Friday, September 27, 2013

My Suns are Burning!

Featured Kickstarter Interview

Burning Suns
Game Designer Emil Larsen

Burning Suns, my current Featured Kickstarter, has just about a week left and I had the great opportunity to ask the game's designer, Emil Larsen, a few questions.

Emil, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions. I will try and make the questions different/interesting since I know you have answered the same questions again and again for other people.
Thanks a lot Lou, I'm glad you wanted to take time to interview me. I really appreciate that. 
Q - First question is very random and perhaps a bit strange (perhaps some background is in order: I'm a big Superman fan and Bizzaro is the opposite version of Superman as Jerry Seinfeld so nicely explains to us...)

Snus Gninrub. That is Burning Suns spelled backwards. Describe for us a game that is a "Bizzaro Burning Suns" (or what would be the exact opposite version of Burning Suns).
Haha, that's a great question... the opposite game of Burning Suns would be something along the lines of:
Snus Gninrub is a game of meaningless choices done by placing cubes on different actions that will maximize the decay of your one race. Every player spends around 6-7 hours in order to conclude who have won using the most Cthulhu friendly strategies available in the game. It's about staying apart and try to avoid moving around the static board. The game comes with a limited variety of pale clip-art tokens made in Word, together with some wooden zombie meeples.
Nicely done! I don't think we will be seeing Snus Gninrub hitting the store shelves anytime soon. Burning Suns however is a different story. Speaking of stories...

Q - Story time! Can you give us a little prologue or set up for the theme of the game?
The story of Burning Suns takes place in the end of a 1,000 years peace across the galaxy. Many empires had grown strong during this period, which increased the tension between many of the empires. New races have since appeared trying to gain foothold in the galaxy... all leading up to a climactic event that set the galaxy on fire.

I can't really say anymore, since my backers will be formulating these stories together with me (we'll soon be voting for the backer to write the event).

Another reason why this Kickstarter is so great. The involvement of the gaming community and backers of the project. What better way to make a game than to include those who will be playing the game in key decisions and brainstorming.
Q - What is your absolute favorite thing about Burning Suns? (I'm still trying to decide between the awesome Dieships/miniatures and the hundreds of different empire combinations.)
Hmm.. choosing one thing, that's unfair :D .... Well, I'll have to go with the Dieships I think. Mostly because of how spontaneously I created that concept, and how well it turned out. While I really like a lot of other elements, this one came just from me fiddling around - and that's the beauty of a creative process.

With the great success of the Dieships, it makes you wonder what people will start sticking die into next. I would really like to see a drinking glass with a die suspended in the middle of it in some sort of gyroscope device. Just saying, pretty cool. If anyone is interested in making this happen, let me know and we can make it a reality. Sorry, side tracked.
Q - Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars any day. While I do like the science and setup of Star Trek. When it comes down to it, Star Wars is the epic story that became a part of my life.

I agree 100%. The new Star Trek movies are great by the way, I only hope that the next Star Wars movies will be good. Star Wars, such an epic universe. I think it inspires a lot of people. A fun fact: I grew out my beard recently and have had a co-worker start calling me Wookie. I take it as a complement (also, funny video and tutorial on how to make a "wookie sound" if anyone is interested).

Q - Where did you derive your inspiration from for this great game?
The greatest influences on atmosphere is Star Wars, Sins of a Solar Empire, and Twilight Imperium.
When it comes to influences on mechanics, I found most of my inspiration in Rebellion, Starcraft, and Eclipse. I actually think the reason why Burning Suns doesn't really feel like the other great 4X games, is because of the heavy influence from computer games.

That is really cool. I remember the good old days playing Starcraft late into the night... And for those unfamiliar with "4X" you can click here and read about it on Wikipedia. 

Q - Describe for us what a normal turn consists of.
Income (yay!) > Refill and exchange some tokens and the action sheets > Placing your leaders on the actions you want to take (this will also tell us who start out in next round) > Execute the actions in the order they have been placed...

Sounds pretty straight forward to me. Clear as crystal.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Green - the color of nature, balance and hope. 

