Games News! 19/06/2017
Paul: Oh yes. Murder. Seems there’s always a lot of murder in board games.
Quinns: Gotta give the public what they want. Shall we fire this thing, then? We should let loose the news that Fantasy Flight Games are releasing the new Whitehall Mystery, a standalone cousin to SU&SD hidden movement favourite Letters from Whitechapel.
Whitehall Mystery will once again have every player but one rushing around Victorian London, trying to catch the other who is, wait for it, leaving limbs lying around. Whoever plays that murderer has to secretly nominate four London locations in which they’re going to leave body parts and then sneak between them, avoiding the pursuit of people like Sergeant Arthur Ferris, or journalist Jasper Waring and his pet dog, Smoker.
Quinns: Look, I just read what they put in front of me.
Paul: Leaving limbs around London. It’s not done in the best possible taste, is it? I really like hidden movement games and I do appreciate Fantasy Flight shaking things up by bringing in some new character abilities and including an app that adds randomisation options, but my immediate response to this is to wonder how different it is to Letters from Whitechapel and whether, if I owned one, I’d want to own another. How many Jack the Ripper-themed hidden movement games do I need?
Quinns: I have no idea. But since FFG refer to this new release as “the newest addition to the Letters from Whitechapel series”, the answer is probably “at least two more.”
But for all of these new bells and police-whistles, I think the biggest change might be that Whitehall Mystery is for 2-4 players. Letters from Whitechapel ideally wants 1 murderer player and a whopping 5 police officer players, which makes it that much more of a challenge to get to the table.
Paul: What I do need, mind you, is this big expansion for the grabby gem grandeur that is Splendor and I’m REALLY PUMPED that one is coming. The mere mention of Splendor makes me want to play it IMMEDIATELY, even if I’m asleep. Especially if I’m asleep, when any mention of Splendor causes me to sit bolt upright in a trance-like state, before levitating out of the room and straight toward the nearest opened copy. Is that weird?
Quinns: I’m not sure? You’d better check WebMD.
In the meantime I’ll say that I’ve been playing more Century: Spice Road and while I like it a lot, I’m still not interested in doing a SU&SD review at this time. It’s a really good little game, but when I know that my conclusion will be “Personally, I’d buy Splendor,” it’s hard to justify giving the review a slot in our schedule.
That said, I’ll absolutely be taking another look at Century when the second game in the series arrives next year.
Paul: Meanwhile, my warrior heart is emboldened by the news of a re-release of plunder simulator Raiders of the North Sea. There’s been an ever-growing buzz across social media about this Kickstarter game of pillaging norsefolk, wherein you try to impress your viking boss by stealing other people’s sheep and iron (“Chief, look how many lambs I brought back!”), but spare copies are as rare as a beardless viking.
After having two expansions crowdfunded earlier this year and being nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres last month, deciding to reprint this was probably a no-brainer. I’m hoping to get my hands on a copy when it becomes available and, believe me, I will see just how much fun mutton theft might be.
Quinns: Speaking of Kickstarter, one of the most interesting projects on there right now isn’t actually a game, but this collection of bite-sized essays on the maths, science and psychology of gaming, courtesy of prolific designer Geoff Engelstein, who worked on Space Cadets, Pit Crew and much more.
When Geoff isn’t working as the president of a design and manufacturing firm, or designing award-winning board games, he regularly contributes his popular GameTek segments to the Dice Tower podcast. Seventy of these have been updated, annotated and collected together for this book, which is probably an even better way to present many of their subjects.
I mean, look at this sample chapter on shuffling and big numbers. Personally, I think that if you’re interested in working in game design or criticism, this is an insta-back.
Paul: The next bit of news is just a tidbit, but it’s such a tasty tidbit I had to mention it. Z-Man Games teased a few more details about Season 2 of Pandemic Legacy and it looks really, really neat. It shows off a very different visual style and sets itself a generation ahead, seventy-one years after the events of the first game, with survivors living in floating, offshore havens and trying to supply Earth’s plague-ravaged cities with the supplies and medicine they need. There’s also a section on a character card that seems to say “Place of Death”, so, uh, that’s encouraging…
Quinns: Look at that art. LOOK AT IT. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I was excited enough about this simply being a sequel to the greatest board game of all time. When we started hearing about the mechanics, I became unsustainably excited. I had no idea it would represent a comprehensive visual overhaul, too. If anyone needs me I will be planning my campaign to make Chris Quilliams the Earth’s Chief Illustrator, giving him oversight over everything anyone draws.
We also have some sobering stories this week, also. Recently, Japanese publisher Oink Games tweeted about the similarities between their title, Insider, and Bezier Games’ forthcoming Werewords. Both are social deduction games about trying to figure out a certain word. Oink Games expressed some understandable frustration and disappointment, suggesting that their idea had been copied without licensing, but this week Bezier’s Ted Alspach responded with his side of the story, saying he’d independently come up with a similar idea some time ago, attempted to license Insider when he discovered its similarities, then continued to work on a design that he says has ended up very different.
Paul: Oink Games did not seem particularly satisfied with this response, however, and after acknowledging that game mechanics can’t be copyrighted, made their disappointment with Bezier clear by stating “Nearly all the publishers we have talked to showed some respect to our games.” I have sympathy for both sides in this. Oink is a smaller publisher with less reach and heft, who feel frustrated at what has happened, but Alspach made it clear he was working on his design for some time and both games have developed into different titles, different enough that I would want to try both.
Also, we live in a world where people constantly develop very similar ideas in parallel without realising, or draw from similar influences to create works that may share particular qualities. A couple of years back Leigh wrote a feature for BoingBoing about how this can very innocently happen in gaming, while science has a long history of what is called multiple discovery.
I even have personal experience of how much it sucks to be in a situation like this. Years ago now, I once wrote a list feature referencing famous urban legends for one website that happened to mention several of the same urban legends that were mentioned in a list feature on another website, which I’d never seen before. It was briefly pretty stressful and terrifying to think that people might think I was a plagiarist, until my editor stepped in and said the articles were clearly very different, only covering some of the same cultural cornerstones.
Quinns: Then there’s the sad story that Geek Chic has gone out of business. The manufacturer of famously plush gaming tables posted a short statement last week and while we don’t know anything more, we can hazard a guess that the market for high-end, five figure gaming tables was probably quite limited. With many pre-orders still to be fulfilled (the deposit on some tables could be up to $5,000), there are some unhappy and uncertain customers out there.
But we finish today with much happier news of the folding of a beloved institution! SU&SD reader Fardo Witsenburg sent in a couple of photos of how he collapses his board games to make more space:
Dear SUSD Team,
Hi! You’ve asked before to send in photos of your gaming experiences.I’m a 32 year dutchman living in Switzerland and have been following your site compulsively for the past few years without ever letting know my presence, as if I were at a boardgame peepshow. Living in Switzerland, our house is not the roomiest, so as to keep my collection at a manageble size, I decided to act on these great crimes of space-theft. It started with the bizarrely over-sized Seven Wonders box (which I in the meantime have sold) and sort of snowballed through my collection. Special note to Netrunner, whose box could have been halfed again, if it weren’t for the unfoldably thick manual.
With THE best wishes,
Thanks, Fardo! We wish you the best of luck with your continuing logistical vigilantism.
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