NY Toy Fair 2020 IV: Godzilla Defends Yacht Rock While Flying Pan Am, Thanks to Funko Games

by W. Eric Martin

I wrote about Funko GamesBack to the Future: Back in Time in mid-February 2020, but that was only one title of about twenty that Funko Games was showing behind closed doors at NY Toy Fair 2020. I can’t show much of anything that I saw in that booth, but I have more than enough to fill an entire post with pics and descriptions of new games, starting with a few things that were on display for all to see:

At the 2020 London Toy Fair, Funko Games had teased four new additions to the Funkoverse Strategy Game: two titles that feature the primary characters from Jurassic Park, the remaining two Golden Girls, and an expansion pack for the single character that anyone would care about from the Aggretsuko cartoon series. All four of these packs are scheduled to debut at retailers on March 1, 2020.

Aside from those four titles, Funko revealed three other forthcoming Funkoverse sets:

Okay, the Back to the Future set was first revealed in October 2019 with a release date of July 1, 2020, but the other two — Wonder Woman and Jaws — were first shown at NY Toy Fair 2020 as best as I can recall. Note that the Jaws characters are 3D printed and not final production figures. (What gives this away is that the box has a paper insert showing the characters instead of actually showing the characters.)

Wonder Woman is due out in August 2020, and the Jaws set doesn’t have an announced release date yet, but it has to come out in June, right? June 25, 2020 will be the 45th anniversary of the original movie, and who wouldn’t want to celebrate by having a slice or two of some Quint cake?

Of the other Funko Games titles that I saw, I can post overviews of these four, albeit only with cover images provided by the publisher. These titles — all credited to Prospero Hall, as with the Funkoverse titles above — will be released between June and October 2020.

• The flashiest title on this list is Godzilla: Tokyo Clash, a 2-4 player game that proves once again that no matter how many times Godzilla days, it’ll return to stomp another day. Here’s an overview of the design:

In Godzilla: Tokyo Clash, you play as the Earth’s most fearsome Kaiju — Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Megalon — battling for dominance as the most terrifying monster in Japan. With detailed miniatures of the legendary monsters and a modular cityscape of 3D buildings to destroy, it’s an epic battle every time you play!

In more detail, each player has their own deck of cards unique to the kaiju they control. As you throw trains and tanks at the opponents and attack them directly to cause damage, you can burn cards out of their deck, reducing their options on future turns. As you stomp through the city, you can earn energy, which can help you lay out permanent enhancements to your abilities.

• Combat of a far milder sort takes place in Last Defense, a real-time co-operative game for 2-6 players:

You have just twenty minutes to save the city!

Players team up as a band of unlikely heroes to face monstrous threats, from space aliens and spider robots to an oozing building-sized blob! Roll dice each turn to determine how far you can move and how many actions you can take, with one re-roll available for those two dice. Clear rubble from the streets to discover tools you can use to defend yourself or recruit the specialists you need to defeat the monsters.

The game’s app audio track enhances the tension with urgent news bulletins announcing where threats are attacking. You are the last defense!

• I had not heard of “yacht rock” prior to NY Toy Fair 2020, but when I researched bands that might be part of the genre — Michael McDonald, Ambrosia, 10cc, Toto, Kenny Loggins, Boz Scaggs, and Christopher Cross — I understood why. Nevertheless, the music genre has its fans, who apparently have a particular aesthetic in mind for the music and the lifestyle associated with it, and Funko Games has tried to channel all of that into the 2-6 player card game Yacht Rock:

Live the life of a 1970s Southern California yacht rocker!

In Yacht Rock, you team up with others to write soft-rock songs, find the perfect floral-print shirt and shades to complete your swanky look, and schmooze to success at yacht parties.

• The final title of this quartet might have the most appeal for the BGG audience, it being a combination of bidding, worker placement, route-building, and stock-holding. Here’s a quick take on Pan Am, which is for 2-4 players with a 60-minute playing time:

In Pan Am, players compete with Pan American Airways and others to build an air-travel empire. Outbid rivals for lucrative landing rights, buy planes with longer range to reach the far corners of the world, and use insider connections to advance your interests. As you bump up against the ever-growing Pan Am, you can sell your routes to the company to earn a tidy profit, with you then using that money to invest in other growth or to purchase Pan Am stock for what’s sure to be a big payout down the road.

Pan Am is a game of global strategy that spans four decades of industry-changing historic events.

In somewhat more detail, each round players can bid (Amun-Re style) for the right to take certain actions, such as purchasing routes, purchasing larger planes that can fly on longer routes, claiming airports, and acquiring special directive cards. Over the course of the game, the game-controlled Pan Am airline will start acquiring routes from the players, mirroring the way that Pan Am grew in the real world. You can then use those funds to pay more for the actions you want, but you also want to purchase stock in Pan Am itself, with the price of that stock starting low, then generally rising.

Plaid Hat Games (Mostly) Leaves Asmodee

by W. Eric Martin

In mid-2015, game publisher Plaid Hat Games was acquired by Canadian company F2Z Entertainment — parent company of Z-Man Games, Filosofia Éditions and Pretzel Games — with F2Z then being acquired by the Asmodee Group in 2016.

