Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll And Write by Adam's Apple Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll And Write by Adam's Apple Games
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Vitals:
Title: Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll And Write
Designed by: Ryan Lambert, Adam Rehberg
Publisher: Adam's Apple Games
Year Published: 2019
MSRP: $99
0-99p | 25-35 min | 14+

Introduction:
AS FOOD TRUCK TITANS…
Send your food truck team to score sales at various venues throughout town. You can only visit each venue once and will need to carefully plan your route and take sales opportunities when they are arise. Drive efficiently and score bonuses, or race to the finish and hit the big-time payouts on the way. Plan your route but expect the unexpected in your path to food truck infamy!

Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy Roll and Write is a stand alone game and follow-up to the original Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy. It throws navigation, risk mitigation, and press your luck into the same meal pack for you to digest.

In Truck Off Roll and Write, all players are driving their food trucks around a grid system town map, and marking off venue locations in a secondary location called a route tracker for each venue they visit. All players will visit a new venue each turn and then mark the value of their corresponding venue dice directly scoring them points. If you mark three venues in one row or one column of the route tracker, you gain a bonus. Bonuses help you navigate around town, allow you to reroll your dice more, drive farther, drive faster, and promote venues to make them more valuable.

Each turn, the active player rolls the set of polyhedral dice. The active player may reroll up to one die to help the sales on their route or hurt the sales on their opponents route. Then all players select one open venue to drive to if possible up to 4 spaces away following a grid movement system. Each player then marks the value of the die on the corresponding location of their route tracker always progressing their route tracker.

Route Tracker: The route tracker is made up of six columns, one for each of D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, and D20 venues. However, the route must always progress forward from D4 to D20 and snake back to D4. If you skip a venue in your route, then you may not return to that venue on the route tracker. The route tracker will play a big role in your pathing around the town and also allows you push the game toward end quicker than your opponents expect.

To win the game and score the most sales, you'll need to plan your efficient route, take high sales opportunities when they present themselves, and figure out how to reroute your food truck if you deviate from your plan.

-description from designer

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Simple rules make it great for casual or new players.
  • Fun solo experience, especially with turns limited to 18.
  • Roll and write with a full set of polyhedral dice!
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • I've only played with up to two players due to the environment, but I'd like to play with more when I can get together with my game group again.
  • Two different maps have different bridge layouts and bonus goals to give some variability to games.
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Strategy sometimes seems superficial.  Most of the time you'll want to go to the location you can reach that has the highest value, making the game rely heavily on luck.
  • The rules have several unclear spots.
  • The player count is 0-99 players (not sure why zero is a player count), but as player count increases the benefit of rerolling for being the active player becomes more irrelevant and eventually unfair.
  • Final scoring is a LOT of math.  Just addition, but have a calculator ready.
Final Thoughts:
I've never played the original Truck Off, but I love the theme.  Racing around town selling food out of a truck is a ton of fun.  I also have really been enjoying the surge of roll and write games lately, so I was excited to try out Truck Off RAW.  I really like that the game uses different polyhedral dice, from a d4 all the way up to a d20.

I've mostly played Truck Off RAW as a solo game since the current stay-at-home orders have put the kibosh on my regular game nights.  I have played some 2-player games with my kids though.  So this review is mainly based on the solo experience and a bit of extrapolation about multiplayer games based on my 2-player games.  The rules are very simple and straightforward though, so the game will be a piece of cake to teach to new players, even players that aren't familiar with modern games or roll and write games.

There are a few minor issues with the rules though.  I had to check with the designer to get a few clarifications.  When you get the reroll bonus so you can roll a second die on your turn it's not clear if you have to roll two different dice or can roll the same die twice (you can roll the same die twice).  Also, it's not clear if the Move Your Truck bonus can be saved for later or has to be used right away (it must be used right away).  These are minor though, and easy enough to implement once you know the answers.  And if you don't know the official answer, doing it the wrong way doesn't change the game substantially.

As a solo game, Truck Off RAW does what I like in solo games.  It's a quick diversion that provides some interesting choices.  It's a bit lighter than I really prefer, but I've still found myself pulling it out at night after the kids have gone to bed when I want something quick to wind down to.  I can knock out a solo game in about 20 minutes.

