Nov 192015

mindjammer_2e_sketch_coverBy Paco Garcia Jaen

Those of you who know me at all, or listen to the podcast, know that I am in love with Mindjammer and its universe. I liked it when I read the novel, I liked it even more when I read the book and the adventure Hearts and Minds consolidated what I already knew with a superb setting packed with action.

Of course the whole concept is by Sarah Newton and I still believe she’s probably one of the most promising RPG writers out there. As far as I’m concerned, she’s a genius.

Now she’s on Kickstarter for the first time to create a new adventure for Mindjammer and, aptly put, kickstart a whole new line of products for the game that will allow her to create material much more quickly and frequently than planned.

I got together with her for a while to talk about the original Mindjammer, the journey from first publish till now and what her plans are for the game, adventures and supplements.

Hope you enjoy the show!

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Nov 042015

game-packsApple crumble is probably one of the most classic and quintessential British desserts. I really have no idea what’s about it, but it really feels very British. Maybe it’s me… I don’t know.

And Lords of War is a very, very British game too. Soooo British that the designers were both born in England.

That, of course, has no bearings and I’m just waffling a bit here, so let’s get serious… ish.

Martin Vaux and Nick Street invented and designed Lords of War and as soon as it was out, it was awarded at the UK Games Expo, and with good reason. It’s a cracking game.

And they have expansions and very successful Kickstarter campaigns!

Having Martin around, I had to cook something nice and an Apple Crumble is always a winner. Also takes next to no time to cook, so why not.

Hope you enjoy the show!

To download the recipe for the apple crumble, please click here.

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Oct 202015

pic2492244_t[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

I believe there is no such thing as a dull theme for a game if the theme is well implemented. A lot of people dished Fleet for being a game about gathering a fishing fleet and yet love Terra Mystica even though the theme is pretty crap.

Shephy goes some way to prove that point: A well placed theme, however unlikely and however boring sounding, can make a game better if it is well implemented.

In Shephy, humanity has disappeared and sheep must manage without shepperds to grow in number and survive the apocalypse that got rid of humans. Some think that’s difficult and can’t happen because sheep have always been silent and thought of as stupid. And thus the nihilist sheep will not help. And nature won’t help.

But we can. We can make 1 sheep into 1000 and win the game.

That is what Shephy is all about. Well… it certainly is original and comes all the way from Japan, so it might not be all that easy to find.

The game was designed and illustrated by Pawn, and she made a tremendous job of both aspects of the game. This solitaire game comes with 72 cards in a small box and the rules, both in English and Japanese. The box is pretty much fully in Japanese, but don’t let that put you off, the rules are actually very well translated and are easy to follow.

I say easy to follow, but that doesn’t mean the game is easy to understand right away. I needed a play or two before becoming fluent. And that is a good thing, I think. A few moments of “Oh! nice!” and stopping for a few seconds to admire the simple but extremely effective artwork will came my way and then found myself playing Shephy time after time. With a play time of about 10 to 15 minutes, fitting in more than one game is easy enough.

The cards are pretty good quality and will handle themselves well after much playing. However this little gem is so good that sleeving them all should be compulsory. The box so far is lasting and, at the time of writing this review, it’s been in a suitcase that’s been bashed about in a plane, and in a rucksack that’s come with me all the way from Germany to Iguazu and Buenos Aires… And it’s lasting without getting broken. It is indeed well made.

The game has various decks. 7 sets of 7 cards each. Each set has a number – 1, 3, 10, 30, 100, 300 and 1000, a set of 22 event cards and one card to represent the raise of the nihilist enemy sheep that want their destruction (I think that’s what they want… you lose the game if they get to 1000, so I am sure they’re pretty horrible).

At the start of the game you place all your sets in front of you and have one card of one sheep. Draw a hand of 5 event cards and start to play. The event cards can be anything from Multiply (duplicate an existing card) to put values together to replace cards, release sheep (send them back to the set they came from) or even get other event cards out of the game completely. Play a card (or two in some cases) and draw a card… rinse-repeat.

