Tom: Where are we going today Ava?
Ava: It’s a whole new world! A new fantastic point of view! We’ve got street magic, unionised superheroes (real and fictional), smells you can touch, sand enthusiasts, at least one very bad joke and games that ask you to escape from both Nottingham and your very own kitchen table.
Tom: I think you’re slightly misremembering the plot of Aladdin.
Ava: Get back in your lamp, evil Mr Jaffa Cake!
Tom: Does that count as one of your wishes, or is that for me to decide?
Ava: Hang on a moment, I need to find my union rep.
Ava: Huzzah. After a media blackout of a couple of months, Kickstarter United has been officially recognised as a union.
Kickstarter’s new union had a rough ride, but a lot of support from creators, backers and media. This led to a media shutdown while the company and union campaigned internally, and a vote on union recognition that was narrowly won. This is being hailed as a big step for Silicon Valley tech unions in general, and will hopefully make it easier for workers across large tech companies to come together in solidarity.
At the very least, we know that workers at Kickstarter have a strong collective voice. It’s unclear if the people who allegedly lost their jobs for union organising will be brought back. The union has said its first job will be to fight for equal pay and inclusive hiring practices, which sounds like a good start.
Tom: I can’t wait for someone to bash Mister Kickstarter right on the head with a ferociously oxymoronic oversized miniature.
Ava: That’s not quite how unions work.
Tom: Very well. I shall continue this quest on my lonesome.
Tom: There’s little in their descriptions aside from references to the media they’re based on, so if you’re a real fan of ‘accelerat[ing] the DeLoreon to 88 MPH down Main Street before the clock tower strikes 10:04 pm!’-based games, then I’m sad to say the Wonder Woman game is probably not for you.
Ava: One tie-in announcement did stand out a little bit though. Scooby Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion sounds a little off the beaten path, promising a one off escape room vibe that the publishers are calling a Coded Chronicle (with a little ™ beside it, so you know it’s fancy). With clues scattered across the board, cards and secret envelopes you’ll be solving a shared mystery with the actual Scooby gang.
There’s a fair few of these escape room tabletop things available now, and I’ve not made the leap. Will this one mark itself out? The branding promises a unique code breaking system that could see this being the first of many. Colour me curious, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you pulled the mask off this and just found a caretaker trying to pull yet another insurance scam.
Tom: Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava, Ava. What did the Scooby Doo villain say when he overpaid for the fusion power plant in Power Grid.
Ava: I don’t know Tom, What did the Scooby Doo villain say when he overpaid for the fusion power plant in Power Grid?
Tom: And I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for your pesky meddling bids.
Ava: MOVING ON!
Ava: Meanwhile, in Kickstarter cash-ins, we have Marvel United, sadly not a unionised force of superheroes (though I would love to see it).
Marvel United promises cute anime miniatures of some of your favourite comic book characters and has already made a bucketload of dosh. Tiny miniatures and an excessive amount of stretch goals are the order of the day here. The game asks you to build a timeline of hero cards to make moves against a supervillain with their very own masterplan. It could be great, it could be nonsense!
Tom: To me, this just looks like a way to push (admittedly wonderful) miniatures onto Marvel fans. It’s fitting that a robot relays the rules of the game to you in the video, because it feels to me like a bloodless, plastic collectible.
Matt: Sorry Tom exactly how much blood do you expect?
Tom: That’s a great question, and one I’m going to ignore. I must say though, even if stuff like this floats your boat there are so, so many KS exclusive miniatures that all have names and faces and are presumably important in some Marvel films sometimes. My favourite is MODOK. What is it? It’s cute by way of horrifying. I’ve not watched a Marvel film since one of the Thors. Please someone help me I’m awfully lost.
Ava: There’s a lot of Marvellous options out there right now, with Quinns reviewing the Fantasy Flight’s Marvel Champions card game recently and Atomic Mass’ Crisis Protocol miniatures game out in the wild. The licensing love has certainly been spread around a bit, I do wonder which will come out on top.
Ava: Friends, Romans, Countryfile, lend me your ears! Except don’t, lend your money to this kickstarter, and hopefully get a great game at the end of it. But only if you want to, I’m not the boss of you.
