Friday, January 22, 2021

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle by Blueprint Gaming Concepts

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle  by Blueprint Gaming Concepts
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Vitals:
Title: Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle & 2nd Story Expansion
Designed by: Brandt Hoffman, Seth A Cooper
Publisher: Blueprint Gaming Concepts
Year Published: 2021
MSRP: $64
1-7p | 15-105 min | 14+

Introduction:
A couple of weeks ago I did an unboxing for H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle and mentioned how I was looking forward to playing the game with my family.  The game combines an interesting theme with a number of mechanics that we really enjoy in other games, like tile laying, exploring, action selection, and more, so we thought it would be something that we'd really enjoy playing.  The rules are pretty simple, so it was an easy game to jump into, even though there are a ton of cool components.  So I set up the game on a Saturday and played a three player game (well, four players since my three-year-old played on a team with my wife).  So read on to find out if the game met our expectations!

In H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle, each player is a character who was involved in Holmes' various scams, cons, and schemes, who is trying to collect and remove incriminating evidence from the Murder Castle hotel.  The first player to collect all the evidence cubes they need and then return to the Pharmacy will escape and win the game.  The hotel starts with four rooms, the Pharmacy and three Basement rooms, but as the game progresses the hotel will grow.  With the 2nd Story expansion the maze of rooms becomes even more complex throughout the game.

On your turn you'll get to select an action.  Then you'll take the action, plus a bonus.  Then everyone else gets to take the same action without the bonus.  After everyone has taken an action the round ends, Holmes will move somewhere in the castle, and then the actions are reset.  Turns move pretty quickly and everyone stays pretty engaged.
Actions that can be taken include exploring the hotel (which lets you add new room tiles), moving your character one or two rooms, collecting evidence from the room you are in, draw event cards (some are played immediately, some kept for later), or moving Holmes.  Some of the rooms have special rules that activate when players enter them, some events help you out, some let you hinder your opponents, and some events add features like secret bookcase passages, trapdoors, and more.  There are five types of evidence cubes to collect and each player has a different combination of cubes they need to collect before they can escape.  Evidence cubes are placed randomly into a Ferris Wheel rondel that rotates as the game progresses, so you can plan somewhat for the types of evidence that will be appearing in the rooms.

After everyone has finished all their actions (and when someone takes the Holmes Moves action), Holmes will move about the castle.  The Holmes Moves cards show two or more rooms on them.  If any of the rooms have been discovered in the castle, Holmes will move to one of them.  If there are any players in that room they'll suffer a Holmes Strikes effect; they'll have to discard one or more evidence cubes from their board.

Once a player has all the evidence they need to clear their name (or prevent them from being convicted along with Holmes), they'll have to make it back to the Pharmacy in order to escape and win.  

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Pretty simple, straightforward rules make it easy to play and introduce to new players.
  • Love exploring the house and uncovering new, weird rooms.
  • Action selection mechanic is great and keeps everyone engaged throughout the game.
  • I love the idea of the Ferris Wheel mechanic so you can see the evidence that'll be coming up.
  • Nice components and artwork.
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • Solo mode adds an automata challenge for Holmes.
  • Can play in a one-vs-all mode with one player taking on the role of Holmes.
  • Quite a few rooms, some with different features or events tied to them, make for a different game each time.
  • Tons of event cards so it'll take a couple of games to see them all.
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Most of the rooms are just rooms.  Evidence is just colored cubes.  There's no drive to explore other than to just get more rooms and cubes on the board, not because they result in any interesting experiences.
  • Even at three players some actions taken left the last player with nothing to do, especially early in the game.
  • Game has very little arc and doesn't ramp up in tension or complexity.  It gets repetitive and feels the same from beginning to end.
  • In the standard game Holmes' movement is completely random and directionless.
Final Thoughts:
H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle has a lot going for it.  It uses some great mechanics put together in a straightforward, simple to understand way that makes the game great to introduce to new players.  The inspiration for the game is pretty dark and macabre, but its presentation in the game is much less so.  The game is more about the mystery behind the hotel and exploring it than it is about the murder and malice that surrounds the Holmes mythos.  The artwork throughout the game is mildly gruesome (some blood stains, morbid imagery, and a few dead bodies - you could have been featured as a cadaver as a Kickstarter pledge level), but far from gory or disturbing.  Most of the rooms are empty with a few odd props scattered about.  The game doesn't satirize or make light of the history it represents, but it also doesn't glorify or sensationalize the history either.  In fact, the theme is just very lightly incorporated into the game and the artwork.  

