Many of you may have noticed that I was absent this past Saturday for one of our biggest sales of the year. This was not me playing a cruel joke on Ben and Kirsten. I was lucky enough to be invited as a speaker on a panel about 3D printing and tabletop gaming. “What in the world are you doing on such a panel?” was the question I received from more than a few friends and customers. I wasn’t quite sure at first, but Sara, the panel moderator, wanted to get a retailer’s perspective.
Well, the panel was amazing. Sara did a fantastic job of moderating, and I recommend you check out her blog (PvE Portland) for more of her great work. On the panel with me were David Perry, the creator of a 3D-printed electronic fiddle (check it in action here), Alex Dick, the designer of innovative 3D printing filaments (Proto Pasta), Arian Croft, a 3D printing enthusiast and game designer (Ill Gotten Games), and Jessica Goldsmith, the designer of a set of dice for the visually impaired (project here). The audience was massive, a few hundred people filled the seats. I had no idea how hot this burgeoning technology was, but gamers are into it. I got to sit next to one of Alex’s machines printing away at a bust of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy as we talked.
I feel like we all learned a lot through our discussion with each other and with the audience. I think everyone expected me to poo-poo the tech and talk about how bad it would be for retailer and publisher profit. But, in fact, I fought to stop using the term disruptive technology to describe 3D printing’s influence on the industry, and we came up with the term complementary technology instead. We’ll see a lot more use of the tech with gaming in the future, but the ability to customize or personalize your games will only help generate excitement for the gaming industry as a whole. Despite what Games Workshop thinks, the tech will probably not hurt their business anytime in the near future, unless folks want to wait weeks to produce inferior miniatures.
We’re going to try and schedule a 3D printing night at the shop, with Alex bringing a machine or two and printing some quick goodies while discussing the tech. We’ll also try and get David to talk with us and do some fiddling. And, of course, we’ll get them both into some games. Should be a unique evening. We’ll get Sara there as well to document the shindig and help up the geek factor! Oh, check out her sweet video of our silly little shop, you may just see someone you know.
As for new games, we’ve got two notable ones, Tragedy Looper, a cooperative time travelling crime-solving game brought over by Z-Man, and Doomtown Reloaded, a revised edition of a classic western meets magic tech card game. Technically, we can’t sell you Doomtown until Monday, but you can definitely come admire it. We won’t have the incredible premium set until next week though. There are a few other new games arriving, but they’ll actually be going straight to the sale table, so give that a gander if you swing by this weekend.
Finally, a few upcoming events of note. We’ll be hosting a puzzle swap on the evening of October 11, so grab a good quality puzzle that you’re done with and come trade it for another. There will also be mini-puzzle competitions and lots of swag provided by Pomegranate Puzzles. a few weeks after that will be our 4-year anniversary party on October 25. We’re still working on details, but 4 years is a big deal, so it will be a party. And, drum roll please, stay tuned for Last Saturday Metagaming at Cloud Cap. We’re going to bring back one Saturday night game night every month, with a twist. Again, details forthcoming.
Have a great weekend everyone.
I don’t know if it is the brain sluggishness brought on by the heat, the increased summer workload at the shop, or my attempts to play outside as much as possible before the rains hit. But for some reason, I’ve been digging the lighter games lately. It could also be that we’ve had a few good ones hit our shelves in the past month. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the little guys I’ve been enjoying.
Friday the 13th: No, this is not a game about a troubled kid in a hockey mask terrorizing coeds. This is from the uber-brain of Reinier Knizia and it is a re-theme of his older card game, Poison. Friday the 13th has some large, attractively illustrated, and very hard to handle cards in 3 suits. The game feels like a trick-taking game, so card-counters will be in heaven. You will play cards to suited-piles, and if you tip the total over 13, you take the cards. Generally a bad thing, but great if you shoot the moon and have the most of a given suit. Simple and fun to watch those piles build to a point where one player is just outta luck.
