Friday, May 26, 2017

Eye on Kickstarter #21

Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any reviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2017 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.

So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the fourth Friday of May, 2017:


HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Roll Player: Monsters & Minions
  • GJJ Games Review
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • In 2015 I had the fortune to review Roll Player before it hit Kickstarter. This year I got to play the expansion and post up a review for that as well. Roll Player is one of my favorite newer games and I'm super excited for the expansion. Monsters & Minions add a whole new layer of strategy to the game and seamlessly brings in thematic elements like fighting monsters, earning XP, and going on a final big adventure. If you like Roll Player (and you should), Monsters & Minions is a must have expansion!


The King has raised a call to arms! Create your character. Earn experience and confront the vile monster terrorizing the village!

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is an exciting new expansion to the critically acclaimed Roll Player -- the dice game that builds character! In Roll Player: Monsters & Minions, players compete to construct the greatest fantasy character, gather information about the looming threat and prepare for a final showdown against a Monster!





The Manhattan Project 2: Minutes to Midnight
  • This sequel to the critically acclaimed The Manhattan Project is actually the fourth game in the family, which also includes Energy Empire and Chain Reaction. This series of games is from Minion Games, a big supporter of independent designers here in the midwest. James Mathe, the owner of Minion Games, attends Protospiels and other designer events in the area and also runs a very popular blog about designing and Kickstarting games. The designer, Brandon Tibbetts, also attends Protospiels in the area. This looks just as exciting and interesting as the other games in the series, so be sure to check it out.


Halloween
  • Have I mentioned before that Halloween is my favorite holiday? I love everything about the holiday, and always have. The fall weather, the costumes, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, and of course, scaring people. I ran a very successful haunted house for three years in college and still look back fondly on those days. So it's no surprise that I've got my eye on a game called Halloween. The art and minis look great, the gameplay looks interesting, I'm just disappointed that there aren't any 3rd party reviews or actual gameplay video.


Sweetwater String Band - At Night
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • Once again I'm sharing a campaign that has nothing to do with tabletop games. This time it's a band that's looking to fund their third album. The Sweetwater String Band is one of the few artists I have on my MP3 player that my wife NEVER asks me to skip a song by. That's saying quite a lot! We love their upbeat folk rhythms and how they use a cello more like a fiddle. Lots of fun, and you should check them out!

And just so you can hear how awesome they are, here's one of their songs from an older album that I have on my MP3 player.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Quick Review - Roll Player: Monsters & Minions - Kickstarter Preview

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions
Designer: Keith Matejka
Publisher: Thunderworks Games
1-5p | 60-120m | 10+
Quick Review - Roll Player: Monsters & Minions - Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer

Way back in November of 2015 I reviewed a game that had a successful campaign on Kickstarter and was released to retail with very little fanfare or hype. I loved the game when I played, so did all the other reviewers. Although the game did well on Kickstarter, it wasn't until Tom Vassal got his hands on it that a lot of people started to take notice. Of course I'm talking about Keith Matejka's sophomore title, Roll Player. Roll Player earned the Dice Tower Seal of Excellence and nominations for several other Dice Tower and Golden Geek awards, and rightly so. The game is a tight mix of dice selection, puzzley strategy, and character creation that provides a great experience with a ton of replayability.

There was only one complaint that kept popping up in discussions and reviews, though. After taking an hour building an awesome character, it felt anticlimactic to just dump all those dice back in the bag and wipe all those stats away.  People wanted to do something with their character. Where were the monsters to battle? Well, Keith was listening and now he's back with the first expansion for Roll Player, Roll Player: Monsters & Minions. So, does battling monsters with your characters work as well as the base game's character creation process? Read on to find out.

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is available on Kickstarter now through June 15, 2017.  You can pick up a copy of the expansion for $39 or get both the base and expansion for $89, including US shipping.

Overview:
OK, so maybe there were two complaints.  Some people also thought completing the character attributes was pretty unforgiving.  This made Roll Player somewhat challenging, and a bit AP prone.  Personally, I liked that aspect of the game, but some didn't.  The good news is that Monsters & Minions also offers a solution to that issue in the way of Boost dice.  These are transparent dice with three to eight pips on them, giving you a bit more flexibility with reaching those high attribute scores.
Those transparent Boost dice can help offset a few ones and twos, like that seven and eight down in the Charisma row.
The Boost dice are just a small part of the changes that Monsters & Minions brings to Roll Player, though.  The major update to the game is right there in the title.  Throughout the game you'll also have the opportunity to battle minions to gain experience points (XP), suffer wounds, and prepare for a final adventure and confrontation against the main monster. Monsters & Minions also adds support for a fifth player to the game, which is a very welcome addition.  There are also new Market cards, including Skills, Traits, Weapons, Armor, and a new type of card, Scrolls.  Monsters & Minions also includes two new races (gnomes and dark elves) as well as more class cards.  Finally, there are some additional minor bits, like reference cards and extra some standard dice to support a fifth player.
Look at all those combat dice and XP cubes!  You'll use them to battle minions, like the Zombie!
I won't go over how to play the base game of Roll Player here.  If you're curious about that, check out my review of Roll Player from 2015.  Here, I'll talk about the new features in the Monsters & Minions expansion and what they add to the base game.  Roll Player: Monsters & Minions plays pretty much the same as Roll Player, but adds some additional decisions during the game and a new Adventure phase right at the end of the game.  The additions to the core game fit in pretty seamlessly with the base game's mechanics.  The Adventure Phase adds a very quick (less than five minutes) adventure to the end of the game where you use your character to battle a main boss monster.  In all, the expansion only adds a handful of minutes to the overall game time.

When setting up Roll Player, there are a few more steps to go through to prepare the expansion content.  The expansion adds support for a fifth player, so there are a few minor tweaks to the setup of the Market.  There are new Initiative cards to support the fifth player, and since Monsters & Minions adds a number of new Market cards, there will be more removed from the initial deck at the beginning of the game, depending on the player count.  You'll also need to build the Minion deck, which has all the minor creatures you'll have the opportunity to fight when you go on a Quest instead of buying something from the Market, set out the combat dice, XP cubes, various tokens, and add the Boost Dice (and a few additional standard dice, to support the fifth player) to the dice bag.

