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Een bericht gedeeld door Semi Co-op (@semicoop)

If you missed the hubbub this weekend on social media, the current Kickstarter campaign for more Terraforming Mars expansions uses AI art. While it aesthetically might be better than the old stock photos, it caused a whole list of board game industry people (and content creators) to let the world know they are very much against this sort of thing. A Polgyon interview with Travis Worthington of Indie Game Studios shows how the studio will continue to use AI, so it seems the last word about this topic hasn’t been said yet.

The most interesting take we saw was the one of Kyle Ferrin, illustrator of Root, on BlueSky that since game rules and AI art cannot be copyrighted you might be able to steal and publish large parts of the expansion. In practice, it wouldn’t be that easy since Indie Game Studio mentions none of the artwork will be fully generated by AI but we thought it would be exactly the sort of thing Lion would think of. So with permission, we copied Kyle’s take and added more talking animals!

Speaking of talking animals, we played the full-production version of Almost Innocent this week. We really enjoyed our time with a preproduction copy last year and we’re glad to say it’s still a lot of fun. The first scenario is nice and easy, which was perfect for a low-energy game night and the reveal at the end is still kind of a magic trick when you pull it off. We did get the feeling the difficulty between scenarios ramps less in the final version than in the prototype but there are a lot of extra little additions that might make us eat those words once we get to those scenarios.

We were also invited to the 999 Games VIP evening. For those who don’t know, 999 Games is the Dutch market leader of board games, and also has the scariest logo of all time, and publishes mostly family-oriented games like Catan, Carcassonne, and Wingspan. We got to meet a lot of Dutch and Belgian board game media people, which is nice because we have more contacts on the English/U.S. side of things. We got to play games with Board Game Brothers, Rood met Witte Stippen, Alles Over Speelgoed, Move the Robber, Bordspelmania, Nox en Bord voor je Kop. We ended up playing Inside Job, a fun semi-co-operative trick-taking game, Exoplanet, a ‘racing’ game about harvesting minerals on an exoplanet, and The White Castle, a dice placer from the team that also did Red Cathedral. Rachel also watched some rounds of Atiwa and said it looked like a classic Uwe worker placement game.

This week we have someone staying over, so we have to see how much game time we’ll have, if we don’t have time we can at least get excited about SPIEL which is coming in just two weeks!

What do you think of AI art in games?


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Een bericht gedeeld door Rachel Kremer (@rachelkremer)

Our Summer Break is over, did you enjoy the board game facts comics? We might want to let them return at a later point, so any feedback would be very welcome!

We went on a multi-day hike in the Alps and we thought we would have all the time in the afternoon to chill and play some games. So, we printed seven different micro-games (since every gram counts on a hike) from PNPArcade so we had a wide variety of games we could play on our hike. Unfortunately, it turned out we might have been a tad underprepared for the different legs of our hikes and we always arrived at the huts just in time for dinner and were so tired we never ended up playing any of them! The hike itself was a big success though and we had a wonderful time enjoying all the beautiful vistas as you can see on the video of the third day on the left.

We have played seven of the eight games, so we can tell you about them. Circle the Wagon and Skulls of Sedlec we already discussed a few weeks ago. Confusing Lands has some similar ideas as Circle the Wagons but adds in scoring conditions to the landscape you’re building, which is a cool twist. It is free and while the different scoring abilities can be a bit tricky to get right we think it is very enjoyable.

Death Valley is a push-your-luck game in which you build a little tableau of things you can do in Death Valley. It’s pretty clever and we’re surprised a how many different strategies are possible within the eighteen cards of the game, we wouldn’t be surprised if someone would expand some of these mechanisms into a bigger game somehow.

Lastly, All is Bomb is a strange little puzzle card game by Blaž Gracar, who also made LOK, which we love (and now has a demo for an upcoming digital version)! In this game, you’re trying to get the right breakfast for a princess, but everything is also a bomb. This means every card has a dormant and an ignited stage each with their own abilities, after the second time you play a card it explodes and is discarded. It’s all about cleverly stacking the deck so you can play the ignited princes with the ignited prophecied food in the same turn to win. We like this one a lot more as a solo game but as with Death Valley, we suspect something is already dissecting its design to put into a bigger deckbuilder or even TCG.

Other than that we’ve mostly played Moorland these last week and we suspect it might be one of the hits at Spiel. We realize we are a little biased because we got to make a comic about it but it’s a nice-looking nature-themed tile-laying game with a very unique twist on how you use resources. We enjoyed our three games with two players and we’re hoping some friends want to try it at our next game night to if it’s fun with higher player counts.

If you had a vacation this summer, what did you do?

