Hey everyone, Will here. Since it’s my job to cover the Kickstarters, I had the pleasure of perusing this month’s tabletop fundraising campaigns. All in all, the first month of 2018 had a bunch of really notable games, but I could only pick three. However, I will include some honorable mentions at the end of this list of the Top 3 Kickstarter Games of January 2018. This list is in no particular order.
UBOOT: The Board Game
As an avid fan of war history (particularly WW2), this game simply took my breath away. Even now, I look at the Kickstarter page and gaze in wonderment and optimism. UBOOT: The Board Game is an ambitious and innovative project from PHALANX that could change the way designers go about creating their tabletop experiences. But before we get to the innovation, let’s start with some basics. UBOOT is a board game about World War 2 era submarines – particularly the German-made U-boat (or U-boot). You and up to three additional players will take on the roles of a German submarine crew, and you’ll have to work together in order to survive the conflict.
The components for UBOOT: The Board Game are what we gamers have come to expect from higher-end tabletop games. The submarine itself is a 90 centimeter long replica of a WW2 era U-boat that’s to scale – the attention to detail is high here. There are also different miniatures for each crew member, as well as unique player boards, game tiles, cards, tokens, and even a navigation chart. That’s right – whoever is playing as the navigator will have to use actual charts to maneuver the sub to its proper Area of Operation. Unfortunately, having this many high quality components means that UBOOT is pretty expensive. It costs about $92 (£65), which is actually reasonable, all things considered.
And now we get to the hook – the innovation, which is present here in the form of a companion app (for iOS, Android, and PC). Utilizing this app, the players will able to see a 3D rendering of their U-boat, the open ocean, and the ships they need to sink. So as you and your friends move about the submarine and fulfill your duties in tabletop form, the effects of those actions will play out in the app. Sure, UBOOT: The Board Game is not the first tabletop experience to feature a companion app, but I can honestly say that its use of its app is far and away the most functional and innovative looking I’ve ever seen. In the end, whether or not you’ll want this game will come down to how much you enjoy wargaming, how much you can spend, and how willing you are to add digital elements to your tabletop experiences. So far, UBOOT has raised over $600,000 and well surpassed its goal, and I believe rightfully so. This game looks incredible.
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of those games that sneaks up on you. Before the Kickstarter, I had heard next to nothing about this game, which is probably why I was so pleased by what I saw. In this game, you play as a member of the “League of the Scarlet Pimpernel”, a group dedicated to saving innocent people from facing the guillotine (the game is set in 1793). Throughout the game, you’ll receive missions that will require a number of different things to complete, such as supporters and resources. Although you and the other players are all members of the League, only one can win and become the main advisor to the Pimpernel. In other words, this game is both cooperative and competitive.
More than anything else, the artwork for The Scarlet Pimpernel drew me in. Drawn by Ian O’Toole (Lisboa, Starfall, etc.), the art style for this game is very distinctive and feels appropriate to the late 18th century setting. I didn’t expect the artwork to be so colorful, and I also didn’t expect to like how colorful the art is, and yet I do. Mr. O’Toole is definitely on his way to becoming one of the best board game artists, and this might be his finest work so far. Also, the meeples appear to wooden (always a plus) and are surprisingly detailed, at least in the game’s Signature Edition. From a visual and physical standpoint, The Scarlet Pimpernel excels.
Whether or not this game will be worth it will come down to how entertaining the gameplay is. From what I’ve read and seen, fans of Euro style games will find more redeeming qualities here than anyone else. There seems to be a lot of resource-management, which will add a lot of strategy to the proceedings. For more, there’s a PDF of the current draft of the rulebook on the Kickstarter page, so if you’re interested, I recommend checking that out. Overall, I look forward to reading and seeing more about The Scarlet Pimpernel. It has well surpassed its funding goal and still has two weeks left on its campaign, so there’s still time to back it if you’re similarly intrigued.
Tokyo Series: Jidohanbaiki, Metro, & Jutaku
I really struggled to pick a third game for this month, and it ultimately came down to which one I felt had the most passion and originality behind it. This is why I ended up choosing the Tokyo Series from designer Jordan Draper and publisher Dark Flight – it feels like a lot of love and thought went into these three games. And you know what’s crazy? These games are only the first three in what will become a series of twelve games, so this could become something really meaningful. I should also note – while Jordan Draper is the primary designer for these games, the Tokyo Series had a team of guest designers working on it as well. This is probably the primary reason these games appear so polished.
From what I’ve read and seen, my favorite installment is entitled Jidohanbaiki, and it has to do with Japan’s love for vending machines and beverages. Since there were so many designers, Jidohanbaiki can be played in 20 unique ways, including variants featuring deduction, dexterity, economy, and so on. Also, the miniature drink bottles and cases are adorable and colorful – there’s even a tiny vending machine! The other titles – Metro and Jutaku – are similarly interesting. Metro seems the most “board gamey” of the three, as it features an economy system and seemingly some elements of resource-management. If you appreciate train games, then Metro might be more your cup of tea. And then there’s Jutaku, a dexterity game that has its players building home models in bizarrely shaped plots of land. There are 69 wooden pieces with which you can build, and it can be played with 1-8 players.
These games, while somewhat small, all include what looks to be very high-quality components. For that reason, they are not as inexpensive as you’d expect – Metro is $45, while Jidohanbaiki and Jutaku cost $35 each. However, all three can be purchased for $99, which definitely seems like a bargain. While I could go on and on about how the Tokyo Series looks, I think it’d be best if I just provide you with the link so you can check these games out yourself. As of this writing, there’s less than a week left on their Kickstarter campaign, so hopefully you back them while you still can.
Tiny Epic Zombies appears to be everything you’d expect from a Tiny Epic game and Gamelyn Games. The components and gameplay are both simple and exciting, and this one even features cooperative gameplay. I know that the zombie genre is more than a little played-out, but this still looks worth it.
CMON’s HATE appears to be one of the most violent and ruthless board games ever made, and most importantly, it just looks frickin’ awesome! Unfortunately, it does cost $120, so not everyone will be able to afford it.
Nemesis looks to be the (semi) cooperative sci-fi horror game that I’ve always wanted. The miniatures for this game are simply outstanding, and the core box includes a boatload of components. This game has already brought in over $2.5 million in funding, so bravo to the designers and publishers!