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AICN Tabletop! Houston's Space City Con! CRABS ADJUST HUMIDITY... What?! LOTR Board Games! So Much Good Stuff!

Hello my fellow analog gamers, Abstruse here with this week’s batch of news about the tabletop gaming world. And holy hell has there been a lot going on this week. 

On top of this week’s column being just crammed with announcements, I’m also getting ready for Space City Con in Houston. If you can get down to Texas for this, DO IT. There’s an absolute ton of gaming going on. Tracy and Laura Hickmen are signing and running games at the convention, Cracked Monocle will be there with their steampunk game TEPHRA, Dark Nova Games will be demoing new stuff, Steve Jackson Games’s Men in Black will be on-site, and Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files and Codex Alera, will be there (yes, this is gaming-related...he’s an avid gamer and LARPer, and the roleplaying game based on the Dresden Files license is the biggest FATE roleplaying game out there). The convention will also have what I believe is the very first official Wizards of the Coast presence in Texas demoing the newest edition of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Designers Robert Schwalb, Miranda Horner, and Bruce Cordell will be attending. I’ll also be there with my Trademark Big Bag ‘O Games, and I guarantee you there will be at least a couple of late night drunken CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY games.  Click on the picture to be taken straight to their website where you can purchase tickets!

Another reason to go to Space City Con is it may be your last chance to see Bruce Cordell in his capacity as an employee of Wizards of the Coast. The eighteen year veteran of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS line, has announced that he’s leaving the company. From what everyone has been saying, the split is amicable and it’s most likely so Cordell can join the ranks of other former WotC employees who are launching their own companies, but it’s still a shame to see such a great talent leaving the line. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

And speaking of CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY, a third party company is taking advantage of the Creative Commons license the game is released under and have themselves released an unofficial expansion called CRABS ADJUST HUMIDITY. The cards are nearly identical in both tone and look to the official CAH cards, but the backs do have the different name so unless you play with sleeves, you’re going to know whether the card coming up next is an “official” card or one of the new ones. But if you’re starved for new cards for your game (and if you play a tenth as frequently as I do, you probably are), this expansion has 108 new cards for you to use for $14.00.

Speaking of...ummm...Okay, I’m officially out of segues. Anyway, ENWorld announced on Monday this year’s nominees for the 2013 Ennie Awards. The awards cover everything in gaming, from roleplaying games to card games to board games to even podcasts and blogs. The awards ceremony will take place at GenCon on Friday, August 16 in the Union Station Grand Hall.

Wizards of the Coast decided to try to out-do the movie studios in their big revelations for MAGIC: THE GATHERING at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve got a lot to go through and I’m trying not to get sucked back into MAGIC right now and some of this stuff sounds awesome enough it might work (No, Abstruse! Resist!). From The Vault Twenty will reprint cards from twenty of the world-championship winning decks of the past twenty years. Announced cards so far are Gilded Lotus, Impulse, and Jace, the Mind-Scultpor.

They also announced the next expansion block. Theros will released on September 27 and has a Greek mythology theme (similar to the Innistad block and its horror theme). The set includes three new card types - Heroes, Monsters, and Gods – each with new rules mechanics. Enchantments will feature heavily in this set, which will feature Theros as the large expansion with  Born of the Gods and Journey into Nyx as the small expansions. The set will be in the classic draft format and pre-release packs are returning with this block.

Finally, Felicia Day stopped by at the end of the panel to announce that, in a deal with Geek & Sundry, they will start airing a MAGIC: THE GATHERING webseries similar in format to TABLE TOP. If the series does even a tenth of what TABLE TOP has done for board games, we’re looking at a huge growth in the player base from that alone.

Even though it looks like all the big DUNGEONS & DRAGONS announcements are being saved for GenCon in a few weeks, WotC apparently didn’t want their other big properly left out as they announced Hasbro will release DUNGEONS & DRAGONS licensed KRE-O toys (which are Hasbro’s version of Lego-style building blocks). Now this would be awesome enough on its own if it weren’t for the current budget gamer movement which has been using Lego-style building blocks as terrain and miniatures for roleplaying games. There’s some really amazing builds out there that I would put up against the best that Dwarven Forge can offer that people have built solely out of Lego. And actually having a licensed product on top of that for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS? Okay Wizards of the Coast, my bank account officially fucking hates you. I just want you to know.

Fantasy Flight Games is looking to get into the increasingly popular bluff/deduction genre of games with BLOOD BOUND, a vampire-themed game where you try to discover the allegiances of your fellow players. In the game, the 5-10 players each take on the role of a vampire member of one of two clans. Two of the players are the leader of their clan, and your goal is to capture the leader of the opposing clan before your own leader is captured. However, each player only knows what clan THEY are on. You have to read your fellow players and deduce who is on your side and who isn’t. The game’s core mechanic involves attacking other players to get a piece of information about their identity. When you decide to capture someone, you’d better be sure you’ve got the right person because if you’re lead astray and your clan captures someone who isn’t the leader, you’ve fallen into the enemy trap and you lose. The game is scheduled to hit store shelves toward the end of this year.

Man, Cubicle 7’s been on a roll recently. First off, they’re now accepting pre-orders for ROCKET AGE, a roleplaying game set in a very Buck Rogers-style science fiction universe that’s a throwback to pulp sci-fi from the golden age. It’s based on the same Vortex system used by the very well received DOCTOR WHO game. On top of that, they announced their first Middle Earth themed game in HOBBIT TALES: A ONE RING CARD GAME. This is a stand-alone storytelling-based card game that ties into THE ONE RING, their Middle Earth roleplaying game. Players take turns as narrators of grand adventure tales based on the cards they draw, while other players make the story more interesting by adding new monsters and hazards that the narrator must overcome in the story. ROCKET AGE will release at GenCon, while HOBBIT TALES will ship this November.


And if November is too long to wait for your Hobbit card game fun, Cryptozoic has you covered with LOTR: THE TWO TOWERS deck-building card game. I haven’t played the first game in this series for FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING yet, but I have played the PENNY ARCADE deckbuilding game from Cryptozoic and if that was any indication of what these guys can do with a licensed product in this genre, I can’t wait to get my hands on it. The game comes out “this summer”, which probably means GenCon. If even that is too long of a wait for you, the THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY BOARD GAME just came out recently as a cooperative board game for one to four players. And it comes with a dice bag, which if you’re anything like me, you ALWAYS need more dice bags.

Okay, these new product announcements just will not STOP! And that makes me very, very happy (though I have started to wonder how much one of my kidneys would go for on the black market). Steve Jackson Games went on a tear this week announcing a ton of new products.

First up, their two player board game CASTELLAN is available for order. You and your opponent are building a castle and what pieces you get are determined by a deck of cards. If you put the final piece that encloses a courtyard, you get to claim it as your own. There’s also two different sets – a red/blue set and a yellow/green set. If you get both, the game expands to 2-4 players. The pieces themselves don’t look that great from a miniature gaming standpoint, but you get 108 of them for the retail price of $34.95 which makes this game a fantastic deal just on the terrain alone, let alone the game. Definitely pick this one up.

Next up, we have additions for a bunch of different games. First, there’s ZOMBIE DICE SCORE PAD which is a lifesaver if you’ve ever played the game at a convention. I picked one up at RTX and the scorepad is small enough to fit in the cup, making it easily portable with the rest of the game. Throw a pen or pencil in there and one of the best portable games just became completely self-contained!

Then we have MUNCHKIN. Oh boy, is there a lot here. First, there’s three new MUNCHKIN products coming out in September. We have the much-awaited MUNCHKIN PATHFINDER, which brings the insanity of Munchkin to the world of Golarion. Then we’ve got MUNCHKIN TRICKY TREATS, a Halloween-themed “booster pack” expansion for the game. And we’ve also got the dear-god-have-we-needed-this BOXES OF HOLDING 2, which finally gives us more storage space with two boxes each holding 500 cards (one for Doors and one for Treasures) plus a box specifically for the oversized Dungeon cards. Though I think I’m going to need a pair of both sets for my collection. And yes, there will be three more unique cards for the second box set.

September too long to wait for more MUNCHKIN? Well, MUNCHKIN DRAGONS is available now. This is the set I reviewed last week after picking it up at RTX (though I’m going to have to re-buy it after a run-in with my cats...RIP Smog). We’ve also got LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, which is all you need to turn your basic MUNCHKIN set into MUNCHKIN DELUXE. It includes a two-sided map and tokens in six colors (both male and female available) to track your level, and new in-game benefits specific to the tokens! Plus four new exclusive cards. But wait, there’s more! MUNCHKIN ZOMBIES officially has its own set of custom d6s for use in the game!

Okay, I think that’s finally it for new product announcements. Jesus Christ, I feel like I ran a marathon just typing this out. And we haven’t even gotten to GenCon yet! Why does it seem like we’re getting overwhelmed with awesome new products? It could be because the tabletop gaming industry is entering its FIFTH straight year of growth across all categories. Yes, our little hobby is taking the world by storm right now and I couldn’t be happier for the industry. Industry tracking firm ICv2 also announced the top-selling games by gameplay genre for the last quarter, and the results weren’t that surprising. WARHAMMER 40K, WARMACHINE, and X-WING MINIATURES dominated the non-collectible miniature market. PATHFINDER beat out DUNGEONS & DRAGONS as top-selling RPG with STAR WARS coming in third (not surprising considering the edition change for D&D and that ICv2 doesn’t poll chain bookstores but rather independent game stores, a market that PATHFINDER has dominated for years). MAGIC: THE GATHERING is still top dog in collectible games with Yu-Gi-Oh apparently still a thing and HeroClix clinging to third place. ANDROID: NETRUNNER is still the top in the non-collectible dice/card game market with 7 WONDERS, DOMINION, STAR WARS LIVING CARD GAME, and MUNCHKIN rounding out the top five sellers. And finally, three of the best board games ever obviously still top out the sales for that market, SETTLERS OF CATAN, TICKET TO RIDE, and SMALL WORLD (though I was surprised to see MAGE KNIGHT hit the top 5).

Remember, all this growth is due to you, the gamers. There’s a lot of new people coming to the hobby and I’m very proud of most of the gaming community for being very open and welcoming to the new people. The more we encourage new gamers, the more games companies will sell and the more awesome new games we’ll get as a result. We’ve got a bright future ahead of ourselves, and the last thing we as a community need to do is become insular and unwelcoming to the fresh blood that will keep this industry alive.

Some of you may have been wondering what I meant exactly when I talked about former D&D writers forming new companies. Well, I was referring specifically to the James Brothers, Brian and Matt, who have launched Vorpal Games. They’ve managed to attract a lot of very strong talent to their first project, from industry legends like Ed Greenwood (creator of FORGOTTEN REALMS) to up-and-coming talent like Enrique Bertran (writer of the Newbie DM blog and creator of rpgKids). Both Matt and Brian James have a long history as freelancers for Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Kobold Press, and many others.

Their first offering is live on Kickstarter now, a new roleplaying game called RED AEGIS. This is one of the most ambitious and unique roleplaying game concepts I’ve seen in...possibly ever. The concept is that instead of playing a single character, you actually play a bloodline through the ages from the distant past when magic dominated the world all the way through to the far future of space marines and intergalactic exploration. If this were anyone else, I’d be worried that they were reaching too far too soon. However, not only is the talent lined up for this game a fucking laundry list of legends of the industry or up-and-comers making major waves, but both Matt and Brian James have done amazing work on their own with the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 3.x and 4th Edition lines plus their work on PATHFINDER. This is almost a dream team of modern game design working on this project, and you will kick yourself if you don’t get in immediately. A pledge of just $5 will get you the PDF of the Player’s Guide, while $25 will get you a PDF of the core rulebook and $50 will get you access to the Digital Boxed Set which gets you both PDFs and access to the digital toolbox for the system. This Kickstarter has only been up for a day or three and is already halfway to its funding goal. And with a pedigree like this one has, this Kickstarter is going to explode soon so get in while you can. It runs until August 23.

And in this week’s “why the hell isn’t this already funded?!” moment, we have PRIMEVAL THULE, a campaign setting compatible with PATHFINDER, 13th AGE, D&D 4e, and god knows what else at this point. It’s HP Lovecraft meets Edgar Rice Burroughs, with buy-ins at the $25 level for the Player’s Guide and $40 for the entire campaign setting (pick your ruleset when you pledge). The setting looks amazing and it’s got some great designers behind it, but the Kickstarter is at the time of writing slightly less than hallway to its $60,000 goal. You’ve got until August 1st to make this happen, people! 

