Friday, December 18, 2020

The Best Kickstarter Previews & Prototype Games of 2020

The Best Kickstarter Previews & Prototype Games of 2020
3 Kickstarter Previews, 2 pre-Kickstarter Previews, and 4 Prototypes
Plus new GJJ Games designs.
Support me on Patreon!
2020 has been a disappointing year for me as far as getting to play prototypes and review games has been concerned.  It started off great, I was planning on really getting back into reviewing, attending conventions, and playing lots of great prototypes.  In February I went up to Madison for a one-day Protospiel mini hosted by The Game Crafter, and then Covid hit.  

I didn't get to play any other prototypes besides my own, and without my weekly game group meetups even those were pretty limited.  I started out the year thinking I'd get back into doing reviews and Kickstarter previews, but only managed to tackle two of those before I realized that it was going to be difficult to get any games to the table often enough to review, let alone prototypes. 

Over the year I wrote out rules for a number of new games, but only got a couple of them to the table to test out.  But I'll let you in on a quick preview of what I've been working on.  Hopefully next year I'll actually get them made and played to see if they actually work!

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

Thalara: The Last Artifacts (k-s) - by Alexander Wrede and Wredespiel - I reviewed this back in August and quite enjoyed it.  It's a great two (or more) player dueling game, and I'm not usually a fan of those.  But Thalara incorporates a level of deduction, strategic bluffing, and low luck that I quite enjoyed.  This was successful on Kickstarter, so I'm looking forward to how it is received when it's finally shipped.

The Whatnot Cabinet (k-s) - by Steve Finn and Pencil First Games - Pencil First Games always produces incredible quality games, and Steve Finn makes incredible light to medium weight filler and casual games.  I reviewed The Whatnot Cabinet and it is no exception.  It fits in perfectly with the other relaxing themes this team has released.  The puzzle the game presents is engrossing, the artwork is gorgeous, and the game plays a lot faster than you expect.  I especially liked the solo game.  It plays fast, presents an interesting challenge, and is quick and simple to set up and take down, all attributes I look for in solo games.  Steve Finn, Eduardo Baraf, Beth Sobel, and Keith Matejka have knocked out of the park again with this design.

Roll for Lasers 
(k-s) - by Kevin Dunkelberger and Glass Shoe Games - This was sent to me to review prior to its Kickstarter, however I only intended to review the solo gameplay.  Unfortunately I was less than impressed with the solo game.  Mechanically it worked, but it didn't really excite me at all.  I felt it was too fiddly with all the steps you have to take each turn, played too long, and was a mismatch between the puzzley maze logic and randomness of the dice.  I suspect the multiplayer game is better, though I worry that there will be way too much downtime between turns since the game can be very AP prone.           

2 pre-Kickstarter Previews:
These games were played at Protospiel events and will be on Kickstarter soon.  They were still pretty rough prototypes when played and still pretty early in their development process, so the games will likely change significantly from what I played, but at least I got a preview to see what's coming, and they're pretty exciting!

Maul Peak
 - by Keith Matejka and Pencil First Games - Maul Peak is the standalone expansion for Skulk Hollow.  The Guardians and Factions can be mixed and matched between the games and they share the same overall mechanics, but very different abilities.  If you like Skulk Hollow, Maul Peak will be an no-brainer addition to your set.  If you haven't played Skulk Hollow, but like the idea of two player asymmetrical battle games with amazing custom meeples, either Skulk Hollow or Maul Peak (or both) should be right up your alley. 

Cape May
 - by Eric Mosso and Thunderworks Games - This game is coming to Kickstarter sometime next year and was a really solid euro game by first time designer, Eric Mosso.  When I played in February it was quite interesting, if a little unbalanced still.  I've been watching as the game has gone through development and it's coming along nicely.  The artwork looks fantastic and the gameplay is continuing to be refined.  I'm sure when it's done it'll be as flawless as every other Thunderworks title I've played!          