Biblios: This is a re-release of a game that last sat on our shelves last year. Another example of a game that sold very well but the publisher decided to take a year to reprint it. Thankfully they did get some copies out, because it is a blast. You play 2 rounds, and much like the game For Sale, in the first round you collect cards, then use them in the auction during the second round. It all boils down to set-collecting, but you get to choose the cards that go in the auction and you get to adjust the final scoring for each suit. You won’t be able to play just one round of this one.
Lost Legacy: The Starship: This is another one of Seiji Kanai’s games with only 16 cards. Love Letter is his most famous, but Brave Rats is another one, and I’ve been forcing this one on everyone I can to fill tiny time gaps. In Lost Legacy, you simply draw a card, play a card, and try to deduce who has what cards. Ultimately you want to find the starship card to win. This is Love Letter with a teensy bit more choice and a theme that works. A perfect filler.
Seventh Hero: This is a borderline filler, as it is closer to 45 minutes in length. This game also got poo-pooed at the shop on the first try due to some rules arguments and just general lack of desire to have fun. I still enjoy it, largely because I like to watch the frustration in others when they realize they’ve been stuck in a no-win situation with the card I’ve passed around the table.
Now, my gaming time has not just been filled with these lighter games, although I’ve been playing more of them than usual. This past weekend though, I had the chance to attend the inaugural convention held by a long-time loyal customer whose interest is big, heavy wargames. I cannot say enough good things about this experience. Beyond the games, I had the chance to play with fantastic folks that I did not know at all before running the silliest game shop in Portland. This is why I opened the shop, to build a community of gamers, rather than just a group of nameless people playing games. Thanks to Ty for making this happen. As much as I’d like to do something like this at the shop, we are a business, and the shopping must go on, so I’m grateful I was able to get away to TyCon 2014. Here’s what I played:
Roads and Boats: It’s big, and sorta heavy, but it is not what you’d consider a wargame. That did not stop 1 of the players from trying to turn it into one. Roads and Boats feels like a civilization game, but with opportunity to send your donkeys and geese out to the fields to do some baby-making. Yeah, there are some interesting ideas in this nearly-impossible-to-find game, but it is really an industry-building and pick-up-and-deliver game with a malleable map and a whole host of paths to try.
Here I Stand: Holy Hand Grenade! This is a monster of a game. We’re talking 3 different games in one really. Here’s the tagline: ‘the first game in over 25 years to cover the political and religious conflicts of early 16th Century Europe’. Boy, why did it take them 25 years to make another one? Well, because there is so much going on in this game. I played as the Protestants, so for about 6 hours I did nothing but fight the Papacy for the hearts and minds of the good people of Germany and translate the bible into 3 different languages. During this time, on the other side of the table, France, England, and the Hapsburgs were battling for space as well as for treasures from the New World. Oh, and then the Ottomans were making pitiful pirating attempts along the Mediterranean coast. This is a game you need to play 6 times so that you can try each faction, because they are all very different. In the end, 10 hours later, God won, perhaps only due to exhaustion. Truly an epic game that belongs at every TyCon in the future.
Hope all of you have been playing some sweet games. Clear your tables and balance your checkbooks for next week, because the first of the GenCon beauties should be arriving. Rumor has it that Imperial Settlers will be in the shop by next Wednesday, and after playing its predecessor, 51st State, I cannot wait! We’ll see what other excitement arrives. Happy gaming folks!
Before I explain the title of this week’s blog post, many thank you’s are in order. A few weeks ago the Mercury posted their reader’s choice awards and we were pretty amazed to find our silly little shop ranked as the second favorite Game Store in PDX. Number 2 folks! I know, I know, its only the silver medal, but that is prerrt darn good considering that we’re the smallest and the hardest to get to. So thank you to anyone out there who voted. But heck, thank you if you did not vote too. I’m guessing that part of the reason we made it up the list is our community vibe, and that is all you loyal reader. I think all of you have more to do with our approval rating than we do, people return to our humble space for you as much as us.
We witnessed an example of this just this past Wednesday when a regular member of our game night community spent his final night with us before traveling east for professional pursuits. Cupcakes were baked (not by us) and shared, wine was gloriously spilled, and hugs and hearty goodbyes were dished out. This is why we made number 2, because that game night feeling permeates the store even in-between game nights. So thank you, no thank you, oh no its all you, oh stop it, its you, really.
