Next of Ken, Volume 13: Z-Man's Sale, A Few Acres of Snow, and Great Chili Cookoff!

Next of Ken, Volume 13: Z-Man's Sale, A Few Acres of Snow, and Great Chili Cookoff! Hot

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Come on in for Next of Ken, where this week I'll be talking about Z-Man's sale to Filosofia, a preview of Nightfall: Martial Law and A Few Acres of Snow, Earth Reborn unboxing, Those Pesky Humans!, and a review of Great Chili Cookoff.  C'mon in, you know you want to.

 

 

Even when the four winds blow, she kinda passes by like she don't feel it
ZMan_LogoThe biggest news as of late is of course the sale of Z-Man Games to Filosofia.  The news broke at Origins, and speulcation since that time has been rampant.  Was Z-Man imploding?  Were the recent Tanga deals any sort of indication that business was bad for the Zevster?
Zev himself answered thusly on BGG:
"So the news came out!

Since I'm just back from Origins, I apologize if I don't answer every question or give every detail required. First, let me quell some negative rumors that I kind of figured would be percolated.

1) 2011 was probably going to turn out to be my best year. I was not in danger of failing at all. My post about too many games was a question I was curious about, but I pretty much had the answer before I posted it, and the answer was that my games appeal to so many types of gamers that it was not too many games. I just was going to make sure that 15 games don't show up all in the same month!

1a) In relation to the above: I did not seek to sell the company. But I have always joked that I was for sale if someone came with the right deal: Filosofia did.

2) I tanga'd some stuff for marketing purposes and to move older product. I'm sure you can figure out which is which. I did not need to do it, but wanted to - and earned some nice coin from it. I was doing this before the sale was even contemplated.

3) If there were no news about this deal the change would be practically invisible: that's how things are not changing. What is at the printer is coming out: Walking Dead, Guards, Guards, Undermining, Ninjato, Dark Minions, Wasabi reprint, Neuroshima Hex reprint, etc.
What other games I mentioned in my newsletter will be considered for this and next year.

The positives:
1) Filosofia will handle lots of the business end of things and I will be staying on to concentrate on finding the cool games. That and going to conventions. So you'll still be seeing me at shows and you will still be seeing cool games coming out.

2) Because now I have a strong support team working with me, more things will get done like more marketing materials, better flow of product, etc.

3) Things will be status quo with the company. The logo will be used, the philosophy of printing cool games will be held, communication with customers and fans will continue to be strong, customer service will still be top notch - I think everything you guys have come to like about Z-Man will still be there and I feel it will just get better.

So basically, it is a deal that came to me, that I liked, that will create a near-invisible change for the better. And I'll be with the company driving it to greater success. What more could be asked for?

Thanks to everyone for your support over the years.

Zev Shlasinger, Consultant
Z-Man Games, Inc."
The great thing about Zev, and the reason that this news is such a big deal, is because to so many groups of gamers, Zev is "one of them."  He's had his hands in a lot of publishing pies.  So for the Euronerds, there's Agricola and Pandemic; for 'trashers, there's Road Kill Rally, Earth Reborn, and Merchants and Marauders; and then there's a whole mess of niche and obscure stuff that will likely tickle the fancy of those looking for stuff like that.  Seriously, what other publisher would've taken a risk on something like Ascending Empires?  But Zev loves gaming, and it's obvious to anyone who meets him that gaming is in his blood.
What I'm personally hoping is that with this sale, Zev gets to get back to the nuts and bolts of running his business at the level he personally loves and enjoys, while taking advantage of this new partnership to handle more of the business end.  I've wondered for a long time how a one-man show like Zev managed to put out so many games, but he does it.
There is a risk of course that the new owners won't be as keen to take as many risks on unknown stuff.  We'll have to wait and see, but if Zev is saying this transition will be transparent, I'm tending to believe him.

Fifteen Years in the Academy, he was like no cadet they'd ever seen
The latest expansion to Nightfall entitled Martial Law should be reaching store shevles this week.  Here's a description fromMartial_LawAEG's website:
"Darkness has enveloped the world; chaos reigns. Humanity fights back in the only way they know how: with forceful control. But how does one control creatures whose existence defies all logic?

Martial Law introduces many new characters and actions, as well as all-new color combinations for creating chains and achieving kickers. Martial Law will also introduce the new “Feed” mechanic which will allow players to get even more uses out of their orders. Finally Martial Law will also bring to the table a new Wound effect, sure to suprise your opponent."
I know that the vampires/werewolves/humanity is played out for a lot of folks, but let me tell ya--we've played the shit out of some Nightfall as of late.

