Friday, February 24, 2017

Eye on Kickstarter #15

Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any reviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2017 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.

So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the fourth Friday of February, 2017:


HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Dragon Dodge
  • GJJ Games Review
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • I reviewed Dragon Dodge last week and had fun playing the game. The updated artwork is really nice and the game provides a nice, light strategy game with a family friendly theme.


Cast your spells to move tiles and advance the dragons toward the other team’s wizards! But don’t forget to dodge the dragons yourself!

In Dragon Dodge you play a team of wizards in an arena with two dragons. Your goal is to cast spells to move the dragons around and tag the other team’s wizards. Your spells can also change the arena itself and the board shrinks as the dragons move around, making every game different.





ElemenZ
  • Last week I reviewed two games about harnessing the four elements, and ElemenZ is another game in that vein (and I have yet another game with a similar theme that I'll be reviewing in a few weeks). Yet, somehow, with all the games sharing a common theme, they're all drastically different. ElemenZ looks like a fun take on King of Tokyo style mechanics, with a few unique twists.


The Last Garden
  • I'm all for unique themed games, and The Last Garden has one of the more interesting I've seen in awhile. In a post-apocalyptic world the sole survivor has reprogrammed a bunch of robots to create artificial gardens. You play the robots working to recreate the gardens of The Queen's youth out of metal and scrap. Just don't tell my sons about these robotanists or I'll have them acting like robots in our garden all summer... =)


GKR: Heavy Hitters
  • I don't really get into miniatures games, mostly because of the cost, but this one looks really awesome. And scroll down to the bottom of the campaign to see how HUGE this box is going to be!


Can't Stop Express
  • Can't Stop Express is a travel sized version of the classic press-your-luck game, Can't Stop by famed game designer Sid Sackon.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 52: Richard T Saunders

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.


Name:Richard T Saunders
Email:Returnfromsubroutinellc@gmail.com
Location:Tucson, Arizona
Day Job:Software engineer and occasional adjunct Lecturer in the department of Computer Science at the University of Arizona.
Designing:One to two years.
Webpage:http://www.picklingtools.com/return_from_subroutine
Blog:The Co-operative Gestalt
Facebook:Co-op The Game
Find my games at:Kickstarter, hopefully a store near you soon!
Today's Interview is with:

Richard T Saunders
Interviewed on: 12/5/2016

Richie Saunders runs a blog called The Co-operative Gestalt, all about cooperative games (and more). There he talks all about coop games, which is fitting since he designed a coop game last year that just funded successfully on Kickstarter this past December. So be sure to check out Co-op: The Co-op Game later this year! Read on to learn more about Richie and the projects he's working on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I love cooperative games. After playing them for years, I wanted to put my own spin on them. And I love creating.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Some more cooperative games and possibly a music game that integrates with your phone,

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Only by me: I had a successful Kickstarter for CO-OP: The Co-op Game that ran through mid December, 2016.

What is your day job?
Software engineer and occasional adjunct Lecturer in the department of Computer Science at the University of Arizona.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
At game nights with my friends, in Tucson or Las Cruces

Who do you normally game with?
A very eclectic group of friends

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Usually a deeper game of about 3 hours

And what snacks would you eat?
Pizza, brownies, cookies

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
At my house, it's always progressive rock. Dream theater, Nightwish, Trevor Rabin, Asia, Yes, Stephan Wilson, ...

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Isle of Games or Heroes and Villains

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Sentinels of the Universe is easily my favorite: it's thematic and cooperative. I love Arkham Horror, but I can't seem to get it to the table. Worst game? There are some Games I haven't enjoyed, but I can't come up a worst

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite: cooperative. Least favorite:anything related to Texas hold'em poker

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Arkham horror

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Video Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
I plead the 5th

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Like writing music, you follow the muse where it leads you. An idea germinates and then takes hold: the idea may by the theme or a mechanic or a spin on something. You follow the idea and see where it takes you!

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Started life by entering the MetaGames competition from GreaterThanGames. Didn't win.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Someone you've never heard of: Chris Chamberlin. He designs video games for education at NMSU by day and board games by night. He has amazing ideas and currently had a cooperative war game that hopefully will get published. He's a great guy, a great designer, imaginative and inspires me to do better.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I have to be alone for a long stretch of time to pursue ideas, so usually on extended vacation or weekends

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I get everyone I can to play, but I try very hard not to annoy people. I try to read a room or my friends because the last thing I want is to force anything. A group has to be in the right state of mind. After all, I want everyone to have fun!