Now while our shop was basking in the number 2 spot, I was grinding gears in last place, twice in a row, in GMT’s newest release, Thunder Alley. It’s a card-driven NASCAR-themed game with 4 beautifully huge tracks and lots of annoying little damage chits, annoying because they will be piling up on your cards and slowing you down unless you hit the pits. What really makes this game special is the prominent drafting mechanic. Nearly every move you make brings a whole group of cars with you, and since you are actually in control of multiple racers, drafting is the key to victory. Of course, your cars are rarely alone in a particular pack, so you need to be careful about who tags along with you.
Despite my poor back-to-back performances, this game was a blast, just pure fun. It is also the first GMT game that I could play with my family and non-gaming friends because it really isn’t that complicated and makes great thematic sense. We racked up a second game right after the first, and we would easily have played a third round if we had time. I highly recommend this game, but it is sadly now out of stock. Hopefully we’ll see a reprint soon, but I’m sure you’ll get a chance to over-fund it on Kickstarter first, yay for the world. By the way, Thunder Alley did not even reach half of its funding goal when it was initially proposed on Kickstarter, but some bloke collected a decent annual salary by Kickstarting his first attempt at Potato Salad. Ughh. Those are fine clothes you’re wearing emporer, interested in some shoes?
New games will be hitting our round table tomorrow, including Twin Tin Bots, Friday the 13th, and a Biblios reprint from Iello. We also now have a limited number of Betrayal at House on the Hill back in stock. Last week we received Madame Ching and Hotel Tycoon, and both of those should be available for rent later today.
Finally, with GenCon approaching we will soon be seeing a slew of new games, and if you are interested in any of these, definitely get us your preorders. Some of the most requested of the GenCon batch so far are Machi Koro, Imperial Settlers, the Star Realms reprint, Dead of Winter, and 7 Wonders: Babel.
Happy Gaming everyone!
We have two ‘last Saturday’ events coming up, one we are very stoked about, and one that saddens us a bit. Let’s hit the bad news first: tomorrow night is our last official Strategy Saturday game night. Come party and game with us during the send off of this much-loved event.
Then, just two short weeks later, on the actual last Saturday of the month, join us for our first Star Realms tournament. If you have not played this game yet and you like tactical deck-building, ask for a demo, this is one heck of a card game for just $15. If you have played and enjoyed this game, then sign your fanny up for the tournament and try to win a Star Realms playmat and a full set of promo cards.
For new games this week, copies of Shinobi Wat-aah!!! arrive today. Not really sure what this game is about, but the opportunity to put a big Wat-aah!!! in your opponents’ faces sounds too good to pass up. The reviews are placing it in that sweet King of Tokyo zone, I hope they are right. We’ll definitely have a demo of this to try out, so come help us test kick it in the jaw.
A less strange words in your face game that I am very excited about will be for sale on Monday, Sail to India. The man who brought us the novel train game, String Railway, is now blessing us with what looks to be a euro-game bigger than its tiny box. With just some cards and cubes, Hisashi Hayashi appears to have created a micro-worker placement game. If this is as interesting as I hope it is, possible micro-tournament in the future? By micro I mean we’ll fill the house with those child-sized chairs and tables.
For events beyond the last Saturdays I already mentioned, help Ben this Sunday at 1pm discover a way to fend off cat paws and cockroaches then un-become a mouse in Mice and Mystics. Next Sunday we’re trying to do a customer pick demo. I’m still working on getting that all set up on facebook and meetup, but for now if you are interested in showing off one of your favorites, just let us know. Finally, if you or anyone you know have middle-school age youths interested in Magic or Pathfinder roleplaying, we’ve got some great summer camps planned, check them out here and here.
Happy mid-may weekend everyone!
The hotness for game stores this week is the new Pokemon set, Flashfire XY. Come catch them all, we’ve got theme decks and booster packs available now.