Finally you'll need to set up the monster that you'll be fighting at the end of the game.  You'll choose one of the monsters that you'll have to face in battle.  This will be a monster that also has a class, but it'll be one of the classes not chosen by the heroes.  Then you'll select three Adventure cards, one for each part of the final Adventure: the Location, Obstacle, and Attack.  Each of these is secret and there are three of each Adventure card for each monster.  This means there are 162 different possible adventures for the end of the game.
To start the game you won't know what the Location, Obstacle, and Attack are going to be, until you battle some minions.
You'll know the main monster though, and can work toward that right from the start.
Once Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is set up, play proceeds generally the same as in the base game.  The new Boost dice will come out randomly along with the other attribute dice and give players some extra flexibility with completing their various attributes, and the new Market cards give some new options.  Specifically, there are some new traits and skills that help out with aspects of the minion and monster battles.  There are also the new Scroll cards, which give you one-time, immediate benefits.  The biggest change to the main game comes in the Market phase.
Scrolls can be bought in the Market for immediate one-time bonuses.
In Monsters & Minions you'll still have all the same options in the Market phase of the game: purchase a card or discard a card to receive two gold.  But if neither of those options is to your liking you now have a third.  Instead of going to the Market, now you can choose to go on a Quest.  When you Quest you'll encounter a minion that you'll have to battle.  Each Minion has a different requirement that will allow you to increase the number of combat dice that you'll be able to use in the battle if you meet those requirements.  For example, if battling the Zombie you'll get an extra combat die for each die in your Intelligence attribute row.
A roll of a 5 against the Gargoyle gets me one XP and one wound.
A battle is quick and simple.  Just grab the appropriate number of combat dice and roll them.  Your result will fall into one of several ranges listed on the card and that'll let you know your reward (or penalty if you roll poorly).  You'll gain some XP for the battle and maybe even an honor token or some gold.  If you roll poorly you might take a wound, which will hinder your efforts in the future, but you can spend XP cubes to reroll if you need to.  If you roll really well you'll also gain some knowledge of the upcoming battle against the main monster.  In order, you'll be able to peek at the Location, then Obstacle, and finally the Attack as you defeat more minions.
I spent an XP to reroll, and managed to roll high enough to avoid that wound and get an extra XP.
Each of these Adventure cards will give you clues to what aspects of your character you'll need to work on to have a better outcome when fighting the monster.  This may be things like, gaining combat dice for having a certain number of Traits, or how many dice you have in a certain color, or completing certain other achievements.  Getting peeks at these Adventure cards will let you develop a strategy during the main phases of the game that will help you in that final adventure.  However its definitely possible to disregard the final adventure completely and just focus on the original aspects of Attributes, Backstory, Alignment, and Market.  The Reputation points that the monster is worth at the end are big, but not big enough to make fighting the monster the only strategy.
Defeating the Chimera can earn you up to eight reputation points.
So that brings us to that final adventure.  After the main game is complete and everyone has all their Attribute rows filled up, then its time to go on a final adventure and see how you fare against the big, bad monster that's been terrorizing the peaceful village you hail from.  Just like with the minions, the monster will have a specific requirement that will affect how many combat dice you can roll, or maybe how much rerolls cost, or some other aspect of the final battle.  However this is changed up each game because the Adventure cards will be revealed to add additional conditions to the battle.  If you were successful fighting some minions earlier in the game, you'll know what some of these are.  If not, then they'll all be a surprise for you!  The Location, Obstacle, and Attack will be revealed, each player will collect the amount of combat dice as determined by the adventure, and then roll to see how successful you are against the monster.  You can spend XP gained throughout the game to reroll dice if you need to.  Depending on how high you roll, you'll earn some Reputation points, and if you roll high enough you can earn a lot of Reputation.  These are added to what you've earned through your Attributes, Backstory, Alignment, Traits, Armor, and Gold, and the player with the highest Reputation is the winner!
The final adventure is going to be against the Chimera in the Shadowy Cave.  If you successfully decipher the Arcane Runes
you'll get some needed help in the battle.  But watch out for the Chimera's Lightning Strike.  Chimeras are known for
guarding treasures, so if you have too much Gold you'll be it's main target!
Final Thoughts:
Roll Player: Monsters & Minions answers the question that was on everyone's mind with the original Roll Player: "What do I do with this awesome character I created?"  Monsters & Minions doesn't change a whole lot about the core game, but it gives you more options throughout the game.  The new minion battles don't extend the game much at all and meld seamlessly with the mechanics and theme you already know and love.  They give you something else to do with your character instead of just going to Market.  So if you like leveling up your character by gaining some (un)real-world experience instead of just buying stuff, you can!
This expansion adds a TON of new stuff, but it feels like it belongs and doesn't add any bloat.
The final battle against the Monster really only adds a few minutes to the game.  It can feel a little anti-climactic to decide the whole battle with just a single roll of the dice (with maybe a few rerolls), but this is thematic with the RPG aspects of the game where a roll of the dice decides your fate.  Fighting the monster is something you've likely been working toward the entire game, so if your strategy was to build up your strength for that final Adventure you'll be chucking a whole fistfull of dice and have plenty of XP to reroll any critical fails.  
There are six monsters to battle, and six more for a solo game.  Now you can use your awesome characters!
The really nice thing though, is that it doesn't bog the game down in a long battle that some players may have chosen to not prepare for.  You can definitely still have a winning strategy by ignoring the minions and monsters completely.  To battle minions you'll have to sacrifice getting items from the market.  You'll also possibly be focusing on getting specific dice that will help you in your final battle, but not necessarily help you fill out your Attributes or Backstory.  So Monsters & Minions gives you more varied strategies that blend perfectly with the base game.  After a few plays you'll wonder how you ever played without fighting off the evil creatures that roam the wilderness!
I got to play Roll Player: Monsters & Minions at Protospiel Milwaukee in April and I can't wait to have my own copy to play!
Roll Player: Monsters & Minions adds what everyone wanted from the original game; the ability to fight the baddies with the characters you create.  And it does this without adding significantly to the complexity or time that the game takes.  Instead it takes the gameplay that you're already familiar with and adds to the strategic choices, giving an even richer gameplay experience in the same timeframe.  Roll Player: Monsters & Minions adds just the right amount of new experiences to keep the game exciting yet familiar; .The minion battles are thematically and mechanically perfect for the game, and the monster battle at the end of the game can help drive alternative strategies, without dragging the game out any longer.  If you enjoy Roll Player, the Monsters & Minions expansion is a must-have.  I'll be including it in every game of Roll Player that I play, once I get my own copy!