The thing is that nature is not kind, so there are a lot of events that will release sheep back into the decks. Also there is a limit to the cards you can have in play; just seven.

When you run out of event cards, shuffle the discard pile and start again. Also raise the number of enemy sheep from one to ten, from ten to 100 and from 100 to 1000. If that comes to pass, you lose the game.

Loosing all your sheep in play, means you lose the game.

I tell you, it’s easy to lose the game.

Although the 22 events might sound as limited and after a while you become very familiar with them, the shuffling and randomness of the drawing mechanism keeps this game pretty alive. There are lose formulas you can follow to increase your flock, but you can never be sure they’ll come in the right order before you get to the dreaded 1000 enemy sheep.


This is a really neat solitaire game. And somehow very addictive. The frustration of losing the game can only be placated with the satisfaction of winning. Thankfully, that satisfaction doesn’t come often enough to make the game boring.

Of course, like most quick games, after a while I wanted to play something else. And yet something in my mind wanted to keep coming back to it. Luckily, any break is long enough for this game. Or maybe this game is short enough for pretty much any break, I don’t know which.

The point being is that this game is excellent. Truly, truly excellent. There are so many cool details in the game, like illness to destroy your sheep, or a shepherd dog to help you, or… anyway… there are many cool details in the game and they fit the theme so perfectly that I almost ended up caring for my flock. I *really* wanted to get to 1000.

And I have done sometimes. But not enough times. So I think that now you know this is an excellent game and why, I will leave you to find a copy and I will get back to trying to populate the Earth with more sheep now that they don’t have humans to help.

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Oct 172015

veridonBy Paco Garcia Jaen

I have had this novel in my bookshelf for a while and always put off reading it because steampunk is not my thing very much. Mixed with a dash of science fiction and another, hearty dash of fantasy, The Heart of Veridon sounded like a bit too much of a mix to garner my interest, I must admit.

Still, taking advantage of a holiday with a long plane trip, I decided to put my tablet away and dig this book to see if would keep me occupied for 10 hours. It didn’t. It took me less than 10 hours to finish it. That is not a criticism, by the way… that will come a bit later.

So what’s this novel all about? Well, the star of the book is Jacob Stone, a noble’s son who’s fallen from grace and decided to become a criminal, even though he still has a heart of gold on a part time basis and can be a bastard because… well.. he doesn’t give two hoots anymore. Daddy issues. Literally.

Anyway, it seems that just by chance he gets an artefact from a diying friend he didn’t recognise for a while. Jacob remembered just before killing him when a zepliner they were travelling on crashes down killing all their occupants. Except Jacob, of course, who manages to survive despite all odds. Maybe because this was the second zep that crashed he was in. He probably got a level in “Survive from falling Zeps”.

Sorry… sorry…. I’m being cynical here. You might have noticed.

Anyway, this artefact is wanted by all sorts of people. The mafia, the police, the nobility, an ancient creature with more super-power than the Justice League…

So he has to escape and try to find out what is going on so he doesn’t get killed. His friend Emily and an Anansi (sort of a mix of spider and human) called Wilson – I know, right! – help.

After a lot of adventures, near-death experiences, discoveries, mysteries and a liiiiiiiitle bit of romance, the book ends. Just like that.

The World

One thing I have truly enjoyed of this book is the world. Although vague in places, the description of the cities, the technology, the religion and their ancient gods, the different species of sentient beings apart from humans… Everything is very, very atmospheric and I must admit very original.

The mechanical aspect of the origin of the world, the birth of the city, the relationship between technology and religion and its dependence from each other, it’s all utterly fantastic and left me wanting to read the role playing game and get lost in adventure in that world. I found it utterly fascinating and the level of detail that Akers goes to detail everything and make it make sense is excellent.

