Tabletop Kickstarter Spotlight – December 2015

Tabletop Kickstarter Spotlight – December 2015

Crowdfunding is great – a way for creatives to avoid the hassle of publishing companies and other bureaucratic obstacles, instead simply making what they want and delivering it to fans. And I am not the only one who thinks so. Over the last few years, the crowdfunding phenomenon has exploded, with sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Pozible becoming flooded with projects. To help you wade through this flood, I will share with you my pickings from the Tabletop section of Kickstarter, in the hope of providing an interesting and varied sample of projects you may find exciting.

Dark Ring: Hong Kong

by Man Yau


Dark Ring: Hong Kong is a semi-cooperative, strategic card game for 4-8 players from solo-designer Man-Yau. This game caught my eye for a few reasons. First, the impressive scope of lore that is included in the project’s video. Second, the quality, not only of the video, but also of the prototype design, as shown in the video. Third, the key design motivation; to create a game which is both strategically complex and does not have a chunky rulebook. There is a noticeable trend of game designers trying to achieve this feat via Kickstarter projects. Usually, the types of games that are able to achieve a high level of simplicity rely, at least moderately, on a luck based mechanic, which tends to sacrifice strategic depth.

This is not the case for Dark Ring. Dark Ring features three different ‘roles’ or factions and in order to win a game your faction – not just you alone – must have the highest total score. Each card in the game has two functions – an action and a score value. Each round, one player takes on the role of host. All players then choose one card from their hand to pass to the Host. The Host then re-distributes these to the other players. Some cards have positive effects, some negative. After this phase, the core of play begins, with players using the cards in their hand to try and ensure that their ‘trace card’ (the card that was redistributed to them by the Host) has a good effect.  After two rounds, each player must decide whether to keep or discard their trace card. Even this short description of play makes it evident how Dark Ring possesses Poker-esque bluffing and deep strategy, and how players must carefully monitor the moves of their opponents in order to be on the winning side at the end of the game. An intriguing title with impressive production values and depth to theme.

Read more or back this project on Kickstarter 

StrataSphere 2.0: The Simple Game of Strategy and Gravity

by Family Games America

StrataSphere looks to be a promising twist on traditional, family-friendly logic games. The analogy that immediately springs to mind is a 3D Connect Four. Similarly to Connect Four, the game requires no pre-game set up; everything happens as part of play. It’s kind of hard to visualise without seeing what the ‘board’ looks like for yourself, but I’ll give it my best. The ‘board’ of StrataSphere is actually a plastic box into which sliders can be inserted at different storeys. The top of the box has nine holes, which balls can be inserted into. The aim of the game is to be the first player to get all of your balls to the bottom of the structure. Step one of play is to strategically insert all the sliders, turn by turn. Next, the players insert their balls. Finally, the players take turns to move the sliders, one notch per turn, aiming to get all their balls to fall to the bottom of their structure first – likely while trying to block their opponent. StrataSphere looks considered and well-tested, and I can easily picture myself whiling away some very competitive hours playing this game.

Read more or back this project on Kickstarter 

Shuffling Horror! A Creepy Card and Dice Game

by GameWick Games

This Kickstarter project is a bit of a strange one because this particular project is not aiming to fund a game. Rather, it is aiming to fund a game board to complement the company’s existing titles and help garner interest in future titles. In 2012 GameWick Games released Pittsburgh 68 a zombie survival card game for 3-13 (!!!) players, with a strong classic horror movie theme – think Psycho, Dracula or Night of the Living Dead.

The cool twist on this title is that players who fall and become zombies don’t stop playing the game; instead, they continue to play as zombies. While some of the tiers of this Kickstarter project will get you a copy of Pittsburgh 68, it is not the focus of this campaign. The focus is on something called the Shuffling Horror Shuffle Board, a ‘deluxe game board’ which is designed for use with Pittsburgh 68, as well as three other Horror themed card games which GameWick Games have in the works: Roswell 51 (alien invasion theme), Innsmouth 32 (Lovecraftian) and Baltimore 94 (Edgar Allan Poe inspired). The development of the Shuffle Board seems to be a response to playtesting feedback and GameWick Games’ innovation in seizing the opportunity to improve their game while simultaneously getting the word out about future titles, plus their dedication the their theme all has me deeply impressed.