Beyond the theme, the game is pretty mechanically sound.  The rulebook covers most situations pretty well and there's a FAQ on Board Game Geek that covers the couple of areas where questions might arise or where the specific rules may be easy to miss in the rulebook.  Mechanically and strategically the game is pretty light, so it's good for families or casual gamers.  A lot of the game relies on luck - are the colors of evidence you need coming around on the Ferris wheel, is Holmes going to end up in your room, is an event card going to help you or hurt you, etc.  
Unfortunately, however, we found the game almost too light.  I love gateway games - they're great to play with my family or newer players, and this has all the right ingredients, but there's no escalation to the game.  The actions and strategies you use at the beginning of the game are the same as what you'll use at the end of the game.  You're just moving around from room to room picking up the colored cubes that you need.  And the evidence cubes are just that, various colored cubes.  They have no bearing on the game except for you needing to collect a slightly different combination than everyone else.  The only sense of urgency is if you can get your cubes before someone else gets theirs.  Everything else is just happenstance - does the Ferris wheel happen to have the color cubes you need to collect, do the colored cubes happen to be in a room that you can get to and collect evidence from, did Holmes happen to move to your room, etc.  Even the methods of messing with your opponents are just random chance event cards.  

In the game we played, my wife collected her last evidence cube and just had to move back to the Pharmacy.  There was nothing anyone else could do to stop her except draw event cards and hope one would mess with her or hope Holmes would move into her room.  So we just sat back for two turns hoping something would happen that would stop her from being able to move, but with two move tiles and everyone getting to take those actions, there wasn't anything we could do to stop her.  And both of the other players were only one evidence cube away from having our full sets, too.  But we couldn't move to rooms to get our cubes without giving my wife the movement actions she needed to win.  

So the end was very anticlimactic and helpless feeling.  Up to that point the game was interesting, but felt very repetitive.  There was probably too much flexibility.  With everyone getting to do every action that was selected every round, the bonuses for being the player to take a specific action didn't feel significant enough to matter.  The game ended with everyone very close, but it felt like we were close because we were all basically doing the same things as each other, over and over.  I think the game would be more interesting without the bonuses for taking an action, and having only the active player taking the action.  That would give some tension, wondering if you're going to be able to move this round, or collect that evidence you need.  It would also add some strategic choices and ways to mess with other players.  We could have taken move actions, even if they wouldn't have been optimal actions for us, just so my wife wouldn't get to move to the Pharmacy.  Then she would have had to figure out other ways to achieve her goal (maybe through events or by purposely getting Holmes to move toward her so she could use her special ability).  Alternately, let players choose to take the bonus and give everyone else the base action or forfeit the bonus and only take the action themselves.  Either of these options would have kept the gameplay simple, but allow for more strategic choices.

I was also disappointed in the rooms themselves.  In Betrayal at House on the Hill, which has a similar exploring the house mechanic but very different gameplay otherwise, almost every room has some special effect, action, or rule.  This keeps the game exciting and unpredictable, and even gives you a purpose for visiting specific rooms sometimes.  In H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle only a few of the rooms have special effects.  Most of the rooms are just plain rooms with different artwork.  So the only reason to go to those rooms is if they have the color evidence cubes you need.  But those are placed mostly randomly and even in a three player game rooms were quickly emptied of cubes.  So there was no reason to move to (or avoid) most rooms.  The only thing that matters is if evidence cubes you need are in a room.  This keeps the game simple, but also not very interesting.  One room is pretty much the same as any other room.
Finally, in the standard game anyway, the movement of Holmes is very uninteresting.  You draw a card and move Holmes to one of the named rooms if possible.  If someone is in that room they get a Holmes Strikes cube and have to discard one or more of their evidence cubes.  The room Holmes moves to is completely random, and many times Holmes doesn't move at all.  The story is that Holmes knows all the secret passages and can appear in any room at any time, but there's no tension in that.  I'd much rather see Holmes prowling through the hotel, moving from room to room.  If he moved through all the rooms between where he was at and his destination, there would be a lot more tension and fear.  This might mean a lot more interactions with Holmes, but it would also really add to the experience.