This one is an older fact but the whole story is pretty interesting. This case was even instrumental in the founding of the EFF, which fights for the digital rights of civilians all over the world. We also let ourselves be inspired by John Kovalic’s style because for us Steve Jackson Games is synonymous with his art (even though they hadn’t put out Munchkin at the time over the raid).

It’s our “Summer break”! No worries, we still post updates every Monday but we like to experiment with the content a little! This year we’ve decided to team up with Peer Sylvester (game designer of The King is Dead, Village Green, and The Lost Expedition) because he runs the Twitter account Board Game Facts where he shares facts about board games and the industry. Alas, since Twitter is in shambles and due to changes at Tweetdeck, Peer has decided to pull the plug. We want to highlight his cool research by putting some interesting facts in the spotlight instead of normal comics this month. 

Which publisher’s offices would you raid to read all their secrets?

This is the most popular board game fact ever on the Board Games Facts account and with good reason. It’s actually such a cool story we mailed the publisher to get some additional facts and to check if it is actually true. Many thanks to MIPL for responding to our e-mail to confirm the story and give us some additional details! ❤️

It’s our “Summer break”! No worries, we still post updates every Monday but we like to experiment with the content a little! This year we’ve decided to team up with Peer Sylvester (game designer of The King is Dead, Village Green, and The Lost Expedition) because he runs the Twitter account Board Game Facts where he shares facts about board games and the industry. Alas, since Twitter is in shambles and due to changes at Tweetdeck, Peer has decided to pull the plug. We want to highlight his cool research by putting some interesting facts in the spotlight instead of normal comics this month. 

What is your favorite bird (in wingspan)?


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Catan has sold over 40 million copies, which is more than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club! Honestly, we played it both a lot as kids, so we’re not too excited about playing more Catan but we have to make sure we stop ourselves before we comment on that when people say they enjoy Catan. Why close a door on a potential new gaming friend when we could keep our personal opinion about a game we just played a bit too much in our youth for ourselves? (We will never miss an opportunity to show our dislike of the Catan card game though ;))

This week, we played the private investigator co-op mode of Cosmoctopus, which is a nice twist on the base game. Our opinion of Cosmoctopus is that it isn’t a ground-breaking design but it’s a fun and cozy mish-mash of other games that even more casual gamers can enjoy. The pink octopus and the wonderful art certainly will attract a lot of people, so maybe it’s the perfect game for you to help some Catan players to try some other games. 😉

We also tried two other Buttonshy Games and played some more Circle the Wagons.
Skulls of Sedlec is a fun set collection game in which you place your card in a pyramid shape to score points. It hasn’t got as many hard decisions packed in eighteen cards as Circle the Wagons but its novel drafting mechanic that allows you to ‘dig’ for cards and short playing time means it has earned its spot in our hiking deckbox! We also tried Liberation which is a thirty-minute mini-version of Star Wars Rebellion and it made a strong first impression. On the other hand, it’s the sort of game that requires a bit of card knowledge and maybe even a meta between the players to really see if it’s good, so we’ll let you know after some more plays.

I also played a game of 1830 this weekend. While I have played it two or three times before on 18xx.games, this was the first time I played it in real life. While we had a great game with loads of company dumping and track shenanigans, it is quite a long game so in the future I think I’ll stick to shorter variants like 18Chesapeake or 1889 as I feel they give a very similar experience in about half the time.

We haven’t gotten any real gaming plans for this week except for a Heat championship this weekend. We always wanted to do a Grand Tour for Flamme Rouge using the companion app, so this is something we have been looking forward to for quite some time.

What’s a game that gets new people excited about board games?


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Een bericht gedeeld door Semi Co-op (@semicoop)

(This comic was based on a meme of the movie Pacific Rim)

When we first saw Gloomhaven: Buttons & Bugs we weren’t sure if we were looking at a very late April Fool’s joke because Gloomhaven in the size of a pack of cards seemed impossible. But after we saw Nikki Valens was co-designing it we got very excited because Nikki has designed a lot of great games. It’s a perfect announcement during the Gloomhaven Grand Festival as it’s small enough that it breaches the “ohh, it’s so cute”-threshold while also being a no-brainer add-on to everyone that is already backing it for the RPG, miniatures or other Gloomhaven-related goodies.

It’s almost summer, which means my job as a teacher is busier than usual, which combined with our hiking practice means that gaming time is a little more limited. This week we only played three games! We played the MIND MGMT which was a resounding victory for the rogue agents after they very quickly sniffed out the route of the recruiter. It’s a shame we don’t get to play this more as we would really like to explore those Shift cards but so far we’ve only played the base game.

We also played a round of Block Party which is Big Potato’s twist on Lego Creationary but instead of Legos, you use the classic euro game-sized wooden blocks. I love how Big Potato games are party games you can explain in two minutes but the presentation and the sheer reaction at the table are off the charts. I think that more designers and publishers should study them to see how they can incorporate some of the Big Potato joy into their games.

