COVID-19 at the Gaming Table IV: Delayed Releases, Free Games, and a Print-and-Play Design Contest

by W. Eric Martin

• U.S. publisher Renegade Game Studios has announced that it “will be suspending shipments of website and wholesale orders” as of March 24, 2020. More from the announcement:

Renegade’s future release calendar is being reevaluated and we will be delaying new releases until our retail partners are back and able to open safely. Our distribution partners have informed us that they will also be ceasing operation for a time. We feel this is absolutely the right call for everyone involved. The sooner we can come together and take these difficult steps the sooner we can move forward together.

During this time Renegade will continue to work on new games. We will continue to engage with you, our fans, through our various social media channels. We’re exploring new ways to have fun together online and make the most of the situation. Most of the Renegade staff works remotely so for most of us this is not a major change to our routine.

Many of our staff have families and added responsibilities now that schools are closed. I would ask that you keep that in mind when contacting us thru customer service or any other channels of communication. Rest assured that we are working and will attend to your needs as quickly as possible.

Those last two paragraphs apply to the BGG staff as well since we pretty much all work independently at home, yet many of us now have youngsters sharing that space, which increases the time required for most tasks by 50%.

• Similarly Fireside Games is delaying the release of the party game Stringamajig — a smart choice given that you need 4-10 players as explained in this demo video from GAMA Expo 2020 — and delaying the launch of its Kickstarter campaign for Castle Panic Deluxe.

Youtube Video

• The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has an online document that catalogs (mostly U.S.-based) game publishers that are offering to share a portion of each online sale through their own websites with a brick-and-mortar store named by the buyer at the time of purchase.

(Some vendors on that list mention that they are honoring a “GAMA Expo show special”. What this refers to is a special offer from that publisher to both brick-and-mortar retailers who attended GAMA Expo 2020 and those who cancelled their trips and failed to attend. Publishers don’t want to publish retailers for worrying about the safety of their staff, so they’re offering these special deals regardless. As for whether those stores are open and can take advantage of such offers, well, that’s another story…)

• If you’re looking for games to play at home, French publisher KYF Edition has released an English-language print-and-play version (link) of Fou Fou Fou!, a game by Corentin Lebrat and Théo Rivière in which you just have to follow the rules on the cards in order not to lose points, with more and more rules entering play over the course of the game and with you being ejected should you lose your third point.

Pierô, who is co-owner of KYF Edition, says that more than ten thousand copies of the game have been sold in France since September 2019, but no English-language edition is forthcoming and folks have been asking for one, so they decided to release this file for now: “The only purpose here is to bring 10-15 minutes of laughs and good times in family when people can’t go out.”

• Similarly, UK publisher Big Potato has released a print-and-play version (PDF) of its 2015 party game Mr Lister’s Quiz Shootout, which is currently out of print.

• Polish publisher Portal Games is also going the “stay at home” route by offering a Detective: Suburbia scenario (PDF) that provides everything you need to play the game, regardless of whether you own the Detective base game, and three solo scenarios for Empires of the North that you can play with any clan (PDF).

This is only the start of free goodies from Portal Games during this time: “Check out this page tomorrow! We’re preparing even more awesome content to entertain you. Take care and stay safe! #stayathome”

• Eduardo Baraf of Pencil First Games is sponsoring a “stay at home” game design contest, with the games having at most four pages of rules, embodying a positive theme, and being available as a print-and-play release so that folks practicing social distancing can make the game for themselves. Submissions can sent from April 15-30, 2020. Details in this video and the notes below the video:

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COVID-19 at the Gaming Table II: More Delays, Cancellations, and Publisher Support for Brick-and-Mortar Stores

by W. Eric Martin

• U.S. publisher WizKids is preemptively cancelling its appearances at both Origins Game Fair 2020 and UK Games Expo 2020, noting that it is “currently discussing options for the status for our WizKids U.S. National Championships”. An excerpt from this announcement:

We understand that things are changing rapidly all the time, and should it make sense and is safe to do so, we will consider attending events during the Q2-Q3 timeframe but with a smaller footprint than you are normally used to seeing from us. If so, we will post when and where these events may be held.

At this time, we are still planning to attend our regularly attended Q4 events. This includes The WizKids World Championships at Graceland, PAX Unplugged, BGG.CON, and more.

• Like several other publishers in my first post along these lines, Fireside Games is offering a “Play-at-Home” sale in which buyers receive a 25% discount on all orders placed through its online store, with 25% of each payment going to the brick-and-mortar store you list in the “Order Notes” section of the purchase.

