GAMES NEWS! 30/09/19

word-biscuits, spidery conversation, string (conspiracy) theory
Quintin Smith 76 comment(s)

Ava (definitely singing, not necessarily well): I work hard (they work hard) every day of my life, I work ‘til I ache my bones. At the end (at the end of the day) I take home my hard earned pay all on my own…

Nobody: ….

Ava: Oh cripes. Hi there. I might’ve been making myself a little too at home in the Shut Up & Sit Down office complex while everyone else trots off to Vancouver. Without Matt here I don’t have to fight about who has to do backing vocals.

But you’re here, and you know what that means? It’s Monday. SHUX is approaching, and just beyond that lies enormous shopping convention Essen Spiel, and that means the news hopper is heaving. Let’s get to work.

Top of the blocks this week is the latest box of tricks from Ravensburger, an ode to the charms and tribulations of the enormously successful video game Minecraft.

Minecraft: Builders and Biomes will bring the building, digging, fighting and exploring to the table, through a miniature overworld, a cube made of cubes, and your own private hidey hole. The blocky voxel aesthetic of the game translates nicely, but a game renowned for freedom and enormousness is a tough thing to extrapolate to a flatter play surface. Hopefully a minecraft flavoured puzzle is up enough people’s streets, and I have to confess a love for the cubey little cube-cube. More games should have you slowly deconstructing something in the middle of the table for your own personal gain. It’s easy to wrap heads around a slowly dismantling block as timer for the game, and is just an inherently satisfying process. Why always build up when you can slowly destroy?

Welcome to nihilism Monday, folks. Grab a pick axe, it’s time to tear down the world.

Boardgamegeek’s news round-ups are a great place to get a sense of how broad and varied the news pipes can blow. This one post almost pulled off a news-worthy hat-trick by making me want to write about Tom Lehman’s two player war-thing, as well as Wolfgang Warsch’s new party game and a game about cats playing with string which you play with string!

I’m going to stick with Wolfgang, on this occasion, as he’s on such a terrifyingly strong roll lately. ‘On a scale of One to T-Rex’ sounds like a very absurd party game, that I’d not even consider if it didn’t have his name attached. The game will ask everyone at the table to act out something ridiculous, (my favourite was ‘discovering you have fingers’), but the trick isn’t to work out what everybody’s doing, as that’s public information. Instead you’ll all be given a number from one to ten that dictates the intensity of your performance. You’re trying to find the people who are doing something entirely different to you, with the same amount of force.

Honestly, I think this sounds awful and ridiculous, and like it might be magic or fall flat on its face. But I’m pretty sure it’s going to do whichever of those things it does with the intensity of a T-Rex with a card that says ten on it, and as such, I’m into it.

Amazingly, that news post’s Baby Kittens isn’t even the only Eastern European game about animals wrapping string through a game board coming out soon.

Spring on a String has a lovely design diary up at the moment, that discusses the stresses (and joys) of attempting to make games out of textiles, alongside finding a publisher and making the game the best it can be. The game has players taking turns to thread lace through flowers, trying to ‘collect’ as many as possible. But with a limited amount of lace each, it’s never entirely clear how far you’ll be able to go, leaving it as a slightly wobbly race. The simple, tactile, abstract puzzle is wrinkled by a whopping 31 animal cards that will give special powers and priorities to different coloured flowers. That should guarantee the game is never quite the same twice, despite the fixed board, and that’s probably a pleasing prospect, providing particular plays won’t prosaically plod with poorly picked powers.

Robo-Quinns (definitely not just Quinns’ face drawn on a basketball): Ahem. Ava, that’s all the alliteration allotted for this article.

Ava: Kiss my assonance, Robo-Quinns.

Robo-Quinns: …

Ava: It looks lovely and portable and hopefully interesting! Though I confess I’m baffled as to where this lace based game trend is coming from. Anybody got a string conspiracy theory?

Robo-Quinns: That was a bad joke, Ava.

Ava: I know, Robo-Quinns. But you don’t have arms, so you can’t stop me.

Obviously, I’m not remotely jealous that I’m stuck here with nothing but a basketball and a copy of Queen’s Greatest Hits for company, while the rest of the company flings itself across an ocean to go play boardgames with the loveliest people in the world. So there’s no way I’d get even more jealous at hearing that Isaac Childres is teasing some cheeky little announcements about his newest Gloomhaven related projects at the very convention that has pulled everyone to Vancouver.

Not jealous at all.

In further news from Grumpington towers, it looks like I’m going to end up reluctantly buying a game that I already own.

Sidereal Confluence is a strange beast. With a name that I refuse to pronounce the same way twice. Sliderule Confidence is one of the most tradey trading games out there, giving each player their own personal flowchart of cards, a handful of cubes, and the ability to swap anything for anyone else’s anything else. It’s economic mayhem, full of back-scratching, head-scratching, brow-furrowing, brow-beating and me desperately trying to plead that I’m not winning, so it’s okay to trade with me, I swear.

The one obvious problem with Cider-and-Eel Confit-Nets was that it looks like a powerpoint presentation about alien societies prepared hungover in the five minutes before a job interview you aren’t going to get. Which brings me to the actual news, which is that Spidery Conversation is getting a swank new edition, with new art by the lovely Kwanchai Moriya, an improved rule book, and some actual graphic design.

I’m being super snarky, and this is actually really unfair on Tauceti Deichmann and the team. They put a huge amount of effort into finding ways to make the art on each of the cards relate to their absurdly deep and rich world that backs up this brilliant game. I can’t say the game is beautiful in its earlier iteration, but it is fascinating, functional and I’ve never seen anything quite like the thread that explains some of the thinking behind it all. I hope that the visual overhaul makes everything look a lot nicer whilst maintaining some of that depth. I’d love to see Slippery Condiments reach a much wider audience, as it’s delightfully unique.

Switching from grump to anger. There’s more developments in the ongoing Kickstarter union-busting debacle. The CEO of Kickstarter has made a statement, and responded to criticism by stating they are going to continue doing everything they legally can to resist unionisation. Kickstarter United (the nascent union in question) has been sharing the Current Affairs response to this statement, and a lot of argument has been happening in various quarters about who and how to resist the activities without harming workers and creators (not that I want to create a false dichotomy there).

Rowan, Rook and Decard, who currently have a project up on the platform, have a particularly nuanced take on what’s going on, that’s well worth a read. For now, the union is not calling for a boycott, but mileage may vary on how to approach that, and I’ve not picked out any projects to highlight this week. I still feel conflicted about that. Particularly as I’ve already linked to a game currently exclusive Amazon, a company I absolutely despise!

The CEO and the unions have both suggested that people should send their opinions to [email protected], so that may be a way to go. We’ll keep on monitoring the situation. Sorry there’s no way to make this funny. But that’s how anger works sometimes.

There’s so much vying for my ‘and finally’ slot today! Let’s do a whistlestop round up!

Bruno Faidutti has been in Tehran, and has posted a blog (scroll down if your French isn’t what it used to be) with some photos of his exploration. He’s been hanging out in boardgame cafes, playtesting with publishers and looking at cats.

Someone on Reddit made a giant outdoor version of Galaxy Trucker, and all I have to say to that is that I hope they remember to yell ‘punch it’ whenever they activate their double engines.

And we got an email from Danielle Schneider, aka the board game baker, who has instructions on how to make an edible game of Codenames, complete with biting into the word-biscuits to find out what team it’s on. The assassin is spicy!! It gave me the opportunity to use the phrase ‘word-biscuits’. Everyone’s a winner!

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