Tuesday, October 17, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 90: Alfred Vesligaj


Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!

Alfred on the left, Matt Leacock on the right.

Name:Alfred Vesligaj
Location:Slovenia and Philippines.
Day Job:Product manager / Business consultant
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:www.alfredv.com
Find my games at:Tabletopia
Today's Interview is with:

Alfred Vesligaj
Interviewed on: 10/13/2017

Alfred V. is a game designer and game development lecturer from Slovenia, currently living in the Philippines. Over the years he's worked on several different games, a few of which have been published. From educational games to strategic games, his designs incorporate mathematical models, simple rules, and high variability. Read on to learn more about Alfred and the projects he's working on.

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!
Why did you start designing tabletop games?
Improving classical games (Monopoly, Risk ...) we had as kids.
What game or games are you currently working on?
Pumpkings, an innovative Halloween deck builder and Firefighters, cooperative game
Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes.
What is your day job?
Product manager / Business consultant

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
Public gaming events.
Who do you normally game with?
Who ever wants to play.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Cooperative games.
And what snacks would you eat?
Healthy.
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Just something for the background, not too loud so we can talk. I guess it would be classical rock.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
We don't have one where I live.
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Dominion, Bang!, Monopoly.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Worker placement. Hidden roles.
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Pandemic Legacy.
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Video Games
Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games, Video Games
OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
I start from the general mechanics and theme idea and then develop both to match as much as possible.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Hippo Dice, Gencant. But no cigar.
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Matt Leacock
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
It is just random.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
Gaming Events, fairs, Tabletopia.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I usually work alone, but I don't mind teaming up.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Writing compelling, complete and easy to understand rules.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Game of Thrones - it just allows for so much of otherwise prohibited content.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
How to make prototypes fast and simple.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Make the simplest possible prototype and test as much as you can.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Talking Angela: Shopping (branded Talking Angela, family game), IQ (branded Talking Tom, card game), Five Elements (card game), Walk to Jesus (religious family game), Black Diamond (adventuring family game)
Currently looking for a publisher I have: Pumpkings (innovative deck builder), Firefighters (cooperative)
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Mostly all of James Mathe’s groups.

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Trek. I don't drink bubbles. To young.
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Outdoors, farming
What is something you learned in the last week?
Riding bus is cheaper and usually faster in the city.
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Rock, Classical. Fantasy, biography, history. Drama, biopic, war.
What was the last book you read?
Permaculture.
Do you play any musical instruments?
Some guittar.
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
With my wife we have a coconut plantation in the Philippines.
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
I have circum-walked Slovenia in 1999. It was first local reality show in Slovenia.
Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
I find nothing awesome about the accidents.
Who is your idol?
Leonard Cohen.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Travel in time ;)
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Super Pumpkin.
Have any pets?
Two dogs in the Philippines.
When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I sure hope my games will survive :). Greed and corruption.


Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Pleasse show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Eye on Kickstarter #30

Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any reviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2017 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.
So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the second Friday of October, 2017:

Live Campaigns from Past Eyes:
Dice of Pirates


HIGHLIGHTED CAMPAIGN
Neon Knights
  • If you like car racing games that have some unique, interesting mechanics, then definitely take a look at the games that Board to Death is putting out. Their previous success, Street Kings, brought the world of custom cars, street racing, and car shows to a Euro styled strategy game with some incredible artwork. Their second effort, Neon Knights is just as gorgeous and takes us to a cyberpunk future (with some fun, retro style), complete with high tech racing, driver training, financial management, and upgradable cars with shields and weapons! Neon Knights is great eye candy with some interesting strategy and a bit of luck, perfect for a futuristic racing game!


A Cyberpunk Battle Racing Board game. Upgrade your custom car... Drive the modular track... Destroy your opponents! You ready?

In the dystopian future of 2086, the city is split in two. The upper class lives in the upper half of the city while the lower class live in the slums. Cash is illegal in the lower part of the city, and the people there now use casino chips from the old world as currency. The upper class business men have created the Extreme Racing League as an automotive racing sport for entertainment. Anyone with a car who lives in the slums can enter. The prize? You guessed it: A pass to enter the city above, crowned as a Neon Knight (Drivers for V.I.P). What you do when you get there is up to you...and another story in itself.