Roll Player: Monsters & Minions is available on Kickstarter now through June 15, 2017.  You can pick up a copy of the expansion for $39 or get both the base and expansion for $89, including US shipping.

Preliminary Rating: 8.5/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.


Did you like this review?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.












GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 71: Alex Wynnter

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.


Name:Alex Wynnter 2
Location:Australia
Day Job:I am a graphic designer, teacher and stay at home dad.
Designing:Five to ten years.
Webpage:http://brigadegame.com/
Blog:http://brigadegame.com/category/blog/
BGG:Brigade
Facebook:Red Genie Games/
Twitter:@BlueRoomBG
Instagram:@wynnter
Other:http://thevideoshop.com.au/dicehard/
Find my games at:https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByAILiQMhYbRfjh3ejNHUVktbFVvcXBSYmlNdTBXSmlKSFdqMlJaRy1paWtJZUV3ZnJDbTg
Today's Interview is with:

Alex Wynnter
Interviewed on: 5/20/2017

Alex Wynnter is a game designer from Australia who has one published game already, and a few more on the way. Next to hit Kickstarter will be Brigade, which I just received a prototype copy of a few weeks ago. So keep your eye out for a review of that one coming soon. If you'd like to learn more about Alex and the projects he's working on, read on!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Five to ten years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
It was a sort of natural progression for me, I enjoy doing lots of personal projects and I am a graphic designer. When you see bad design work you always think of ways it could be improved, and I guess seeing some games and bad design work makes you want to improve them.

What game or games are you currently working on?
The Brigade is a game we are releasing on kickstarter in August. This is the main one that is about competing fire wardens trying to save a town in order to become the head honcho.

I have recently signed over a drafting game about scenery to a publisher which is exciting.

I am also producing a game called Velvet for the TGDA, to be sold in showbags at this years PAXAUS.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
I have, it was a long time ago, and it was self published. I am proud of the artwork, but like all things in the past, you think you could have done so much better things with it now.

What is your day job?
I am a graphic designer, teacher and stay at home dad.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
I love playing games with my friends, at their house or mine. We have a regular fortnightly thing and I run a monthly event at the local library.

Who do you normally game with?
I enjoy gaming with my friends, they also love games I am inventing. I also play with my father and wife every couple of weeks.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
We have a great selection between us all. Recently we have been playing a fair amount of Scythe and Abyss. We also love classics like Viticulture and Neuroshima Hex.

And what snacks would you eat?
Some of them love baking and actually bring some pretty good food. I am looking forward to a blueberry pie next games night hahaha.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
We do usually have music playing, but it varies greatly. We have digital radio and there are so many stations. One of the main ones is Buddha Radio, otherwise we bluetooth hard rock or metal.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
We have quite a few in Melbourne, NLG Preston, NLG Ringwood, GoodGames Box Hill and Games Laboratory in the city.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Currently I love Blood Bowl Team Manager, our group loves it so much we made a league where we play 10 games and retain decks with special house rules. I was lucky enough to chat to Jay Little about this.

Splendor is probably the least favorite that I still enjoy. I play a few gateway games with my wife as she isn't as into the more complicated games.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love a good worker placement mechanic. I also love drafting - now - how to combine the two?

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Agricola is something I love but my regular gaming friends are not big fans... It does have a hard theme to convince people to enjoy.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
It all depends on the game, but I think I come up with an experience I want players to be able to achieve first, then think of a theme that matches that, then mesh the mechanics into it. It's prob not the best way to go about it, but for me that works.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
I have entered only a few, but one I did win was a small competitive Game jam. We had some cool themes to work with and created a pretty awesome roll and move game, that was a good combination of bluff and push your luck.

It was an asymmetrical game, where one side (the monster) wanted to eat the child in the bed, the other side - the child wanted to prove to their parents the monster existed and to chase it away.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Bruno Cathala is probably my favorite, but Antoine Bauza is a very close second.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I get a lot of inspiration from the ideas in books. I don’t copy the books, but something will start to make me think and broaden as I think about it more. I spend a lot of time thinking when I take the dog out for a walk.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
We have a local testing group in Melbourne that I go to regularly, but there are several here. In the TGDA we are trying to work out a national playtesting circuit as well.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I like working as part of a team, I think working solo there are several times you need to be reeled back, or have mistakes pointed out, or things that are just not realistic or bad.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Rulebooks...

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I have thought about this a few times, and my top few answers would be Asterix, Dinotopia and Dune.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Keep prototypes simple and ugly, little effort in display, otherwise people cannot focus on the actual gameplay or mechanics and have more trouble getting you to change things.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Do it! Just put pen to paper and do it.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: NinjitZoo
Games that will soon be published are: (working name) Dusk
(working name) Pass the Buck
(working name) Golden Idol

Currently looking for a publisher I have: Planitects
I'm planning to crowdfund: The Brigade
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Asphyxia

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
TGDA is the main one, and several board game related groups around the world.

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
All of the above. Except VHS, I never had betamax.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Team sports, designing, illustration.

What is something you learned in the last week?
Microbes have their own protein engines that are way more efficient than anything humans have made!

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Alternative music, scifi/fantasy books, good movies :)

What was the last book you read?
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Do you play any musical instruments?
If I had money for how NOT musically talented I am, I would be a millionaire...

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I got nothing...

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Had a baby, it's a rollercoaster!

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I got nothing

Who is your idol?
Robin Hobb is an amazing writer, and Kev Walker, RK Post are both amazing artists

What would you do if you had a time machine?
The future awaits!

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Depends on the situation.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
The most powerful one.

Have any pets?
A great dog called Panda

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
Board games of course to survive. No idea what should be crushed.