Keep in mind that these observations were with a three-player count game.  In a five or six-player game the board will be tighter, there will be more competition over the available evidence cubes, and rooms will empty quicker, requiring more strategic decisions.  And with the one-vs-all mode, a player is controlling Holmes' movement, so there should be more tension.  However I believe a game should play well at all player counts listed, especially in the middle range.  Since the game is rated for 1-7 players, three should have played fine but it really felt like it was missing something.  Mechanically everything worked well, thematically it was interesting, but the game felt repetitive and lacked the excitement and tension that would deliver the "thrilling" experience the box promised.

Crimes in History H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle gets a Bud.  It's a solid gateway level game that you may enjoy, especially if you like games like Betrayal at House on the Hill, true crime, or action selection mechanics.  It's somewhat disappointing though, especially because I feel that just a few tweaks could turn an okay game into an amazing game.  It's not far off the mark, but it falls just a bit short.  A lot of things in the game reminded me of one of my first game designs - Polterheist, a game about exploring a haunted mansion and trying to find a hidden treasure.  Mechanically the game worked, and it was even fun, but it suffered from many of the same issues that H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle suffers from - every room felt the same, finding items was random, and players felt like they were just wandering the house for the sake of just getting to the next spot they could search a random deck.  Someday I'd like to get back to Polterheist because I feel the same way about it as I do about H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle - there's a great core idea, but it needs something to bring it up a notch to make it great.  Maybe someday H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle will get a second edition that addresses some of these issues, and if it does, I'll be all over it!

If Crimes in History H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle sounds like a game you'd like to try, you can pick up a copy from Blueprint Gaming Concepts or your favorite online or local game store for $64.

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.
Pictures:

There are a lot more pictures in the Unboxing Post.



Yes, we did play one rule incorrectly and added an extra room in the basement.





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 19, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 262: Keith D Franks III

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. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Keith D Franks III
Location:Sydney, Australia
Day Job:This is my day job, but I moonlight as a design and marketing consultant.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:Cutlass Boardgames on Patreon
BGG:Keith D Franks III
Facebook:Cutlass Boardgame/
Twitter:@CutlassGame
YouTube:Cutlass Boardgame
Instagram:@cutlassboardgame
Other:
Find my games at:https://cutlassboardgame.itch.io
Today's Interview is with:

Keith D Franks III
Interviewed on: 1/1/2021

This week's interview is with AUstralian designer Keith D. Franks III. Keith has a number of self-published games that he's designed, including a successful Kickstarter for Castles of Caleira a couple of years ago. He has a whole bunch of games in the works, so read on to learn more about Keith, his company Cutlass Boardgames, and his projects.

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 was inspired by the challenge to be able to tell a story, create a universe, and tell it to people using components, and art. Most of my games revolve around a greater story, and the game itself is only a window into those events, that the players get a chance to witness first hand. I think that unique challenge in creative design is what drew me in. Seeing giants like Magic: The Gathering be able to drop hints at a greater story using only a few lines of flavour text amongst a huge series of cards, and art depicting different parts of the story, was a huge inspiration.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I have two major projects I'm working on at the moment, the first is Winning Love by Daylight; a Sailor Moon inspired boardgame where you are a teenage super hero trying to balance school work, study, romance, and protecting the city. It has a really intricate story, amongst eight main characters that spans an in development visual novel, and webcomic. All which will culminate in the game's release, where you get to play in that world, as those characters. The second is; The Murders at Tealwoods Manor, a reverse murder mystery worker placement and drafting game, where players are trying to manipulate the events of a 19th century banquet to protect certain guests, and ensure the murdering of others. It's light mechanically, but highly strategic.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I've self published a tonne of games, which sometimes feels like it doesn't count. The ones that you would most likely be able to find in a brick and mortar store in 2021 are: Castles of Caleira, my first game: a gorgeously illustrated medieval fantasy castle building microgame, where you attempt to build a greater castle than your rival on a neighbouring hillside. The second is Spaceship Redoubt, a Sci-fi social deduction game where players must repair the ship and uncover the identity of the shapeshifting saboteurs who have killed the captain and are attempting to blow up the engine!

What is your day job?
This is my day job, but I moonlight as a design and marketing consultant.