You've spent all your chips on building the car and entering the league. Now it's time to prove your worth in a racing tournament that can only be won by taking risks, and pushing it to the limit. Do you have what it takes to join the Neon Knights?

Neon Knights: 2086 is a career-driven racing game for 2 to 6 players. You can play single races or in campaign mode which allows you to level up your car and skills as you play. You will advance in your career by buying upgrades and installing weapons and shields on your car. You will also gain fans and sponsorships who will train you in getting the skills you need to become a better driver. During the race you will need to pass over certain street areas to Activate weapons and shield you have on your car, which you can then use on other drivers.

You can go as fast as you want to but some areas of the slums are harder to drive through and will damage your car if you're going too fast. Will you take those risks?





Guardian's Call
  • The latest game from Druid City Games uses some of the bluffing mechanics from Barnyard Roundup and brings them into a much larger game, complete with heroes that you can upgrade and more. The artwork looks awesome, too! CHECK THIS OUT NOW - THE 10 DAY CAMPAIGN ENDS TODAY!


Re-Chord
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • My son has been playing guitar now for a bit over two years, so when I found a game all about playing the guitar I was super intrigued. Re-Chord even uses guitar picks as components in the game!


Stellar Leap
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • Stellar Leap looks like a very fun space exploration game. I love worker placement and this looks like it combines that with some really interesting dice mechanics.


INTELLE: Hack or Be Hacked
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • I quite enjoy a good abstract strategy game, and INTELLE looks like an interesting blend of tic-tac-toe, chess, and Quarto with some unique mechanics that I think will make it better than all three (surely better than tic-tac-toe, but that doesn't take much). On your turn you place a control cube in your sector, but that then defines the sector that your opponent must play in. It's a super clever mechanic that is simple, but adds layers to the game.


Near and Far: Amber Mines
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • Yes, I backed Near and Far, but haven't yet gotten it to the table (yes, shame on me), but that didn't stop me from backing the first expansion, Amber Mines. I'm confident that pretty much anything put out by Ryan Laukat is going to be awesome.


Sunset Over Water


Trench
  • This was on my last list, however that campaign was cancelled and reworked. You can now get Trench for a bit less, and less confusing pledge tiers. Plus it's already funded!


The 7th Continent: What Goes Up Must Come Down
  • The 7th Continent does some really amazing things that are rarely seen in tabletop games that aren't RPGs, and never to this extent. The game gives you an entire continent to explore and live in for hours on end. I'd love to add this to my collection, but really don't know when I'd ever have that amount of time to devote to the game, regardless of how much I'd want to.


Haunt the House
  • I really love spooky themes, and Haunt the House definitely fits the bill. In the game you play ghosts trying to scare away paranormal investigators to steal their equipment. The whole game looks fun and spooky!


Coma Ward
  • Where Haunt the House, above, is fun and cute spooky, Coma Ward is terrifyingly spooky. You and the other players wake up in a mostly abandoned hospital with no memory of who you are, what happened, or why the hospital is abandoned. Depending on the "phenomenon" selected for the game, you may have totally different goals. Maybe you're playing competitively, maybe cooperatively, you won't know until the game's story starts to unfold.


Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
  • This just looks awesome. Fight in the Hundred Years War and battle enemy troops, dragons, or demons!


Tiny Epic Defenders 2nd Edition & Tiny Epic Defenders: The Dark War
  • GJJ Games Review (1st Edition PnP)
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • I've been all in for the deluxe Tiny Epic games since the first edition of Tiny Epic Defenders (and I picked up standard TEK in the TED pledge manager). I absolutely love the series! Unfortunately though, the new Dark War expansion isn't compatible with the 1st edition of TED. The new artwork and rules tweaks in TED2 look great, but to get it and the expansion means I'll be spending a total of $73 to get TED:tDW (with $8 shipping). That's a lot of money. Even at $49 for just the new game/content, that's the same as a big box game. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to have spent $73 on a Tiny Epic game. Even if I managed to sell off my copy of TED1 I doubt I could get more than $5 for it, and $68 for a TE game is definitely not cheap. So, unfortunately this will be the first Tiny Epic Kickstarter that I don't back (well, just for $1 so I can get the updates). That makes me so sad. =(

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 89: David Abelson

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples. Support me on Patreon!