Good choice. Green is a great color. Hooray for St. Patrick's Day! Right?
Q - I really like that you have involved the gaming community in the creative process and included us in the game development. What are some key things that you have gained from others during this process?
*phew* There's A LOT!

Just to name a few: Ideas for expansions, balancing ideas, design choices, solutions on some Kickstarter issues, unit naming, stories, stories and more stories. It's simply awesome. I could be mistaken, but I've yet to discover a campaign/production that involves backers on such a level. I mean, that's what I believe is the spirit of Kickstarter.

Emil, I don't think you are mistaken at all and I think that involving the backers and gaming community as much as you are is one of the great things about your project. Sure, the game is awesome and you have sweet Dieships, but involving others in the game making process is very cool! 

Q - It is really important to have a supportive wife when you undertake ventures like this one as well as have support from friends. How has your wife and friends supported you and how would you like to thank them?
Yea - without a solid foundation at home, you won't be able to reach any goals whatsoever. I'm so thankful for the wife I have. She's used to having me away all week (army), and then when I come home there's also the Kickstarter. It's crazy, but she's been there for me every day. The amount of thanks I owe her can't be formulated in plain text.

I've had some very understanding colleagues at my work - and some very cool board gaming industry colleagues in Denmark giving me a push in the back. It's awesome to be surrounded by such people, especially with this kind of almost one-man-show I've been putting on for the last 30 days!

Well said.

Q - What is your favorite planet? (Remember when we were growing up and Pluto was still considered a planet?)
Hahaha... true... dissed by the men of science :D I've probably always been kind of a Mars person. 

Favorite color is green, but favorite planet is the red one eh? I do like the fact that Mars is nearby allowing us to explore it more easily than any of the others. Sadly, Pluto was always mine.

Q - I love the Dieships, and I know a lot of others do as well. And I found out that it is your favorite thing about the game. How did you come up with this brilliant idea?
This is what sometimes happen when you just play around with components. I was doing some 3D figures, imported some dice and started to play around with some robot parts.... and suddenly the d4 had legs. The rest is Dieship history ;)

Seriously, they are killer. I think the Dieships alone should make everyone want to back the project right away.
Q - What is your favorite board game?
It's cheap to go for your own game ;) ... Hhhmm... at the moment it must be X-wing miniatures, it's just a wonderful blend of theme and mechanics.

I really enjoy that one as well. Very fun even though my wife piloting the tie-fighters seems to defeat me every time.

Q - Describe Burning Suns with only one word.

Q - This is a huge project and future projects may be very far from your mind right now, but tell us - do you have something on the back burner for a future game after this one?
I do.... though it's still in early beta since I don't have time to prototype more at the moment ;)
It's a spiritual successor or predecessor I guess - called Burning Rome (and you're the very first I tell it to).

In short, it's going to have the same tactical level and adaptation of Burning Suns. It'll (if they want to continue) feature the same wonderful artists... you could probably call it an epic scale board game implementation of the computer game "Rome - Total War".

Thanks to me being so talkative - Now I have to go an register the name on BGG :D

Wow! Thanks for sharing. I feel honored indeed to be the first. I think you have a bright future in board games my friend across the pond.
Q - Name the top 5 things that make you happy.
My wife...
Our still unborn son she carries around ;)
My parents.
Appreciation of my work.
My dreams

It is important to surround ourselves with happiness. Great list.

Q - 8 days remaining. What would you like to tell others about the game? Anything else you would like to share?
Join forces with me and my backers, go to our Kickstarter > > and become part of this cool experience, it doesn't end with the Kickstarter :)

I'm really looking forward to share the final development and game with all of you!

Thank you very much for your time and putting up with my off the wall questions. You were a great sport. I think you have a fantastic game  here and I can't wait for the finished product!
Thanks a lot for interviewing me Landon, that's really nice of you - and I had a blast answering your questions!

