Creature College Update 13 – Fighting the Hamster of Chaos

PS Update 13

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Welcome to Creature college Update 13

In homage to the late great Terry Pratchett, “If complete and utter chaos was an escaped rabid hamster with little pointy teeth then I’d be the sort standing next to a hamster wheel dressed as a carrot trying to tempt the hamster into a tiny box muttering “Here Squeaky, here boy””. We’ve definitely been in overdrive this month. Three cons, updating the website, finishing stretch goals, filming play through videos, running competitions and working with our artist, designer and media studio to get ready for our Kickstarter. My wife has hardly seen me, the children have formed their own self-ruling proto-civilization on the top floor of our family home and given my bleary eyed state at work my colleagues have adopted the mistaken belief that I spend my evening crawling bars sampling the heady Cheltenham nightlife as an elderly Lothario.

So what has actually been happening? Well with less than two months to our Kickstarter now it’s been all hands to the rigging to try and get everything ready.

Website

Well for those who haven’t already noticed we’ve completely revamped an updated the website. Partly so we could add new features but mostly because the old website looked like it had been created by a five year old with a bunch of multi-coloured crayons. The new website is a big improvement, it has play-through videos, our rule book, details of other projects and even a shop where you can buy some of our natty Creature related merchandise. We only have t-shirts available in the shop so far but that will change over the next few weeks as we get closer in to the Kickstarter. You can take a look at the new website at http://www.happyottergames.com/.

Reviews

We’ve now sent sample games out to all of our reviewers and there are some really well known names on the list. Keep an eye on the website for details of the reviews as they become available.

Stretch Goals

All our stretch goal art work is finished and we’re currently working on our extra stretch goal items with our fabby printer Wingo Games. We’ll publish more details on these as they become available but take a look at these cute little suckers!

StretchMost of these guys have already been named by our friends over at The Boardgame Group but there’s still one naming competition left so keep an eye out and join in!

Play-through Video

We know that you’ve been dying to find out more about how Creature College plays so we’ve filmed this neat little video to take you through the game. It’s hard to see the cards so at some point we may film a top down view as well. You can take a look at the video on the front of our website http://www.happyottergames.com/.

We’ve arrived on Board Game Geek!

So we now have our own Board Game Geek page!

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/179433/creature-college

We’d love for you to go take a look at our page, vote on our page and become a fan! We’d love you, and hug you and call you George ( unless you’re a girl in which case we’ll call you George).

Ninja Snails

We’re currently working on a game to be released after Creature College. We don’t plan on being a one-game-wonder! It will be a few months yet but we can give you a sneak peak at our concept art! Here is our Hashimoto Clan Leader. Ninja Snails is a card game that we think will have two decks of just over 100 cards in total. The aim of the game will be to defeat other ninja houses to collect koku. The person at the end of the game with the most koku will win.

hashimoto final Hashimoto-ideas

Well that about wraps it up for this addition of the Newsletter. We’ll be running more fabby competitions and all sorts of other good stuff will be happening in the run up to the Kickstarter so keep an eye out and thank you for all the support you’ve given us as our community. We couldn’t do this without you!

All the best,

Orhan.

The Happy Otter Games Review – Five Tribes, The Djinns of Naqala by Bruno Cathala

IMG_3138 Players: 2-4 Duration: About 90-120 minutes (The rules say 40-80 minutes but we’ve never managed to finish a game in that time)

Age Range: We’d say about 10+ (The rules say 13+ – it is a deep game so I can understand their rating)

So this was another game I’d been dying to try. I’d heard good things about it from a number of friends, and people seemed to be raving about it on the boards as well…but did it live up to the hype? Five Tribes is produced by Days of Wonder, the same company that brought us the hugely successful Ticket to Ride series, Small Worlds and Memoir ’44 so I can perhaps be forgiven for having very high expectations of Five Tribes. A couple of weeks back I purchased a copy from Amazon and planned to unleash it on our Monday night games group, however on the Saturday night I had the opportunity to play the 2-player rules with a friend who had a couple of hours to kill. I was pretty much hooked from the first five minutes, clever game mechanics coupled with beautiful production and great re-playability make this a great acquisition for any one’s games collection. I had actually managed to persuade people to play it four more times by the end of games night! Five Tribes will set you back about £36($52) if purchased on Amazon.