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Ben Hoban - Co-Creator of The Brigade

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Please check out our Kickstarter in August, The Brigade is a fantastic game, and I hope you get to see it on your table soon.

An octopus is my favorite animal hahaha.




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 70: Eddie Zakoor

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.


Name:Eddie Zakoor
Email:pavestal@gmail.com or eddie.zakoor@aol.com
Location:Chicago
Day Job:Shadow Squirrel Games
Designing:One to two years.
Webpage:wantedearth.com
BGG:EddieZ
Facebook:eddie.zakoor
Twitter:@WantedEarth
YouTube:Shadow Squirrel Games
Instagram:wantedearth
Find my games at:Kickstarter starting May 11th
Today's Interview is with:

Eddie Zakoor
Interviewed on: 4/19/2017

Eddie is a fellow Chicagoland game designer that I met back in March when he introduced me to his game, Wanted Earth, at one of the monthly game design nights I host. He is the imagination behind Wanted Earth and the Wanted Earth universe. Wanted Earth is a miniatures game currently on Kickstarter, that I reviewed last week. I also interviewed his design partner, Phil Vestal, last November. To learn more about Eddie and his other projects, read on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
One to two years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I wanted to create a miniatures game that was AWESOME and able to be easily and comfortably played anywhere. I wanted to get rid of periodic effects and anything tedious that could be mentally draining. I wanted to reduce setup time to less than a couple minutes and to reduce the overall time it takes to play a miniatures game significantly (we are down to 60-90 min atm). I wanted to create fun and unique hero/faction abilities. AND! I wanted to create a new epic sci-fi story to coincide with the boardgame (Comics).

What game or games are you currently working on?
Wanted Earth, On the Bus, and a top secret game I can’t discuss atm :P

Have you designed any games that have been published?
No

What is your day job?
Shadow Squirrel Games

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
Anywhere as long as I am in good company.

Who do you normally game with?
Many groups of friends.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Wanted Earth, Arkham Horror Card Game, Mage Wars, many more...

And what snacks would you eat?
Bread

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Sometimes. Depends on the Game.. I can listen to anything.. I like chill alternative music with sick beats. Wanted Earth will have its own soundtrack!

What’s your favorite FLGS?
Game Storm in Lemont IL

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favorite is Arkham Card Game. I have a love and hate relationship with Candy Land.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Favorite is Wanted Earth.. least favorite.. a couple miniatures games that I won’t mention.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Mage Wars

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video Games, Other Games?

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Miniatures Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
Theme first.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
No

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Joe Bergmann

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Things I like and I think are cool

How do you go about playtesting your games?
MANY different groups of friends and strangers. Word of mouth and contacts..

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
Team. My team is SiCK

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Working with Phil Vestal

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
SWG star wars galaxies MMORPG

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
That it was fun :O

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
It’s a process but well worth it. Find the right people to help make it possible and listen to good advice!

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Wanted Earth, soon
Games that will soon be published are: Wanted Earth, On the Bus, and my super secret game
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: May 11th was our launch date for Wanted Earth on Kickstarter
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Some balancing but we're mostly finished.. (Wanted Earth)
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: On the Bus
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: I can’t discuss it. It’s so secret

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars. Coke. VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
MMORPG's

What is something you learned in the last week?
That I have learned nothing. Thanks :/

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Love it all. I’m eclectic and eccentric. I’m eclentric.

What was the last book you read?
Killing Pablo

Do you play any musical instruments?
I will beat on anything with my hands?

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I have friends

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Got stuck on a small boat off the coast of Mombasa. Had to use my beach towel as a sail.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
^

Who is your idol?
Joe Bergmann hands down

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would mess with people

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
introvert mostly

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Wolverine without the claws

Have any pets?
I have kids

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I would like squirrels to not go extinct. LOVE those guys! And I would like Phil Vestal to be under that asteroid.

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Joe Bergmann - you are the most interesting man in the world

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

PLEASE SUPPORT US ON KICKSTARTER
xoxo




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Eye on Kickstarter #20

Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any reviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2017 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.

So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the second Friday of May, 2017:


HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Wanted Earth
  • GJJ Games Review
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • I had quite a bit of fun playing and reviewing this miniatures skirmish game. Great minis, some cool component innovations, and solid, dice chucking gameplay should keep this on your radar if you're a fan of dudes on a map, amerithrash games.


From the beginning Earth has remained unnoticed…until now. Various alien races desire Earth for their own reasons and will do anything necessary to dominate the planet and its inhabitants. For the first time in history; humans have a common enemy. Are you ready?

Wanted Earth is an epic miniatures strategy board game for 1-7 players that can be played in 60-120 minutes. Fight as the heroes defending the planet or try to conquer Earth as an invading alien race. Enjoy an action-packed gaming experience without all the confusing rules, millions of tiny pieces, or long and tedious setup.

Every game will be a different experience. Discover unique abilities and play styles with each hero, hero combination, and alien factions that you will play. As you immerse yourself in the Wanted Earth universe, you will discover out-of-this-world artwork, stunning miniatures, and powerful character abilities.





Archmage: Origins
  • GJJ Games Review
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • Archmage: Origins is a quick, fun little filler game with awesome artwork from SolarFlare Games. It's a prequel to their upcoming Dawn of the Archmage, their first miniatures game that's starting to look pretty awesome.


Heroes of Land, Air & Sea
  • I've mentioned once or twice how much I love the Tiny Epic games from Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games, right? Well here's the first big box game from the team, and it looks awesome.


Barbarians: The Invasion
  • I like Worker Placement games as well as games with a lot of interaction between players, and this one seems to fit the bill. Plus one of the designers also designed Hyperborea, one of my favorite games.


Flow of History
  • I like civilization building games, and this looks like a great card based civ game. It's moved from Indiegogo to Kickstarter, which I think was a great move.


Galaxy of Trian: New Order
  • The original game looked pretty interesting, kind of like an advanced Carcassonne in space with triangular tiles. This update looks amazing, with really cool minis and a lot more complex gameplay.


Children
  • Are you looking for spooky? What's creepier than a house full of ghost children trying to drive you insane?


React: The Organic Chemistry Board Game
  • I love science, my wife used to be a high school physics and chemistry teacher, and we homeschool our kids (who also love science). So whenever I see a game that purports to teach actual science in an actual game, I take notice.


Blood Oath: The Beginning
  • This one has popped up on Kickstarter and Indiegogo several times in the past few years (at least four) and has failed every time. I actually helped out with the language on some of the cards a few years ago, cleaning up a lot of grammar mistakes since they were originally written by a non-native English speaker. However the gameplay has not impressed me, not the least because of the very tight player count (2-3, but best with 3). But I do like to keep my eye on it when it does pop back up to see how it does. It has some interesting mechanics and some great artwork (although I preferred the older box art), so if this is your style of game it might be worth checking out.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quick Review - Wanted Earth - Kickstarter Preview

Wanted Earth
Designers: Phil Vestal,
Eddie Zakoor, Anneke Zakoor
Publisher: Shadow Squirrel Games
1-7p | 60-120m | 12+
Quick Review - Wanted Earth - Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer

Aliens have invaded the Earth.  It has resources and territory that they want.  Now it's up to a ragtag group of heroes to save the planet they call home.  But these aren't just soldiers and warriors.  Heck, they're not even all human.  But they must work together, combining their skills, to prevent the Goigons from taking over.

Wanted Earth is a miniatures skirmish game for two to four players (up to seven with optional PvP rules, and possibly even solo rules) that plays in about 120 minutes.  It's available on Kickstarter right now for only $89 plus shipping and includes 36 awesome miniatures (7 heroes, 22 aliens, a portal, and six pyramid shaped Enigmas), a huge game board, a bunch of custom dice, tokens, cards, and more!  Stretch goals may unlock even more miniatures and even an expansion add-on that includes another faction of aliens.

NOTE: I posted a People Behind the Meeples interview with designer Phil Vestal in November 2016, and an interview with designer Eddie Zakoor is scheduled to go live on Tuesday, May 16.

Overview:
The goal of Wanted Earth is to present a rich, robust miniatures skirmish game in a package with simple, accessible rules, and relatively fast setup and play time.  It features some cool innovations, like damage tracking right on some of the miniatures, plastic frames with sliders for tracking hero stats, and neat random grid placement system that uses two d24 dice.  There are also a whole bunch of custom d6 dice used to resolve combat, and some really cool miniatures sculpts.

In Wanted Earth one player will play the faction (the invading aliens).  In the prototype I played there was just one alien faction, the Goigons, but there should be at least one additional faction to choose by the time of the Kickstarter (the Vizotoths).  The Goigons are an amphibious race that resembles a cross between salamanders, frogs, and Predator.  There are four basic units, two underlords, and one overlord.
Here come the Goigons and there goes the neighborhood!
One to three players control three heroes.  There are seven different heroes to choose from (plus four more in a potential expansion, and even more as possible stretch goals), each with varying strengths and weaknesses, and each with one or more special abilities.  Each hero has a unique back story, from Frass the military muscle, to Pinck the teen that was experimented on, Sass, the, uh, sassy military officer, to Liefie, the mysterious alien prince.  Each character's backstory is rich, and interesting, and drives the heroes' abilities.  There will even be comic books for some of the characters' origin stories if some stretch goals are hit.
Pnick was abducted for an alien race to conduct experiments, but he got a cool arm out of the deal.
The goal of the heroes is to survive six rounds against the faction, and then destroy the faction's overlord within an additional six rounds.  The faction's goal is to eliminate all three heroes from play before the heroes can kill the overlord.

Each character, whether hero or faction, has a number of stats.  Health determines how much damage the unit can take before being killed.  Movement determines how far units can move each turn.  Actions determine how many actions each unit can take per round.  For the heroes each of these stats is managed with sliders on a plastic frame that the character mat slides into.  This is useful because all heroes share a single turn each round, meaning each one can resolve a portion of the allotted actions or move, then another hero can do something, and then back to the first hero.  The sliders help you keep track of how much movement and actions have been used for each hero.  Faction units generally have lower stats to keep track of, and since each faction unit is fully resolved before moving on to the next unit, health is the only stat that needs easy tracking.  So each faction unit that has more than one health will have a health dial built into the base.  This will work similar to a Heroclix base, but has been designed custom for Wanted Earth.
The bases on faction units that have more than one health, like Sallee, will have a dial to track damage.
Other stats for each unit, hero or faction, include default attack strength, defense, striking range, and special abilities.  Heroes also have a number of credits (currency) they start with, and some have a starting weapon, too.  Faction units have a credit value that both determines their cost to deploy as well as the credits a hero earns for killing the alien.

To start the game, the faction player first chooses the location on the board of the portal.  This is an immoveable piece that is definitely not a Stargate, although it looks and functions pretty much the same way.  This is the circular portal through which the aliens are invading.   The portal can be placed anywhere on the 24x24 map grid, except in a few locations that are buildings or water.  Next, the faction player will add a number of units around the portal, within two spaces (orthogonally or diagonally).  How many units get placed depends on the cost of the units.  The faction player will have four credits worth of units to place (the amount of credits may vary depending on the difficulty and final balancing in the game).  This could be four of the cheap Wudwuds, or two more expensive Riltongs, or any combination of basic units.
Totally not a Stargate...
Next the faction player chooses one of the two underlords to add to the board near the portal.  Each faction will have two underlords, each with different strengths and abilities that will help drive both the faction's and heroes' strategies.  The Goigons' underlords are Wata and Baskk.  Wata starts the game with a fair amount of strength and has an ability that lets him strike a random row and column (determined with the d24 dice) twice per turn, damaging any hero in the row or column and outright killing any hero at the intersection. Baskk starts out with no attack or defense strength, but every round he gets stronger.  So the longer the heroes let him live the more powerful he'll become.
Pick Wata, or you'll have this to answer to.
Then the heroes get to place their units.  These must be at least ten spaces (orthogonally or diagonally) away from the faction units and portal, and all three heroes must be adjacent to each other.  Once the heroes have been placed the first Enigma is placed by rolling the tso d24 dice and placing the Enigma at the location the dice designate on the playing grid.  The Enigmas are small pyramids that give special abilities when they're 'solved'.  To solve an Enigma a hero must spend three actions.  I'll talk a little more about Enigmas later.
Sass can call an airstrike, potentially killing or damaging a number of faction units.
Finally, the faction player gets to deploy more units randomly around the board.  Four credits worth of units are deployed using the d24 dice.  Any time a unit or Enigma is set to come out in a building or area that it cannot occupy (e.g. in water for the Ugs or Enigmas), it'll move to the nearest space that it can occupy.  Final bits of setup include placing the round marker on the space for the first round, giving each hero any starting equipment and credits, and setting up the market.  The market is five cards that represent weapons, armor, or abilities that the heroes can purchase throughout the game.

