GTM #185 - Extra! Extra! — It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog, Man-Bites-Dog World
by Charles Rice

Extra! Extra! is Mayfair’s game about the exciting and tense life of a newspaper’s managing editor. Each player in the game wants to get the big stories, the stories their audience wants and they want to get to press first, scooping their competitors. To represent this world, designer Andrew Bond has crafted a finely honed, perfectly balanced worker placement and management game that requires players to work quickly and precisely, like the fingers of a veteran journalist on a keyboard.

In bringing this world to life, it all starts with the components. Extra! Extra! has a three-piece board that nicely brings a three-story news office to life. You’ll be working at a Sources Desk, an Operations Desk, and, finally, the Editor’s Desk. The stories that will make up the front page, including the all-important headline, look like newsprint and once your front page is assembled you’ll have something evocative of a real front page. You’ll send reporters to the newswire, the morgue, and to news desks around the world in search of the best stories.

Speaking of reporters, they are your most important resource and you must build your team and manage them carefully. You begin the game with only two reporters and must expand your team as the game progresses. Each turn you need sufficient money to pay your reporters, or you’ll lose them and have to waste time hiring them all over again, so manage your money wisely and keep your team intact.

Your reporters will gather the stories and photographs that make up the bedrock of your newspaper. Each story requires a certain amount of copy and photographs to put into the paper. For bonus points, you’re also going to want interviews, which bring stories to life and make them much more compelling for your readers. Again, your pool of reporters will conduct interviews and add them to your stories. You can also turn to old articles your newspaper published by visiting the morgue. This can provide you extra copy or photos for your current content.

And what that content will be varies from player to player. Not every newspaper is the same and players in Extra! Extra! will also want to tailor the types of stories they tell to their audience. There are six newspaper themes in the game: world, sports, business, political, business, leisure and home. If you craft stories that fit your newspapers theme, you’ll be able to score bonus points for pleasing your audience. You’ll also want to try and nab the valuable Extra! Extra! tokens, representing breaking news, which increase the score of an article even more, and these have to match the article’s theme.

Of course, running a newspaper is not all about jet-setting around the world with no regard to the practicalities of life; this is serious business. Editors have to make sure to keep the lights on and that means paying close attention to their cash on hand. We’ve discussed the possibility of losing some of your valuable workforce if money runs low, but money also provides the ability to bump a rival reporter off a story. Maybe you take a valuable source to dinner and as the wine flows so do the anecdotes. If a reporter is already on a story, you can bump with a reporter and cash. This can lead to a bidding war over a valuable story component, as players successively bump rival reporters, each time requiring more cash.

Getting an edge in the cash department can lead an editor to give up some of their beloved front page to advertisers. Advertising takes up room on the page but scores you no points at the end of the game. Instead, advertising gives you a cash infusion that you can use either to pay a larger pool of reporters or to get a particularly juicy scoop to round out a story. You also have the option to loan out your reporters to other (non-player) newspapers to increase your cash on hand. This is the perfect way to put a reporter to use that you don’t need to chase down a lead or a photo that turn. Either way, you’ll need to balance your needs for cash with scoring opportunities but advertising is a very important means to get ahead in the cutthroat world of international journalism.

But advertising alone will never keep readers interested so let’s take a look at the elements editors will use to compose their front pages. First of course, there’s the stories themselves, which come in different sizes and shapes. Larger stories require more resources but are worth more points. Then there’s the headline, a vital part of the front page that will draw readers in from a distance and convince them to buy the paper when they get close. Finally, there are opinion columns which can score a lot of points in a small amount of space due to their potential to entertain or infuriate your readership.

As you fill your page, Extra! Extra! takes on aspects of puzzle games as you search for stories and ads that fill out the white space on your page. In a pinch, you can send a reporter to the typesetter to rearrange your page but it’s more efficient to look for stories that fill in the existing spaces. Columns and stories are obviously a key to this but there are some other content options editors can use to fill small bits of white space on their front pages. Classified ads, cartoons and crossword puzzles don’t score points at the end of the game but each of these tiles occupy only a single space on the board, making them perfect for when you just have a bit of space to fill.

Filling your front page quickly is also important, as it allows you to scoop your competition and bring important stories to your readers first. If a player is content with everything about their front page, including its layout and have a completely filled page, they can claim a special “First to Press” card which scores bonus points at the end of the game. While this is tempting, it’s often better to have the right stories on your page than rushing ahead but being first can decide a close game.

To increase the amount of content and replayability in the game, Extra! Extra! also offers nine different scenarios to play through. These scenarios provide short games for players new to the game letting them master its content and strategy, with other scenarios adding in alternate rules and additional pages players need to fill, increasing the strategy required and allowing for a longer game. In fact, choosing between the scenarios allows player to have a very short game (as little as 45-minutes) or a long one (up to two and half hours).

In the end, a newspaper’s lifeblood is its circulation of readers. Without them, newspapers fade away into obscurity and go out of business. To represent this, each story in Extra! Extra! is worth a certain number of Circulation Points (CP). The player with the greatest number of Circulation Points wins the game. So assemble your team, grab the big stories, the best columns and be first to press, all while keeping your audience in mind, and you will take your place as one of the best newspaper editor in the world!

GTM #184 - Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron
by WizKids/NECA

Coming this June, Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron follows up on the successful releases of other titles in the Marvel Dice Masters line by bringing to the tabletop popular characters from the blockbuster film, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. For fans of previous Marvel Dice Masters games such as Avengers vs. X-Men and Uncanny X-Men, the Age of Ultron set will offer up a fresh new mix of characters and abilities to explore.