• In that previous post, I mentioned that IELLO plans to release King of Tokyo: Dark Edition early since it can’t do the simultaneous worldwide launch that it had originally planned. On top of that, if you place an online order for the game in the U.S. through IELLO, the publisher will split the funds with whichever brick-and-mortar retailer you name.

• As of April 1, 2020, Burnt Island Games and Kids Table BG will donate 20% of net funds from online orders through its websites to the brick-and-mortar retailer of your choice.

Deep Water Games is offering 25% of sales to named b&m stores, whereas Game Brewer is asking retailers to contact them ( for a coupon code that users can use when purchasing online that will then send 30% of the sale to the linked retailer. Forbidden Games is handing over 50% of online sales to the b&m retailer you name.

Expect to see more such profit-sharing plans from publishers in the weeks ahead, assuming that “stay at home” rules don’t keep people from shipping out games. Japanime Games, for example, which was part of my previous post on this topic, has announced that its warehouse in Indiana will close from the end of March 24 until at least April 7. Greater Than Games has ended parcel shipments until approximately April 22.

• In mid-March 2020, I reached out to publishers with questions about how they might be changing plans for the year, and Leon Scheuber at Korea Boardgames said that after production delays in China due to factory shutdowns, Fruit Picking and Four Gardens are both now being manufactured. The games will be for sale in Korea soon, and the plan is to sell them at both Gen Con 2020 — which the publisher will appear at for the first time in Entrepreneurs’ Avenue — and SPIEL ’20. Showdown Tactics, which BGG previewed at Spielwarenmesse 2020, will receive “aesthetic updates” ahead of its debut at Gen Con 2020 alongside the “murder mystery” game Suspects.

Notes Scheuber, “Monster Dentist and four yet unannounced games will be released at SPIEL ’20”, which means that Korea Boardgames will have nine new releases at that show compared to what its catalog contained at SPIEL ’19.

Scheuber added that the Seoul Boardgame Festa — “the biggest board game event in the country” — scheduled for May 2-3, 2020 has been cancelled. The Festa scheduled for November 14-15 is still on for now.

• I also heard from Kevin Kim at Korean publisher Mandoo Games, who noted the following:

—The Korea government is doing quite well. We have total 8,961 cases, and the daily new cases have been under 100 since last week. However, we’re still worrying about the group infection cases such as at church or in a hospital.

—As most of our distribution partners are in the EU and they are working at home, our new release schedules should also be delayed. We just hope SPIEL will be held as planned.

Along those lines, I thought that I had finished publishing all of the Spielwarenmesse 2020 overview videos that we had recorded in late January and early February, but Kim pointed out that we had not published the one for Gabriele Bubola’s Merchant of Dunhuang, a late 2020 release from Mandoo. Lincoln quickly find that file, and now it’s live, letting us finally close our coverage on that show for good.

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COVID-19 at the Gaming Table III: Asmodee, Alliance and ACD Stop Shipments; Tokyo Game Market Cancels Its Spring Show

by W. Eric Martin

• Alliance Game Distributors is closing its active warehouses in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Austin, Texas at the end of the workday on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 “in the interest of employee safety and to comply with direction from local governments”, says Steve Geppi, CEO of Alliance owner Geppi Family Enterprises. (Warehouses in New York, California, and Pennsylvania had already closed.) “Any orders not shipped by that time will not be processed until further notice. Your dedicated sales team will still be working remotely and help you with any orders you’d like to place today or questions you may have.”

Along similar lines, Diamond Comic Distributors, which is also owned and run by Geppi Family Enterprises, will not ship any comics with an “on sale” date of April 1, 2020 or later to stores. What’s more, as reported on Bleeding Cool, “Diamond Comic Distributors is requesting that no more product be shipped to any of its warehouses until further notice.” Here’s an excerpt from a article on this topic:

This is a significant signal towards the future for comics shops around the country. Diamond is the exclusive distributor of new releases from all of the comics direct market’s biggest publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, BOOM! Studios, and IDW Publishing, as well as many of the smaller publishers. Diamond controls such a significant portion of the direct market that the system cannot function as is without the distributor.