However, my first solo game was rather disappointing.  The rules for a solo game are exactly the same as a multiplayer game, which means there's no pressure to race to the end.  So I simply tried to maximize the locations I visited, figuring a skipped location wasn't worth getting a slightly higher value at the next location.  This made the game more about finding the most efficient path through the map (which is essentially static - the two map sides have different bridge layouts) so that you could hit as many locations as possible and then just hoping for high dice rolls instead of making any strategic choices.  I did come up with a very simple solution to this, however.  Simply limit your turns to 18.  That you have to make important decisions about skipping locations in order to reach column bonuses and this makes your route planning much more critical.  I found the game a whole lot more engaging with just that simple change (and the designer said it may make it into an official variant).

In a multiple player game you still have the potential issue of everyone just trying to hit as many locations as possible, but if even one person decides to race to the end it'll force the others to make more interesting decisions.  I think the biggest issue with a multiplayer game is that the active player gets the opportunity to reroll one or two dice.  This is fine in lower player count games, but as the player count increases that benefit becomes less important.  If you're only the active player once or twice in a game the benefit of rerolling is minimal.  And at very large player counts some players may not ever be the active player.  This makes the game mostly reactive and reliant on luck at higher player counts.  Even at lower player counts and solo this is a game that swings more by the roll of the dice than strategic choices. 

The strategy comes in planning your route to ensure you don't block yourself into an area of the city that will prevent you from reaching any location on the next round.  Sometimes that gets to be a challenging puzzle in itself, especially when you try to plan your route for several turns ahead.

Overall I enjoy Truck Off RAW, especially as a solo game.  I'm curious about how it plays with a group of 4-6, but I'm happy playing it solo for now.  I do wish the two map sides were more varied.  The locations are all in the same spots with only the bridges changed up a bit and the bonuses on different rows and columns.  I can see this with a variety of different map layouts.  I also wish the game was a little less reliant on lucky dice rolls, but I do like the simplicity that the game presents.  If you like roll and writes like Qwixx or Twice as Clever, but want something a little more thematic (and at times a bit simpler), or something that plays great solo, Truck Off RAW might be a good game to add to your collection. 

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:















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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, March 31, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 218: Kiefer Shipman

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:Kiefer Shipman
Email:reflectivetreegames@gmail.com
Location:San Marcos, Texas
Day Job:Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Designing:Two to five years.
Twitter:@reflectivetree
YouTube:Reflective Tree Games
Find my games at:Hopefully, I’ll have a PnP soon.
Today's Interview is with:

Kiefer Shipman
Interviewed on: 3/7/2020

This week's interview is with Kiefer Shipman, the designer behind Reflective Tree Games. Kiefer has several designs that he's been working on and hopes to have one or more of them published through crowdfunding this year. Outside of board games, Kiefer is also a sign language interpreter. Read on to learn more about Kiefer 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?
My philosophy: more games is best, and I want to be a part of that.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Merchants of The Tradewinds, Hope Falls, untitled time travel game

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Not yet! Looking to be Kickstarter ready end of this year/beginning of next

What is your day job?
Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
I run 4 weekly gaming-related groups. One is for designers here at my house, one is at a local community center, one is after parks and rec kicks us out of the community center at my house, and one is my weekly Gloomhaven group. I’m also looking to start a design-related podcast at some point in the future.

Who do you normally game with?
I game with about a dozen people on any given week.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
My tastes in games ebbs and flows like the waves in the sea. Right now, I’m really enjoying Taverns of Tiefenthal, Tiny Towns, Gizmos, and Fantastic Factories.

And what snacks would you eat?
Snacks vary greatly.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Occasionally, but I mostly enjoy having the sounds of the people around the table over a soundtrack.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Probably Emerald Tavern in Austin.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Favorite-probably Villainous. The theming and skill Prospero Hall adds into all their games manages to astound me each time. Least favorite- Betrayal at House on the Hill. In the end, you move typically one space, roll dice, and something happens to you, but I enjoy the role playing. I can’t really think of a worst game.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite-worker placement Least-dudes on a map/area control and games where you just get picked on relentlessly.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
This War of Mine. Amazing mechanics and a fantastic message that don’t often get seen due to the subject matter.

