Live from Gen Con 06: yes, I can write about things besides story games

  • Pieces of Eight rocks. It’s simple and plays fast, but it still has a lot of depth and even some bluff. No, it isn’t collectible – fixed sets. Above all, it has figured out how to take one of those much-vaunted things that tabletop games can do and digital games can’t – namely, being tactile – and really make it a decisive advantage. It just feels great to hold and use these coins. Highly recommended.
  • Did a demo of The Spoils. It feels a great deal like Magic – like, a great deal. Not even that large of a variation on Magic, really. The one thing it really has going for it in my opinion is stylishness – sorry, Allan, but Hidden Sniper is not nearly as good an example of this game’s flavor as Dragon Catheter. It’s mildly silly, in other words, but still manages to have a lot of hipness in the design and overall look. But yeah, I don’t see this taking off except possibly on the strength of its big cash prizes driving more players to gradually get familiar with it.
  • We recorded our demo of Veritas GamesPower Storm customizable game – again, fixed sets, but with the option of buying randomly sorted Draft Packs should you want to rock it tournament style. (Also, if I understood correctly, every full box of Draft Packs represents a full, consistent set of cards. So there’s a non-collectible option there too.) Veritas’ Lee Valentine is a sometime denizen of our comments, and God help him, he’s been listening to us – he’s been doing a lot to make the game accessible not just to players but to retailers. Besides there being three different complexity levels to which you can dial the game, the simplest (which we played) has considerable depth without bogging down. It’s like a fast Euro card game, only with more guys in tights smacking each other in the face. People who like CCG-style play but haven’t got time for the pain, or just want a game with a great superhero feel, need to look for this one. When we get the audio up from our demo, it’ll be a great listen for those who want to know how to sell the game, or just want a raw slice of the Gen Con experience.


  1. Hidden Sniper was an example of *hardcore combat artwork*, dude, not the game’s flavor. Failed your reading comprehension check, there. I haven’t seen the Dragon Catheter card yet, btw. Sounds painful. 🙂

  2. Guys, thanks for stopping by our booth. I had a great time talking to you. I hope you had fun with our game. Mike, you are gonna have to remind me of that non-Forge RPG you were praising.

    By the way guys, a few suggestions for you. Qin at Le 7eme Games is gorgeous — Chinese mythic RPG. They have a french Jack the Ripper board game which is also amazing and will likely be great once it’s in English. I saw John Nephew of Atlas over there talking. The companies do business now and again, so bug John to get the Jack the Ripper game to the U.S. in English.

    As to the Spoils. I am on good terms with Scott and Ed over at Tenacious Games (which publishes the Spoils). Their open beta has a lot of money around it and allows stores to get free cards to hold free tournaments. One helluva marketing ploy (but expensive!). The game is like Magic with a much better resource mechanic to prevent mana flood or mana screw. However, each player has a faction card, and the faction card sets that players rules for the game. Their base faction card reproduces a Magic feel, but the concept is extensible and could easily change to a very different feel by producing some wackier factions. On the down side, I have bad vision, and some of the card borders are not distinctly colored, and their resource symbols (like mana symbols in Magic) are miniscule and REALLY REALLY almost impossible for me to see with my bad vision and hard to read for others. I wish Scott and Ed luck. I think they have a sound, extensible game, but I think their trade dress needs work to make it more readable.

    While, of course, I’d recommend our own Powerstorm game to people looking for a superhero game, Table Star’s board game wasn’t bad. Not as much depth as powerstorm, but silly, random, and potentially fun.

    For me, the find of the show was the board game Darkness Falls on Sevinpold. I got it for $20.00. Normally $30.00. It’s got great production values. It includes a DVD with both rules and storyline info. The basics: you are knights looking for a lost scepter and throne to reunite them. As you search ancient castles for these mythic items you collect other items of power and often accidentally release the forces of darkness (like the Nazgul sorta). One player plays the Darkness. Everyone else is against him. The Darkness gets more and more characters as the game comes along. The movement rules are simple, novel, and clever. It looks fast paced, quick to learn, and fun. It was the only game I bought at the show just by walking by it. Helluva buy at the show price of $20.00.

    Allan, I gave Chris free copies of Powerstorm. Remind him to cough up your copies.

    Later guys. Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. Darkness Falls on Sevinpold sounds hot. I wonder about all the stuff I missed due to its being hidden away somewhere. (For instance, I found Viktory II eventually, at the Key 20 booth… kind of semi-hidden under other things. Someone who hadn’t been looking for it would have looked right past it.)