That deal is now being undone, at least to a small degree, with Plaid Hat announcing that as of Feburary 2020 it will leave the Asmodee Group to become an independent business once again — albeit with a few titles from its catalog being left behind as it walks out the door. Here’s an excerpt from the PHG press release about this deal:

On the 19th of February 2020 Plaid Hat Games’ Head of Studio and Founder – Colby Dauch – and the Asmodee Group reached an agreement wherein Dauch reacquired the independent rights to the Plaid Hat Games brand and the publication rights to many, but not all, of Plaid Hat’s current and past titles.

Asmodee retains the rights to publish the following game titles: Dead of Winter, Raxxon, Mice and Mystics, Stuffed Fables, Aftermath, and Battlelands. Asmodee has also retained the rights to the Adventure Book Games brand. Going forward, Dead of Winter and Raxxon will be published and supported by Fantasy Flight Games.

Mice and Mystics, Stuffed Fables, Aftermath, and Battlelands will be published and supported by Z-Man Games. Both Fantasy Flight Games and Z-Man Games are publishers belonging to the Asmodee Group.

FFG had its own announcement about the transfer of these titles, as did Z-Man Games, which included these quotes from Head of Studio Steve Kimball:

“The entire team is thrilled to be the new home of the Adventure Book games and continue to support them as well as explore new possibilities in that space.

“And, on a personal note, it’s been a real privilege for me to get to know Colby, Jerry, and Isaac over the past several years — not only as creative professionals, but also as true industry friends. Now that Colby’s back to his indie roots as a small business owner, I can’t wait to see what Plaid Hat comes up with next!”

Plaid Hat Games is the second Asmodee studio to regain its independence, with HeidelBÄR Games having been the first in March 2019.

NY Toy Fair 2020 III: Move Witches, Pick Colors, Collect Fish, and Deal with the Cards as Dealt

by W. Eric Martin

Time for more pics and notes about new games from NY Toy Fair 2020, starting with a peek into the offerings from AMIGO Games, the U.S. branch of German publisher AMIGO.

It’s interesting to note that AMIGO Games changes the titles and graphics of almost every game it releases compared to what appears on the German market. I remember this being an issue in 2018 when AMIGO Games first displayed its new look for No Thanks!, only to go in a different direction. From talking with company representatives, I learned that they apparently got feedback from potential buyers suggesting its initial graphic approach would not succeed on the U.S. market, so they changed courses and went with, what I would describe as, a louder and more direct look. That approach generally continues with these titles.

Non-final cards and packaging

I loved Katja Stremmel’s Krass Kariert when I first played it in 2018, but an English-language version didn’t seem to be forthcoming based on the game’s reception that year — then the game took off at a fairly influential private convention in 2019, and apparently word of mouth has now made it possible for Dealt! to be released in the U.S. in Q3 2020.

Note that the box and cards show above are not final, but the game will generally have that look, with less confusion being possible between the 1s and 7s. As for the gameplay, that remains the same, with players needing to play higher cards or card combos within a round or else be forced to pick up one of their two reserve cards. This isn’t always a bad thing, though, as you can’t change the order of cards in your hand, so sometimes adding a reserve card allows you to create a strong combo where one didn’t exist previously.

Non-final cards and packaging

AMIGO Games will release English-language versions of several other games that have already been released in Germany, such as Alex Cutler‘s Tatort Tonne, which will be released as Playin’ Possum since trash-grabbing raccoons already have a home on the U.S. game market in Trash Pandas.

In this game for 2-10 players, you’re trying to be the first to grab three pieces of trash or be the last possum still in the game. Each player has the same three cards: GRAB, ACCUSE, and SHINE WITH THE HOLY LIGHT OF INNOCENCE, although I don’t think these are their actual names. On a turn, each player secretly plays one of their cards face down, then everyone raises a hand and on the count of three, if someone has played an ACCUSE, they point at another player. If that player has played GRAB, then they’ve been caught and they’re out of the game; if they’ve played SHINE WITH…, then the accuser is out of the game for falsely accusing someone else of theft. If you played GRAB and weren’t accused, then you grab a piece of trash. Repeat rounds until someone wins.

Eric Kulzer from AMIGO says that Playin’ Possum was probably the game that most excited buyers at NY Toy Fair 2020, thanks partly or wholely due to the game now being packaged in a plastic trash can. As much as gamers are annoyed by unusual game-packing solutions, regular people (you know what I mean) don’t care about such things because they don’t have dozens or hundreds of games to store and just find such packages cute or clever or otherwise worth taking a look at. If packaging your game in a plastic trash can will double the sales of such game, then perhaps packaging your game in a plastic trash can is worth considering — except that you have to do something different since the plastic trash can packaging has already been done.

Non-final cards and packaging

Günter Burkhardt‘s Schwarz Rot Gelb will be released in the U.S. in Q3 2020 as None of a Kind, with players in this real-time game trying to lay out non-matching cards in front of themselves as quickly as possible. You might start with a card that has the word “red” written twice on it in yellow ink. Drawing from the deck or the face-up cards discarded during play, you need to play a card next in line that does not have red or yellow on it (whether in text or in color) and that does not have a word printed twice.

