What's new in tabletop gaming? (April edition)

Last month, I posted the first of what I hope will be a series of Boing Boing articles looking at the latest tabletop miniature, board, card, and roleplaying games, and some of what's going on in tabletop gaming culture. Here is some of what's been holding my attention this month.

Mythic Battles: Pantheon

Monolith Games, 1-4 Players, Ages 14+

I was bummed when I thought I wouldn't have an opportunity to plug this game here on Boing Boing. Mythic Battles: Pantheon was a Kickstarter exclusive game in 2016, a campaign in which Monolith/Mythic Games raked in nearly US$2.7 million. I was lucky enough to be one of the backers. The rewards for the base game and stretch goals amounted to two gigantic doorstop boxes filled with some of the most gorgeous, detailed minis, boards, cards, and other components I've ever seen. There are few recent games (see Rising Sun below) that are lovelier than Mythic Battles. A board game/miniatures hybrid, Mythic Battles pits (usually) 2 players and their hosts of Greek gods, titans, monsters, and heroes against each other.

I cannot tell you how much I love this game. Besides the beautiful miniatures and components, which are all highly evocative of the setting, Mythic Battles: Pantheon has some really unique and interesting game mechanics, mostly driven through an activation deck and special "Art of War" cards, which serve as wild cards that allow you to perform a number of special actions. This really is ultimately a deck management game. Once you get the hang of how to work your deck to your advantage, and the timing and the dramatic turn-arounds triggered by the deck, the game becomes very epic-feeling, quite exciting, and strategically and tactically fulfilling.

The reason that I'm mentioning Mythic Battles: Pantheon here is that, in June, Monolith will be launching a second Kickstarter campaign. If you love beautiful, not overly complicated, fun, and very re-playable miniatures and board games, card management games, and Greek mythology, start saving your couch-crack money now and follow the Mythic Battles Facebook page so you'll be ready when they relaunch.

Badgers & Burrows

Osprey Games, US$30, 2 Players, Ages 10+

To be honest, I kind of wanted to hate this game. Osprey has been cranking out the miniature skirmish game rule books of late, covering every imaginable genre. When I opened the package for Badgers & Burrows, I thought they might have finally jumped the shark.

But when I started thumbing through it, seeing the charming photos of the gaming minis, and reading the rules, I stopped rolling my eyes. I think, hot on the heels of the amazing Stuffed Fables, I am also more open to the idea of kiddie wargames.

This really does seem like a fun and engaging gateway game to get tweens, and even younger kids, into fantasy wargaming. And it appears to be engaging enough to hold the attention of adults, too. Like Stuffed Fables, this would be a fantastic family gaming experience. I can only imagine how much fun it would be to help your child put together and paint a warband of bunnies, badgers, mice, rats, and the like.

Miniature Wargames magazine

After I wrote a review of Tabletop Gaming magazine here on Boing Boing, the publisher sent me some copies of their companion magazine, Miniature Wargames. Where Tabletop Gaming covers every flavor of game, from wargames to card games, to RPGs and boardgames, Miniature Wargames exclusively covers all manner of miniature-based wargames, from historicals to miniature games in the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. The mag is heavy on historical games (my least favorite genre) and the design is less sophisticated and engaging than Tabletop. It's a well-done magazine, but if I were ponying up for an exclusive wargaming magazine, I would subscribe to Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy (I have before) or Wargames Illustrated. Actually, what I recommend (to save yourself the exorbitant shipping costs of these European magazines) is to convince your FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store) to carry copies of all three and then you can purchase the issues that have the game coverage you're most interested in.

Dungeon Degenerates: Hand of Doom

GOBLINKO, $70, 1-4 players, Ages 10+ (Not Suitable for Squares)

The popularity of tabletop gaming is not only at an all-time high, but so is the quality of the games being produced. High-quality on-demand printing, crowdfunding, 3D design and printing, and the availability of custom component manufacturing at affordable prices have allowed for a new market of small-run indie game producers. If you design it, they will come. Now an indie designer/artist can have a great idea for a game, crowdfund it, and if it's good, s/he will get the needed money and support to produce their game. One game designing/artist couple that is taking full advantage of this current environment is Sean and Kate Äaberg of GOBLINKO. Their crowdfunded game, Dungeon Degenerates, has been a surprise hit, even showing up on popular game programs like Geek & Sundry's Game the Game.

The first thing you notice about Dungeon Degenerates is that Sean's psychedelic nightmare artwork wants to melt your eyeballs and make steam shoot out of your ears. If you're already familiar with underground, metal-flecked games like Cave Evil or the eyeball-seering art of Skinner, then you know the aesthetic here. In this context, Sean calls it "dark fantasy medieval punk." The next thing you notice is how many components are in this thing. The gamebox groans with the weight of hundreds of Loot, Encounter, Monster, and other cards, character standies and dash boards, and oodles of other tokens. Managing all of this cardboard crack can become a real job (players have even taken to creating custom organizing inserts), but much of the game is run through these various card decks. Once you have everything set up, these cards actually help with ease of play.