4 Prototypes
I only attended Protospiel Mini in February this year.  I don't really do digital games, so haven't attended any of the online playtesting and protospiel events.  So I only have four other prototypes that I played over the past year.  Fortunately they were all pretty fun!

Chomp the Stump (
Arkadiusz Greniuk prototype) - This was a fun, silly dexterity and write game about a bunch of beavers (the players) racing to be the first to eat the center ring of a stump.  Lots of disk tossing fun ensued!  It was super rough when I played in February and we tried out a bunch of slight variations for how to draw the chomp marks on the stump, but it was silly and fun and I can't wait to see how Arkadiusz moves forward with the game!       

Farm Game (Kevin Winchell prototype) - Kevin is a member of my local game group and has been working on this simple cooperative game for a while now.  I've played it a few times and each time it gets a bit better.  There's still a lot of balancing that needs to be done to keep the length and difficulty consistent, but it's good lighthearted fun! 

Inn Keeper 
(Danielle Reynolds prototype) - Danielle just signed her first game and it just happens to be Inn Keeper, which she brought to a game design night at my FLGS back in February.  It's a light, fun game about trying to match customers to rooms in your inn with specific amenities, and occasionally sending them to your competitors (sometimes to their disadvantage).  Watch for it somewhere near you soon!       

Quick Craft 
(JT Smith prototype) - Even though JT couldn't enter the TGC Staff Roll and Write Challenge, he still designed a draft and write game that fit the requirements.  Thematically the game was a semi-cooperative game about a group of survivors stranded in the Boundary Waters, trying to survive and hike back out to civilization.  Together players had to battle wildlife, frostbite, and other challenges while also collecting food and items to craft tools.  The goal was to have everyone survive, but whoever survived the best was the winner.  Mechanically I felt like the game worked pretty well, but thematically I never got the sense of a journey to escape that was intended, and the scoring was a little odd.  I'm very curious to see how the game progresses though since it was quite fun and I liked that the cooperative and competitive nature of the game encouraged a lot of interaction and tough decisions on whether to benefit the group or yourself.

GJJ Games New & Upcoming Designs

2020 started off pretty good.  Rolling Seas was working great and I spent some time making nice, sellable versions of a bunch of my games over on The Game Crafter.  You can now purchase Rolling Seas (though I have it temporarily unpublished because I have some updates to add to it), 8 Seconds, 8 Seconds Expansions, Race to the Moons, Trick Builders, Snowball Fight, 4th Grade Confidential, ChromaWerks, and The Overland Route!  Then I set about designing a few more games!  Here's an overview of what I've been working on this year:

Rolling Seas
 - I first designed this in November 2019 and it came together very quickly.  I entered the game in the TGC Staff Roll and Write Challenge and it was a semi-finalist.  I had a number of people tell me they felt Rolling Seas was my best game yet!  I also started working on an expansion for the game called The Crew (no relation to the popular game by the same name).  The Crew lets you hire crew members that give you special abilities or bend the rules and it's been working great.  I got to test it out at Protospiel Mini in February and at a few of my local game nights before Covid shut everything down.  Then I played the game a few times over Discord at Con of Champions and got some great feedback about streamlining the learning process.  Since then, I've actually been chatting with a publisher about the game (nothing signed yet though, so no big announcements) and have made a few more changes to the game.  It's still the same game, but setup time has been cut significantly, the flow of new obstacles has been better balanced, and I've added in pirates!  I've also been working on two other expansions, Events and Ships, but haven't had a chance to test those out since they really need multi-player games to test out fully.  For how great I thought the game was at the beginning of 2020, it's improved immensely in the past year!  I hope to have some great news about the game soon!

Settling the Moon
 - In February I came up with the idea for a draft & draw 4x game about settling the moon.  Each player has a map of the moon and they draft one card at a time that has one of four actions on it.  The idea was to have simple drafting choices that would let you build out a colony on the moon, balancing a few resources, research, and bases as you explore the moon and avoid various catastrophes.  Mechanically the game works great, but there's something missing.  It just doesn't have the spark it needs to give players the experience that I wanted.  I'm hoping to revisit this at some point, but I haven't had that eureka moment yet.