We’re also excited to start the new format for our Pokemon league on Saturday mornings. We had some short staffing issues during Pokemon league earlier this year and wild card trading started to dominate the league. It looked like a stock market run by 7 year olds, pretty scary. Now that we’ve got the staffing figured out, we’ve been able to get the kids to really want to play the game instead of throw cards around the room, and tomorrow we step it up even more. Check out this page for more info: Pokemon League.
With the new Magic set last week and the Pocket Monsters this week, we haven’t received any new board games of note. We have backed March of the Ants through Kickstarter, and anyone interested in backing this one can do so through us and get 20% in store credit! So for $35 you’ll get a copy of the game with all stretch goals when they ship it to backers and $7 in store credit to use immediately. Go check out their Kickstarter page for more info and for a quote from yours truly!
Speaking of insects, I’ve had a darn near perfect week so far. Played Mage Knight on Sunday, then on Monday and Tuesday I tossed some dry flies to trout keyed in on giant salmonflies, followed by another round of Mage Knight Wednesday. A trip to the happiest place on earth with my family would top it off nicely, sadly that won’t be happening.
Kirsten is still cranking on Star Realms, as are all the staff at Cloud Cap, and we’ve got a tournament planned for the end of this month with a chance to win sets of promo cards and a playmat for the game, we’ll see you May 31 at 6:30pm. Kirsten has also been hot on Safranito, a spice trading game that involves tossing bidding chips onto the board, and where they land determines the actions you get to take. One of her recent opponents, Miles, exclaimed that he was ‘on fire’ during the most recent game this Wednesday night. At first I was concerned, then calmed a bit when I realized that I was standing right next to the fire extinguisher. Eventually I figured out that he was talking about the game, I think he collected some peppers.
Finally, we’ll be playing Ben’s favorite game of all time this weekend, Caylus. I expect to get fully trounced by him so I may just cheat every time he walks away to get a drink or go the bathroom.
Have a great weekend everyone.
The pre-summer weather tease is upon us and things are starting to warm up, except the new board game release schedule. No worries though, we’ve got plenty to keep you busy.
First I wanted to mention that this past Wednesday I finally took the time to visit perhaps the largest board game gathering in the city: Dice and Drinks at the My Father’s Place pub. Ben (our new chief of staff in case you haven’t met him) has been attending for a while, and the host, Andy, has been a customer for a few years now, so we thought we’d pay them and some other folks a visit. It was pretty wild to walk into the pub and witness a literal sea of tables filled with folks rolling dice, pushing cubes, and playing cards; not at all a normal thing to see at your run-of-the-mill black-walled pub. Due to the lighting and layout, you can be in your own isolated world where you’re sitting, but the host does a great job of making the rounds and ‘connecting’ the many tables. It is fantastic to see this vibrant gaming scene and congrats to Andy for sustaining it. 5-10 years ago, an event like this would not have been possible, in fact you may have been beat up and thrown out of such a place if you were caught throwing a euro on the table. Oh, if you go, beware the cheap drinks!
We are finally ready to announce our summer camps for this year. Youth gaming coordinator extraordinaire, Tam (pronounced Tum) Stockton, will once again be deftly guiding young heroes through perilous dungeons during his Pathfinder Roleplaying Adventure Camps. New this year, Tam will be running some Magic the Gathering camps both for initiates and experienced players. For the most part, the camps are all-inclusive week-long affairs with a mix of indoor and outdoor activities so we won’t your young geek home crazy after a day of just sitting on the old tushy. Check out these links for more details: Pathfinder Camps, Magic Camps.
For the merry month of May, we’ve got a few events already planned. This weekend seems to be Richard Garfield appreciation days. Saturday we’re running a small Magic tournament to find a good home for an insanely huge playmat, I mean huge! Sunday we’re hosting a casual local Netrunner tournament, there’s a very cool bunch of regular players who attend these events, so do not be intimidated if you have any interest in competing.