• Alliance doesn’t have the dominance in the U.S. game industry that Diamond does in the comic industry, but it does have exclusive distribution rights in the U.S. to titles from Asmodee North America, and sometime during the week of March 16, Asmodee sent the following note to its customers:

Dear valued retailers,

We hope this finds you all safe and healthy. As the U.S. continues to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we see changes occurring on a daily, sometimes, hourly basis. Due to shelter-in-place orders or other limitations, we understand that stores are closing or adapting to a shopping experience that respects social distancing.

Asmodee USA Distribution has decided that through April 2020, there will be no new releases beyond today’s TIME Stories Revolution and Spot it! Frozen 2 next Friday, March 27. We believe revisiting these delayed titles will be beneficial to stores and the industry when people can begin shopping at their stores again.

However, our warehouse remains open at this time. We are committed to fulfilling orders on our full catalog of currently released games for stores that can continue servicing their community. We have found that as households prepare for quarantine, many of the Best Sellers titles have performed well along with games families can enjoy together, so we want to make sure you have that stock if needed.

We are monitoring the situation as it develops, and we want to protect the health and safety of our employees and their families. We will send a weekly update on the status of the warehouse and any other changes that occur.

Asmodee USA wishes you, your families, and your stores the best during these times. If you have questions, please contact your sales representative.

Given the announcement from Alliance, Asmodee’s warehouse may or may not be open given that buyers can purchase from Asmodee directly. In any case, even those March 27 releases seem iffy unless (1) they’ve already been shipped to retail stores and (2) those stores are still open for business.

A representative from a game café in Canada notes that Asmodee has also stopped distribution in that country “because Quebec is closing non-essentials”.

• Tied in with the news above, Wisconsin has issued a “safe at home” order that took effect Tuesday, March 24, which means that the ACD Distribution warehouse in Middleton, Wisconsin is likely now closed as well.

One publisher told me that most distributor warehouses have stopped accepting product, “many quite abruptly, with shipments in transit with now nowhere to go”. They added, “We have no nationally coordinated plan from the government, so there’s going to be a ton of freight in limbo all across the country — not just games, but other consumer goods.” (Out with “E pluribus unum” as the United States motto; in with “no nationally coordinated plan”!)

• The Tokyo Game Market event scheduled for April 25-26, 2020 has been cancelled, and here’s an excerpt from that announcement, which combines a Google translation with my editing:

Assuming that the event would have been held, the Game Market Secretariat knows that masks must be worn, that temperature checks must be taken at the entry points, that disinfecting alcohol must be installed at various locations in the venue, that handwashing areas must be available in the venue, that the shutters must be open. We were considering various measures such as thorough ventilation, the introduction of a fast pass to eliminate the queue that occurs in the morning, entrance restrictions every thirty minutes, and cancellation of trial play. Under these conditions, even if the event were held, it was already thought that it could not be called a game market with the philosophy of “I want to be an event that allows everyone to have fun and naturally care for others.”

Most worrisome was the potential reputational damage to board games. If an infection explosion occured in Tokyo and various parts of Japan after the Game Market 2020 spring season, criticism from the surroundings would be inevitable, even if there were no direct causal relationship. If a company is criticized, you can accept it, but if the image of the entire board game community deteriorates, it will not be undone. The purpose of the Game Market, which is to contribute to the development and promotion of board games, should not be a factor in reducing the image of board games.

The pain of self-restraint in the Game Market can be immeasurable, but the potential damage is even more immeasurable. The Secretariat said that at this time, we have to endure a lack of Game Market so that everyone could have fun playing at Game Market in five and ten years.

New Game Round-up: Card-Based Gears of War, Keyper Crabs, and Matt Leacock’s To-Do List

by W. Eric Martin

• At the Gears 5 Esports Mexico City Major event that took place March 6-8, 2020, in Mexico City — an event for online players of the Gears of War series, UK publisher Steamforged Games previewed Gears of War: The Card Game from designer Tyler Bielman.

Here’s an overview of the game, which is due out in the second half of 2020:

Gears of War: The Card Game offers an immersive way to enjoy Gears of War in a brand new format. In this story-driven campaign style game, the decisions you make in each narrative scenario have serious consequences on the battlefield in those that follow. Strike at the right moment, making your cards work together, fight together, and stand together — and, if necessary, die together.

Choose how to develop your force as you play through unique narrative scenarios, each with their own objective and terrain layout. Each win or loss will affect the contents of your deck in the next scenario, allowing success or failure to impact your experience of the game.

