New Game Weekend: Evolution

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This past summer, Evolution garnered a fair amount of attention during its successful Kickstarter campaign which netted over $120,000 on a $10,000 goal. Many gamers were familiar with the game’s producer, North Star Games, and their previous casual party game favorites such as Say Anything. Evolution was a big jump into strategy game design, and the result is box a gorgeous components and a very playable game for a whole range of ages and experience. The game has been hitting the table at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY over the past week or two, and this past weekend I had a chance to get in on a six person game of Evolution.

evcardsSample trait cards from Evolution

Evolution begins with each player in possession of one species and a hand of four “trait” cards. The 129 beautifully painted cards are the core mechanic of the game. A player’s turn begins by throwing a required card into the watering hole at the center of the table, contributing to a food pool with the value at the lower right corner of the card. The player then decides to play some or all their other cards in a variety of ways. Cards may be discarded to increase a species body size, grow population, spawn an additional new species or, most importantly, evolve the species by playing trait cards. This where the real action comes in.

Up to three cards may be played above a species to create evolutionary traits for that creature. Some traits provide benefits every turn with things like Long Neck allowing the species to eat first and the Fertile trait which grows species population every round. Defensive traits such as Hard Shell, Horns and Burrowing aid in providing defense against being attacked by a species with Carnivorous trait. Carnivores might add aggressive traits such as Good Eyesight, Climbing or Pack Hunting to counteract the defenses of other species.

IMG_4752Special Kickstarter first player miniature

With multiple species growing in size, population and traits, Evolution plays out as nature’s arms race for supremacy and food. After every round of playing cards, all species are fed in turn from available food in the central primordial watering hole. Each species must feed up to its population size or risk a die off of that species. Carnivores by their very nature do not feed from the pool but on other species around the table, and those species must defend using their available traits and body size. Once feeding is complete, food tokens are swept from the species cards and stored in a bag. At the end of the game, the player with the most food points, living species and trait cards played wins.

IMG_4754Player pieces and the watering hole in Evolution

The designers of Evolution claim over 4000 species can be created using differing combinations of cards, and this is where the replay value really shines. Each game plays fast, with a six player game only representing about one play through the deck of trait cards. Timing and choices are critical in the game, and a player needs to figure when is the right time to create a new species or focus on building up the population or size of existing species. Keeping an eye on what other player species are evolving toward as well as the available food supply necessarily inform strategy.

IMG_4753A player’s carnivore goes after the other species in Evolution

In my first game this past weekend, I chose to focus early in the game on scoring points by getting two species with large populations going at once. With a number of protective traits played on each of my species, I was able to hold off three other carnivore species for most of the game as they ate some of the weaker species of other players. In the end, the carnivores were effectively in a three-way stand-off with each other as the final round of food was tallied and the win went to one of them who had more than 40 points to my losing 25.

With North Star’s previous focus on word and trivia style games, Evolution is a really fantastic surprise for their entry into strategy gaming. The building, card and food resource management has a feel like so many civilization building or other Euro style games, while its relative simplicity makes the entry skill level appeal to a lot of serious and casual gamers alike. The game would be a great way to break up a school biology class or engage a dinosaur-obsessed kid in gaming. Evolution plays out with nature in all its beauty and danger, and it presents a world where only the fittest player species who can wisely manage their own growth and resources is going to survive in the end.

New Game Weekend: The Resistance: Avalon and One Night Ultimate Werewolf

avalonwerewolfThe mechanics of common and secret knowledge among players creates the basis for so many games we play. A game like chess has everything set on the board for everyone to see, and it is only a player’s skill and strategy that remains secret until revealed in a series of successive moves of action and reaction.

More typically games involve some level of secrecy either in cards hidden in a player’s hand or pieces set on a game board ready to be revealed at specific moments during play. Deduction, reason, probability, informed guesses, manipulation through bluffing and revelation of information drives much of the action of these games.

Almost 30 years ago, Mafia was created by a psychologist at Moscow University. In the game, two players act as the mafia with their identity known to each other but not the other players. The non-mafia participants take on a variety of other roles, each with select knowledge of the other players and abilities to effect other player roles. With starting roles assigned, the game enters a “night phase” with all players shutting their eyes. A non-player game moderator bears witness as the mafia players and any accomplices kill off other players in secret. Next, all players open their eyes for a “day phase” and changes in the situation of the game is revealed. Players still alive in the game discuss the new conditions of the game, and attempt to discern the mafia players among them in subsequent night and day phases.