During the rest of the month, we’ve actually got some board games happening during our Sunday Staff pick days. Kirsten will show you how to play Star Realms, if she hasn’t already, on May 11. And get ready, we are gearing up for a Star Realms tournament, just waiting for the sweet tournament kits to ship before we choose a date. On May 18, Ben will bring in his painted figurines for a round of Mice and Mystics. Finally, I’ll give you a dose of Rosenberg on May 25 with Caverna. Next month we hope to dedicate one Sunday as a customer’s choice day, so stay tuned on how to enter.
Finally, May 17 will be our last regular Saturday Strategy Game night. We’ll be serving up some champagne, toasting to what will come.
Stay cool and game on!
When playing games I rarely choose the obvious or tried and true path to victory. Take Dominion for example, with any given card setup there is usually at least one clear path to victory, and that is exactly the path I’m not going to take. Why just win when you can win by some crazy route that should not have worked. Usually I lose, but when I do pull off a win it can be that much more satisfying.
This same thinking went into my planning for opening a game store. One of the mantras of experienced game store owners is that once you have your own shop you will play fewer games. That was the paradigm, so of course I had to try something different. Heck, if that mantra were true, what would be the point? I wasn’t opening game store just to make a living, there are far better businesses for that. Oh wait, owning a game store is a rough way to make a living? OK, let’s try that too. So I set out to see if I could run a successful game shop and continue to wallow in tons of gaming goodness.
Well, over 3 years later, I’ve played more games than ever and somehow we’re squeaking by when the first of the month comes. Just this Wednesday night I was able to play City of Remnants and a few rounds of Quantum, two great games enjoyed with great people. Last week I was able to lose miserably at Terra Mystica on Wednesday night, then shirk some duties on Thursday to play a round of Babel and a few rounds of Corto with some awesome customers. Sure, I nearly spent the night at the shop to finish all of my work afterwards, but it was worth it. Oh yeah, then on Friday I did some game design and got in a game of Caverna. Kirsten’s been getting some gaming in too. Most notably, she was on fire Wednesday night with Star Realms, a great little deck-builder recommended by Ben, and Splendor, a game I’ll talk more about below.
Should we feel guilty? Nah, as I said, this was part of the point. We also view it as a very important part of our jobs. Nearly everyone who walks through our door asks for suggestions and opinions. If there is one thing I really don’t want to do is send you out the door with a product that won’t work for you. We’ve been accused once of recommending a game just to make a big sale, it took me a few days to recover from the sting of that false accusation.
So in the spirit of full disclosure, and to impart some of what I’ve learned from the smorgasbord of gaming this month, I’d like to discuss 4 different games I’ve been enjoying that I believe share some similarities. For lack of a better word, I’m classifying these games as ‘array’ games. Not a very sexy title perhaps, unless you’re like me and the thought of acting as an array processor sounds like time well spent.
The 4 games, in loose order of approachability, are Continental Express, The Builders, Splendor, and Targi. All of these games are setup as rows and columns of cards that form an offer, or array. Two types of cards are found, some that provide resources, and others that convert resources into victory points. On any given turn, you are scanning the entire array to find the optimal connection between resource collection and victory point generation. For some this can be a very intuitive, from the gut activity. I, however, like to try and recreate the entire array in my noggin and let my squishy processor do its thing. Whatever your style, these games always feel light, fun, and fast.
They all make great 2-player games as well; Targi, in fact, is strictly a 2-player game. With just two players, it is much easier to try and foil your opponent’s plans. I find Continental Express to be a particularly fun 2-player game, and it is by far the easiest of the batch to introduce to new players. With The Builders and Splendor the calculations can get a little mind-bending at times, in a great way if your into noggin-twisting. Targi takes the array concept even further by allowing you to build your own array with the cards you take from the offer, crazy good stuff.
Lucky for you, we have all of these games either to rent or to demo in the shop. I highly recommend doing either of those if you’re looking for something casual that still gets the grey matter clicking. Have a great weekend everyone!
New Arrivals: Myth
Lots of big announcements to make this week folks. But first, let’s thank all of our official TableTop Day Geeks, who did a fine job last Saturday keeping the geek currency out of participants’ hands during the Beat the Geek challenges; we wound up raffling off lots of great prizes in the evening. According to many who attended, TableTop Day was a huge success, and our volunteer Geeks are almost entirely responsible for the praise we have received. So stay Geeky all of you!
