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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Flip over Plans from PlayPunk, Insert Donuts Smartly, and Protect a Temple as Runemasters

by W. Eric Martin

PlayPunk is a new publisher founded by Antoine Bauza, designer of 7 Wonders and Hanabi, and Thomas Provoost, co-founder of Repos Production. An overview:

For them, authors are the key creative players, and will be supported — and challenged! — so that each game reaches its full potential. Games from PlayPunk will be polished down to the smallest detail: game design, narrative, ergonomics, graphics, production, writing…

To achieve this goal, PlayPunk will take the time to mature its games and will have a limited catalog.

I experienced this attention to detail firsthand whenever I talked with Thomas about titles coming from Repos. Everything was tested over and over and over again, with constant tweaks to address elements that would likely be invisible to most players — which is pretty much the goal. You want the gameplay to be forefront with no distractions from anything that sticks out as wrong.

PlayPunk has two titles lined up for release in 2024. Captain Flip is a 2-5 player game from Remo Conzadori and Paolo Mori. A short description of this February 2024 release:

Hoy, Captain! Hoist your flag, take risks to recruit a colorful crew, and earn as many gold coins as possible!

Promotional image for Captain Flip from the 2023 Paris est Ludique! fair

Captain Flip is a game of obvious simplicity explained in less time than a cannonball shot. On your turn, draw a tile from the bag. You like it? Keep it! You don’t like it? Flip it! Then place it on your board to form your crew. With its nine characters and four boards with different tactics, Captain Flip offers an immediate, fun, and subtle gaming experience.

The second title is an expert game from Grégory Grard and Mathieu Roussel for 2 or 4 players that will be released at SPIEL ’24.

• I first wrote about Bruno Cathala‘s game INSERT in April 2020, then again in September 2021 when it became playable on BoardGameArena. At the time Hurrican was mentioned as the future publisher of a physical edition, but Hurrican has released nothing since Via Magica in 2020, so…who knows?

In any case, Funforge has now announced that it will release the design under the name DONUTS, with the game due out in September 2023. A description:

DONUTS is an abstract strategy game for two players in which you attempt align five rings of your color to win.

To set up, arrange the four 3×3 tiles at random into a 6×6 grid. Each square of the grid has a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line on it. The first player places one of their rings on any unoccupied space, and the line in that space indicates the direction in which the opponent must place their ring: vertically, horizontally, or diagonally in line with the ring just placed. If the opponent can’t place a ring in this direction because each square in this line is occupied, then the opponent can place a ring in any unoccupied square.

If you manage to insert a ring between two rings owned by the opponent — whether by placing your X piece in a space like this O_O or in a space like this OXX_O — then you change those opposing rings to your color.

If the board is full and no one has managed to create a row of five rings in their color, then the player with the largest orthogonally connected group of rings wins.

I’ve played INSERT a bit on BGA and love it, but as Bruno explains on his website, the graphic design of DONUTS is a huge improvement on the original since it makes the game approachable and appealing for a mainstream audience, while still retaining the gameplay unchanged.

• Speaking of Funforge, another title it will release in 2023 is Runemasters, a 1-4 player co-operative tower-defense game from first-time designer Antonio Prono. An overview:

Players work together as Runemasters whose sworn duty is to protect the Temple of Mankind against the forces of evil.

Each turn, new monsters (cards) spawn on the board and advance towards the temple. On their turn, Runemasters roll four unique dice and combine their results in various ways to attack enemies, move around the temple, prevent monsters from advancing, use their individual powers, or trigger powerful one-time effects.

Evil forces are relentless and will keep coming until dawn arrives. Werewolves, warriors, skeleton archers, trolls — all have their unique abilities, and you need to adapt constantly to new threats if you want to have a chance to survive until dawn. Runemasters have their own abilities, too, some particularly efficient at eliminating enemies while others focus on healing and protecting their teammates.

The game ends in victory if Runemasters successfully protect the temple until dawn (a special card placed among the final four cards of the deck) or in defeat if the Runemasters are killed or the temple destroyed.

• I previewed Florian Sirieix‘ deck-building game After Us in October 2022 after trying it at SPIEL ’22, and in that preview I wrote, “Licensed versions will likely follow in other languages, but such deals are often worked out at SPIEL itself, so I can say no more about them now.”

One detail I didn’t publicize at the time was that Matthieu Bonin from publisher Catch Up Games told me that should these versions come to pass, it might be a neat touch to alter the cover to show a fallen landmark from the part of the world in which that version will be released.

Nine months later, several licensed versions have indeed been released, and Bonin’s plan has been realized in many of these versions. Pictured below are the Spanish edition from Maldito Games, the Polish edition from Lucrum Games, the Italian edition from MS Edizioni, the German edition from Pegasus Spiele, and the UK edition from Hachette Board Games UK.

Well, one UK edition. Apparently some retailers in the UK outside of England did not appreciate Big Ben representing them, so Hachette also has a UK edition that features the Eiffel Tower, which is also present on the U.S. edition from Pandasaurus Games. Artist Vincent Dutrait explains the development of the cover and its variants here. (ÎLO in Québec plans to release a Canadian version in October 2023 with a unique cover of its own.)

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