Once you do this, then you need to play something that doesn’t match your new card, and so on until you’ve reached or surpassed the length limit, which is based on the number of players. If you’ve made a mistake, then you lose the incorrect card and anything to the right of it. Whoever has the longest line then takes a point card of their choice, with the other point card going to whoever has the second-longest line. After five rounds, the player with the highest point total wins.

Bear Down! will be the English title of Grizzly: Lachsfang am Wasserfall, a late 2019 AMIGO release from Stefan Kloß and Anna Oppolzer. Each player is a bear trying to catch as many salmon as possible on a river bed that leads into a waterfall, but salmon are most common at the waterfall’s edge, jumping up the fall and being placed in the five river channels depending on the roll of the five dice each turn.

After the dice roll, players take turns moving their bears. If you’re already sitting on fish from a previous turn, you can bring them back to your rock for safety; if you’re on the rock, you can go somewhere in the river to sit on and reserve fish. You might want to gamble on grabbing fish near the edge of the waterfall, but if water comes up on that die on the next roll, then you add a water tile or two to that channel, which pushes everything down a space or two. Get pushed over the edge, and you lose your holdings. The game ends once the supply of salmon or water tiles has run out.

Non-final cards and packaging

Polar Panic is a Martin Nedergaard Andersen design for 2-6 players that falls in the “flip-and-slap” category of Jungle Speed and the like.

Spread out the cards on the table face down. On a turn, flip over one card, but not like the woman above who is flipping the card toward her and clearly trying to cheat! Flip the card face up onto the table. If any fish on this card match any fish already revealed, slap those two cards with separate hands. Cards show 1-3 fish, so sometimes you’ll have two or three matches at once across up to four cards. Other players can claim those cards at the same time you’re slapping something else. Make a mistake, and you have to throw a card back in the ocean.

Flip the fisherman, and you return everything face down once again to reset the board. Flip the polar bear, and bad things happen, then the bear returns to the ocean.

Non-final board and bits

Magic Mountain is a new release for AMIGO, and here’s an overview of how it plays:

In the co-operative game Magic Mountain, you want to help four good witches get down and off the mountain before three bad witches can do so.

The game board starts with six good witches near the top of various channels in the plastic surface covering the board; four bad witches are placed at lower intersection pints for these channels.

On a turn, you draw a colored marble from the bag, then drop it down one of the channels. If it hits a witch, that witch will stop the marble’s movement. You then remove that witch from the board and place it on the closest space matching the marble’s color below — that is, going down the game board from — that witch’s current location. The marble will then start to roll again, possibly hitting another witch and causing it to move down the board, and so on. When a good witch reaches the pool at the bottom of the board, it needs to be hit by one more marble to remove it from the board entirely. Remove four witches before three bad ones, and you win!


I visit The Op booth each year at NY Toy Fair, yet I can write about little-to-none of what I saw given that most of the games on display are under embargo for one reason or another. I’m curious to look, and I have notes for the future, but little to write about now.

That’s changed in 2020 as in addition to the announcement of Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion, as covered here, The Op has also publicized two other upcoming 2020 releases, with one of those being Hues and Cues, a 3-10 player game from Scott Brady.

The game board features 480 colors arranged in a pleasing manner similar to what’s shown on the game cover. On a turn, the active player draws a card that shows a handful of colors, picks one of those colors, then gives a one-word clue related to that color. Each other player places one of their markers on an unoccupied color square, then the active player gives a two-word clue related to that same color, and players once again mark a color, but in reverse player order. Once everyone has guessed twice, the active player places a cardboard frame that surrounds a 3×3 square area on the board centered on the chosen color. If anyone guessed that color, they score 3 points; anyone in one of the other eight squares within that frame scores 2 points; and anyone in a square adjacent to the frame scores 1 point. The active player scores 1 point for each guess inside the frame. (The details of clue-giving, guessing, and scoring vary depending on the number of players.)

• The other title from The Op is Telestrations: Upside Drawn, a standalone drawing-based party game for 4-12 players from Kane Klenko. In this game, which is due out in May 2020, players compete in teams, with the player who is drawing the image also guessing what they are drawing!

How this works is that the clue giver on a team rolls a die and looks at the category rolled: person, place, thing, action, or phrase. Each team’s clue giver is trying to get their team’s drawer to guess what is shown on the card, but the drawer’s only action is to hold the pen straight up and down above the dry-erase board. The clue giver gives the drawer commands, but only “Up” and “Down”, which doesn’t mean to draw a line up or down on the board, but literally to raise or lower the pen. The clue giver says “Down”, then once the pen is on the board, moves the board to draw something while the pen stays still — but upside down since they’re on the opposite side of the board from the drawer. When a part of the image is done, say “Up”, move the board, “Down”, then move the board again to draw. Whichever drawer guesses correctly first wins the round.

You can’t take pics in The Op booth due to all the embargoed material surrounding you, so I can’t share the awesome compass that I “drew” with the help of developer Jake Davis. It looked like a mirror image of a compass stepped on by an elephant, but I still guessed it, so let’s call it a win!

