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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Build Villages with Bloodstones, Adventure with Fighting Fantasy, and Rebel with Monster Rock

by W. Eric Martin

• In mid-2022, designer Martin Wallace launched a new publishing company — Wallace Designs — with a crowdfunding project for Bloodstones, a game that he started working on in 2013.

The game is heading into production for release before the end of 2023, and here’s an overview:

Bloodstones is a fantasy wargame for 1-6 players featuring six different races, each with its own specific powers and its own mix of units, represented by domino-shaped tiles. Some of these units will be unique to that race, such as dragons to the Dragon Riders and giants to the Hill Folk.

The aim of the game is to have the most victory points, which can be gained by building your own villages and raiding those of other players and by winning battles.

At the start of the game, players arrange their tiles in stacks. From these, they draw a starting hand of nine. Players then decide where to place their citadel and which tiles will be placed with it. The tiles are multi-use. When placed on the board, they becomes units, with the type indicated by the symbol in the center. In your hand, tiles can be used to build other units, move units, improve your combat strength, build villages, and raid villages.

The main part of the game proceeds with player turns. On your turn, you can perform as many actions as you wish, although some actions have restrictions as to when you can perform them. After you have completed your actions, draw back to your hand size of six tiles. If you exhaust your stock of tiles, then shuffle your discarded ones to make a new draw stock. You also score victory points for villages you have on the board.

The game ends when each player has scored points a number of times. With two players, this will be three times; for three or more players, two times.

• With Bloodstones moving toward the finish line, Wallace Designs has been prepping its next release, which will be Fighting Fantasy Adventures: Campaign One, a co-operative card game for 1-4 players based on the Fighting Fantasy book series from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

The short take on the game:

Gameplay is easy to learn and engaging, downtime is minimal, and your characters will gain new abilities after each adventure. The card-based system lets you have the feel of a role-playing game, without the need for a gamemaster. The map is revealed as you play, and event cards tell you what you have discovered.

This campaign will comprise five adventures based on the four stories below:

— The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

— Island of the Lizard King

— Deathtrap Dungeon

— The Forest of Doom (in two parts)

Each adventure takes roughly 90-180 minutes to play, providing 10-15 hours of total game time.

Wallace Designs launched a campaign for Fighting Fantasy Adventures on Kickstarter on June 30, 2023, then cancelled it less than two weeks later. Says Wallace, “There are so many factors involved in why some games take off while others flop that you cannot always be sure what exactly went wrong. However, I think it was pretty obvious that the price and target figure were too high. With severe increases in shipping costs, lower-value items suffer due to the cost/postage ratio. Therefore we have regrouped and are relaunching the game on Gamefound. It should be interesting to see whether we get it right this time.”

He continues:

What the experience has brought home to me is that this game’s best way to the market lies in distribution and retail, not crowdfunding. Thus, moving forwards, we will be releasing future Fighting Fantasy Adventure campaigns via distribution. I have spent over five years on this project, so cancelling is not an option. One way or another the game is coming out. I feel confident that there is an untapped market for a light RPG that helps introduce people to the world of role playing.

Looking at the general state of the crowdfunding market, it does feel we are on the other side of the hill and numbers are sliding down. My feeling is that companies that rely too much on crowdfunding are playing Russian roulette with their futures. Wallace Designs intends to put out a range of games, some via crowdfunding and some direct to distribution. Hopefully this balance will help us survive what are increasingly difficult times.

• Looking ahead, Wallace Designs has already revealed its 2025 release: Steam Power, a game in which 2-5 players “race” to build the best rail network to meet their contractual obligations and make the most money:

On your turn, you can perform two actions from a selection of choices, letting you lay tracks, build factories, fulfill contracts, earn money, or collect more contracts. Building a factory brings resources to the board that all players have access to…at a price.

The game ends when a certain number of contracts are fulfilled, which varies by player count. The player with the most points (and money, which converts to points) wins.

Wallace says that Steam Power will be the company’s next Gamefound project, launching in January 2024: “After a number of years away from the genre, I felt it was time to start playing with the train set again. Steam Power uses track tile-laying at its core, while stripping back as much complexity as possible. The Gamefound version will have track tiles made in the style of poker chips, and fake-silk maps (as we did in Bloodstones). There will also produce a retail version, but I’m trusting there are enough collectors out there who will want the fully blinged out game.”

• Aside from games from his own company, Wallace has a co-design with Amanda Milne, owner of publisher SchilMil Games, in the works for 2024: Monster Rock, which is for 1-5 players:

Can your rock band play to suit the audience of trolls, ogres, halflings, or undead? More importantly, will you lead the revolution to overthrow the evil King? King Richard, son of Nicholas the Good, has become a paranoid wreck and no longer trusts his citizens. He is building an army of robots to suppress the good folk of Paradise City.

In the fantasy rock band game Monster Rock, you have just started a rock band and are learning by doing. You move around the city playing what gigs you can and writing songs to entertain the masses. The followers you gain will help you to revolt against the King and bring freedom to the people of the city!


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