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Ninja Dice

It's time for our crowdfunding picks for October 2013! This month we're seeing some new themes (junk collection in space and lying pandas) while also keeping with some of the common themes we've seen in the past (monsters, pirates, and ninjas). There are several press-your-luck style games currently seeking funding. We're also starting to see a trend of digital game studios crossing over into tabletop game publishing, and I believe this will continue as casual tabletop games continue to gain popularity.

Ninja Dice

Ninja Dice (Greenbrier Games)Ninja Dice is a casual press-your-luck dice game in which players use their supreme ninja skills to fight their way into a house, passing through various barriers (guards, residents, and locks) to gain treasure. Each time the current player rolls to beat these challenges, his opponents also roll dice to create additional threats (arrows, blocked attacks, and time running out). In addition, the way the dice land is an important factor, as some of the dice can modify other dice, depending on their position and orientation on the table. This game seems compelling and original, and one we look forward to playing.

Monsters & Maidens

Monsters & Maidens (Game Salute) The monsters are at it again, doing what they do best: capturing all of the fair maidens. As an aspiring hero, you need to fight to get them back. This is a casual dice game that also features a press-your-luck style of game play. On a turn, the current player rolls all of the dice, rescues all of the maidens that were rolled, then matches up heroes and monsters into pairs (who are engaged in a furious one-on-one battle). If any monsters remain, some of the maidens are captured. If heroes remain, some of the maidens are rescued. The turn ends when all of the maidens are rescued, all of the maidens are captured, or no pairs can be formed (i.e., no battles occur).

Dead Man's Draw

Dead Man's Draw (Stardock) – In Dead Man's Draw, players try to plunder as much loot as possible. Each card drawn from the deck (anchor, cannon, chest, hook, key, etc.) has a special ability and often gives the player an extra action to take. Using these actions wisely, and in combination with other cards, can rack up big points. During a turn, the current player continues to press his luck by drawing as many cards as he wishes, but if he draws a second card of the same suit, his turn ends and he loses everything. This game was originally published on iOS, and the publisher now hopes to fund the printing of a tabletop version.

Buccaneer Bones

Buccaneer Bones (Wattsalpoag)Buccaneer Bones is a Kickstarter debut from Wattsalpoag games, the publisher behind A Fistful of Penguins and Claim It. In this new casual dice game, players roll (and optionally re-roll) four six-sided dice. Two or three of a kind will advance the player's ship of that number toward an island where buried treasure is hidden. While on the island, the player gains a special ability, such as extra re-rolls, modifiers, or extra dice. Three of a kind while on the island will dig up a treasure and return the ship to port, where it can sail again on a future turn. If the player's roll doesn't amount to anything useful, he can still use his first mate as a scout (to gain an ability on his next turn) or a thief (to steal another player's treasure).

Pandante

Pandánte (Sirlin Games) Pandánte is a gambling and bluffing game that purports to be the "panda's version of poker" — and we all know how sneaky and conniving pandas can be. Or not. Either way, this game puts a bit of a humorous touch on an otherwise themeless game that seems somewhat akin to Texas Hold 'em poker. In Pandánte, players try to collect the highest-valued hands possible, or at least get away with lying about the hand they have. If in doubt, suspicious players can call a bluff by challenging another player. If the player can prove he has the hand in question, the challenging player must give up some chips; otherwise, the bluffing player must give up some chips. If no one calls the bluff, the player will get away with it and no one is the wiser.

Space Junk

Space Junk (Lamp Light Games)Space Junk is the debut game from startup publisher Lamp Light Games (you can learn more about the company in the Fall 2013 issue of Casual Game Insider). In the game, players are participants in a futuristic reality TV show where the contestants venture into space to collect the random trash orbiting the earth and turn it into a spaceship, which they use to fly around, collecting more junk and crashing into other players. To say this game has an original theme would be an understatement!

Keep the Crown

Keep the Crown (Jamal Jamie Green)Keep the Crown was originally intended to be a digital game, but is instead making its debut as a tabletop game (which is a move we can certainly appreciate). In the game, players take turns placing tokens on the board, earning points by creating sets of coins or gems. The first player to score gets to hold onto the coveted crown, but it can be stolen throughout the course of the game. Once the board fills up, the player who has the crown is the winner.

Turbo Rally

Turbo Rally (Alec Ramsey and Lee Johson) – In Turbo Rally, players create custom tracks using the game cards and race their cars to the finish line. On a turn, the player flips over a track card and follows the signs on the card. Jumps, shortcuts and passing lanes help you speed past opponents, while stoplights, detours, flat tires and oil slicks will slow you down. This unique game seems to be as much about building the track as it is about winning the race, and it could be a fun option for younger kids and their families (don't expect a lot of strategy here).

Full disclosure: unless otherwise noted, we have not seen or played any of the above games. Our assessment of each is based on the information given on the crowdfunding project page.