Will you side with the Coalition of Ordered Governments and send Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago into action, or will you command the Locust Horde and unleash the awesome power of the monstrous Brumak? Throw frag grenades at hordes of wretches? Or bait a corpser into attacking you before striking it when it’s most vulnerable? The choice will be in your hands.

• In January 2019, designer/publisher Richard Breese of R&D Games noted that he was working on Keyper at Sea, an expansion for Keyper that would have “shallow water” and “deep water” scenarios for both beginner and experienced players.

In late February 2020, Breese posted an image of a crab (at left) to celebrate the start of the game’s graphics by Vicki Dalton, with the expansion now scheduled for a SPIEL ’20 release.

Oh, wait — do you want to see more than just one crab? Here you go:

• In a quarterly report published in March 2020, designer Matt Leacock notes that “the third and final installment in the Pandemic Legacy series is coming later this year”. (Too soon, Matt!) Aside from that, he adds, “look for one other soon-to-be-announced game — coming this summer”.

What’s more, Leacock notes that he’s working on:

—A new dexterity game, co-designed with Josh Cappel. Josh and I worked together on the first edition of Pandemic over ten years ago and it’s been fun to work together again. We’ve spent over two years on this game and I’m thrilled that we recently found a great home for it.

—The next game in the ERA series — which is coming together quite nicely if I do say so myself.

—A new, non-Pandemic, cooperative game that I’m working on with a first-time designer.

—A big box game that I’ve been developing for over two years with two established designers.

—And a few other unannounced projects in various stages of development.

Era: Medieval Age Expansion is another 2020 Leacock release, with Gen Con 2020 being its debut show

COVID-19 at the Gaming Table: Delays, Cancellations, Retailer Support, and Free RPGs

by W. Eric Martin

After talking to multiple people at all levels of the game industry at GAMA Expo 2020, I had intended on writing an article on the effects of the COVID-19 virus on the game industry, but I’m not yet ready to do so. Others are already out there with their plans, though, so let me share some of those while my thoughts stew in the pot a bit longer.

HABA USA has announced on Facebook in a private industry group its plan to be a retail hero and support outlets that might close temporarily for whatever reason they might do so. From representative T. Caires:

We’re introducing a new program for retail stores where if a consumer places an order on and enters a store’s coupon code at check out (coupon codes given to opted-in retailers), the retailer will earn 20% of that order. We will either credit a retailer’s HABA account, or send them a rebate check. The first checks will be sent April 15th.

If you are a retailer partner and would like to opt-in to this program with your existing HABA account information, please let me know. If you are not an existing HABA customer and would like to place a qualifying order of $250 to join the program, please let me know.

I’m not including T’s email address in this post, but if you represent or work for a U.S. retail store, you can likely figure out how to get in touch with HABA USA.

• Somewhat similarly, Atlas Games is introducing a program called “Friendly Local Game Drop” that works as follows:

The program allows game stores to sell select Atlas Games products to their customers at a store cost of 25% off suggested retail price. Atlas Games will then dropship the products from their warehouse directly to the store’s customers. The Friendly Local Game Drop program is designed to let stores retain their customers and sales without having to manage mail-order and delivery logistics during a time of widespread social distancing.

The current Friendly Local Game Drop product list includes Atlas Games’ best-selling titles, including Gloom, Once Upon a Time, and Godsforge. Additional products will be added to the program in the coming days and weeks.

Hush Hush Projects has set up an online store for Fog of Love, with the buyer being able to name a brick-and-mortar store in the U.S. and have 20% of that sale be directed to that retailer.

• Greek publisher Drawlab Entertainment is offering a similar deal: “20% to the retailer of your choice for anything you buy from the Drawlab Entertainment website“. Adds Evangelos Foskolos, “Just write their name in the notes section of the order and we’ll send the money their way. Plus we will add a small something as a token of appreciation to the generosity towards the industry.”

Van Ryder Games will be running a similar program, donating 20% of the sales proceeds to non-VRG Select Retailers and 50% of the sales proceeds to VRG Select Retailers. (If you are a U.S. b&m retailer that doesn’t fall into the latter category, sign up here.)

Japanime Games is going so far as to offer 50% of each online sale to a brick-and-mortar store of your choice. In detail:

If you buy any products currently in stock on our website right now, we will donate 50% of whatever you spend to the Friendly Local Game Store of your choice. No matter where you live, be it America, Australia, Europe, or the Moon, we will donate 50% of your order to a store of your choice.