“New” Game Round-up: Sequels and Second Editions for Waste Knights, Capital Lux, Endogenesis, and More

by Candice Harris

Each year more and more (and more and more and more) new games are released…and somewhere mixed in the shuffle are revamped second editions and sequels of existing games. In some cases, it’s exciting for fans to see new versions of games that have been out of print for a while, e.g. Rococo and Dune. It can also be interesting to see designers taking a fresh approach to revamping and streamlining existing games while maintaining their core essence, e.g., Pax Pamir and Brass: Birmingham. Here are a few sequels and second editions to keep an eye out for in 2020:

• Polish publishing company Galakta will be releasing Marek Mydel and Paweł Szewc‘s Waste Knights: Second Edition in 2020. Waste Knights is a story-driven, post-apocalyptic adventure game for 1-4 players. Here’s an overview of the game from the publisher:

Waste Knights: Second Edition is a post-apocalyptic game of adventure and survival for 1-4 players inspired by cult classics of the post-apo movies and set in dystopian Australia destroyed by experiments of a powerful corporation. Each player becomes a rugged hero, traveling through the wasteland, facing unnatural weather and enemies forged in long-forgotten laboratories as well as experiencing adventures full of dramatic choices and disturbing characters.

The game is adventure-based, with each adventure branching out into a number of plots revealed depending on the players’ narrative choices. Each plot offers unique game mechanisms and stories that can be found in the “Book of Tales”; some of them are keyed to a particular adventure, some are generic, but all enable the players to immerse themselves in the setting and make decisions that change the world around them.

Since Waste Knights was originally released in 2015 by Badger’s Nest, the designers have learned and grown a lot stepping up their game (so to speak), working with a new team to revamp Waste Knights with improved art, story, and gameplay while maintaining the same setting and post-apocalyptic vibe. The core of Waste Knights is story-driven with some adventures played cooperatively while others are played competitively. In either case, each adventure offers several narrative choices contributing to the game’s high replayability and offering players a unique gaming experience.

Tim Fowers‘ cooperative heist game Burgle Bros has a sequel in the works for 1-4 players — Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers — co-designed by Jeff Krause. In the original 2015 version of Burgle Bros, players are members of a crew trying to rob a highly secure building without getting caught. The building has three floors, each with its own safe to crack. Players start on the first floor and have to all open three safes, then escape to their helicopter waiting on the roof to win the game.

In Burgle Bros 2, players try to take down a string of casinos during the day! While players still need to work together to explore the building without getting caught, nearly every other aspect of the game has been revamped to create an even more exciting experience. Burgle Bros 2 introduces gear to customize each player’s toolkit, new rooms with a mix of crazy and challenging effects, hidden perks and pitfalls, and finales to ensure that each game concludes with a big twist ending. As players complete finales, they also get to unlock new content for future games.

• Eric introduced us to Singapore designer/artist/self-publisher David Goh‘s 1-5 player cosmic battle card game Endogenesis in a post in December 2018.

Goh recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new expansion (Endogenesis: Beyond) in addition to a new edition of the base game — Endogenesis (2nd Edition). The second edition features major improvements including a revamped ruleset, an all-new game mode, and balance changes for cards.

Here’s what you can expect from the Endogenesis: Beyond expansion:

The expansion will boast new monsters, powers, mechanisms, and a new fresh experience for the most seasoned players. Furthering the depth of gameplay is the updated version of the base game, featuring improvements inspired by the feedback and support of players who backed the original campaign.

• Norweigan publisher Aporta Games will release Capital Lux 2, a standalone, streamlined sequel to Eilif Svensson and Kristian Amundsen Østby‘s Capital Lux. For those unfamiliar with this hidden gem filler that was originally released in 2016, here’s a high-level synopsis from the publisher:

The core of the game revolves around the following dilemma: Do you play character cards in your home base for points, or contribute them to the capital to benefit from their powers?

At the end of a round, you are not allowed to have a higher total value in your home base for any color than the current total value in the capital. Exceeding the limit will make you lose those cards. At the end of the third round, all cards remaining in your home base are worth points.

The game therefore turns into an act of balancing on a razor’s edge: Secure as many points for yourself without exceeding the capital’s limit, always taking into account the current capital powers.

Capital Lux 2 adds a variety of new capital powers that can be mixed and matched allowing for a total of 256 unique power combinations, including one combination that plays as the original Capital Lux with the other 255 bringing brand new tactical challenges. Sounds like plenty of replayability to me! Though I have not seen updated artwork for Capital Lux 2 yet, I’m sure fans of Kwanchai Moriya will not be disappointed.

• Last but certainly not least, it’s also worth checking out Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy, which will come out in 2020. You might have caught Eric’s post mentioning it in February 2018, or perhaps you’ve already received your copy from the Q3 2018 Kickstarter campaign. The new edition has dramatically improved upon Touko Tahkokallio‘s original 2011 Eclipse. This sci-fi, 4X classic plays with 2-6 players and has been around a while, but if you’ve been living in the shadow of this particular Eclipse, here’s an idea of what it’s all about:

Eclipse places you in control of a vast interstellar civilization. Explore new star systems, research technologies, and build spaceships with which to wage war. There are many potential paths to victory, so you need to plan your strategy according to the strengths and weaknesses of your species, while paying attention to the other civilizations’ endeavors.

Eclipse is a “4X” game in which players command a human or alien species that explores, expands, exploits, and exterminates their way to victory. Over eight rounds, each player selects actions to achieve their goals, carefully managing resources, engaging in epic battles with one another and the Ancients that lie in wait. Only one will guide the galaxy toward the second dawn.