Character creation was a bit weaker. Although all characters are very good and have their motives, personalities and experiences congruently reflected in their actions and dialogue, the main character is a bit too cliched. A noble boy who feels betrayed by his family when his dream of becoming a pilot doesn’t materialise and decides to get the thrills he can’t get flying by becoming a criminal for someone called Valentine.

In the case of the female character, Emily, she’s also a criminal but instead of just being tough, she’s also a prostitute. And she uses her… err… virtues, in her job. I also found that a bit cliched. Why does she have to be a prostitute? Why can’t she just be tough and independent? It doesn’t gel with me.

Yet the characters that are allies but don’t participate as closely as Jacob and Emily . Valentine, Wildson the Anansi, the fallen Wraith… they all feel perfectly congruent without any gaps in their behaviour. Maybe because they are simpler, less detailed and yet just as nuanced. They work very well.

Even the villains make sense and the political intrigue is well balanced and placed. It helps give a sense of history and cohesion to the whole situation and the way the city of Veridon works.

The verdict

The Heart of Veridon is a good novel with some amazing ideas and a good, although a bit cliched plot. The accidental chain of events that then happens not to be totally accidental is a bit trite in my books. The main character with daddy issues is also a bit overdone and the woman who is a prostitute… c’mon… there are better ways.

The book also lacks a bit of editing. There is no editor credited in the edition I have, so not even sure if there was one. The author uses some words too many times and sometimes tautologies are really obvious. Also the odd occasion in which the same thing is explained twice in different places of the book.

However all that pales into insignificance when you read the book because it is so rich and visually appealing – as in the language helps very well to conjure images of the scenes in your mind, at least in mine. The novel reads very easily and quickly, even for a slow reader like me.

The one thing that disappointed me the most was the ending, though. Although it felt it would go into an epic scale, the whole thing wound down and ended up in a bit of an anti-climax. Not a cliff hanger, not a breaking point… it just ends without a true resolution. But it doesn’t give you any reason to look forward to more… It’s weird. Not bad… just weird.

I wouldn’t say this novel is a masterpiece, but it’s certainly worth a read. It’s very enjoyable, full of very good and original ideas and it does something cool with the Steam Punk aspect, as well as the fantasy.

If you don’t mind a weird, anti-climatic ending and are a fan of Steam Punk Fantasy, this book is certainly one to look into.

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Oct 102015

By Paco Garcia Jaen

Internationale Spieltage SPIEL is at an end tomorrow and this year’s show has been the best so far. Some very notable things, I have to say.

I am ever so glad that I very early made the decision to ignore American companies and large companies too. I was going to see Daniel Yarrington and Game Salute would be my only American company. In the end I wasn’t able to even return to say hello again. We’ve gone from the 25 interviews we had arranged to over 40 without even thinking about it and we’ve left some 15 behind that we didn’t get the time to return to.

The way we’ve organised ourselves this year was to arrange interviews for the morning and leave the afternoons empty to fill them with interviews with companies we crossed paths. It has worked out very well. I’ve got the chance to stop and talk to people rather than go from hall to hall and stand to stand like a pinball and have discovered some terrific new games.

This is where me not paying attention to the USA and the big ones has paid off. I thought there are enough podcasts and bloggers covering the big guys, so I will try to find out the small guys.

Hall 7 at Spiel is where it all happens. A fairly dingy and not very well known hall with a megaton of small tiny companies.

My decision to cover just European or Far East games is one I will probably go with again.

NSKN Games​ deserves quite a mention – and this has nothing to do with them being friends of mine – for Simurgh and Mistfall. You really should look at both very closely. In fact, if you like the Pathfinder card game, *please* look at Mistfall.

The Polish Publishing League also has come up with some truly stunning games. Heroes, from Lion Games is a personal favourite of mine. I have done the podcast review and the unboxing video. Take a look at it and consider buying it. I am still excited about that game and can’t wait to play it again.

Waste Knights also should get your attention. Those guys are onto something!

