Welcome back to Gaming Shelf, io9's column all about board games and tabletop roleplaying games. The covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the industry but there are folks stepping in to help local game shops. We’ve profiled a few below, along with a new Harry Potter-style roleplaying game and some exciting news for Dungeons & Dragons fans.
Times are hard for all of us right now, and it’s good to celebrate those who are pitching in to help where they can. Some board game companies have started donating proceeds to local game stores and I wanted to highlight a few of them. Weird City Games, who make the March of the Ants series, will donate 30 percent of proceeds (though it recommends trying to buy from local retailers whenever possible). Hush Hush Projects, makers of Fog of Love, will donate 20 percent of proceeds. And White Wizard Games, who make deckbuilding games like Hero Realms, Epic, and Cthulhu Realms, has reduced store prices by 25 percent and will also donate 25 percent to local game retailers.
Typically, these game companies ask that you provide the name of the game shop you’d like the money donated to—though it might be good to check if those stores are willing to participate in the program first. If you know of any other game companies that are helping to support local retailers, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to an ongoing list.
“You’re a non-copyright infringing wizard, Harry.” Renegade Game Studios has announced a new, family-friendly tabletop roleplaying game called Kids on Brooms. Using the Kids on Bikes gaming system, Kids on Brooms has players taking on the role of witches and wizards at a magical school. Students can take classes, practice magic, take on mythical beasts, or even search the school for its darkest secrets. It’s a great alternative for folks who’ve been craving a Harry Potter tabletop roleplaying game that we still haven’t gotten because life just isn’t fair (also J.K. Rowling is kinda busy saying anti-trans stuff). Kids on Brooms is available for pre-order for $25 and is set to come out in August.
Ares Games has announced it will be publishing the English edition of Last Aurora, a one-to-four player survival game initially funded on Kickstarter, set in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland where only the smart survive. Last Aurora turns each player into the leader of a survivors’ crew trying to reach Aurora, the last icebreaker ship. With a mix of resource management and Oregon Trail-style tough decisions, players have to overcome a series of obstacles to make it to the final hope for humanity. Last Aurora is set to come out this summer and will be released alongside its first expansion, Project Athena.
CMON Games is currently playtesting a solo mode for Arcadia Quest and has asked players for their feedback—since the company can’t run playtests out in public because of the pandemic. According to a press release, CMON has wanted to make a solo mode for the game for years and decided that now was the time because more people are looking for games they can play by themselves. CMON has made the latest version of Solo Mode rules available to download for free and is asking players for feedback and comments (you have to have a copy of the game to play it).
Plaid Hat Games has announced that it is pushing back the retail release date for Forgotten Waters, its highly anticipated follow-up to Dead of Winter, about pirates voyaging through a fantasy-filled world. In a press release, the company said the new tentative release date for stores is June 19, though that is subject to change. The game is available through its website but is already sold out, at least for the moment.
Wizards of the Coast announced in a press release (via Gamasutra) that 2019 was the most successful year for Dungeons & Dragons in the game’s 46-year history. According to an infographic shared by the company, sales of introductory D&D sets have risen by 300 percent year upon year as demographics are changing, with 40 percent of players identifying as female and 40 percent being under 25 years old. A lot of that is thanks to the spike in online fandom, with Twitch, YouTube, and podcast gaming fandoms skyrocketing over the past few years.
In addition, Wizards of the Coast is still handing out free campaigns, scenarios, and other resources for players to help during the pandemic. Be sure to check out its website for updates.
Wickedness is a three-player roleplaying game where players form a coven of mystical archetypes (the Pure Heart, the Wild Spirit, and the Old Soul) who work together to help their world of magic and mystery in balance with the regular world. The game uses a tarot deck instead of dice, and players consult the deck to further the plot, establish their character relationships, and determine what happens to them and their world in the future. Wickedness is available on Kickstarter through May 22. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is $15 while a print copy is $22, and both are set to come out in December. There is also a $5 pledge option for folks who cannot afford the higher price point.
Canvas is a beautiful card game that features transparent cards which are layered on top of one another to create works of art. There’s a near-infinite variety of combinations, with rewards for completing certain objectives or specific pairings. Canvas is available on Kickstarter through May 20. The minimum pledge for a copy is $28 and it’s set to come out in December.
Pinnacle Entertainment Group is doing a reprint of Deadlands, the “Weird West” tabletop roleplaying game that first debuted in 1996. Using the Savage Worlds core rules, Deadlands has players taking on the Old West archetype of their choosing as they fight monsters, an ancient evil, and possibly each other. Anything goes in the Wild West...especially if it’s weird. Deadlands will be on Kickstarter through May 13. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is $25 while a print copy is $45, and both are set to come out in November.
Psycho Killer is a card game styled after classic slasher flicks where three-to-five players try to avoid one of five “psycho killers” who’ve been hidden in the deck, while also trying to offload all the weapons in your arsenal...as the killer will definitely use them against you. Psycho Killer will be on Kickstarter through May 19. The minimum pledge for a copy is $26 and it’s set to come out in June.
Brancalonia is a 5e-compatible tabletop roleplaying scenario that’s being called “spaghetti fantasy,” combining spaghetti Westerns with a Dungeons & Dragons version of medieval Italy. Taking inspiration from classic speculative fiction stories like Pinocchio and Dante’s Divine Comedy, popular films and video games set in Italy, as well as old-school spaghetti Westerns, this scenario is a tongue-in-cheek journey through Italian history and a unique take on D&D. The game will be released in English and Italian. Brancalonia will be on Kickstarter through May 10. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is $19 while a print version is $43, and both are set to come out in January 2021.
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