GARPA 13 – GrogHeads Advanced Research on Projects Advisory

frontier wars 728x90 KS


by Dan Pinkham and Lloyd Sabin

Is it March already? It seemed like just yesterday that we were stuffing our faces with turkey and unwrapping presents. Thankfully, for most of us, the sun is out a little longer and we can almost make out the warm glow at the end of the long tunnel of winter…it just happens to be clouded by the snow still falling. Well, our solution to the winter blues here at GARPA is to go get lost in a cupboard of junk food or throw some money at some great crowd funding projects. On second thought, why not do both?



Board Games

Loka: The World of Fantasy Chess by Mantic Games

$43,896 of a $25,000 goal funding ending March 24thloka

Chess, having been played for millennia, is one of the oldest and most time-honored wargames. To say that there are numerous variations of chess piece designs would be an understatement. So why another fantasy chess set?

Loka, while being a fantasy chess game, also comes with some interesting rules variations. But first let’s start with the playing pieces. The plan is to create four different chess sets each themed after one of the four major elements. As of now, the base set is based on fire, and the earth set has been recently unlocked after the project reached a stretch goal.

The chess pieces are all excellently detailed and supplied unpainted in either red or white plastic. What is great about Loka is that an enterprising player can paint and customize his chess set however he wants.

Besides the fantasy theme, what sets Loka apart are some rule variations that come with the game. While not fully fleshed out on their project page, they do hint at some of the changes.

One game mode allows the players to choose their armies: “do you field a small but elite force with three Queens, or do you go for a mass horde of Pawns?” Loka also introduces the idea of fantasy scenery that blocks movement and changes the shape and movement areas on the chess board. Finally, they will have rules for a dice driven combat system utilizing eight sided dice that “adds some unpredictability to combat, placing extra emphasis on strategy and positioning as pieces build in power with support from their comrades.”


War Stories: by Conquistador Games

$22,652 of a $25,000 goal funding ending April 8th

War Stories bills itself as “a cinematic, fast playing, super fun combat system for miniatures and tabletop.” War Stories actually encompasses two games covering World War II’s Western and Eastern fronts, Red Storm and Liberty Road. You can get one or both of the games depending on your pledge level.

The game is designed as a board game that can easily be played using miniatures. In each scenario you control your country’s vehicles and squads of soldiers over a period map vying for your own objectives. One thing that makes this game unique is that after receiving your objective but before starting the game you can choose to ‘purchase’ special assets that enhance your forces. Purchasing one of these assets costs you “victory point handicaps” but includes cool toys like bazookas, artillery, intelligence reports, bangalore torpedoes, and plenty more.

However, the most unique feature about War Stories has to be its simple card driven gameplay. There are not any charts, there’s no dice rolling and there’s no complex math. You flip your chosen card and everything needed to resolve combat is there. The cards and their associated numbers take into effect quality, firepower, cover, speed, etc.

As you might guess while the gameplay is simple and quickly resolved, the choice of which cards to purchase and use are where the thinking and strategy come into play. The game also models fog of war with two sided markers that are placed on the maps. These markers cover mines, hidden units, fortifications, objectives and anything else that the fog of war might hide from your enemies. The final piece of the game is the “snowflake” shaped modular double sided maps. Each map can connect six different ways with another map, making highly varied terrain options.

There is a lot more to see and read about War Stories so I encourage you to check out the project’s Kickstarter page. And make sure and check out the links to the development blog for pictures of the maps.




Superfight: by M

$5,626 of a $10,000 goal funding ending March 27th

Of all the questions posed by the universe, those posed by Superfight may be the least important but the most entertaining. For example, who wins in a fight between an old-timey fancy gentleman who is made of cheese wielding a light saber vs. a Justin Bieber fan mob that lacks depth perception but throws cats? Utterly ridiculous? Well, welcome to the party game of Superfight, described on its project page as “Apples to Apples meets Cards Against Humanity. Then, after they meet, they fight to the death.”

superThe game is simple in concept and not meant to be taken seriously. There are two decks of cards, one which contains characters like a zombie horde, Canada, a Pope, a polar bear, soccer mom, etc. The second is a deck of attributes which contains powers and weakness that help describe your character: these include super speed, afraid of clouds, breathes fire, handcuffed to a golf cart, etc. You get the picture.

In one round, the players have a hand of three character cards. One of the players is the ref and he chooses one of his characters to be the villain and draws two attribute cards, to describe the villain, and places them alongside the character. Then each player must place one of their characters down and draw two attribute cards to flesh out their card. It is up to the ref to see whose character would beat the villain. The fun really kicks in during the ensuing discussion/debate amongst the players on the merits of their character beating the villain.