Place an order today, and in the comments of your order, tell us what store you want to support. We will contact that store and PayPal them 50% of your order. Consider this a wholesale order placed directly through that store, and this is our way of bringing a sale to that store, to bring them a little bit of income.

Luma Games, a Canadian company that distributes titles in North America for mostly European publishers, has announced in that same group that it’s holding off on new releases in the U.S. through its Luma Imports division until further notice. An excerpt of the post from Luma’s Colin Young:

I know there is a lot of legitimate concern about the future right now, as we all try to find the best way forward as businesses, as players, and as people.

To that end, Luma Imports is announcing that we are postponing all new releases indefinitely. There are many retailers that are closing either their event space or their entire retail space temporarily to deal with the Covid-19 situation. We would sooner halt our releases and have them at the ready when these restrictions begin to ease up to encourage customers to come back to their welcoming spaces.

Folks, this is the largest and most striking example of a co-operative game being played out in my lifetime, and likely many of yours. I do not say that glibly. Remember those gameplay lessons: play safely, play responsibly, and play with the rest of your extended team in mind.

UK Games Expo has moved its convention from May 29-31 to August 21-23, with the show taking place in different halls than originally planned due to other events being conducted in that space during that time. The show organizers note that any visitors or exhibitors who can’t attend during those dates will be offered a full refund, and they apologize for re-scheduling UKGE on the same weekend as Tabletop Scotland, noting that the choice was this weekend or nothing.

• Along similar lines, Unpub 10 has been moved from May 22-24, 2020 to August 20-23, 2020. Here’s part of a note from the organizers:

In order to accommodate this new date, we will not have access to the ballroom until 7pm on Thursday 8/20. We are looking for alternatives to allow those arriving on Thursday the chance to begin playtesting as soon as possible.

As you know, Unpub is a small organization and we knew there was risk of potential fees when we began to discuss adjusting the date with our venue. While we would have no issue covering these additional costs to ensure everyone in our organization (including you) was as safe as possible, we are very grateful that Marriott worked with us. They not only provided multiple options but also waived all fees associated with these changes. We have been very lucky that they are working with us so that we do not have to outright cancel.

In addition to the date changes, the hotel has provided all of us a lower nightly rate than originally quoted.

Expect to see many more announcements along these lines. BGG had anticipated attending Tokyo Game Market in late April 2020 to record game overview videos, but we cancelled our plans at the end of February 2020 after learning that the Osaka Game Market on March 8 had been cancelled and after seeing quarantines and flight restrictions put into place. The April 2020 TGM hasn’t been cancelled yet, and I do still plan to create a convention preview for that show to highlight titles that we’ll likely all end up missing out on.

LeiriaCon in Portugal initially moved its convention from March 2020 to May 2020, but as of March 16, it’s cancelled the event, noting that the current difficulties will still likely exist in May.

• To encourage your self-distancing efforts, Greater Than Games is offering free downloads of Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game – Starter Kit, the two one-shot adventures for that RPG system, and the book Cheapass Games in Black and White by designer James Ernest. Visit the GTG website in order to download these items.

• The Top Secret: New World Order RPG and related items can also be downloaded for free, specifically from Drive Thru RPG.

• Finally, IELLO had planned for a worldwide launch of King of Tokyo: Dark Edition on April 24, 2020, but a representative for IELLO USA has noted the following in a private industry group:

This global crisis has necessitated that our French partners completely cancel their planned release of King of Tokyo: Dark Edition for the foreseeable future. The plans we have made for a worldwide release of the game are no longer viable, and the current situation requires each of us to adapt.

King of Tokyo: Dark Edition is in our warehouses in Fort Wayne, where our small warehouse staff continues to work diligently and in the safest possible conditions to fill orders taken at GAMA Expo and to make sure our distributors continue to receive the stock they need. With the cancellation of our planned worldwide release, and with the importance of entertainment in this trying time, we have made the decision to ship King of Tokyo: Dark Edition to our distribution partners immediately and allow retailers to sell this product as soon as you receive it.

Brick & mortar retailers may sell King of Tokyo: Dark Edition as soon as you receive it through your local methods (in-store, curbside pickup, local delivery, your STORE website). Online sales of King of Tokyo: Dark Edition, through third-party sales platforms like Amazon, will be release-day gated until 13 APR, allowing brick and mortar retailers at least two weeks to sell without online competition, as we do for all of our titles.

