follow the rumors, fend off pirates, and navigate through storms–all in the hopes of beating your opponents to fame and fortune.
SALT & SAIL

goal: $26,500 / ends: thursday, april 9, 2020 10:45p pst. / created by kazoodoo games

so, life has been pretty rough here in seattle. i work in the food industry, and we’re seeing dramatic losses in wages and scores of businesses are closing. it’s been emotionally exhausting. there are a lot of consequences to the coronavirus that are going to ripple through the city for the foreseeable future. i am trying my best to keep to my normal routines, but it’s really difficult. i will probably next week off from the blog, just to recharge.

until then, i’m going to give what i can, and showcase SALT & SAIL. my apologies for not being able to give this #backandblog more time or energy, as i do believe it deserves it!

a game of discovery and adventure on the high seas, players will navigate rumors across a hex-board and face off against challenges and obstacle, like storms and pirates!

the game book allows for customization of maps based on number of players and desired length of play. the art is gorgeous and thematic. kazoodoo has kickstarted successful games in the past, and the production values here show. they’re about 2/3 of the way funded with more than enough time to hit their goal!

a clever light puzzle game for 2 to 4 players brought to you by the creative team of cat rescue and cat sudoku.
CLEOCATRA

goal: $3,000 / ends: friday, april 10, 2020 11:59p pst. / created by sunrise tornado game studio

being in the heart of seattle, between coronavirus and the politics of everything, today has been quite crazy. i had the day off work, and took a chunk of time to go out to the middle of nowhere for a hike. it felt really nice to get into nature, turn off my phone, and decompress, even at the expense of any of my other responsibilities. overall, i think it was vital, and i don’t regret it. however, i will be keeping this blog short because of the well-needed mental health break.

CLEOCATRA is a super cute cat-themed puzzle game by the creators of CAT RESCUE and CAT SUDOKU, two other super cute cat-themed puzzle games! the goal is to save cats from pyramids, which involves placing triangular cat cards down on the table then moving cats and rescuers strategically. the art by kaiami is obviously core to the project AND SO ADORABLE!

it looks to be a pretty quick, light game, which to be completely honest is exactly what i could use right now!

take on the role of a half-forgotten god and compete for reverence in this deeply immersive area control game.
THEURGY

goal: $42,242 / ends: tuesday, march 31, 2020 3:59p pst. / created by ministry of meeples

a beautiful produced area control game for 2-6 players, packed with fantastic art and assets, including tarot-sized monster cards, detailed map hexagon tiles, cool tokens, and tons of meeples (makes sense, given their company’s name!). you take on the role of a mythological deity, with unique powers, monsters to summon, and miracles to perform, trying to gain faithful followers. i especially like aeoris, god of time, who is able to manipulate the discard pile.

THEURGY has three victory conditions, all revolving around building temples: becoming the official faith, partly by placing your temple in the capital; fulfilling your calling by completing a hidden objective; or by spreading across the land by building many temples, based on the total number of players. this is done through one of four actions on each turn, with the caveat that they may not take the same action on their next turn. the different actions consist of sending out your followers, spreading word of your religion, divine intervention, and testing the faiths of the land. the inability to take the same action twice in a row is a very cool strategic twist.

the game also has no dice (NO DICE!), which is huge to me. i don’t often enjoy strategy games of this type because of too-random elements, and i hate dice in general. instead, the variety of deity powers, over 30 monsters with unique abilities, and the random selection of capital event and miracle cards, give the game replay and unpredictability within a structure of true strategy.

this is a very well executed project. the game appears to be thoroughly tested, reviews suggest it is incredibly well balanced, the assets, again, are spectacular, and everything feels accounted for. i have no doubt this game will fund and fulfill, and i definitely look forward to playing it when it does!

a ttrpg about psychic cyborgs, identity, and finding yourself through fighting for what you believe in.
ASCENDANCY

goal: $14,000 / ends: monday, april 6, 2020 12:00p pst. / created by ruby measom

a game about fighting for what you believe in, brought to us by a queer designer and team. this is what i live for.

set in a futurist, cyberpunk world, in the war-torn city of mooncore, players take on the roles of ascended: psychically and technologically augmented servants. revolution has ravaged the setting prior to the game beginning, and now there are power vacuums, civil unrest, technological wonders to explore and exploit…

ASCENDANCY is built with the RESISTANCE TOOLKIT, providing a simple mechanical core but the framework to explore complex ideas like “change, identity, and resistance.” character archetypes are built by combining two playbooks, from a selection that include some real treasures: the shadow, able to assume new identities on a whim; the memory, able to shatter their identity by altering their own memories; the data, able to process data and invent spontaneously. the game boasts over 100 moves and advancements, which will likely grow with stretch goals, supplements, player input, hacking!

the city of mooncore sounds rich, enigmatic, and ripe with possibility: on the outskirts, a forest of computers growing over a giant mech; overhead, a floating city of decadence. the now-free citizens of revolution fight for survival, for what they love, for who they are. there are so many allegories of corporate greed, the exploitation of labor, the collateral damage of war. it’s really amazing to see projects like this, tackling important issues through the medium of social/imagination-theater gaming.

from the perspective of the kickstarter itself, it’s the first created by the designer, but it’s put together thoughtfully. there are stretch goals that bring on new contributors, writing and drawing up new character content. there are videos and interviews the discuss the game, its design, and playthrough. they already have ~200 backers, putting them half way to funding. i’m sure we’ll see this game hits its goal and fulfill!

a 2-5 player, hidden movement game of clever deduction and teamwork. this game also introduces the new SHIFT system.
MIND MGMT

goal: $33,513 / ends: thursday, april 2, 2020 9:00p pst. / created by off the page games

there is a lot going on with this game. MIND MGMT features hidden movements, deduction, team work, dry erase, more components than most games i’ve played (wellllllll), and even sealed components akin to legacy games that are opened and added to the game after successful plays.

the retro psychedelic art style really comes to life with all of the assets: the map board, playing cards, pieces, and supplemental comics. every piece clearly hides detailed back story and innuendo, which i imagine is revealed slowly over the course of many, many sessions. the base game only, before stretch goals, has 10 sealed packages which add more content. it’s a really clever alternative to legacy mechanics that destroy or permanently alter game pieces.

the kickstarter itself is overwhelmingly intense. there are so much components to showcase that the project page is huge, after which are rather involved breakdowns of game mechanics. beyond all of this, there are almost a dozen videos and a ton of blurbs from reviewers. there’s even a live sample of the game being played in the comment section for backers.
it’s a lot to process. i could personally have done with a significantly truncated page, but the project has more than funded very rapidly, so i could be alone. it sure doesn’t seem to be hurting them any!

the only aspect of this game i question is the play time. 60 minutes seems optimistically short.

a kaleidoscopic rogue-like dungeon crawl analogue rpg zine
THE TREASURE AT THE END OF THIS DUNGEON

goal: $500 / ends: saturday, march 14, 2020 8:26a pst. / created by riverhouse games

i didn’t anticipate backing more zinequest projects into march, but i finally looked into THE TREASURE AT THE END OF THIS DUNGEON and couldn’t resist. from a specifically queer/lgbt+ studio, riverhouse games, we have a kaleidoscopic, rogue-like, gm-less, dungeon-crawl rpg.

the base game features a variety of room types, each with their own ruleset, and 4 asymmetrical character archetypes: the mage, the the muscle, the thief, and the healer (there are stretch goals for additional classes that sound awesome, like the goblin and the saint). characters, called selves, will die, constantly, and evolve, while the dungeon morphs as well. each death of the self results in profound changes to the ruleset. for example, when the mage dies, they lose the ability to cast one of their spells, permanently, but return from death with the arcane ability to combine any two of their remaining spells into a more powerful one. with another death, another spell is lost forever, but now you’ll have the power to combine three spells into one; and so on.

the rooms, similarly, fractal as they are entered and changed. elements in each room are highlighted (such as sharp rocks, blunt sword, claws, a glimmer of hope, or subterfuge) and must be engaged in order to escape; each entry into the room highlights yet another element, and requires engaging more and more components in the narrative.

the game is finished, but the stretch goals grow the game in exciting ways. at each milestone, a new artist is brought on to design a room and a character archetype, kaleidoscoping the dungeon more and more.

i love how endlessly hackable this game will be, not only for the designer but for us, as players. writing a new character or room is an experiment in themes, narration, and flavor. this is what roleplaying games are designed to illicit. this is on my shortlist of games around which i will build a play rotation at my local game shop: easy to pick up, easy to drop in and out, but with the power to spark conversation and critical ideas.

it’s already funded, and hit several artist stretch goals, but here’s to hitting them all!

five portable euro-styled games that can be played solo or with others in 20 minutes.
THE MATCHBOX COLLECTION

goal: $33,483 / ends: friday, march 13, 2020 2:59p pst. / created by thundergryph games

thundergryph’s THE MATCHBOX COLLECTION brings together 5 small, quick euro-style games in one kickstarter project: 15 DAYS, EIYO, GOLEMS, SPACE LUNCH, and REBIS.

each game is brought to life by italian designers and the illustrators from thundergryph’s team, and the collection has great cohesion. all of the games can be played solo or 2-player in about 20 minutes, and the boxes are literally matchbox size so they’re easily carried. there’s even a travel case for all 5 available.

a quick breakdown of each game: in 15 DAYS, you’re collecting animal pawns for special abilities and completing sets of season cards to put the sun back into sync and bring order back to the natural world. EIYO casts you as a samurai strategically managing your weapons against hordes of enemies, while earning honour points toward victory. REBIS allows for up to 4 players; it’s a game of alchemy and transmutation. SPACE LUNCH is a food-based set-collecting, where your favorite sci-fantasy dishes will provide points if you can grab them up before your opponent. lastly, GOLEMS offers card collection with the variation that every card can be played in 2 ways.

the kickstarter itself is very well put together. there are rules and overview videos available for all of the games, incredibly detailed timelines for delivery and fulfillment, a history of successful projects (this is their 7th kickstarter), and really cool, totally viable stretch goals.

they’ve already funded by more than 300%, and the total is constantly rising!

a simple yet addictive card game of deception and strategy
THE IMPOSTER KINGS

goal: $9,000 / ends: thursday, april 2, 2020 8:58a pst. / created by sina yeganeh

here we have a game about royal assassinations, where cards are played on each other progressively higher, with special abilities for different cards and some ways to reset the count when cornered. it sounds like it will play out similarly to hugo kawamata’s/button shy’s HIERARCHY, but for up to 4 players instead of 1-2. there are some similarities in art style, color choice, and rules that suggest perhaps this game has drawn heavily on the latter. judged on its own, the game has fantastic art.

i’m curious about THE IMPOSTER KINGS but feel that the kickstarter could be polished up quite a bit. the subtitle of the game, THE NERSETTI ARCHIVES, feels tacked on needlessly; i believe subtitles rarely add value unless they’re in pre-established intellectual properties or canon. to make it worse, while nersetti is the name of the setting, the word “archive” doesn’t even appear anywhere else in the project.

there’s a lot of flavor text that honestly adds little, other than to justify that the game can be played out in a best-of-7 scenario, and feels like it could have used some editing down. i don’t imagine the text will play much part in the game itself, so it probably won’t matter anyway.

they also make the mistake of stating that there aren’t many risks to the project, which is never true. take this project with a grain of salt. it’s brought in a lot of money very quickly, which i attribute to the beautiful art and straight-forward rules, so i’m sure it will fund. there’s enough proof of concept that i’m also sure it will be produced, but i wouldn’t hold my breath on it fulfilling by the projected date. that’s okay though, this is their first kickstarter project and there are always lessons to be learned.

a small rpg, in a zine format. intelligent rodents in a post-apocalyptic fantasy, using an easy to understand system of mechanics.
GAME TITLE

goal: $800 / ends: friday, march 13, 2020 7:00p pst. / created by jonathan young

games featuring animals post-humanity are a big favorite of mine. i really prefer animals to people, almost all of the time.

self-described as SECRETS OF NIMH meets MOUSE GUARD, two settings i absolutely adore, CRAWLSPACE is a zine of medieval-level rodents trying to survive in the abandoned homes of human civilization, avoiding the predators of the outside world. the game differentiates species into archetypes such as gerbil newsrunners, hamster tunesingers, and rat foodsniffers. it’s an original osr-inspired system called MOTLEY, featuring a game master, tactical combat, maneuvers, dice pools, hidden rolls, simultaneous resolution. there isn’t enough information posted to know much about the rest of the game’s structure, but the creator intends to grow the system and use it in future games, so i’ll keep a watch out for development and mechanics as they go.

it’s a first project for the creator, and while i love what i see, there’s a lot of small mistakes made here that could really hinder their chance at success. first off, there’s no web or social media presence that i can find, which puts them at a huge disadvantage. even with a low goal, it’ll be a challenge to fund, especially since they didn’t launch until march. there’s also very little information on the team/collaborators, other than a couple art assets, so it’s impossible to predict what direction the creative process will take. nonetheless, zinequest is great for new designers to figure out that they even need to answer these questions in the first place!