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Alone with until I get the majority built, then get as much feedback as I can. My friends are very vocal (which is good) -they will tell me what works and what doesn't. I think the gameplay must be solid before you ever approach artists.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Being heard. This is a golden age of games with everyone being able to contribute...sometimes it's hard for the little guy to be heard.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Bob's Burgers, Monkey Island, Star Trek DS9 or TNG.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Every time you think your game design is done, it's probably not. It takes time to refine all the little elements that make a game fun, intuitive, readable, and attractive.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Play test, play test, play test. Never argue with playtesters: they are trying to tell you what's not working! Write down everything they say and sort it out later.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: CO-OP: the co-op game
Currently looking for a publisher I have: A couple in the queue

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
No

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
I like Star Wars, but love Star Trek. Never Pepsi, only Coke. Betamax vs VHS is an interesting parable about what people accept vs what's technically superior: the best technology doesn't always win.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Guitar, teaching

What is something you learned in the last week?
Eucalyptus has cyanide, and the koala has a bacteria which neutralizes the poison so they can eat it!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Progressive Rock, comic books (pre 2012), animated movies

What was the last book you read?
Astro City by Kurt Busiek

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar and bass and piano (not at the same time)

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I had my software engineering class implement Arkham Horror in Java

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Took 8 months off work to teach 2 classes at university, then travelled to Australia for two months, crashing on friends couches. Somehow, I still had a job when I got back.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Missed an UnPub event in Tucson (and apologized profusely to the organizers because I can't read a calendar), but ended up chatting about my game design with my friend Jeremy for 4 hours and got some great ideas for CO-OP. We still joke about that time at Carl's Jr...

Who is your idol?
Captain America. (Yes, I know he's not real, but it's what he represents as a hero)

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back in time and come up with better answer to this question!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert on occasion, but definitely an introvert to recharge

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Captain America (see above)

Have any pets?
Yorkie

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I would want cooperative games to survive... I don't know about the eradication...

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Guthrie Govan and Zee Garcia. I met them both in person and was completely tongue tied when I met them. They were both very cool about it. Thank guys for being awesome and so forgiving!

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

At one point, I could play La Villa Strangiata on guitar...the whole thing




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 51: Lucas Gerlach

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.


Name:Lucas Gerlach
Email:lgerrrlach@yahoo.com
Location:Watertown, Wisconsin
Day Job:I teach second and third graders.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:http://gerlach-games.weebly.com/
BGG:Beaker73
Facebook:Gerlach Games
Twitter:@lgerrrlach
YouTube:Gerlach Games
Other:Tabletop Generation
Find my games at:The Game Crafter, BGG PnP, In stores soon
Today's Interview is with:

Lucas Gerlach
Interviewed on: 1/6/2017

I first met Lucas Gerlach online. He organizes a regular Rules Exchange in a the Game Makers Lab on Facebook and also enters many of the same design contests on BGG that I do. Last year we finally met in person at the Madison Protospiel, although we didn't have the chance to play each other's games. Hopefully that'll change at the next event we both attend. Lucas has a number of great game designs and will have his first published games available this year!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I just couldn't help myself! Designing tabletop games is a wonderful creative outlet. I love all that goes into designing games... envisioning player interactions, refining mechanics, designing components, writing rules, constructing prototypes. I consider game design to be a form of art that incorporates several kinds of thinking. That's fun for me, and I hope the results are fun for those who play my games.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Tornado Chasers is my most recent design. It was an entry in the 2016 Mint Tin Design Contest and is currently entered in the 2016 PNP Game Design Awards. I also sporadically work on Interstellar Envoys and Mine! All Mine!

Have you designed any games that have been published?
While I don't have any games that are currently published, two of my games are on the way to being published this year. Quick Simple Fun Games will be publishing De Stijl, a card placement game based on the art of Piet Mondrian, as well as Spyzinger, an animal espionage game of flick-and-deliver.

What is your day job?
I teach second and third graders.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
My favorite place to play games is in my own home, but I am certainly happy to play games just about anywhere.

Who do you normally game with?
The person I most often play with is my son (currently 12). I also frequently play with the rest of my family. In addition, I play with my local game group (the Johnson Creek/Jefferson County Gamers) and various other friends in the area.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I would like to play a mix of games. I'd start with something simple like Ghost Blitz, move onto a co-op like Burgle Bros, go onto a Euro like Hansa Teutonica, then end with something a little lighter like Tobago.

And what snacks would you eat?
Chips and guacamole, veggies, and cookies

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I'm not a huge fan of having music play while playing games, but I'm okay with it if someone else wants it. Sometimes I will listen to 80s music or They Might Be Giants if I'm gaming with the right friends.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Unfortunately, I'm not really close to a great FLGS. I'm Bored in Madison is a great store, and I have to give a shout out to the GameBoard in Sheboygan. (Though I haven't actually been there, the owner has encouraged me as a designer, is involved in her community, and does a great job of promoting games.)

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite might be Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, though my favorite game may vary from day to day.

The least favorite game I enjoy would be almost any social deduction game. I like being and playing with the people, but I just can't seem to get into that type of game.

I hate to say "worst game," but the game I felt was one of the least enjoyable experiences for me might be Fossil.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Lately, I'm finding that I really enjoy games that incorporate point-to-point movement of a single piece. It allows me to identify with whoever or whatever the token represents.

