Friday, December 28, 2018

Eye on Kickstarter #56

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

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2018 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 December, 2018:

LunaTix: Star Trackers
  • This is an intriguing looking game about astronomy. Using real science, players are racing to be the first to get to the moon.

The players are astronomers coming from different continents and travelling around planet Earth. They are looking for great observation spots to accumulate enough stellar navigation knowledge and experience (Ticket points called ‘Tix’) to face a trip to the Moon (Luna). Tix can be earned by visiting new continents, using new vehicles and by observing the Moon, the planets (expansion) and the constellations of stars. In the endgame the Tix are essential to overcome the navigation problems you might encounter on your way to the Moon. The first player reaching the Moon due to sufficient knowledge wins the game. When playing solo, a time restriction is added to win the game depending on the difficulty level.

About the game
LunaTix: Star Trackers is an educational Board Game which combines astronomy and space navigation. It is developed by Vincent Verhoeven, who works for the Public Observatory Armand Pien at Ghent in Belgium. This unique game contains artwork by Marian Pontier, André De Coster, Nancy Scherlynck and it also contains stylish miniature designs for the expansions by Jeff McDowall Design. It takes 1 to 6 players to play the game and plays in 30 to 60 minutes.

  • It's rare for a big game to launch at the end of December, but Nocturion is aiming to be one of those. Brought to us by the same team that released the Dwar7es series of games, this worker placement, dice, and resource management game has stunning artwork and looks interesting to play, too.

Kraken Ataken!
  • If you're in the mood for a fast, light game about krakens attacking pirate ships, then this one looks like it could be quite fun.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Advertise Your Giveaways to Over 4000 Gamers

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I'm happy to announce that I've opened up the cover image in the Boardgame Giveaways & Contests - Tabletop, Board, and Card Games group on Facebook for you to advertise your board game giveaways!

The Boardgame Giveaways & Contests - Tabletop, Board, and Card Games group on Facebook is a worldwide community of over 4,000 people (and growing) specifically interested in tabletop games. 

For more information about advertising your giveaway in this group, see the Advertise Your Giveaway page.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The 11 (again) Best New-To-Me Games of 2018

The 11 (again) Best New-To-Me Games of 2018 1 Spotlight Expansion and 19 honorable mentions
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This is the second year in a row that my list of new-to-me games and gotten shorter.  There are three main reasons for that.  1. As I've been playing games longer, I'm finding fewer older games that are new to me.  2) This year my game group played several games multiple times, meaning there was less time to add in new games.  3) And probably the biggest reason, I now have a toddler running round the house and demanding a ton of attention.  So the amount of gaming I've been doing has decreased, too.  This year I've played 91 new-to-me games so far, which is still a lot of new games.  Once again, this year my Top 10 is actually a Top 11.  I just couldn't narrow it down to just 10, so I figured I started a trend last year and I might as well continue it.  Also, this year I've continued with The Best Kickstarter Previews & Prototype Games of 2018.

This main list only contains published games that I've played for the first time this year (although a couple I played previously in their prototype form).  So, without further ado, here are my Top 11 New-To-Me Games for 2018, including 19 runner-ups and 1 Spotlight Expansion, so that's 31 excellent games for 2018!

Also, check out my lists for 201720162015, and 2014.

Honorable Mentions in Alphabetical Order:

* Indicates I played first as a prototype and then a completed, published version in 2018.

Artifacts Inc. (2014) - Ryan Laukat makes some great games, with several appearing on this list in the past.  Artifacts Inc. is a great little game, and I think the only reason it didn't make the top list is that it's just a bit too long for its weight.  I do quite enjoy it though.

Can't Stop (1980) - This is an old Sid Sackson classic press-your-luck game that I've heard about for years, and finally got a chance to play this year.  It was definitely ahead of its time and has aged very well.  It can hold its own with any modern press-your-luck game.

Century: Spice Road (2017) - Century: Spice Road was a contender for the top list, and I really did enjoy it.  I'd love to play it more, but I think I like Splendor just a bit more.  I do want to try the sequel, Century: Eastern Wonders and the additional game that can be played with both combined.  A few from my game group have done that and loved it.