Once the game is set up it plays out in up to twelve rounds.  The first six rounds have three phases; heroes turn, faction turn, and faction deployment.  Heroes try to kill aliens to earn credits that allow them to improve their weapons and defenses.  Aliens try to weaken the heroes and, if possible, take them all out to win the game.  The last six rounds the alien overlord comes out and must survive against the heroes until the end, or kill or the heroes to win.  The heroes must kill the overlord to win.
The mighty Moba Bo Bataar has fallen!
First the heroes take their turn.  Most heroes have three actions Liefie has only two, unless he's the only hero in play), and nine movement (Liefie has more movement).  Together, all three heroes use their movement and actions in any sequence.  One hero can take one action, then move part of his movement, then another hero can take an action, then the first hero can take another action, the third hero can move, then the first hero take his third action, then the third hero take her first action, etc.  Any combination of movement and actions for the three heroes is fine.  Movement can be orthogonally or diagonally.  Actions can be an attack, trading credits or equipment with adjacent heroes, solving an Enigma (for three actions), purchasing an item from the market, healing damage, or a hero's special ability that takes one or more actions.  Most of these actions are pretty straight forward, but upgrading equipment, solving Enigmas and attacks are the core of the game, so I'll talk more about them in a bit.

After all the heroes have gone, then any aliens remaining for the faction can move and take their actions.  Just like the heroes, aliens have a certain amount of movement as well as one or more actions, which generally are used for various types of attacks or activating special abilities.  Each type of alien unit has different stats and abilities, which are described on the faction boards.
The boys played the Goigons and had fun planning all the gruesome ways Moba Bo Bataar was going to destroy our heroes.
As heroes kill aliens they'll earn credits.  Credits can be used to purchase equipment from the market.  There are two main types of equipment: weapons and armor.  Weapons can be ranged (like guns) or not (like knives) and can be one-handed (pistols) or two-handed (longsword).  Heroes can only carry one two-handed weapon or two one-handed weapons.  Weapons add static hits or combat dice (see below) for attacking.  Armor comes in three different classes: light, medium, or heavy.  Each class gives different types of protection against attacks.  Light armor only gives combat dice for protection.  Medium armor gives one or two static defense along with some combat dice.  Heavy armor gives straight up static defense.  The more expensive the armor the better it is in its class.  There are also a few other item that can increase movement, base health, or actions, and there is one Fusion Core that increases all three stats.
Some of the weapon upgrades are pretty badass.
Solving an Enigma takes three actions.  Each round a different Enigma is placed, either a light or dark Enigma.  One type lets you bring a new hero into the game, if there are less than three heroes on the board.  This ensures that even if one hero is killed, no player is permanently out of the game.  The other Enigma will extend the current round, giving both the heroes and the faction a second turn, but without letting the faction deploy more units.  There's nothing really to 'solve', it's just a mechanic that requires a hero to be adjacent to an Enigma piece and spend all the actions for the turn in order to get the benefit of the Enigma.  Unused Enigmas will still be available in future rounds if needed.
Colored Enigmas extend the round.  White Enigmas bring in a new hero if one has perished.
Attacking is the main point of the game.  Killing aliens earns the heroes credits, which are used to purchase equipment, which strengthens the heroes for the battle against the overlord.  Each weapon has a range.  Heroes have a default range of one, meaning they can attack anything in an adjacent space, but some weapons (like guns) can increase this range.  Weapons also have varying attack strengths (as do the actual heroes as well as the aliens).  There are two stats to look at for weapons (and some characters with default attack abilities).  Static damage, and combat dice.  Static damage means that hero, weapon, or alien will always inflict one (or more) hits in combat.  Combat dice can be colored orange, green, or purple.  Each side of a die will have anywhere from zero to four hits.  Orange dice are the weakest, with zero, one, or two hits (and three sides are zeroes).  Purple dice are the strongest with up to four hits.  Green are middle strength.

Combat dice are also used for defense.  Just like attacks, heroes, armor, and aliens all have defense stats, either static defense or combat dice.  Each defense blocks one hit from an attack.
Tons of cool dice!
Resolving  combat is pretty easy.  Each side rolls any dice they are allocated from the character stats and weapons (if attacking) or armor (if defending), counts the number of symbols on the dice plus static damage or static defense, and the higher number inflicts one damage.  Each combat can result in the defender taking one point of damage (if the attacker's hits are greater than blocks) or no damage (if the defender's blocks are equal or greater than hits).  Damage to alien units that have more than one health are tracked on the dials on the unit pbases.  Damage to heroes is tracked on the sliders on the player board frame.  Additional damage can be inflicted in future attacks, but each additional attack costs another action.
Goigons flood across the board.
If an alien's health reaches zero the alien I removed from the board and the hero earns credits equal to the alien unit's cost to deploy.  If a hero's health ever reaches zero the hero I removed from the board.  Ther heroes are then at a disadvantage until one spends three actions to solve an appropriate enigma.  Once that happens, a new hero appears on the board in the place of the solved enigma with all that hero's starting stats.  Items carried by the killed hero are lost.  The heroes will only have three chances to gain a new hero, though, so getting replacement heroes isn't endless.  If the aliens have eliminated all heroes from the board the faction player wins immediately.