The memory mechanic is my least favorite.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I own and enjoy Brew Crafters, but it's just not the type of game my family would play and is a bit too dry for my usual gaming group.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Usually I'm a theme-first kind of guy, but it's really quite variable. Sometimes it'll start with mechanics, with a challenge, with components, or with desired player interactions.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I've entered a number of game design competitions including two player PnP contests, microgame contests, a dice game design contest, and the mint tin design contest (all on BGG). I've also entered games into a couple dexterity game design contests (Mayday Games and Greater Than Games), the Cardboard Edison Award, and the KBG Design contest.

Though I haven't won the top award in any one competition, I have received a number of runner-up awards as well as awards like "funniest."

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Not really a favorite, but some designers I greatly admire are Tim Fowers, Jamey Stegmaier, Vlaada Chvátil, and Antoine Bauza.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Usually I get my best ideas when I'm sitting in a meeting and am supposed to be focused on something else.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I usually start with solo playtesting, then play with my son, then with my extended family, then with my friends. After that, I take my game to local designer meetups, to my gaming group, and to protospiels or other conventions. I may post PnP designs on Facebook or Board Game Geek. I ask for rules feedback on the Rules Exchange in Game Maker's Lab. If the game is ready and worthy, I send the game to volunteers for blind playtests.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I do pretty much everything on my own. That said, I heavily rely on feedback gathered from playtesters and critics. I love these discussions and recognize that my games benefit greatly from their input. In many ways, it's like being part of one big team.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Playtesting in a regular and timely manner. I'm also not a great talker, so I have a difficult time asking insightful questions when playtesting.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series of books

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
It will consume you! Really though, there's not anything in particular I wish someone had told me. I enjoy figuring out things as I go along. I have read a number of game design books and articles and ask for advice from others. That's all part of learning as I go, and that's part of the fun of designing games!

Oh... one thing... board game contests are great, but their chief benefits are the discussions they engender, not the awards that are given. The lack of recognition in one of these contests (especially on BGG) is not failure.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Like a lot of things, there's not only one right method to be used when designing games. Find what works for you, refine it, and enjoy it.

I would say, though, that there are four things you must do: Design. Play. Discuss. Listen.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: De Stijl: An abstract game of overlapping card placement. Try to place the cards so that you have more separate spaces than your opponents, but gain bonuses for having the largest contiguous spaces. (Tentatively coming in late summer 2017.) Check it out on its BGG page at https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/168544/de-stijl

Spyzinger: A flicking game in which you attempt to physically capture secrets from your enemies and return them to your base. Your tokens consist of differently shaped agent tokens, each with different abilities. (Tentatively coming late in 2017.) Check out a video overview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_XEriN6l28

Currently looking for a publisher I have: Interstellar Envoys
I'm planning to crowdfund: This is not something I ever plan to do, especially not on my own.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Tornado Chasers
Games that I'm playtesting are: Mine! All Mine!
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Lots!

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Game Maker's Lab, Card and Board Game Designers Guild, Consortium of Game Developers, Midwest Tabletop Game Design, Startup Board & Card Game Designers, Protospiel, Christian Game Developers: Tabletop Edition, Designer/Publisher Speed Dating

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Both! Coke. VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking, biking, drawing/painting, reading

What is something you learned in the last week?
Pluto appears to have a huge ice volcano.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
My family and I mostly listen to our local contemporary Christian radio station. My favorite movies and books tend towards science fiction. I also enjoy action, adventure, and nonfiction.

What was the last book you read?
Lost and Found by Alan Dean Foster

Do you play any musical instruments?
Ukulele and piano... though not at the same time and not very well. I also sing!

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
My wife and I taught at an international school in Shanghai, China for 11 years. Our three kids were all born there. It was an amazing time in our lives.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I'm not generally a "crazy" kind of guy. Way back in high school, I went on a trip to what was then the Soviet Union. One night, a few other kids and I threw water balloons out of a hotel window in Minsk. We all got really quiet and turned off the lights when people started looking for the source of the projectiles. We did not want to find out how the Soviet authorities would deal with some rabble-rousing American kids.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I'm having a tough time answering this one. As someone with a background in art, accidents quickly get incorporated into the big scheme of things, quickly becoming part of the original plan. Either that or they get blotted out forever.

Who is your idol?
My wife. She's awesome.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I'd trade it in for a space ship and do some galactic sight seeing

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I'm one of those people who rarely fits into one category or another. I'm not a big talker and often feel awkward when socializing with other adults. Put me in front of a group of people though, and I'm good.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I actually have my own superhero identity... SmileyMan. While living in Shanghai, I drew up a suit and had it made. It was great trying to explain to the tailor exactly what I wanted.

"For life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!"

By the way, if you've never been to the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store, I recommend going when in New York.

Have any pets?
Well, my daughter has a bunny we keep outside.

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I hope books, writing, and numerous forms of arts and games survive. I hope rudeness, self-seeking behaviors, and television are wiped out.

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
I've got to give a shout out to my Shanghai gaming buddies. They're the ones who got me back into the boardgame hobby, and they're a great bunch of people!

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

The board game design community is amazing. Thank you for being a part of it! If you're not a part of it yet, it's definitely worth your time and effort.

