Kickstarter Roundup!

Oh yes, it’s that time again.

For years now, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been hotbeds of innovative puzzle and game design, and I’m always happy to spread the word about worthy projects that I think will delight and intrigue my fellow PuzzleNationers.

So let’s take a look at some projects that are currently seeking funding and see if any pique your interest!


The first is Peter Gordon’s Fireball Newsflash Crosswords.

Culturally timely clues and entries are a hallmark of this marvelous variation on Gordon’s long-running Fireball Crosswords brand, and you can be guaranteed that each Fireball Newsflash Crossword grid will be well-constructed and cleverly clued.

With twenty puzzles sent to you by email — one every two to three weeks — you’ll always have some terrific puzzling to look forward to.

Gordon has a knack for melding flowing grid design with sharp, topical entry words, and much of the time, you’ll not only be impressed by how much material makes it into the grid, but by what major and minor events you’ve missed recently! Gordon’s history of topnotch puzzles is all the incentive you need to contribute.

He’s already at one-third of his target goal, and he only launched a few days ago. I suspect Peter’s got another successful project on his hands here.

For the roleplaying-game enthusiasts out there, our second offering is right up your alley: Treacherous Traps.

Designed for the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons — but easily adapted for all sorts of other RPG systems — Treacherous Traps offers obstacles and surprises for players of any experience level.

Whether you’re selecting one of the specially tailored decks or the hardcover book containing all 250(!) traps, you’re sure to find plenty of devious ammunition to toss at your players.

Treacherous Traps has blown way past its original goal, but there’s still plenty of time to get in on the ground floor of some fun and crafty additions to any roleplaying campaign.

For our third and final offering today, we’ve got a new board game with ancient ties.

Enso Koi is a strategy game where each player tries to capture their opponents’ koi fish while protecting their own. As players navigate the pond, seize and maneuver stones, and eliminate the rival fish, they’ll have to devise tactics while playing both offense and defense.

A mix of piece-capturing games like chess and territory-control games like Risk, Enso Koi offers an elegant new take on classic board game tropes.

It’s about a third of the way funded already, and for a first-timer on Kickstarter, that’s pretty impressive!


Have any of these games hooked you? Let us know which ones you’re supporting in the comments section below! And if there are any campaigns you’re supporting that we missed, let us know!

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PuzzleNation Blog Looks Back on 2018!

2018 is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m incredibly proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored board games and card games, strategy games and trivia games, dice games and tile games, do-it-yourself puzzlers and pen-and-paper classics. We met game designers, constructors, artists, YouTubers, and creative types of all kinds.

We unraveled math puzzles and diabolical brain teasers. We pondered optical illusions, Internet memes, and more, even questioning our place in the world of puzzles as AI and solving robots continued to rise in capability.

We delved into puzzle history with posts about ancient board games from centuries ago, Edgar Allan Poe’s secret codes, and the legacy of influential female codebreakers and spymasters previously lost to revisionist history like Elizebeth Smith Friedman and the Countess Alexandrine. We brought to light valuable examples of puzzles in art, comic strips, animation, music, television, film, and popular culture.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching as the puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and solve. We shared worthy causes like Queer Crosswords and Women of Letters, as well as amazing projects like new escape rooms, puzzle experiences like The Enigmatist, online puzzle quests, and long-running unsolved treasure hunts.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, offered up puzzly suggestions for Valentine’s Day, attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and dove deep into an ever-expanding litany of puzzle events like the Indie 500, BosWords, and Lollapuzzoola.

We found puzzly ways to celebrate everything from Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to Star Wars Day and the anniversary of the Crossword, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you.

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. We marked six years of PuzzleNation Blog this year, I’m closing in on my 1000th blog post, and I’m more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And honestly, that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune, hard work, and accomplishments in 2018 went well beyond that.

Every month, we delivered quality content for both the Penny Dell Crosswords App and Daily POP Crosswords. Whether it was monthly deluxe sets and holiday bundles for PDCW or the world-class topical puzzles by some of the industry’s best constructors for Daily POP, hundreds of topnotch crosswords wended their way to our loyal and enthusiastic solvers.

And a little more than a week ago, we launched our newest puzzly endeavor — Wordventures: The Vampire Pirate — bringing you a unique, story-driven puzzling experience, complete with gorgeous visuals, atmospheric music, and an immersive mystery to keep you solving!

But whether we’re talking about crosswords, Sudoku, or Wordventures, I’m proud to say that every single puzzle represents our high standards of quality puzzle content crafted for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

And your response has been fantastic! Daily POP Crosswords is thriving, we’re very excited about the response to Wordventures, the blog has over 2300 followers, and with our audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms continuing to grow, the enthusiasm of the PuzzleNation readership is both humbling and very encouraging.

2018 was our most ambitious, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and the coming year promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your support, your interest, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. The new year looms large, and we look forward to seeing you in 2019!


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A New Venue to Publish More Women!

Long-time readers know that one of my favorite things about the blog is that I can use it to spread the word about different worthwhile projects.

In the past, we’ve proudly provided a signal boost to folks adapting popular games for the visually impaired, game shops that could use more support, and campaigns to encourage and recruit constructors from more diverse backgrounds.

So when I heard about the Kickstarter campaign for The Inkubator, I knew it was another worthwhile project to put a spotlight on.

The brainchild of crossword constructors Tracy Bennett and Laura Braunstein, The Inkubator is a by-email subscription puzzle service where 100% of the puzzles will be constructed by women. (It follows in the footsteps of the wonderful Women of Letters project from last year.)

From the public announcement:

The editors invite women — cis women, trans women, and woman-aligned constructors — to submit themed and themeless crosswords or queries in any stage of development. (If you think you may be eligible to construct, but you’re not sure, you’re eligible to construct. Still not sure? Ask us!) If you’re new to constructing, we’ll make every effort to connect you with a collaborator.

Yes, The Inkubator is not only a publishing outlet for anyone who identifies as female, but it is intended to help and encourage new and inexperienced constructors, providing resources and advice in the hopes of publishing more women.

The Kickstarter has only been up for two days, and they’ve already passed their initial funding goal, proving that there is not only a market for women-driven puzzles, but a lot of support for female constructors as well. They’re currently brainstorming stretch goals for the project right now!

I wish The Inkubator not only luck, but success, and I can’t wait to see what new voices the project helps bring to the fore.

For more details or to donate to The Inkubator, check out the Kickstarter page for the project here.


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Kickstarter Roundup: Ad Quest!

A well-designed board game can make nearly any endeavor a fun and engaging gameplay experience.

Sure, there are games where you endure monstrous onslaughts (Castle Panic!, Dead of Winter), cure outbreaks (Pandemic), escape dungeons (Welcome to the Dungeon, Escape: The Curse of the Temple), and conquer rival civilizations (Small World, Risk).

But there are also games where you manage a farm (Agricola), grow bamboo (Takenoko), run a newspaper (Penny Press), or build a stained glass window (Sagrada). Your goal doesn’t have to be earth-shaking to be worthwhile and engrossing.

And there’s a game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter that fits the latter pattern. You might not be slaying dragons or toppling empires, but you will definitely be in for the fight of your life.

The game is called Ad Quest, and I think you should give it a look.

Ad Quest places you in the shoes of an advertising creative team. You’ll conceive your ideas, deal with clients, test your ad, produce it, and polish it until it’s a shining example of your work, fit for your portfolio.

Designed with a razor-sharp wit and a potent dose of cynicism, Ad Quest creates a challenging and entertaining gauntlet for you and your fellow players to run, peppered with obstacles like focus groups, rogue clients, and celebrity meltdowns.

The game board is sleek, the cards are wonderfully designed, and the game strikes an elegant balance between real-world frustrations and clever design, ensuring that you’ll be kept on your toes throughout the entire game.

You can check out the Kickstarter campaign here, and be sure to follow the Ad Quest Instagram account for more details, pictures, and behind the scenes glimpses into the game and design process. Additional details can also be found at adquestgame.com.

I think creators Adam Samara and Michael Camarra have a real winner on their hands here.


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Turn Your Smartphone Into a Rubik-Solving Sidekick?

I just can’t resist a bit of Rubik’s Cube news.

We’ve covered Rubik’s Cubes a lot on this blog. We’ve seen them solved underwater, while being juggled, during a skydive, and one move at a time by strangers on a world tour. And yes, we’ve seen them solved in increasing faster times, both by humans and machines.

The human record hovers around the five-second mark, while the machine record stands at .38 seconds, which is brain-meltingly fast.

Now there’s a new tool on the market to up your Rubik-solving game like never before. It’s called GoCube, and it’s on Kickstarter right now.

GoCube is a Rubik’s-inspired twisty puzzle that is Bluetooth-enabled in order to interact with a phone or tablet. It offers real-time updates on your solving progress — which corresponds to areas of the physical cube that light up — as well as carrying a whole host of other features.

You can use it as a training tool to teach you the tricks of the solving trade, whether you’re just learning how to solve a twisty puzzle or you have aspirations of being a speed-solver.

GoCube’s connectivity even allows you to compete in head-to-head solves with other users. Plus you can use the cube as a controller for mini-games, in dexterity challenges, and more.

This seems like an impressive step forward for twisty puzzles. Although the price tag is pretty hefty — the basic Kickstarter package starts at $69 (although the creators claim it will retail for $119) — the campaign has already blown past its initial goal of $25,000. It currently sits at over $400,000 in Kickstarter-backed funds with over a month to go.

Puzzles continue to grow and adapt to the modern technological revolution in unexpected and fascinating ways. I can’t wait to see what tech-savvy puzzlers cook up next.


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Streets of Steel: An Early Look at a Kickstarter Campaign to Follow!

We’ve covered many interesting and ambitious Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns over the years, each with their puzzly goals and aspirations. Some reinvent an old classic, while others forge a new path by creating a unique solving experience.

The subject of today’s post is doing a little of both. Enjoy as we delve into the world of Streets of Steel!

Streets of Steel endeavors to capture the spirit of ’80s 8-bit Nintendo fighting classics like Streets of Rage or River City Ransom, all while creating an engrossing play experience built around cooperative combat.

As a huge fan of games like this (particularly the Double Dragon franchise, which has a similar gameplay style), I was immediately intrigued by the idea of translating the side-scrolling video game experience to the tabletop realm.

Check out this intro from the Kickstarter page for the game:

Steel City has fallen into disarray. You and your crew must clean up the streets in this 1-4 player SideScrollin Co-Op boardgame

A generation ago, Steel City was a shining beacon of cooperation, peace and prosperity. Neighbors cleaned up after their dogs. Graffiti rarely used offensive language. PTA meeting attendance was high. Then, the Disaster struck. Now, Steel City is a mere shadow of its former glory. Roving bands of thugs terrorize honest citizens. Evil corporations dump toxic waste in the street. PTA meeting attendance is low.

Tired and fed up, a few brave Steel City heroes have banded together to stem the tide of carnage. YOU are one of those heroes. YOU will clean up these STREETS OF STEEL.

The campaign has already reached its funding goal, and now supporters continue pushing the total higher, reaching several stretch goals that increase the quality of game pieces and add new mechanics to the gameplay itself. (And there’s still time to become a backer!)

I reached out to creator Ryan Lesser, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the early development days of Streets of Steel.

When asked about how Streets of Steel came to be:

I was thinking of other ways, besides my first board game High Heavens, to bring a combat-heavy tabletop game experience to non-hardcore gamers. Randomness and dice rolling are both pretty much non existent in High Heavens, so I figured I would go heavy on that.

I also wanted to make a cooperative game, where High Heavens is competitive. Those two goals had my mind crunching, looking for cool gameplay that could support that. Pretty quickly, I thought to bring the beat ’em up video game genre to the tabletop.

When asked how the development process (both in game design and Kickstarter launch) was different from his previous game, the thoroughly enjoyable mythology-fueled player-vs-player game, High Heavens:

In a lot of ways the dev was similar, but specifically, the co-op play was very different. Instead of creating a tight but expandable experience that pits players against each other, every decision that I made for SOS was to bring them together as a team. Every single new idea, move, power, etc that was generated, had to serve the purpose of team play.

I also designed this one, not alone, but with a partner-in-crime. Matt Moore and I have been working together since about 2006, when I hired him as an Artist at Harmonix. Since then, he has become an Art Director himself at other companies but all the while we have both played, and jammed on ideas for board games. This time I formalized things and he came on board to help me finish the game. He spent a large amount of his time on SOS crafting the Baddie Behavior Deck… our AI system that tells the game what to do against the players.

Another big difference is that instead of leaning heavily on ancient mythology, as in High Heavens, I wanted to invent my own, new IP based on all of the inputs I had during the 80s. It was sort of my Weird Science, but instead of trying to make a human, I wanted to make a board game. In SOS, you can see not only my own inventions, but lots of influences from movies, TV, music, comics and of course, video games.

He definitely nailed that aesthetic. Each player controls a different hero, each one a pastiche of fighting game characters and ’80s movie tropes. Average Joe, for instance, definitely wouldn’t have looked out of place as a member of Cobra Kai, or among the Warriors as they battled their way across town. And yet, for video game fans, there’s no denying the resemblance to Ken from Street Fighter.

Mayor Van Dammage, on the other hand, is every cop-movie authority figure joke simultaneously. He’s the exasperated police chief, the partner with one day until retirement, and the cigar-chomping rogue cop on a mission, all at once. And with a name strongly reminiscent of one of the hokiest tough guys in film history, every player will find something recognizable with him.

Plus the bad guys are topnotch. Check out this quick Instagram clip of Ryan getting the Boss Mutie’s expression just right (in a ghastly way, of course):

As a co-op game, players must work together, combining their skills, wits, and items acquired in the game in order to stop the bad guys and save Steel City. All co-op games rely on strong problem-solving, strategic thinking, and careful resource-management, which just happen to be three skills that puzzlers have in spades.

And I suspect this game will give puzzlers and fighters a challenge well worth their time.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse behind the curtain for Streets of Steel. There’s still time to back it on Kickstarter and contribute to the game’s production and success! Click here for all the details!

And be sure to check out their Kickstarter Live broadcast on Friday around 11am EST!

Thank you to Ryan Lesser for not only taking the time out to talk to us, but for opening up the archives to show us some of the development process for the game! Here’s hoping Streets of Steel reaches even greater heights of success before the campaign is through!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!