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Ehhhh.... I’d rather not. In the end, the player who wins a large percentage of the time is the one who drew the dirtiest card.

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’ve done both. My first game, Merchants of the Tradewinds was theme AND mechanics. My second game, Hope Falls, started off as mechanics. My untitled time travel game started off with theme.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I’ve entered several, made it to the second of three rounds in most of them.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Prospero Hall. Kind of cheating, since they’re actually a group of designers, but I really admire their dedication, understanding, and research they put into bringing the IPs they make games from to life. I also really admire Rodney Smith. Perhaps it’s his friendly nature, but I just want to get my game in front of him at some point.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Oddly enough, my best ideas come to me in that weird moment between asleep and waking. I’ve actually lost a few games during those times because I opt to go back to sleep thinking, “I’ll remember that one when I wake up” and then don’t.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
Between the four groups I run, as well as several groups in both Austin and San Antonio, there’s never a shortage of play testers.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
That’s a double-edged sword. I’ve had bad experiences working with people when I didn’t set clear expectations. Working by yourself, you’re always on the same page as your team. Work with someone else, and they might not be on the same page. But designing solo is difficult in that you don’t always have people to bounce ideas off of.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Networking. Getting a crowd day one of a campaign is very important, but going to conventions is often a barrier to entry for people like me. I can’t afford thousands of dollars just to get my own booth, hotel, flights, and food, so I find it very difficult to meet all the people I would like.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I had an idea a while back to release games that use characters/companies from other board games. Like a Mario Kart-like game using other board game characters, a Smash Bros-like game (same concept), and a worker placement game where you take on the role of a real-life board game publisher, and release their actual games. As I mentioned before, going to conventions is a huge barrier to entry for many people, and my thought process for these games was to take all the profit of those games and set up a scholarship for other game designers to attend free of charge.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Just because a blog tells you that you should design your game THIS WAY, doesn’t mean that’s how YOU need to design your game. Everyone designs differently, and that’s okay.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Sometimes, doing that possibly costly, possibly wasteful work is better than doing no work at all. Making a nice deck of cards when I probably didn’t need to kept my mind focused on my game when I was banging my head against the wall on some stupid mechanic. Keeping my mind engaged allowed me to think about it in my free time, and I was able to come up with a lot more solutions.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: None yet, but SOON.
Games that will soon be published are: Merchants of The Tradewinds
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Possibly Merchants of The Tradewinds. I haven’t quite decided if I want to self-publish or not. I’m keeping my options open.
I'm planning to crowdfund: Merchants of the Tradewinds possibly, but my Time Travel worker placement is a for sure self-publish.
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Merchants of The Tradewinds
Games that I'm playtesting are: Hope falls
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Time Travel Worker Placement
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Pottery worker placement game, murder hidden movement game, a game I’m calling Veto, which is a party game all about the power of the presidential veto.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Board game design lab, San Marcos Board Game Designers, San Antonio board game designers, Austin Board 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 Wars. Either. VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I play video games, but board games have filled a void in my life I didn’t realize was there-human interaction.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I suck at computers. I mean REALLY suck. 90-year-old man suck.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I grew up with 60s, 70s, and 80s pop and rock. That’s typically my jam. But I’ve also found a group that does “epic” covers of those songs that are typically for use in movie trailers. Still to this day, one of my favorite series is the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, as well as The Giver by Lois Lowry (I do not recommend the movie for this AT ALL. DON’T EVEN WATCH THE TRAILER) I love the hidden gems of movies. The kind you see at Walmart that no one went to see. Some favorites: The Killing Room, Mr. Brooks, Bubba Hotep, Tucker and Dale VS Evil.

What was the last book you read?
I’m currently reading Jamey Stegmaier’s book.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I used to play the violin, but now I sing professionally in the shower.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I grew up with Deaf family members, and because I grew up signing, I now use that skill for a living.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I went to a paint rave. This was back in the day when Dubstep was the huge thing. None of that sounds like a big deal, but the paint being thrown around by the bucket...was house paint. I’m a pretty hairy guy, and the paint cemented my hair to my skin, so I had to shave most of my body (which hurt) and since it was house paint, I’m sure I probably chipped a few years off my lifespan.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Me and my wife (at the time we weren’t even dating) were in a really dark place. Worst time of our lives. We got pregnant, and that really put our entire lives into focus. We had something to live for. Something I wouldn’t give up for the world.