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
The only boardgame events that I've attended regularly have been in function rooms of pubs in the city near me. Game stores in Sydney are too small, and most other places are too expensive. I'd play board games at my place, but there's no chairs in my living room or dining room. Only a billiards table.

Who do you normally game with?
Usually people that are regulars at the local events. All my local game design fam live too spread out to hang out together.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I've always got some untested prototype that I've inflicted upon my friends. Although some of my favourites lately include: Hues n Cues, Azul, Reef, and Blood on the Clocktower.

And what snacks would you eat?
Licorice is my go-to for in most cases, I'm also a big white chocolate fan. Often, Krispy Kreme doughnuts too.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Lo-Fi hip-hop. If you're going to play anything that has lyrics in it, I can't concentrate on what you're saying to me. Elevator music, please.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
My favourite, friendly game store was Gamezilla that closed down too soon. My favourite local one, is Good Games Hurstville. All of the stores I've liked the most, either have changed management for the worse, or shut down entirely. Which is pretty upsetting.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favourite game is still: Blood on the Clocktower. It will be tough to dethrone. Least favourite that I still enjoy is Spirits of Carter Mansion; it's one of mine that I have a huge love hate relationship with, I'm really proud of how it accomplished the design brief, but damn was it a clunky failure. Worst game I ever played goes to any "point at the funny card I wrote, and laugh" that people are still making to this day.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Social Deduction historically, it's inspired the most creations out of me. Lately, I'm really getting into action selection. Least favourite is probably player voting, it never really accomplishes what you want.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
This second: The Murders at Tealwoods Manor. COVID makes it hard to get anything to table, and I'm super excited about this game, and it's really hard to get it happening for people to play it.

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

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, RPG Games, Video 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?
Depends on the game, I've done a little of the both mentioned above, and also a few games where I've just created all of the components, and then tried to figure out how they all come together to make a game. I think what motivates me the most is the challenge, sometimes the challenge is creating a immersive story with three-dimensional characters, sometimes the challenge is to create a game with infinite replayability with only 18 cards. The fun in a Haiku is knowing you have to tell a story with a limited amount of syllables, when I design a game, the challenge exists first, and that motivates me to build something, which eventually evolves into the final product.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
The Calling: A Cthulean Social Deduction game, placed as a finalist in TheGameCrafter competition for Social Deduction games. The game featured a unique moderatorless mechanic where players performed an action, then woke the next player up around a circle. Also, instead of voting to execute, any three players alive or dead (all dead players are auto-evil) could form a murder party, and instantly kill a named player. The game is HAVOC, and super fun.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Usually is the local talent that inspires me the most, and more-so because they kick my ass about improving too. Also Omari Akil, out there killing it everyday, and makes me want to level up to match his game.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
When: Half asleep usually. scribble some notes, and come back to it, or pull an all-nighter to make a proof-of-concept. How: Usually it's in response to a what-if, or trying to improve upon an existing concept. which comes from anywhere.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
You're asking Mr. Bring-your-work-to-Board-Game-events-2020

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Whether or not it's my preference, all of my projects have for the most part been: Me hiring an artist to do the illustration work that I can't, and me taking the idea all the way to shelf. Designers out there that want to collab? Hit me up fam!

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
The distance between Australia and America. Not being able to attend the convention circuit makes me feel like I don't exist compared to the indie scene over there. Australia's talent just doesn't get a spotlight on the global stage, and we have some crazy cool folks down here.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Godzilla. Without a second's hesitation.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That I should do it. I was a DJ for TOO long.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Anyone can do it. It's about telling a story to people through play. Build a story that you think will be fun. Even if playing it for the first time sucked, that's a lesson learned, tweak until it works, or it'll turn into something useful later. Some of the things I had written off the hardest, turned into great ideas when presented as part of a different project.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Castles of Caleira, 90s Tapes, Crikita, Spirits of Carter Mansion, Strange Sites, the Calling, Treachery of the Paper Fox, Wingfalls of Dusk, Wings of the Eve, Spaceship Redoubt.
Games that will soon be published are: Journey into Death's Grasp: (A RPG system that uses 2 D20; a D+20 and a D-20, and a dynamic alignment system from (+)heartless to (-)wholesome, where your skills affect whether or not you have heartless or wholesome outcomes in combat, dialogue, and so-on.)
The Murders and Tealwoods Manor: (Mentioned earlier in this interview.)
Galactic Cartel: (A Social Deduction game where you bid on people to be executed instead of voting.)