Aliens vs Dinos
 - In April I joined a 48 hour game design sprint hosted by Tony Vasinda of Plus One.  Together, with a team of a few other designers, we came up with a game about aliens collecting dinosaurs.  It's a semi-cooperative set collection and press-your-luck game that I think has some promise.  It was based on a rough idea I had for one of my MiniSkull games, but evolved to be something quite different.  It's available on Tabletop Simulator, though I still want to make a physical version of the game since TTS isn't my cup of tea.

Go Make a Hike
 - I designed this in April for a PnP contest hosted by Pencil First Games.  The idea came to me toward the end of the timeframe for the contest, so it only got one playtest (by me playing multiple roles), but I think it worked pretty well.  This is definitely one I want to get back to testing as soon as I can get my group together.  The game is a tile drafting/laying game about designing hiking trails.  You score points based on having the trails go past certain features, like flowers, water, wildlife, overlooks, etc.  I quite enjoyed it and loved how at the end of the game you have a table covered in sprawling hiking trails.  With some fun art this could have a really cool table presence.

Adventure Agents Game - My youngest has found a fun program on Amazon Prime that he enjoys watching called Adventure Agents.  It's all about a family that goes on a whole bunch of adventures, searching for the answers to mysteries, like who was D. B. Cooper, and treasure hunts.  It's a great show and I highly recommend it for anyone with kids in the 4-12 year old range.  But watching the show inspired a game that I've been working on.  It's a cooperative family game about visiting different locations to gain clues to where a treasure is and get the necessary tools to open the treasure before the Game Master arrives and snags the treasure instead.  I'm hoping to get the components made so I can test it out soon.

Polyhedral Prowess
- The owner of my FLGS has ordered a TON of sets of polyhedral dice that he's selling in test tubes.  He asked me if I could design a game that would use the dice.  That got me thinking about several designs.  Polyhedral Prowess is the first game I came up with and it only requires the dice and something to keep score.  Initially I came up with a solo game about battling monsters and trying to escape a dungeon.  That variant doesn't require anything other than the dice.  Then I modified it slightly to be a multiplayer press-your-luck game that only requires something to keep score in addition to the dice.  If you're interested in trying it out, you can download the rules here: Polyhedral Prowess.  All I ask is that you send me any feedback!

Polyhedral Potions - This is another game that uses a set of polyhedral dice, however it's a roll & write game so it also needs a score sheet for each player.  This game I'm currently working on and hope to playtest very soon.  I just finished designing the score sheet.  In the game you draft dice from a pool and then use those values to make different potions.  The potions will score you points on different tracks and give you special abilities.  I hope to be able to share this one soon.

Polyhedral Pressure - I've written out rules for this, but haven't created components for it yet.  In addition to a set of polyhedral dice it'll need a few decks of cards (102 for 4 players) and some tokens.  It's a turn-based dice allocation game where players are working to be the first to build all the cards in their (identical) decks as well as a common deck to score points.  It doesn't have a theme yet, but I'm also pondering a completely different area control and resource management game, tentatively called Polyhedral Properties, that would use mostly the same components, so they may end up with similar themes.

In addition to all these new games, I've also been pondering a few ways to improve some of my older games.  I have some ideas I'd like to implement in Beard Snacks, but it would require major modifications to all the beard cards and that's been a daunting task that I haven't wanted to tackle yet.  I also want to get back to updates on MiniSkull Castle, MiniSkull Dungeons, Gemotions, and A-TTACC Mechs as well as a number of other ideas that I jotted down over the last couple of years.  I now have over 70 games in various stages from rough idea to essentially completed!  

Well, there's my lists for 2020.  It's not much, but hopefully 2021 will shape up to be much better.  Stay tuned for my Best New-To-Me Games of 2020.  It's also a shorter list than usual (and includes every single new game I've played since last year's list), but there are a lot of great titles on it!

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment