GS TABLE GAMES: Spotlight On NSKN Games

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This week at GS Table Games, we are delving into the world of NSKN Games, a company that’s steadily building up a great reputation in the table game world.

 

 

I first came into contact with NSKN Games at my local Comic/Game store in St. Albans, where I saw Exodus: Proxima Centauri and Warriors & Traders on the shelf. Both looked good, and after doing some research I found that both were well received games. In fact, Exodus: Proxima Centauri has been getting some high praise for its design and game play across the various game sites. All this means that NSKN is a publisher to look out for.

We are true believers in the bright future of the board games! That is why we imagine you having a great time together with a group of friends or your family, laughing while enjoying a warm cacao or a cup of Irish coffee :-), planning your strategies and exercising your negotiation skills. With this idea in mind, we took it to the next stage – producing and exporting our strategy games all over Europe.

 

The NSKN team at Essen Spiel 2013 plus SHARK!!!! (Bought from IKEA in case you were wondering)

The NSKN team at Essen Spiel 2013 plus SHARK!!!! (Bought from IKEA in case you were wondering)

Now that is a mission statement I can get behind! All the right reasons why board gaming is fast becoming a socially acceptable way to hang out with friends.

Geek Syndicate manage to get an exclusive interview with the folks at NSKN to get a full update on where they have been, where they are right now, and where they are going.

Also, we have added bits about their current games.

Geek Syndicate (GS): What games have you published?

NSKN Games (NSKN): So far we’ve published Warriors & Traders in 2011, in 2012 we released two titles Wild Fun West – a fun game of bidding and negotiation, and Exodus: Proxima Centauri – a massive empire builder and our most courageous project at that moment. Year 2013 is a turning point for NSKN Games, we released the revised edition of Exodus and we prepared the titles for 2014 (Praetor, W- The Board Game and Perfect Storm).

GS: Why did you revise Exodus: Proxima Centauri?

NSKN: We did it for several reasons. First of all, the first edition sold out quickly, so we were left without our best-selling game. It was the demand that made us want to re-print. Then, it was the size of the box. Most gamers know this feeling of frustration when you cannot fit games on the shelves because their sizes are all over the place. We decided to standardize our games and Exodus was the first step. At last, there was the feedback from the owners of the first edition. Since the decision to re-print was made, we decided to update the graphics and apply the “standard box philosophy” immediately.

Find the full list of differences HERE.

Exodus: Proxima Centauri

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Inspired by Stanisław Lem’s “The Magellanic Cloud”, Exodus: Proxima Centauri is the first game of a sci-fi trilogy. In a new universe, marked by a fierce struggle for power, the humanity is building a new civilization on the ashes of a dying race, the Centaurians. Exodus: Proxima Centauri is a full civilization game for experienced players, who enjoy immersing themselves in a new universe and fight for supremacy in a flavored, thematic game.

After a devastating nuclear war, six human factions are seeking shelter in the Centauri system. On the verge of extinction, the humans are saved by a superior civilization, allegedly the Centaurians, and each faction is given a fresh start on a new planet. Thus the exodus of humanity seems to have ended on the planets orbiting the star called Proxima Centauri. When the Centaurians announce their departure, the struggle for power commences once again.

In Exodus: Proxima Centauri, the six factions fight for dominance in an epic empire-building game, striving to build a new human empire on the ashes of the Centaurian civilization. Each player will build his own space fleet of customized ships and conquer new planets, fight the Centaurian Resistance and the other players, negotiate and vote for political decisions, research Centaurian technologies, and much more.

 

GS: You have a complete mixture of themes with your current games – why is that?

NSKN: After Warriors & Traders, we had been working on a variety of projects and we simply selected the ones we and our play-testers liked the most. Since then we have grown a lot and we realized we need to focus. Since we are better at making strategy games, this will be our focus from now on. But if we ever find a great party game that will blow our minds, we won’t hesitate to publish it. In the end, we simply want to make good games.

GS: What is the design process for your games and who designs them?

NSKN: That probably is the most difficult question. It’s hard to define a pattern, but if I were to summarize I would say that there’s an abstract concept at first, a game mechanic or a genre, then there’s the wait. I mean, it takes time for an idea to crystallize and it’s best to leave a few months of thinking before writing down the core. If the idea is good, the theme comes next and this may take a day, a month or a year – it’s all about inspiration. The hardest work is making the first playable prototype – transforming concepts into game mechanisms and abstract idea into resources, technologies, etc. Then there’s a lot of game development, play-testing, creating artwork and finally production.