I'm planning to crowdfund: Winning Love by Daylight: (Mentioned earlier in this interview.)

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
I'm in so many that the folder of bookmarks for them doesn't all fit on my monitor at once.

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 Wars, but not by much. Coke. VHS, it's become such an iconic LoFi aesthetic filled with glorious 90s Nostalgia.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Video Games, mostly. I watch a tonne of movies.

What is something you learned in the last week?
A random Facebook post shed some light on some ancient personal trauma. Super unexpected, but very wholesome and helpful.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: LoFi and Riddim, I like snappy snares. Books: Currently reading Piers Anthony's Xanth series, all of the world building is done with Puns and that is weird and interesting to me. Movies: I usually pick things based on the people in it, but I have a love for Monster Movies, Romantic Comedies, Regular Comedies, High-concept Sci-Fi and the occasional Drama.

What was the last book you read?
A spell for Chameleon: Piers Anthony

Do you play any musical instruments?
No, but I can Beatbox pretty damn well.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
People always seem surprised that I'm very tall, probably because they usually see me sitting down a lot. I'm a big fan of sit.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Funded a Kickstarter, did all the graphic design and production myself, and got it delivered to backers earlier than scheduled, while I was homeless. Looking back on it, I have no idea how I accomplished it so well with so little money.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Ask my parents.

Who is your idol?
Steve Buscemi is way too underappreciated for how cool he actually is.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Get more hours out of everyday. Shock everyone by how productive I am.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Ambivert with huge introvert leanings.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Mystique probably, I dig that whole infiltrating and disappearing angle, where most other heroes are kind of all about the big rumble with the villain.

Have any pets?
Not currently, but eagerly waiting until my lease is up so I can get a 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 feel like the mostly likely to survive is the deck of 54, and whatever games people can invent with that. Hopefully it'd be a role-playing game. I'd be pretty stoked if human greed disappears in the future.

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):
Shout out to all the artists I work with. Arianne Elliot, Seth Rutledge, Klaudia Bezak, Kaionalpaca, and more. They're the real rockstars here.


Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!




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?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or 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: Best-Selling Fantasy Novel Series, the Runelords, Launches Board Game on Kickstarter

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Best-Selling Fantasy Novel Series, the Runelords, Launches Board Game on Kickstarter

NEVADA, USA; 19 January 2021 - It’s a fantasy world that has captivated millions, where magic exists as bodily attributes such as brawn, fortitude, wit, and even glamour and can be transferred to Runelords in order to protect their lands. Now fans of the fantasy series by acclaimed author, David Farland can experience all the thrill of the legendary battles at their table with The Runelords Board Game – now live on Kickstarter.

Designers John D’Angelo and Shawn Engle at Red Djinn Productions have tasked themselves with bringing life to this fantasy world and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to secure funding for printing.

The Runelords Board Game is a hex-based skirmish for 1-4 players, where Runelords use powers gifted by their vassals to vanquish their rivals. Developers say the gameplay will feel familiar to fans of Gloomhaven or Warhammer.

The game comes with multiple gameplay modes to suit different play styles with four competitive modes: Blitz, Resistance, Blood Metal Mayhem, and Runelord Royale. In each one, players lead their recruits into battle with their Runelord’s unique set of Sovereignty cards. For those who want to double down on strategic gameplay, Runelord armies can be combined in the optional deck-building mode before battle where the armies of the chosen Runelords are merged into a single market for all players to purchase from. Finally, the scenario-driven Adventure modes are ideal for players looking for a cooperative or solo gameplay experience.

With crowdfunding veterans behind the project, The Runelords Board Game debuted on Kickstarter on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 following rigorous playtesting and careful development. In addition to art and other assets being established before crowdfunding, a demo has been available for months for Tabletop Simulator and can be found on the Steam market.

Copies of the game are available for a $49 pledge plus shipping with optional miniatures available as a $15 add-on.

 

The Runelords Board Game Details:

Website: https://www.therunelordsgame.com/

Facebook :: Twitter :: Instagram :: BoardGameGeek :: Tabletop Simulator Demo

About Red Djinn Productions

Red Djinn is in the business of telling stories. From a simple lyric to a feature film, the company’s creative process is fuelled by narratives that can be shared through games, film and music.

