Interview with Bob Kelly and Aerjen Tamminga of Heresy Research Labs

Bob Kelly is CEO of Heresy Research Labs. Along with Aerjen Tamminga, their first game will be Los Cthuluchadores: Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring.

To start off, tell us about yourselves and your history in gaming.

Bob: In high school, I used to work at War Games West in Albuquerque and tried my hands at everything I could find. I always enjoyed the freakier games that daunted others. To date, I’m the only GM I know who ran a Kult game outside of a con. From there, I’ve had more than a few attempts at being 100% in game development – both board and computer. I’ve never met an RPG which I didn’t provide my own twist or a board game that I didn’t want a house rule. Once I moved to Boston, things really started shaping up for me (with the GameMakersGuild.com) and other opportunities.

Aerjen: I’ve loved playing games and being part of the gaming community for as long as I can remember. I first started out designing games when I went to college and around that time I founded a board gaming club in Amsterdam. When I moved to the US about two years ago, I became a member of the Game Makers Guild and really enjoyed playtesting the games of other designers and getting feedback on my own designs. When I became a co-producer for the Boston Festival of Indie Games and organizer for the Game Makers Guild, I realized that this hobby of mine is more than just a thing on the side. Since last year I’ve started collaborating with other great designers (like Bob) and have been working on getting my games published. Los Cthuluchadores: Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring is the first of many projects.

What sort of mad inspiration struck you to combine luchadores with the Cthulhu Mythos?

Bob: A fun game and a bad pun. I was playing Guacamelee and thought, “There’s not a lot of avocados in this game.” I started playing around with puns and ran into Los Cthuluchadores… and after a few attempts at summarizing the game, Aerjen and I discovered the tag, “Elder Things in the Wrestling Ring” and from there, the ideas were pretty well-defined.

Aerjen: I have to give all the credit to Bob for this one. When he asked me to become a co-designer for his game, he had already come up with the theme. I thought (and still do) that it was hilarious and since I have come to know Bob as a great guy, I was happy to come on board.

The Kickstarter page indicates that the game plays for up to four. Are four-player games going to be tag team or free for all?

Bob: We have rules for both! There’s 3 and 4-player free-for-all, but my favorite is the 4-player tag team.

Aerjen: Like Bob says, we have rules for both variants. Only my favorite is the 4-player free-for-all. The insanity that ensues when taunting with 4 players, must be like what it feels like when Cthulhu kisses your soul.

The Elder Sign design in the game differs from both the star and tree versions people normally associate with the term. Where did it come from?

Bob: The eye-in-star elder sign is famously copyrighted – and justifiably so – so I didn’t want to go down that route. And I love the tree version, but it just doesn’t have enough pizazz for a Cthulhu meets Spandex game. And… I love Blue Oyster Cult. Buck Dharma and the band has a hook-and-cross symbol which follows them around. I made our own version combined with the formal tree version. Aerjen asked me to “roughen” the design so that it looked like a…

Aerjen: Let me finish that sentence… bit more like something that a caveman could have scribbled on a piece of rock.

The origami playing pieces are quite a unique concept. How did that come to be?

Bob: I have the best designer on my team – Lisa Corkum; we were playing around with flat counters and she just folded one up and dropped it on the table – from there crushing your opponents became REAL. She also designed the board from Aztec/Mayan combined symbology – and since some of the Cthulhu Mythos stories had a tie in to Latin America, it was a great fit.

Aerjen: Quick tip for the readers: you can really give your Cthuluchadores some extra spunk by playing around with the tentacles. I try and give each one I fold it’s own character.

The possibility of expansions is hinted at. Are there any details you’re willing to reveal at this time?

Bob: Absolutely! we have 2 expansions which we’d like to add to the Kickstarter. First is “El Lodo sobre Aztlan” – the Ooze over Aztlan – which supercharges ooze (better attacks and defense) and add surprises like the Folding Chair of Doom! The second is Cultos Innombrables (Unspeakable Cults) which improves that gameplay of the Spectator Arena with your cultists.

Slapshot

From: Columbia Games

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

As Barry’s review of 1st and 10 has indicated, the stereotype of tabletop gamers and sports not mixing is at best an exaggerated one. While I myself am not especially passionate about sports, I won’t run screaming out of the room if someone decides to watch the game on TV. If there’s one sport for which I have a preference towards it would be ice hockey, so when Ron asked if I was willing to do a review for Slapshot, I took him up on it almost immediately.

From the website:
“Slapshot is a wheeling, dealing game for hockey fans. Each player assumes the role of team manager. The object is to skillfully manage your team into the playoffs and then win the championship.”

There are three card decks, each based off of one of the basic ice hockey positions (Forward, Defenseman, and Goalie). Each card features a punny player name along with a goofy player illustration and a Value ranging from zero to ten. The best names are featured on the highest and lowest valued cards. The high value ones reflect their awesomeness (Slash Gordon, Moby Stick), while the low value ones reflect their lameness (Billy the Skid, Chief Sitting Bench). At the start of the game, each player is dealt three forwards, two defensemen, and one goalie to form his/her team.

On his turn, a player may choose to perform one of three actions; Trade, Draft, or Game. The first two are used to improve the quality of your team. With a Trade, the player randomly draws a card from another player’s deck and gives back a card of the same position. With a Draft, the player places a card in his team at the bottom of its deck and takes the top card from the same deck. In both cases, the new card must be accepted, even if it’s worse than the card being given up. Therefore, those actions should not be used injudiciously.

The Game action is the real meat of Slapshot. A player may challenge any other player to a game. The challenging player counts as the away team while the challenged is considered at home. To reflect the home field advantage, the home team gets a free goal. Before the game starts, both players may arrange their team decks in any order they wish. However that order cannot be changed once the game starts. The gameplay is nearly identical to the children’s card game War, except the winner of each round doesn’t claim the card played by the loser. Each player draws the top card from their deck and the one with the higher value scores a goal. If both cards have the same value, then neither player scores. There’s also no scoring if one of the cards is a Goalie card, regardless of their values. If both cards are Goalies, then the higher value scores a goal as normal. This continues until the players have used up their decks. The player who scored the most goals gets to move their token one space on the Scoreboard. If there was a tie in goals, then a sudden death match is played. Gameplay is identical to the earlier game except that victory goes to the first player to successfully score a goal.

Bruisers are a special type of card to reflect the violent nature of ice hockey. Whenever one of the cards played during a game is a Bruiser, then the other card is considered Injured and goes to the bottom of the appropriate deck. If the injured player has a higher value than the Bruiser, a goal is still successfully scored. If by some chance both cards played are bruisers, then both are considered injured. At the end of the game, a free Draft action is taken to replace each injured player. Using Bruisers can be a double-edged sword. For while their ability to inflict injuries is useful, their actual values tend to be low.

Once a player successfully reaches the Playoffs space on the Scoreboard, he engages in a best-of-seven series against the second place player. If there’s a tie for second, those players engage in a best of three series to determine which of them goes to the finals. The first place player is considered the home team for games one, two, five, and seven. The first to win four becomes league champion and wins the game.

From the subtitle:
“The legendary card game of ice hockey loonery.”

While overall Slapshot is a fine game, there is one very minor (almost picayune) issue I have. Namely there’s nothing included in the game materials for keeping track of goal scoring. Admittedly this is rather trivial, as any gamer worth his dice bag could improvise something with minimal effort. Still, it would have been a nice thing to have.

At the end of the day, this is a top notch game. The simple rules mean that it can be taught to just about anyone. The minimal space and set up requirements as well as the short playing time allow for it to be playable just about anywhere. These factors make it especially suited as a starter for a gaming night or something to play during a lunch break.

Rating: 18

Product Summary

Slapshot

From: Columbia Games

Type of Game: Card

Game Design by: Tom Dalgliesh and Lance Gutteridge

Game Components Included: Rulesheet, 27 Forward cards, 18 Defenseman cards, 9 Goalie cards, 1 Scoreboard, and 6 Tokens.

Retail Price: $24.98

Number of Players: 2-6

Player Ages: 8+

Play Time: 30-60 minutes

Website: http://www.columbiagames.com

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

1st and Goal

From: R&R Games
Reviewed by:  Barry Lewis

1st and Goal is a football board… Wait! Wait! Don’t click to another review!  I know that sports board games do not tend to get much love, but 1st and Goal is fun and deserves a chance.  The game uses both cards and dice for the game mechanics and they do work well together.  So just take a closer look at 1st and Goal before you click over to that deck-builder review.

The game board itself will not “wow” you.  Although what the board itself does is one of those little touches that we gamers generally like.  The board’s football field has a thin metal strip in it that allows the magnetic football and magnetic 10-yard marker to stay in place on the field so you never have to worry about bumping the board and losing track of where the ball is on the field.  My only issue with the board is minor, but it’s with the way the scores are tracked.  Both players have 2 number tracks.  One track has 1 thru 9 and the other track has 10-90 in tens.  So if you’ve scored 14 points you would place a clear disc on the 4 and another on the 10.  It does nothing to take away from the enjoyment of the game, but maybe they could have found a less “clunky” way of keeping score.  The play calling cards are on sturdy, glossy card stock and are very easy to read and understand.  The dice tell you the outcome of the play called and how many yards are gained or loss.  The dice are a little bigger than normal and easy to read, but here’s the potential deal breaker with the dice.  You have to sticker the dice with the numbers.  It’s not a big deal, but for some gamers it’s a turn off, I know.