As for what’s in the game, here’s a sponsored “In Focus” video that gives you a taste:

Youtube Video

Origins Game Fair Still On for June 2020

by W. Eric Martin

The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has announced that as of March 18, 2020, Origins Game Fair 2020 will still take place on June 17-21 as originally planned. Here’s the complete text of the announcement:

GAMA is very concerned about having a safe and fun environment for our attendees, game organizers, volunteers, and exhibitors and are closely monitoring the recommendations from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health. This crisis is rapidly evolving and we want to give people as much notice as we are able of any changes. As such, we will make a go/no-go determination on the convention by May 1st. If the situation changes before that date, we will issue an update but as of this moment, we are proceeding with Origins 2020 as scheduled.

Given the current state of things, why would a convention still be moving ahead as planned? Coincidentally, Avonelle Wing from Double Exposure, Inc., which runs multiple events in New Jersey, posted the following on Twitter on March 18, 2020, the same day as GAMA’s announcement:







Wing’s statement is similar to a statement from the board of directors for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) on March 11, 2020, which notes:

What is SFWA doing about the Nebula conference in response to COVID-19?

At the moment, SFWA is planning to hold the conference with adjustments to reduce the risks of spreading the virus. The SFWA Board and the Nebula Conference events team are talking about this evolving situation daily including the possibility that things may shift enough that we need to cancel the in-person event. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments.

The Nebulas are 80 days away and every day brings us a better understanding of what’s happening with COVID-19.

Our challenge is that the hotel will not allow us to cancel the event without paying penalties unless it is “illegal or impossible” to host it. Similarly, they will not offer us any refunds. This limits our choices.

To accompany these statements, I’ll present this March 3, 2020 article from Bloomberg that explains why insurers generally won’t cover losses from cancelled events and disrupted travel. An excerpt:

The world’s largest insurers have learned lessons from previous health crises, including the 2003 SARS outbreak. Over the years, they’ve tightened up their policies, inserting communicable-disease exclusions to prevent potential losses. That means consumers and companies will bear the brunt of the cost for disruptions related to the virus — which has infected 90,000 people and left more than 3,000 people dead.

“While there is a significant risk of disruption, coronavirus-related claims will be low,” analysts at Moody’s Investors Service wrote in a note on Monday. “Business interruption claims will be limited as these policies commonly exclude outbreaks of infectious disease, and pay out only if physical damage occurs.”

Claims from the SARS outbreak ended up spurring some property-casualty insurers to revisit policy language, particularly with “loss of attraction” clauses, according to Gigi Norris, co-leader of Aon Plc’s infectious disease task force.

Game Overview: Man muss auch gönnen können, or Play Nice with the Dice

by W. Eric Martin

After much travel to different conventions, it’s time for me to lock the doors, play games at home, and get back to posting game overview videos on a regular schedule, starting with a long take on Man muss auch gönnen können, a complex roll-and-write game from Ulrich Blum, Jens Merkl and Schmidt Spiele that debuted in early 2020 and that feels like the descendent of Wolfgang Warsch’s Clever pair of dice games.

I’ve already presented a quick take on the game in an episode of The BGG Show, but now I’ve played the game twice as many times — six total — with a variety of player counts on a review copy from Schmidt Spiele, so I thought I’d go into more depth on this item that’s available for shipping to your hidey-hole via (Warning: If you search for “man muss auch gönnen können” without including the word “spiel”, the search results will present you with hand towels, a garlic press, and an assortment of string tanga, but not a single game.)

I’ll let the video below do most of the presenting, but in brief Man muss auch gönnen können is a roll-and-write that challenges you to (1) acquire the scoring and action cards upon which you’ll write, (2) complete the dice combinations on those cards in order to activate them, (3) figure out when best to use the few bonus actions that you’ll acquire, (4) maintain a balance between cards completed and cards in progress, (5) deny opponents the ability to mooch die rolls off you, and (6) race to complete all the cards you need before the game ends.

Jon and Candice at GAMA Expo 2020 in the middle of a stomping

This game looks simple, but has a lot going on if you want to play well, and you will undoubtedly make poor decisions in your first game or two. Well, perhaps every game, but as your experience grows, you’ll learn better how to play the odds on which combinations might be completed on your turn as an active player, thereby giving away fewer goodies to others.

Yes, the game features lots of die-rolling, so in some ways you’re at the mercy of the dice, but as in many other dice-based games, you can make better or poorer decisions that will allow you to minimize the luck of the dice — or at least that’s what I tell myself after having won the five competitive games in which I’ve played. (I’ve also played one solo games, and I hit the target goal in that as well, but that playing came only after my other five game.)