Media Contact Details

Brandon Rollins, Pangea Marketing

Chattanooga, TN

8652PANGEA

brandon@pangeamarketingagency.com


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.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Enter to win Aroma - A Game of Essence

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In celebration of Organic Aromas becoming an Elite Sponsor of GJJ Games, they are running a giveaway of their game Aromas - A Game of Essence.
Organic Aromas is giving away two copies of Aroma - Game of Essence, the essential oils olfactory acuity board game. Test your sense of smell in this fun, engaging, one-of-a-kind board game. A gaming concept found nowhere else, Aroma is a wonderful way to explore the world of natural fragrance. There are four different games in Aromas, each requiring a quick wit, a good memory and a keen nose! Using actual gaming strategy, Aroma challenges you to find your aromas, deceive your opponents and guess the right scent all under pressure.

Be sure to enter below before 11:59pm CST on February 7, 2021!




Aroma - A Game of Essence
Did you like this giveaway?  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.


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 261: Taylor Hayward

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. Support me on Patreon!


Name:Taylor Hayward
Email:taylor@greenmeadowgames.com
Location:Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Day Job:UX Designer
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:greenmeadowgames.com
BGG:Taylor Hayward
Facebook:Green Meadow Games/
Twitter:@greenmeadowgame
Instagram:@greenmeadowgames
Find my games at:https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1809204170
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2295753156
Today's Interview is with:

Taylor Hayward
Interviewed on: 1/1/2021

This week’s People Behind the Meeples interview is with Taylor Howard of Green Meadow Games. In 2018 he successfully Kickstarted Darkness and next month he’ll be Kickstarting the next game in the series, Dawn. Read on to learn more about Taylor as well as the next games in his series!

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 love making them and I think there's room for even better games

What game or games are you currently working on?
My next game, "Dawn" is launching on Kickstarter on 23 Feb 2021. I'm in the process of designing my next game in the series, "Daylight"

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes. Darkness was published by Gamewright Games.

What is your day job?
UX Designer

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At friend's homes

Who do you normally game with?
I belong to a few gaming groups. One meets in a nearby home, the other meets at a game store about 45 minutes away.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
If it's a casual game night, Just One, and Hanabi. If it's serious gamers, Gloomhaven, and Twilight Imperium 4.

And what snacks would you eat?
Pizza, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, Chinese food, or sushi.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Ambient background music, or D&D playlists from Spotify.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Pandamonium Games in Central Square, Cambridge.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite: Gloomhaven, Least favorite that I still enjoy: Carcassonne, Worst game I've ever played: the video game, "Frog Bog". Laughably bad.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite: cards can be used for multiple functions in combinations with other cards and the player has to choose which way to optimize their hand. Least favorite: coin toss.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Camel Up for money. Most people don't want to play for real money even if there's no pandemic. I find the game is much more fun that way.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Video 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?
Used to. Got bored of it.

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?
I first try to think of a pattern I think people would feel is valuable to learn, then build from that.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes. I won entry into the Festival of Indie Games.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
No idols, but I think Bruno Cathala is an exceptional game designer.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I look at what patterns people would gain the most value learning and make a game around them.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Through the various online and in-person game design guilds that are around.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I'm happy to work either way, but I haven't found the perfect co-designer yet. Maybe someday.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Marketing.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I'd have to think about it, but my first thought would be something involving Skyrim.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That it's a skill like any other that gets better with practice.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
There is a LOT of opportunity for innovation. We've only scratched the surface of what's possible.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Darkness
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Dawn
I'm planning to crowdfund: Dawn
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Daylight
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Dusk

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Game Makers Guild - Boston

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 Wars, Coke, VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Poker, music composition, and stock market analysis.

What is something you learned in the last week?
That SWATing has become a bigger and bigger problem.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: ambient electronica, Books: educational, Movies: accessible, novel, highly produced films.

What was the last book you read?
Adventures in Business

Do you play any musical instruments?
Piano

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I designed the modern Captcha test we use today as an afternoon project.

[GJJ Games] Very cool! You can reaqd more about this here: 3D images: A human way to create Captchas on CNET

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Did donuts in the snow in a traffic intersection.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Ate live lobsters and got free sushi.