I wish you joy in your work and play!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Quick Review - Dragon Dodge - Kickstarter Preview

Dragon Dodge
Designers: Jeff Fitzgerald
and Maggie Stewart
Publisher: Hidden Creek Games
2-4p | 15-25m | 8+
Quick Review - Dragon Dodge - Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer

So, what do you do when a dragon is barrelling across the elemental arena toward you at full speed?  Some might try to stand and fight.  Others might try to use their dragon training skills to lull it to sleep.  Or maybe they'll try their hand at riding it.  All of these are incorrect, of course.  If a dragon is running for you, you dodge it!

Dragon Dodge is a light strategy game for two to four players that plays in only 20 minutes or so.  It's great for kids ages eight and up, or maybe even younger.  Two teams of wizards are competing in an elemental arena while trying to avoid the dragons.  Dragon Dodge is available through March 20, 2017 on Kickstarter for only $20, including US shipping.

Read on to learn more about Dragon Dodge from Hidden Creek Games!



Dragon Dodge came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!


Overview:
Dragon Dodge is a very simple game that hides a fair amount of strategy in its simplicity.  The object of Dragon Dodge is to capture your opponent's wizards while having yours avoid the dragons.  You'll be able to control both your wizards and the dragons on your turn and your opponent will control her own wizards and the dragons on her turn.  Dragon Dodge is essentially a two player game, but it can be played with more players with teams.

To set up Dragon Dodge you randomly place the 24 tiles face-up into a grid pattern.  There are several suggested starting layouts, or you can make up your own.  Then place the wizards and on their starting tiles.  Finally, shuffle each of the two separate decks (element spells and tile spells) and deal out one of each to the players.
It's a small game with just a few components.  Have I mentioned before how much I love small box games?
On your turn you'll start by drawing two cards.  You can draw from either the element spells deck or the tile spells deck, or one from each.  Then you'll play spells to either move your wizards, move the dragons, or manipulate the tiles in the game.  If you move a dragon onto an opponent's wizard it is captured.  The first player or team to capture both of the opponent's wizards wins the game.
A quick and variable setup allows you to jump right into this quick game.
So, what are these different spells that can be played?  There are two main types, element spells and tile spells.  Element spells help you move your wizards or the dragons and tile spells allow you to manipulate the tiles.

There are four different types of element spells: Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire.  These will help you move around the elemental arena.  Each tile has borders that are composed of one of the elements.  To move from one tile to the next tile you need to discard element spell cards that match the elements you need to cross.
Four element spells let you move your wizards or the dragons.
If you'll be crossing a Fire and Wind border you'll need to discard both a Fire and Wind spell to move.  But if the borders on the tiles match, for example two Waters, you only need to discard one of that element spell to cross.  These movement rules apply to both your wizards and the dragons.  The only difference between moving wizards and dragons is that the tile a dragon leaves gets removed from play.  You get to keep any tiles removed when you move a dragon though.  You might have a chance to add them back later.
The dragon in the foreground can move toward that orange wizard if Earth and Wind spells are discarded.
The orange wizard can escape away from the camera by playing just a single Fire spell.
There are also three different types of tile spells: Move, Rotate, and Add.  These let you manipulate the tiles in the elemental arena.  Discarding a tile spell card lets you perform that action on one tile in play.  Move lets you move a tile into an adjacent empty space.  Rotate lets you rotate a tile 90, 180, or even 270 degrees.  You can do either of these to any tile in play, even if the tile is occupied by a wizard or dragon.  The Add spell lets you take a tile that you removed when moving a dragon and add it back into the elemental arena.  However, with any of these you cannot Move or Add a tile beyond the outermost border of the current area of play.  So as tiles get removed from dragons moving the play area will shrink.
Tile spells let you manipulate the playing area.
You can also trade in any three of the same spell to act as a wild of that spell type.  E.g. you can play three Wind spells as a Fire spell or play three Rotate spells as a Move spell.  Your hand limit is six cards, so at the end of your turn you have to discard down to six, but you can play as many cards as you like on your turn.

Any time a dragon moves onto a tile that has a wizard on it, that wizard is removed from the game.  Players or teams take turns until one team's wizards are both eliminated.

Final Thoughts:
Dragon Dodge is a fun little strategy game.  I really like the theme and the mechanics are solid.  It's super simple to teach and doesn't take long to set up or to play.  Dragon Dodge would make a good filler or light, family friendly strategy game.

The artwork in the prototype is very bland, and some of the reviews you may see, including mine, feature that artwork.  However the final game will have all updated artwork (as well as custom shaped meeples for the wizards and dragons).  The updated artwork is very nice, and gives the game a very striking look.  The new tile graphics are vibrant and well defined, and the element spell cards are energetic.  Even the tile spell cards have a much more epic look to them.
The updated artwork is very striking!
While I did have fun with the game, I do have a few concerns though.  Calling this a two to four player game is a real stretch.  It's really a two player game.  Playing with three or four players just splits the turns into two teams.  With this logic you could play with just about any number of players, within the limitations of the components.  Teams alternate taking turns, and players on the teams take turns as well.  There's not supposed to be any communication between players on a team about what cards they each have.  But this is a relatively minor concern.  The game still works well with three or four players, but it's more like playing four player chess where two players control white and two players control black than playing a game specifically designed for four players.
The game plays very well with two players.  My seven year old enjoyed it quite a bit!

