The Princess and the Goblin on Kickstarter now


Industry buddy Dennis at Bellwether Games, who published my game Swamped, have a new game on Kickstarter right this very second. The Princess and the Goblin looks to be a fantastic family game for players aged 7+.

When the young Princess Irene noticed her special golden thread led straight into the goblin kingdom under the mountain, she did not hesitate, but followed it at once. There, in the dark, she discovered her friend, the miner boy Curdie, who had been trapped while searching for clues to the goblins’ evil plans.

Now, together they must make a daring escape. Can you retrace Irene’s steps through the dark maze of caverns, using only her special golden thread as your guide? Can you discover clues to save the kingdom? Or will the goblins catch you first?

In the game, you will explore the goblin’s vast underground cave network in search of clues to their evil plans. When you think you’ve discovered enough clues to save the kingdom, flip all of the pieces of your escape path in the correct order to find your way home. You will win if you can escape the mountain and find more clues than any of your opponents, but don’t get caught by the goblins!

The Princess and The Goblin is a tile-flipping game of memory and daring escape for 1-4 players ages 7+ that plays in about 10-20 minutes.

With under 5 days left, head over to Kickstarter now and get involved!


My Ninja: Silent But Deadly – A sneaky little metagame is live on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW!


Button Shy Games has taken the next step in cardboard ninja evolution and launched Ninja: Silent but Deadly on Kickstarter as part of their line of wallet games! I highly suggest, no, I insist that you check this out! You can own this game for just $8.

Ninjas! Their very name conjures images of black clad, highly trained assassins. Now, the mystique and power can be yours to use as you see fit.

Perfect for a game night, casual party or other social gatherings. Hand out one “You Lose!” card to every player. Each player has until the end of the game session to slip their card somewhere where another player will be forced to find it. Amongst other cards of a game currently in play, in their chips or what have you. Be creative! And don’t get caught! When a ninja card is found by another player, that player is out. The last player standing wins.



This is the simplest game I’ve ever developed. You can teach someone to play it in 30 seconds or less. Interesting enough, this is also one of the must fulfilling and enjoyable games I’ve ever created! I’ve had games of Ninja that have lasted a few minutes and I have on going on three years now. It’s up to you how long you’re going to play and how elaborate you’ll allow yourself and your gaming folks to get!

Button Shy Games have a great, fast 10 day campaign lined up for Ninja with some wonderful stretch goals and the ability to add on other games in their wallet game series.


If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the game as it existed in it’s print on demand form. Well now it’s better real, fantastic art by a real artist! Easy to carry around packaging and the ability to print it out right now and see for yourself! Here’s our chance to bring this fun game to life!

A Review of 7th Continent

You are one of four foolishly brave world explorers who returned from the first ever expedition to the newly discovered land off the coast of Antarctica — the 7th Continent — So new it doesn’t even have a *name*. However, no time to publish…something is wrong and your team is slowly disappearing…and you are suddenly stricken by a mysterious curse.  To figure out what is happening to you and your team, turn to page three…<<flip flip flip>> You return to the mysterious continent to search for an end to your ailment. Will you discover a cure? Turn to page 7 <<flip flip flip>> Or will you perish to never be discovered again. Turn to page 13 <<flip flip flip>>. No matter the direction you take, players must use their character’s unique abilities and intuition to survive long enough to unravel the mystery of the 7th Continent.

The Game

7th Continent is what I would term (as least as close as we can get to it) a “sandbox” board game for one to four players. The main concept behind that game is that it is based on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” games of our (if you are as old as I am) youth. As a player, you are one of the early explorers of the 7th Continent — a mysterious county as of yet, only partially explored. After a previous expedition, you find yourself cursed and drawn back in order to find a way to break the curse. Throughout the game game you will explore, create, work together in order to succeed.  With an advertised 1000+ minutes of gameplay, 7th Continent allows you to “save” your game and come back to it later.

The Rules

At the start of the game you choose a character with their own unique abilities, actions and story. Right off the back this differs from other cooperative games where you take a role…in this game you are certainly taking a personality if you choose to play it that way. While not specifically promoted as an RPG it certainly allows for an amount of it if you wish.  You will also select a curse for you to play through. In the demo game I was provided with one curse to play and I assume each curse will provide a different play experience and goal. You then take your character’s action cards, the curse cards and shuffle them into the action deck of the game.

In running with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” theme, the game begins with card 001. There is an Exploration Deck of numerous cards representing the unexplored areas of the island each providing some flavor to read and certain actions that can be taken on the card. At the start of the game everyone is on card 001. After placing the card from the Exploration Deck, you would then place random Event Cards as shown on the card. These are the unexplored areas of the map and where you begin to make decisions. When you decided to explore the card must be flipped and the event on the card resolved.

Most of the action will take place on the terrain cards. They will show you which directions you are able to explore the island (the Card 001 allows you to move North or West, for example) and which numbered card will be placed there. Terrain cards will also provide you with resources and different terrains (sand, rock, snow, tall grass, etc) will provide different resources (stone, wood, bamboo, etc.) that you can use to craft new items to help you on your quest. Each card will also have an additional action that can be taken and what the cost of taking that action will be. The actions a player can take during a turn is limited by the actions represented by icons on the Terrain Card (or Event Card) or cards in the player’s hand. There are loads of potential actions but during your turn your choices are actually a manageable. This was something I was concerned about when reviewing the rules — there being too many options during a turn and players getting overwhelmed. However, in the end, the decisions space is small enough that you can make decisions relatively quickly. As the game progresses, you get more and more options but never *all* the options all at once. Completing an actions occurs in several steps: Using an item to complete an action which reduces its durability (as an aside, I love this aspect of the game, crafting items and then using those items until they break or their efficiency is reduced, reminds me so much of Minecraft…I love it). There is also a cost to each action which is a number that represents a number of cards you must draw from the Action Deck. These cards are then flipped to determine success. There are stars on each card which need to be added up to the amount needed for a success. Idea cards from the resulting flip can be added to your hand and the rest are discarded. Depending on the flip, you either succeed or fail and follow the directions accordingly.

At this point, I have to admit the mechanisms are not particularly intuitive the first few times and can take a couple of plays for it to ingrain itself enough that they seem straightforward. But that aside the wonderful part of this action mechanism is that the Action Deck is basically your health bar for the game. The more you do, the more actions you take, the more you draw from that deck, the weaker you become. Sometimes you can replenish your deck but eventually it will run out and then you need to work from your discard and the purple Curse Cards therein. These cards kill you instantly. So you have one safe run through your deck but on the second run, you are playing on borrowed time…

What makes it different?

  • The sandbox-style, choose your own adventure play-style. I understand that “sandbox” is reserved for certain styles of videogames where the play is completely unstructured allowing players to roam and explore as they will. This is not easily adapted to the analog board game medium and 7th Continent certainly takes steps towards that. This style of play plus how easy it is to save your play makes this one of the first sandbox styled board games of my knowledge.
  • It plays amazing well as a solo game. In fact, I pretty much prefer it that way. This isn’t unique to only 7th Continent, but it is nice to see that some games really excel at solo-play. I played the introductory set for this review as a solo player and it was exciting. It picks up on that choose your own adventure style that aims to emulate.
  • The ability to gather resources, craft items, and then store them (up to a limit) provides a distinct limitation to play that makes the game much more engaging.
  • Doing stuff in this game means that you are slowly working down your action deck (your health meter, basically) but at the same time you need to do things in order to gain insight and inspiration throughout the actions of the game which will help you develop new ideas and be able to explore more of the island. It just works so fluidly.
  • Your decisions have permanence and consequences which will mold the future of the game. Everything is connected in this game. Everything has meaning.
  • The theme is more about survival than it is about exploration. The engine that game employs makes for a perfect survival game. Whether it be a curse, or whatever, this engine feels as if it has as much, if not more potential than the “crossroads” mechanic of Dead of Winter. And just as with Dead of Winter, you may not enjoy the early 1900s explorer theme in 7th Continent but even the most negative can’t help but see the potential and be excited for more.

The Rub

I played 7th Continent’s introductory prototype solo for a few hours now and even with the limited amount of cards I was hooked. The mechanisms are engaging (albeit a bit complicated for my taste) but once you get a feel for the way the cards work, it is entirely engrossing. There is an amazing depth of decision space and so much potential in this game. Personally, I’m amazed I had such a good time playing just this basic tutorial/introductory prototype. Even, at it’s simplest, it delivers! There is such a robust sense of discovery tempered by the tenseness in just trying to survive and not wear yourself out through the game. I’m a huge fan of immersive narrative and storytelling but so many games just don’t touch that level of immersion that makes the game work. And the problem is usually the disconnect between your actions and the flavor provided by the game. But 7th Continent works towards connecting narrative with action by providing you with multiple tracts of story and an engine to choose which ones you wish. Be warned though, if you are a completion-ist either in terms of playing everything you can and discovering the full array of a game or in terms of wanting every expansion and shiny bit that is offered in a system, you are screwed. Gloriously screwed.

Check it out the kickstarter here! 


Review: GemPacked Cards – the newest game from Pencil First Games

GemPacked Cards is a card game based on an iOS app. Or is it an iOS app based on a card game? Either way, it’s a quick, overtly simple set collection game suitable for kids but with a bit of hefty strategy mixed in for us adults as well. You can find it on Kickstarter right now!


Eduardo Baraf, creator of such games as  Lift Off! Get me off this Planet! and The Siblings Trouble was kind enough to send over not only a physical prototype of GemPacked Cards but an invitation to spend some time with the beta iOS app as well. This review will focus on the physical iteration of the game but I’ll talk a bit about the app as well.

How to play GemPacked Cards

gempacked2(Stolen directly from the BGG page) During each round, players use the Gemino Pip Tokens they draw to try to acquire higher level Gemino Squares and Gemino Diamonds (worth victory points) or trade for Sun or Nova cards. All cards are played face up. When the last Gemino Pip Tokens are drawn from the starting pile, each player has one remaining turn before the round ends and players tally their score.

In more detail, at the start of a turn, a player draws two Gemino Pip Tokens, then takes any of the following actions in any order and as many times as they like:

  • Trade GPips for GSquares on the card grid (placing pips in the common pool)
  • Trade GSquares for GDiamond on the card grid (placing cards in the discard pile)
  • Discard GSquares for GPip equivalents from the common pool (placing discards in the discard pile)
  • Trade GPips for the Sun card or GSquares for the Nova card

At the end of their turn, the player refills the card grid from the draw deck one at a time. If they reveal any Action Cards, those cards are resolved immediately, starting with the active player, then moving clockwise around the table.

After the last Gemino Pip Token is drawn and the final player has a turn, players score their hands as well as Sun/Nova points. (GPips are not worth any points, but should be tracked each round as a tie breaker.) Whoever has the most points wins.

That’s how to play it but how does it play?

I was able to get in a good number of 2 and 3 player games with one of my daughters and a few other friends. I’ll say this – as easy as the game appears, it’s just a bit strange to pick it up the first time and dive in. Keep in mind that I’m playing with an unfinished product and while the rule book was fairly polished other changes have and will happen before this comes to kickstarter.

Getting over that initial bit of head scratching with the simple solution of setting the game up and playing it, everything clicked together nicely. Both I and my 9 year old started the initial play together and about 2 turns into the game we both had our “ahhh that’s how this works” moment.

What we have here is a light set collection game based on colors and shapes. 2 and 3 player games all played in about 20 minutes which I think is the perfect space for a game like this. While appearing initially to be a pretty simple color match game, Ed’s decision to include both construction of larger, points worthy cards and deconstruction of these for smaller cards that may help attain other, richer goals is key. That’s the part of this that lets you get nicely creative and pull of moves and combos that are worthy of much weightier seeming games.


What I enjoyed most about this game was that, while everyone is constrained by the mechanics to build better, higher point cards, we can all go about it a little differently. One player will collect a set of Squares using one wild Pip and then break that down to other Pips they need to get to a much higher scoring Diamond. While others will go straight forward Pip to Square to Diamond and a third will do a combination of the two where they feel it’s necessary.

All of our games were fairly close provided each player had played it once. New players have a tendency to get slightly crushed while they’re getting a feel for the game but this may not be the case for everyone out there.


While I can’t speak to the final game as we’re playing with a prototype here, I can speak towards the art. GemPacked Cards is a cute game. I don’t mean cute as in “ooh look, a kitten!” I mean CUTE as in “Stop pouring baby animals on me!” Is this a bad thing? I think that depends.

It doesn’t bother me in the least and both of my kids (9 and 12) were all over the artwork while their voices went up several octaves with every exclamation. It doesn’t detract from the game at all for me but other’s who prefer the look of say, Chaos in the Old World may not be huge fans.

Clearly this game is aimed towards a certain audience and I think it hits that mark dead center.

Pencil First Games did a wonderful job components wise (and game wise) on Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet (my review at the link) so if that’s any indication on how the components for GemPacked Cards will turn out I think we’ll all be happy.


The GemPacked iOS app (available at iTunes for $0.99) looks very similar to the physical card game but plays a bit differently. The app is a series of timed challenges in which you set out to meet certain goals. The implementation is smooth and graphically as pleasing as the card game. It’s not really my kind of app but luckily I have a 9 year old who thrives on games like this. She gives it an exuberant two thumbs up, Roger Ebert style.


It’s an interesting direction to go in where the app and the physical game look alike but play very differently. I personally have no issues with this but those who enjoy the physical game should take note that they won’t be getting the exact same experience digitally.

Final Thoughts

I like GemPacked Cards and would certainly play it again. The 20 minute card game (many call ’em ‘filler games’) hits a sweet spot in my current game playing style as I can squeeze in a game here and there when I time allows. I really enjoy smaller games that are easy to dive into but that reward multiple plays with interesting, unfolding strategies. GemPacked is one of those games.

I had to move my prototype copy along to another review and both I and my daughter were sad to see it go. We’re both looking forward to the day when the game is released so we can pick it up and get some more plays in!


Please share: 4 days left to get Swamped!


4 days left to get Swamped! 2-4 players, 20-30 minutes, semi-cooperative play with a unique programmed movement mechanic! All this in 35 cards and 2 bits! $12 plus shipping gets the game to your door this December.

That means for about the cost of a movie and a medium movie soda, you can enjoy a highly repayable game with 2-3 of your friends. Or use the solo variant!

The Swamp Tiger expansion is up and we need to get our total to $17,000! That’s entirely doable and I for one would love to see this happen. It’s a great expansion that adds lots of neat, new options to the game.

If you’re already a backer you have our thanks! Please consider sharing this to get the word out! We’d love to hit a few more stretch goals and that means more backers needed!

Bellwether Games also has their two previous titles (I own both, they rock) Drop Site and Antidote available as add-ons for the Kickstarter campaign.


Three Swamped stretch goals unlocked in 24 hours and we’re so close to two more!


Swamped is having a fantastic week! Yesterday we unlocked THREE stretch goals –  boat tokens, croc tokens and the Create Your Own Adventurer card! Let’s take a look!

sboat scroc sadventurer

We are 2 backers away from unlocking Spot UV on the box and just $266 away from unlocking the alternate Start Map! Wow! Thank you! That means if we get just 17 backers today, we’ve unlocked both upcoming stretch goals.


This would be fantastic! And keep us going well on our way towards extra cards and EXPANSIONS! All of us working on the game want to see these unlocked but I can also tell you my personal favorite stretch goal is hidden in there in the expansions!

We’re also working to expand our social media reach to get more folks interested, maybe drum up new backers and reach even more stretch goals. It’s called a Thunderclap campaign. If you have one minute, click this link and give us a hand! Thunderclap is a way to coordinate posts to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr (one, two or all three – your choice) on the same day, at the same moment. This helps build momentum for the Kickstarter campaign and can bring in lots of new backers.

Quick Review: Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet!


lift off

Early this week I received a copy of Eduardo Baraf’s Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! I was excited to see this arrive at my door as I’d been following the campaign eagerly and it looked like a fun game. My 9 year old and I almost immediately tore into the box, set it up and had a go at it. Then we had a second go at it. The premise is simple – your planet is about to explode and you’ve got to get all (or at least the most) of your people off of it ASAP! Shortest of all short reviews? We liked it! Fun game, plays quickly, a bit of strategy and lots of replayability. If you like a little more meat on your reviews, read on.