Here are some of the updates you can expect in Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy:

—New graphic design, while maintaining the acclaimed symbology of the first edition

—An introductory short story by award-winning science fiction novelist Johanna Sinisalo, providing rich background for the world of Eclipse

—A full line of Ship Pack 1 miniatures

—New miniatures for ancients, GCDS, orbitals, and more

—Custom plastic inlays

—Custom combat dice

—Fine-tuned gameplay

NY Toy Fair 2020 II: Forgotten Waters, Patchwork: Americana, Sugar Blast, and Catan in 3D

by W. Eric Martin

NY Toy Fair 2020 is still underway as I write this report, but I’ve already left Manhattan with a pocketful of pics and more than enough notes to keep me busy until GAMA Expo 2020 opens in two weeks, so let’s get started before the next tide of info arrives.

We’ll also have edited game overview videos from the FIJ 2020 game fair in Cannes, France in the next couple of weeks, so you will have more games to explore than you can possible imagine!

Components not final

The Asmodee North America booth was showing a mock-up of a new 3D version of Catan. A representative from Catan Studio told me that with copies of the 2005 Catan 3D Collector’s Edition selling for many hundreds of dollars over its original US$300 price tag, the publisher thought it made sense to bring this item back to market, although current plans call for the pieces to be manufactured from hard plastic instead of resin, which would likely lower the price tag from what a resin-based version would sell for these days.

The Catan Studio rep said that the water pieces will be made from the same material as the island tiles, and the ports will be represented by ship figures that feature the tradable good.

Fallout Shelter: The Board Game from Andrew Fischer and Fantasy Flight Games has all the players collectively building a shared fallout shelter, while personally tending to their people in order to maintain their happiness — while still sending them out to work in locations where they might be overrun by monsters, which are represented by plastic overlays that make a place impossible to visit while occupied.

Patchwork: Americana Edition from Uwe Rosenberg and Lookout Games features gameplay identical to ye olde Patchwork, but with graphics that match Americana quilting styles. I posted these pics on Twitter and saw many people saying they prefer the original look, but those people are not the customers for which this edition is intended. If I were to purchase this game for most people in my extended family, this is the version I would give as it would look more familiar and inviting to them.

Shows like these emphasize how hard it is to keep up with new game announcements. I had seen Forgotten Waters — a design from Isaac Vega, J. Arthur Ellis, Mr. Bistro, and Plaid Hat Games — at an earlier non-public event, but now the game is out in the open, so let’s put up a page and say a little about the game:

Forgotten Waters is a Crossroads Game set in a world of fantastical pirate adventure. In it, players take on the role of pirates sailing together on a ship, attempting to further their own personal stories as well as a common goal.

The world of Forgotten Waters is silly and magical, with stories designed to encourage players to explore and laugh in delight as they interact with the world around them. It’s a game in which every choice can leave a lasting impact on the story, and players will want turn over every rock just to see what they find.

Forgotten Waters features five scenarios and a massive location book that provides players with tons of choices wherever they go.

In the game, each player has a character (sheets shown at lower right) that they customize in various ways, and as you progress through scenarios, you can boost stats and gain bonuses, although different characters max out at different levels. You’ll use these skills to overcome threats and continue your adventure. As your ship progresses on the water, you’ll encounter new situations, such as the two depicted above. In an encounter, at least one player must visit a red activity, at most one player can visit a blue activity, and any number of players can visit a green activity.

Forgotten Waters will include an app to provide crossroad moments, and the design seems like a cross between a Crossroads game and an AdventureBook game like Stuffed Fables.

Rory’s Story Cubes: Star Wars is pretty much what you’d expect it to be: nine dice that collectively feature 54 iconic characters, objects, and vehicles from the Star Wars films. Roll the dice, then create a story from what’s visible. Can you craft a tale that won’t have people rushing to Twitter and Facebook to complain?!

Tea for 2 from Cédrick Chaboussit and Space Cowboys is a two-player-only, deck-building game of sorts. On a turn, you each play a card from your deck, and whoever plays the higher card can use that card’s effect or buy a new card for their deck with the difference between the two played cards being the amount you have to spend, although you can increase that amount by paying tarts.

You want to manipulate the clock that determines which bonus is available, with players having the long-term goal of winning points and being able to pick up bonus tiles along the way that reward them for collecting or doing different things.

Sugar Blast is a “match 3” style tabletop game from Leo Almeida, Matthew O’Malley, Ben Rosset, and CMON Limited. On a turn, you swap two adjacent pieces in the grid, then remove any rows or columns of three or more matching pieces. After doing this, you tilt the board in your direction to see whether you have any more matches. If so, remove those pieces, then tilt again! You keep at least one piece from each set you make, and the long-term goal is to be the first to satisfy the random goal card for that game, such as four different-colored pairs of tokens (as shown here) or a pair and a four-of-a-kind of different colors.

Designer Diary: Firefly Dance

by Josep M Allué

In addition to designing 3F (fun/family/filler) games, I like science and magical effects, which means I really like scientific experiments that surprise you and make you think, “How did they do that?”