Take this past weekend, for instance--my brothers and a friend came over for gameday on Saturday, I had pulled out and set on the bar every plastic-laden adventure game imaginable (Merchants & Marauders, Castle Ravenloft, on and on and on).  We were just going to kill some time with a warm-up game of Nightfall as neither my friend Brian or my youngest brother had played it.  Guess what?  We ended up playing it for three solid hours.  (A similar situation happened at Trashfest in Atlanta.  The game is damned addictive.)
The only knock against the base set was that it felt a little "basic" at times, and the new expansion definitely offers more variety than what you saw in the first set.  (I say that, even though I've played 20 games of it or so thus far and it hasn't even remotely gotten stale.)  You get minions that boost the strength of other minions, a minion who can block and absorb all the damage it takes, a new card allowing you to exile orders from your discard pile to deal direct damage equal to their cost, and more.  It also introduces Feed, a way for you to repeat the effects of your cards by paying the Feed cost.  So if a card said "Feed: Discard 1 card", you could repeat it as often as you wanted, so long as you could pay the feed cost.  One of the new "counterspells" for lack of a better term features a Feed effect, allowing people to play havoc with the Chain.
At first, I thought Nightfall was "merely" very good, but the more I play it, the more I like it.  I hope to have a review copy of Martial Law soon, and I'll give you the juicy details and a full review as soon as I'm able.

Step from the road to the sea to the sky


Pre-orders are finally up for the new Martin Wallace game A Few Acres of Snow, coming from Treefrog Games.  From their website:
a_few_acres_of_snow"June 2011. This will be our next two-player only game. It will cover the long struggle between Britain and France for control of what eventually became Canada.

The game involves a deck-building mechanism which may be familiar to those people who have played another certain award winning card game. "

Players take either the British or the French, and by using conquest, exploration, and settling, they attempt to claim the most territory or siege the most settlements in pursuit of victory.
Michael Barnes has talked often of the "next level of deckbuilding games," where the mechanisms themselves are no longer the pure essence of the game, but instead a part of a larger game.  This, to me, looks like the first game  in that lineage.  Sure, we've had games where you did 'on-the-fly' deckbuilding as part of the game, but it was generally incidental, such as in Starcraft.
Each card that you claim for your deck is done either by exploration or conquest, and these cards have multiple uses.  You guys know I am a sucker for cards with multiple uses.  So a card that you take for your deck may grant 2 gold, or military might, or sea travel, but you'll have to choose how best to use it from moment to moment.  Add in sieges that can sap cards and actions as war rages over the snow-covered drifts, and you've got the making of a very exciting-sounding game.
The rulebook is available online, and is filled with some nice historical detail.  I recommend checking out their page to find out more.  The first 1000 pre-orders will get limited edition bits, and the game will be available after pre-orders are done via the usual online channels.  I am really, really looking forward to this one, hopefully I can snag a copy soon after release and get it reviewed.
Go here to find out more:   http://www.treefroggames.com/a-few-acres-of-snow-2

VIDEO BREAK!

Here's a blast from the past...those old GI Joe PSAs.  Man, I love these as a kid!

And Sit Around, and Play Your Games

I got my Earth Reborn package in from Tanga yesterday.  Man, you want to talk heavy...punching that thing was an adventure to say the least.  Tons of cardboard chits, punch outs, and cards aplenty...and some of the most gorgeous miniatures I've ever seen.
Now to just make it through that rulebook.  I gotta admit, it frightens me a little.
Word to those who do pick up a copy--some of the sheets weren't quite die cut cleanly, so be extra careful when punching out the tiles.  I had some wound tokens that refused to come out without tearing completely, maybe four or so, and I'm hoping that Earth Reborn continues the trend of giving you waaaaay more wound tokens than you'll ever need.  If not, I can find a couple of substitutes, I'm sure.
Sorting everything was an adventure of its own.  You can get stuff in there, but how best to sort it?  It's one of those kind of games where sorting it would be easier had you played it first, but you can't play it until you've sorted it.
At any rate, I'm looking forward to seeing what the fuss is about.  I'm probably just going to have to take the plunge and stumble through a few stabs at the first scenario, and go from there.

