancer, a big robot shooty bang with drama game are available. I suspect digging will find a whole load of smaller names with interesting ideas, like ‘the anthology of cosy RPGs’, a collection of smaller pieces from a 200 word game jam. Honestly, I’m hoping that the strange happening of a huge number of people suddenly getting the same thousand games dropped on to their hard-drive leads to some people getting to see stuff they’d never see otherwise. I wonder if anyone’ll get lured over to the tabletop by these RPGs.

Either way, it’s made millions of dollars for some important causes, and that’s obviously, utterly, marvelous.