Who is your idol?
I don't have any.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go to the future and come back to the present with information about how we could improve our fate.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Extrovert.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Reed Richards. Loving family and most likely to be able to constructively help the world.

Have any pets?
No.

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 music creation continues past our current age. There is a litany of "old code" in our DNA that was once valuable but is now harmful and should get removed from our DNA. Things like tribalism, and adversarialism.

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):
Shout out to Saweetie. Stay true to yourself.

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

Come signup for my upcoming Kickstarter here: https://greenmeadowgames.com/dawn.html




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?  Please show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or 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.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Unboxing - Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle


Blueprint Gaming Concepts is a local Chicago area publisher who just published their first game through Kickstarter.  Fulfillment for Crimes in History: H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle is currently happening and games should be arriving to backers this month.  Brent and Seth over there were generous enough to donate two copies of the game for the Extra Life Charity Auction this past November and they sent along an additional copy for me to review for them.  Last weekend I had a chance to unbox the game in preparations for playing it with my family this weekend.  I can say that we're all excited to play.  We love the idea of combining Action Selection (like in Puerto Rico) with exploring a haunted mansion (like Betrayal at House on the Hill), sprinkled with a bit of (slightly exaggerated) true history.  The stories, both true and fabricated, surrounding H. H. Holmes are fascinating, though a bit dark and macabre.  Holmes may not have murdered hundreds of people in the basement of his hotel, but he did kill quite a few and the hotel was an oddly constructed building, plus his schemes, scams, and fraudulent marriages were disturbingly fascinating.  

You'll be able to read more about my thoughts and opinions on making games based on true, macabre history, in my review, coming in a week or two.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos I took while I opened the box for the first time.  Overall the components are great, however there are a few minor issues.  Whether these are the results of first time publishers, or the manufacturer they chose (GameLand), or a combination, I don't know, but there are a few minor things that could have been done better.  There were also some things that were outstanding.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was that most of the punch boards were individually wrapped.  This kept pieces, especially the larger tiles, from popping out in-transit.  Maybe not completely necessary, but a nice touch.  The boards and tokens are all a decent thickness, the cards are decent quality (though they don't have a linen texture), and the art and printing is clean and clear.  

There are a number of colored cubes that look and feel great, and they're stored in draw-string bags with screen printed logos on them.  I did notice that one of the bags' draw strings were not tied, but that was a simple fix.  There's also a really cool brass plated key to use as a first-player token.

The game comes with seven miniatures; one for each plyer, plus Holmes.  You can also use the included cardboard standees if you prefer (and I had an extra stand).  The miniatures are nice - Victorian characters that match the artwork - though nothing exceptionally amazing.  

Despite the components being pretty good quality overall, I did have a few small issues.  They shouldn't affect the gameplay at all, but they were a little disappointing all the same.  First was the player boards.  When I pulled them out I noticed that they were all a bit warped.  They're double layered boards, so the cubes shouldn't fall off, even with the bow.  Second was the Ferris wheel rondel.  It looks like it was supposed to come assembled, but the top button that allows the arms to spin wasn't connected to the bottom piece.  When I went to snap them together I found that the hole in the arms wasn't large enough for the axel part to push through.  I ended up having to make the hole bigger with a hobby knife.  It's all connected and working fine now though.  Finally, on the punchboard for the 2nd Story expansion tiles the die cut wasn't completely through on all the tiles.  Punching them caused some of the printing to rip off.  Fortunately it was on the frame side and not the tile side of the cut, so I just trimmed the flap of paper and we're good to go.

Finally, the biggest disappointment, was the insert.  It's an oddly designed insert with specific places for some items and various sized wells for other items  Everything fits, but it's not clear at all where anything is supposed to go, except for the minis, Ferris wheel, and player boards.  There's no clear place to put all the room tiles, so they're just resting on top of everything else.  If there's a good way to get everything into the insert securely it would be great to see a guide.  

Like I said though, none of these are issues that couldn't be fixed, nor should they affect my enjoyment of the game.  I've read through most of the rules already and it looks like it'll be an easy game to learn with a lot of excitement and some good strategy.  My family and I are really looking forward to playing it this weekend!


Enjoy the rest of the unboxing pictures!

Pictures:




































Did you like this unboxing article?  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.