Driftwood Games first released Arctic Scavengers (2009) in a limited edition back toward the start of the deckbuilding era, but it just hit the mass market recently with its rerelease from Rio Grande Games (2013). It turns out that there’s a surprising amount of innovation for something published so soon after Dominion (2008).
Arctic Scavengers is built around a menu of four options: draw, dig, hunt, and skirmish. Each player can do each action no more than once on his turn (though he often won’t do all of them). Cards used for one action can’t then be used for another. Continue reading →
Matt Leacock is the author of Pandemic — one of the essential games in the cooperative field thanks to its attention to light, quick, well-polished gameplay. He’s also the author of Forbidden Island and the brand-new Forbidden Desert, which is to be released in several languages this quarter.
This interview was conducted in email over the course of April 2013.
Shannon Appelcline: What made you decide to design a cooperative game — and more specifically, what made you decide to design Pandemic?
Matt Leacock: I was introduced to the idea of a cooperative game being genuinely fun (as opposed to a “fun” educational experience) by Reiner Knizia’s Lord of the Rings. I found the mechanisms in that game fascinating — how so much tension could be created by pieces of cardboard — and wondered what it would be like to create my own. At the time, pandemics where all over the news and it seemed to me that diseases would make an excellent opponent: they’re unfeeling, scary, can grow out of control, and I figured they could be modeled with fairly simple rules. Those latter two properties were the most attractive. I’m drawn to designing games with emergent systems (where a simple set of rules can result in highly complex and variable results) and the thought of a system spiraling wildly out of control was irresistible to me.
Cryptozoic Entertainment continues to quietly offer up eurostyle games with strong themes and/or great licenses. Their releases in the last year have included no less than three different deckbuilders — all of which I hope to discuss here in turn. First up I have 3012 (2012), a combative deckbuilding game focused on a future world of antropomorphic tribes.
I’ve been lagging in my Mechanics & Meeples posts again, and it’s for the same reason as last time: I just finished up work on book #3 of Designers & Dragons, my four-book history of the roleplaying industry.
To commemorate that event, I’ve opted to share a second part of my fragmentary history of board game. This one falls a bit after my article on The Birth of the Modern Board Game.
Wargaming would eventually become an American-dominated industry. However, first the United States had to develop its own gaming national identity, and that would begin in late 19th century. Though the earliest major publishers aren’t remember well today, they nonetheless form the start of a stream of publication that would start gaing steam in 1883.
The first leader in the American board game industry was McLoughlin Brothers & Co. (1858-1920). By the 1880s they dominated they industry. Though their games are little known today among the general public, they remained the most desirable games for this period from collectors. With the emergence of chromolithography their beautiful designs truly began to shine.
Other early companies that were active by the time McLoughlin rose to ascendance include the aforementioned Milton Bradley (1860-1984) — then primarily an educational company despite their production of The Checkered Game of Life — and Selchow & Righter (1867-1987), best known in early days for Parcheesi (1870).
But these three companies would be a prelude for what came next.
I’ve continued to be largely incommunicado in recent weeks, and that’s been due to illness. Before the 2nd I hadn’t even played any games in a couple of weeks, which will tell you how sick I’ve been. As a result, my newest “new to me” column is about a month later than usual.
This one talks about the games that I played in October, November, and December that I’d never played before.
Timeline (2011).I was surprised to discover that I’d only started playing this in fall because it’s already become a regular part of my game nights. The concept is simple: each player is dealt a handful of discoveries, events, or inventions. One at a time you have to place these in a timeline in their correct order. So it’s a trivia game, which I usually hate, but somehow this one really works. Maybe because the guessing seems simple enough. You just have to figure out where a card goes relative to the others. The result is surprisingly thoughtful and fun and … dare I say it … educational. Its really quick gameplay helps a lot too.
Mechanics & Meeples had been absent these last few weeks, and that’s only been partially due to the holidays. I’ve spent the last two weeks cramming to finish my first new Designers & Dragons books, which detail the history of the roleplaying industry, one company at a time.
That got me thinking of another project. A few years ago I started putting together a history of the gaming industry generally, in the same style. I only wrote a few sections, and it only came to 5000 words or so, but it’s a good start for a project I may come back to some day. To commemorate my recent work on Designers & Dragons, I thought I’d share one section with you.
The Birth of the Modern Board Game: 1820-1869
What we’d recognize as modern board games first came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries technological changes resulted in new industrial techniques and in turn social changes as well. This allowed for the creation of a new genre of games in at least three manners.