A few years ago, I saw an experiment on YouTube about how to light a lamp that wasn’t connected to anything by placing it close to a small Tesla coil. While seeing this, I said to myself, “Hey, I’m sure there’s a game hidden in here.”

Following various tutorials, I bought a roll of copper wire, the right kind of lamp, and a 9-volt battery, and I made a coil by wrapping the wire hundreds of times. Then, very excited, I connected to the battery and gradually brought it close to the lamp, waiting for it to light up.

My first (and failed) attempt

The effect was immediate, yet rather unexpected. Even today, I’m not sure whether it gave me an electric shock or burnt me directly, but, my goodness, it hurt!

I never did get that lamp to turn on, but I thought that if I could manage to do it, I could have small pieces that would light up on their own no matter where on the game board you placed them. As a magical effect, it would be really nice — the only problem was that I had no idea how to do it.

I kept wondering how to turn on a light without any kind of connection until one day a friend said: “You need to get a magnetic switch connected to an LED and a battery, then place it close to a magnet.” Eureka!

The key component of the prototype

I spent the following weeks testing how to assemble the pieces, while at the same time thinking about designing a game with them. It had to be a game with a magical theme, so while I was soldering and testing non-stop, it occurred to me that I could make four fireflies with a different color for each one. To light them, you would have to touch them with a magic wand that would show you which color each one was. I had it!

The fireflies in full action

And if there were a magic wand, there had to be a fairy or a magician so that gave me the final component to create the story for the game: “Every night, a small fairy would go out to dance with her friends, the fireflies, to turn on their lights. Will you help them dance together?”

Front of the prototype

Depending on which square the fairy finished her movement, the fireflies would perform different actions such as moving or swapping positions, which would force the players to continuously memorize which color each one was.

Final prototype

When it was time to dance, the player had to take one of their dance cards, and to win that card, they had to turn on the fireflies in the order shown. The first player to correctly perform four dances would win the game.

Dance cards from the prototype

With the prototype ready, it was time to test it on children — and wow, what a success! They loved moving both the fairy and the fireflies, memorizing their positions, and turning them on with the magic wand. And beating their parents, of course. It seemed that everything was ready to be presented.

I took the prototype to Essen, and many German, French, and even some American publishers liked it. Many copies of the prototype were ordered, and a large publisher even paid a thirty-day reservation fee, but in the end, no one decided to publish it. They really liked the game, but it was difficult to develop technically, and the components were expensive — too much investment and too much risk. Little by little, the prototypes came back.

Although I wasn’t exactly joyous, a few years ago I would have been much more disappointed to see them back. By this time, though, I had already gone through a similar process with my game Go Cuckoo! (designed with Víktor Bautista i Roma), which was finally published by HABA after being rejected by a long list of publishers due to production problems.

I continued to show people the game until I met the Korea Boardgames team at SPIEL ’18. It was love at first sight. They saw the game and requested a prototype, and in less than a month, the contract was signed. At the FIJ 2019 game fair in Cannes, France, Ivan from Korea Boardgames proposed some small changes to the game dynamics and components that, in my opinion, improved the game, so we implemented them.

Just before SPIEL ’19, I received the cover and the photo of the final game, and what can I say? I loved the work done by Korea Boardgames and the illustrations from ZAO.

The fireflies and their magic friend!!

The game fair in Essen featured a giant version of the game and was one of the hits of the booth. At the end of the fair, copies were sold out, so I think it was liked by the players.

Playing at SPIEL ’19

Now it’s time to look for new publishers around the world who want some magic in their catalogs. Let’s see whether the fireflies will fly far beyond!

Josep M. Allué

Game Overview: Chili Dice, or Spicy Dice By Another Name

by W. Eric Martin

At Spielwarenmesse 2020, BGG recorded an overview of Chili Dice, a game from Andy Daniel and AMIGO. During that video overview, I mentioned that Daniel had previously designed and published a collection of dice games called Spicy Dice under the brand Enginuity that uses the same type of special six-sided dice found in Chili Dice — dice that feature a red face on one side, with the six dice in the game having one red 1, one red 2, and so on.

As it turns out, the story is more complicated than that.

At NY Toy Fair 2020, which I attended after recording the video posted below, I happened to run into Andy Daniel, who was running an Enginuity booth and selling Spicy Dice — except that he wasn’t selling the Spicy Dice game collection from 2004, but a standalone game called Spicy Dice that was not included in that earlier collection, a standalone game that Daniel released through Enginuity in 2018, a standalone game that Daniel had licensed to AMIGO, which had changed the name to Chili Dice.

Daniel mentioned during our conversation at NY Toy Fair that he was much more of a designer than a marketer, which is a fair thing to say given that Spicy Dice — the new one — didn’t have a BGG listing until I made one to accompany this posting.

In any case, here’s an overview of Chili Dice, which is available in the U.S. under one name and in Germany under another. Either way, the game plays the same. In general, Chili Dice is akin to Yahtzee as each player will roll dice and score separately in multiple categories such as points for 1s, straight, and chance.

Where Chili Dice differs from that earlier game is that players have at most thirty rolls during the entire game, with them being able to allocate as many rolls as they want across the ten categories in which they’ll score. Roll five 4s and want to press your luck rolling a sixth 4 to grab 75 points? Go right ahead!