A bigger concern though was the role of the wizards in the game.  I played several times and for the most part the game revolves around maneuvering the dragons into position to attack the wizards.  Until a wizard is close to being attacked by a dragon there is very little incentive to move your wizards.  I felt like I wanted the wizards to be doing something.  But as long as I used my element and tile spells to keep pushing the dragons to pursue my opponent's wizards I felt no need to move my wizards.  That means the game turns into a game of who draws the more useful cards first.  I really want a reason to move my wizards.  I feel like there should be a balance between the desire to move the dragon in pursuit of your opponent and a need to move your own wizards in pursuit of some alternate goal.  There should be a risk/reward element that encourages you to want to move your wizards without just waiting until a dragon is getting close.

That said, this is the impression that I've gotten after a few plays.  The designers have indicated that some people employ other strategies and move the wizards around quite often.  I just don't see how that can be a viable strategy when moving the dragon is what ultimately will win the game for you.  In the first game I played I did move the wizards more, but quickly realized that was wasting moves I could be using to move the dragon toward my opponent.  In games I played against other players, they did the same thing at first, moved their wizards, but after the mechanics and goal of the game became clearer they also opted for moving the dragon instead.  Maybe you'll find a different strategy that works for you though.
Until a dragon starts getting too close to a wizard there's really no incentive to move the wizards.  Even then, it's usually
more beneficial to focus on the dragon, either by moving it directly or by manipulating the tiles around it.

As a simple family game, or very quick filler, I think Dragon Dodge works well, but I don't feel that it has the depth necessary to keep it interesting for more than a few plays.  You often hear games described as "minutes to learn, a lifetime to master".  Dragon Dodge does only take minutes to learn, but it doesn't feel like there's anything to master.  It's a cute, casual game that looks great and will be fun to play once in awhile.

For $20, you can pick up a copy of Dragon Dodge on Kickstarter right now.  For what you get that's a pretty good price, especially since that includes US shipping.  If Dragon Dodge sounds like something you would like to play, check out the Kickstarter through March 20, 2017.

Oh, and I have to give props to Maggie and Jeff for the letter that came with Dragon Dodge thanking me for reviewing the game.  It was written on parchment-like paper and in an envelope sealed with a wax dragon stamp.  Cool stuff!  It just goes to show how much heart they have invested in this game!
That's a cool wax seal!

Preliminary Rating: 6.5/10
This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.


Did you like this review?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.





GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 50: Troy Pichelman

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.


Name:Troy Pichelman
Email:tpichelman@gmail.com
Location:Lees Summit, MO
Day Job:Unix and Storage System Administrator. A long title that means "I work in IT" to most people.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:http://jtpgames.com
Blog:http://jtpgames.com
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/troy.pichelman
Twitter:@pichelman_troy
Find my games at:The Game Crafter
Today's Interview is with:

Troy Pichelman
Interviewed on: 11/8/2016

Troy Pichelman is a game designer from the Kansas City, Missouri area that I met at last year's first Protospiel Chicago. I was only there for Friday, but Troy and I played a bunch of each other's games. Then in October we met up again at Protospiel Madison and played each other's games some more. I really like quite a few of Troy's games and hope to see them in stores someday. He's got some great ideas and I can't wait to play them some more at Protospiel Milwaukee in a few weeks.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I've always worked on modifying games since junior high, and I've worked on several computer games over the years. But I really started getting back into doing board games as something more than just a little hobby a few years ago after I found the Game Crafter. There is just something very satisfying about seeing people really enjoy something you've created.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Escape From Lunar 7. This is a cooperative game where you are prospectors on the moon when aliens arrive and blow up your ship. You are trying to explore an abandoned base to find the parts to fix a shuttle so you can all escape. I'm currently pitching this to publishers, but haven't quite got it yet.

Goblin Stole My Chicken. A take that style game for 3-6 players. Here you all have chickens with fences protecting them from goblins, and on your turn you play goblin cards on other players. But they can play defenses like sign posts to send goblins to their neighbors, burn down some of your fences, and other things to mess with your plans. First play that is out ends the game, so there is also an incentive for the losing players to protect each other against the leader.

Pluto Attacks. Another cooperative game that I keep saying is finished. Then I go to a Protospiel and find out another thing to change. You are all teenagers in a small 1952 town in Kansas trying to save your town from invaders; think old B monster movie. This one is a dice chucker, where you use your skills to determine how many dice to roll to try and take cards to prevent the aliens from taking over your town.

Junk Yard Starships is the current design that I've got started. Here each player wants to be a starship captain, but can't get anyone to hire them. So you each decide to build your own ship from the scrapyard and try to complete missions for various organizations anyway. But the ships keep breaking down, and trying to keep them repaired while accomplishing the missions can prove tough. This one is still early in the design phase, so it will be making the rounds in the Protospiels.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet!