SPACE 1889 is an old school roleplaying game originally published by one of the giant companies of my youth, Game Designs Workshop (yes, the original WARHAMMER guys). Chronicle City is looking to bring this steampunk-before-steampunk-was-a-thing game back into print with an all new edition. I’d tell you the concept, but if you’re a steampunk fan, you don’t need it. This game was ahead of its time in so many ways, and it’s great to see someone trying to resurrect it. The Kickstarter is from an English company, so the prices are in British Pounds, so keep the rule of thumb £1 = about $1.50 when I tell you that the core rulebook is £15 as PDF, but £30 will get you the book plus all stretch goal PDFs that are unlocked. £35 gets you the hardcover version of the rules and £50 gets you that plus all the PDFs as well. This Kickstarter is a hair’s breadth from meeting its funding goal and runs until August 25.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve tried to take my duty as columnist for AICN Tabletop more seriously by listening to podcasts at my day job (which is funnily enough, also gaming-related since I work at a casino) in order to get my hands on more news faster. One of those podcasts I’ve subscribed to recently is ORDER 66, a podcast on the Star Wars roleplaying games. They’ve launched a Kickstarter in order to get funding to continue the podcast and do more in-depth coverage of the new Fantasy Flight EDGE OF THE EMPIRE version of the game. I’m not the biggest fan of Star Wars RPGs mostly because my gaming group here is not the most geek-savvy bunch (three of the fifteen or so people I use as guinea pigs to test games haven’t even SEEN Star Wars!), so it’s a hard sell. But I’d LOVE to run a SW game, so I tend to live the dream vicariously through ORDER 66. They blew past their initial goal ages ago and are working through a long line of stretch goals to improve the podcast. The Kickstarter runs until August 2, and while there’s not a specific “get the game at this level” pledge since this isn’t a game, I’d like to point out that at the $20 pledge level, you get a digital copy of a custom EDGE OF THE EMPIRE module as well as a set of tokens usable on Roll20 for online play. Also, at the $50 level, you get Chris to run a Skype game for you in EDGE OF THE EMPIRE (limited to the first 50 backers at this level).

I try not to report about Kickstarters that I don’t think will reach funding, but I can’t help myself in this case because what the former founders of White Wolf are doing right now is beyond incredible. DARKLING PLAIN is a game far ahead of its time and they’ve set an amazing high goal for themselves - $120,000. The reason I’m even posting this Kickstarter is because I’m a huge technology nerd and this game is the first I’ve seen that’s attempted to take advantage of Augmented Reality. If you don’t know what that is, it’s one of those “We’re living in the future!” breakthroughs that is starting to get real attention. It’s basically system by which your smartphone or tablet can interact with the real world, overlaying additional information. This game uses AR to replace the need for plastic miniatures or figures by creating fully-animated 3D models on your smartphone – from flying dragons to orcs waving their spears. Even the gameboard itself gets animated as volcanos erupt and waterfalls flow.

I cannot say this enough – this game is WAY ahead of its time. This is the future of tabletop gaming over the next decade, by combining the best of modern technology with the tried-and-true format of the board game with its face-to-face social interaction. And it’s happening right here now and you can be a part of it. The Kickstarter is currently at time of writing just over $15,000 of its $120,000 goal, and a pledge of $55 will get you the complete game. There are multiple pledge levels both below and above that level that give you some amazing bonuses, so PLEASE check this game out.

That’s it for this week. There was a lot of news that just couldn’t make the cut this week with everything going on, but I’ll be sure to cover it next week. I’ve also got some surprises in the pipeline for you over the next three weeks that I think you’ll be very happy about, including a pair of interviews from Space City Con that are set-in-stone confirmed and one that we’re still working out the details on. Speaking of Space City Con, I’m going to say again I’ll be there with the Giant Bag ‘O Games looking to play at the Westchase Marriott or the Hilton from August 2-4 in Houston, TX. I’ll be the guy that looks exactly like me. You can also follow me on Twitter at @Abstruse to find out exactly what I’m doing or email me at if you’d like to do shots and play...well, anything really.

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