Played @Protospiel-Madison 2017

Protospiels are popping up all over the midwest. Still one of the biggest, Protospiel-Madison welcomed over 200 game enthusiasts to Monona Terrace at the beginning of December. Here is a summary of the hot new prototypes I was able to check out.

Unnamed Train Game by JT Smith

My first games of the weekend were two by JT Smith of The Game Crafter. Unnamed Train Game takes a novel tact in that there are no printed components, just bits. Players build out tracks and try to deliver cubes to the matching colored disks, claiming cubes that determine scoring and act as resources for buying more trains. Though an early prototype, this game has a lot of potential for a lightweight train game.

Who Am I? by JT Smith

The second of JT’s games was called Who Am I?. It’s an 18-card deduction game. Players each receive a character with distinct characteristics and go around the table asking/answering one question: Are you male, are you wearing jewelry, etc. After three times around, everyone crunches their notes to deduce or guess who is who. To me this game felt like a logic puzzle.

¡Lucha Lucha! by Ryan James

Next up was Ryan James’s ¡Lucha Lucha! As you might determine from the name, it is a mock-up of Mexican professional wrestling. Each player has two luchador wrestlers, usually one in the ring at a time. A luchador can attack any other in the ring by rolling dice, and each has a special power. Injuring an opponent yields some coins, and the winner at the end is the wrestler with the most money. The game ran a bit too long, but we had an exciting finish with some extraordinary dice rolling action.

Search for the Source of the Nile by Alex Vandertol

Alex Vandertol showed off an early prototype of his African exploration simulation, Search for the Source of the Nile. Players take on the roles of famous explorers and roll dice and flip tiles to venture into the heart of Africa. It is important to balance resources like food, water, and bullets while encountering natives and discovering natural wonders. An interesting mechanic is that players choose a number of dice to roll, which also determines their number of actions for the turn. Some of the cards like events were incomplete, but the prototype has a great start.

Agents of Espionage by Patrick Lindsay

Agents of Espionage was an entry by Patrick Lindsay. It’s a spy-themed game with a number of characters trying to complete various missions like delivering a dossier or collecting a certain number of intelligence. Each character has attributes that determine the cost of doing different activities. The winner has to complete a set number of missions. This game came down to the wire, with a good amount of player interaction and a bit of a puzzle aspect in trying to figure out your optimal move.

Flow by Arkadiusz Greniuk

Arkadiusz Greniuk presented Flow, an abstract game of flipping tiles and positioning movement arrows to try to push your opponents off the board. We debated and tried out different scoring mechanisms. Aside from some clunkiness in determining and counting the length of paths, this turned out to be an entertaining little programming challenge.

Villainous by Marcin Zarycki

Next I played Villainous by Marcin Zarycki. It has a nominal theme of super villains building out their underground lairs. Cards are laid in a descending pyramid, and meeples are pulled from a bag to be placed on the cards to activate their effects. A fun twist is that each card you buy upgrades a meeple to the matching color, so it a bit of a “bag-builder” as you tweak your meeple contents to maximize your use of the cards. We discussed a few issues with the game, but it played fairly solidly.

Tomb of Tut-In-Common  by Kevin L. Jones

Kevin Jones brought a game of treasure hunters exploring ruins, Tomb of Tut-In-Common. This involves buying actions to collect treasure tiles and sets of cards to turn in for money or points. But beware the lurking traps, as they can be quite the issue for those who trigger them. This game had a well balanced economy where money was tight but available. Our biggest problem was the excessive randomness.

Potion Apprentice by Robert Wise

I played a head-to-head card game called Potion Apprentice by Robert Wise. I’ll note up front that the game uses the universe and artwork of the webcomic Pepper & Carrot ( by David Revoy, which has a CC-BY 4.0 license. Gameplay involves placing down potions, which determine your number of actions, and other cards that allow you to build up manna in order to cast other cards from your hand. Completing potions by adding support cards beneath them is how points are scored and the winner is determined. A neat mechanic of the game is that cards age by being rotated. This acts as both a timer and a usage counter depending on the card. This game is rather complicated given the variety of cards with different effects, but players who put in the time to learn it should be well rewarded.

Troll and Roll by Nyles Breecher

Troll and Roll is a dexterity game by Nyles Breecher. This is a reboot of an earlier set collection game with the same name but rather different mechanics. The current iteration has players roll 6-sided dice at ramp-like targets. Each has specific rules and goals. Score depends on both the die’s location and the roll, so luck can mitigate skill to some extent. If you like rolling dice, this game will be good fun.

Break It Up A Notch by Ben Moy

The final game I played was a quick, fun, breakdancing-themed meeple rolling game by Ben Moy called Break It Up A Notch. If you’re familiar with Pig Mania/Pass the Pigs, this game uses a similar mechanic where instead of rolling dice (or pigs) you roll meeples. Players have goal cards with the meeples in different poses. You roll as fast as possible, placing matching meeples onto the cards. When all the poses are filled, the points are scored and the card cleared. This is a novel idea and a quick dose of frantic fun.

Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Minnesota, Michigan, and now Indiana too; if you’re in the midwest, there’s probably a Protospiel near you. As either a player or designer, you should check it out.

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