What is your day job?
Unix and Storage System Administrator. A long title that means "I work in IT" to most people.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
Preferably at someones house, I think it makes for a more personal atmosphere and has less distractions. But I do more playing over lunch at work these days since that's when I seem to get the time.

Who do you normally game with?
Coworkers for quick lunch hour games, and the other members of the KC Game Designers, a group of designers that get together here in the Kansas City area to help each other get our games ready for publishing.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Hopefully something that I haven't played yet!

And what snacks would you eat?
Anything that doesn't get my cards all greasy (I'm one of those that doesn't sleeve my cards).

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Not usually, but sometimes something that doesn't distract too much.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Tabletop Game and Hobby in Olathe KS. This is also where the KC Game Designers meet.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is my current favorite, a group of us play about twice a month. It helps to me to get my D&D craving satisfied.

Catan, I just don't care for this game that much, but I still enjoy playing with people that do like it.

Worst game? Some social deduction game I played at Gamehole Con, but I don't remember the name. Probably blocked it out of my memory.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Hm, this is a hard set of questions. I don't know that I have a particular mechanic that I favor more than others. As long as the mechanic makes sense for the theme of the game I'm probably OK with it.

My least favorite is anything that makes the game mostly luck.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Elder Sign. My wife and I both like this game a lot, but never seem to have enough time to get it out.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Theme first, then mechanics change several times before I find something that fits. For Goblin Stole My Chicken I actually had the title for a few months before I figured out the theme to go with it, and then tried several things until it became what it is now.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered a few, haven't won one yet. I just can't get a design down fast enough to meet the deadlines, or at least I'm not happy with what I have by the time the deadline arrives. Some of the ideas from the contests have become the games I'm working on, so it's always worth entering.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I hate to admit it, but I am terrible with names. I keep forgetting who did which game, and most of the time I get the publisher mixed up as well.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I never know. Sometimes it's while talking about something with people, sometimes while browsing the web, sometimes while working on a different game.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Usually I work it out by myself until I think the base mechanics are starting to work, then bring in a couple of friends to hammer on it. After that take it to the KC Game Designer meetings and let the other guys do some tear down on it. And get it to Protospiels when possible. After all that, well, time to do some more testing with strangers.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Mostly on my own, with ideas from a few friends to get me through some of the early speed bumps.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time. Full time job, and my wife is working on a masters degree, so we are both short of free time.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
The Dresden files. I absolutely love Jim Butcher’s books, and I think it would be awesome to build a game in that setting. I've got the Dresden files RPG and waiting anxiously for the Kickstarter Dresden co-op game.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
To get to work on it and do it. Stop thinking you can't get it done, don't worry about it and just work on it.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Make sure to design games that you like playing. Don't worry about trying to make something popular, or that fits what the market wants. If you like it, make it.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Escape From Lunar 7 and Goblin Stole My Chicken
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Pluto Attacks
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Junk Yard Starships

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Facebook groups: Protospiel, Card & Board Game Designers Guild, STARTUP Board & Card Game Designers

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Trek AND Star Wars, both are fun in different ways. Coke over Pepsi always. Never owned a betamax, so can't say much there.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Hiking in the mountains with my wife, long walks when we can't go hiking. Reading a good book over the weekend when it's cold and snowing.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: instrumental, so I don't sing along. Books: The Dresden Files, science fiction. Marvel and DC movies, my wife and I love action movies.

What was the last book you read?
Currently reading Shadowed Souls

Do you play any musical instruments?
Used to play the trumpet in school, and the piano some. I started trying to learn guitar but didn't have the time.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Since most of the crazy stuff I did was before cell phones and the internet, it shall stay safely hidden in the past.

Who is your idol?
Everyone who rises up and meets a challenge, even when they don't succeed. That's the kind of inspiration that keeps us moving forward in bad times.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Probably mess up the entire history of the world. Let's not give me this, OK?

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert most of the time

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Batman

Have any pets?
A mean cat

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I don't think I can handle the situation that you've presented me. I'm going to go watch something cute on the internet now.

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Hey everybody!

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Game time is fun time!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

GJJG Game Reviews - Element - by Rather Dashing Games

Element
Designer: Mike Richie
Publisher: Rather Dashing Games
2-4p | 30-60m | 14+
GJJG Game Reviews - Element - by Rather Dashing Games
Disclaimer

Game Overview:
"Water... Earth... Fire... Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. " - Avatar: The Last Airbender

A few months ago my sons discovered the Avatar series, so everything lately has been about airbending, firebending, waterbending, earthbending, bloodbending, dinnerbending, homeworkbending, rulebending, you name it, they think they can bend it...  So when I pulled out Element by Rather Dashing Games they were excited to play.  Did it live up to their gamebending expectations?  Read on and find out.

Element is a light abstract strategy game for two to four players that only takes about 30 minutes.  It'll be available in retail and online in early March, so keep an eye out for it.  You can learn more from the game page at Rather Dashing Games.


