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AICN Tabletop! D&D Next! Pathfinder! VITICULTURE! And More Kickstarters!

Abstruse here once again with Ain’t It Cool News Tabletop! We gamers have a pedigree that dates back to the foundations of human society, according to a new archeological find. An Egyptian 20-sided die dating back to between 304 and 30BCE with Greek lettering was discovered and is currently on housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, though it’s not currently on display.


I had nothing to do with this, but I’m so TOTALLY taking credit for it. Here’s the Twitter exchange that happened on Friday morning:

And what happens just a few hours later?

Either I caused them to release it early or I’m psychic. I’m accepting no other explanations.

However it came to happen, the new DUNGEONS & DRAGONS NEXT playtest packet is available and includes several tweaks and updates to the classes/skills/feats, a HUGE update to the spell list, some new rules for death and healing, updates to the Bestiary, several module-specific Bestiaries (most notably for A-series adventures which are due to be reprinted shortly), and rules for three new races: Half-elves, Half-orcs, and Gnomes. Once again, the playtest is completely free to join so long as you agree to the Playtest Agreement which basically says you won’t blab about what the game has or create or sell any material based off it.

Several weeks ago, I mentioned an update to Pathfinder Society (Paizo’s organized play for PATHFINDER) that included some major shifts including the elimination of two of the factions. Pathfinder Society is ready to pull the trigger with the release of two new scenarios, “Way of the Kirin” and “Rivalry’s End”. After these two adventures, both the Lantern Lodge and Shadow Lodge are history. Players of those factions can earn extra boons for playing the closing adventures, but if they choose not to, they still must switch to a different faction on August 14. There is a lot more information on specifics involving the end of these two factions on the Pathfinder Society website.

I got to chat with Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games, who recently released VITICULTURE and currently has a Kickstarter for EUPHORIA, which I talked about in last week’s column.

Abstruse: Tell me a bit about your company and how you got started for those who don't know.

Jamey Stegmaier: I ran a Kickstarter campaign for a winemaking strategy game called Viticulture back in the fall, and I formed a game company to publish that game once we reached our funding goal.

Abstruse: So the company came after the Kickstarter?

Jamey Stegmaier: The reason I made it a company (specifically, an LLC) and didn't just publish it as an individual was partially because I was working on it with a friend, and we wanted a cohesive name, and partially because LLC removes liability from us as individuals and puts it on the company in case something goes terribly wrong with one of our games. The company name was in place going into Kickstarter, but nothing was registered or official, and nothing would have come of it if we hadn't funded Viticulture.

Abstruse: Was Viticulture your first foray into professional game design?

Jamey Stegmaier: It was. I've designed board games since I was a little kid, but it wasn't until I started to see games be successful on Kickstarter that I decided to give it a serious chance. I think Kickstarter is a fantastic platform for board games in particular because of the capital required to print a minimum print run (in my case, with Panda Game Manufacturing, the minimum is 1500 games).

Abstruse: And Viticulture got over $65,000 in its Kickstarter, didn't it? Was it hard promoting a game when you didn't have a professional resume to back you up?

Jamey Stegmaier: I wouldn't say it was hard, but the odds were stacked against me. As a first-time designer/publisher, I had no clout at all. I wasn't even active on BGG at the time. What I did have was 5+ years’ experience with blogging, so I knew how invaluable blogger outreach was and how to do it effectively. I also game a number of prototypes to reviewers so that people would know during the campaign if the game was any good.

Abstruse: Has it been any easier for you with Euphoria?

Jamey Stegmaier: I wouldn't say "easier." But I do have more connections than I did a year ago, and I have the benefit of Viticulture out there to the world. People were able to see how I delivered a high-quality product--the trust they put in me during the Viticulture campaign was reciprocated, and as a result of those original backers, Euphoria reached its funding goal in an hour (Viticulture took over 2 weeks).

Abstruse: And you're sitting right now (Friday, June 7) at something like 1300% of your original goal. That's got to feel pretty good.

Jamey Stegmaier: It does feel really good. It's also nervewracking, as it's a whole different scale than Viticulture, but yeah, it's incredible to me that so many people believe in what we're doing.

Abstruse: Let's back up a bit and talk about the games. Viticulture is available to order now at retail, right?

Jamey Stegmaier: It is indeed. It's exciting to see it out there in the world.

Abstruse: What's the game about?