The Unpack

For a game costing only £35 Five Tribes has undeniably beautiful production. You notice almost immediately the vibrancy in the colours, the nice finish on the cards and the large number of quality wooden playing pieces. A great deal of care and attention has been spent making this game look and feel really good. I especially like the little cloth draw string bag for the preponderance of meeples, not strictly necessary given the game play but a very nice additional touch. The crenelated edges on the cardboard coins give them a rather nice unique feel and the artwork on the cards is attractive. IMG_3176 Another nice touch is the scoring pad; the largest I’ve seen for a game but that does make it very easy to use especially if like me your arms have been getting successively shorter in the last few years. The rule book is well laid out and easy to follow and the card game references, the large mats in the picture, a luxury as they serve only to help you with quick look-ups during the game. Did I feel I received my money’s worth in the box? Definitely…I would happily have paid another £5-£10 for this quality of game.

The Trope

You have arrived in the Kingdom of Naqala to find it’s Sultan deceased and the five tribes in disarray. You have to cleverly manoeuvre the tribes into supporting you so that you can defeat your opponents and become the new Sultan of Naqala. To do this you must capture regions of Naqala, influence all powerful Djinns, gain influence through manipulation of the tribes, build palaces and oasis, and ultimately become a very rich man/woman. The trope works well and although the game mechanics would work equally well in multiple different genres you do get the feeling that the author has tried hard to make everything in the game fit comfortably into the backstory. This is a good instance of backstory definitely adding to the game.

The Game Play

Five Tribes is played on a board constructed of 30 region tiles. The region tiles are placed randomly at the start of the game. Each has a score and a special ability. The fact that the board is different every time definitely adds to the re-playablility of the game. Each tile has three meeples randomly assigned to it from the five tribes of Naqala (merchants, viziers, elders, builders and assassins).

IMG_3180

You bid for who moves first and this can be key if you can see a particularly good move on the board. Bidding involves paying for a position on the player order board, but don’t pay too much unless it really benefits you as your hard earned cash translates directly into victory points at the end of the game!

The central mechanic of the game involves how you move the meeples around this board. On your turn you get to take all of the meeples from any one tile and move them in a line either horizontally or vertically (or both) leaving a meeple on each tile you move through until all your meeples are gone. You have to colour match on your last tile, in other words there must be a meeple of the same colour as the last meeple in your hand when you place on the final tile in your run. When you place on the final tile you remove all the meeples of the colour of the last meeple you placed.

IMG_3181

So in the above example we took a blue, green and white meeple from the top right hand corner and left one meeple on the (5) tile another on the (15) tile and placed the final white meeple on the (4) tile. There was already a white meeple there so we were able to remove both white meeples.

Once you’ve moved there are three things that you can then do:

  • Activate the power on the tile which allows you to buy resource  cards, Djinns or buildings.
  • Claim the tile by placing one of your camels on it if you removed ALL of the meeples (i.e. they were all one colour)
  • complete the action for the meeples you removed

The meeples all allow you to complete different actions:

  • Elders (white) – these give you points at the end of the game and enable you to buy Djinns
  • Assassins (red) – Assassinate meeples and can help you claim additional tiles
  • Merchants (green) – allow you to claim resource cards
  • Visiers (yellow) – pure vp at the end of the game
  • Builders (blue) – allow you to claim gold during the game

In Five Tribes gold and victory points are the same thing, You can earn victory points by collecting resource sets, djinns, tiles, gold, buildings and meeples. These all tally up at the end of the game to determine a victor. It’s worth mentioning the Djinns as these have special powers on them that can effect your strategy significantly during the game. I found it was really worth buying djinns but you then had to play to their special powers to gain the full benefit. So there is one djinn that multiplies the gold bonus of your viziers but it’s pointless unless you collect viziers. You get the picture. I guess the point here is don’t ignore them they’re a great strategy to play.