Name:David Abelson
Email:david@fisherheatongames.com
Location:Charlotte, NC
Day Job:I am a Marketing Teacher in a high school in Charlotte. My family and I moved to Charlotte in 2013. Before that I was a graphic designer and the owner/operator of an advertising specialty business in New Jersey.
Designing:Two to five years.
Webpage:www.fisherheatongames.com
BGG:fisherheaton
Facebook:Fisher Heaton Games
Twitter:@fisherheaton
Instagram:@fisherheaton
Other:Unpub.net and Indie Game Alliance
Find my games at:Kickstarter October 10 - for starters.
Today's Interview is with:

David Abelson
Interviewed on: 9/27/2017

David Abelson has a game that is launching on Kickstarter today! INTELLE is a 2 player abstract strategy game about two hackers battling each other with code. If successfully funded it'll be David's first published game. He also has another game that was on Kickstarter last year, but he's been reworking it to prepare for a second campaign next year. David also has a bunch of other ideas in the works, so be sure to read on to learn more about him and his projects. And be sure to check out INTELLE on Kickstarter right now!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.

Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I started playing tabletop games with my teenage step-son and then with some friends and, being a creative person, I kept thinking of possibilities and wondering if designing games was something I could do. Then, my brother came to me with a concept and we started working on our first design.

What game or games are you currently working on?
I am currently in various stages of design for a few games. Yutera is a dice driven race through space in a distant galaxy with a strong take-that and an interesting movement storage mechanism. We put it on Kickstarter in 2016 as Moonshot: Lunar Solace but after having trouble funding, I went back to the drawing board to tighten it all up and get it ready for another go next year. INTELLE is my 2 player abstract strategy game. In Intelle each player represents a hacker (black hat/white hat) and they are battling using blocks of code in order to either protect or take down the corporate mainframe in about 15 minutes. I am really proud of this game, with easy to learn rules and simple mechanics but surprising depth of strategy. It has been called the love child of tic-tac-toe and chess. I have more designs that are in the "not ready to discuss" stage as well.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Intelle will be my first published game, and it is expected to be available for retail in early December, as the manufacturing process was actually started before the Kickstarter launches.

What is your day job?
I am a Marketing Teacher in a high school in Charlotte. My family and I moved to Charlotte in 2013. Before that I was a graphic designer and the owner/operator of an advertising specialty business in New Jersey.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
I regularly play games at my local game store, as well as a few local meetups and we have a semi-regular group that meets at my house to play.

Who do you normally game with?
I have been lucky to play games with a number of great people all over Charlotte and I hope to continue, but primarily I play with friends whom I have met along the way.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
Last night we played Dice Forge, Stop Thief and Pit Crew. What we play varies from week to week. I really enjoy playing worker placement games and deck builders. Normally we play games that can be finished in less than an hour and a half but I like the occasional marathon game too.

And what snacks would you eat?
We have been known to have beer and chips but usually we all arrive full, so we don't have to get up as often.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
I tried playing Smooth Jazz during a game night once, but it didn't fly. I have been to game nights where Star Wars music was playing or some other awesome John WiIliams tune. I like it, but not everyone else does.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
We have three great ones in Charlotte. Lately I have been playing often at "The Mighty Meeple", but we also have "Your Local Game Store" and "Carolina Tabletop Games" where they serve beer