As Mafia spread outside of the former Soviet Union in the mid-1990s, it took on a horror-themed variant known as Werewolf. In the new version, players act as werewolves or villagers attempting to identify and kill off each other in night and day phases. Once players have an understanding of the basics of Mafia or Werewolf, neither game really requires any special equipment. This had made these games popular as pick-up party games with hardcore and casual gamers alike (my wife recently played Werewolf on a company retreat as a team-building exercise).

wwcontentsCards, markers and free app from One Night Ultimate Werewolf

In the past two weeks, I had a chance to play two of the more popular modern versions of these games at Metropolitan Wargamers and Brooklyn Game Lab. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is the latest riff on the classic game from Bezier Games with werewolf players hiding among villagers with a variety of roles. These include colorful characters like the Minion who knows the werewolves and only wins if they survive, the Seer who secretly knows identities of other players and the Tanner who has a death wish and wants to be killed before the werewolves are found out. Along with the cartoon artwork on the heavy-carded playing pieces, this version of Werewolf comes with a free app which acts as a game moderator and timekeeper.

avaloncardartCard artwork from The Resistance: Avalon

The Resistance: Avalon is a the sequel to the sci-fi-themed The Resistance from four years ago from Indie Boards & Cards. Players of Avalon take on good and evil roles from Arthurian legend and set out on a series of quests to root out the opposition. After roles are set, a king is selected each round to select other players to participate in a quest. All players vote to approve or deny the selected party on their quest, and then players on the quest vote for the quest to succeed or fail. The evil players win if more quests fail than succeed, so each quest round is the chance to reveal who may be working alone or in concert to win the game for the evil side. Like the more traditional, Mafia game, Avalon involves a non-playing moderator.

With all these games, the colorful pieces and cards are just jumping-off points for the real action which takes place among the players. Accusations are slung, theories are posited and alliances are built and then dissolve in minutes. In the games I played recently, people spent a lot of time just staring into other people’s eyes, looking for a glint of deception or a sly twinkle of acknowledgement. What has made all these games in their various names and variations so enduring is that human nature itself becomes the mechanic of the game. Whether the game is Mafia, Werewolf, Resistance or Avalon, the only real equipment needed isn’t in a cardstock box but in what each player brings with them to the table.

Come Play Zombicide With Me At Brooklyn Game Lab April 29th

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I’m thrilled to be lending a hand hosting an evening of Zombicide at Brooklyn Game Lab in two weeks on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014.

Since opening a few months ago, Brooklyn Game Lab has been grabbing a lot of press as the latest space in New York City to take hold of the recent boom in tabletop gaming. Through its innovative afterschool programs, the Lab has provided space for children to not only play games but to stretch their minds in developing their own ideas into playable games of heir own. When the kids head home, the Lab has been filling up evenings and weekends with adult gamers on theme nights, singles mixers nights and a recently-packed International Tabletop Day.

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Zombicide: Season One base game from Guillotine Games

To kick off the summer, Brooklyn Game Lab (353 7th Avenue @ 10th street in Park Slope, Brooklyn) is hosting a night of the incredibly popular Zombicide board game from 7-10pm on the 29th of April. Admission for the evening is just five bucks, and I’ll be there to help run a couple simultaneous games of survival and zombie carnage.

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Zombicide survivor and zombie miniatures

I first played Zombicide about a year ago, and I can’t wait to drag some more people into this easy-to-learn and gorgeously-designed game where either everyone wins or everyone loses. Released in 2012 via a Kickstarter from Guillotine Games, Zombicide and its subsequent Toxic City Mall and Prison Outbreak expansions pits up to six survivors against a growing zombie horde. Players collaborate as they kick in doors, search for supplies, arm-up with a variety of weapons and mow down scores of zombies. If you’re a zombie fan, a game fan or just fascinated at the prospect of meeting some people and battling through the zombie apocalypse for an hour or two, you should definitely come by the Brooklyn Game Lab.

For more info on this an other upcoming events, check out the Brooklyn Game Lab calendar.