Death Wish * (2017) - I reviewed this back in 2016 and felt it was a fun, silly party game with a tad bit of strategy.  I felt the same way playing the published version and did a review update for Death Wish last month.

Deep Sea Adventure (2014) - I played this once with a group at Gen Con and quite liked the press-your-luck aspect combined with the player interaction.  This is a great press-your-luck game to play with larger groups.

End of the Trail (2018) - End of the Trail is an interesting game that blends several different mechanics in a unique game about the gold rush.  You use cards in your hand for multiple purposes, including bidding, auctions, movement, actions, and building a poker hand.  I felt these elements came together wonderfully, but my game group's opinion was divided.

Feudum (2018) - I think I'm really, really going to like Feudum once I have a couple of plays done to figure it out.  There's just so much going on in this game.  It's easily the heaviest game I own and I spent several hours just trying to get through the rules and then several more hours playing it at my Extra Life 24 Hour Game Marathon.  We didn't finish the game, but loved what we managed to get through.  I recently found a 'learn as you play' tutorial that I'm going to go through with my group sometime soon.  I'm also going to be working through the solo game soon, too, so hopefully I'll be able to tackle this beautiful beast of a game before long.

Fresco (2010) - Fresco met with mixed results in my family.  My wife and I liked it, but my sons were very quickly bored.  I definitely want to get this to the table more often though.

Lucidity: Six Sided Nightmares * (2018) - I reviewed this as a prototype and it made the number 2 spot on my Top Kickstarter Previews list last year.  The De-Lux version that you could get from Kickstarter is absolutely gorgeous and the gameplay is still fast and fun.  This just barely missed my top list this year.

Photosynthesis (2017) - I received Photosynthesis for my birthday this year and played it incorrectly the first time.  I enjoyed it, but felt it was missing something.  It turned out it was missing a player who could read the rules correctly!  The next play I realized what we had done wrong and the game was a lot better.

Potion Explosion w/ The Fifth Ingredient (2017) - Potion Explosion made it onto my list last year.  This year we added the Fifth Ingredient expansion (and the Fulminating Serum promos) and love what they add to the game.  The white Ghost Ectoplasm marbles and potions that go with them really add a new twist without adding complication.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the 6th Student expansion brings to the game next year.

Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time (2017) - This is a very light cooperative game, but it's quite fun.  It's fairly random, with a lot of dice rolling for the AI side, but the puzzles it presents and the ways it makes players work together and plan is great.  I highly recommend this for families that enjoy cooperative games.

Radiant * (2018) - Here's another game that I reviewed before it hit Kickstarter.  It made the number 1 spot on my Top Kickstarter Previews list of 2016 and is still a solid blend of trick-taking, area control, and other elements of traditional card games.  Plus, I love the artwork!

Sagrada (2017) - Sagrada was very nearly on the Top 11 list, and then, while I was in the middle of typing up this list, I played a game that knocked Sagrada off.  Sagrada is a beautifully simple dice drafting game that is great for both new and experienced gamers.

Scythe w/ Wind Gambit (2017) - Scythe is still my favorite game, although there are a few that give it a run for its money (including this year's top game).  The Wind Gambit is the game's second of three expansions and adds a few new twists to the game.  It's not essential, but if you love Scythe, it adds just enough that you'll want to pick it up.

Tiny Epic Defenders Second Edition (2018) - I have quite enjoyed all of the Tiny Epic games and, although I think Tiny Epic Defenders is the weakest of the series, I really enjoy the simple cooperative aspect of the game.  It's one I enjoy playing solo and with my sons when we want a fast, light cooperative game.  The Second Edition tweaks some balance in the game and adds ITEMeeples and artifacts they can carry.  This isn't essential to the base game, but it does help with the theme immersion and does help with some of the mechanics in the Dark War expansion.

Tiny Epic Quest (2017) - I only played this solo earlier this year and really want to get it to the table as a multi-player game.  I like the shared press-your-luck aspect of the game and the drafting for movement and exploration mechanics.