For more details on how to play, the types of scoring and bonus actions available, and why you might have to be nice against your will, watch this overview:

Youtube Video

Game Previews from FIJ 2020 II: Bruno Faidutti Special — Vintage, Poisons, Gold River, and Vabanque

by W. Eric Martin

For my second round-up of game overview videos from FIJ 2020 — the annual game convention in Cannes, France, where the BGG interviewed designers and publishers for four days — I have an easy connection between all of the videos included: designer Bruno Faidutti.

Vintage, a 3-6 player design from Matagot in which you try to grab good stuff from flea markets, had an issue that will be a common occurrence among releases in 2020: a production delay that kept the game from arriving at the show in time to be sold. (I’ll post more on this topic in a report from GAMA Expo 2020 the week of March 16, 2020.)

Youtube Video

Poisons, a co-design with Chris Darsaklis from Ankama for 3-8 players, is a bluffing-based, press-your-luck game in which you want to consume drinks to score points — but you score more when you take a chance on drinking from a possibly poisoned cup.

Youtube Video

Gold River is a new version of Boomtown, a co-design with Bruno Cathala that first appeared in 2004.

This release from Lumberjacks Studio keeps much the same as in the original release, with players bidding on the right to acquire mines that will hopefully pay out lots of gold as the game progresses, although players can also become the mayor of a mining town, which will give them a cut of the earnings from anyone else who mines in that town.

The resolution of the bidding system is clever and simple: Whoever bids the most gets first choice from the available cards, with everyone else choosing a card in clockwise order, while half the money paid out by the winner goes to the first player in counterclockwise order, with the next player in that order gaining half of what remains, and so on. Everyone gets something — just not necessarily what you wanted.

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• This overview of Vabanque, a co-design with Leo Colovini that first appeared in 2001, is the only one of these four not presented by Faidutti. Instead Raphaël Bernardi of publisher Igiari showed off the game, which is more polished and closer to publication than what we saw at FIJ 2019.

Youtube Video

Game Overview: Stick ‘Em, or Points for Pricks

by W. Eric Martin

Since its founding in 2015 with a new edition of Stefan Risthaus’ Arkwright, U.S. publisher Capstone Games has tended to specialize in fairly involved games. The publisher has a “Simply Complex” line for designs with more straightforward gameplay, and the first two titles in its “Iron Rails” line have simple rules that lead to challenging gameplay, but Capstone is still best known for sprawling titles like Wildcatters, Maracaibo, Three Kingdoms Redux, and Pipeline.

On June 17, 2020, however, Capstone Games will release its first card game — the first-ever English-language edition of Klaus Palesch‘s fantastically good card game Sticheln, with this new version being titled Stick ‘Em. Here’s an overview of the gameplay for those not familiar with the design:

In this trick-taking card game, players seek to gather points each hand by taking as many cards as possible of all but one color, while trying to avoid cards of one color of their choosing.

In more detail, at the beginning of each hand, each player simultaneously selects and reveals one card from their hand, with the color of this card representing their “pain” color. At the end of the hand, each card of this “pain” color that they’ve collected (including their initial card choice) is worth negative points equal to the card’s face value. Each card of another color that this player has collected is worth 1 point.

To play out the hand, the active player leads a card, then each other player in clockwise order plays one card. If all cards are of the same color, then whoever played the highest card collects these cards, then leads the next trick; if all cards are not of the same color, then whoever played the highest card of a color not initially led collects these cards, then leads the next trick. (One exception: A zero card can never win a trick; ignore them when determining who wins a trick.) In effect, each color played in a particular trick that doesn’t match the color of the card led is considered a trump card, and the highest trump wins. In the event of a tie, the earlier played card breaks the tie.

Contemplating my choices

Play as many hands as the number of players in the game, summing each player’s points over those hands to determine a winner.

The funny thing about Stick ‘Em is that the rules for the game fit on a single tiny page, yet the gameplay itself can be quite complex — which makes the game a natural fit for the Capstone Games line. The simpleness of the game comes from its openness: You can choose a card from your hand to represent your pain suit, and since you don’t have to match color when playing on a trick, you can play anything!

Yet if you do such things thoughtlessly, you will fail over and over again. Playing Stick ‘Em is akin to climbing a mountain of pebbles. You must carefully consider each step you take, gaining ground slowly and often yielding for others to advance because one poorly chosen card can lead to disaster, with you being buried by those pebbles after losing your footing and plummeting down the mountain.