Element came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!


Components & Packaging:
I own a few other games from Rather Dashing Games, and the quality is excellent.  Element is no exception.  There's not a whole lot to Element, just a board, four pawns, a cloth bag, and a bunch of plastic token, or stones.  But when you open the box you will be impressed.  
Everything is awesome!  (You're welcome for that earworm.)
Everything is a step or two nicer than necessary, and that just adds to the play experience.  The box is thick and sturdy, and the rulebook is excellent.  The bag is super durable and embroidered with the symbols of all four elements.  The board is gorgeously illustrated when a simple grid would have sufficed.  The Sage pawns aren't simple plastic or wooden pawns.  They're not even nice plastic miniatures.  The Sages are hefty resin sculpts, each unique, and each weighing a surprising amount.  
These guys are awesome!
The only components I was a little disappointed in are the element stones.  They're small, round, plastic disks about 5/8 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch thick, each with the game logo on it.  In any other game these would be great, but given the weight and quality of the pawns they feel a tiny bit out of place.  They look great and work fine, just feel a tad bit cheaper than the other components.  I suppose the lighter plastic serves to keep the cost of the game reasonable though.  I could see where more substantial stones would both cost more to produce and add to shipping costs.  Maybe upgraded stones are something Rather Dashing Games can offer as a separate purchase though.  The game definitely deserves a deluxe version.
On their own these would be awesome (even the edges have texture) but compared to the pawns they feel a bit light.
Score: 9/10 x1

Rules & Setup:
Setup for Element is super, duper fast.  Just unfold the board, pull out the bag of element stones, and place the Sages for each player on the board.  You'll be up and playing in just seconds.

The rules are a little more complicated, but just barely.  It'll take you less than five minutes to explain the game to new players.  The object of the game is to surround your opponent's Sage so that it is unable to move.  In a three or four player game you are trying to surround the player to your right.
The rulebook is beautifully illustrated and covers just about every possibility.
On your turn you'll get up to five actions.  You'll get to move your Sage at least one space in any direction, including diagonally.  You'll also get to draw four random element stones from the bag.  You have the option of drawing fewer stones for an extra movement per stone not drawn.

Then, in any sequence, you can place the stones on the board and move your Sage. Each element can replace a different element. Air erodes Earth, Earth displaces Water, Water extinguishes Fire, and Fire consumes Air. So any single stone can replace another stone. Each type of element stone also does something different when placed on the board and interacts with the rest of the pieces differently.
The Rule of Replacement is very clearly depicted on the back of the rulebook to serve as a handy reference.
Fire spreads, so when you add a Fire stone next to a line of Fire, you'll get to take another Fire stone out of the bag and add it to the opposite end of the line. You can even place a stone in such a way that the Fire spreads in more than one direction.
Fire can spread across the board, but it moves slowly.
Water flows, so when you add a Water stone at the end of a line of Water stones, they'll all shift in the direction of the stone you just placed. So, if you have a line of four Water stones and you add a fifth stone, all five stones will flow across the board. Flowing water can twist and turn, too. It doesn't have to flow in a straight line.
Water may be the most complicated element in the bunch, but the rules illustrate how Water moves perfectly.
Earth endures.  When you add Earth stones to the board they don't do anything special, at least not alone.  However, if you place one Earth stone stacked on top of another you'll create a mountain.  Mountains are permanent ans can't be replaced by Air stones.  Not only that, but any Earth stones connected to the mountain are ridges, and also can't be replaced.  Even Earth stones that connect diagonally are part of the ridge, and they also block movement.  So a Sage can't cross a ridge diagonally, even if there is an open space on the other ice of the ridge.

Air blows, and Air stones are defensive stones.  They are used to enhance movement.  A Sage can pass over Air stones, but cannot land on one.  Landing on an Air stone causes the Sage to continue moving an additional space.  Air stones can even be stacked, up to four high, creating a whirlwind.  Each stone in a whirlwind moves the Sage an additional space.

All of these different properties are very easy to understand when playing, and make for a very dynamic game board.  The most challenging thing to remember is what element replaces which.  However there are reminders of this everywhere, from the great diagram on the back of the rulebook, to several reminders in the artwork on the board, to the promo reference  cards that you might be able to obtain.
Even the beautiful border surrounding the playing area serves as a reminder of the Rule of Replacement.
I was very pleased with the rulebook.  With so many possible interactions, pretty much every situation that came up was addressed.  There were actually only two minor hiccups in the rules.

The first, a minor issue, came up when my wife read the rules, and she reads things very literally.  She noticed that, while the rules state that you don't need to use all of your movement on your turn, but left over movement does not carry over to your next turn, nothing is mentioned about the stones.  It could be interpreted to allow you to hoard stones for a turn or two and then place a bunch at once.  It's pretty safe to assume that any unplaced stones go back in the bag and don't carry over to the next turn.

Second, and a bit more critical, is replacing whirlwinds with Fire stones.  The rules clearly state that a single element stone can replace a single other element stone.  But the gameplay seemed to lend itself to being able to replace a stack of Air stones with a single Fire stone.  So I asked the publisher and they confirmed that a single Fire stone can replace a stack of Air stones.

