Friday, December 27, 2013

Bye bye 2013

2013 has marked the third year of existence for NSKN Games and it has been one great yet challenging period for us. We had ups and downs, we sold a lot of games and we made mistakes which made us learn and improve.

Jan 2013 - For the first time in our brief history, NSKN Games attended the Nürnberg Toy Fair, a fair very different from everything else we had previously experienced. From the board games world only a few publishers made it there due to the prohibitive prices and also because it's not a trade fair - meaning companies may not sell games to the public and the attendance is restricted to traders. Nevertheless, it was a  very proud moment, NSKN was the only company of its size to exhibit in Nürnberg.

Feb 2013 - The first edition of Exodus: Proxima Centauri became officially sold out at publisher level. With the exception of a around 40 copies especially saved for gaming conventions, there were no more games to sell to distributors or retailers. This was another proud moment, because Exodus became the first ever published game of our to be completely sold out.

Mar-Apr 2013 - The spring was dedicated almost entirely to working on the new prototypes, games planned for late 2013 and 2014. As it turned out, our plans changed a little throughout the year, however the outcome of the spring was that NSKN had no less than four fully tested prototypes ready for showing to the public: Praetor, W, Perfect Storm and Evolution.

Besides working on prototypes, we have also decided to re-print Exodus, backed by popular demand. Taking into account the issues encountered with the first edition, we decided to produce the game in Europe.

May-Jun 2013 - The first month of summer was dedicated to gaming conventions. We went first to UK to attend for the second time the UK Games Expo and what a convention that was! With a new venue and almost double the attendance, it's one of the fastest growing gaming events in Europe. Add to this experienced gamers and very positive people and you have the ingredients for a great event. Next we went to Italy for the 5th time to attend GobCon organized by La Tana dei Goblin and we had fun, we played cool games and sold whatever was left from our "convention stock" of Exodus.

Jul-Sep 2013 - Reprinting Exodus was no easy task. With the decision to produce in Europe and to keep the same retail price, we had to work really hard to re-engineer the game. We changed all the think paper components to 2mm cardboard, we gave a new look to the game without changing core concepts and we supervised closely the entire production process. It was very hard work, but we saw the light when we opened the first box of the game. 15 punchboards, 2 decks of cards, 72 dice, almost 200 wooden pieces and 48 plastic space ships added to a total of 6 pounds (3 kilos) making it a massive games really well packed in a standard box. Another moment to make us proud.

Oct 2013 - This October, the same as the for the two previous years, was dedicated to preparing and attending Spiel Essen. For the first time we went with a large booth - 4 times the standards 10 sqm - and we brought our remaining stock as well as three final prototypes to be displayed on five gaming tables. It was a real success and you can read more about our experience in the posts we wrote before, during and after the convention

Nov 2013 - The Essen follow-up proved very fruitful. By the end of November, Warriors & Traders and Wild Fun West were sold out at publisher level, meaning that we kept enough copies to fulfill a few online orders and cover the next gaming convention we plan to attend. On top of that, the orders for the Revised Edition of Exodus: Proxima Centauri exceeded what we had in the warehouse so we had to turn down a few orders and work hard on the upcoming expansions. As a consequence, NSKN Games experienced another great feeling, that of having an empty warehouse and lots of games in the stores and on gamers' tables.

Dec 2013 - Our next big release is Praetor, our first worker placement game. We plan a massive production with editions in English, German, French, Japanese, Romanian, Korean and more. We have just finalized the graphics and we plan to release the game early next year, so the next few months will also be very busy for everyone at NSKN Games. But before that happens, we are going for holidays, some well deserved two weeks of relaxing and... playing, because we are gamers at heart and mind.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Live from Spiel Essen and Exodus makes it to Tom Vasel's top 100 games of all times

Spiel Essen is already fading from our memory and yet we find every day something from this amazing event which makes us smile.

G*M*S Magazine has interviewed us during Spiel Essen and while I must say that my English sounds a lot better in my mind than on tape, it's still cool to see the outcome. Just jump to minute 49:05 and watch us go wild.

On a different note, we've just discovered that Tom Vasel has included Exodus: Proxima Centauri in his Top 100 games of all time, the 2013 edition. At the time of shooting the video, he had not opened the Revised Edition, so the ranking is based solely on the first edition of the game. Again, jump to minute 5:42 and see what Tom, Sam and Zee have to say about Exodus...