First, you’ll see a full compliment of new and returning Avengers into the fray. Debuting in the Age of Ultron set are popular characters Captain Marvel, Giant Man, Hyperion, Spider-Woman, and Thor. This Dice Masters release will also see the return of perennial favorites like Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Hulk, amongst others. This set has an impressive lineup of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and each brings something new and different to the game, with several making use of the Teamwatch ability, which allows for advantages to teams that share affiliations.

Joining The Avengers will be the Guardians of the Galaxy. The classic Guardian Starhawk joins Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Moondragon, and Gamora from the modern line-up of the team. One of the major advantages to playing the Guardians is that, frequently, the characters are all interdependent on each other, and affiliations play a major role in making characters that are already strong even stronger through their abilities. For example, the Uncommon Star-Lord from the set grants all attacking Guardians affiliated characters both +1A and +1D when he’s fielded.

Another team debuting in the set is the international peacekeeping force, S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury, Agent Phil Coulson, and others are part of this release.  In Age of Ultron, WizKids is adding a full fleet of S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarriers as special “action” dice – all providing significant enhancements for teams – hero or villains - and all are truly powerful non-combat additions to your squad.

Villains appearing in the Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron set include Baron Zemo,  The Enchantress, Kang the Conquerer, and Thanos, and rounding out our villains is Ultron, himself! These villains, and plenty more, make a formidable force to be reckoned with for their heroic counterparts.

There are still plenty of surprises in store for you when the Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron set is released, so keep an eye out for more news as we approach the launch date.

GTM #183 - Designing Adventure Time Fluxx
by Andrew Looney

When Cartoon Network approached us about doing Fluxx variants based on some of their shows, I wasn’t very familiar with Adventure Time. I think I’d seen exactly one episode (It was "Wizard", as I recall.) So the first thing I had to do was to watch a bunch of cartoons! (I know, I have a tough job.)

Obviously, I enjoyed Adventure Time, but I found myself drawn even more to the show that came on right afterwards: Regular Show. And since the first project I was supposed to work on was a mashup of many Cartoon Network shows, I needed to bone up on everything from the PowerPuff Girls to Gumball, so it took me awhile to work my way through the densely-packed weirdness that is Adventure Time.

As soon as I’d delivered a working prototype of the mashup-themed Fluxx, I started working on a standalone Adventure Time-themed Fluxx, since it’s easily the most popular of the shows I’ve been working with. However, I soon put that prototype on the back-burner and began focusing on a Regular Show version instead. Why? Because there were so many other new Adventure Time products in the works, and comparatively few for Regular Show. It just made more sense to go after the underserved market at first. And on a personal level, I myself had really gotten into Regular Show and was just as happy to do that one first. And I’m really glad it worked out that way, because my Adventure Time Fluxx design benefitted greatly from the extra development time.

Like any vast world I’m seeking to distill down into a Fluxx game, Adventure Time is a complex show with way more material than I could ever hope to squeeze into a game with just 100 cards. And, of course, many of those cards are structural (all those standard New Rules and Actions) so actually I only have 20-25 cards to work with in choosing the main elements to feature as the Keepers (and Creepers) in any Fluxx adaptation. And with a world as complex and weird as Adventure Time, in which memorable new characters come and go with each episode, this was quite a challenge.

But as always there are those primary characters who stand out as being obvious choices, and the roster filled in quickly. And characters who don’t show up until later in the show sometimes barge their way to the head of the line. (I’m looking at you, Lemongrab!) I found ways to squeeze in a few extra characters with references on Action cards, such as Choose Goose (an action that gives you a choice of others) and James Baxter (who just shows up briefly to make everyone feel great, by giving each player a card and getting rid of all Creepers).

In my earliest designs, I was trying to include a few items, like Finn’s different swords, the Enchiridion, Ice King’s crown perhaps… but I had to drop all those because I needed to give as many actual characters as possible a chance to appear, but more importantly because I needed for all Keepers to be characters and thus eligible to enter… the "Arena"!

The Arena is a powerful new action that requires all other players to submit entrants to a single-combat contest. The other players get a chance to argue for who they think would win in a fight, but you then decide the victor. That player keeps said card while everyone else loses theirs!

For a while I was planning for the Creepers in Adventure Time Fluxx to work like those in Star Fluxx, that is, as cards that attach themselves to Keepers in a transformative way. My plan included three: Lumpiness, Zombified, and Possessed by the Lich. But I was never quite happy with how that played out, and eventually gave up on that angle, replacing those three with four more traditional Creepers: Candy Zombies, The Lich, Hunson Abadeer, and Magic Man. And, of course, this is better because the Creepers can then also enter the Arena!

Yet another thing I was trying for a while was a single card that invoked most of the Candy People (Assorted Candy People) and another for an assortment of Princesses. But I kept wanting to refer to specific members of each of those groups on Goals and ultimately gave up the Assorted concept, including instead five different Candy People (each marked with an icon) and five different Princesses (with their own icon), plus Princess Bubblegum (marked with both icons).

An episode near and dear to any gamer’s heart is "Card Wars", so, of course, I had to make some sort of "Floop the Pig" reference. At first that’s all I had — a goal of Finn with Mr. Pig called "Floop The Pig". But I decided I could do better, and came up with an action called "Floop a Keeper", which becomes rather devastating when the Keeper you choose to Floop is the Pig.

As for the gender-swapped characters (Fionna, Cake, Ice Queen, etc), they will just have to wait until an expansion or something.

Once we were ready to move into production, we got Ian McGinty to help us with the illustrations. Ian already has experience drawing the Adventure Time characters for the comic books, and he’s developing custom-drawn images for the cards in our game.

Adventure Time Fluxx will be hitting the stores this summer. It’ll be mathematical!