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ThunderGryph Pops Open Tiny Games with Cats, Light, and Forged Creatures

by W. Eric Martin

• Like many publishers, ThunderGryph Games organizes and promotes its titles in game lines, such as the “Matchbox Collection” of tiny games released in 2020, the “Made in Wonderland” line that uses an “Alice in Wonderland” setting and art by Paolo Voto, and a “30 Journeys” line for games that provide long, immersive adventures.

Its newest line is dubbed “Soda Pop” because the games come packaged in containers that resemble soda cans. I know that some gamers hate gimmicky packaging because they want to square the corners on all the stacks on their shelves, but I can appreciate the casual and playful vibe that ThunderGryph is trying to convey through its packaging — not to mention its marketing, which feels like a very mainstream-friendly approach:

Youtube Video

Aside from the packaging, the “Soda Pop” titles are all two-player abstract strategy games with short playing times. Here’s an overview of Pierpaolo Paoletti‘s Cat-a-comb, for example:

Your goal is to get your cats stacked in all the right places.

To set up, each player takes all six cat cubes of one color (black or white). Place the nine tiles — three each of brown, white, and black — into a 3×3 grid, then choose a player to play the three neutral brown cubes on a tile of each color. The other player then takes the first turn.

On a turn either place one of your cats from your reserve onto a neutral cat or opposing cat that is sitting directly on a tile, thereby creating a stack of two cats, or take a stack of cats from a tile and distribute them on the board, placing the bottommost cat onto an adjacent space, then the next cat onto a space adjacent to the one just placed, then (if present) the final cat adjacent to that one. (A stack can consist of one cat.)

Black wins!

You can never place two cats of the same color directly on top of one another, and your turn cannot end with a stack taller than three.

You win at the end of your turn if (1) you have a cat on the top of the stacks of all the tiles of one color or (2) you have a cat on top of three stacks that are each three cats high.

Top Cap from Enrico Gandolfo leans into the soda connection by using bottle caps as the game pieces:

In Top Cap, each player starts with four bottle caps in their color on a 6×6 grid; the corner of the grid closest to them depicts a bottle in the matching color.

On a turn, choose one of your bottle caps, count the number of bottle caps of either color that are on adjacent spaces (whether orthogonal or diagonal), then move that bottle cap exactly that many spaces in a straight line either diagonally or orthogonally. You cannot leave the board, jump or land on a bottle cap, or land on your bottle.

One of the starting set-ups

If you move one of your bottle caps onto the opponent’s bottle, you win. If you cannot legally move one of your bottle caps on your turn, you lose.

Forgenesis from Ignazio Panades falls into a similar bucket as Top Cap, but with pieces now having special powers to distinguish them:

In Forgenesis, you want to land on the opponent’s base or make them unable to play.

To set up, each player takes their six creature tokens, then they remove the same two types of tokens from play. Place the 4×4 game board with the corner of your color toward you. Choose a start player, who places one of their creatures with its active side up on one of the summoning spaces next to their corner; the other player then places one of their creatures on one of their summoning spaces.

On a turn, activate any number of your active creatures on the board by either (1) moving them one space orthogonally toward the opponent’s corner or (2) using their unique ability, after which you flip the token to its resting side. The frog jumps an orthogonally adjacent token, the firefly pulls a creature in the same orthogonal line adjacent to the firefly, the beetle pushes an orthogonally adjacent token one space, and so on. If a token leaves the board, it’s permanently removed from play. To end your turn, you can summon a creature from your reserve onto an empty summoning space of your color.

Starting position

Instead of activating creatures, you can spend your turn flipping all of your resting animals to their active side.

If you move one of your creatures onto the opponent’s corner, you win. If you cannot activate a creature while also having no resting creatures, you lose.

Light Seeker from Daniel and Julian Danzer uses a familiar element from other abstract strategy games: a blocker that keeps the opponent from doing exactly what they want to do while protecting a future action you might want to take. Here’s an overview:

In Light Seeker, both players must increase the amount of light in the world on their turn — but can you bring the light together to win?

To set up, place the nine cubes in a 3×3 grid with space between the cubes and with dark sides on top. Each cube has two sides that are all dark, two sides that are half-light (with a diagonal line separating dark from light, which is marked with a white dot), and two sides that are fully light (with a white dot on each half). A Half side counts as 1 light and a Bright side as 2 light. The starting player slides or tilts one cube into an open space, then the other player places Buh, the blocking token, onto any cube, then play begins.

On a turn, you take two actions. An action can be to (1) slide a cube into an orthogonally adjacent open space, not changing its orientation, or (2) tilt a cube into an orthogonally adjacent open space. You cannot take an action where Buh is located, and after taking your actions, you must move Buh onto any other cube. At the end of your turn, all cubes must be orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to at least one other cube and the total amount of light on the top faces of the cubes must be higher.

Set-up, prior to the initial tilt/slide and Buh blocking

A “light area” is created by one or more cubes that have orthogonally adjacent Half and Bright areas. Multiple light areas can exist on top of the cubes, and they will shift and change over time. If at the end of your turn, you have created a light area that contains at least 7 light, you win.

ThunderGryph Games is hoping to fund its “Soda Pop” line on Backerkit starting at the end of February 2023, and in the time-honored tradition of bars everywhere, it’s offering something salty on the side to try to encourage the purchase of drinks…


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