I got to discover this sensation again at GAMA Expo 2020, where I played Stick ‘Em for the first time in fifteen years(!) with Capstone owner Clay Ross, Capstone representative Justin, and members of the BGG coverage team Candice Harris and Jon Cox. Jon said that people in his game group had warned him away from Sticheln for years due to its complexity, so he was surprised by how quickly Clay and I taught the game. (That quickness was contrasted by how long it took Jon and me to teach Tichu to Clay and Justin the subsequent night. The rules for that game go on forever!)

Once we started playing Stick ‘Em, though, Jon had one head-slapping moment after another as he kept finding that all the normal habits of trick-taking play are turned inside out in this game. Voiding a suit, for example, isn’t necessarily good. Your initial choice of pain color matters because you’ll need protective cover in order to avoid taking that color. If, for example, I use my sole green card to designate my pain color, then when someone leads green — which someone definitely will — I’ll have to play a non-green card, thereby trumping the trick, and if everyone else can continue to play green (or dodge with a zero or lower number), then I’ll eat a huge pile of points.

Capstone owner Clay Ross laughs at his misfortune

This happened to me in the final hand of our five-player game, with me playing second and feeling confident that someone would play over me with a non-pain color in order to collect five points. Instead the three players downstream from me all played high cards in my pain color, and I was effectively out of the game.

Clay Ross, who had fighting with me for the lead, went into the final trick confident of his victory, only to discover that he hadn’t been counting the cards played of his pain color, which meant that when he played off-suit in that trick, he ate the three highest cards of his pain suit, losing 37 points in one go and giving me second place with a score of -1.

In that instance, Clay needed to hold a low card of his pain color because if someone had led yellow, he would be on suit and someone else would have trumped that trick. If someone hadn’t led yellow, then he still probably would have bested by a higher number. The challenge, though, is that you often need to play — or think you need to play — a low pain color on an earlier hand to dodge lots of points, yet in those situations, the other players might just hold on to those pain cards since they’d be wasted in that trick.

The more that you can count cards, the better as then you’ll know that if you play, say, an 8 of your pain color, someone will be forced to play an off-color card, which means you won’t eat those points yourself. If someone else shares your pain color, then perhaps they might even end up with those points should they not be able to dodge.

In case you hadn’t gathered this so far, Stick ‘Em is a game that encourages players to play spitefully and kneecap opponents. You frequently find yourself in a position to (possibly) win a few points depending on how the rest of the trick plays out or poison the trick with a card that will stick either the player currently winning the trick or a player downstream, with that card being a disincentive for them to take the trick — although they might be able to drop a card that will prick you instead.

For as simple as Stick ‘Em is to teach, the game will challenge you over and over again with each hand that you play, with the player who goes first in a trick having a different challenge from the player who goes second, third, or next to last. The rhythm of gameplay is unique to this design, and I’m not surprised to find it still in print after more than 25 years — only surprised that it took this long for the game to be released in English!

Jason Voorhees Returns from the Dead Again in Friday the 13th: Horror at Camp Crystal Lake

by W. Eric Martin

With Friday the 13th upon us, U.S. publisher The Op (formerly known as “USAopoly”) has decided to capitalize on the misfortune associated with that day by announcing Friday the 13th: Horror at Camp Crystal Lake, a game for 3-6 players, aged 17 and up, that bears a sixty-minute playing time and is due out in Q3 2020.

Here’s a quick summary of the game setting:

In this anxiety-driven, press-your-luck horror game, players take on the roles of cliché camp counselors like the stereotypical Nerd, the Partier, the Nice Guy, the Final Girl, the Diva, and the Jock as they rely on chance and strategy to survive five nights being terrorized by blood-thirsty Jason. Coveted tools of survival are just within your reach to randomly draw from a camp bag: cast iron pans, gasoline, cleavers, flashlights and more. Collect them to make various combinations for points and use additional fear cards for ways to escape his attacks.

You have only strategy and supplies to keep you alive, but the odds of returning safely to the camp get slimmer with every turn! Steal supplies from your friends, take them with you to the cabin, or keep what you find and wait out the nights to be the last one standing! Reach into the bag to see what you will find!

Everyone knows that you should never place a body part into anything not fully visible when in a horror film, but apparently that’s a requirement here. Ideally you’ll pull all parts of your hand back out of that bag, too!