GARPA 29 – GrogHeads Advanced Research on Projects Advisory

frontier wars 728x90 KS

By Lloyd Sabin, Brant Guillory, Dan Pinkham, and Jim Zabek
October 11, 2013

The days are really starting to get shorter now. For gamers, that means fewer issues with sunlight reflecting off their monitors and maybe getting the kids to bed a little earlier to get some gaming going. As usual we have some great ideas to make that heavy wallet you’re lugging around a little less cumbersome.

Card Games

Oracle – Mystifying Playing Cards by Chris Ovdiyenko
$9,970 pledged of $20,000 goal, funding ends Friday, November 8

OracleIs there anything more appropriate to this time of year than a card deck based on Ouija boards, spirit photography and spiritualism? Probably, but I can’t think of what it is right now.

Spiritualism was a movement developed between the 1860s and the 1920s that centered on contacting the dead. Initially practiced by American Civil War widows, it gave people hope during the darkest times of their lives and eventually became popular enough and was taken seriously enough for the wealthy and powerful to practice, including a series of American Presidents and politicians. And luckily for printer Chris Ovdiyenko, spiritualism is loaded with instantly recognizable images, as you can see from these screen shots.

For this card deck, the suits will be the big differentiator. Each suit will be unique, with its own theme, whether it is a séance, automatic writing, or ectoplasm. The designs are created by Chris, who etches them onto wood plates with a laser and then applied to “museum quality artist paper.”

It’s a simple but quite interesting project, which is more appropriately shown with images than words. If you’re into the subtly creepy like me (after all, I work here), I think you will appreciate this Oracle card deck. The art is intricate, a bit disturbing and tells many good stories. And while playing cards, a good story can be even more valuable than a good hand. Oracle’s Kickstarter page can be found here.



Reaper Miniatures Bones II: The Return Of Mr Bones!
$1,613,460 pledged of $30,000 goal, funding ends Saturday, October 26

GARPA-29-ReaperOnce or twice each year it seems like a game (or game-related concept) appears on Kickstarter and the internet goes supernova. Last year Reaper Miniatures had that happen to them. They served up a project, asked for a modest $30,000 or $40,000 (I forget exactly) and ended up with gamers literally throwing money at them. When it was all said and done they had well over a million bucks raised and their biggest problem was trying to figure out which building was large enough to hold their inventory until they got it distributed.

Well, lighting has struck twice.

Asking for a modest $30,000, gamers have responded with $1.6 million in pledges and the folks at Reaper are probably starting to consider wallpapering their offices in twenty dollar bills. Kickstarter-ish projects don’t always have a fairytale ending, but if past success is any indication of future results both Reaper and its gamer fan base have some crazy stuff to look forward to. And they lived happily ever after. Until next year, when Reaper will probably do it again. Reaper’s Kickstarter page can be found over here.

Mars Attacks – The Miniatures Game
$250,477 pledged of $50,000 goal, funding ending Saturday, November 10

GARPA-29-Mars-Attacks-MinisThe day before Halloween in 1938 Orson Wells made his famous broadcast that set half of the US East Coast running for the hills. What better time to celebrate a Martian invasion than over the Halloween holiday time? Mars Attacks appears to be (emphasis on “appears” – we have not investigated the issue in any depth) the legitimate representation in game form of the cult-classic movie of the same name.

And, similar to the Reaper Miniatures project above, it has already hit its funding goals and is merrily knocking off stretch goals as gamers toss money their way.

As with most miniature games the figures and scenery are supplied unpainted, but hey, we’re talking about a Martian invasion here. Let your imaginations run free! Unlocked bonuses seem to run the gamut, from additional earthling soldiers to flying saucers to flaming cattle (steak on the hoof for real!).

The designers behind Mars Attacks, Mantic Games, are not newcomers to miniatures gaming. I’ve not played any of their games, but I have seen them in a store and was intrigued. Mars Attacks might be the game to put them on the map and cause gamers to take a second look at all their offerings. In any case, with funding levels already achieved it looks like Mars is indeed going to invade the Earth, and if that sounds like a good time head on over to their Kickstarter page for a closer look.


Metal Dragon Coins by Minion Games
$22,675 pledged of $9,000 goal, funding ends Monday, October 28

dragoncoinsUsing physical coins as part of a role-playing game may not be new, but the first time I personally ever saw them (and feel free to correct me in our forums) was at GenCon five or six years ago. A guy had trekked all the way from Australia to sell his wares. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to buy them. Mind you, I haven’t DM’d an RPG since then, but I am still happy to have them in case one breaks out in my living room one day.

Flash forward to GARPA 22 and readers may recall Battle Merchants was presented for your consideration. Battle Merchants failed to capture the imaginations of enough backers and the project was cancelled. However, the creators, Minion Games promised in that Kickstarter run that they would launch a separate project for gaming coins, and true to their word, Metal Dragon Coins was launched. Its story appears as though it will have a better ending than Battle Merchants as it has already exceeded its minimum funding level and is unlocking bonus goals (the Battle Merchants game may still be available as it appears as though it’s a bonus unlock for the coins).