After both the hero team and the faction have taken their turns, if an enigma that extends the round has been solved both the hero team and the faction get another turn.  If no round extending enigmas were solved then the game moves on to the faction's deploy phase.  This works basically the same as the original setup, with the faction player deploying a certain number of credits worth of units around the portal (unless the heroes have managed to block the portal), placing a certain number of credits worth of units randomly on the board with the d24 dice, and then placing the next round's enigma randomly on the board.  This is where the difficulty of the game can be tweaked and adjusted according to your play style.  The more credits the faction can place the more difficult it'll be for the heroes.  When we first played the faction was deploying six and six credits worth and the heroes quickly became overrun.  Another game of four and four was much more balanced.  The last game I played we did four and five and that worked very well, too.

After six rounds of slogging back and forth there is one final deployment phase, however instead of deploying smaller units, the overlord unit comes out.  For the Goigons this is Moba Bo Bataar, the insanely obese, fire breathing frog-like beast with a gigantic tongue.  He's super powerful (15 health, two purple and one green combat dice for attack, and two static and one purple die for defense), and his attack covers a huge area (eight by eight total since his flaming tongue reaches four spaces).  He can also grab and reposition any units that are too close to him.  This makes him pretty nasty to fight, especially if you haven't gotten any powerful long range weapons.  Hopefully when the heroes are fighting Moba Bo Bataar there aren't any other Goigons around to pester them.  If the heroes can destroy the overlord before six additional rounds are up (no deploy phase in these last six rounds, so no faction reinforcements and no new enigmas) they'll win.  If the overlord survives six rounds, or all heroes are eliminated, then the faction player wins.
Moba Bo Bataar is one bad Mo Bo...
What Sets Wanted Earth Apart:

The game overview was pretty long, but realistically the game's mechanics are pretty simple and straightforward. Teams take turns maneuvering around the board and attacking each other.  Combat is determined by dice rolls with different dice having various strengths.  Each combat success does one point of damage, and units are killed if their health goes to zero.  Overall, the game is a pretty typical miniatures skirmish game, however there are a few things that Wanted Earth does that are pretty interesting and a bit different from other games.

Alien Spawning - The 24x24 play grid with the d24 dice that let the alien faction player place units randomly during the spawn phase actually works pretty well in this game.  It means that no area of the board is truly safe, driving the players to combat.  No turtling allowed in Wanted Earth!  With most units having a movement of at least eight (only Moba Bo Bataar has a lower movement), the large playing area is actually pretty small.  So there's nowhere to hide,  even without the random spawning.  I'm torn on if this is a good thing or not.  On one hand, it ensures that there's a lot of action every round.  You won't really have a round where you can just run away.  On the other hand, it means there's less strategic planning.  This is definitely a tactical game where you need to react and make decisions each turn because everything changes each round.
Aliens may appear anywhere on the board, so no place is safe.
The Enigmas - I really like how the Enigmas give you options to bring new heroes into play when one is killed.  This means that killing a hero will hurt the heroes, but just temporarily (although if the killed hero had some good equipment it can be a pretty big setback).  I also like the concept of extending a round with the other Enigmas, however that can extend the game and the game is plenty long enough without that.  However, I didn't find the Enigmas to be very enigmatic.  Maybe it's my Euro tastes coming through, but simply spending three actions to solve an Enigma felt unsatisfying.  I wanted to actually be solving some sort of puzzle.  I'm not sure how a mechanic like that could work in the game, and it might just bog the game down in unrelated mechanics (this is a combat game, not a puzzle game after all), but calling the action 'solving' the Enigma didn't work for me thematically.  Maybe just 'unlocking' would be better, but that's a minor concern.
The colored Enigmas will be different colors for each alien faction, so they'll probably be orange for the Goigons.
I'm not sure if they'll have different effects when playing against other factions or not.
Heroes - You really do get a sense of teamwork in Wanted Earth when playing the heroes.  I think ideally Wanted Earth would work best with just two players (one playing all three heroes), but even when the heroes are split between players it works well, although it's a bit slower.  Because each hero has very different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, you really have to work together and pool abilities.  Some heroes start with no ability to attack or defend, but have another strong ability.  Like Gavin, who has no attack, but can trade between adjacent players or buy stuff from the market without spending actions.  Since killing aliens is the only way to earn credits to buy stuff, using the other heroes to kill things, then get the credits back to Gavin so he can buy stuff is critical.  Each hero feels very different, so how the game plays out will vary quite a lot depending on the combinations of heroes selected.
Seven heroes will come with the base game, with a few more to be unlocked in stretch goals and expansions.
Aliens - For the Goigons there are four different basic units, and each one has different abilities that make them each appropriate in different situations.  Sallee is a powerhouse short range attacker, but she's expensive and there can only be one in play at a time.  Ugs are tanks with OK ranged attacks.  Riltongs are pretty weak, but can do a lot of damage with a successful attack since they hit all heroes within range, not just a single target.  Wudwuds are the cheapest units and make pretty good cannon fodder, but have what I think is the coolest ability.  Individually, Wudwuds are very weak attackers, although their range is infinite in a straight line.  However, if you line them up their attack strength stacks.  So if you have four of them in a row instead of each rolling a single green die, they'll attack together and you'll get to roll four green dice.  This can make them pretty powerful if you're able to maneuver them to target a vulnerable hero.
Those Wudwuds will combine their attacks to roll four green dice!
The two underlords also have very different abilities that will result in very different strategies being used.  Wata is weaker, with only three health, but has a pretty powerful attack right out of the door.  Every round he gets to call in two solar strikes.  You'll roll the d24 dice twice and each time, any heroes in the row or column indicated by the dice lose one health, and if a hero happens to be unfortunate enough to be in the intersection the hero is immediately killed.  This is rare (about a 1:92 chance of happening, assuming all three heroes are on the board), but it did happen once in the first game I played back in February.  Baskk has a lot more health (seven), but starts the game with absolutely no attack or defense.  Each round though, Baskk will gain a green die for both attack and defense.  So in the early game the heroes will have to try to take out Baskk before he gets too strong, and the faction player will be trying to protect Baskk.  However the underlords don't give any credits when they're killed, so if the heroes focus too much on taking out Baskk they won't be earning credits to purchase better weapons and armor.  Which underlord is selected at the beginning of the game will really determine the strategies for both the heroes and faction.
Baskk, Moba Bo Bataar, and Wata.  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... OK, they're all just bad and ugly...
Components - There will be a few cool innovations with the Wanted Earth components that I haven't really seen before.  The prototype components I had were all 3D printed, but the final components will all be injection molded minis and plastic components.  The minis all look great, even as printed ones, so I can only imagine that they'll look awesome as final production models.  What's really cool about the minis though, is the hit point dials in the bases.  The dials on the 3D printed minis didn't turn very easily, but once they're turning smoothly it'll be a nice way to track damage on the alien units.  The frames that will hold the hero cards are super nice, too.  Again, the sliders on the 3D printed frames weren't the smoothest, but the production components should be excellent.  And tracking health on the frame will be much nicer than using damage tokens, or a clip on the edge of the mat.  Tracking movement and actions is also critical since all heroes take their actions and movement in any order.  These component innovations really go a long way to streamline the game and keep it pretty accessible.
The cases with the sliders to track hero stats are super useful.
PvP and Solo - I didn't get a chance to play Wanted Earth in anything other than the standard faction vs heroes mode, but it's worth noting that the game comes with two additional modes of play.  PvP mode supports up to seven players, with two teams of heroes that have to fight not only the aliens, but each other as well.  There will also be a solo mode, however I haven't seen the rules for that yet.