So far the games from NSKN have one name in common: Andrei Novac. Exodus: Proxima Centauri is also the “baby” of Agnieszka Kopera and for Wild Fun West, Vlad Sladariu also shares the credit.

Wild Fun West

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Players are working together to build a town in the Wild West, making decisions based on the amount of money they are willing to invest. While the players appear to be building the town together, each of them has a secret agenda. The aim of each player is to have built at least 4 of the 6 objective buildings on their secretive Objective Card.

To earn money, players employ professions. Each turn, a number of Profession Cards is open for bidding and players participate in auctions to get them. Professions do not only influence each player’s direct income, but they also influence the player on their left, adding another layer of strategy to the bidding process.

Every turn, players will bid for new professions and the building that will be built in the town. The players will then collect income from their active Profession Cards.

 

GS: How do you get feedback when designing a game?

NSKN: Mostly from our play-testing groups. They are the biggest help in developing the game itself and the ergonomics. However, in 2013 we did something absolutely different: we presented our (almost) final prototypes at Spiel 2013 in Essen. We talked to our customers about the layouts and graphics of the games, the feel of the theme and the clarity of the rules. It was a great experience! Definitely we will do it next year, as there is nothing greater than empowering gamers to have a saying in the final look and feel of the game they already like.

GS: What future releases have you got coming in 2014?

NSKN: Year 2014 will bring Praetor and an expansion for Exodus: Proxima Centauri (we are still working on the final title) to our catalog of games. These two titles will be released in Spiel 2014 in Essen, the biggest gaming event in Europe. Then we have W – The Board Game and Perfect Storm, which we plan for the end of 2014 but it’s not a done deal yet.

GS: Where did the idea for W: The Board Game come from, and who will enjoy this?

NSKN: Another tough one…the American political system based on electors is the perfect playground for strategists of all kinds. It’s a lot easier to predict, plan and implement a state-by-state strategy which leads to winning the elections. It a complex system, yet very clear and straightforward. But that’s just part of the story.

In 2000, some people say that the system has failed. G.W. Bush won the presidency without having the majority of the popular votes. The result was so tight that it brought a lot of discussion and, sometimes, resentment. As foreigners we are looking at this as a historical event having no emotional stakes in the result. This is why we made it into a board game, so people can see how tense and close it was and to shed some light on an event of historical importance which tends to be too easily forgotten.

Warriors & Traders

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Warriors & Traders is a pure strategy game that combines economy, negotiation and war. 2 to 6 players strive to build their empire in the Dark Ages of Europe, managing scarce resources, fighting and negotiating their way to victory.

In the beginning every player chooses his starting country and starts owning only the capital province, striving to build up an empire. The main mechanic of the game is taking Actions, two per turn for each player. These Actions can be used to develop one of the country’s technologies, to build armies, Forts, to upgrade armies or to declare war against an opponent.

During a turn, every player gets to feed armies, to gather resources from the provinces he or she owns, to take the two Actions and to perform the military phase, moving armies and solving battles.

 

GS: Do you have any prototypes in development?

NSKN: We have many games in some early prototype stage, all waiting for their time to come. Every year we are choosing 3 titles for further development, and so far it has been only one game of those three which made it to the production phase. But there’s one title that comes back to haunt us, something we’re very fond of and we don’t want to keep benched any longer. It’s Evolution, a board game about research, a story of civilization seen only through the technological point of view.

GS: Why do you think board games are coming back in a big way?

NSKN: That’s a question for the market experts. We can only guess that more people realize their value as a social tool in a world which is increasingly depersonalizing people. And that’s only second behind the “brain factor” – spending time using your brain and having fun.

GS: What would you suggest to a person who has no idea where to start with board games?

NSKN: This is a great question. It is a very subtle situation, when you are trying to get a non-gamer to become one. The most important is to know what their interests are. If you introduce a video gamer to light card game set in middle ages, they will hate you and the game. However, if you know what his/her interests are, then you have a great list of games to introduce and much higher chances to get them on board. In other words, if they are history passionate – introduce them to a light war game – Memoir 44 sounds perfect here.

Definitely there is one rule you cannot break if you do not want to make a person hating you and board games forever: stay away from heavy euro where the experience of players significantly influences the outcome of the game, until you know that he/she can stand it.

GS: What games do you play apart from your own published ones?

NSKN: Each of us have some favorite board games; however, what we are trying to do is to have at least 3 new titles played per week. Our tastes in board games are slightly different. Agnieszka’s favorite themes are fantasy, 4x space games and adventure games, where Andrei is a big fan of civilization building games, heavy euros and war games. Vlad loves almost everything that comes from Cthulhu universe and has a dark mystery and storytelling behind, and Florin is a war gamer. We’re definitely scared of Ghanima when it comes to rolling dice and we suspect he’s using the dark side of the force and rolls against probabilities in his favor – always!

GS: Do you think the market is becoming too saturated right now or is it just enthusiastic growth?

NSKN: Seeing so many successful Kickstarter projects, the market shows potential to still grow. If we convert even a quarter of the video gamers to board gamers, the market could keep its growth pace for many years to come.

GS: You were recently at Essen Spiel, how was that for you guys?

NSKN: Awesome! Essen is something special for us, this is where we started with Warriors & Traders and with every year we recognize more and more faces, find new friends and make new connections. It’s one of the drives of our business and a place we will always come back to with great pleasure and gratefulness.

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GS: Where can gamers get hold of your games?

NSKN: Pretty much everywhere in Europe and North America. Warriors & Traders was retailing in 22 countries and Exodus: Proxima Centauri in almost 30. Our games are carried by large distributors and thus the major retailers, both online and especially brick & mortar stores. We are always supporting those stores who support the local gaming community themselves.


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As mentioned above, NSKN Games have some cool sounding games in the pipeline for 2014. Below is a breakdown of the main three. The one I am looking most forward to is Perfect Storm.

Praetor

It’s the year 123 CE and the Roman Empire is at the peak of its glory. Caesar Hadrian is no longer waging war against the barbarians, but building cities and fortifications to ensure a lengthy domination of the Roman culture and wealth.

The southern part of Britain is under Roman domination and Caesar has already begun the construction of Hadrian’s Wall to protect the empire from invasions from the North. Together with the wall Caesar has ordered the founding of a new city which will remind the locals of the glory of Rome. He has appointed 6 of his most trusted men to take resources and workers from Rome and to build the city together. But in the end only one of them will be appointed Praetor and rule the Province in the name of Caesar.

In Praetor you will take the role of a Roman engineer and you will work together with the other players to build a magnificent city. You will manage your limited resources wisely and look for new ones, you will recruit new workers while you old experienced ones will retire, you will build settlements to keep the population happy and you will praise the Gods to earn their favor. Caesar will reward you if you give away precious resources to build Hadrian’s Wall thus increasing your chances of becoming Praetor.

 

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W: The Board Game 

W: The Board Game is a strategy game for two players. Each player represents the staff of one of the two dominant parties in the United States, the Republicans and the Democrats, campaigning for the presidential elections. Each player will strive to influence enough States so that his candidate will have enough electors to gain the Presidential title. All but two of the 50 states have the “winner takes all” rule, so at the end of the game, players will simply add up the electors of the stated which supported their candidates.

The game board depicts the 50 American states plus the District of Columbia. Each state offers a number of electors and a fund-raising value and it is defined by its traditional affiliation (from Strong Democrat to Swing and to Strong Republican), by its population size and by the voting preference – the key to winning the elections. Each player will campaign easier in the states which traditionally support their candidate, but the key to winning the elections is usually in performing well in swing or unfriendly states.

In the beginning of the game, the influence on the map mirrors the reality of the first week after the primaries. Throughout the game, players will struggle to change the voting preference as many states as needed to gain enough electors and they will also have to find the means to sustain a long and ruthless campaign.

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Perfect Storm

In Perfect Storm, 2 to 5 players will take the role of small entrepreneurs looking to make their fortune fishing in the Bering Sea.

You will start small, with a basic ship and a rookie crew led by a captain with big dreams but little experience. At first, your crew will venture into shallow waters after the easiest prey, the fish. With the money you earn, you will afford a better crew, maybe even a bigger boat and you’ll be able to catch shrimp or even the most value King Crab. But you must hurry and use your resources wisely, the fishing season is short and the weather changes in no time.

Every turn, each player will command his crew, using their 3 to 5 actions to move to a new untouched area or to fish. Depending on the crew experience and the depth of the water, your crew will catch fish (the least valuable), shrimp or crab (the most valuable).

The weather cards dictate the wind speed which will increase the waves. With a small boat you will have to face the storm in shallow waters, but with a bigger boat and an experienced crew you’ll be able to defy the waves and venture into the eye of the storm to catch a larger quantity of King Crab. But beware, every time the wave size is greater that your ship’s stability, you will roll the danger die and see if you ship capsizes or not.

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Source: NSKN Games

Reporter: Montoya

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