New Game Weekend: Eight-Minute Empire: Legends

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Most of the games I play can take hours to get through, leaving me satisfied but often downright exhausted by the time I’m cleaning up the pieces on the tabletop and putting them back in the box. Finding a game that is a challenge but a quick play can be a tall order. This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, I had a chance to play through the new Eight-Minute Empire: Legends and discovered in it a gorgeous little game easily playable in about 20 minutes.

Eight-Minute Empire: Legends is yet another Kickstarter success from last year and a follow-up to the original Eight-Minute Empire which was also Kickstarted in late 2012. The original game is now out of print, but fortunately the new Legends version is playable as a standalone.

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Cards and island tiles from Eight-Minute Empire: Legends

The game plays with a classic area control mechanic on a modular set of two-sided tiles featuring islands connected by bridges and separated by sea. Players begin with a set of colored cube “armies” in a central location. Play runs a set round of turns based on the number of players (2-4) with all the action driven by 35 cards laid out six at a time near the board. Cards allow combinations of movement, placing new armies, building cities, destroying opponent’s armies or other special actions (like a “flight” ability over water spaces).

As the turns progress, cards are picked up (for free) or purchased (for 1-3 coins) depending on their position in the row. Players buy cards in turn using coins handed out at the beginning of the game. After a card is acquired , the the whole row of cards slides up and a new card is turned over. The shifting positions and costs of the cards plays heavily in the strategy as each player bides their time to snatch a card they want for the least cost possible. With each turn, the value of cards quickly rise or fall, depending on each player’s personal strategy.

IMG_2860Eight-Minute Empire: Legends hits the table at Metropolitan Wargamers

When the turns are up, players score victory points based on the control of territory spaces or dominance of an entire island. Additionally, collecting specific sets of cards score more victory points. In our game, my three opponents primarily focused on slugging it out for territory on the board while I focused on collecting cards. I managed to collect two “Mountain” cards for a couple extra victory points at the end, and I also scored points for having the most cards with blue crystals. One other player collected a bunch of “Dire” cards illustrated with menacingly evil images. After a few plays through the game, I could see how players might gain familiarity with the available cards plan their strategies with a bit more focus.

For a tiny game, it packs a punch and variety within a nifty fantasy theme. Eight-Minute Empire: Legends is a great game to have on hand — maybe tossed at the bottom of your bag — and ready to go when a swift game of conquest is just the thing to fill a  half-hour of competitive fun.

New Game Weekend: 1775 Rebellion

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Late this past week, the Washington Post ran a lengthy article on game designer and CIA analyst Volke Ruhnke. Ruhnke’s games are popular at Metropolitan Wargamers, including his COIN (Counterinsurgnecy) series from GMT Games, including the two 2013 releases of  Cubra Libre (Cuba) and A Distant Plain (Afghanistan). The basic mechanics of these games and other historicals like them involve simple map game boards, wooden blocks placed in area control of spaces and detailed cards driving player actions.

While Ruhke’s games from GMT focus on 20th-century insurgencies in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America, Academy Games has been producing games for a couple years framed in similar mechanics but focused on US history with their Birth of America series. Thus far, the series consists of  1812: The Invasion of Canada, published two years ago  to conicide with the 200th-anniversary of the War of 1812, and 1775: Rebellion, an American Revolution game. Next up for Academy Games is an Underground Railroad-themed game called Freedom which was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year.

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Back of the box for 1775: Rebellion showing game contents

This past weekend I had an opportunity to play 1775 for the first time, and if you’ve got a passion for board games and American history like me, you need to give this one a try yourself.

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Game set up for 1775: Rebellion

The board presents a map of ther thirteen original American colonies, plus Quebec and Nova Scotia to the north, at the dawn of the War of Independence. Two to four players begin the game as American Regulars, Colonial Militia, British Redcoat Regulars and English Loyalists deployed throughout the colonies. On the western frontier are unaligned Native Americans, and throughout the game opportunities arise for Hessian and French forces to join the conflict. All forces in the game are indicated through simple color-coded cubes with American Colonists in blue and white, British in red and yellow, Native Americans in green, French in purple and Hessians in orange.