If you are not convinced yet; check out the Kickstarter page, Sun Tzu Games, or the Board Game Geek page. What are you waiting for? Go get involved in creating what is to be one of the great games of 2014 when it is unveiled in all it's Dieship glory and that is How Lou Sees It!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Starting Thunder

Thunderstone: Starter Set
Designed by Mike Elliott
2 to 5 Players
45 to 60 Minutes
Deck-building Game

Dragon. Magic. Heroes. Weapons. Gold. Fantasy. Cards. Deck-building. Awesome.

This starter set is a great introduction to the world of Thunderstone, or I think so anyway. This is actually my first and only experience with the Thunderstone realm of deck-building and I really like it. I was introduced to deck-building by playing Dominion and it was a really new concept to me. Deck-building games are exactly what it sounds like; they are games where players start with a minimal starting deck and throughout the game cards are chosen to be added to a players deck by utilizing the cards already in his deck. The winner is the player who best builds and utilizes that deck (usually obtaining victory points of sorts). Take the fun of deck-building and add a solid fantasy theme with heroes fighting monsters in dungeons (leveling up your heroes as you go) - and you have Thunderstone! (Plus the name is really fun to say, and I find it a bit funny that recently there has been a big thunderstorm every night for the last two weeks - coincidence?)

Components / Rule Book
First of all, the box feels amazing. Yeah, is it really weird that I like the feel of a box? The box is nice, the cards are great. The inside of the box allows for many more cards to be added from other expansions and it also comes with card dividers. This starter set however does not include any means of keeping track of experience points (I just use dice face which works pretty well - although, I do believe some or one expansion(s) exist that provide means of keeping track of experience points). The rule book is pretty easy to understand and does well at providing visual examples/instruction on the cards. The rule book does have a nice summary on the back that can be referred to as you get used to the different actions etc.

Game Overview
Setting out with 6 basic soldiers, 2 torches, 2 stone shards, and 2 spears each adventurer sets out to strengthen their coffers, heroes, and gain the most glory (victory points) by defeating monsters and of course the dragon which is found deep in the dungeon. 12 card start, players draw 6 cards for their turn. Players can then choose to go to the village and use the cards in his hand to purchase/hire other cards to help strengthen their deck adding cards with greater money, attack values, or light (to help fight those nasty monsters). In the village players can use experience to level up heroes making them much stronger to handle the more difficult monsters getting a greater reward. The other main action to be taken is to run into the dungeon and fight monsters. You win, you get experience and victory points (maybe a disease card or two - battle damage is not uncommon even in a win). You lose, the monster heads back into the dungeon and you lose the opportunity for progression (sad day for you). Game progresses, monsters flee or get killed and players rack up victory points. Once the dragon is slain (or sneaks out of the dungeon) the game is over! Easy as that.

Gameplay and Thoughts
In these cards, there really isn't any way to attack or affect your opponents other than defeating the more valuable monsters before they do, or getting the level 3 amazing heroes first. Although there isn't great player interaction, the gameplay and theme of the game is fantastic as you and the other players battle through the dungeon and choose different ways to strengthen and use their decks.

Players take turns deciding what would best help their deck with the cards they currently have in their hand. Usually, that means checking to see if you can easily defeat a monster gaining victory points, experience points, and perhaps a bonus provided by that monster. Killing monsters means obtaining victory points and very important experience points which help level up your heroes to become more powerful (and get you another 2 points if you get them leveled up to the max level 3). If you don't have a good fighting hand, then you need to decide what village card can best help you in either future battles, or in purchasing better cards
in the future.

There are many ways to improve your deck and things to consider. If you venture into the dungeon without any "light" (certain cards like the torch, and rolling sparks have a light value - or the Tower hero) the monsters become more difficult to defeat due to the darkness (darkness increases as you go farther into the dungeon). Getting too many victory points upfront could cause issues, but that is generally want you want to do. You may want to start getting cards that have a nice dungeon ability while also providing money if you need to expand your deck that way or purchase new heroes.