Lastly, we closed off the weekend with Onitama, which after all these years is still an abstract delight, it’s also a game in which Rachel will keep complaining she doesn’t know what she is doing until suddenly she wins. I’m starting to suspect this is actually a part of her strategy, so maybe I should start playing with earplugs to prevent her sneaky ways of securing her victory.

After a slow week of gaming, this week we’ll overcompensate with loads many games. Tonight, we’re having a six-player game night, so we secretly hoping for a big game of Heat, tomorrow we’re continuing our Descent campaign and Saturday I’m playing my fourth game of War Room, which we’ll still probably won’t get to finish within the twelve hours we have reserved for it. 😛

Favorite game in a tiny box?


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Since we started logging what games we played in late 2014, we have played 612 different games. This means we have seen and played a lot, and a game really needs an exciting hook or combination of mechanism to get us excited about it. This also means that sometimes one of us gets interested in a game that no one else seems to want to play, and these will go onto a mental todo-list hoping that one day the stars will align and we’ll get the chance to play them.

This year has been exceptional for crossing off some games of our bucket list. We got to play New Angeles, Millenium Blades, Mice & Mystics, Manits Falls, Mind MGMT, Oath and this weekend we’re playing the impressive table hog that is Uboot if we manage to learn its fifty-page rulebook in time. 😉

Roleplaying games and miniature games are a bit harder for us. While we’d love to try Forbidden Psalm or Tartarus Gate our friends aren’t generally up for them, plus running such a game takes quite a bit more time learning and prepping the session than when everything is already neatly in the box as with a normal board game. So sometimes you have to grease the wheels a bit with some chores or get a bit too excited when a friend gives off even the slightest inkling of interest in one of these games. Reunification is a real RPG btw, but getting people interested in writing a letter as a fictional character is definitely even harder to get people excited about, although maybe if we coax them with some Alice is Missing, who knows…

This week we did get to play loads of games, with three games of Heat, which blends Formula D and Flamme Rouge into a fast and fun racing game. The game offers some additional modules which so far seem pretty straightforward rules-wise while adding so cool depth. The only two modules we haven’t played are the upgrade deck and the season mode but we’re already gathering a fun group for that. We also continued our Artisans of Splendent Vale campaign which after a somewhat strange and filler episode-like scenario picked up very strong in this scenario. The game still has its highs and lows but if you want to see a creative team taking changes to push the choose-your-own-adventure and dungeon crawling into new directions, this is the one to look at and study.

This week we haven’t got any gaming plans except the aforementioned Uboot session on Saturday and Lucky Duck was kind enough to send us a copy of Cosmoctopus, so that will definitely hit the table as well.

What is the strangest game you want to play?


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Taking an early lead in a board game, I know it’s not a good idea but I will do it every game. Even when there is no way an opponent can directly influence my situation I will pull off some sort of fun combo that will convince others into trying harder while I’m just enjoying a nice early lead! I didn’t even know it was so obvious this is my constant pitfall until Rachel came up with this comic and she said “You know, you are the character in this comic”.

This week we didn’t play a lot of games together because I went to Bristol for some family business but in Bristol, I met up with our friend Russel who is better known on the internet as For Chits & Giggles. We met in the new location of Chance & Counters board game café where Russel is responsible for buying the games and running their social media. We talked about what we’d been up to and played some games and ended up having such a good time I almost missed my bus! We played Town 66, Paris: La Cité de la Lumière, and Village Rails which I lost after taking an early lead… All the games are great two players that hold a lot more depth than it small boxes make you believe. I think Paris: La Cité de la Lumière was my favorite and I might need to hunt down a copy.

I also got to finish my game of Voyages while taking the train to the airport. While my opinion stands that the first map is pretty reminiscent of Guild of Merchant Explorers (thanks Eres, for pointing out the right name!), I didn’t realize the different maps all come with different rules! (just like Guild of Merchant Explorers…) We just started the second map, so we’ll see how much it switches up the game. Speaking of playing games while traveling, Rachel and I played quite a bit of the new Paperback app this month while sitting on different trains and it’s a great implementation of the classic word/deck builder. We can highly recommend it if you are looking for a great board game app.

Lastly, Rachel and I got to play the new Undaunted: Battle of Britain and it is a really fresh change to the infantry-based Undaunted games that have come before. Battle of Britain is about air battles which means that for every action card you play to activate a plane, you automatically have to make a move action. This not only makes the game much more dynamic it also makes winning the initiative so much more important. In the previous Undaunted games it would be annoying to lose a card from your hand after getting hit but now losing the initiative could mean your whole turn falls apart because enemy planes are suddenly in completely different spots on the map. While the first scenario was a simple skirmish, the second scenario is a German bombing run on some British ships, so we’re very keen on seeing how that one plays out.