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
My current favorite game is Dice Forge. It is easy to teach, and continuously engaging. It isn't the deepest experience but it is a lot of fun and I am in awe at how much thought went into putting the game away in the box. I don't want to name the worst game I ever played because I wouldn't want that said of mine...but I will say that I backed it on Kickstarter and I wasn't even to get through the rule book to try it before throwing up my hands in disgust. I gave it to two different friends - who are both more patient than me - to try to learn and they gave up as well.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
My favorite game mechanic is engine building. I'm not the best at it but I love the challenge of figuring out the best way, or a different way. My least favorite is social deduction. I know it is a really popular thing right now, but I haven't been able to get into it.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
I like to think I do a pretty good job of rotating the games we play, though I still have games on the shelf that have never been played. I like Rune Wars, and have only gotten it to the table 2 times in the 4 years I have owned it - primarily because of the time commitment.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I still consider myself a baby in game design. I look to every designer as a silent mentor, offering something I can learn. I can't say that I have one favorite though.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Driving in my car. I listen to gaming podcasts in my car, and I often have to replay half of a podcast because my brain moved on to an idea or concept. I need to get better about writing those down, but that is where I get the best inspiration.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I start by play-testing myself, then I have a small group of painfully honest friends who are nice enough to play through early designs with me. As soon as I have a working prototype - and until it's perfected - the local players are my other play-testers. I am beginning to develop a larger group of dependable play-testers who will give honest feedback, and I like to ask a lot of questions.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I have not co-designed anything with someone who is not family. Yutera was co-designed with my brother Micah. I don't believe that game design should be a solitary event. Games - for me - are about community, and I want a community involved in creating them - so I ask people's opinions and I have discussions at the game store, and I read and ask questions on the Facebook forums and I am learning and the game design is improving as a result. I like to work with artists. I can graphic design but I cannot illustrate. The cover art for Intelle was illustrated by Rebecca McConnell, and most of the art for Yutera was illustrated by Leonardo Sa Guinard.

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Time. I want to spend so much time designing, and creating, and building prototypes, and learning, and designing, and designing...but I also have a job and a family, and church obligations, and students who look up to me, and unfortunately when time is at a premium, game design gets less of it.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would love to create a game for Atlas Shrugged, the book by Ayn Rand.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
I wish someone had told me a long time ago that game design is something I can learn and do.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
The biggest lesson I have learned so far - both in game design and outside of it, and the one I would like to share is this: Success is not a destination, it is a journey. And failure is the fuel that powers it.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: Intelle
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Intelle
I'm planning to crowdfund: Yutera
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Sub-Contractors, Unnamed Deck Building/Combat game, Disc Golf Masters
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: The cat is still in the bag...

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Yes

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Both - though I am a zealot for neither. Coke, though I prefer tea. VHS.

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
I play racquetball, disc golf, bowling. I enjoy musical theater - both to do and to watch, though I haven't performed in years.

What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned that Google is 19 years old.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
I prefer show tunes, classic rock, christian contemporary, country - not necessarily in that order. I read non-fiction (a mistake I know) and I lean toward movies about things that couldn't happen in my real life - like sci fi.

What was the last book you read?
I haven't finished a book in a while but the last book I picked up was "Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind". I am also midway through an exciting biography of Cornelius Vanderbuilt.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I can sing. Despite all efforts, no other instruments.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
In 1996 I had the honor of singing a solo rendition of "Proud to be an American" for 300+ soldiers at the Army Ball in Monterey California, while also serving as a soldier myself.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Two months after we started dating, I asked my wife to marry me. 10 months later we got married. 3 children, 5 homes, 3 businesses, countless disagreements and 17 years later, we're still together.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
See my previous answer

Who is your idol?
Frank Lloyd Wright. He wasn't the best husband necessarily, but he was a genius at design. He had great vision and tenacity.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
I would sell it on ebay.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I used to be an extrovert, but I think I am heading the other direction. I have found that there are moments where both work.

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Mr. Fantastic

Have any pets?
I have a Dog and a Cat, which we got on the same day. They are George and Gracie.

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I think Catan and hearts will survive into the next era. I hope that underneath the asteroid is hate.


Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Pleasse show your support: Support me on Patreon! Or click the heart at Board Game Links , like GJJ Games on Facebook , or follow on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

GJJ Games Review - CO-OP: the co-op game - By ReTurn from Subroutine LLC

CO-OP: the co-op game
Designer: Richard T Saunders
Publisher: ReTurn from Subroutine LLC
1-5p | 45-60m | 12+
GJJ Games Review - CO-OP: the co-op game - By ReTurn from Subroutine LLC
Disclaimer Support me on Patreon!


CO-OP: the co-op game came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check them out for more awesome reviews!


Game Overview:
CO-OP: the co-op game is one of a slew of games that have been recently that use a game mechanic as part of the game's name and theme.  I've also played Deck Building the Deck-Building Game, and even started designing my own Worker Placement the Worker Placement Game.  About two years ago Greater than Games ran a contest for designers to come up with a [Game Mechanic] the [Game Mechanic] Game.  They had over 80 entries and ended up publishing at least one of them.  But there were a ton of other great games that came out of that contest, too, one of which was CO-OP: the co-op game.  CO-OP: the co-op game successfully funded its own Kickstarter campaign in December 2016 and was shipped out to backers in February of this year.  They sold out of their print run in June, but you might still be able to find a copy or two in some of the game stores in Arizona, where ReTurn from Subroutine LLC is located.  If there's enough interest there may be a second print run, so read on to learn more about CO-OP: the co-op game and see if it's something you'd be interested in!

In CO-OP: the co-op game 1-5 players work together to try and save their small co-op store from being taken over by Mondo Mart, the big grocery chain moving into town.  Each character is either a Hippie (more concerned about feeling great and helping customers) or a Bizzie (more concerned about the money and logistics of running a business).  Players must cooperate to balance product sales with stocking the shelves, all while keeping everyone feeling pretty groovy.

Components & Packaging:
Many times when I get prototype games sent to me they're printed at The Game Crafter.  This is great for prototypes, but published games feel a bit lacking when they're printed at The Game Crafter.  The box is thinner, the cards aren't quite as nice, and the other components are a bit cheaper than what you'd expect from a published game.  On top of that, the expense is a lot more.  These are usually acceptable trade-offs for getting a small number of decent quality prototypes printed quickly, but don't make for a great first impression for a published game.

CO-OP: the co-op game was printed at The Game Crafter, which explains why funding to fulfillment was only about two months.  However, with that speed came reduced quality.  That said, I'm always happy with the quality at The Game Crafter for prototypes and there's nothing about the production quality that affects the gameplay.
Between the very basic artwork and prototype quality components, there's nothing in CO-OP: the co-op game
that will 'wow' you.
The artwork in CO-OP: the co-op game is mostly a mixture of clipart illustrations and stock photos.  Graphic design on the cards is about as simple as you can get, and the artwork that is custom for the game is basic cartoon characters.  The artwork doesn't really feel cohesive, with a mix of cartoons, clipart, photos, vector graphics, and CGI it feels like it was pieces together from Google image searches.  The flavor text on the cards as well as some subtle jokes, keep the cards interesting and fun, but don't really add to the visual flair.
It may be just clipart, but it is used to effectively push the game's humor.
Overall, the component quality of CO-OP: the co-o game is just adequate.  The game is playable, but no one will be wowed by the components or artwork.  There are some funny jokes hidden in the artwork (like the Tofu Turkey, and the Tofu Cornish Hen that use the same image, just a smaller version for the Cornish Hen), but that's more to do with the theme and humor in the game than the component quality.

Score: 4/10 x1

Rules & Setup:
The rules are very thorough.  Almost too much.  The rule book is pretty dense and has a lot of superfluous information that probably could be cut out to make understanding things a bit easier.  That said, the game is really pretty simple.
The rulebook will greet you with walls and walls of text - 16 pages worth!  The setup alone covers over four pages and
this photo of the game all laid out is the only graphic in the book.
Setup takes a while, just because everything is done with cards.  A simple board would be a huge help for setup, even just to indicate where each type of card should go.  The rule book does do a good job of guiding you step-by-step through the setup and includes photos of the game laid out.  The snapshots look a bit unprofessional, but it really helps to see the game laid out.
That's a lot to set up.  A board could take care of a lot of the fiddliness.
CO-OP: the co-op game is essentially a cooperative worker-placement game, with four different locations that players can visit each round.  A game consists of playing through a certain number of days while the players try to sell enough items and increase the 'vibe' of each character to a point where they can save their co-op from being taken over by MondoMart.  Each 'day' is broken up into three phases: Stuff Happens, Players' Turn, and End of Day Maintenance.

