Is it September already? For many of us, that means a return to the drudgery of the learning institution, whichever side of the desk you sit at. For parents, it means the long-awaited return of beloved peace and quiet. However, in the Geek Haven, not much has changed–Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms are still churning out dozens of innovative, avant-garde, or just plain weird gaming projects…some even weirder than this one. And once again, NerdSpan presents a small, curated sampling of the delicacies on parade.
Sunless Sea: From Failbetter Games, eloquent creators of the award-winning, text-dominated social network game Fallen London, comes Sunless Sea, a fully animated maritime exploration/survival game set in the same universe. If you haven’t yet tasted the one-of-a-kind Victorian-ish weirdness that is Fallen London, you can do so for free, with or without a social network account…but don’t forget to come back and pledge once it’s sunk its eldritch hooks in you. Sunless Sea will feature the same rich, choice-driven storytelling as Fallen London–a game that bucks the norm even during character creation, where one can elect to be a lady, a gentleman, or an “individual of mysterious and indistinct gender”–but it will also feature real-time navigation and combat. So come on down to the subterranean Unterzee…the water’s just fine.
Burning Suns: Another UK-based campaign, Burning Suns from Sun Tzu Games is a reboot of an earlier failed attempt…but at least in this case, the second time is the charm, since the lavishly illustrated sci-fi 4X tabletop game has already hit its funding goal and is on the march toward gameplay-expanding stretch goals. For those unfamiliar with the term, 4X implies that the game centers around exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination, usually in that order. In other words, it’s a game of galactic imperialism, and Burning Suns‘ hook is in the variety of empires you can play with. Each empire is composed of three parts: an ideology, a race, and a structure, 9 of each in the basic game, all of which can be mixed and matched for up to 729 unique empires. The reboot also includes, from the beginning, some features that were previously relegated to stretch goals, such as the uber-cool dieships, in which a unit’s remaining hit points are tracked on the miniature itself.
Alteil Horizons: Back on the video game front–well, sort of–Alteil Horizons is a digital dueling card game/tactical RPG hybrid created by Takuji Asanuma, who has worked on games including Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile. Although the game has been playable online for free for several years, the original producer has ceased hosting the game, and it’s being revived and updated by a newish company called Apocoplay. New features include massive, game-wide boss fights and the ability to earn new cards for free via loot-dropping treasure battles. Featuring titillating artwork by noted JRPG illustrators and promo cards illustrated by American comic artists such as Zach Weiner and Pete Abrams, Alteil Horizons is as good an entry as any to into the world of online collectible card gaming. Are you game?
Alien Uprising: From Richard Launius, creator of the legendary Arkham Horror, one of the earliest and most popular cooperative board games, Alien Uprising is a new take on cooperative gaming. 1-5 players control the fates of the hapless crew of the Pioneer, a crashed starship under siege by an angry, lizard-like alien species. The crew have to work together to fend off the attacking reptilian hordes while getting their damaged ship spaceworthy once more. As in most cooperative games, the aliens are controlled by an indifferently hostile system of Event and Troop cards, with quick thinking, flexibility and a bit of luck required to react to the constantly changing circumstances. However, there’s a twist here: only certain actions are available each turn, decided by a custom set of dice, and each rolled action can be claimed by only one crewmember. As the song goes, you can’t always get what you want…but if you reroll up to 2 times, you might find you get what you need. Alien Uprising is available in two flavors, with or without sculpted miniatures, depending on how many cosmic credits you’re willing to burn for the simple joy of flicking Zothren scum across the table.
Amg! Ice Cream!: Scoop this one up before it melts. Ending before the next sunset, Amg! Ice Cream! is a totes adorbs family-friendly dueling card game about frozen dairy treats and the dubious blobs who love them. Actually, that should be Dubious Blobs, the hand-drawn magenta inhabitants of planet Dubious, where the entire population fits into two rigidly segregated personality types: Offensive or Defensive. Offensive cards are used to steal ice cream from your opponents, and Defensive cards are used to protect your hoard from dessert theft. The project has surpassed its petty cash funding goal and offers free international shipping, so if you have young children in your life or just like looking at cutesy amorphous cartoons, you should consider getting Amg! Ice Cream! while the getting’s good.
Neverending Nightmares: Saying that your game is “inspired by the developer’s battle with mental illness”–apparently, still ongoing–doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his ability to deliver a finished product. Yet the promise of Neverending Nightmares is undeniable, from its pedigree (the OCD and MDD-suffering developer was responsible for the hypnotic rhythm game/shmup hybrid Retro/Grade) to the black-and-white visuals that shamelessly riff on the work of the late, great Edward Gorey. Also undeniable is the fact that the flashes of grotesque or horrific imagery that will pepper the game, inspired by the developer’s own “intrusive thoughts,” are truly disturbing. Add in some smart design choices, such as a total lack of immersion-breaking inventory screens and HUD elements, and you have a recipe for authentic psychological horror…if it can collect the other 50% of its funding goal within the next 6 days.
Sojourner Tales: Like Alteil Horizons, Sojourner Tales doesn’t fit neatly into the electronic/tabletop gaming binary. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure story-driven board game designed to interface with your e-reading device or tablet. The game is created by bestselling fantasy authors and RPG designers Tracy and Laura Hickman and designed with story at its core, the somewhat abstract gameplay being merely an engine to drive the choice-driven story module forward. It is also more of a game system than a game itself, with the promise of forthcoming downloadable story modules in a wide variety of genres, including fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, horror and holiday, with many of the proposed stretch goals providing celebrity story modules from other established genre authors. For $75, intrepid creatives can even write and sell their own story modules on the Sojourner Tales website. Will this be the next evolution of the “choice game” genre or merely an expensive, celebrity-endorsed way to play Parcheesi? You decide.
Treasure Adventure World: While it’s true that Treasure Adventure World from Robit Studios and Stephen Orlando isn’t a Kickstarter project, the pre-order campaign for this follow-up to the old-school indie adventure Treasure Adventure Game is clearly inspired by the crowdfunding giant, complete with stretch goals and various reward tiers. And while it’s been an unwritten rule that Geek Haven focuses its lens exclusively on Kickstarter among the various other crowdfunding platforms, I’m including this here anyway because, well, TAG was just that good. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, you can download and play the original at no charge. Then, when you’re convinced you’ve gotten at least $10 of enjoyment out of the game, go ahead and pre-order Treasure Adventure World as a little “thank you” to this 3-man developer team and the magic they’ve made. As expansive as it is simple, TAG is a love letter to, among other things, the game that Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker should have been. It also features a trippy puzzle centered around the use of psychotropic mushrooms, a megalomaniacal corporation, deep sea diving, rabid sharks and talking bugs. Treasure Adventure World will include all that, too, as well as reworked puzzles, boss fights, new areas, and all-new HD art. But seriously, try Treasure Adventure Game. It’s really, really good. I promise.
As always, this is but a taste of the gaming projects Kickstarter currently has on offer. To suggest a project for a future article or voice your opinion on the current lineup, be sure to leave a comment below.