The red faces on the dice are the other element that differs from Yahtzee. When you roll a red face, you can change that die to any number you want, which is great for creating a straight of six numbers or creating pairs and triples. If you keep a red face, however, you can gain bonuses in different ways. If you’re collecting dice showing a single number from 1 to 6 and you have the red face showing that number, then the sum of those dice is doubled. Four 6s is 24 points, but if one of those dice is red, then you have 48 points. If you have a straight with a red 1, then you can score those 21 points in a straight like normal, or you can score 21 points in the 1 category, which normally doesn’t net you many points.

If you fill all the categories, then you score 5 points for each roll unused — but winning scores in my six non-solo games on a review copy from AMIGO have typically been 300 points or more, which means that players are averaging at least 10 points per roll, which means you’d probably be better off rolling repeatedly to maximize your score in various ways instead of stopping early.

I go into more detail about the gameplay, the scoring categories, and why puzzle-based games aren’t the same as puzzles in this video:

Youtube Video

Oriflamme, Res Arcana, and Dream Catcher Win As d’Or 2020; Pictionary Air Wins 2020 TOTY

by W. Eric Martin

On Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, on the eve of the Festival International des Jeux in Cannes, France, the winners of the As d’Or — France’s game of the year award — were announced, with first-time designers Adrien and Axel Hesling and first-time publisher Studio H winning the main As d’Or for the card game Oriflamme.

In that game, each player has a deck of the same ten cards, but three cards are removed at random from each player’s deck, which means your cards will differ from everyone else’s. Each player in turn plays a card face down in the queue, with each card being placed at the front or end of the line. After all players have played, starting at the front of the line a player has the option of placing an influence on a card or flipping it over, claiming all influence on it, then using its ability. Starting with the second round, you can play on top of one of your own cards, in addition to the usual front and back of the line. After six rounds, whoever has collected the most influence wins.

Runners-up in this category were Draftosaurus, Fiesta de Los Muertos, and Little Town.

Res Arcana from Tom Lehmann and first-time publisher Sand Castle Games won the As d’Or in the expert category, beating out fellow nominees Gloomhaven, It’s a Wonderful World, and Root.

The winner of the children’s As d’Or was Dream Catcher from Laurent Escoffier, David Franck, and Space Cow, a game in which players attempt to cover up nightmares on square tiles with cuddly toys on round tiles. You want to pick the tile that’s just the right size since you score more dream tokens when you use a smaller toy, but if you don’t cover the nightmare, then you get nothing.

Runners-up for the children’s As d’Or were Hedgehog Roll, Yum Yum Island, and 2019 Kinderspiel des Jahres Valley of the Vikings.

• On the eve of NY Toy Fair on Feb. 21, Mattel won the 2020 Toy of the Year (TOTY) in the game category for Pictionary Air, besting seven other nominees: Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared, Funkoverse Strategy Game, Heist, Ms. Monopoly, Orangutwang, Throw Throw Burrito, and UNO Braille.

Grab Your Scooby Snacks and Prepare for Betrayal at Mystery Mansion

by W. Eric Martin

On Feb. 20, 2020, I wrote about how three games based on the Back to the Future movie franchise will be released in 2020.

Turns out that’s not the only media property being gamified in multiple ways this year as the recently announced game Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion from The OP will have to share shelf space in game stores with Betrayal at Mystery Mansion, a game from Avalon Hill and Rob Daviau, Banana Chan, Noah Cohen, and Brian Neff that will debut on May 15, 2020 — the same day that the Warner Brothers movie SCOOB! will open in theaters.

As for what’s in the game, here’s an overview:

Based on the award-winning Betrayal at House on the Hill board game, Betrayal at Mystery Mansion is the mash-up fans have been clamoring for!

Play as Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, or Fred as you explore the mansion and its grounds, finding clues, encountering strange occurrences, and maybe even catching sight of a monster! When you find enough clues to learn what’s really going on, that’s when the haunt starts, and one player will switch sides to play the role of the monster! Will you be able to stop them before they carry out their sinister plan?

Betrayal at Mystery Mansion contains 25 new haunts based on popular episodes and movies from the Scooby-Doo oeuvre, with different monsters, items, events, and locations each time you play.

NY Toy Fair 2020 I: SpongeBob Meets Fluxx, and FoxMind Invites You to Chop More Wood

by W. Eric Martin

I’ve finished my first day at NY Toy Fair 2020, having taken lots of pictures and many notes about things that can and can’t be talked about. We see a few licensed products at the Spielwarenmesse trade fair, but NY Toy Fair is a bonanza of licensing, with games, dolls, scooters, drones, squish toys, bubble wands, and much more carrying images from a huge assortment of IPs.

Some of those pairings make perfect sense, as with Looney Labs‘ announcement of Andy Looney‘s SpongeBob SquarePants Fluxx, which has a U.S. street date of May 21, 2020. The chaotic nature of both Fluxx and SpongeBob inspires a “Yes, of course, why didn’t this happen earlier?” Like the 2019 releases of Marvel Fluxx and Jumanji Fluxx, this “Specialty Edition” from Looney Labs is packaged in a larger-than-normal box for Fluxx, with a poker-style coin and seven bonus cards. (Looney Labs didn’t have a mock-up of the game on hand for NY Toy Fair, so I’ve included the cover image that the company sent to me directly.)

