The Importance of Being (James) Ernest

Geek Culture Kickstarter

What won’t this man do to get you to play his games?

The legendary board games designer James Ernest — he of Cheapass Games fame, designer of gems like Kill Dr. Lucky and Give Me the Brain — has spent the last several years working on things like computer games and Facebook games and other things that pay the bills but somehow aren’t nearly as much fun. He’s storming back into tabletop games with a vengeance this month with not one but two games on Kickstarter.

In the first, James announced the return of Cheapass Games with the refurbishment of one of its best games, Unexploded Cow. In this card game, you play entrepreneurs who have come up with a unique solution for getting rid of all the unexploded German ordnance lurking in the fields of France: grab the English cattle doomed by mad cow disease and herd them into the fields. Despite the darkly comic theme — or maybe because of it — it’s a fast and easy card game you can play with kids 10 and up. If you like, you can even download the print-and-play version of the game for free.

The drive for Unexploded Cow has already shattered its goal, but James is pushing on. He just announced a special promotion for the game that should appeal to players who will be at PAX this coming weekend. If the Kickstarter drive manages to rack up 1,200 backers by Friday, he’ll wear a cow costume and stand out in front of the convention center holding a cardboard sign. He’s about halfway there already, and since James hates dressing up in costumes, he’s likely hoping that he winds up with 1,199 backers instead.

Meanwhile, Boyan Radakovich — one of the producers of Wil Wheaton’s hit Geek & Sundry show Tabletop — is relaunching his own games publishing company, Gamesmith. For his first new game, he also has a Kickstarter, this one for a game called Camden, which is also designed by James Ernest and illustrated by Geek Dad’s own John Kovalic.

Formerly released as Agora from Cheapass Games, Camden is a simple tile-laying game in which you play merchants in the London shopping district of Camden Lock, hawking your wares to locals and tourists. Once again, it’s simple enough for kids 10 and up, and you can even download a print-and-play prototype to test it out. Camden hasn’t quite reached its goal yet, but it still has 18 days to go. With such an all-start team behind it, it’s hard to believe it won’t smash through those gates soon.

Disclaimer: I’ve known James, John, and Bo for years. They all rock.

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