As I recall, my purchase at GenCon was fairly hefty, around $50, and each coin ended up costing about fifty cents (US) a piece. Folks who ante up enough on Kickstarter appear to be able to be able to obtain a similar price as the $55 level goal will net 100 coins in return. Higher level pledges will net more coins and bonus content, but it appears as though the price per coin levels out at about that level.

Economics aside, it will probably sound a bit looney but there is something cool about stacking up a bunch of cool coins and pretending they’re real gold. For those of us unable to afford real stacks of gold these Metal Dragon Coins may be the next best thing. If passing them around as legal tender in your RPGs sounds like fun then head over to Minion Games’ Kickstarter page and check them out yourself.

Board Games

Stalin’s Triumph – Lock’n’Load Publishing
$12759 of $14500, 35 days left

Garpa29-StalinLock’n’Load Publishing has some of the best-looking games in the business, and once the attractive graphics suck you in, you discover there’s a great game there[1].  Building off of the mechanics for the Cold-War-goes-hot World at War series, LNLP’s Nations At War series takes platoon-level combat to WWII and already has 2 games and 2 expansions out there.  The third, Stalin’s Triumph, heads to the East Front for a tank-heavy throwdown, with most of the scenarios built around battles near Kursk in ’43.  Some new rules expand the Nations At War base, with tank riders, rockets, and more.

Stalin’s Triumph is on LNLP’s new “I Want This Game” order mechanism, that’s similar to Kickstarter, but run from their own website.  Check it out here and get your order in – it’s dangerously close to making the cut.


Ninja Dice – Greenbrier Games
$27,972 of $25,000, ends 29 October

They’ve already made the cut, but you still want in.  Why?  It’s fast, it’s dice, and it’s NINJAS!!!  It’s a dice game with a twist – where the dice land may determine what happens to some of them.  Some of the die face include a line, that line separates the table such that some dice are modified based on where they landed.  You’re also juggling re-rolls against your opponents – if you try to re-roll some dice to get a better result, they get to, also.

Early reviews out of the summer conventions were very positive for this light game.  Yes, it’s easy enough to play with the family.  But that’s OK, because it’s a dice game about NINJAS!!!



Golem Arcana – Harebrained Schemes LLC
$367,732 of $500,000, ends 15 October

Holy crap!  $500-large for a board game?!  Yep.  Because Golem Arcana isn’t just nay old board game.  It comes with a Bluetooth stylus that syncs to a rules app you keep at the table on your phone of tablet, and as you tap around the battlefield and the figures, the app feeds you the rules about movement, combat range, relative strength, etc.

It’s a fantasy-minis wargame, with a batch of large, pre-painted golem models (unpainted ones are available if you’re a hardcore DIY’er) and a set of geomorphic map tiles.  Extra sets of figures are available as add-ons, but since they’ve still got over $100,000 to raise and about 4 days left, it’s unlikely there will be any stretch goals.

Still, it’s a downright nifty-looking game and you should really give it a look-see.


iOS Games

ColecoVision by Rantmedia Games
$4,920 pledged of $250,000 goal, funding ends Friday, November 8

ColecoVisionGamers of a certain vintage (old) have no trouble recalling their earliest entries into electronic games. For some, that plunge was on some of the first IBM PCs, Atari STs or Amiga computers. For others, it was on early game consoles like the Atari 2600, the IntelliVision system and, of course, the ColecoVision console. Being a gamer of some vintage, I remember that certain personalities were drawn to specific systems. In my neighborhood, the kids who also played actual sports as well as video games were drawn to Atari systems. The brainier kids were, ironically, drawn to IntelliVision…maybe by clever marketing but also perhaps by some slightly more intricate games available. And the party girls and future fans of Fast Times at Ridgemont High were drawn to ColecoVision. I played games on all three and truly enjoyed the games on ColecoVision the most.

And who could argue? Zaxxon, Spy Hunter, Bump & Jump, and Jumpman Junior were just some of the titles I was introduced to by my older friends, which led to hours and hours of good times. Rantmedia Games, who call themselves ‘retro enthusiasts,’ want to extend those hours of good times and also bring ColecoVision games to new generations who have not had the pleasure to play them before. Rantmedia actually have the rights to many original ColecoVision games, and although the initial launch will be on iOS, they are planning to expand to Android, Mac, and PC platforms. Games included in this initial phase are:

  • Antarctic Adventure
  • BlackJack/Poker
  • Bump ‘n’ Jump
  • Brain Strainers
  • Destructor
  • Fortune Builder
  • Frenzy
  • Jumpman
  • Jumpman Junior
  • Jungle Hunt
  • Montezuma’s Revenge
  • Ms. Space Fury
  • Pepper II
  • Space Fury
  • Super Action Baseball
  • Super Action Boxing
  • Super Action Football
  • Super Action Soccer
  • Zaxxon