Some cards have a "magic attack", which just gets added to your other attack numbers. Some monsters require magic however to defeat it. I like the concept here, but this is one area where it is a bit disappointing because the game only has one of the monsters in the entire monster deck that requires it (would love to see some of the expansions). Some of the magic cards such as Rolling Sparks doesn't require a hero to use it which is nice though - which takes me to weapons. Weapons can add great numbers to your attack, but they do require a hero to wield it (and that hero must be strong enough to lift the thing in the first place).

There really is just a lot going on in this game, and yet it isn't too much. Everything is understandable and I really enjoy the defeating monster concept of the game. There are 3 different variety of monsters and they all have a nitch of sorts (beginner - battle damage type, medium - infest you with disease undead type, and hard - just a lot of hit points type; *keep in mind these are not the official name of the types). There is a lot going on with these monsters! Experience points, victory points, gold rewards, trophy rewards, disease infestation, battle damage, and the timing element of the game. And it all works beautifully.

Keep in mind that this is a "starter set" and the game comes with just enough to wet your palate. For example, 4 different heroes are chosen and available for purchase (or leveling up) and the game comes with 5. The village is made up of 8 cards and the game comes with 10. The game is amazing, and there are opportunities for great variety and expansion with other sets. Not being familiar currently with the other sets of cards, I think these cards are good ones and I do feel that this is a great base/bare bones version. I really can't wait to try some of the other expansions and I think that after playing this game, you would be right there with me adding all the expansions you can to your wishlist and that is How Lou Sees It!

A big SHOUT OUT to AEG for making this review possible. THUNDERSTONE!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shall We Dance?

Featured Kickstarter Interview

Belle of the Ball:
A Fancy Schmancy Card Game

 Less than 7 days left! Read this interview and then go and back Belle of the Ball. We have almost reached 48k to get another awesome stretch goal reward. This card game is so well done, and I love the artwork. I was able to get Chris and Daniel to answer just a few questions.

Q - One of the things about this game that really caught my attention was the amazing artwork. How did Jacqui Davis get involved and how was/is that process working with her?

Chris: Jacqui is an amazing talent, and one of the best artists with which I've had the pleasuring of working. Not only is her imagination boundless, but she also takes direction really well when there is something specific we wanted from a character. Jacqui got involved with Belle of the Ball completely because of Daniel Solis. I had heard of Jacqui before signing Daniel to a publishing contract, but didn't realize the extent of her capabilities. When Daniel and I sat down in February to really hash out the details of Belle's production, he showed me Jacqui's portfolio and I was sold immediately. I will be contracting Jacqui for more work for Dice Hate Me Games - in fact, she'll likely be providing the portraits for the helper cards in our upcoming game, Brew Crafters. I also have a feeling she's going to be very busy creating masterpieces for a lot more board game companies in the future.

Awesome! I think the gaming community definitely wants more Jacqui artwork and I could dare say that Jacqui may just be the Belle of this Ball. Congrats on the great visuals of this game.

Q- Daniel, Can you tell us a little about your inspiration for the game and what you have going for the future.

Daniel: I originally got inspired by the "Shindig" episode of Firefly. If anyone hasn't seen it, it was kind of a "slobs vs. snobs" fish-out-of-water comedic episode where a couple of working-class characters find themselves in a fancy party of aristocrats. I'm always looking for novel themes and I thought this would be a cool one. It's rival socialites each hosting their own party on the same night, competing for guests and trying to group them by matching interest, thereby hosting the best party of the night. Chaos ensues.

As for the future, I'm still designing card games in public on my blog at and on twitter @danielsolis. I love getting feedback from readers on my harebrained ideas, so come on over and share your thoughts!

Very cool. Honestly, maybe it was just because I read the Mistborn books recently, but I thought back to Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn books (just a side note for everyone, Brandon Sanderson is one of the finest writers of our day). I will be glued to your blog and twitter Daniel. I look forward to see what is next.

48k Stretch Goal
Q- What is your absolute favorite game and why?