Tomorrow our copy of Heat will arrive, so that is something to look forward to. We’ll also get to continue our Artisans of Splendentvale campaign on Friday, and we might play some games on Thursday as well! So here’s hoping it will be a nice game-filled week.

What is a Gaming pitfall that you keep stepping into?


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Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans! Looking at last week’s blog post, I didn’t get to play Age of Steam for personal reasons and we didn’t get Heat because our local game shop had a great deal on Descent! 

Our first session of Descent was smooth and fun. It really shows that Fantasy Flight has been making big boxes overflowing with thematic goodness and attractive rules for a long time. We started the app and only skimmed the rules when we came across them and we still had a great experience. The app highlights keywords and rules in the app, which you can quickly look up by clicking the highlighted words, so you never have to doubt if you got the rules for keywords like “prepared” right. 

The app also incorporates enough thematic and mystery elements from the Mansions of Madness app. Trees can be interacted with and while you can deduct what most actions do, there seem to be some sprinkled in to reward the curious player. It’s nice to have some uncertainty when every second counts.

As shown in the comic, we did stumble a bit on what we should call our little adventuring party and strangely we settled on the name “Eleven days” which is a reference to the glorious and short life of Spurt, the Kobold in Critical Role. Let’s see if our group can last a bit longer than that though.

Other than playing Descent, we also played some Beverbende, Tsuro and a round of Shamans. We didn’t get to finish Shamans because it was getting too late but everybody wanted to try it again next time.

I’ve also started playing Voyages over play-by-mail with some friends, a roll-and-write about traveling the seas. I’ve only done three turns but if does feel like it started from the same brainstorming session as Age of Merchant Explorers, which is also a game designed by Matthew Dunstan. It’s not the most unique roll-and-write design ever but for just four pounds, you can enjoy sailing the seas and have your heroic sailors beat the Dread while discovering islands and selling goods.

What would you name your party?


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Sometimes you see an initiative you want to support, so you try to write a comic about it and end up with a joke not mentioning the actual thing…

So we would like to offer a formal apology to the Green Games Guide! We really enjoyed reading the guide and the inclusion of practical examples of publishers taking steps helped us as consumers see what to keep an eye out for when trying to be a little more environmentally conscious during our cardboard and plastic-filled playtimes. Just making board games more environmentally friendly won’t save the planet but we’re convinced we all have to critically examine everything in our life and make some drastic changes, to keep our planet habitable.

We’ll never say we’re the most conscious environmental gamers but we have been turned off by several games in the past that looked interesting but seemed very wasteful in its product design. Give us a game filled with well-designed standees or meeples and we’ll get way more excited about it than offering us heaps of plastic that will only appear on the table once or twice. We’ve also cut down on buying new games, although that’s also because we are in the very rare and fortunate position that publishers send us games.

This week, life decided to throw us quite a bit of curve balls our way, so we only played three games, which all happen to be older classics. Firstly, we revisited Seasons, It’s still a wonderful dueling wizards card game that was already featured in our fifth-ever comic. Rachel scored over three hundred points, leaving me in the dust which I can blame completely on me discarding the wrong card and Rachel using that card to create a super powerful card drawing engine… So I guess we’ll just have to play a revenge game soon.

Another oldie we played was Flash Point: Fire Rescue, which was featured in our third-ever comic! We played the submarine map, which is always very tricky. Even though we won on easy mode, it was a lot closer than we’d like to admit. We got very lucky because most of the POI we lost to the fire turned out to be empty tokens and we saved the engine room just in time to pull through.

Last, but certainly not least, we played Take 5/6Nimmt which is probably a high point in game design that most game designers can only dream to reach one day. It’s just a joyous frustrating experience and if you haven’t played it go find a copy or try it on BoardGameArena.

This week we’ll be returning to our Artisans of Splendent Vale campaign, which has been an enjoyable experience although we both agree it’s not the best game ever. While it tries to recreate a roleplaying game experience, the characters haven’t connected with everyone, making it a bit strange to ‘roleplay’ characters you don’t have a feel for. It also doesn’t help our group can only play every other month, which makes us doubt if we have the rules correct every time. But the production is beautiful, the setting interesting and it has some very clever design tricks up its sleeves to make the choose-your-own-adventure parts interactive and interesting for a group. So we’ll happily keep exploring the contents of this enormous box.

We’ll also be playing New Angeles! I got to play it once using Tabletop Simulator once during Covid and loved it so much that I ordered a copy the next day. This game is a brutal semi co-op negotiation game set in the Netrunner universe and I can’t wait to see if it’s just as good in real life. We have ‘power suits and ties’ as dress codes to make it more immersive and we’ll also be serving a business lunch, although we still have to figure out what that actually means…

Do you make environmental choices in your gaming?
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