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Sample movement cards from 1775: Rebellion

The action of the game is propelled by movement and event cards. Each player draws three cards to their hand and may play one movement and up to two event cards during their turn. Movement cards indicate one or more allied army’s movement from one to three spaces in a turn. Native American, Hessian and French forces cannot move until another force moves to their space and joins in alliance with them. Moving forces cannot move through enemy-occupied areas, and movement to a space containing enemy forces results in a battle.

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Sample event cards from 1775: Rebellion

Event cards depict historic personalities such as generals or statesmen and other occurences from the Revolutionary period like Paul Revere’s Ride, signing of the Declaration of Independence or the creation of the American flag by Betsy Ross. Each event card allows for things like additional forces to arrive or extra movement.

 

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Turn 1 with the Americans moving on British-occupied Boston

Combat is resolved with dice color-coded to each force. Dice faces show hits, blank sides and flee indicators. Defending forces roll first in a combat. Hits destroy an enemy unit, returning it to the reinforcement pool. A blank result allows the option for a unit to retreat to a neighboring allied-controlled space. A flee roll removes a unit to the flee space to be replaced at the beginning of that player’s next turm. Dice for each force are weighted differently, so British Redcoats don’t hit as often but never flee while Hessians hit more frequently but flee more readily.

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Truce cards from 1775: Rebelllion

The game proceeds in random turn order each round with players deploying reinfocements into occupied cities and retrieving fled units. The object of the game is to control the most colonies before the game ends after turn three with the play of two truce cards on each side. Colonies are only controlled when every space in the colony is controlled by allied forces.

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Turn 3 with the American truce card played and British advancing from the north

In our four-player game this past weekend, my team’s Colonists initially attempted to oust the British from Boston but were repelled. The British advanced from Canada into northern New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Colonists picked up Native American allies in Western Pennsylvania and took control of the colony while a stalemate resulted in New England. With a mass of British-allied reinforcements to the north, the Colonists recieved French reinforcements in turn three and quickly took control of two colonies to the south. Colonists quickly played their second truce card and ended the game with more colonies in our control.

Although our intro game was a quick one, I’m very much looking forward to trying 1775: Rebellion again using different paths to victory. The game’s rules are short and the components simple, but there’s a lot of strategic heft to the game. For adults, or even smart kids, with a thing for early American history, I can’t recommend 1775: Rebellion enough.

New Game Weekend: Canterbury

CanterburyBox

This past week I arrived home from work one evening to find a package in the mail containing the first game I’ve received from backing a Kickstarter campaign. Canterbury from Quixotic Games was successfully funded at just over $58,000, a relatively small game when compared to recent runaway Kickstarter hits like Zombicide: Season 2 at $2.2 million, All Quite On The Martian Front with just over $300,000 in funding and the current it-game Mars Attacks which looks to be cruising to a finish over a half-million dollars.

As promised in the steady stream of updates from the game makers, Canterbury is an exceedingly well-manufactured board game with tons of sturdy cardboard playing pieces and typical colorful wooden markers. The game presents a board containing 25 districts, each with six building lots. Each lot contains spaces to indicate water, food, religion, defense, commerce, and culture services which are provided as players build out the board.

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Beginning with a simple well providing water to the central district, players take turns performing one of three actions. A full build action allows 1-2 buildings to be constructed, depending on size and moneies available. Levying taxes gains a full monetrary collection based on the current economic strength of the entire kingdom, and a player using a levy play must perform on full build of 1-2 structures on their following turn. A third option allows a player to collect half the avilable taxes and build a single structure.

Building and placing structures provide services to the board. A small, single-lot building gives that distruct the available service while a medium-sized two-lot building provides the service to that district plus the districts surrounding at right angles. The five largest structures are built at a high cost, cover four building lots and provide their service to the local district plus any five other districts on the board. Planning comes into play as buildings may only be built when previous services are available in a district. For example, religious structures may only be placed when the prerequisite water and food services are already present in the district. Previously-constructed buildings may be demolished to upgrade existing services or expand on already-provided services.

There are lots of points to keep track of in Canterbury, adding up to many strategies toward winning at the game’s end. Erecting a structure gains points for the player as well as the kingdom, and players receive bonus points when breaking ground and building in empty districts. Once the kingdom passes the 100-point mark, players score “district favor” points based on the prominence of providing services to each district. Providing services also moves each player up an additional scoring track with those points scored at the end of the game. Points are again counted at the 200-point mark. Once the kingdom’s wealth takes three laps around the edge of the board to 300 points, the game ends with a final tally of points.