Even though Dungeon Degenerates is a board game, it has a distinctly old school D&D feel (OK, if D&D had been co-designed by Gwar). But it also does a cool inverse of classic D&D dungeon delving. In most fantasy games, the party goes into a dungeon in search of adventure and booty. In Dungeon Degenerates, your unsavory band of lowlifes (characters with names like the Corpse Burner, the Witch Smeller, and the Void Witch) are prisoners who have escaped from a dungeon and now run roughshod through the nightmarish kingdom of Würstreich, in search of adventure, loot, and freedom. The core game comes with a Missions book with 20 individual adventures for you and your degenerate friends to go on. You can also link missions together to create an extended campaign. GOBLINKO is also cranking out tons of support materials for the game like extra character packs, miniatures, books detailing the various regions of Würstreich, and more.

Not part of the game, but from the same…uh… Degenerate Universe, Sean has just launched a new Kickstarter campaign for a dark fantasy medieval punk tarot deck. Why immerse yourself in all of this psychedelic degeneracy? As the game's back cover copy puts it: "In a land where rot rules, only the degenerates survive." Pearls of wisdom for our time?

Rising Sun

CMON, $85, 3-5 Players, Ages 13+

Game designer Eric M. Lang has been on a tremendous roll for a while. He is responsible for such games as Bloodborne, The Others, Blood Rage, Star Wars: The Card Game, Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, and many more. And game artist Adrian Smith has similarly risen to the top of gameworld conceptualizing, doing a ton of iconic artwork for Games Workshop and teaming up with Eric Lang on such games as The Others and Blood Rage. It is no wonder that hot game company, CMON, has scooped this dynamic duo up as head designer and lead artist, respectively.

After the phenomenal success of Blood Rage, the duo has done it again with Rising Sun. Where Blood Rage took place in a mythologized Viking world where warring clans seek power and glory as Ragnarok swiftly approaches, Rising Sun transports players to feudal Japan. I cannot adequately express how beautiful and cool this game is. I had a near religious experience just opening the box and inspecting all of the minis, board, and game components. Digital sculpting and 3D printing have revolutionized miniature production. These miniatures are ridiculously detailed and beautiful (and some, gruesome) to behold. You can even see the textures and patterns on fabric, the weaving on wooden armor, the texture of skin. There are 58 of these jaw-dropping minis in the game.

Rising Sun is an area control game for 3-5 players. In a very balanced and clever game mechanic, each player operates a clan (with special abilities specific to each clan) and competes against up to 4 other clans for the highest honor while expanding across the land, building strongholds, and collecting harvests. The game is designed so that you have to form alliances during a very theme-appropriate Tea Ceremony phase (you cannot win without at least allying for a time). But this is a game where you have to "know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em." You can also appeal to the gods of feudal Japan for favors and increased honor (the most important currency in the game). You can appeal to monsters for favors, too, at the expense of honor. Eric Lang always does such an amazing job of distilling the essence of a concept, a culture, a mythology, and creates a game that evokes that essence to an extent that is, quite frankly, magical. Rising Sun is him at the height of that wizardry. And Adrian Smith and the CMON mini and component designers are equally sorcerous in creating impressively lovely and immersive game environments.

Gaslands Dashboard

Osprey's Gaslands, their post-apocalyptic vehicular combat game, continues to be a runaway hit among gaming nerds. We covered the game itself in last month's "What's new in tabletop gaming?" One of the beauties of this and many other rule sets that Osprey has been releasing, is that you have to finish the game yourself. In this case, you have to convert your own Matchbox cars into Mad Max-style combat vehicles and scan, print, and cut out the various dashboards, markers, and templates. This all helps insire people to make cool, custom accessories for their games. And with 3D printing and CNC these days, it doesn't take long for game accessories to show up on sites like Thingiverse. An excellent case in point is this 3D printable Gaslands dashboard to replace to dull little dashboard templates that are available in the back of the rule book. Come on, it has a stick-shifter. You know you want that!

Kingdom Death Monster Gear Grid
Another game that gets a lovely and useful 3D printable organizing grid for your components is Kingdom Death: Monster. This intense, extremely beautiful game, a two-time Kickstarter darling, is known for being a little overly fussy to play, with a card-driven AI that requires a lot of component management. This grid is designed to help you better organize your Gear Cards while playing. Also, check out Alex A's character Survival Board on Thingiverse. It even incorporates LEDs that light up to track your survival actions.

Star Wars: Legion Painting Tutorial

Star Wars: Legion is all the rage in tabletop gaming. Even gamers who are stretched thin with too many unpainted mini games in their collections are buying and fielding Legion. Maybe because Stormtroopers have such a simple, mainly white, color scheme, a ton of tutorials have sprung up online for speed-painting the squad in the box. Since the Rebels are a bit more colorful, they take much longer to paint. But there are some excellent speed painting tuts for them, too. This one is my favorite. Inks and washes have been a real game changer in the miniatures hobby. This tutorial shows how you can use them almost exclusively over a single color basecoat to achieve some impressive results. Jarrett claims it only took him two hours to paint the entire squad, including filming the process.


Altema Games, $23, 1 Player, Ages 13+

I found out about this game through my friend, Jim Kelly's game column on Geek Dad. Both Jim and I suffer from the same problem where our game obsession far outstrips our ability to find people to play with us. So we're always on the lookout for well-done solo games. In Unbroken, now in its late pledge stage on Kickstarter, you are the sole survivor of a dungeon delve gone horribly wrong. You have to try and make your way to the surface while overcoming monsters and traps. It's rare enough to have a game that includes solo play. It's rarer still to have a fantasy game like this that is exclusively solo. And it's only US$23!