Tiny Epic Zombies (2018) - I picked up Tiny Epic Zombies because sometimes you just want a zombie smashing good time without wanting the full Zombicide or Last Night on Earth.  The coop vs AI mode was a bit lackluster, but I really think the game will shine in the all vs one mode.

Trickerion: Legends of Illusion (2015) - Maybe I was just tired - I played this toward the end of my 24 hour game marathon for Extra Life, but, while I enjoyed Trickerion, I also found it more mechanical and less thematically immersive than I'd have liked.  Some elements felt unnecessarily restrictive, but there's no denying that it's a gorgeous game that does a lot very well.

And now for the Top 11 New-To-Me Games of 2018


First, a Spotlight Expansion:

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions(2018) - I'm not a huge fan of expansions.  Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of expansions, but I play so many different games that I rarely play a game often enough to get tired of the base game.  I wasn't tired of Roll Player either, but after playing the Monsters & Minions expansion last year for a review I fell in love!  The expansion adds very little overhead but tons of theme and some really great options to an already awesome game.  There are very few games that I care whether I play with an expansion or not, and more often it's that I prefer the game without the expansion.  I often play games with new players and expansions tend to add extra complication.  Monsters & Minions doesn't make Roll Player any more challenging to teach new players.  Its integration with the base game is seamless.  Roll Player is still a wonderful game without Monsters & Minions, but now that I have the expansion, I'll never play the game without it, even with new players.

And now for the Top 11 New-To-Me Games of 2018

(Really this time.)

11 - Megaland (2018) - While I do like heavier brain-burner games, I also really like fast, simple games that combine some press-your-luck with some strategy, too.  Megaland really hits the spot for a simple, family friendly press-your-luck game.  You'll get to go on quests, collect treasures, build buildings, and more, as long as you survive the monsters on your adventures.

10 - Science Ninjas: Valence Plus (2017) - This was a surprise hit this year.  We found the game last year at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair and my wife was really interested in it, so we ordered it.  It took a few months before we had a chance to sit and play this, but we were pleasantly surprised at the solid gameplay.  It's relatively simple hand management, set collection, and some crafting, but utilizes actual organic chemistry for molecule building and chemical reactions.  We really liked the blend of science and games and I'd be happy to play this with my game group as well as my family.

9 - Captain Sonar (2016) - Captain Sonar is a game that really plays best with exactly 8 players.  Unfortunately it's rare to have 8 people, although that's been happening more often with my game group.  The experience of Captain Sonar is unlike anything else out there though.  Think of Battleship, but played out in real time without turns and with two teams.  Each team of four players has a map of the waters their submarine is navigating and each person on the team has a very unique job to do to ensure that their submarine doesn't get destroyed by their opponent's torpedoes or mines.  It's truly a cooperative game that is impossible for a single player to quarterback.  Everyone is too focused on their own job to worry about what others are doing right or wrong.  This is a hectic blast of a game!

8 - Palm Island (2018) - I picked up Palm Island because I wanted a solo game I could play easily when I'm out of the house.  Palm Island seemed perfect for those times when I'm sitting, waiting for my kids to get out of whatever activity they're in, or while waiting at the doctor's office, or any other time I have a few minutes to myself.  You know what?  It is perfect for those times, and more!  Even though I just got the game in August, it's my second most played game of 2018 and my most played game since August, by far.

7 - Rise of Tribes (2018) - I'm about halfway through writing up a review of Rise of Tribes, so I won't spoil much here, but suffice to say that I really enjoyed it.  The components are outstanding and there's both a depth and simplicity to the gameplay that I really like. 

6 - Flip Ships * (2017) - I first saw Flip Ships as a prototype at Protospiel Milwaukee in 2016 and was enthralled.  The game is essentially Space Invaders with cards and discs that you flip at the alien invaders.  The game is really brutal, but for as difficult as it is, most of my games have come down to a very close shootout.  The game only plays up to 4 players, but we even did an 8-player game as teams and had an absolute blast.  This is one of the best dexterity games I've ever played.