Who is your idol?
My grandparents. They are genuinely the most loving people in the entire world. I don’t know how they can go through life as the saints they are.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would go and undo some mistakes I made in the past. Things I shouldn’t have said. Things I should’ve said.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert, definitely.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I want to be the superhero my daughter thinks I am.

Have any pets?
One cat, Evie (she’s part Lemur, I swear) and dog Mo (he’s not very bright)

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 board games could ever be wiped out. We’ve had them for thousands of years, and I imagine we’ll have them for thousands more. I would hope that something that big would unite us rather than the constant divisiveness we experience everywhere today.

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):
To my wife and daughter Elena, you are the force that keeps me going. Without either of you, I would have nothing.

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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 217: Chris Rio

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:Chris Rio
Email:chris@cheerupgames.com
Location:Boston
Day Job:Digital Marketing
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:www.cheerupgames.com
Facebook:@cheerupgames
Twitter:@cheerupgames
Instagram:@cheerupgames
Find my games at:On Amazon, on cheerupgames.com, and Swearmints is on The Game Crafter.
Today's Interview is with:

Chris Rio
Interviewed on: 2/13/2020

Let's get to meet Chris Rio, a designer out of Boston who has a Kickstarter running right now for the first expansion for hid party game, Cheer Up. The expansion, Cheer Up! - The Big D Pack! adds locations and more to the game. In addition to designing fun party games, Chris also self-publishes his games. Read on to learn more about Chris and his other 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 play a lot of party games, but the quality varies wildly in the casual market and it's hard to know what's good. I developed my first game (Cheer Up!) as an antidote to what I saw were issues with certain games (like the popular one that rhymes with Lards Protest Calamity.) I literally just made the exact game I wanted to play.

What game or games are you currently working on?
The one that is public is called Master of Pieces and it's a painting party game where you don't have to know how to paint! I think it's going to be really unique when it's finished.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I self-published my first one, but stay tuned for the others!

What is your day job?
Digital Marketing

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
At my house on the big wooden dining room table. I like games with a lot of table presence and I like to be able to see everything. No buckets of Cheetos!

Who do you normally game with?
Friends and family! You'd be surprised how much your parents can enjoy it if you find the right game.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
I like to play something big but light weight that's easy to teach (like The Grimm Forest, or Deception) and then maybe end with either a new prototype or a staple party game

And what snacks would you eat?
NO CHEETOS ON THE TABLE!

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
No. The laughter is the music.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Diversions in Portsmouth NH! They were one of the first stores I sold to and the nicest people ever!

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I'm gonna go with an underrated party gem: The Metagame. It's a more clever twist on Cards Against Humanity and even funnier. I'm not gonna tear anyone else down!

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Judging. Almost all of my designs have incorporated it in some way, and even though most people knock it, I think it's the perfect social mechanic. It instantly designates the game as "just for fun" and isn't that the whole point? Least favorite: deck-building. I think I'm too dumb to get it.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I can sometimes handle heavier games, but most of my groups are pretty casual. So I basically have to go to a con if I ever want to try something like Root!

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes. It has it's issues but I wouldn't be here without 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?
This is not the way they tell you to do it, but honestly I almost always start with a title. It will just be a funny theme idea or a visual element that I can picture in my head. Then I build the mechanics out. When coming up with Master of Pieces, I thought "wouldn't it be funny if you could mix up all the famous paintings? Oh I have the perfect title!" I'll figure out how to actually do it later.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
My second game Swearmints did pretty good in The Game Crafter's Mint Tin contest!

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Not a specific person, but Big Potato Games are my business idols. I'm obsessed with what they are doing from a marketing standpoint and they are really doing a great job standing out from the crowded field of party games. Just look at their con photos and you'll see what I mean!