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Monday, November 25, 2013

The strategy review - 7 Wonders

I must admit that I have never been a big fan of the game nor have I ever pushed for my gaming group to play it. Nevertheless, 7 Wonders is one of the board games which is part of  the history of the hobby industry for the revolutions it created. This game can be very well played with 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 players in approximately the same time, it is a strategy game and it has amazing replay value.

So, you may ask, why am I not a big fan? Simply because I enjoy more difficult games. But this did not stop me from playing 7 Wonders more than 30 times, with every expansion and any number of player except two.

Now, let's jump straight to the strategy. For those of you who are computer geeks like myself what I am about to say will make somewhat more sense than for the rest of the world, but please bear with me... To win 7 Wonders you must accumulate Victory Points and there are so many ways to do that. For some the road from knowing the game to winning the game may seem too curvy. But there's a very straight path. There's a theory in programming which says that to reach an overall optimum you must seek the optimum for every single step. I will start from this assumption, 7 Wonders is an optimization game, meaning that a player who makes optimum decision every step of the way is the most likely winner.

Age I - resources and relying on your neighbors

While in the later stages of the game you may simply choose the card which brings the most VP, in the early game you must look for resources. Use your neighbors and figure out what can you buy from them. Play those resource cards which bring the most wanted resource for you and your neighbors. If you rely on the resources provided by players on your left and right, make sure that you have at least two resources that they need from you and that you also have enough income to support your strategy.

The second step is to select and play those cards which allow other cards to be played for free. In age I, have at least one blue (direct  VP) card and one green (tech) card which will open new horizons for you in ages II and III.

If there are multiple choices, choose the card with the most VP not only for the current step but two steps ahead.

Age II - optimization and building your wonder

The abilities or the Victory Points on your wonder are usually powerful enough to be worth the effort. In age II, try to achieve an average of 3-4 VP / played card. By mid-age you will already see most or all the resources you have access to for the rest of the game, so you can decide if the "build wonder strategy" is sound or not.

Since in age III you will have access to more powerful cards, age II is the perfect moment to build your wonder. Building your stages will also take out some cards very valuable to your opponents. A built face A wonder, one blue and one green card will usually give you the average of 4 VP / card.

War - "go" or "no go"?

This depends on your neighbors. If they invest massively in war cards, it's better to stay clear of them. The 6 VP you lose represent a lot less that the effort you might spend into become a warrior nation. Especially in age I, the VP from war are negligible in comparison to how much you gain on the long run from one blue card.

However, if your neighbors do not invest in war, in age II you have the chance of making easy 2-6 VP with a single war card. Especially if by the last round none of your neighbors has bothered to play war cards of total value 2 or more, it's worth spending one card on that.

Age III - optimizing your every step

If you have played the "wonder strategy" to the end in age II, you might find yourself without valid options for at least one round of age III. In age III, you should ideally add 6-7 VP with every card you play. You will find this is not possible most of the time, so leaving the last level of your wonder for age III is a good idea.

When you have many options, chose the cards which give you most VP and pay attention to what you spend (3 money = 1 VP). You can factor in what the other competitors for the first place may want and if you have more choices for the same amount of VP choose that one card which also denies the other players some VP.

The purple (special) cards can bring you a lot of VP during age III. If you see none of them in your starting hand, be sure you will see them later. Look at your neighbors and try to speculate their strong points and make the work for you. If you have two "techers" on your sides, the purple card which allows you to score 1 VP for every green cards they have might bring you as much as 12 VP.

Knowing the purple cards in the game is usually the small difference between two good players. You won't now what are the exact cards in your game, but you will know what is in the pool. 

Also, during age III you have easy access to the green cards. In the worst case, collect one of each technology and this will bring you 10 easy VP. If you are the player focused on technology, make sure that you have the 10 VP combo and that your focus is on one specific tech which was not developed by another player. This usually insures 16 VP, with the possibility to score 25 (or even 49 with an expansion).

These are my few cents in strategy. I will only add that 7 Wonders is fun even if you don't win and there are a lot of cool combos in the game which present specific challenges. As an example, try to score 40 VP or more without playing any resource (brown or grey) card. Or try to score all your point from technology and war.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An expansion for Exodus: Proxima Centauri

For the past year there was one question we had to answer over and over again, "will there be an expansion for Exodus?". I must admit that we avoided that question for a while because we were simply not able to give a straight answer. That has changed, we are actively working on an expansion for Exodus and we plan to release it in Spiel '14 Essen.