5 - Tyler Sigman's Crows (2018/2010) - This was originally published in 2010 as just Crows, but this year a new, updated version came out.  It has new artwork, an updated theme, and a few small extras, but it's very much the same game.  A friend picked it up at Gen Con and I first played it toward the end of my 24 hour game marathon for Extra Life.  I was exhausted, so I got trounced, but I absolutely loved the game.  I like abstract strategy games that have a unique theme to fit the mechanics (like Bullfrogs from Thunderworks Games / Renegade Games).  Crows really feels thematic for what is essentially an abstract strategy game.  On top of that, the components are incredible, especially if you happen to get the metal coins.  

4 - Azul (2017) - Azul won the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year award) for 2018 and it definitely is worthy of the award.  Simple mechanics and a great puzzle combine with some indirect player interaction to create a wonderful game.  Beautiful components give it great table presence, too.  Someday I want to play this with Starburst candies instead of the tiles it comes with though.  Someone please make that happen.

3 - Cursed Court * (2017) - Cursed Court is another game I first played at a Protospiel (Madison 2016) and loved immediately.  Part deduction, part bidding, and a bit of bluffing make this a very fun game.  The components are top notch, too (just don't step on the crowns).  I do wish the coins stacked easier, but they work fine.  It would also be nice if the character names were printed on the game board, but that's not essential to the gameplay.  This is a game that I bring to almost every game night, just in case I have the chance to play.

2 - GoodCritters (2018) - I don't think any other game elicited more laughs around the game table than GoodCritters.  This isn't a perfect game - players later in the turn order have a smaller chance of being the Boss, especially in higher player count games, but the game is just so much fun on so many levels.  It only takes a few seconds before everyone is talking with horrible Italian mafia accents, making wild accusations, empty threats, and exaggerated boasts.  There's no real strategy other than social manipulation, and the goal is more to have a great time than it is to win.  With the right group of people, GoodCritters is a hilariously good time.

1 - Great Western Trail (2016) - I was already in the middle of writing up this list when I played Great Western Trail.  I almost didn't want to play it because I was pretty sure it was going to make it onto this list, forcing me to rearrange things I had already thought long and hard about.  I totally didn't expect it to immediately jump straight to the top of the list, unquestionably.  I can't say enough wonderful things about Great Western Trail.  I've never played anything else like it.  It blends all sorts of mechanics into something completely new.  There are tastes of deckbuilding, hand management, worker placement, racing, programming, crafting, engine building, action selection, and more, but it couldn't be described as any of those solely.  What's most incredible though, is how smoothly the entire game plays.  There's so much going on, but everything fits together seamlessly.  Turns fly by for the most part and there are dozens of different paths to victory.  Great Western Trail looks complicated at first (it's a very busy board with a lot of stuff going on), but after a turn or two everything clicks and the game just chugs along.  My hat's off to Alexander Pfister for designing an absolutely amazing game.

Well, that's it for my list of Top 11 New-To-Me Games of 2018.  I know there are a ton more great games out there and I hope to someday be able to play them all.  I have quite a few unplayed games on my shelf that I just know will be in this list someday.  So I guess all I want for Christmas is more time.  Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year, and play some great games with your family and friends!

How many of these games would make your top 10 list?  Are there any you feel strongly that should have been moved in its position?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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.

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 151: Martin & Lily Lockett

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 and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!

Name:Martin & Lily Lockett
Location:Matlock, UK
Day Job:Teacher & schoolchild
Designing:One to two years.
BGG:Martin Lockett
Facebook:Double L Games/
Find my games at:Nowhere yet but watch this space.
Today's Interview is with:

Martin & Lily Lockett
Interviewed on: 10/5/2018

Double L Games is a family operation. Their first game, Build, was designed by daughter Lily and father Martin. They've turned the positive feedback they've received from Build into a family venture that aims to get Build and more games published to reach the masses. So keep an eye on Double L Games, they may just have a hit on their hands!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

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

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
It grew on from being a keen hobbyist. We were given a game called - well I won't tell you what it was called. It looked beautiful but played really badly. We rewrote the rules so it became a cooperative game with a hidden traitor element. Hey Presto! We began as game designers.

What game or games are you currently working on?
Build: a game of deal, diplomacy and development.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Nope, this is our first.

What is your day job?
Teacher & schoolchild

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

Where do you prefer to play games?
Home with family, our regular gaming group and our pop-up gaming cafe.

Who do you normally game with?
Mostly friends and family.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
TIME stories or Arkham Horror the card game.

And what snacks would you eat?
Crisps. Seabrooks Crisps

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes, we generally play a thematically appropriate playlist

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Chimera in Nottingham or Spirit in Burton on Trent.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current fave: Arkham Horror TCG. Least Favourite: Tsuro. Worst: Tsuro of the seas.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
My favourite game mechanic is the 'Epidemic' in Pandemic. I love watching a new player realise what this implies. My least favourite is the tedious roll and move in 221b Baker Street.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
TIME stories.

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

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

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?

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

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Theme first mostly. I always think of board games as role playing games in another form. I want to be able to tell stories.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Entered - yes. Won - No.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Matt Leacock for definite. The simple elegance of Pandemic is wonderful.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
All over the place. A lot come from watching films or TV. I've written a lot of genre games. Horror, ScFi - they're all pulpy and soaked in the tropes of films and TV.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
We playtest with friends first, then take it out to local shops, clubs and cafes. Then to large meets and conventions.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I find myself working alone but luckily my local area has a supportive and thriving network of game designers.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Personally, I'm coming n to the industry as a more mature person. I look around at the more established folk and they're about 10 years my junior!

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Patrick O'Brian's Captain Aubrey books. Intricate naval battles and tense espionage.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That it was possible.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Take part in the games designing community. There is no industry like it for supporting each other.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
I'm planning to crowdfund: Build: a game of deals, diplomacy and development.
Games that I'm playtesting are: Zombies on a Bus
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Children of the Night
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: Airlock; Creepy Man and Heist: the board Game.

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes, many - particularly the Nottingham Tabletop Industry Collective.

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?
Writing music

What is something you learned in the last week?
Chickens are great escapologists

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Music: Indie. Books: Science. Movies: Action

What was the last book you read?
Civil War by Peter Ackroyd

Do you play any musical instruments?
Many instruments badly: guitar, bass, ukulele, recorder, keyboards

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I want to be stand up comedian when I grow up.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Finding funders for our game, Build.

Who is your idol?
Jarvis Cocker

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Visit HG Wells.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I don't want to be a superhero. Too much responsibility!

Have any pets?
We have chickens.

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 roleplaying game survive and I hope wilful self-delusion is wiped out.

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

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:

Did you like this interview?  Pleasse 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.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Best Kickstarter Previews & Prototype Games of 2018

The Best Kickstarter Previews & Prototype Games of 2018
6 Kickstarter previews, and 11 prototypes

In 2018 I did a lot fewer reviews than in the past.  It's funny how having a toddler will exhaust you, especially one who isn't sleeping through the night yet!  I only played a handful of games heading to Kickstarter this year, but did play a number of prototypes while I was at Protospiel events.  Here's my annual list of the top Kickstarter Previews and Prototypes that I played in 2018.

Top 6 Kickstarter Previews:
(k-f) Kickstarter failed.  (k-s) Kickstarer was successful.  (k) Kickstarter hasn't launched yet.

6 - Fry Thief (k) - by Patrick Rauland / Laid Back Games - This is a game that I've played several times as a prototype and now it's heading to Kickstarter.  I have a review copy that I'll have a review for in January, so keep an eye out for that.  As a spoiler though, Fry Thief is a very fast (10 minute) asymmetrical 2-player game where each player is trying to eat more fries.  One player is the health nut and starts with no fries.  The other player starts with all the fries.  Can the health nut steal and eat more fries than the fry eater before they're all gone?  Fry Thief is a small game that can be carried anywhere, plays quickly, and is super simple to teach (it's a simple play-a-card, draw-a-card mechanic) that is quite fun to play.

- Lockup: A Roll Player Tale (k-s) - by Stan Kordonskiy / Thunderworks Games - Lockup is the latest game in the Roll Player universe.  This is a worker placement style game where players are the minions captured and  imprisoned in Roll Player: Monsters & Minions.  Each player controls group of minions trying to become the top dogs in the prison, but without garnering the attention of the prison guards.  I didn't have a chance to review this, but the game I played was quite fun.

4 - Zoo-ography (k-s) - by Bryn Smith, John Olson / Doomsday Robots -  In Zoo-ography players are drafting tiles (cards in the prototype) that will be used to build a zoo.  The player with the zoo that meets the most objectives wins the game.  I found Zoo-ography to be a fast, fun filler game that would be great for casual gamers, newer gamers, or as a fast diversion for more experienced gamers.  There's hidden depth and variety in the objectives and attractions that you can add to your zoo that experienced players will appreciate, yet a simplicity of play and great theme that will attract casual players.

3 - Skulk Hollow (k-s) - by Keith Matejka / Pencil First Games - Skulk Hollow is another game I didn't have a chance to review, however I was part of the demo team that showed the game off at Gen Con last summer.  Skulk Hollow is a very fun two-player asymmetrical combat game where one player is the small, but numerous Foxen and the other player is the large, powerful Guardian.  The game plays out on a small map, and the Guardian attacks the Foxen as they move around the map.  But there's a second board, too - the Guardian itself.  The Foxen must jump onto and navigate the Guardian's body to attack various areas.  The game was fast to play and a ton of fun!

2 - Rurik: Dawn of Kiev (k-s) - by Stan Kordonskiy / Piecekeeper Games - This is Stan's second game to make this list!  I was part of the playtest team for Rurik and helped provide feedback that helped in the development of the game, so that was quite cool.  Rurik uses a new mechanic called Auction Programming that's really cool.  On top of the awesome gameplay, the artwork is absolutely stunning.  I can't wait to see what the finished version of this game looks like.  Piecekeeper Games is known for awesome quality components and artwork in their games and Rurik looks to have knocked it out of the park.

1 - Dual Powers: Revolution 1917 (k-s) - by Brett Meyers / Thunderworks Games - If you want to find some fantastic games, follow Keith Matejka.  He's directly involved in three games on this list (his own Skulk Hollow, plus he's the owner of Thunderworks Games), plus I believe he was a playtester for Rurik as well.  Keith has a great eye for game design and does an excellent job bringing games to reality.  Dual Powers is no exception.  Of all the games I played in 2018, Dual Powers tops my list of Kickstarter previews.  There are two other two-player games on this list, but Dual Powers just blew me away when I played.  Whether you are a fan of historical games, Euro style strategy games, war games, or even abstract strategy games, Dual Powers: Revolution 1917 gives you something to love. This is an absolutely amazing work of art (both for it's gameplay and for the actual artwork in the game) that I fully expect to be on a number of Top 10 lists for 2019 when it's finally published. It should definitely make the top spot in a number of 2-player lists and I'd be surprised if it didn't creep into a number of other overall lists as well. This earned the highest rating I've ever given a Kickstarter preview, and the game totally deserves it!

Top 11 Prototypes:

In 2018 I didn't have time for any BGG contests, but I did go to three Protosiel events (Milwaukee, Chicago, and Madison).  There were also quite a few awesome games at the Protospiels I attended that I didn't get a chance to play.  These are the ones I enjoyed the most from what I did play, though.

I also wanted to give a shout out to two members of my game group.  On the first Tuesday of every month we work on playtesting games.  In the past these have always been my own games, but this year Kevin W. (Card Sharks and an untitled garden warfare dice game) and Tony C. (Storm Lords) have brought out their own designs.  It's great to see others getting inspired to create games, too.  All three games they've brought out have some very interesting ideas, too, so I can't wait to see how they continue to be developed.

11 - Paradise Lost (Tom Butler prototype) - This was an interesting deduction game that used a journey mechanic similar to Tokaido.  The theme of the game is that each player is a fairy tale character that is trying to save the fantasy realm from an evil witch and a villain.  The problem is you don't know the villain, nor the weapon needed to defeat it.  Throughout the game players are going on a journey to visit three oracles to learn more about the ultimate foe.  Each location on the journey gives you a different benefit or action that you can take, and sometimes a penalty (I chose to stop on the Black Swan spaces that were generally pretty harmful every time, just to see what would happen - I still figured out the villain and weapon, but was last in line to guess).  The overall journey part of the game was interesting and presented some interesting player interaction opportunities, however there were some pretty rough spots that need some smoothing out and the end game felt anticlimactic.  Overall though I think there's a spark of something great here, as long as the fluff can be cleared out and the deduction aspects pushed even further.

10 - Macabre Witches (Patrick Rauland prototype) - This game was developed just a day or two earlier and played excellently for a brand new game.  It's essentially multi-player solo, but does have some player interaction.  Players have identical decks of 13 witch cards, some light, some dark, and with 6 symbols on them (plus several without any symbol).  9 cards start out face down in a grid and players take turns playing one card from their hand face-up into the grid and taking the replaced card into their hand.  Then you take the action of the card you played.  Some actions let you look at other cards, some let you manipulate the symbols, others let you mess with your opponents' grids.  It was a fun, quick, puzzle of a game.  I also got a peak at the artwork Patrick is getting for the game and it is AMAZING!  Keep an eye out for this one, I think it'll go far!

9 - The Ogre's Jewels (Troy Pichelman prototype) - I played this back at Protospiel Milwaukee before it had a proper name (it was Death Trap Bits back then).  At that time it was a component only game without a board (for The Game Crafter's components only contest).  The game has come a long way since then and felt pretty solid and polished by Protospiel Chicago, except for the final battle against the Ogre.  Troy had this out a lot at Protospiel Madison, and I believe a lot of the final balance issues have been resolved, however I didn't have a chance to play it at Protospiel Madison.  I look forward to trying it again at Protospiel Milwaukee in the spring.

8 - Honey Buzz (Paul Salomon prototype) - This worker placement game about bees building hives and harvesting honey to sell at the "bear market" is already signed and in final tweaking before publishing. It's really close! I love the tile laying aspects of the game and it has an interesting variant on worker placement, but it needs just a bit more work to make all the spaces important and usable throughout the entire game. It's solid and fun though and should be successful when it hits Kickstarter in the next year or so.

7 - Goodbye Friend, Hello Dinner (Kevin Jones prototype) - I played this once before, at Protospiel Madison 2016, and had a great time.  So I was looking forward to seeing what had been updated.  This new version has tools and witch doctor cards that added quite a bit of interest and helped drive strategies.  After playing I suggested a chieftain piece in addition to the other pieces that counts double and can't be hunted.  I saw him testing this and a few other suggestions we gave (give everyone a different starting tool) later in the weekend and it was working very well.  I'm looking forward to playing this again in the future.  I didn't have a chance to play this at Protospiel Madison, but it looked like people were having fun with it.

6 - Pyro Tactics (Arkadiusz Greniuk prototype) - Pyro Tactics is a simple abstract strategy game, but has a really unique way of moving around the board to capture areas. With two or three players everyone plays individually and with four players you work together as a team with a partner. You're moving around the grid placing fire gems on the spaces between the main spaces with the goal of being the last player to surround an area to score it for points. The really neat thing about the game was how movement works. Each space has multiple paths to reach it, including straight from one space to another, or around a bend to get to the space. Additionally, you bounce off of other player pieces. This makes for some really awesome combo moves. I had a lot of fun with this one.

5 - Cats or Dogs (Maxine Ekl prototype) - Maxine excels at creating quick, simple games that are a ton of fun. Cats or Dogs is an interesting take on trick-taking in that there are multiple tricks being played at the same time. If you can follow suit you must and if you are winning the suit it'll sit in front of you until someone plays a higher card. Once a trick has three cards in it the winner collects all the cards in the trick. If you can't follow suit you'll start another trick with another suit. So there could potentially be five tricks going on at once (it's a five suited deck). On top of that, each suit is a mix of cats, dogs, and blanks, and you score points for cats or dogs, whichever you win more of in a hand, plus a bonus if you get more of the type that you wagered on at the beginning of the round. I really enjoyed this and can't wait to see how it gets refined!