Score: 9/10 x2

Gameplay:
I really found Element to be an enjoyable game.  Rather Dashing Games aims at releasing games that are interesting, simple to learn, fast to play, strategic with a bit of luck, and fun to play.  Elements meets all those criteria!
The dynamic aspect of the game means the board changes constantly.
The first game of Element that I played was a four player game.  I was very curious to see how a four player abstract strategy game would work, an I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the mechanic of trying to capture just the player to your right worked.  It keeps you interested in what every other player is doing without allowing ganging up on any one player.

I also played with both two and three players and enjoyed the game at all player counts.  At two players the game feels more like a classic abstract game, and the three player game played just as smoothly as the four player game.
Regardless of the player count, Element plays great!
There is a significant amount of luck in the game, but with a careful strategy you can mitigate most of the bad luck and capitalize on the good luck.  The first few games I played ended mostly because of lucky draws, but as I played more I realized that a sound strategy could overcome luck most of the time.  But not all of the time.
Trapped!  If you end your move next to an Earth stone it's possible to lose in one turn if
your opponent happens to draw four Earth stones.  Here I lost to my son.
I've now learned to avoid that situation whenever possible.
The longer the game goes the more crowded the board becomes and the more likely a lucky draw of just the right stones at just the right time will result in a win.  This is a good thing though, because it makes the game accessible to new players.  Yes, a strategic player will usually beat a new player, but with a bit of luck even a novice can stay in the game long enough to get a lucky draw.
In a four player game there's always the feeling that you need to hurry and capture your target
before someone else captures theirs.
However, the more you play the game the more you'll see patterns and opportunities in the board.  There is definitely a payoff for learning the game and becoming familiar with the intricacies of the interactions.  Games will get longer with more experienced players, but they still won't exceed 30 minutes, at least not by much.  

Score: 9/10 x3

Replayability:
Elements is so quick to play, so easy to set up and reset, and so fun that it is great to play again and again.  The first time I pulled it out with my game group they immediately wanted to play again.  When I introduced it to my family they kept asking to play more and more.  I don't think I've yet to sit down and play it only once.  At 20-30 minutes this could be a good filler game, but it's the type of game that you can easily play multiple times in a row, and before you know it an hour or two has passed.
The random stone draws ensure that every game is going to
present unique challenges and opportunities.
Score: 9/10 x1

General Fun:
Everyone I've played Element with has really enjoyed it. The gorgeous components, fast and fun gameplay, and interesting interactions between all the different elements all combine to make Element a very fun game. It's going to become a staple of my game night bag.
Every game plays differently, but every game is fun!

 I really appreciate how simple the game is to introduce to new players. Yet there is a depth that becomes more and more apparent the more you play. Element fits an interesting niche where it can be played super casually while having fun conversation with the game as a light distraction, or as a serious, deep strategy game between two or more players.

Score: 8/10 x2

Overall Value:
Element isn't available just yet; a few more weeks and it should hit your FLGS and online stores.  The MSRP will be $35.  The components are gorgeous, and it's a great game.  At $35, this is a game that should definitely make it into your collection.

There are a lot of abstract strategy games out there that play with stones, chips, tokens, or pawns on a grid.  Go, Othello/Reversi, Pente, Tafl, Chess, Checkers/Draughts, on and on and on...  But before you dismiss this is just another grid based abstract strategy game, give it a try.  It does so much differently than those classics, yet still keeps the same elegant presentation.
Everything about Element is top notch and elegant.
The dynamic nature of the stones and their different behaviors really present an engaging and varied experience.  Every game is going to be different.  It's unusual for an abstract strategy game to play well with multiple players, and it's even more unusual for an abstract game to be so engaging, interactive, and dynamic.

I said earlier that Element is perfect for a deluxe version, and I hope that's something Rather Dashing Games pursues.  I can see a lot of people interested in a copy with a wooden board and glass stones that can stay out in a permanent display.  Even the standard game is nice enough to stay out, so $35 is a very reasonable price for what may become a classic someday.
It will become a family favorite, that's for sure!
Score: 8/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
If you can't already tell, I absolutely loved playing Element.  It is definitely going to be a Top Game of 2017 contender.  I love its accessibility, the dynamic nature of the element stones, the fast gameplay, how well it plays at all player counts, and of course the stunning components.

Since receiving Element I've played it a whole bunch!  Usually when I get games to review my friends and family are happy to play when I ask them to, but with Element they've been asking me to play.  It's been a huge hit and we've had a blast playing.  It's my most played game in the few weeks that I've had it and I don't see us losing interest any time soon.
Order your copy now!
Element will be available in retail stores soon (early March, 2017 is what I was told).  You can pre-order it from http://www.ratherdashinggames.com/element or ask your FLGS to make sure they'll be getting it in stock.  $35 is well worth it for this game that should be a staple of any collection.

Overall Score: 87/100


Did you like this review?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.












GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.