Chris: Darrell Louder, TC Petty III and I recently talked about our personal top five games of all time on The State of Games podcast. My choice was a bit out of left field - it's Car Wars. Car Wars was my very first hobby game - the one that showed me that there was a lot more out there than Monopoly and Clue. I've been into Car Wars since the original pocket box was put out by Steve Jackson Games back in the mid-80s. Of course, I didn't understand ALL the rules at the time, but I absolutely loved the future autoduelling world that surrounded the game. As the years passed and that world grew with supplements in Autoduel Quarterly and Uncle Al's catalogs my passion for the game grew with it. I'm still a huge fan today even though I rarely get it to the table. I'm looking forward to the revamp that Steve Jackson Games has planned for the game in the next couple of years.

It is so amazing that usually our favorite games have some sort of link to our growing up years or our "introduction" to the world of games beyond Monopoly. Thanks for sharing.

Q - Tell us about a memorable party or dance that you have attended.

Chris: I've been to a few memorable soirées in my day. One memorable party was the Firefly Shindig at Dragon*Con in 2005. Jewel Staite was there, dancing up a storm with all of us nuts dressed like Jayne, Mal, Kaylee and the like. She was a gracious guest - the true belle of that ball, if you will - and everyone had a great time.

Now that sounds like a party!

Q - What are your favorite things about Belle of the Ball?

Chris: I, personally, like that Belle is approachable and easy to play, but it rewards careful strategy and tactics. A lot of people underestimate the use of Regrets and Belle cards in their first game, but by the end it all starts to click. I recently introduced the game to my mom and she loved it - she also beat me by two points! That's another strong suit of the game - I've played it many, many times, but my mom could step in and beat me despite my experience. That's a trait that can keep gamers just learning the game coming back for more again and again.

Hahaha. I laugh just because it seems that whenever I introduce a new game to someone, I always lose (and trust me, it isn't like I'm trying to do it on purpose either).

Q - Open Mic! Please feel free to tell us all anything else you would like to!

Chris: Everyone please back Belle of the Ball - and pick up Carnival and The Great Heartland Hauling Co.! Also, I'd just like to thank everyone out there that has supported Dice Hate Me Games over these past couple of years. The company wouldn't have been possible without the support and enthusiasm of our backers. We hope to keep putting out fun games, so stick around - we have some great things in store beyond Belle of the Ball!

Chris and Daniel thank you both very much for your time, I know you both are very busy. I wish the best of luck to you both in your endeavors. I look forward to seeing and playing the final product and I can't wait to see what is next from both of you as well.

Readers, check out Belle of the Ball on Kickstarter now and that is How Lou Sees It!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Unemployed Unite!

Guildhall: Job Faire
Designed by Hope S. Hwang
2 - 4 Players
45 Minute play time
Ages 10 and up

Background / Introduction
Are you one currently unemployed or looking for a better job? A good place to go and hand out resumes is your local Job Fair. At this Job Faire your options are Robber, Tax Collector, Scholar, Peddler, Hunter, or Bricklayer. Out of those options in this day and age, I think I would have to be a Scholar myself.

Well, in Guildhall: Job Faire, players are trying to collect and grow the different chapters in their guildhall so that they might be able to perform more powerful actions and claim victory points. This review today is just based on this Job Faire version of the game which is a sequel of sorts to the first Guildhall game. The game can be played on its own, or integrated with cards from the first game. I hope to get you a review of the first version sometime in the future, but the game mechanics are all the same, just with different professions. Each of the professions are represented in all the different colored cards. As you add different colored cards of the same profession to a chapter in your guildhall, that profession becomes more skillful and powerful when you play them in the future. When you have a full chapter, you can then use that chapter to buy victory points. The player who can reach 20 victory points first is the winner.

Components / Rules
AEG does a great job with the box and quality of the components and rule book. The cards are of a nice quality, although I would have liked the little cardboard victory points provided to be upgraded to a nice metal or something (I'm not a huge fan of little coin like pieces being made out of cardboard and popped out of that large print out. For some reason I always tear a few of them while I try to get them out. Could just be a personnel error.). AEG leaves other slots or room for other cards if you decide to purchase both Guildhall games out now (or perhaps a future expansion?) which is nice to have.

The rule book is well done and the game really isn't that complicated. Each of the cards have icons on them reminding players what they do. I will get into the cards a bit more in the actual game play section, but one thing that I think a lot of people may have trouble with is the symbology of the cards and keeping track of what each ones mean. For more experienced gamers, this may not be a big deal, but at least for the first few games, you will probably have to refer back to the rule book to remember how each profession works or what the bonus actions do with the victory points. You should get the hang of it after a few plays though, and then it isn't a huge issue. I do wonder though if it would have been better to summarize the concept or main action that that profession takes right on the card. Then they could have still had symbols on the card showing the difference as the cards get more powerful. For those interested, there is a file on that has the action explanations for reference in a well presented way that you could print off and have handy for each player.

Game Set Up / First Turn
All of the profession cards (120 cards) are shuffled. This is a lot of cards to shuffle! The victory point cards (30 of them) are shuffled and 5 are flipped over face up for purchase. 9 cards are then dealt to each player from the profession deck. Each player then goes through a first turn set up phase. This includes discarding any cards you want, and re-drawing up to 9 cards. Then you place 3 cards from your hand face up onto the table in your guildhall (no cards can be duplicates here in your guildhall and you can't play a card into your action area later in the game if you already have that card in your guildhall). You group cards of the same profession together and these are called chapters.

On your turn, you have 2 actions that you can perform. Your choice of actions: Play 1 card, Discard any number of cards and draw back up to 6 cards, and Buy 1 victory point card. Each of the profession cards have an action associated with them and you can perform better actions if you match the number needed by how many cards are in that specific chapter. There are some limitations given with some of the cards, but I won't go into detail about that. The fact is, the game is really simple. The hard part is remembering the symbols and terms used in the game and getting used to those. At the end of your turn, all of the cars played in your action area gets transferred into your guildhall. When a chapter has all 5 colors, that chapter is complete and turned over face down (those cards no longer control the actions related to that profession). You can have a maximum of 3 completed chapters in your guildhall at one time. The game ends when at the end of a turn, someone has 20 or more victory points. The player with the most points wins.

The Cards

Here is a quick summary of what the general actions are from each of the professions. Keep in mind that they change slightly as you have more of that kind in your guildhall. Some very cool different cards and 3 of the six are very interactive with the other players.

Robber - Take cards from one other players hand into your guildhall. Doesn't she look so happy?

Bricklayer - Draw cards from the deck, then place cards from your hand back on top of the deck.

Peddler - Swap cards in your hand with cards in one other players guildhall.
Place the cards from the other player's guildhall into your hand. Then take another action.

Tax Collector - Gain VP equal to the number of Tax Collectors in your guildhall. Place 1 card from your guildhall in one other player's guildhall. He is going to go all Sheriff of Nottingham on all you!

Hunter - Look through the discard pile and swap cards from there with cards in your guildhall.

Scholar - Draw cards from the deck and put them directly into your guildhall.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened up the box, but what I found was a very enjoyable set collecting game. It seems that whenever anyone sees a game these days made up of cards, the immediate thought for some is "I wonder how much this game is like Dominion?" Well, the victory point cards have shields on them, and both games are made up of cards...but that is about it. Guildhall Job Faire does a great job at creating something very original and enjoyable. To score points you need completed "chapters" or sets, but what profession are you going to focus on while you do that? Then you have to decide what is going to be the best help to you to purchase? The 3 points that also allows you to play cards from your hand into your Guildhall? Or do you spend more and get more points but no bonus action? This game has a lot more too it than just a set collecting game, and it does it very well. The symbology isn't my favorite, but it is something that I can get past. The only other thing is that the game only has the 6 different professions. I feel that you may grow tired of using the same ones. Luckily AEG has the original version as well to help remedy that. So, with an available 12 different professions now between the two, you should be set for a while. 3 Fingers up or 8/10 stars. If you are looking for a fun new set collecting card game with a lot of strategy to it, I would recommend Guildhall Job Faire and that is How Lou Sees It.

A big SHOUT OUT to AEG for making this review possible. Remember to keep playing board games!