Now with TableTop day behind us, it is time to resume our regularly scheduled programming, buuutttt, actually, we’re making some dramatic changes to our regular programming. First off, we are going to finally be open on Mondays, from 11am-7pm. Ben O. will be in charge, so stop by to say hi, he may be a bit lonely on Mondays until word gets out.
The second change to our schedule is a big boy and likely to cause a few tears. For some time now we have been seeking a way to offer a wider variety of gaming events, some for hobby gamers and some for broader audiences. Our Caverna release party in January and our recent 7 Wonders tournament are examples of the types of events we would like to offer. We have decided that Saturday nights are the best nights for us to offer these events, and have made the decision to cancel the regular Strategy Saturday game nights to give us greater flexibility.
SAY WHAT! I’ll repeat that since the shock may cause some to disbelieve.
Wednesday game nights are still full on, and great events will still be happening on Saturday nights, just not every Saturday, so stay tuned and plan on joining us!
And for the last announcement, which may pale in comparison to the prior two, I have finally created a 2-Player only section in the rental library. Most of our regularly renting customers are couples seeking great head-to-head games. Currently in the section we have Summoner Wars, Targi, Babel, Asante, 2-player Agricola, and others that were already on the shelf just not in their own private section. Look for these games on the back of the window table until we work out a better home for them. I just played Babel yesterday with a customer (yes, a big perk of the job when you run a non-Magic shop), and we had a great time. Babel is a very aggressive and challenging struggle of wits and luck.
Have a fine spring weekend everyone, I’ll leave you with a list of current staff picks, new arrivals, and games recently added to our rental shelf.
Current Staff Picks: Corto, Splendor, Spyrium, Concept, Star Realms, Babel, Continental Express.
Recent Arrivals: Star Realms (an awesome 2-player deck-builder recommended by Ben, try this puppy if you like your deck-building), The Doom that Came to Atlantic City, Descent: Nerekhall, Hive: Pillbug, Splendor.
New Rentals: The Doom that Came to Atlantic City, Quantum, Lewis & Clark, Africana, Concept, Splendor.
Spring is definitely starting to win the battle against winter, so get ready for more yard work at home, spring corn snow on the mountain, and the new board game release drought period. Now I am not a big fan of yard work, but the northwest spring corn is fantastic, and the lack of new releases is much needed.
From a retailer perspective, no new releases can be rough. As many more experienced store owners than myself will tell you, the tabletop game business is primarily front-end driven, so no new releases means very lean sales. This is why the collectible card games and miniature games usually form the foundation of a game store’s business model, fans of these games line up every few months for regular dispensation of new products in their chosen lines. Since we don’t rely too heavily on the collectibles, our slow new release months are buffered by non-hardcore products, like puzzles, kids and family games, and a back catalog of strategy games that for all intents and purposes are new to many of our customers.
So do we really need any new games? As a retailer I am supposed to answer with a resounding yes, as a gamer I can answer with a firm no. Take a good look at our game shelves and yours and I’ll bet you can find multiple titles that you’d like to play but haven’t ever played or haven’t played in some time.
Great titles like Mage Knight, CO2, Last Will, Lords of Waterdeep, Snowdonia, Blood Bowl Team Manager, Village, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and so many more have not hit my table in months. And these are just from the past few years. Go back even further back in time and the list just gets wonderfully overwhelming: El Grande, Fresco, Colosseum, Dominion, Le Havre, At the Gates of Loyang, Galaxy Trucker, Belfort, Merchants & Marauders, and on and on and gloriously on. Oh, and this doesn’t even include the heavier games. As some of our game night regulars will relentlessly remind you, there is a whole world of weighty games in the back catalog to explore.
When I get together with my game group, we use a style of run-off voting to determine what we’ll be playing. Each gathering, one person makes a list of games, one game or set of games per player. Each other player vetoes one game or game set on the list, and the survivors then hit the table. Well, with an immense back catalog of personal favorites to choose from, the process of constructing a list of only 3 or 4 games can induce analysis paralysis. The veto process is no better since we want to play every game on every list.