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
In dreams - I'm not kidding. Sometimes I'll see an image or a visual cue and a complete game idea will pop into my head, like it's hidden in there and I just have to unlock it. For Master of Pieces, I think I just saw a picture of the Mona Lisa and it just popped in. I'm not claiming to be a genius. It's completely accidental and I can't control it.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start with my very close friends and family. I know you're not "supposed" to do that because the feedback can be biased. But because I design casual games, that actually IS my audience. If they like it I'll take it to the next level. If they don't like it, I can tell! They won't tell it's great just because they love me.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Absolutely alone and it's a huge problem because I get stuck in my own head. My future goal is to maybe start a co-design and branch out a little more.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Art. I have a great eye for design and know what kind of artwork I like, I just can't draw for crap. I'm jealous of designers that can put a prototype together with full artwork because they can do it themselves.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I already have the game in my head!

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Take your time. Every time I have failed or been rejected in some way it was always for the best. The present always seems like the best time because you haven't been to the future yet.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Don't ignore the casual audience! There is a huge market out there of people whose last game they played was Battleship in 5th Grade and who have never heard of Kickstarter. Make stuff for them, and they'll love you for it!

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Cheer Up! The Ultimate Party Game, Swearmints
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: The first expansion to Cheer Up! - Cheer Up! - The Big D Pack! (through April 1, 2020)
I'm planning to crowdfund: Master of Pieces (eventually)
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Many.
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: A million things.

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

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 only because of nostalgia (the new stuff is hit or miss). I try not to drink too much soda anymore. And who would pick Betamax?

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I am not a bad drummer.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Modern rock I can blast and sing along to.

What was the last book you read?
Dan Brown's new one. It was ok.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Drums and a bit of guitar.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I'm a straight white male. Oh, you said surprise?

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Yup, not touching this one.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
My daughter. That's a joke, honey.

Who is your idol?
Kurt Cobain

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go back to college. Don't laugh, I genuinely liked it!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
The gaming community has made me MUCH more extroverted. I'm practically a Used Car Salesman now.

Have any pets?
Yes. I made him our company mascot because I could.

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?
Chess has lasted pretty long so far. Branded Monopoly boards can probably go though.

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 you big bullies from middle school, look how successful I am. Also, can I borrow some money?

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

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Press Release - Greater Than Games Temporarily Closing Parcel Shipments


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
St. Louis - March 23, 2020 - Greater Than Games announced today that we are closing parcel shipments until the estimated date of April 22nd due to the St. Louis County stay-at-home orders and for the safety and health of our employees. This date is subject to change based on federal, state, and local regulations. We are fulfilling all webstore orders placed before March 23rd. We have placed all of our non-digital content to “out-of-stock” on our webstore to ensure no orders can be placed at this time.

As announced in our March 17th press release, we are offering all of our digital material downloads for free, including PDFs of all of the currently released material for Sentinel Comics: the Roleplaying Game and the Cheapass Games in Black and White book. Click here to learn more.

About Greater Than Games, LLC
Greater Than Games, LLC is a leading tabletop game developer and publisher based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Established in 2011, Greater Than Games is well-known for delivering engaging, richly-themed, highly-replayable tabletop games.

Look for Greater Than Games titles in major markets worldwide.

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.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Tiny Epic Defenders 2E by Gamelyn Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Review of Tiny Epic Defenders 2E by Gamelyn Games
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Vitals:
Title: Tiny Epic Defenders 2E
Designed by: Scott Almes
Publisher: Gamelyn Games
Year Published: 2018
MSRP: $25 ($30 Deluxe)
1-4p | 30-60 min | 14+

Introduction:
The very first Kickstarter Preview I ever wrote on my site was for Tiny Epic Defenders, way back in 2014.  This was shortly after I started reviewing games and is the sixth game I reviewed, and the first I wrote specifically for this blog.  The review was for the limited, no-artwork, print and play version that was available during the campaign.  I read the description of the game and thought it sounded great.  So I printed out the game and tried it out with some friends.  We all enjoyed the game and I went home that night, wrote up a review, and then backed the game the next day.  This was the start of my foray into Tiny Epic madness!  In the pledge manager I bought Tiny Epic Kingdoms and I've backed every Tiny Epic game since... 

With the exception of this Second Edition of Tiny Epic Defenders.  At the time I was a bit turned off that the first edition wasn't compatible with the new The Dark War expansion that was also being Kickstarted.  Previous backers were offered a small discount, but it still meant paying over $50 to have Tiny Epic Defenders 'up to date'.  Fortunately I received this copy of the second edition to review and I've picked up The Dark War expansion, so now my Tiny Epic collection is complete!