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The game is a bit lighter and faster than other civilization-building games I’ve played like Settlers of Catan, Civilization, Clash of Cultures and Village. That said, even with the brisk pace of the game, there’s a lot of strategy to be had. Players must always balance their own plays for points with the riches and services they are providing the kingdom (and other players) as a whole. Racing to provide services, build structures and gain an early lead on district favor points looked to be the key path to victory in the first game I played with my sons. Collecting and spending money at a balanced rate was also important since sitting on a pile of coins at the end of the game doesn’t provide much in the way of points.

Like any civilization-building game, Canterbury strikes a great balance of real-world competitive and collaborative construction play. My older son thought injecting the game with random events like floods or droughts might spice up the straightforward play a bit, but overall the three of us really liked the quick, well-structured play and progressive organization on the board. As a Kickstarter supporter, I’m really pleased with the results of Canterbury and I’m glad to have been there to see the kingdom’s development from that lone well in the wilderness.

New Game Weekend: Escape…From The Temple Curse

escape As I’ve previosuly written, I grew up on Indiana Jones and the cliffhanger world adventurer genre in re-runs of old movie serials. Games like Fortune and Glory are loads of fun in taking on the guise of a rustic hero globetrotting to exotic locales in search of treasure and reknown while dodging enemies looking for to dastardly foil your mission. A few weeks ago at Metropolitan Wargamers I had a chance to run through a few games of another adventurer game, Escape…From The Temple Curse from Germany’s Queen Games. Released in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Escape is a fast-paced game in which you and your fellow player-adventurers race through a temple collecting treasures and escaping before the temple collapses.

escapecontentsEscape begins with each player placing their adventurer on the starting temple tile. Simultaneously, players begin furiously rolling five dice apiece. Rolling a green adventurer allows a move while a blue key or red torch reveals a new room, opens a treasure or allows for a gem to be picked up. A black mask “curses” a die which is set aside and cannot be used in a subsequent roll. Once a gold mask is rolled, up to two cursed black mask dice can be put back into play. Players may share dice results if they occupy the same chamber, adding a collaborative element to the game. Quick-paced decisions need to be made constantly as players need to stay close enough together to help each other but also spread out to cover enough ground to gather gems to unlock the exit to the temple.

Unlike most games I play over many hours, Escape plays out in no more than 10 minutes of real time. The game uses an actual recorded soundtrack which builds in intensity over the course of the game until a warning sounds and the temple crashes to ruins. Not only does the soundtrack serve as a game timer, but it also adds a real cinematic aspect to the game. It’s as if you’re playing through an old Saturday matinee movie serial.

Playing the game is crazy, even more so as the number of players increases. From the moment the soundtrack begins, people are rolling dice, shouting to each other, mapping new routes, running into roadblocks, collecting gemstones, falling victim to a curse or finding a treasure. Two expansions make offer additional temple tiles as well as curse and treasure markers. Curses might make a player lose a die if it rolls off  the table or force them to not speak. Treasures do such things as reveal magic doors between chambers or transport you magically to another part of the temple.

The game plays so fast that any decent gaming session allows for multiple games to be played with increasing difficulty by adding in more of the expansion elements. In the few games I played with the maximum of five players at Metropolitan Wargamers, we successfully escaped the temple at around the 8-to-9-minute mark each time. Although our bunch at the club was compromised of experienced gamers in our 20s-40s, Escape is simple enough in its rules that families would find the game to be a kick. Regardless of the make up of the players, Escape…From The Temple Curse is loads of fun for anyone looking to live out their cinematic adventure fantasies in a manic and fun-filled tabletop game.