The new games will come soon enough, and of course we’ll always have Kickstarter titles flash-flooding the market (seriously folks, stop clicking!). Right now it is time to just enjoy the bounty we have, sort of a harvest festival in Spring. The shelves are full and glorious stuff right now, get all zen, be in the moment, play the now, then get all reflective and play the past.
To encourage some exploration of the now and then, we’re going to be hosting two events at the turn of the quarter. First we’ll be celebrating a great modern classic, 7 Wonders. Join us on March 29th at 6:30pm for a friendly and competitive tournament and some 7 layer dip. See here for more details and to reserve a seat. The following Saturday, April 5, we’ll host a whole day of gaming and feasting for an International Tabletop Day celebration, gaming from the back catalog from Noon-Midnight! The details of Tabletop Day are still developing, and we are very interested in any help running game sessions, so be in touch!
Alright, signing off. Happy transition into Spring everyone. Grab blindly from your shelf or ours, then go forth and game!
Over the past few years we’ve seen board games slowly grow in size and price. For hobbyists, this is not such a concern, it is how we decide to spend our luxury funds, and if a more expensive game means a more stunning product, we are generally all for it. But there is a limit, and the number of games with top notch component quality and only mediocre play is on the rise, especially on Kickstarter.
Now I know what you’re thinking, here he goes again trash talking Kickstarter. Well, I’m not. I’m actually going to praise Kickstarter project creators for what I believe is finally a small indie movement. See, Kickstarter has really just been another avenue for publishing games and establishing a publishing company without innovating or offering any real alternatives to what we already have on the shelves. Kickstarter really just offers the same games with prettier bits. So fine, it’s a means for finding investors that is far easier and more reliable than good old fashioned pounding the pavement.
But now the site that typically offers style before substance is flipping the table. Now we are seeing creators attempt the opposite, packing as much game as possible in a small and somewhat flashless package and labeling it as a microgame. It feels a bit like an experimental movement, almost a challenge to designers, which is exactly what we really need crowd funding for. And maybe it will be too extreme, but like any artistic movement, we’ll learn some things from the attempt that should help refine the hobby.
Plenty of small games already exist, but what makes a microgame unique is the amount of strategy or forward planning involved. The designers on Kickstarter did not invent the category but they do seem to have coined the term for the genre. The classic game Citadels by Fantasy Flight was a microgame well before the term existed, and Hisashi Hayashi’s upcoming game through AEG, Sail to India, is an incredible looking microgame that did not need the help of Kickstarter to make its way to shelves. What feels independent and innovative with the current Kickstarter trend is the concerted effort by multiple designers. We’re not just seeing isolated incidents, we’re seeing a cluster of projects. Tasty Minstrel Games, who really sort of coined the term, has their very own cluster of truly microgames already funded on Kickstarter; here, here, and here.
In honor of the microgame movement, and because I detect some level of quality, Cloud Cap Games has officially backed two microgame Kickstarter projects: Tiny Epic Kingdoms and Oddball Aeronauts. Click on their names to give them a gander on the Kickstarter. You can back both of these games through us and receive 20% more in store credit. This means you will receive the fully stretched Kickstarter exclusive copies when they ship, and also get some Cloud Cap Bucks. We are halfway through our lot of Tiny Epic Kingdoms already, but through the month of February you can get the game for $24, with $5 in store credit, while supplies last. Oddball Aeronauts has a few weeks to go before the campaign ends, but we’ll keep our offer open through the month of March: $25 for the game with $5 in store credit.
While the current microgame trend is not entirely innovative, it is a movement that would be tough to push through normal publishing channels, which makes it ideal for Kickstarter. The microgame trend feels like a true indie movement, and I look forward to seeing and supporting even more experimentation in the crowd funding arena. Maybe microgames are just a fad, but I do hope that it helps realign modern game design by encouraging the development of great games in beautiful but affordable packages.
Happy gaming everyone, in whatever size you please!