Summary

Five Tribes is a “tour de force”; it has deep gameplay, requires you to play multiple strategies to win, pits you in very interactive tactics with your opponents and delivers more than enough mind bending for even the very seasoned gamer. In the games I’ve played with friends so far it has had a greater quotient of “hang on a moment I need to think” than pretty much any other game I’ve played. Given the relatively short time it takes to read and grasp the rules, finding such depth of gameplay is a welcome surprise. The cost is more than reasonable given the quality of production and the fact that this is a very good game. It’s rare that as a game designer that I come across a game and honestly think that there is nothing I would do to improve it but Five Tribes gains that honour and hence there’s only one way I can really rate it.

Otter Rating: 5 Otters

5 otters

very much the case here.

Creature College Weekly Update Week 10 – Competitions, Posters and Goats

Weekly Update 10

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 10 News Round Up!

So it’s been quite a week this week. Mostly it’s consisted of preparing files for our printer Wingo in China. This basically entails writing lots of instructions, checking through all the files and ensuring that we haven’t made any of those silly little mistakes that you notice later and think to yourself “Why didn’t I check everything through more carefully?” The last piece to this particular puzzle has been integrating all the feedback on the rules which was finished this morning. Now we’re in full publicity mode of UK Games Expo which happens at the end of this month. Mike Legan, our brilliant artist has been working on poster art which we’ll share later in the Newsletter and we’ve been working on some freebies to give away at the show. The other exciting piece of news is that it looks like we’re going to launch a little earlier than we originally thought. You’ve probably seen the odd piece where we’ve mentioned November but it now looks like we’ll be launching over the Essen Games Show in October!

We also have a winner for our April competition. Frank Auge won our $150(£40) prize and chose Cthulu Wars as his prize which is currently winging it’s way towards him! We’ll post pics of Frank with his prize as soon as we’re able to. We also published our first game review of Greenbrier Games’ Ninja Dice. You can read the review here.

Finally our friends Arthur and Veronica Critchfield launched their game Gruff on Kickstarter yesterday. We were able to drop in on their Skype launch event and have a chat with Brent whilst Veronica drew the most amazing Mutated Monster Goat mural in the background. We just want to say one thing:

BACK GRUFF NOW

Mutated Monster Goats….come on people! Joking aside this is a great game with fantastic artwork and a strong well play tested design. At only $25 for the bottom tier it’s one of the cheaper Kickstarters to back. It’s almost funded already. This will be a Kickstarter that you’re very pleased you’ve backed.

UK Games Expo, 29th – 31st May

So we will have stand 7 in the Library at UK Games Expo this year. We’re going to be playing the first sample version of Creature College, running competitions, collecting for charity (hopefully) and generally having a great time. We’ve started an event on Facebook and if you’re on this side of the pond (i.e. In the UK) we’d love to meet you and have a game!

UK Games Expo Event

Just look for our poster…you won’t be able to miss us!

Ninja Dice Review

We love Ninja Dice as a great little filler game for the end of an evening or to take with you on holiday. You can get Ninja Dice from Green Brier games. Read the review here.

Ninja-Dice

Back Gruff on Kickstarter!

This is a game that needs to get backed and then some. Not only does it have Mutated Monster Goats in it, reason enough to back it in our books, but it has fabulous artwork, a great design and compelling game-play. But don’t take our word for it, take a look at the Kickstarter video and the review video below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/31839895/gruff-the-tactical-card-game-of-mutated-monster-go/widget/video.html

Well that about wraps it up for this week folks. Have a great week and we’ll have more exciting news next week!

All the best,

Orhan.

Creature College Weekly Update Week 9 – The Eagle Has Landed!

Weekly Update 9

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 9 News Round Up!

So this week we’re more excited than a very excited person who’s just won the lottery and got engaged to Scarlett Johansson all in the same week! Creature College is winging it’s way piecemeal to Wingo Games our wonderful printers in Guang Dong Province China as I type! They’ll be creating 5 prototypes for us that we can send out to reviewers, use for marketing and, oh, I don’t know…play even. Mike Legan, our fantastic artist, is busy working on a poster for our marketing materials at UK Games Expo which we’ll share as soon as it arrives. We’re also working on several other games in concept but more on those in future months. We’ve been running our “Name a Creature” Competition in The Boardgame Group on Facebook this week and we’ve had some fantastic entries. Many thanks to Micheal Scott Matecha, Josh Tolpa, Matthew Roberts, Matt Prowse and Ryan Myers for their winning entries and to everyone who took part. We’d also like to give a shout for two games this week. Midnight Zombie Marathon, which has 17 days left to run on Kickstarter and Gruff, a tactical card game involving mutated monster goats which will start on Kickstarter 1st May. We also finished the back of our box this week and we’re very nearly finished with our rules. We hope to be sharing a .pdf later next week.

Last but definitely not least, we’ll be giving away a £80($120) of board games of the winners choice to whoever wins our April “Win a board game competition”, but to make it even more interesting, we’ll add an extra £20($30) to that if we can add another 30 people to our mailing list by the end of April! That’s right £100($150) of games to the winner of the competition in April if we can add another 30 people to the list.

The “Name a Creature” Competition

Well it has to be said that this was a storming success. Unsurprisingly the community on Facebooks The Boardgame Group rose to the challenge brilliantly and we’d like to say a great big thank you to everyone who took part. Thanks to you Snuze Mumblethump, Briney Hydrosnuffles, Ruby Rumblestone, Sparx Franklin and Singe Flappingsworth will all be immortalised on our cards. The competition was such a success that we’ll probably run another of these competitions in the not-too-distant future.

Baby Mer-Dragon

Midnight Zombie Marathon and Gruff

MZM and Gruff are two great Kickstarters. MZM is funded already and Gruff takes off on May 1st. Arthur has done a fabulous job with Gruff and it really is a phenomenal game. We highly recommend that you take a look at it when it launches….mutated monster goats….who’s not going to love that right?

10981946_10153171951556052_677850946851958791_o

The Back of Our Box!

We shared the design of the front of our box a while ago but Will, our fabulous designer has done his magic with the back of the box as well. He’s created a fabulously sexy image design that we’re very excited about! Drop us a note and tell us what you think! Our rules should be out this next week and well share them with you as a .pdf file!

back_front3

Win £80($120) of Board Games of Your Choice

Just for April and to celebrate finishing Creature College and sending it to the printers we’re doubling our normal monthly prize from £40($60) to £80($120). This means that one lucky winner will get to choose £80($120) worth of games! Not only that but if we manage to add another 30 people to our subscriber list by the end of the month we’ll top that up to £100($150)!

Win a Boardgame Banner April

Well that’s it for this week folks. Have a great week and get your friends signed up to the Newsletter!

All the best,

Orhan.

Creature College Weekly Update Week 8 – A Blast From The Past

Weekly Update 8

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 8 News Round Up!

Well, here we are…only six weeks to go until UK Games Expo and getting perilously close to beginning our sample printing. Just the back of the box to polish, two and a half more battle cards to produce and our rules booklet to design and we’re there! To celebrate we’re offering double our monthly prize so in April you can win £80($120) of games of your choice…ever wanted to have that really big game? Well now’s your chance! If you’re not subscribed to our news letter go ahead and do so and you’ll automatically be entered into this draw and every draw until we launch in the Autumn. We’d also like to give a shout out for Midnight Zombie Marathon, a game currently on Kickstarter. This looks like a great little card game to use as a 30 minute filler and at $15 for US pledgers, well worth a try! We’ve backed it and Aaron will be creating some pledges for those outside of the US that want to pledge – they only need $1500 so help us get them over their funding target! The rest of this week’s update is really a bit of a blast from the past…looking at Creature College from it’s inception to where we are today. We’ll be releasing some of our embarrassing early prototypes and game scribbles and also the first picture of what the game looks like in play.