Jamey Stegmaier: It's a worker-placement game in which players try to create the top vineyard in Tuscany. It has elements of two other worker placement games I love, Fresco and Stone Age.

Abstruse: I have to admit, even though my profile photo everywhere is a d20 in front of a glass of bourbon, I know next to nothing about wine or winemaking.  Homebrew beer? Yes. Distilling? Yes. Wine? For me, the "good stuff" is about $6 a bottle. Am I going to be at a serious disadvantage playing this game?

Jamey Stegmaier: Fortunately you don't have to know anything about wine for the game. There's no wine trivia or anything like that in the game. Although the theme is woven deep into the game, the mechanics make sense even if you don't care about wine. So, no, I say pop open a beer and pull out Viticulture. It'll make sense.

Abstruse: But I'll probably learn something in the process?

Jamey Stegmaier: You'll learn a little. But if you tried to walk onto a vineyard to make wine after playing the game, you would end up with some terrible wine. But I encourage that nonetheless.

Abstruse: Or some good vinegar.

Jamey Stegmaier: Or grape juice.

Abstruse: That's what most of the wine I drink tastes like anyway.

Jamey Stegmaier: That's the good stuff.

Abstruse: So your current Kickstarter is for Euphoria. It looks like it's also a worker placement game. Are there any gameplay similarities?

Jamey Stegmaier: I would say that the only thing they have in common is that you can add workers, which is pretty much universal across all worker placement games. Other than that, they're very different games. To start with, your workers in Euphoria are dice.

Abstruse: Dice? How does that work?

Jamey Stegmaier: So, Euphoria is a dystopian themed game, and you're in charge of a small team of workers. However, they don't know they're in a dystopia, and that "knowledge" (or lack thereof) is reflected on each worker by the number on the dice. Individual worker knowledge plays a roll in the different ways the dice interact with the board. If your collective worker knowledge (which is accounted for every time you roll the dice) gets too high, one of your workers will realize he's in a dystopia and will run away. Such are the trials and tribulations of a dystopian overlord.

Abstruse: Sort of like Winston Smith or Cleric Preston.

Jamey Stegmaier: Exactly. But with dice.

Abstruse: We all know 1984, A BRAVE NEW WORLD, and FAHRENHEIT 451 would be big influences on a game like this. What else did you draw on designing it?

Jamey Stegmaier: A lot of the recruit cards in the game pay homage to some of those classics, as well as some personal favorites like Ready Player One, Wool, The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Giver, Fringe’s final season, Pure, The Twelve, The Scar, The Walking Dead, the dolphin episode of The Simpsons, and a short story called “The Lottery.” Despite all of those influences, Euphoria has its own story, most of which I developed while designing the game, and the final part (the apocalypse) decided by backer vote during the Kickstarter campaign.  We drew on a lot of movies too, like Children of Men, The Matrix, The Hunger Games, In Time, Terminator, Logan’s Run, Never Let Met Go, The Island, The Truman Show, Reign of Fire, Waterworld, Wall-E, Cloud Atlas and Clockwork Orange. Some of them may not seem inherently dystopian, but they all have common themes of dystopias.

Abstruse: So you've got two games under your belt. Have you started making plans for the future yet? Going to expand on winemaking or being a better Andrew Ryan, or do you have something new up your sleeve?

Jamey Stegmaier: Given how quickly Viticulture has sold out, I think I'm going to focus on designing an expansion pack for it. When that's done I'll look at a Euphoria expansion pack. A lot of my time will be taken up with Euphoria logistics, getting all the shipping channels set up and whatnot.

Abstruse:  You seem like what a lot of gamers wish they were: a self-made success story. You went from playing games to starting your own company which is doing pretty well. Do you have any advice for people looking to follow in your footsteps?

Jamey Stegmaier: I'm full of advice, some of it good, some of it not so much. For anyone considering Kickstarter, I would highly recommend reading my "Kickstarter Lessons" series on my blog, That's a good place to start. In terms of game design, playtest early and often, and then get strangers to playtest the game many, many times when you aren't there to watch them. A game might seem pretty great in your mind, but you really have no idea until it hits the table. Also, don't consider yourself a success until after you ship. Because shipping is when everything can go wrong.

Abstruse: What games are you playing right now?

Jamey Stegmaier:  I'm playing now...well, mostly Euphoria, as I'll be playtesting until the day we send files to the printer to make sure all the final tweaks work. But the last non-Euphoria game I played was King of Tokyo. The game I most WANT to be playing is Tzolk'in. I want to play Tzolk'in all the time.

Euphoria’s Kickstarter ends at noon Eastern time on Thursday, so if you want to get in on the ground floor for this game, do it now or wait and pay retail.

I’ve been getting a lot of complaints that I’m leaving out very obvious Kickstarters for various tabletop games when I’m covering them. There’s basically three reasons why I don’t list a Kickstarter on here. First, I only have so much space. I know it’s the internet and I’ve done novella-length columns before. But every time I do that, Nordling dies a little inside when he has to edit them. And since I have to keep him alive until at least Space City Con in August, I try to limit myself to the 5ish Kickstarters that pique my interest the most.

Second, my search algorithm for finding tabletop Kickstarters was flawed and I couldn’t figure out why. However, I think I’ve finally nailed it down. There’s a category called specifically “Tabletop Games” on Kickstarter and that’s where I’ve been looking every week. The issues specifically is that “Tabletop Games” is a sub-category of just “Games” (which includes video games). A lot of the Kickstarters I’ve been missing have been listed under Games. I’ve fixed this now, so I will be digging through every disgusting fart app and knock-off Flash game to find ALL the board, card, dice, roleplaying, and miniature game Kickstarters out there so you don’t have to feel my pain.

So you’ve just read the story of one Kickstarter success story. Want to help a few others make it?

I have played in exactly one game of MIND’s EYE THEATER: VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE in my life. I got kicked out. But I was also 18 and a bit of a dick...though that guy TOTALLY deserved to get punched in the face and I WAS playing a Brujah. Anyway, it’s been a very, very long time since there’s been any sort of complete published rules for live-action VAMPIRE play. By Night Studios is changing that with a newly revised version set in the Classic World of Darkness. At $25 for the PDF-only version, $35 for a softcover/PDF combo, and $60 for a hardcover/PDF combo; this game will have everything you need to run the game including rules for all 13 Clans, all the Bloodlines, and all the Disciplines. For you fellow old school WoD players out there, they’re also redoing the old Clan lapel pins with various Bloodline and Sect lapel pins using new high-quality manufacturing techniques. This Kickstarter runs until July 9 and is not only fully funded, but almost halfway through its stretch goals.

The GOBLINS webcomic puts an interesting spin on the traditional gaming-based webcomic. What if a group of the lowest-of-the-low goblins decided they weren’t going to take getting pushed around by PCs anymore and decided to take on class levels? The brutal yet hilarious webcomic has been running for several years now and is now getting a card game called GOBLINS: ALTERNATE REALITIES. This Kickstarter was funded in under an hour when it launched, and is burning through stretch goals until July 1. $37 gets you the core set, with many other options for additional rewards.

A lot of my friends have stopped gaming over the years after starting a family. After one parent had to go to the doctor to get a d10 removed from her child’s nose, I kind of understand the problem. Minion Games has a solution for you in the form of 2” foam polyhedral dice.  Suitable for ages 3+, these dice are $4 each (plus $6 shipping and handling) or available in several bundles including a full 7-dice set for $20 (free shipping). They have the full set of polyhedrals, 4d6 for stat rolling, and even FUDGE dice. Great for use with rpgKids or any of the other games designed to introduce roleplaying to smaller children. Or for just throwing at the players when they keep falling asleep during your carefully scripted plot exposition. The Kickstarter runs until June 17, so you don’t have a lot of time.

You may have noticed there are a few games types that are very common on Kickstarter that I rarely talk about on here. It seems like every fifth game listed is a zombie game or a Mythos game. So you know when I mention one on here, it’s worth your time to check out. CTHULHU WARS is definitely one of these. Not only does this strategy board game put you on the other side of the Mythos as one of the Great Old Ones competing to take over the world, but this game is fucking GORGEOUS. It’s worth buying just to get these miniatures, which are hands down the best sculpts I’ve seen of anything Mythos-related in a long, long time. The base game is a whopping $150 for the set (there’s also some early bird specials for $140 right now) or you can purchase just one faction for $50 (they base set comes with 4). The minatures are at 28mm scale, so you can use them in your CALL OF CTHULHU games or any other roleplaying game where you’d like to add a bit of cosmic horror. And dear god, look at the proof sketches for the Hastur miniature. I want this for Hastur alone.  This Kickstarter runs until July 7.

That’s all for this week, folks. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @Abstruse and email all your news and tips to


See, I knew nothing would OH GOD THEY’RE COMING UP THE STAI--

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