Read more or back this project on Kickstarter 

Battlemind (formerly Cyvase): Battle Strategy Card Game

by Wyatt’s Torch

Those of you familiar with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series will likely be bouncing up and down in your seats with excitement just from reading the title of this project! Well, maybe not bouncing, but you’ll likely already have an inkling as to what this project is about. Cyvasse is a game from within the fictional A Song of Ice and Fire universe which first crops up in the fourth book of the series, originating in Volantis, one of the Free Cities of Essos. This Kickstarter project aims to be a physical recreation of the game from the series, a task more than a little open to creativity, as only a few snippets of the rules are revealed during scenes in the books. In the books, the game is spelt Cyvasse, but the team at Wyatt’s Torch have chosen to go with Cyvase. Whether this move will save them from the tyranny of future lawsuits should the game become successful, I don’t know; what I do know is that this looks like an excellent interpretation of the game described in the novels.

Cyvase is a strategy game a tiny bit like Chess. There are ten different unit cards, and players must take turns moving these across the board in order to capture their opponent’s King. What makes Cyvase interesting is the board, which is made of cards representing seven different terrain types. At the beginning of the game, players secretly set up their home side of the board using 32 terrain cards. Next, each player places their ten units around the board, with the King having to start in the fortress. Once these steps are complete players reveal their set-up and the game begins. This first step means that every game of Cyvase is bound to be different. It’s awesome that somebody has gone to the trouble of bringing this strategy game to life, and it appears as though both the visuals and the gameplay of Cyvase have captured the feel of the A Song and Ice and Fire universe.

Amendment: Since the time of publication, the team at Wyatt’s Torch have opted to change the game’s title to Battlemind in order to avoid potential confusion over affiliation with George R.R. Martin or HBO. The game’s design has remained the same and still looks to be great tactical fun!

Read more or back this project on Kickstarter 

The Sky is the Limit

by Luden’s Lab


The Sky is the Limit is an educational board game which aims to teach South African children the dangers of becoming a part of gang culture. The game strives to teach children to invest in themselves in order to reach their dreams, rather than taking the easy option of engaging in illegal activities to make money. Gameplay-wise, The Sky is the Limit reminds me of old-school titles like Monopoly and The Game of Life, or maybe even a Sims style board game. According to the Kickstarter, the crime rate in South Africa is very high – over 17,000 people are murdered each year (compared to the approximate yearly total of Australia, which sits around 250) and many of these tragedies are caused by gang violence. After travelling to South Africa and speaking with many youngsters who had experienced gang culture, the team at Luden’s Lab realised that one of the main reasons young people join gangs in South Africa is a lack of awareness. They are not aware of their potential or the future they might make for themselves via an education, and thus are easy prey for recruiters.

While the team at Luden’s Lab are deeply aware of the fact that one game isn’t going to end gang violence, their initiative in designing something that might help is admirable. The Kickstarter page is a little light on information regarding how the game actually plays, and you will need to pledge a €100 to actually be sent a copy yourself. The main aim of the project is to fund copies to be sent to schools in South Africa, which makes this project part Kickstarter, part charity project. If you’re feeling generous, it looks to be a great cause.

Read more or back this project on Kickstarter 

Since first travelling to Japan at the age of fifteen, most of my life has revolved around trying to learn Japanese, and unravel the mysteries of the country’s culture. Gaming ranks just behind this obsession. I enjoy video games – particularly RPGs and Strategy – but my main interest is in tabletop role playing games and board games. Writing ranks third – luckily I get plenty of opportunities to write about Japan and games, so it all works out.

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