What Looney Labs did have on display were mock-ups of the four “Pyramid Quartet” titles being crowdfunded on Kickstarter (KS link) as they’re showing these titles to retailers and explaining how they can serve as expansions for Pyramid Arcade (if the retailers are already carrying that item) or sold as standalone games that can serve as an entry point to the larger world of pyramid games (should they not be carrying that item).

Non-final copies

Much of the work that goes on at NY Toy Fair and other trade shows is educational. Retailers can’t see everything on the market, and new stores open all the time, so even when a title is old (or even “old” in the sense that it came out 1-2 years ago), that game is often new to whoever is approaching the publisher’s booth. From the publisher’s perspective, they need to show why this retailer would want to carry the game and how the retailer would introduce the game to potential customers. If you can help retailers sell your wares, you’ve effectively enlisted them as a salesperson in your company, but a salesperson who buys the game from you in order to spread it amongst the community.

At one publisher’s booth, two fair attendees asked the company representative whether a Spanish version of the game existed. Yes, company A has a license and plans to release the game in Spain at time B. Okay, but what about in South America? No, we don’t have that; let’s set up a time to talk.

I heard representatives from France, Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, and many other places asking about the availability of titles, whether via direct sales from the publisher, through a licensee, or through a possible license. Business at shows like Origins, Gen Con, and SPIEL often takes the form of individual sales, ideally to those alpha gamers who will then introduce the game to others, spreading awareness of a design; business at shows like NY Toy Fair and Spielwarenmesse can be a half-hour meeting that results in five hundred copies sold — or fifty thousand copies, or nothing. The event can have a lottery-like feel as you don’t always know who’s going to show up at your booth and what might result from that first “Hello”.

Anyway, more about games…

Canadian publisher FoxMind has a new version of Justin Oh’s Click Clack Lumberjack coming to market under the name TacTac Jack, with the game due out “soon”. In the game, you use the plastic axe to chop at the plastic discs, trying to knock them just far enough that the bark arcs on the sides fall off (as you score points from those), but not far off that you get the core as that’s a huge negative.

FoxMind also has a new version of Andreas Kuhnekath’s excellent abstract strategy game Kulami coming to market in April 2020. To play, fit the wooden blocks together in some manner, then take turns adding a marble to the board. After I place a marble, you must then place your marble in the same row or column as the marble I just placed, but you can’t place it in the same block or on the block where you placed a marble the previous turn. If a player can’t play, then the game ends. Players claim the blocks where they have a majority of marbles, then you score points for all the divots in those blocks, whether filled or empty. Whoever has the high score wins.

FoxMind’s David Capon said that the only change to this edition is that it includes two “capping” pieces that you can place over your most recently played marble. In the late game, this makes it easier to see in which row or column you must play and where you last placed.

In Q3 2020, FoxMind plans to release a new edition of Alberto Corazón Arambarri’s Secret Operation, a 4-10 player hidden identity game that debuted in 2019 from Brain Picnic and Zacatrus.

In the game, one or more players are working against the others to keep a robot from being constructed. On a turn, you place one of the three cards in your hand face down on any one of the unfinished robot spaces, saying what you’re placing there or not as you wish. Once a space has as many cards as is indicated, with that number varying based on the number of players, you shuffle those cards, then reveal them. If all the required cards are included, that piece of the robot is built; if not, you discard the cards and learn that someone who played there is not working with the team. You must build all of the robot before the deck runs out, or the traitors win.

Another reissue from FoxMind is Alex Randolph’s Figure It, first released in 1975 as Domemo. The game consists of 28 tiles, with one 1, two 2s, and so on up to seven 7s. After shuffling the tiles, players take 4-7 tiles depending on the player count and face them away from themselves. Some tiles are left face down, and some might be turned face up. On a turn, based on what you see and what others have said, you ask an opponent whether you have a particular number, and if you do, they reveal a tile with this number in your hand. Whoever first reveals their hand wins.

My friend Ken Shoda offers this “shoot for the moon” variant in which you can win the game immediately if you can name all of your tiles correctly.

Jeppe Norsker‘s Match Madness is a real-time pattern-building game in which each player has five rectangular blocks with domino-style markings on them, and during a round players race to assemble their blocks to match the pattern revealed on a target card. (The game has different variations in which multiple cards are in play.)

Match Madness: Extreme expands the game by giving each player a single cube that has four markings on it. Now you’ll have a much tougher time figuring out how to replicate the patterns since not everything is chunked into domino shapes.

Slam Bluff is the second “game in a collapsible dice cup” from FoxMind. You shake the dice, then slam down on the cup with your hand, which collapses it and locks the dice in place. You then secretly look at the dice and Bluff-style give a number created by the dice (or just make up a number). The next player calls your bluff or takes the cup, looks at it, then says a higher number, with the subsequent player needing to call them out or raise.

Slam Words has a similar cup, but you smash it, reveal the letters, then race to name a word that contains those letters before anyone else can.


I had hoped to post more from this show, but the internet is junky in this hotel, and the fair opens again in a half hour, so I need to head back to the Javits Center to take more pics and notes. For now, I’ll leave you with a full frontal Pikachu shot: