Friday, January 24, 2020

Eye on Kickstarter #80

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 related reviews or interviews 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 2019 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 January, 2020:

Live Campaigns from Past Eyes:
APEX: Theropod Deck-Building Game by Outland Entertainment

School of Sorcery
by Dr. Finn's Games - 2 DAYS LEFT!
  • Steve Finn has a reputation for designing amazing filler games, and, having played a number of them, I have to say the reputation is well deserved. His games are always fast, light, engaging, and interesting. School of Sorcery is his latest Kickstarter for an update to an older game of his (2015's Institute for Magical Arts) with new artwork and refined mechanics. Go ahead and grab this, I'm sure you won't be disappointed! And hurry, this was a 2 week campaign, so there's only a few hours left!

Collect magical items and build friendships to increase your influence at the School of Sorcery. This quick-paced strategic game for 2 players is a newly revised and updated version of Dr Finn’s popular Institute for Magical Arts, successfully Kickstarted in 2015.

During the game, players compete to win magical items and characters at different locations. Each round has 5 Phases:
PHASE I: Collect Crystals - Collect 5 crystals
PHASE II: Cast Crystals - Using your dice roll, send crystals to desired locations
PHASE III: Use Portal - Using the portal, secretly send crystals to a new location
PHASE IV: Activate Powers - Activate the powers of your permanent cards
PHASE V: Evaluate Locations - Award sorcery cards at the locations

Simultaneous Decision-Making: Little downtime
Dice Mitigation: Multiple options for every dice roll
Unique Card Powers: Increases replayability
Fantastic Art and Colorful Graphics: nice to look at
Quality Components: shiny gems, punchboard player boards and locations, wooden tokens, high quality cardstock

Pacific Rails
by Vesuvius Media
  • Pacific Rails is a train game with a theme that I really find interesting. It's about the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, which I also coincidentally made a game about (see The Overland Route), though it's just a small 2-player, 18-card game. Pacific Rails looks like a fun, historical tile game and I'd love to give it a try someday.

Return to Dark Tower
by Restoration Games
  • Restoration Games has been breathing new life into classic games from decades ago. Last year's hit for them was a reboot of Fireball Island and now they're back with a completely reworked and modernized version of the classic Dark Tower. In this new iteration they've improved the gameplay, updated the art and graphics, blended the physical gameplay with an innovative app, and engineered an amazing tower that actually works in conjunction with the app via bluetooth. I just wish it wasn't so darn expensive! Still probably cheaper than getting your hands on a good copy of the original though...

Jurassic Parts
by 25th Century Games
  • I love puzzle and area control games and Jurassic Parts looks like a great one. Not because of the dinosaur theme, which is great, but because of the interesting area control puzzle aspect of it. As you use chisels to section off pieces of map you'll get rewarded based on how much you helped with sectioning off the map. The more you help the more fossils you'll get, so there's a really interesting area control battle along with a puzzle as you try to figure out how to best section out the play area so you can build the most complete skeletons.

Migration Mars
by Enhance Games
  • I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for a great space themed game, especially with roots in actual science. Migration Mars is about the race to build a sustainable human colony on Mars and it looks incredible. From the amazing buildings to the clean graphics, this is a game I'd love to get to the table.

Citadel Deck Block
by Quiver Time
  • Back in 2016 I reviewed the Quiver Gaming Case and thought it was outstanding. I still use it to this day to store and carry my Star Realms, Epic, and some other card games. Now the team is back with a deck box that is just as, or maybe even more incredible. The quality on Quiver Time's products is amazing and the engineering that has gone into the Citadel has resulted in an ingenious product. If you're looking for a high quality deck box, here's your answer!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Island Hopper by Eagle-Gryphon Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Island Hopper by Eagle-Gryphon Games
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Title: Island Hopper
Designed by: Scott Almes
Publisher: Eagle Gryphon Games
MSRP: $50
2-6p | 30-45 min | 8+

You and your friends all make a living by selling goods amongst a chain of beautiful tropical islands. Sounds great, right? Well, there's a problem. None of you are successful enough to buy your own seaplane, so you all pitched in and bought one together, which means that each day you all have to use the same plane to make all of the day's deliveries – and some of you aren't going to get paid. To make matters worse, the plane is in such disrepair that the instrumentation is broken, the compass demagnetized, and the windshield is covered in cracks, duct tape, and the remains of a few unfortunate seagulls, so the pilot might as well be flying blind...

Each day in Island Hopper, players auction off the Captain's seat; the player who becomes the Captain is in charge of flying the plane for the day, but cannot make any deliveries of their own. To make their deliveries, the other players bribe the Captain to fly to the islands to which they need to go, thereby earning themselves cash. When it's time for the Captain to fly, the Captain must close his eyes, pick up their goods tokens, and attempt to land them in an island's harbor. A successful landing means that players can fulfill their contracts and the captain collects his bribe — but if the goods splash into the sea, you might find yourself under water...

—description from the publisher

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • A silly combination of dexterity and social interaction with a fun bidding mechanic.
  • There are fun, strategic choices to make.
  • The artwork by Kwanchai Moriya is whimsical and the components are top notch.
  • There are lots of moments for laughs, as long as you don't take the game too seriously.
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • This game isn't for everyone, but if you like social interaction and light strategy, give it a shot!
  • Having limited chances to say a single word has pros and cons.  On one hand, it prevents people from just shouting things out randomly, on the other hand, with certain players it results in no one saying anything.  It might be fun to try playing without the direction tokens and let the pilot have to figure out directions from a cacophony of different instructions.
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • The game is simple enough, but the rulebook could have used a few more runs by a proofreader.  There are a few typos and phrases that seem to be left over from the prototype (referring to coins as cubes, for example), the terms 'round' and 'phase' are used interchangeably, and there are a few details that seem to be missing (like what triggers the end game).
  • We found players hands tend to either rise from the table or drop closer to the table, so some players tend to drop the goods from higher up, resulting in more bounces and less successful landings, while others are almost placing the goods right onto the islands.  2-3 inches is an ideal height, but it's difficult for everyone to be consistent.
  • While the art throughout the game is pretty nice, the coins are super generic.  They're functional, but about as plain as could be.
  • There is a very high amount of luck in the game, particularly for what contracts and passengers are available to draw.
  • Missing from the rules is what the ruling should be (success or not) if a good is on an island and coins.  Not touching the table, but definitely supported by the coins surrounding the island.  We've been playing that the coins become an extension of the island (thus making it even more attractive to try to fly to), but there's no discussion of this in the rules at all.
Final Thoughts:
Island Hopper is the type of game that needs a very specific audience.  It's quite fun if people are willing to be goofy and silly, but it's not going to work well with people that are very analytical or strategic.  There is a bit of strategy, but it's overshadowed by some silly dexterity mechanics that can leave your best laid plans sunk in the water after a bad bounce.  If you go into the game understanding that the joy comes from the experience, regardless of if you win or lose, you'll have a good time.  This isn't a perfect game; there are some fiddly aspects to it, and for as casual as it is, there is a lot going on outside of the primary mechanics.  Whether you feel this enhances the game to move it up a notch from just a casual dexterity game, or just gets in the way of a silly dexterity filler is up to you and the group you play with. 

This is a great game to play with the family, particularly the 8-15 age range.  I think the 12+ age limit is quite a bit higher than necessary - there are no complex mechanics or concepts.  Probably the limiting factor is how far across the table the players can reach since the islands can be spread out a bit.  I think if you like games like Colt Express, Junk Art, or similar light, silly games, Island Hopper might be a good choice for you!

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bud!  This game definitely has some
great moments.  It's good for several plays
and should appeal to most gamers, especially
if you enjoy other games like this.

Did you like this review?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

GJJ Games 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 were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Press Release: Announcing The Space Battle Lunchtime Card Game from Renegade Game Studios

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Announcing The Space Battle Lunchtime Card Game!

Battle In An Intergalactic Cooking Competition At Your Gaming Table

In partnership with Oni Games, Renegade Game Studios is excited to announce the upcoming release of Space Battle Lunchtime Card Game
Space Battle Lunchtime Card Game is based on its namesake graphic novel by Natalie Riess, about Earth baker Peony who gets the deal of a lifetime when she agrees to be a contestant on the Universe's hottest reality TV cooking show, Space Battle Lunchtime!

In the game, players will face off as contestants in the intergalactic cooking competition show. They’ll collect and combine flavor cards to create the perfect prize-winning dish, trying to impress the alien judges with their creativity!
Designed by Daniel Solis (Wonderland, Junk Orbit)  and illustrated by Space Battle Lunchtime creator Natalie Riess, episodes of the game last about 30 minutes, starring 2-5 competitive cooks who have orbited the Earth’s sun at least ten times. Chefs can begin cooking when the game releases in May!
Space Battle Lunchtime is part of the new upcoming event, Board Game Expo! Participating stores will be able to demo and sell this game a full month early on April 4th. Find out more about this program here!
Learn more!

Did you like this press release?  Show your support: Support me on Patreon! Also, click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Press Release: New Product Announcement - Game: CABO Deluxe Edition from Bézier Games

Press Release: New Product Announcement
Game: CABO Deluxe Edition from Bézier Games

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Louisville, TN. January 21, 2020

Calling all CABO fans! Bezier Games is releasing an amazing new addition of this classic point shedding card game; CABO Deluxe Edition will be hitting stores February 19th. This adorable new two piece box includes two separate decks, each with a different card back design and an awesome enlarged scorepad. Rounds will move much faster while one player shuffles one deck as another player deals the other!