In Tiny Epic Defenders, one to four players work together to defend the Capitol City against attacking Monsters, Dire Enemies, and an ultimate Epic Foe.  Six regions surround the city and these regions must be defended else the attacks begin to reach the Capitol City.  Each region has a special ability when a hero is defending from there.  Each hero also has a special ability, and there are artifacts with special abilities that can be acquired when defending against Dire Enemies.  Defeat the Epic Foe before the Capitol City falls and you win!

Blooms:
Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Unique turn based system.
  • Great artwork and components.
  • Simple, straightforward cooperative tower defense game.
  • Fast, casual play, perfect for families.
Buds:
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • The Dark War expansion adds a campaign mode and additional options.
  • Great for solo play!
  • The game arc progresses quickly from almost too easy to frantically difficult!  And multiple difficulty levels make sure you're always playing at an appropriate difficulty.
Thorns:
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Prone to 'quaterbacking'; easy to have an alpha gamer.
  • Updates to the Second Edition are minor, but required to use the expansion.
Final Thoughts:
As I mentioned in the introduction, this is the third version of Tiny Epic Defenders that I've owned, starting with the rough print and play version, then the First Edition, and now the Second Edition, and it (along with Tiny Epic Kingdoms) began my obsession with the Tiny Epic series of games.  So this is a game that holds a special place in my heart.  But how well does this Second Edition compare to the rest of the Tiny Epic lineup?  And is it worth getting if you already have the First Edition?

Over the years, Tiny Epic Defenders has gotten quite a bit of play from me.  It's not the most challenging or deeply strategic in the Tiny Epic lineup, but it's been a great casual cooperative game that I can play with my family.  You can knock out a game in 30-40 minutes and, even though the age says 14+, I've been playing it with my sons since they were 5 and 7 and they've had no issues with the mechanics (setup is a little challenging though, so I'd recommend an adult at least play along with younger kids).  I've played Tiny Epic Defenders a number of times as a quick game to play with the boys and as a solo game to play while I'm waiting for them somewhere, and I love it in both instances.

However, Tiny Epic Defenders does have some issues.  The biggest issue is that the game is very prone to 'quarterbacking'.  The game plays great solo, and there's a very strong temptation for alpha gamers to just make all the decisions.  If you're playing with younger kids you have to make an effort to let them feel like they're involved in the decision making process.

My other issue with the Second Edition specifically, is that it didn't really seem necessary.  Yes, it has updated artwork, new ITEMeeples, and some slightly more balanced abilities for the heroes, locations, artifacts, and enemies, and a few rules tweaks help smooth out a few minor rough spots, so it's a marginally better game than the First Edition.  However, these changes are super minor to the gameplay.  But when The Dark War expansion was released, Gamelyn Games wanted to incorporate the better art and components that their later games were known for.  This meant the base game also needed an update, making the First Edition completely incompatible with the expansion.  I guess I understand the decision, but I wasn't happy about it at the time.  I felt like people were being forced to re-buy a perfectly good game just to have the expansion (I have similar feelings about other games that have done this, too, like the excellent Dracula's Feast by Jellybean Games).

So, if you never intend to buy or play the Expansion (which adds a bunch of new features, including more ITEMeeple artifacts, new enemies, a campaign mode, and more), the First Edition is sufficient.  The changes didn't really affect the overall experience for me.  But if the features of The Dark War expansion sound great (and they are pretty great), then you'll definitely want the Second Edition of the game.

Now, where does Tiny Epic Defenders rank among the rest of the Tiny Epic lineup?  That's a more subjective question.  I quite like the game for what it is.  It's not the most strategic game in the lineup, but it's probably the fastest to setup and play.  I think the cooperative aspect of the game works better than the cooperative mode of Tiny Epic Zombies (and setup is much faster).  Personally, I like Tiny Epic Galaxies and Tiny Epic Kingdoms better than Tiny Epic Defenders, but I'd rank it about the same as the other Tiny Epic games.  It scratches a different itch than any of the other games, so I definitely think it's worth adding to your collection, especially if you're interested in a fast, simple cooperative game to play solo or with your family.

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bloom!  This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 

Pictures:






















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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.