In the Stuff Happens phase a Happenings card is revealed.  This is usually a penalty or obstacle that affects the players for that day, and occasionally in the future, too, if the problem isn't resolved.  Sometimes the Happenings card does nothing, sometimes it's pretty situational, and occasionally it's something that can be avoided by doing something silly in real life.  Usually though the Happenings card is a problem that must be overcome or something that prevents certain actions from being taken.
These are usually bad news, but occasionally they're not too bad, or maybe even good.
The Players' Turn phase is the core of the game play.  Players decide together the order that each will take a turn.  Each player moves their character pawn to one of four locations to take the appropriate action there.
On your turn you can Frolic to increase your Vibe, Meditate to gain more Groove cards, Work to sell Goods, or
Cooperate to get other various benefits.
If you move to the Storefront you can Work, which means you can play a Groove card from your hand.  Groove cards are beneficial and come in four types: Instagroove is a one-time benefit, Continuous Groove is an ability that remains active for the remainder of the game, Distributor lets you purchase Goods to add to your warehouse, and Customer lets you sell Goods from your store to gain some money.  After you play a card you can draw a card, but some abilities let you play additional cards, so sometimes you'll find your hand getting smaller.
Groove cards are good, but sometimes better for specific characters or in certain situations.
If you Meditate at the Yoga Studio you get to draw new Groove cards.  You can draw two Groove cards normally, but if you don't have any Groove cards in your hand, or if you first discard a Groove card, you can draw three.  You have a hand limit of five cards though, so you may have to discard back down to five cards.

You can also go Frolic in the Park.  This will let you increase your Vibe, which must be elevated to Groovy or Awesome for all players before the end of the game.  However, you can only get your Vibe to Okay by Frolicing, unless you have a special ability (like Sunshine Freespirit's ability to increase other players' Vibe above Okay when she Frolics in the Park - yes, many jokes ensued from this ability).
When Sunshine Freespirit frolics she does it through inspirational dance, or at least that's what she calls it...
Finally, in each game there will be three opportunities for players to Cooperate.  These are various activities, like a Car Wash, Drum Circle, or Warehouse Run that require two or more players to work together on.

After each player has taken an action the End of Day Maintenance round begins.  Each player takes back their character pawn and the Happenings card for the current day is flipped (as long as it doesn't have ongoing effects).  If it was Friday you'll also get to move some Goods from the Warehouse to the Store.  Finally you'll move on to the next day.  Eventually you'll get to the Game End card, which signifies the last day in the game.  At the end of that day you'll check to see if you saved the Co-op from MondoMart by accomplishing the goals in the scenario that you're playing.
There are actually four different scenarios (six with the mini expansion).  So instead of trying to save the co-op you
might be trying to save your kidnapped friend, or running a fundraiser.
The game mechanics aren't difficult at all, and despite there being a lot of cards, setup doesn't take too long after you've done it a few times.  I do wish the rulebook had a more professional layout, and more graphics with less text, but it's acceptable and, like I said, it covers just about everything.  I don't recall ever finding anything significantly confusing that wasn't explained in the rules.

Score: 6/10 x2

Gameplay:
Unfortunately the gameplay itself is pretty ho-hum.  The mechanics work well, but there are few interesting decisions.  We felt that there was usually an obvious choice for each player and limited opportunity to explore various strategies. Occasionally we had some good discussions on the sequence that we should play cards, who should work and who should take other actions, or how we were going to match customers with the products they'd want, but overall I felt that the cards we were randomly dealt affected our decisions more than our decisions affected the gameplay.
There are a LOT of different Groove and Happenings cards, so it's nearly impossible to plan.  You may get what you need, you may not  With so many different cards you can't make predictions or play probabilities.
The biggest hurdles in the game seemed to be not having the best Groove cards to do what we wanted.  While this did drive us to consider alternate strategies to accomplish our goals, it also highlighted the randomness in the game.  In one game I played nearly all the customers we got weren't co-op members, so we were losing vibes a lot, but in the next game every customer was a co-op member, so keeping the vibe up wasn't a problem.  You'll also need cards that let you get more products into the store, and if they don't come up you just can't do much.  We always felt that our decisions were eclipsed by just the luck of the cards.
While every turn felt like we had decisions to make, more often than not they felt like
decisions on how to mitigate the luck (good or bad) best.
We also found that a number of cards are very situational.  There are cards that give penalties or benefits for just specific characters (which may not even be in the game) and cards that take effect only when certain other cards are in play.  With 90 Groove cards and 54 Happenings cards there's enough randomness where holding on to one of those situational cards is more of a gamble than a strategy.  Maybe it'll pay off, but it feels like luck, not planning when it does.