Favorite Kickstarters of the Month (August 2013)

These days it seems like a month doesn’t go by that some Kickstarter horror story makes the rounds. Projects vanish, people lose money to scams or entrepreneurs running Kickstarters go belly-up with their success. This past week, the owner of a successfully-Kickstarted game called Corporate America wrote about his experience. The piece gives a solid, balanced look at the real economics behind running a Kickstarter game campaign. It’s a good read and worth bearing in mind while taking a look through the game campaigns I’ll be watching this month.

duelA Duel Betwixt Us: This two-player card game pits two 19th-century gentleman in a game of manly combat. By using their workers, each player is able to mine for ingots used to create weaponry and armor for combat. Once ready, a player selects a duel and then brings their arms, armor and stack of dirty tricks to the fight. The very Victorian artwork reveals a hilarious game of codpieces, drunken miners, oddball weaponry and double-crossing at every turn in the quest of woman’s favor.

incursionIncursion: Released by Grindhouse Games in 2009, Incursion is yet another take on an alternative post-WWII world where Nazis and Allied forces persist in protracted combat as a Doomsday Device threatens world destruction for all. This sci-fi-fuelled game is full of fantastic weapons, evil scientists, daring heroes plus zombie Nazis and combat gorillas. This second edition and expansion of the game adds all sorts of plastic miniatures to the game, new missions and rules for three players.

freedomFreedom – The Underground Railroad: I grew up in Western New York, a hotbed of the Abolitionist movement and gateway to Canada for escaping slaves. Academy Games is adding the story of the Underground Railroad to their Birth of America Series of games that has already covered the American War of Independence and the War of 1812. There’s a lot of real history packed into this intense strategy game as players take on the role of allied abolitionists alluding slave trackers while escorting escaped slaves north to Canada along eight routes. Historical events and people shape the game along the way, making this game a really fascinating vehicle for retelling the story of the Underground Railroad.

TemplarTemplar – The Secret Treasures: I’m a fan of a number of the Eurogames produced by Queen Games, and Templar looks to be another fun hit. The game plays on two boards, a “harbor board” of warehouses and the other a detailed floorplan “abbey board.” Moving between the boards, players seek to find and hide treasure relics throughout the abbey by playing different character cards. Characters like the Prior, Abbot or Spy act to either aid or foil the Templar’s plans.

zerohourZero Hour – Survivor Horror Card Game: Aside from the occasional run-in with some zombies, I’m not generally a horror gamer. Zero Hour could change that. Play begins with 30 children stranded in the woods after their bus driver dies. Soon, weird things begin to happen in the woods, pushing each child closer and closer to insanity. Somehow, the children have to survive the night until the zero hour at dawn. The gothic design and theme of the entire game makes this look to be creepily attractive. A bonus part of the campaign is a tall plush Slenderman doll, certain to please the darkest child within you.

Favorite Kickstarters of the Month (July 2013)

Kickstarter can be a weird, volatile environment. Some projects come and go with little fanfare while others soar into the stratosphere with backer support. There can be all manner of highs, lows and outright trouble for projects on their journey from idea to funding to delivery. That said, four of the projects I wrote about in June wound up successfully funded in the past month. The fifth, the seafaring game Admiral, was funded but the project was then suspended inexplicably with a day to go. No doubt there’s a story there, but for now, here are the projects I’ll be watching as we hit the first hot month of the summer in July.

Cthulhu Wars: Drawing on the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, this game is the big story in games on Kickstarter right now. With dozens of gorgeously grotesque miniatures and many planned expansions, this strategy board game turns the tables and allows the players to play as Lovecraft’s beastly horde seeking to control the surface of a ruined Earth. Many of the pledgers have bought in at the higher funding levels of $200-500+, no doubt attracted by not only the theme but the tons of extra maps, gaming pieces and figures rewards. The project is trending toward nearly $1 million in funding in its closing days, and the more than 3300 backers are delivering a built-in fan base of this classic horror genre already popular with gamers.

Seas of Iron: I’m not a big naval gaming fan, but I really like the looks of this very modest battleship wargame from Battle Bunker Games. The battleships are comprised of two-sided cards defining the sections of each ship where you deploy your crew and fire volleys at your opponent. When a section is destroyed, cards are flipped over to show that part of your ship aflame. The Kickstarter exclusives include the famed Yamato and Bismarck warships. Just $20 allows for a backer to get a full version of the game which allows enough flexibility for 1-on-1 or small fleet play with combined sets.

Devil Dogs and Dragons: I’ve invested in more than a few of the Anglo-Zulu War 28mm miniatures from Empress Miniatures. They make quality, spirited and detailed miniatures, so its great to see them expanding their Modern Combat line. There’s a lot of interest in gaming modern warfare right now, and the 28mm scale seems to be a clear favorite with small squad-level engagements in the dusty and hot embattled corners of the world. These 28mm figures fill out modern US Marine Corps and Chinese People’s Liberation Army options for deployment in the Asia-Pacific desert and jungle regions. With a bit more imagination, these guys will even find a home in various zombie, alien invasion or post-apocalyptic scenarios.