Win £80($120) of games in April!

Tell your friends, call out the majorettes and the tumbling clowns (even the scary ones that look a little like the ebil clown from the horror movies) and shout it from the parapets (if you happen to have a parapet, otherwise your front porch will do). We’re giving away £80 ($120) worth of games of your choice in April. Some lucky person in some far flung corner of the globe will be getting a mitt full of goodies and all they have to do is subscribe to our newsletter here.

April Special

Midnight Zombie Marathon – Help us get these guys over their target

We’d really like this game to succeed. It looks like fun and it’s very nicely produced. I guess it’s their first game and Aaron and guys at Arche Nemesis Games LLC have obviously put a lot of work into getting the look and feel right. So head over to Kickstarter and give these guys some love. Let’s get them over their funding target!

d9c85a087f148a232222eb9aae41c657_original

A Blast from the past!

So…how did Creature College start out? The morning after a drunken dinner party and feeling rather hung over but having foolishly agreed to create a game for my mates…this happened:

Notes

Yes…these inane scribbles were the first thoughts that made their way onto paper and roughly described the first version of the game. It took about a day to produce Creature College v 0.1 and at that point (before we’d encountered the sweaty armpitted monster of copyright) it was called “Mad Scientist”. I remember having my wife and friends sat around a table cutting out hastily produced cards and tokens. The result of the first version looked something like this (actually this is something like the third or fourth version but the 1st version was too embarrassing to photograph!):

Before

It’s interesting that many of the elements of the game actually did make it through the process of play testing, but a lot of mechanics and items didn’t as well. Money went, we had a points track at one stage and that went too…in fact most of our play testing involved removing things! The first game was a real stinker…it took about two hours to play and was about as exciting as searching your bogeys for little brown bits (I’ve never done this….honest). However through countless play tests and many iterations we’ve dragged the game kicking and screaming into a sleek starship of a game that’s fast paced (45 minutes) and fun with plenty of “oh you didn’t just do that!” moments. This is what it looks like now just prior to our first sample print run:

After

If anyone is interested in game design and has some questions regarding how we’ve got to where we are then by all means drop me an email at orhan@happyottergames.com. You can read more about our story in the event magazine for UK Games Expo when it comes out and we may reprint the article on or website depending on permissions. Have a fabby week everyone! Orhan.

Creature College Weekly Update Week 7 – Enter the Were-Gerbil

Weekly Update 7

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 7 News Round Up!

So the more perceptive of you may have noticed that we seem to have fallen behind by a week on our weekly reports. I would like to be able to claim that our previous week 7 report was caught in an unexpected space-time vortex and sucked into a dimension populated entirely by sheep and people called Eric. Sadly the truth is a little more mundane that I’ve been caught up in far too much work for Creature College and real life has also encroached on my time. Having said all that, it has been an almost bed-wettingly exciting week for us here at Happy Otter Games. First and foremost we had the first images of our box design that some of you may have seen during the week on our Facebook posts, in addition Scott D. Randel was kind enough to send us a picture of him playing “Invasion from Outer Space” which he won in our March “Win a Board Game” competition.

It’s also been a great week for play testing. We went down to Cardiff on Wednesday and met up with Robert Fisher, Scott Robinson and Patrick Barry, a trio of very talented board game designers who are part of the meetup group Playtest UK. Many chips were consumed whilst playing Creature College and the guys gave some great feedback on the game much of which should make it into our sample print. We’ve also finished the draft of our rules and they’ve gone to our designer for the design work. Last but far from least, a few weeks ago Sherri Kopel Haight made the suggestion on Facebook that we should have a Were-gerbil in the game. We loved the idea…so we put him in and you can have a sneak preview of the concept art below.

We’d also like to give a shout out to Gruff from Studio Woe which will go live on Kickstarter on the 1st of May. We’ll definitely be supporting this great tactical card game, mutated monster goats! We’re so in!

