Not-Just-Kickstarter Tabletop Roundup

Gaming Kickstarter Tabletop Games

Hey, it’s been a while since I’ve done a roundup post, though not for lack of tabletop projects. After some initial delays caused by the pandemic two years ago, it feels like the tabletop industry has only picked up the pace—it turns out board games are a great activity if you’re staying home. There have been some bumps in the road, however, largely related to increased pricing: materials cost more, shipping costs a lot more, and factories in China have had frequent shutdowns, which leads to both delays and higher prices since they’re booked up when they come back online.

I’ve always cautioned people to expect crowdfunded projects to take longer than expected, but these days that caveat is more warranted than ever. Many publishers are now waiting until closer to delivery to charge for shipping, given how much rates can increase between the time of funding and shipping, so make sure to budget accordingly or you may get a bit of sticker shock when that extra cost comes due.

There are also a lot more options now besides just Kickstarter. Today’s roundup includes projects on Kickstarter, Gamefound, and even BackerKit, plus a publisher that is trying out a preorder system instead. And with Gen Con just around the corner, expect a slew of new announcements next week!

New to crowdfunding? Check out our crowdfunding primer.

The roll-and-write trend is still going strong, and now I’m seeing an interesting follow-up to that, perhaps in response to all of the supply chain issues: print-at-home games. After all, if the roll-and-write uses regular dice, then you could be sitting down to play the game as soon as the campaign ends, rather than waiting a year (or more?) for manufacturing and delivery, and at bargain prices. The next couple titles are print-it-yourself games.

Roll or Die! by FunDaMental Games

Roll or Die! is a Yahtzee-inspired game about defeating various creatures in the dungeon. Each of the nine creatures has its own ability that may mess with your dice results, as well as a score you need to achieve to defeat it. You’ll need a full set of polyhedral dice for this one, and it costs $7 CAD for access to the print-and-play files. This one’s ending very soon, so take a look soon if it sounds interesting!

Sunshine City from Blue Beard Entertainment

Here’s a city-developing game that just requires you to provide two six-sided dice and three colored tokens per player, and can be played solo or with as many players as you want. (Of course, instead of printing it out you can just as easily play on a tablet or other screen.) It’s just $5 for the PDFs that include 3 different cities, or $12 for access to the “Infinite Generator,” which will let you mix and match features to create unique city sheets. You can even try out one of the cities for free in the low-ink format.

I also like the fact that the theme in this one is about converting your city to solar power, a refreshing take on the “grow as fast as you can” or “make the most money” goals that’s often seen. The dice are used to move your three workers—a builder, an inventor, and a lobbyist—around the various districts to upgrade your city.

Shu’s Tactics by LeviathGames

Shu’s Tactics is another print-at-home title, this time a tower-defense game for 1 to 4 players that will require just a d20. It’s a campaign, with multiple chapters that will gradually introduce you to the mechanics of the game as the story unfolds. It’s based on the Yellow Turban Rebellion in China, a real event that is also used as inspiration for the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I do have to admit I’m not well-versed in this story and it does seem odd to be the ones squashing the peasant rebellion, but I guess history is written by the victors? I’ll have to read up a bit on Chinese history to understand the context.

The game uses the die to determine which “cards” you can draw, which then lead to filling in polyomino shapes that represent the military formations. Drop these onto the “field” to attack and gain other benefits. Backing the game for $6 will give you access to the PDFs, including future content as it is released, and the game can be played solo, cooperatively (for a $3 add-on), or competitively.

Aquamarine by Postmark Games

This £4 (about $5) game is about diving and exploration, for 1 to 100 players, and requires two six-sided dice. You pick one of the dice to move your diver, but if you choose the larger die, then you spend the difference in air. Swim around, to discover sea creatures and wrecks. Your pledge gets you two different maps in both full-color and a black-and-white optimized format, along with any future maps that Postmark makes for the game. Plus, if you want, you get access to the graphics so you can build your own maps too.

Copperdale by smallboxgames

Okay, the last of the print-and-play games in today’s roundup is Copperdale, a solo game that requires a deck of cards. You’ll flip cards each turn to the economy, infrastructure, and growth sectors each turn, hoping to expand your town and bring it prosperity. The $4 gets you access to the board in color and black and white, plus any future content for Copperdale released in the future.

Board Game Day by Ambie Valdes

Now for something a little different—a board book about board games! Ambie Valdes makes a lot of tabletop-related content, including some really fun song parodies (like “Do You Want to Play a Board Game?” for Frozen fans). She wrote this rhyme about board games for her twin toddlers, and paired it with illustrations by Rachel Kremer of the board game webcomic Semi Co-op. My own kids have now outgrown board books, but if you’ve still got some impressionable young minds, it’s not too late to start teaching them about games!

burncycle game in progress. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

burncycle by Chip Theory Games

Chip Theory Games is known for their BIG games with premium components—in particular, the chips that give the company its name. burncycle is a game about a robot uprising—after robots decided to bring humans back from extinction (I guess they weren’t familiar with Jurassic Park), the humans have ruined everything and oppressed robots again. So now a small faction is fighting back, infiltrating corporate headquarters and hacking their way to victory. This cooperative game has you working with your teammates to optimize your “burncycle,” a repeating program that can make your moves more efficient if you stick to it. There’s an emphasis on stealth as you sneak around the guards in the facilities, while simultaneously moving around in the network and avoiding pings.

burncycle was originally funded on Kickstarter back in late 2020 and was delivered this spring; now it’s wrapping up a campaign on Gamefound that includes a reprint for those who missed the original, plus the New Recruits expansion that adds more bots to the mix. I’ve gotten a finished copy and will be working on a review, but in the meantime now’s your chance to back it if you missed it the first time around. It’s a hefty game—both in terms of its physical size and the gameplay—but I’ve been enjoying it so far. This one is also ending soon, though, so don’t wait too long!

Return to Dark Tower
The menacing tower looms over the landscape. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Return to Dark Tower by Restoration Games

Here’s another second-chance campaign: Return to Dark Tower is Restoration Games’ re-imagining of the 1981 Dark Tower that featured an electronic tower as its centerpiece. This new version has an app-controlled tower that lights up, with rotating sections that will drop out little plastic skulls in four different directions, as you and your teammates attempt to defeat the Big Bad. I’ll be working on a full review of this one as well, but it’s been a blast to play.

The game was originally funded on Kickstarter in early 2020 and shipped to backers this spring, but was not available in retail. This BackerKit campaign will bring a second printing, as well as the new Covenant expansion that adds things like new heroes, doom skulls that can never be cleansed, monuments to build with powerful effects, and wastelands that slow you down and negate your terrain bonuses.

Moonrakers: Titan by IV Studios

I backed the original Moonrakers game back in 2019—it’s a deck-building game that includes cool ship upgrades and negotiating with other players to fulfill contracts. Alas, I’ve only gotten to play it a few times because it arrived during the pandemic. The negotiations could be a little frustrating and made the game a bit longer (depending on the players), but I love the artwork on it and it has some cool concepts.

This follow-up campaign adds three new expansions that you can mix and match, some upgraded components to add on, and a Titan box to store everything. There’s also a free digital expansion that turns the base game into a cooperative campaign. I haven’t gotten to play these yet myself, but I’m intrigued!

Delicious box cover

Delicious by Pencil First Games

Pencil First Games has published over a dozen games, all funded through Kickstarter, and I’ve written up just about every one of them so far (starting with Lift Off! in 2014). Their latest collaboration with Steve Finn is Delicious, a flip-and-write game about a backyard garden … and the first not to use a crowdfunding campaign. Instead, it’s a direct pre-order on Pencil First’s website, set to deliver in late August or early September this year. Pencil First has a good track record with their small-box games, so I can feel pretty confident in recommending this one just based on this team, which also created last year’s Floriferous. Pencil First is also taking pre-orders for the Pocket Edition of Sunset Over Water, taking this game about painting landscapes and making it even more compact (like they did with Herbaceous last year). Both are available to preorder on the Pencil First Games website.

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