Fife & Drum American Revolution Range: Just in time for the 4th of July weekend, Fife & Drum Miniatures is also expanding their established line of miniatures. Sculpted in a large 30mm or 1/56 scale, these majestic figures offer incredible detail for the Colonial Period ranging from the Seven Years War to the American War of Independence. The Kickstarter campaign will help fund the company’s expansion into new British cavalry, Hessian, Highlander and French infantry offerings. At the $50 level, backers receive a special three-figure “Spirit of ’76” vignette, making this project perfect for any patriot and fan of the AWI period.

Gettysburg: The Tide Turns: Finally, and in keeping with the theme of American military history, I’m throwing in one video game offering to round out the list. The Battle of Gettysburg is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month, and so this timely iOS game for the iPad and iPhone looks to be a deal at just $10 to back the project. Developed by Shenandoah Studio, the makers of the previously Kickstarted Battle of the Bulge iOS game, this simulation looks to be a very promising 21st-century tribute to the strategy, tactics and heroics found on the famed Pennsylvania battlefield 150 years ago.

Favorite Tabletop Games Kickstarters of the Month (June 2013)

I’ve spent a month tracking my favorite projects and looking for new fun stuff on Kickstarter’s Tabletop Games section. Of the five projects I wrote about in May, four have been succesfully-funded to date. I wound up throwing my support behind one of these, Canterbury, and I’m still hopeful things will turn out well for 54mm plastic Civil War toy soldiers project now in its closing days. Here are the other projects I’ll be watching in June.

Princes of the Dragon Throne: This fantasy-themed board game combines deck-building, area control and resource management. Players build recruits and vie for control of the board on their quest to be crowned upon the Dragon Throne at game’s end. There’s a ton of stuff in this box with over 200 miniatures and more than 500 components overall. The levels of support for the game plus the accompanying specially-crafted meeples comes in over $100, but it’s got dragons so the game looks to be well worth it.

Euphoria: Build A Better Dystopia: This Saint Louis, Missouri-based project launched in May but wraps up this month with a very successful funding run. In this worker placement game, dice represent your workers and cards represent elite recruits. Using your workers and recruits, each player attempts to establish a new empire by managing and selling resources, collecting artifacts, building alliances, and undermining your opposition by digging tunnels and launching devious agendas. Dystopian scenarios are a big fave of mine, and the artwork captured in the design of this game is marvelous.

Amerigo: Another successfully-funded game slated to finish its run in June is Amerigo by Queen Games. Players aid famed explorer Amerigo Vespucci in his quest to discover new lands, establish settlements and collect resources in the islands of South America. The game uses a nifty tower through which players drop and draw colored cubes which determine actions available on their turns. Pledging support at different funding levels scores you a copy of Amerigo as well as one (or more) of Queens Games’s other popular historic-themed games such as Alhambra, Shogun or Lancaster, making backing this project quite a deal.

Admiral: In general, I don’t play naval games since I like the variety that a well-laid-out land terrain tabletop allows. That said, this game could get people like me interested in strategic wargaming on the high seas in the Age of Sail. The Ukrainian designers of this game have loaded the base game with 24 1:1700 scale ships that surpass their toy-like colors in their attention. Backers at higher levels get more islands, ships, seascape gameboard tiles and other game components, making supporting this project a fnatstic opportunity to set sail into a different kind of wargaming.

Giant 2 Inch Soft Foam Polyhedral Dice:  My final fave of the month is just goofy and fun. My two sons, ages 8 and 13, are familiar with real gaming dice at this point. But, if I had a small gamer-in-training in my life, these would be on my funding list. The set includes six large, squishy brightly-colored dice used in most gaming (D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20) in a handy cloth storage bag. Appropriate for ages 3+, there’s a whole bunch of options for buying a la carte dice to supplement the basic set, and additional colors and number styles will be made available. What better way to introduce a kid to the wonders of gaming than throwing a few of these on the floor? Then again, they may just go nicely on my desk at work…