More - A few other features of Wanted Earth that stand out include the game board.  I already mentioned the 24x24 grid and how that works so well with the d24 dice for spawning randomization, but what I haven't mentioned is the actual layout of the board.  Most of the board is open, however there are a few geographic features on the board that add interest.  There are several buildings that can provide a bit of cover as well as movement obstacles.  There is also a river crossing the board diagonally, which the heroes cannot cross.  There is a bridge to provide access to that section of the board, however most of the Goigon units can cross the water (they are amphibious after all).  Only the Ugs and Wata, with their heavy armor, and Moba Bo Bataar, with his flaming tongue, cannot cross water.  However, you won't be stuck playing the game on the same board every time.  Even though the combinations of heroes, portal placement, underlord chosen, and equipment in the market will make every game play out differently, Wanted Earth is going to come with a double sided board.  The other side should be more open and there will be modular cutouts so that you can create your own landscape for nearly infinite battle ground variety.
If the main board doesn't cut it for you, the flip side will feature a blank grid so you can
make your own map with modular building tiles.
The Kickstarter campaign will also include stretch goals that will include new equipment, additional characters, and even an expansion add-on option that will include a whole new faction of aliens to fight.  There will even be full length comic book backstories for several of the characters.  There will be a lot in this game that will make it pretty epic.

Final Thoughts:
I had fun playing Wanted Earth.  Overall it played very smoothly.  I've not had the fortune to play a lot of heavy miniatures based games, but of what I have played, this definitely holds its own.  I've heard stories of games having awesome miniatures and horrible gameplay and I'm happy to say that Wanted Earth is not one of those.  Wanted Earth has very cool looking minis and very solid gameplay.  So if you're looking for a good tactical skirmish game with cool minis and accessible gameplay, Wanted Earth should hit the mark for you.
Trying to figure out how to take out Baskk.
That said, I don't feel that Wanted Earth does anything really groundbreaking.  There are some cool innovations with the components.  The randomization of spawning points with the d24 dice is pretty cool.  And there are some interesting mechanics that arise due to the combinations of different units abilities (I really, really like how the Wudwuds can have their attacks stacked).  But when it comes right down to it, Wanted Earth is a dice chucking combat game.  Because movement is so great the game is a constant slugfest where combat is almost always decided by the roll of the dice.  Yes, it is possible to power up the heroes by giving them good armor and weapons, but each battle does usually come down to the roll of the dice.  I like how some dice are stronger than others, and that adds a sense of excitement to the game that's often lacking in standard d6 based combat.
Rich back stories for the characters add the potential for some awesome scenario play someday.
While there are a lot of different possible combinations that will make games play out differently, Wanted Earth does occasionally start to feel repetitive.  Each round is basically the same thing - move your units to where they can fight some enemies, conduct combat, move to where you think you'll be out of range for your opponent's next attack.  After potentially 15 rounds of that (if all three round extensions are used) things can start to drag a bit.  The game does speed up significantly once you're familiar with the various units and abilities, and two player games are faster than four.  However, after multiple games, it might start to feel a little stale.  Many other similar games have various scenarios that give different goals and conditions to mix things up and keep things feeling fresh.  Wanted Earth doesn't have that, but there is a lot of potential for more story variety with expansions.  The first expansion will hopefully be available with this Kickstarter and will add a whole new faction of aliens with all new abilities (the Vizotoths).  I can see Wanted Earth also expanding to include various scenarios that have certain elements added or removed from the game, e.g. the heroes must destroy the heavily protected alien portal, or the heroes must access a building to retrieve sensitive documents and return them to headquarters.  There are a lot of potential story lines that could be added to change things up.

The games felt generally balanced.  Yes, they could be swingy depending on certain combinations of heroes or equipment becoming available, and especially because of lucky dice rolls, but I found that each side seemed to have an equal chance of having a great game.  So I think the swingyness of the games is more due to circumstances and how players react to them than an unbalance of the game.  We found that after a game we were analyzing different decisions and saying "what if" a lot.  We felt that outcomes could have been different if different decisions had been made, and not everything was solely because of the dice.  There is definitely an underlying strategy and techniques to playing based on in game situations.  As you play and learn how heroes interact with each other, or which aliens are best at fighting which heroes, you'll find that the dice rolls are secondary to using your units effectively.  If you do feel that things are too easy for the heroes, simply allow the faction to spawn some more units.  Or if the faction is demolishing the heroes, cut deployment a bit.  It's a very easy element to adjust as you need.
This Ug wants you to back Wanted Earth or he's coming after you!
Overall, I found Wanted Earth to be a very solid playing game with a good theme, some innovative components, some interesting mechanics, accessible rules, and really cool miniatures.  Wanted Earth will be on Kickstarter starting May 11, 2017 and $89 (plus shipping) will get you a box stuffed with awesome components.  So be sure to check out Wanted Earth by Shadow Squirrel Games on Kickstarter right now!

Preliminary Rating: 7/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.


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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.