My wife, our son Isaac and I played Those Pesky Humans! last night.  He'd been begging to play it for weeks now.  peskyhumans_copy
Those who may remember my original review know that I found the game fairly lackluster and one-sided.  We used the "shorter play" variant in the back of the book, using 7 dungeon tiles and only 2 legendary gems.  They each took a human character and split the duties of the third as I took on the role of the evil ogre.
Man...it was just as bad as ever.  I wasn't even trying that hard and I was swarming the humans, surrounding them, attacking and harassing them constantly.  They fell in fairly short order, and my wife expressed disgust with how unfair the game was.
I think if we play it again, I'm going to play with some sort of houserule...maybe, minions just summoned cannot move that turn, or a limit to the number of spawns, or SOMETHING.  As it is, it's trivial to unleash wave after wave of monsters on the good guys.  So you either take it easy on them and play the role of DM, or you find some other way to keep the game fair.
This is a real problem with games like this, it seems, and the error seems to swing wildly in both directions.  You want the Overlord to have some teeth, so you have to give him something for the players to fear.  But if you use cards, that means he might just draw a lot of the meanest cards at once.  It also means that if he has too much power, the fun is going to be diminished as the players get frustrated and the overlord victory means little.
Make the overlord too weak though--such as many Descent scenarios--and no one wants to take that role on.  It's a difficult thing to balance.
At least with co-ops, there is no intelligence behind the "evil" element in the game (usually card or tile draws), so you're less likely to see the sort of planning that could maximize all the nastiest tools at once.  Take Knizia's Lord of the Rings game, where allowing someone to play Sauron severely tips the scales in favor of evil, because a human can plan, and choose, where a random stack of tiles cannot.  Sometimes the group's luck is bad, but never capricious.
I tried to talk him into giving Ravenloft a try for that very reason.  It's just a flat-out better game, and eveyrone can play to their full potential.  If I can get him asking for that one instead, look for Those Pesky Humans! to sit on my shelf permanently.  Pity, because I like the art, I like the idea, I like some of the humor, but the game just doesn't cut the mustard.

GreatChiliCookoffThis week's review is of an older game, "Great Chili Cookoff" (Dan Baden, Jolly Roger Games, 2-7 players, 30 minutes.)  I got this as a kicker in a trade recently when I got a copy of Sylla as well.  Dan Baden is likely a name known to some Fortress dwellers as well as friends of the Fort, and he's a really nice guy and an ardent gamer.
Since I've taken it upon myself to apparently play every trick-taking game known to man, we actually got several games of this in on Sunday and Monday.  It's a lighter game, mixing something like Mamma Mia! with a trick-taking engine.
Players are dealt two recipes, each with a listing of seven ingredients.  Then, they receive seven cards for their hand.  Cards have three important elements; the ingredient is dead center, the strength of the card to the upper left, and its score value to the lower right.
The starting player chooses an ingredient card and plays it to the table.  Then, each player in turn plays one as well.  Once that's done, the players in order of the strength of their cards choose one of the played ingredients and place their colored pepper on it, to add to their score pile once everyone has chosen.  Ties are broken by hose who played later in the trick, so if someone plays a 3 and you play a 3 after them, yours is higher and you get to choose before they do.
You play all seven tricks, then you take your score pile and apply only one recipe.  Items up to the quantity listed on that recipe will score you points based on the value of each card, to the lower right.  So you may have a recipe that calls for three meat but you took four; the fourth is wasted.  You look at both recipes and determine which will net you the higher score based on what you took during the hand.   Some ingredients are rare, like Chocolate, and are in fewer recipes but worth 7 points should you have it and a recipe that needs it...but useless if you don't.  Still, you might take it just to deny another player the points, especially if there's no ingredients left for you to take that you need.
After scoring is done, you repeat, playing two more hands.  The highest cumulative score after three hands is the winner.
Gameplay_Great_Chili_Cookoff
Image courtesy of Boardgamegeek.com, taken
by the Fortress' own Diane Close!

The game comes with lots of colorful cards on good quality stock, including all the ingredients cards, the recipe cards, and Menu cards that let everyone know the frequency in the deck of each item.  There are also seven very cool small colored peppers, for the players to use when claiming cards.  It sounds silly to place these peppers instead of just picking up the card you need, but since each player needs to claim a card in order of strength, it's easy to forget what someone played if you just nab their card.
To me, this is a perfect family filler.  Kids can understand wanting to get cards for their recipes, even if they don't quite understand the strategy of when to play which valued cards.  There's plenty of screwage too, as you'll think you can pick up one of those easier-to-get ingredients like Tomatoes or Onions, only to watch them slip through your fingers over the last couple of tricks as other players snatch them up.
The game is not expensive, can easily be found online, and plays well with several different groups.  If you 've been looking for a light, family-oriented trick-taking game, look no further.
It does make we want to try some of these crazy ass recipes, though.  Honey in chili?  Peanut Butter?  Hmmm....

That's gonna do it for this week, folks.  Thanks as always for reading.  I'll see ya in seven.
Next of Ken, Volume 13: Z-Man's Sale, A Few Acres of Snow, and Great Chili Cookoff! There Will Be Games
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