The expansion topic revolved around yet another question, "how come there are no races in Exodus?". The game play is symmetrical, all player have the same starting resources, they have access to the same technologies and the same actions. Their development throughout the game is different, but this happens because each player has a different strategy for victory, not because the game forces them to go on a specific path.

The expansion comes with good news for those who wanted various player abilities and an asymmetric game play according to the race or faction (since all the parties involved in the struggle for dominance are humans, we will call them factions rather than races). In the expansion, each faction will have specific powers, access to a new set of technologies and even a different set of actions. Let's take them step by step.

Today I will talk about technologies.

At the beginning of the war for establishing a star empire, every faction started from the same common ground, a balance kept in place by the all-mighty Centaurians. But with every cycle that passed, the factions evolved differently. Therefore, they focus their research in different areas and some of the new found technologies were not accessible to the other factions.

The technologies we have prepared for the expansion will provide several interesting abilities:

  • defense against Weapons of Mass Destruction - this is a set of technologies that we have thought about before the release of the first edition of Exodus, but we kept it boxed because it would add a new layer of complexity to the game. It is however appropriate for the expansion
  • new drives will allow even faster movement and a more conflicting way of expansion. The most advanced engine core will be the Hyperspace Drive, a technology which may change the course of the conflict and allow unexpected Victory Points
  • so far, the ships in Exodus have very straightforward weaponry. The Antimatter Cannons are the most effective, yet simple to use. The new Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Cannon will bring another level of battle tactics
  • speaking of battle tactics, the expansion will bring new technologies which will change the structure of combat
  • the expansion will also bring a core change related to research. A few of the new technologies will bring along direct Victory Points. This is possibly one of the biggest changes from the base game
Each player will choose a faction and will receive a separate player board with a specific set of technologies, most of them unavailable for the other players. This will not cancel the access to the base set of 28 techs, but will simply add to a total of approximately 35 technologies.

I will stop here, for the next post I will shed a bit more light on some of the other changes that the expansion will bring to Exodus: Proxima Centauri

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

First thoughts after Essen

One week has passed since our return from Spiel Essen and besides one day of full rest and another one dedicated entirely to gaming the follow-up was more intense than the fair itself. We had to do it because the memories of all the meeting are slowly fading away and our mind starts to focus only on the biggest things.

I guess that the biggest thing in Essen 2013 was a larger booth with more people visiting us than in the previous two years together.

A view from the top with NSKN and Ventonuovo together
Exodus demo and lots of people watching

The other big thing is that we had this games giveaway contest which attracted a larger crowed with every passing day. I have personally seen someone wearing 6 (six) NSKN pins to be more visible to our guys with the freebies. I do not know whether he won or not, but I sure think that he deserved to win. 

Wild Fun West winners
Exodus Revised Edition winners

Unlike in 2011 and 2012, in Spiel '13 we had our full team of NSKN people in Essen and four extra guys who were the best addition to our teamm better that I could have hoped for (thanks guys!). We no longer had a problem to present games in German, which is a big sign of respect for the people hosting the fair.

It was also the first time for NSKN to show not only published game, but also prototypes. Our focus was on Praetor - the game we plan to publish next, but Perfect Storm and W - The Board Game have also had a good audience, nice feedback and many people asking if they can buy them on the spot or sign up for preorders.

In the middle of Perfect Storm
Surrounded while playing Praetor

We have also had partners this year. I am talking about Ventonuovo Games, very nice Italian guys with a passion for war games. They've displayed two impressive games and it was a perfect combination between our strategy and euros and they heavy war games.

Ventonuovo's Blocks in the West and Blocks in the East

I guess that there's a lot more to say about Spiel 2013, but these are the most striking memories, the images that I have very fresh in mind today. 

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Space battles (or Spiel Essen - days 1,2 and 3)

It has been so busy here in Essen that we've kept postponing the daily updates... until now. These three days of Spiel 2013 were probably the toughest in the history of NSKN Games but also the most fun we've had since the very beginning of our board games adventure.

Once again, we'll let the pictures do the talking...

From day 1 we had the gaming tables full of happy gamers 
Demos from 10am to 7pm 
The revised edition of Exodus got most of the attention

Crowded... that's a happy publisher

Space battles @ Exodus 
Perfect Storm got it's share of attention

The third day was again about strategy, technology and ... space battles

Tired but happy, we'll give you the final update tomorrow!

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Spiel Essen - day 0 - playing and preparing

Yesterday we were writing about the final days before Spiel Essen... today we are here at the heart of board gaming. Again, we'll let the pictures tell the story.