4 - Rendezvous (JT Smith prototype) - This is JT Smith's game about trying to survive the Wisconsin winter as a pioneer in the 1800s.  I've seen this being changed and developed over the past few years, but this was my first chance to play.  It's a pretty solid worker placement game that incorporates a very tight resource management aspect (food and warmth are very scarce and required to keep your family healthy and alive), some interesting crafting elements, and a neat timeline that reduces the possible worker locations as the year progresses.  It got quite tense in the winter, and we ended our play a little over the halfway mark, but the game does end on a high note as the weather warms back up and players begin to thrive again, if they survived the winter.  Unfortunately the game felt long for what it was.  I think reducing the game to 8 rounds (early/late seasons) with a little more time to build up before winter and only on round of recovery after winter will pull the game together.

3 - Get Your Ducks in a Row (Maxine Ekl prototype) -  I first played Get Your Ducks In A Row in April at Protospiel Milwaukee and had fun with it.  At Protospiel Chicago this seemed to be the hit of the weekend.  It was almost always being played by someone it seemed.  I finally got my chance to play it on Sunday and had a blast with it.  It's core is the same, take actions determined by dice rolls to manipulate ducks on the board.  Since then the game has been refined a bit, but the big thing is Maxine has added a little mini-game in between your main turns where you can shoot twiddly winks at the ducks to try to earn bonus action tickets.  This keeps everyone excited while putting pressure on the active player to make a decision before the bonus tickets are won.  I quite enjoyed this fast, 15 minute game and hope Maxine is able to get it published soon.

2 - Machinations (Brennan Aldridge prototype) - I played a lot of great games at Protospiel Chicago, but I think this is the one that captured my mind the most.  I keep coming back to it and thinking about it.  As it is, it's still very rough and has a lot of excess that still needs to be trimmed, but there's a diamond of a game in there.  This is an area control game unlike any you've ever played before.  That's because, of the five factions in play, everyone controls all of them.  Your goal isn't to have your faction control the most of the board at the end of the game.  Instead, each player gets a secret goal based on a combination of two cards that you are dealt.  That goal may be to have one faction control the most population in a certain region.  Or it may be to have an opposing faction control more of a certain faction's territory.  Or maybe you need to establish the most trade routs.  There are a number of different possibilities and your goal is just as likely to be plotting a faction's demise as it is to build a faction up.  Only you will know your true agenda.  Throughout the game you'll play cards from a hand of cards that will let you manipulate the different factions, but each player will also be an adviser to one of the nations and they'll be able to respond.  Various events can also take place, creating a bit of chaos in the meantime.  One of the coolest aspects of the game is the central relationship grid that indicates which factions are allies, which are enemies, and which are rivals somewhere in between.  One moment two factions can be allies and the next they're at each other's throats.  Think of this as Game of Thrones, and you and the other players are scheming Varys and Littlefinger.  I really, really want the opportunity to play this again after it's streamlined a bit more.  Unfortunately I didn't have the chance to play this at Protospiel Madison, however I know a lot of updates were made to the game.  Some were for the better, but I heard that overall the changes weren't great.  That's disappointing, because I really think this has the potential to be an awesome game.  I hope Brennan gets it back on track and makes this what I hope it can be.

1 - Prime Location (Randy Ekl prototype) - This is the second time I got to play Prime Location and it keeps getting better.  The game is very similar to what I played in 2017, but has the addition of a stock track for each of the locations.  This improves the action of discarding black cards, but still needs some balancing to make it feel worthwhile.  It's close though.  The core of the game is still the same - collecting cards and turning them in to create sums of prime numbers in order to build on locations on the board.  It's an interesting blend of area control, set collection, and racing as you score points on a board that only has prime numbers on it.  Despite being a little heavy on the math (lots of adding up numbers and determining if they're prime or not) and being a bit of a points salad at the end, I really, really like this one and feel it deserves to be published soon.  I'm not the only one either, Randy had several offers to buy the game that weekend!

Well, that's it, my top Kickstarter Previews and top Prototype games of 2018!  I really played some awesome games and love playing prototypes.  It's wonderful to see a game go from early prototypes to published game, and I've been fortunate to witness quite a few games go from prototype stage to full publication now.  Keep up the great work designers!

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