Rantmedia hopes to add more after the initial launch and also include compatibility with user-created games, so this ColecoVision offering is set to be more robust than the ordinary emulators that are currently available. The addition of actual licenses also makes this project more robust. And as you’ll see on the new Kickstarter page, $10.00 not only gets gamers in the door, it also gets gamers all the games listed above as well as future releases. So get to it! It’s early on in the campaign and the members of the Rantmedia team are psyched! And the inexpensive buy-in leaves some cash left over for new orange shag carpeting to nuzzle into as you play, just like you did in 1982! ColecoVision’s Kickstarter page can be found here.


PC Games

Reborn by Elemental Labs
$18,645 pledged of $200,000 goal, funding ends on (you guessed it) November 8

GARPA-29-RebornLike Blade Runner? You should check out Reborn, then. Set in a similar future Japanpunk world, Reborn is a third-person, multiplayer action RPG with bio-augmentation for your avatar, phat loot, and a promised deep leveling system as well as a 20-hour campaign.

Reborn will be created using the Unreal engine, which basically guarantees the game will, at a minimum, look sexy. Multiple platform release is also planned, initially for the PS3, PS4, and PC via Steam, and Wii Xbox ONE and PS Vita planned for future release. Physically copies are also slated for distribution.

The plot is a delicious cross between techie science fiction and Japanese folklore. Nexus Roku, a giant technology corporation, controls “neo-Tokyo” and all of its inhabitants through augmentation. Rena Nakano, the head of this massive entity, is attempting to build the end-all, be-all of human existence…called the Tear of Heaven, it is more than a machine and is capable of creating and destroying life. Rena has also enlisted the help of a demon named Sojobo in acquiring the Tear of Heaven.

Opposing Sojobo is a group of Japanese heroes, including the great samurai swordsman Musashi Miyamoto. What is a little less clear is how these 400 year old Japanese heroes are available for use in the far future, but why spoil the mood, eh?

Reborn will be mission based, and missions will need to be completed to move to the next level of the game. Secret missions will also be available and will offer opportunity to upgrade and buff the player’s avatar. Combat will be quick and deadly in real time, and there will also be stealth components as well as elements of magic called Ogi. Think of Ogi like mana in other games, used to fuel special powers and charm upgradeable weapons. A mode called Chain Time is also being developed for use in combat, for use in one-second increments for players to pull off special moves and focus on specific enemies.

Reborn is an ambitious project, fusing hi-tech environments with ancient evils. There are a lot of moving parts to it, but it could become a game for multiple audiences if everything comes together – definitely worth watching for cyberpunk and Japanese folklore fans. Find Reborn’s Kickstarter page here.


Mark of the Old Ones by Hit the Sticks
$3,015 pledged of $225,000 goal, funding ends on Tuesday, November 5

GARPA-29-Mark-of-the-Old-OnesTo say Cthulhu games have a strong cult-following is both punny and true. But that won’t stop us from spreading the word about Mark of the Old Ones. Hit the Sticks, the name of the developer team behind the game have experience making PC games. While they may not have experience creating AAA-quality games (yet) they bring confidence to the table saying, “Although we have not worked on ‘AAA’ titles, we do appreciate the level of quality that is required of MotOO in order for it to be a successful game.” And they have solid experience in game development and design. The team from Just Tactics is joining up with other developers and artists and taken together their body of work is impressive.

Mark of the Old Ones tells the tale of a World War One veteran whose plane crashes in Alaska. In his quest to find shelter from the cold he stumbles across a cave. Being a Cthulhu-themed game it isn’t difficult to predict what will happen next.

What makes the story interesting is how the story is propelled. A Victorian explorer leaves behind fragments of his diary for the protagonist to find, while a young woman has visions of the protagonist and his role in helping her to restore her people to honor and dignity.

Mark of the Old Ones is aiming to provide an atmosphere that is “horrifying without being horrific.” Much like Alfred Hitchcock used nuance, inference, and conjecture to create a terrifying atmosphere without directly showing gore, Hit the Sticks intends to follow this blueprint to scare the daylights out of players.

Mark of the Old Ones wouldn’t be a good Cthulhu game without some good old-fashioned taint of evil, and Hit the Sticks promises to deliver this with gusto. Remember the protagonist we mentioned? Well, he’s gradually being mutated into something kind of awful, and one of the fun aspects of the game is how he – and his tentacles – interact with the environment as he grows.

Sound spooky enough? Then head over to Mark of the Old Ones’ Kickstarter page for more details.


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[1] They’re like the hot chick in English class that everyone swoons over, until someone’s finally brave enough to ask her out, and then finds out that she’s actually incredibly cool and easy to get along with, too.

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