Game Play

Lift Off is a fairly simple game. The board is set up so that the core of the planet sits in the center. Around this are placed 4 Exit Points and 4 Lift Off Points. The board is modular and actually sits on top of a larger game board to facilitate a few other aspects of play. In the planet’s core you place your 10 ‘alieneeples’ along with the Garglore meeple in the lava pit at the center. The Moon token goes on the top of the board, with the Sun token going on to the Sun area on the number of players in the game.


Each player is then dealt 2 cards and the game begins! The object is to get your Alieneeples first to the surface of the planet, and then to a Lift Off Point and finally into space (and off of the board). There are two basic resources in the game to facilitate this: Screws and Fuel, with 64 cards representing them. Each Lift Off point will require a certain type of resource to place your Alieneeple on it and ready to go. Such as 1 Screw and 1 Fuel. Lift Off Points can then be triggered by various game states. For instance, the Bonfire Lift Off Point is triggered by someone playing 1 Fuel to it. At that point the Lift Off die is rolled and depending on the moon phase, you’ll need to roll at least 1, 2 or 3 spaceships on the die. If you succeed, than any alieneeple on that Lift Off Point which has paid it’s 1 screw gets off the planet. Other Lift Off points have other conditions.

On your turn, you draw 2 cards and then perform any of these actions, in any order. Move twice (either 1 alieneeple 2 spaces, or 2 alieneeples 1 space), play card(s), Pay Lift Off costs or discard 2 cards to draw 1 new card. Other cards that you can play can give you extra move points, change the moon phase of that turn and otherwise affect the game state. There’s also the Garglore, that black death’s head meeple at the center. If you play a Move the Garglore card, you can place the Garglore on any Lift Off point or back into the lava pool. If he’s on a Lift Off point, no alieneeples can leave the planet from that point.

There are 10 Lift Off points provided in the box, with only four being used for any game, which gives this game a good amount of variety between games. Each of these points is affected differently depending on what phase the Moon is in as the Moon token tracks around the board. At the end of every player’s turn the Moon is moved one space counter-clockwise, with the space it occupies being the full moon. The Moon space directly opposite it is the New moon and every other space is a half moon. Once it reaches star on the moon track again, a day has passed and the Sun is moved further down the Sun Track towards planetary destruction. Some Lift Off Points are easier to use during a new moon, others during a half or full moon.

The winner is whomever gets all of their alieneeples off the planet first, or the person with the most off once the whole thing blows up in our faces.



The game is actually slightly simpler than I had conceived when originally following this project. That’s not a bad thing though. Once we got the hang of it, we could play a 2 player game in 35 minutes. There’s a bit of luck with the card draws but this can be mitigated a bit with the ability to discard two cards to draw a new card.  Other than that there’s some solid strategy and decision making to be had in the game. The light-hearted take on planetary destruction is a fun theme to play in and I really like that one of the Lift Off Points is a giant freaking slingshot.

There is a bit of a take-that element with the Garglore and one of our games clearly boiled down to who had the last Garglore card (hint: it wasn’t me) but that didn’t take away from the fun of the game.  My 9 year old has already asked to play again and I know this one will be hitting our table both in the near future and during our Extra Life event. I feel it’s also a pretty accessible title for those not into the hobby board game scene.  If you enjoy light-hearted, fast playing games where you move lots of little wooden aliens around in a frantic race to escape an exploding planet, you’ll really dig Lift Off.

You can find the rules here on BGG and I understand the game will be going into distribution soon!


Got a moment? Give a Swamped image a thumbs up on Board Game Geek

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 11.24.11 AM

We’re running a “thumbs” campaign on Swamped over at Board Game Geek. What is this? Board Game Geek is a massive database of just about every board game out there.

Thumbs up’s are what’s given to things people like, including images.
We’ve got an image on there that we’d love you to stop by and give a thumbs up too if you’re a BGG member!

Here’s the link:

The Thumb is the one circled in the screenshot above! If you’ve got 1 minute and wouldn’t mind doing this, we’d really appreciate it!

Here’s the KS link too:

Blog at

Up ↑