To start the game, the two players will flip a coin and the winner decides whether to be on offense first or defer to the second half.  Once this is done, the offensive player will take the offensive deck and the defensive player will take the defensive deck.  Each player will draw 8 cards for their starting hand.  Every time a card is played, the players may draw another from the top of their decks.  The offensive deck has two types of plays: run plays and pass plays.  The pass play cards come in three different styles: short, medium and long/bomb.  The defensive cards have two types as well.  They are running defense cards and pass coverage cards.  The play starts with both players choosing a play card from their hand and laying it down face up for both to see.  You would then compare the cards.  Running cards work better against pass coverage cards and pass play cards work better against run stopping cards.  The cards work in conjunction with the dice, but let’s quickly look at the cards first.  Both the offensive and defensive cards have the play types listed on each card.  You would compare the two cards to see what colored dice the offense would roll for yardage.  The cards also play a part in how long the game goes.  On each offensive running play card is a flame symbol in the top of both corners.  Every time you use a running play with that symbol on it, you must “burn” or discard the top card of the offensive play deck.  So just like in real football the more you run, the faster the game goes.  When the offensive deck first runs out it is halftime, when it runs out again it’s the end of the game.  While the cards are fairly simple, the dice are a little more complicated, but not much.

There are four types of dice; the play die, the referee die, the penalty die and the yardage dice.  The play die is rolled for every play and each side is different.  The play die has an X, a T, a penalty flag, a lightning bolt, a “Hail” and a “Mary”.  If the offense rolls an X it means the play is broken up no matter what.  The “T” means potential turnover.  If you rolled a “T” you would then roll the referee die and if it comes up a “T” then the ball is turned over to the defense.  If no “T” is rolled then there’s no turnover.  If the penalty flag comes up on the play die then there’s a potential penalty on the offense or defense.  You’d then roll the referee die and if the offense side comes up then it’s a penalty on the offense and if the defense side comes up it’s a penalty on the defense.  If neither side comes up then there’s no penalty.  If a penalty is confirmed then the offensive player rolls the penalty die and adds or subtracts the yardage shown on the die.  The lightning bolt means “Breakaway!”  When the lightning bolt is rolled the offense adds the yardage dice together then rolls the play die and yardage dice again.  If the lightning bolt comes up again add the yardage and roll again.  The offensive player continues rolling until anything else but the lightning bolt appears.  I tend to play with the optional rule that if you roll 3 straight “breakaways” then it’s an automatic touchdown.   If a “Hail” or “Mary” is rolled they have no effect on the play except during the last play of the half or game.

The penalty die is rolled on occasion in response to certain results of the play die.  The referee die has a “T”, an X, a “Hail” and a “Mary” like the play die, but has an offense side and defense side for designating penalties.  To help identify the play die and the referee die from one another I used a permanent black marker to draw stripes on the referee die to make it resemble the black and white striped shirt referees wear.

There are 7 yardage dice.  The red, ivory and brown dice are for running plays, while the yellow, blue and green dice are for passing plays.  The seventh die is black and is rolled by the defensive player on most plays and will, usually, subtract yardage from the offensive player’s roll.

Here’s a quick example of play:

Its third down with 9 yards to go for a first down and the offense chooses to run the ball; defense picks a short passing play.  The Defense guesses wrong.  After comparing the two play cards, the offense gets to roll all three running dice along with the play die, while the defense gets to roll his black die.  The offense rolls a “hail” on the play die which has no effect on the play and a 2, 4 and 5 on the yardage dice.  Defense rolls a -1. So add the offensive dice together (2+4+5=11) and subtract the defensive die (-1) to get 10.  The offense gains 10 yards and gets the first down!

R&R put a lot of thought into this game.  What’s in a real football game is in the board game minus the ACL tears, concussions and massive contracts.  Safeties, punts, field goals, Hail Mary passes, extra points; if you can name it, it’s probably in the game.  R&R even have expansion packs for the game with different teams.  There are 6 packs or “divisions” with 4 teams in each division.  Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses so you can pick a team that suits your playing style.  In the end, I’ve put away my other football games, Strat-o-Matic Football and Pizza Box Football, for 1st and Goal because of the relative ease of play and it’s more visually appealing than the 2 other mentioned games.

So if you’re still in doubt about the game, I always like to point out that I have a friend who loves football, but HATES sports games yet will sit down and play this with me every time I bring it to a game event.  Broaden your horizons and try this game at least once.

Product Rating: 12

Product Summary

1st and Goal

From: R&R Games

Type of Game:  Board Game, Sports

Game Design:  Stephen Glenn

Artists:   Scott Fleenor , Matthan Heiselt

Graphic Design:   Jennifer Vargas

Retail Price: $29.95 (US)

Number of Players:  2-4 players

Player Ages:  13 and up

Play time:  60 minutes

Website:   www.rnrgames.com