At first, our world was covered in boxes.
Not any kind of boxes, but boxes full of board games!

11 hours later, we had a fully set up booth with fresh games waiting for players.

We still had some time to have fun with the shark...

And just before we got kicked out by the organizers we spared a moment for a group picture.

Tomorrow is the big day, we're waiting for all of you to visit our booth, play games and have fun!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spiel Essen - day -2 - playing and preparing

Spiel '13 Essen in only two days away, but I guess that's old news for the true gamers. For the past weeks we've been doing nothing but preparing and yesterday we finally arrived to Germany to have a team reunion.

The top priority was to... play! I know, what else a bunch a gamers could do? This is what happened...

Perfect Storm was the game of our choice.
Throw in some food and beer and you have the recipe for a fun evening 

This is how Perfect Storm looks from the top, and this is still a prototype

Oh yes, before playing we went to IKEA and bought a shark

...and figured out to get the shark involved in the game
After a 10-hour drive from Poland, that's all we could handle for one night. We had a quick sleep - this is what Essen in about in the end, playing rather than sleeping - and woke up eager to play more.

It's a new day, let's keep on playing. These are the available choices, but how to decide?

Did I mention that we also had cats? So why not let them decide for us...

Eisenhower (that's the name of the black cat) was less than interested.
We decided to go for Praetor. But that's a story for tomorrow.
That is how the story of NSKN at Spiel '13 started. We invite you to visit our website and get the latest info.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Exodus Revised Edition in images

Player board with ship blueprints and the tech tree

Not long ago we've received from the manufacturing company the Revised Edition of Exodus: Proxima Centauri, a game which we are bringing this year to Spiel Essen.

We quickly set it up and had a quick 2-player game, a moment we've been looking up to for the past half a year. This is who it looks like...

Planets, boards, resources...

The race to build an empire

The hex map

A view from the top, with every game component

If this stirred your curiosity, don't forget to preorder the game, stop by our booth G-140 in hall 1 between 24th and 27th of October in Essen, Germany or to ask your local game store when Exodus will be in stock.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Essen preorders open!

The largest gaming fair in Europe is less than a month away and everyone’s purchase list is getting ever thicker. We’re talking about Spiel ’13 Essen and the hundreds of new games being released during the four busiest days of the year for any passionate gamer.

We have been preparing for this event for several months and we already have a clear picture of what we are preparing for all our friends and fans. So, to keep the long story short, we are opening the preorder campaign for Exodus: Proxima Centauri (revised edition) and for all the other games we’re bringing along.
To preorder simply visit this page and choose your games.
There will be many questions regarding our preorder campaign and we want to anticipate and offer you a few answers.
Why preorder? Because we have a limited quantity of each game. The most wanted and expected isExodus: Proxima Centauri and we will bring along to Essen 150 copies of the game. The other two games available for preorders are Wild Fun West (60 copies) and Warriors & Traders (100 copies).
What about the discounts? The revised Exodus comes with a 10 EUR discount and this needs no further explanations. It’s Essen, so it’s like Christmas for gamers! For the other two titles we simply have that many game boxes left and while reaching the finish line we’re offering huge discounts – 10 EUR for Wild Fun West (MSRP 20 EUR) and 8 euro for Warriors & Traders (MSRP 45 EUR).
How does it really work? You pay via PayPal before October 20th and then come by our booth (G-140, hall 1) and pick up whatever you ordered. It’s that simple.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Praetor - from hexes to squares

When we started working on Praetor we had two main game mechanics in mind, worker placement and tile laying. The worker placement part was the constant throughout all the versions of the prototype and it held well under many play-testing sessions so it was definitely a 'winner'. The tile laying part of the game was left for the end of the development process and was the part that came with the greatest challenges.

In our quest to find the perfect combination between worker placement and tile laying, the city tiles of Praetor have evolved from hexes to squares.

New Praetor city tiles

The reason behind this change is the way players score victory points for placing the city tiles. Every time a players decides to build a city tile, he must place it adjacent to one or more other city tiles already built. When the new tile is placed in the city, its colored corners will match (or not) the colors of its neighbors. For every color that matched this way the player will score victory points. The more color-consistent the city is, the more points will be awarded this way.

The 'old' city tiles would not allow a simple implementation of the tile-laying mechanic and would add extra complexity to the game, so the evolution was completely natural. 

With the new tiles and the updated graphics, Praetor is getting closer to its final shape. By the end of the month we should have the final prototype which we plan to present during Spiel '13 Essen.

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