And they have a game about Erotica that’s really tasteful! Yes, there is nudity and sex all over the game, but it’s that, erotic, not pornographic. They have looked into body representation, kept a language that is LBGTQ friendly (though the photos are heteronormative) and managed to introduce the game into sex shops, since standar game shops didn’t want to stock the game (somewhat makes sense that…).

Arctic Union again surprises. Black Hat has managed to merge strategy and trick making games masterfully. Timo Multamaki has a very strange mind, but it works… by god it works!

TBD – Taiwan Board Game Design – also had some great titles. I got Burano, Castle Crush and Runes & Ruins and had to leave behind another four games, one of them about kittens (yes… a game about kittens) that looked as cute as it could be expected.

MODIPHIUS​ releasign the news of the Kung-Fu Panda game came as a very nice blow. A 100% pleasant surprise that made everyone around genuinely happy.

Also a great surprise – one of the good surprises – to see the Cubicle 7 Entertainment​ crew there with a stand. Although they had reservations about the RPG side of things, they have done really well too, which I suppose means German geeks are very adaptable and play all sorts so don’t mind buying RPGs. And I managed to buy my copy of the second edition of the Dr Who card game so I can shoot the Dice & Slice episode with the game. WHOOHOO!!!

Totally amazing too to find out that Cédrick Chaboussit​ can speak Spanish, so we interviewed him twice, once in English and once in Spanish about Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clarke. Can’t wait to crack that game open at La Base Secreta Café​. Our clients are going to love that one!

Tomorrow a few more interviews but not many. We’ll finish with an interview with Iello, the only sizeable company I will pay attention to this trip. Yes, I said I wouldn’t, but they’ve always been very good to me and I have to say I like Mathieu Bonin a lot. He’s a super guy who knows his games very well and is always courteous, attentive and very, very friendly.

After that… home. And sleep with a proper pillow. Because although Germany does a lot of things very well, they make the worst pillows on the planet.

And next year more!

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Oct 092015

kung_fu_panda_game_iconBy Paco Garcia Jaen

I like Modiphius. Since ever. I have bought as many of their products as I could, I have backed some of their Kickstarters when I had money, had them in podcasts, recorded an episode of Dice & Slice and had it edited really fast just to show their Thunderbirds game before the Kickstarter and even bought their whole range of Cthulhu miniatures even though, truth be told, I have little interest in miniatures that don’t come with a board game.

Because I like them.

And tonight, as well as announcing some amazing stuff to do with the Mutant Chronicles franchise, they unveiled that they’ve got the Kung-Fu Panda license to do a board game.

That is amazing. At many levels.

Firstly the game will feature a real-time dice-throwing mechanic. Thank goodness, there will also be a way to stop the play at some point so people can gather their thoughts. And it’ll be cooperative. Although I don’t like real time dice throwing games, this pause element does make me feel a lot better.

When I offered to record another episode of Dice & Slice to show the game, I was told it will have to be when they have the components well made, as Dreamworks would only want to show the best possible quality.

Now that tells me that this game, whatever it contains, will have to be *really* huge quality. That makes it more exciting.

Also this is a very big break for the company. Although Thunderbirds no doubt was a tremendous step up, Kung-Fu Panda is a much more modern and bigger license and the pressure to deliver something insanely amazing is on. Basically, Modiphius can’t afford to create something mediocre.

And they won’t. They haven’t created anything remotely mediocre yet and thus I have no reason to even consider them starting now. Quite the opposite.

And throughout this, Chris and his team have remained humble about it all. Approachable as ever and just as good fun to be around as always.

I truly can’t express how excited I am about this game and about the company. A small company that, through great work and effort has managed to hit it very, very big and get a chance to show the world that big franchises can have great board games too.

For the record, I have no ties with Modiphius. I can say this because I want to and not because I owe them anything. I have never got a review game from them, they have never paid me for advertising or for publishing anything and there is no commercial interest between Modiphius and myself.

I am saying these things because I want to. And because they deserve the praise.

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