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Ever wondered where those crazy infomercials got their bright ideas?

I am Jonathan Albin, the Game Market Guru, and this is the first installment of "The Closet Report," my in-depth and detailed analysis of tabletop games of every stripe. The Closet Report captures and outlines the merits, values, and details about these games in terms that a casual player or a die-hard veteran will appreciate, providing not only the "straight skinny" on the product in terms of the big 3 (Class, Character, and Creativity) but also in terms of Materials, Marketing, and Mechanics, as well as identifying areas of imagination, innovation, and ingenuity.

I grew up believing that Monopoly had been invented during the Great Depression by an unemployed man who played it around his kitchen table while dreaming of summer vacations in Atlantic City, New Jersey. So, imagine my surprise to discover a very different history while researching for my "Why I Love Monopoly" article in the Winter 2014 issue of Casual Game Insider. Here is some bonus historical material that I did not include in the magazine article.

Several new card games have hit Kickstarter, and Tasty Minstrel Games has another pay what you want campaign that worked so well for them with Coin Age. There's an interesting mix of game companies and independent designers seeking funding, so here's a list of our favorite Kickstarter projects for January 2014.

Game Salute releases Jak and Poi: Anything Goes, GeekDad lists the best games of 2013 and Grey Gnome Games puts out a new print-and-play game.

The Winter 2014 issue of Casual Game Insider is now in stock and available for sale! Print and digital versions are available.

Lost Temple by Stronghold Games is a jungle explorer game in which players attempt to be the first to reach the temple ruins. The board offers a single track from start to finish with various ruins along the way. To progress along the track during each round, players must decide which of the local villagers will help them go the farthest through the jungle.

Völuspá, by Stronghold Games, prominently asks on the back of the box, "Will Thor survive the challenge of the trickster, Loki? Will the Valkyries overtake Odin?" The "Saga of Edda” expansion included with the game is also clearly marked on the box. If the title and theme of this Norse Mythology game don’t pique your interest, bear with me, as there is a fun casual game hidden inside, even though it appears to be intended for fantasy gamers.

Casual Game Revolution is seeking a freelance graphic designer, Passport Game Studios has released two quick card games in the U.S., and Lamp Light Games re-launches a Kickstarter campaign for Space Junk.

Have you ever noticed that easy tasks can become very difficult when you're under pressure? Anomia is a game that drives this pesky truth home, as it pits players against each other to come up with words in a particular category as quickly as possible. It is a card/party game we recently had the opportunity to play that left us, somewhat literally, speechless.

Gameplay

Last January I played Tessen with designers Chris and Suzanne Zinsli and Belle of the Ball with designer Daniel Solis months before either game went on Kickstarter. Would you like to play preview versions of what could become the next hottest game of 2014 or 2015 with the designer, then tell them face-to-face how to make their game even better? Then figure out a way to get to Dover, Delaware, for the weekend of January 18-19 because Unpub4 is for you. What’s the price of admission to be a play tester for the weekend? $0. That’s right – nothing, nada, zilch, free.

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