As always stretch goals will expand the decks of cards and even add a location deck to further add to the hilarity. Several variations are included with the game such as team play, free for all, and extra points for creative naming of their hero. If you don’t already find this hilarious then let me leave you with one more example. Who wins in a fight between an Ewok who has social anxiety and just dropped acid, a tree monster who throws hypodermic needles and teleports, and an infant who can fly but suffers from depression? Answer: we all win!


Genesis by GMT Games

Status: Not there yet – Orders to date: 287

From the accomplished game designer Richard Berg comes Genesis, “a campaign-level game covering the turbulent Late Bronze Age in the Middle East.” Building on some of the game play concepts of its predecessor game Pax Romana, Genesis allows the player to carve out their empire in the often violent and volatile time period. While building your empire it is imperative to focus on control of trade routes, creating commercial centers and building wonders.

Everything to be expected from this time period is modeled in the game, from the pantheon of ancient gods to the historical kings and peoples of the region, as well as the rise of chariot warfare. The game features an introductory scenario to help players learn the system and has several two-player scenarios that can be played quickly as well as solo. The main scenario can be played with three, four, or five players and covers the mighty empires of the Egyptians, the Hittites, the Mitanni, Assyrians, and the Babylonians.

The game is not card driven like many of Richard Berg’s other designs but does utilize cards to “augment” the gameplay. It ships with a beautifully produced map, three sheets of counters, helpful player aid cards, and your standard game peripheries. If you think you have what it takes to lead an empire in the Bronze Age then head over and support the Genesis P500.



Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815 by Columbia Games

$12,846 of a $14,000 goal funding ending April 14th

napColumbia Games has launched a Kickstarter campaign to print the 4th edition of their celebrated game Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815. The game was first published in 1974 and has stood the test of time, improving on their previous three editions. True to form, this game fits the same style of the other excellent block wargames that Columbia Games is known for.

Napoleon is a two or three player game that covers the Waterloo Campaign starting on June 15th, 1815. The players take on the rolls of famous generals Wellington, Blucher, and of course Napoleon. They must maneuver their armies over the roads connecting towns and hamlets that crisscross the beautifully illustrated game board. When two armies clash the battle is fought on a tactical battle board that allows for players to maneuver their armies against one another.

In addition to the standard 4th edition game, backers of the Napoleon Kickstarter will receive some bonus upgrades. These include a deluxe mounted map, large 24mm hardwood blocks, two signed and numbered color copies of the rules, large tactical maps, two OOB charts and eight high quality dice. Beyond the excellent game and great pledge perks, those who back the project at the highest level will get to be a part of a, “four day, 200th anniversary tour of the Waterloo Campaign area in 2015. Game designer and historian Tom Dalgliesh will be your guide.” That backer level covers all the cost of the hotel, food, museums, and transportation. (You’ll just have to find your own way to Belgium.) For more information or to support the project, stop by their Kickstarter page.



PC Games

Var and the Vikings by Brainworth

$6,953 pledged of $31,000 goal, funding ends Saturday, March 23 at 7:44pm EDT.

I have come up with many great possible band names inspired by history that have gone unrealized. Names like Chiang Kai Chek and the Kuomintang, Meiji and the Restoration…you know, names that just roll right off the tongue. “Ladies and gentlemen, please help me in welcoming Torquemada and the Auto de Fe to the Palladium!” If I ever do get a band together, I now have another one to add to the list: Var and the Vikings.

varVar and the Vikings invites the player to create gaming artificial intelligences (AIs). That is the core of the game. Var and his Vikings are secondary to programming logic and building an AI that will actually help the player solve puzzles and finish quests, although the Viking-inspired background of the game is still nicely presented.

The player starts out by controlling Var in a 2D, Northland-inspired environment complete with snow, frostbite, fir trees, and lots of armor. The player is first tasked with assembling a party of four, made up of Viking-flavored mages, blacksmiths, archers, warriors, and even armored elk. I do believe this is the first time I have ever seen armored elk anywhere ever, and they are badass. Well at least they look badass. Needless to say I want one in real life…it would be great to ride to work.

Var and his party, controlled by the player, have skillsets that can be upgraded and customized. As Var moves through the game world, he and his group will encounter situations that can only be overcome with a specific mix of party members. This is where the AI construction of the game kicks in. Instead of directly controlling Var or his group, they are designed with programmable AIs that need to be specifically tweaked to the situation presented through the game’s drag and drop interface.

The developers promise that there will be a good variety of skills and behaviors available, and every puzzle will have multiple solutions. Enemies sent against Var and his Vikings include wolves, dragons, and other types of beasts, the more advanced of which can also have their AIs programmed by the player.

The art style for Var is cartoony but the AI potential here makes the game a serious offering for those who are tired of brain dead AIs, whether cooperative or enemy. Additional game modes are also offered including co-op, possible player v. player, and team play. An original soundtrack is also being developed, with one song available right now on the game’s Kickstarter page.

It’s uncertain whether the music was produced by an actual band named Var and the Vikings but if so, that just sweetens the deal and brings us full circle.


There Came an Echo by Iridium Studios

$53,082 pledged of $90,000 goal, funding ends Thursday, March 21 at 2:00pm EDT.

You may or may not be interested to know that There Came an Echo will feature Wil Wheaton, star of Star Trek, Eureka and The Big Bang Theory. With that out of the way, we can now move on to the main technical draw of the game: it’s an RTS that the player controls with voice-recognition. Sure it can be controlled with run of the mill keyboards, mice and gamepads, but the developers promise that the most fun will be had by players using their voices to issue their units’ orders.

echoThere Came an Echo puts players in the position of field commander, directing the operations of a small squad. Iridium is developing a short list of voice commands used for orders on when, where and how to maneuver across the map and engage an enemy. Commands can also be customized. The player’s squad will also query the player through simple audible questions that require a simple ‘affirmative’ or ‘negative’ answer, asking for permission to engage, advance, take a shot, etc. Automated defenses like mines and turrets can also be audibly controlled, and the environment will present additional factors for the player to deal with.

The in-game artwork right now is generic, and Iridium has stated that the bulk of the money raised through Kickstarter is for art development. The plan for There Came an Echo is for an isometric, zoomable view, with solid potential for units to be rendered in 3D. The soundtrack is being developed in-house by Iridium and is planned to be totally original and quite a big deal, with big names in the game-soundtrack business working on a full set list.

And of course there is a plot. The studio does not want potential players to think that There Came an Echo is a “standard military adventure.” The storyline, set in the near future, revolves around Corrin (played by Wheaton), a cryptologist who has developed an algorithm that comes up with information that it is, er…not supposed to. That’s all we need to know about that. Mercenaries, British noblemen and a strange woman round out the character cast, and of course hilarity ensues from there with the addition of energy weapons, defense shields and a wider hi-tech arsenal.

The idea of issuing voice commands has been around for what feels like forever for MP gaming, but for a regular single-player game to offer voice commands and put the player in the shoes of a commanding officer sounds promising and immersive. Let’s see if Iridium Studios can come up with something special.


Fathom by Iron Sun Studios

$1,683 pledged of $180,000 goal Funding ends Friday, March 29 at 5:00pm.

Love me some steampunk and everyone knows it. When I saw the posting for Fathom on Kickstarter I let out a squeal of delight, although the description itself is a bit cryptic. Fathom is described as a ‘2.5D action adventure game’. What is ‘2.5D?’ I’m not sure…it’s mentioned at the beginning of the post and never really explained or mentioned again.

fathomWhat is described is the plot. The player takes on the role of Nathaniel Lockhart, an explorer/adventurer type who gets wrecked somewhere in the Caribbean Sea in the 1870s. The actual events leading up to Nathaniel’s wreck are hazy and unclear, but different bits and pieces return to him in dreams and nightmares, as do hints of fantastic undersea vehicles, and of course Evil[tm].

Nathaniel’s dreams drive him to develop and build a fantastic submarine unlike anything ever seen and he returns to the Caribbean from London to try and figure out what happened to him when his original ship was sunk. Thus begins Iron Sun Studios’ ‘undersea neo-gothic steampunk adventure.’

Iron Sun has posted that the first level of Fathom is completed, using the Unity engine. The team states with subtlety that the Unity engine is both a blessing and a curse, because it allows them to work on Fathom for relatively little expense, but at the same time the Unity engine is somewhat limited. The first level built has the player exploring underwater ruins, and from a quick glance the images look very good.

The developers also state that they want to publish the game themselves. They are currently developing the Atlantis-inspired lore, the puzzles, further levels and additional art assets. Development of Fathom has really just begun (I have not seen mention of Fathom on Kickstarter until today) but the team has a certain moxie that gamers typically can’t help but root for. Let’s hope Fathom gets to see the light of day.

That’s all we’ve got for this installment of GARPA. You want more? Of course, who wouldn’t? Head to our forums!


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