Our Game Box Design

The design for the front of our box was finished earlier on this week and we have to admit…we love it!

box1

We decided to let the great folks on Board Game Geek’s Facebook site tell us what they thought of it and we’ve had some great feedback:

 ” It is very cute and clean. Clean is always good and very easy to read.”

I like it. Definitely catches the eye and makes me want to see how the game plays.”

“Very Appealing, I would pick it up…its eye catching and engaging.”

“clean, polished and above all – readable!”

Our brilliant designer is now working on the back of the box.

Invasion from Outer Space

Scott D. Randel  won our March “Win a Board Game” competition and very kindly sent us this great picture of him playing the game with his friends!

scott randel

I haven’t played Invasion from Outer Space but by the response this picture received on Facebook it’s definitely worth giving it a go. I may be forced to raid my piggy bank and see if I have a few pounds left in there.

Beware the Were-Gerbil

We love our community, you have some great ideas and you’ll be glad to know that we do occasionally actually listen to them! When Sherri Kopel Haight saw Kevin the Giga Pig on Facebook she exclaimed that if the game had Were-Gerbils in it she was in! Well, never being the ones to loose the opportunity and thinking that Were-Gerbils would be past cool…we decided to put one in the game and here he is…thanks Sherri!

were-gerbil

Well that just about rounds it up for this week. Thank you for all your support guys and please do tell all your friends about us and we’ll love you forever!

Orhan.

Happy Otter Games Ltd.

Creature College Weekly Update 6 – Dellcon, Competition Winners and Box Art Sneak Preview

Weekly Update 6

Don’t forget to subscribe to our news letter if you haven’t done so already and you’ll be entered into our monthly “Win a board game of your choice” competition. Just click here.

Welcome to our Week 5 News Round Up!

We’re late this week! I know, I know….the weekly round up normally goes out on a Saturday so what have we been doing with our time? Well as always it’s been a mad busy week, we were fortunate enough to go to Dellcon at the Dellhouse in Malvern, UK over the weekend which meant that instead of writing newsletters we were out enjoying ourselves playing a lot of cool games including Creature College. Our hosts, Kevin and Elizabeth, were fabulous and I can recommend the Dellhouse if you ever want to organise a gaming weekend with friends! We’ve also been working on an article for the UK Games Expo show magazine. It’s all about being a virgin games designer in a cruel world! You’ll like it! Actually our world really isn’t cruel at all, it’s pink and fluffy and filled mostly with cuddly things albeit some of them having huge pointy teeth.

We’ve finished our box art as well and we’ll be giving our wonderful WordPress followers and Newsletter subscribers a sneak preview below! We also have another competition winner! Scott Randel won our March competition and will shortly be the proud owner of a copy of Invasion from Outer Space by Flying Frog Productions. Way to go Scott! We’ll be giving away a game every month until we launch in the Autumn so tell your friends to subscribe to our Newsletter and let’s share the love!

Box Art from Our Fabulous Artist

As an exclusive treat for our News Letter subscribers we’re giving you the first peek at our cover art. We haven’t built all the design pieces around the cover art yet so you’re seeing it pre-production! Drop us a line and let us know what you think!

cover final painted2

It’s just possible you may spot one or two of our other characters and creatures that we haven’t yet released any information about!

Dellcon

We’d like to give a shout out for our friends Kevin and Elizabeth at the Dell House in Malvern. They hosted Dell Con 2015 last weekend. We met some cool people, nearly got blown off the top of the Malvern hills (I had to actually hold my hat on), played more games than I can remember including Terra Mystica (my favourite), Suburbia, Alea Iacta Est and Ticket to Ride Europe, and play tested Creature College. I can recommend the Dell House to anyone who is organising a weekend away with their games group.

the-dell-house

Competition Winners February and March

Kris won our February competition and sent us a picture of her holding her winnings! Scott Randel took the prize for our March competition and we’re looking forward to seeing a picture of him playing it with his friends!

Kris + King of Tokyo

Have a great week and a safe and happy Easter everyone and we look forward to updating you again after Easter!

All the best,

Orhan.