CO-OP: the co-op game is also very alpha-player prone.  Because there aren't many tough decisions there's not a whole lot of discussion needed.  So if one player is faster at identifying the optimal move it's very easy for that player to drive the game.  When I tried playing with my sons they had very little involvement, which they were fine with since the theme didn't really interest them and that meant they had more time to act like goofs.  When I played with my game group there was a bit more cooperation, but there was usually an obvious choice, so still very little discussion.
It's real easy for the game to become a solo game with one player making all the decisions since
the hands are open and there is no set turn order.
Where the game does shine is with the theme, and I'll go into this more below.

Score: 6/10 x3

Replayability:
I really didn't feel that there was much here to make me want to play multiple times.  I had fun playing the game, but most of that came from the theme and silliness that arose from the game flavor, not because it was a very compelling game.  If I found someone who wanted to play I wouldn't really turn down a game, but it's not something I'd suggest or pull out on my own to play.
Lots of silliness and jokes keep the game fresh for two or three plays, but after that there's not much
game to keep the interest up, even with six scenarios.
Score: 3/10 x1

General Fun:
Even though the gameplay felt random and not too engaging, we still had a ton of fun playing CO-OP: the co-op game.  But this came mostly from the theme and flavor.  The game is packed with hippie/health nut/new age humor.  From the silly products that you can sell (like recycled crayons that are edible, free range avocados, tie-dye underpants, or a Nixon bumper sticker) to the crazy Groove cards (everyone gains a Vibe when Stevie Ray Hendrix and Thankful Fish play a concert together, or negate a Happenings card if everyone sings a catchy tune together), the cards will keep you laughing.  They work best if you play in-character, too.  We found ourselves making all sorts of our own hippie jokes, laughing at the cards, and just generally having a good time while we played.  Our kids were over in the corner playing Rock Band and learning Clash songs while the dads were singing Age of Aquarius at the other end of our FLGS.  I'm not sure who was having more fun!
A number of the cards encourage you to sing, thumb wrestle, and do other silly things.
That said, the humor in this type of game really depends on the players and how willing they are to get a bit silly.  It's also the type of humor that can run out after you've gone through all the cards a time or two.  Fortunately there are more than enough cards to keep things fresh for at least three plays.  There might even be too many cards, especially the Happenings cards.  With 54 in the deck and only 14 used in a 2 player game (maybe a few more since there are some Groove cards that can let you extend the game a bit), you're going to have a drastically different mix of Happenings every game.  This will make it tougher to plan for and adds to the randomness.  I do wish there were more Goods cards though, since those are the funniest.
I'll take an 8-track of Thankful Fish and a Recycled Water to go.  No, not the yellow Recycled Water, the other one...
Score: 7/10 x2

Overall Value:
Wow, is this game expensive for what it is.  But that's what happens when it's printed on demand at The Game Crafter.  As I said above, The Game Crafter is great for prototypes, but it's not really economical for a bigger print run.  CO-OP: the co-op game can be bought from the ReTurn from Subroutine website for $39.99 plus $7.20 shipping (it was $28 + $6 on Kickstarter).  For a game that is less than 200 standard cards, a few jumbo sized cards (3.5" x 5.5"), and a few other pawns and bits, $40 is a lot of money.  I'd expect this to be closer to $25, maybe even less, given the low quality of the artwork.  However, the first print run is sold out (except for maybe a few game stores in Arizona), so there's a chance that they may do a second print run and maybe it'll be cheaper?  I don't know...
Maybe this card is what makes the game so expensive...
Score: 2/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
CO-OP: the co-op game has a ton of fun flavor and theme.  I had a lot of fun playing with my family and friends, especially when players got into the hippie character mindset.  However, the gameplay felt dull and random and the price is outrageous for the component quality.
The game is funny, and there are even a number of meta moments, but it's not enough to save the CO-OP.
CO-OP: the co-op game might be good for you if you really like cooperative games or have a soft spot for the theme, but unfortunately I can't recommend it based on just it's gameplay or it's value.  Although we all had fun with it, after just a few playthroughs it's overstayed its welcome with my game group.  That doesn't necessarily mean it's not a game for you though.  So if you're still interested, be sure to check out ReTurn from Subroutine's website and let them know you'd like to get your hands on a copy!

Overall Score: 53/100


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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.