  4. I played the Pieces of Eight demo, and I agree that it is a rollicking good game, but I did have a few complaints:

    1) Each $20 box only contains enough coins for 1 player. Suddenly what looked like $20 for a good time becomes $40. The demo was fun enough that I did shell out for 2 players’ worth, but without a demo, that would probably have been a deal-breaker. Especially considering that it’s another $20 for each player I add. (Although now that I’ve got all the coins, I guess there’s nothing stopping me from making my own sets out of quarters and tape).

    2) Comes in a box. This game really wants to be sold in a bag. Indeed, there is a bag inside of the box. Maybe the box makes it more approachable for casual gamers or easier to store, but once I’ve opened the box, seriously, why would I hold onto it? It feels like a waste of space/resources.

    3) Rules don’t give any suggested decks. In Pieces of Eight, you construct your stack of coins explicitly, choosing the starting location of every coin in the stack. For the demo, we were given a couple of pre-constructed stack orders to choose from that highlight strategies you can use, and interactions between different types of coins. The purcased rules, unfortunately, don’t give you anything of the sort. I think it would be easier to teach people this game if it explicitly tried to show you some of the interesting interactions and combos that are possible.

    This is a fun game that demos really well. I wish the rules did a better job of re-creating the demo.

  5. Hey Grue, thanks for coming by.

    My first game was not a demo, and so I was also a little intimidated by the stack-order thing. I ended up going with an almost-entirely random order, but by calling to the captain as I played, I ended up having a blast anyway. I think the problem you cite is real, but it’s largely a problem of player perception.

    Agreed about the box. I threw mine away before leaving Indy.

  6. I was VERY annoyed at the Pieces of Eight game. I sold mine before the con was over. Nobody told me during the demo that the $20.00 game was only enough for one player. The game just didn’t seem to have enough options and components for $40.00 for a complete game. It did look very cool and seemed to have clever core concepts. But I personally would have rather had the game in metal colored plastic and had a complete game for half the price.

  7. Pieces of Eight rocks


    Maybe the box makes it more approachable for casual gamers or easier to store…

    These were both part of our thinking. Additionally, boxes are much easier to ship and store in our warehouse, in distributor warehouses, and on retail shelves. I’ve thrown our the boxes for my personal sets, as well.

    Nobody told me during the demo that the $20.00 game was only enough for one player.

    We tried to make this clear to all of the people who played, but in our defense, if we missed telling you explicitly, it does also say that on the front of the box.

  8. My biggest concern in Pieces of Eight, as publisher, is the price. We worked hard to negotiate the best deal we could for the coins (and by “we” I really mean Michelle, who put months of legwork into tracking down and evaluating potential suppliers), but the fact is you’re talking about 16 custom-struck pieces of metal…not a lot different from 16 metal miniatures…and the attendant costs in raw materials, die/tool-making, etc. The game is in a category of its own, but I think it is most comparable to various miniatures games (in that each player assembles their own collective pool of pieces/”units” and uses them to construct their own armies according to the rules), and on that basis the price isn’t so crazy.

    It might be worth noting that our cost of goods is about 50% higher for each set of Pieces of Eight than it is for our average same-$20-MSRP card game (such as Lunch Money, Dungeoneer, Let’s Kill, etc.). Obviously our lower gross margins mean we’re taking a big risk on the game, but we really wanted to make the per-player buy-in just $20. We’re accepting the lower margin to make that possible and hoping the game in all its glorious, weighty metal appeals as much to other gamers as it does to us.

    Lee — agreed that London 1888 (7eme Cercle’s Jack the Ripper board game) looks gorgeous. They have a number of other intriguing games in the works as well, and I have to agree that Qin is beautiful. (Michelle was showing off our copy last night to her weekly RPG game that meets at the Atlas offices, and there was much drooling in evidence.)

    -John Nephew
    President, Atlas Games

  9. I had a chance to see Pieces of Eight at the FLGS (promo copies) while everyone else was away at GenCon.

    Personally, I like the components, along with the small nature of the rulesbook (4 pages). The metail coins are absolutely clutch – I wouldn’t dare dream of changing them to plastic bits, etc. Totally different feel.

    I also like the mention of rules to allow me to put down my fistfull of coins to swill some grog. 😉

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