Gladius is new on the colosseum block, with cute art, a woman-led design team, and a promising mix of gambling and fighting. Players will choose from five spectator characters, and throw a deckful of gladiators into randomised line-ups of events. Each player will be able to bet on the winner, as well as throw in influence cards to throw the game. So a mix of betting, bluffing, battling and shenanigans. There’s some intriguing stuff here and it might be nice.
Tom: A $32k stretch goal promises an official Gladius song, no less! I also took the ‘Which Gladius Character are you?’ quiz at the bottom of the page, which was a fun little diversion.
Ava: Ooh, what did you get?
Matt: I’m “Mr Gladius”. I don’t need a test to tell me that, and you can’t make me take it.
Tom: I got BIGGEST FAN. ‘You are boundlessly enthusiastic about your favorite things!’. This is an unprecedented level of positivity for a Monday morning and has made me Gladius’ BIGGEST FAN.
Ava: I got the same, but in the process crashed a billion browser tabs and generally got in a bit of a mess. This feels like the correct amount of positivity for a Monday morning.
My new favourite genre of Kickstarter is one that immediately launches into telling you that it isn’t what I thought it was when I clicked on it.
Choss is NOT a chess rebrand, and I am mildly disappointed, but it makes up for it by being something quite lovely. Choss is Japanese for touch, finger or feel and the game is played with eyes closed, using only your touchy feely fingers. A fairly simple pattern matching puzzle built from tactile pieces designed to be recognisable by touch, levelling the playing field for players with visual impairments. The pieces can be used in other games that require a distinct range of pieces, making them more accessible too. It doesn’t look like the most thrilling game, but it still looks like a nice thing! I particularly like the option to build your own version using bottle caps and a few ceramic ornaments they’ll post you. A Pop and Play, if you will.
Ava: This week’s ‘game that’s making the news because I love the name, even though it feels a bit ill-suited to the game’ is a stonker.
I’m sorry, did you say street magic is an absolute belter of a name, and promises a vignette based story game, about building a mystical city together. The game doesn’t need a GM, and allows you to build cities of any kind of genre you please. You could be building castles in the sky, boulevards under the sea, or you could be building an alternate Eastbourne. The choice is yours, and your table will overflow with note cards representing buildings, places, people and stories that are taking place in your every growing world.
It sounds lovely, but I can’t help but read the title in the voice of GOB Bluth.
Tom: This has weirdly made a connection in my brain to the upcoming not-at-all-board-game ‘Tales From Off-Peak City’ from Cosmo D, the latest in a series of delightfully surrealist explore-em-ups set in cities made from jazz. If this is a tabletop version of that game, then colour me interested, but most likely I’ll get all excited about it – only for my friends to drag me straight back to ‘Bogtown’, our much-maligned Quiet Year world. We promised we’d never go back on account of the bog, and what lies therein.
Ava: What’s in the bog that you’re so scared of?
Tom: Big Lizard.
Ava: Good to know.
Ava:Here’s a curious oddity that tickles my bolter.
Tom: Ava! This is a family show!
Ava:Don’t worry. It’s a news bolter.
Escapogic have built a Warhammer 40,000 escape room in Nottingham. If you’ve ever wanted to get trapped in a space hulk with an inquisitor then your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay, and now achievable, provided you can get to Nottingham (good trams, weirdly oversized train station, some nice parks). In Immaterium you will be playing pilgrims on a trading ship, getting into some deep warp trouble, and trying to find your way out. The room has been designed in collaboration with the neighbours, actual Games Workshop, so should at least be satisfyingly on brand.
Tom: This room promises players that they will be able to ‘touch, smell and feel all areas of the ship and everything on it’. With two of those being functionally identical, I can’t wait to experience first-hand what scents they’ve cooked up just for this experience. Will it be the invasive tang of blood and oil? The reek of mutated, scorched flesh? Or will it be more true to my Games Workshop experiences, and smell of solvent and the subway nextdoor? One only needs to make the trek to Nottingham to find out.
Ava: In the grim darkness of the far future there is only touch. And a little bit of feel. And maybe a smell sometimes.
Matt: There will always be a smell, I’m afraid. I can’t get rid of it.