March 2021

Welcome to the Indie Tabletop Newsletter, hear from independent tabletop games designers about their current and upcoming projects. Take a look at the games we’ve already self-published and our upcoming Kickstarters, maybe even get yourself a free print n play game. Learn more about this newsletter here.

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Uranus! is live on Kickstarter this month. The campaign runs from 2nd March to 1st April. Uranus! is a game for 1-6 players and plays in around 60 minutes.

– ‘Draw and erase’ network builder
– Asymmetric player powers
– Variable set up for huge replayability
– Simultaneous play
– Cooperative play

Uranus! came 3rd in the Board Game Workshops 2020 design contest. Here’s the overview: You are the ruler of one of six alien races, each with their own special powers, which inhabit the lesser-known moons of Uranus. Until recently, your people have been living peacefully in underground dwellings to protect themselves from the noxious gases on the surface. But now you are besieged by violent and increasingly frequent asteroid attacks, which are causing irreparable damage and threatening your very existence.

Working together with the other rulers, you must rally the troops to build infrastructure and develop technologies that will protect you from the asteroids and will ultimately allow you to escape. Use your race’s special powers to help you and your neighbouring moons, which are suffering the same fate, to settle on Uranus before your moons explode.

Head over to Kickstarter to find out more, watch the videos and back the project.

Uranus Kickstarter campaign

We’re returning to Kickstarter at the end of this month with some more exclusive ships and scenery for FlickFleet – the space battle dice dexterity game. You’ll be able to get the base game (and if you’re quick the first expansion of which we have very limited stock left) and/or a load more small add-ons. The add-ons include scenery such as a nebula which prevents firing and limits movement, debris left behind by destroyed ships and a load of new ship designs some of which came from fans of the game through a competition we ran in January.

FlickFleet has an average rating of 8.2 on BGG and continues to be very popular, and we’re really excited by the new possibilities created with the new content that will only be available during this campaign.

Design a FlickFleet add-on!

Tin Star Games are super proud and happy to have our game “Two Faces” be a part of the Solo But Not Alone Bundle. The Bundle is a collection of EIGHTY SIX solo rpgs and journaling games dedicated to raising funds for those suffering from mental illness and loneliness in this harsh world. The Bundle has already raised $26,000 but there’s two weeks left and it’s amazing value for a great cause! Two Faces is a solo RPG of gothic horror that is just one page long and only needs a single coin to play. You are a monster trapped by your own despicable nature, but there is a path to redemption that might save you – unless the darkness claims you first! Play to find out which!

Solo But Not Alone Bundle

Dave here, director of Paradigm Games and designer of UFO Wave. Ever since launching the website last autumn I’ve been hard at work promoting the game in both the gaming community and UFO community, and this month was no exception!

As this is the year I plan to launch the game I’ve started properly looking into the financial side of things. I’ve received various quotes from manufacturers and am proud to announce that one has been chosen, who I will go with once the game gets funded. The name of the manufacturer will be kept under wraps for now, but I can confirm that I will be going with a magnetic flip top box, which I have always preferred over a standard two part box due to the ease of unpacking and packing away. Other financial implications I’ve been looking into have been postage costs, income tax and the recent EU tax changes. All considerations in working out the funding amount required for the Kickstarter.

Due to the current situation it’s been very difficult to playtest the game with anyone recently. For this reason I decided to build a virtual version of UFO Wave in Tabletop Simulator.

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This was easier than expected, and I was even able to implement some pretty nifty scripting to automatically set up the game. It’s fully complete and working, so if you own TTS and would like to try it out please get in touch! I’m happy to meet up on there and take you through the rules and controls before starting, and would love to showcase UFO Wave!

I’ve also finally decided to release two full playtest videos of the game. The first of these is a 5 player virtual playtest on the Tabletop Simulator version with some experienced gamers I regularly game with. The second is a live 3 player playtest using the prototype game and play mat. It’s me against my fiancee and daughter, and showcases the fact that the game is entirely playable by older children as well as adults. Both the playtest videos and many others can be found on the main website.

The original animated launch advert can also be watched on the site. Currently the artist is working on the longer Kickstarter advert, and once this is received the pre-launch page will go up on Kickstarter. Looking for a summertime launch if all goes to plan, but before that happens I’m planning on getting the prototypes reviewed a number of times. Exciting times ahead!

UFO Wave official website

We’ve been pretty busy recently. While Rage Of Montalbano has been in hibernation thanks to Chinese lunar new year, we’ve been testing and graphic designing our next Kickstarter release, the pocket sized image interpretation game Turing. Aside from that A Billion Suns, the game of interstellar fleet battles that we’ve worked on with Mike Hutchinson of Planet Smasher games has just come out so we’ve taken a little time out to help recording a battle report for that. In relation to which, we’ve decided to start releasing a series of videos on You-Tube talking a bit about designing games like Gaslands and A Billion Suns which will hopefully also be available as a Podcast. The plan is to start a regular release schedule from the 10th of March, but we’ve already got a bit of content up so we’d love to see any of you in the comments section. The second episode will be part of the Tabletop Gaming Spring Showcase in which we’ll be talking about a range of ideas we have coming up in 2021, so if you follow Tabletop Gaming Magazine we’ll see you there.

Rule Of Carnage

This month we have been delighted to receive lots of positive reviews as more and more people play 20 Dreams. Here are some quotes from our reviews:

‘This game has everything you need from a card game – its quick to pick up, easy to play, funny and quite addictive…’

‘It’s great to play a game with a creative element but also with a focus on emotions.’

‘I love that its different from any other game I have played and I love the packaging and design of it’

‘It comes in a cute little box, which is just perfect for travelling. You can literally take it anywhere! Perfect for a family holiday, road trip or to take to a friends house’.

So as spring knocks delightfully on our doors we are looking forward to the challenge of taking 20 Dreams a step further with our branding and marketing. Once high street shops open again, we will be very excited to explore more opportunities for our quirky little game to be seen and brought by the great British public.

20 Dreams website

You’re trapped in a library. Dark literary horrors lurk in the shadows and between the shelves. Your only hope is to open the books and ask the characters for help. Can you escape the library labyrinth?

This light co-operative game includes 100 fictional and historical characters — all women and non-binary people. Each character has a unique set of abilities with which they overcome monsters and obstacles in the library. Can Mina Harker (from Dracula, published in 1897) and Ching Shih (commander of the largest pirate fleet in history, 1775-1844) together defeat the Martian robots from War of the Worlds?

Library Labyrinth is for up to 5 players, and is approximately 45-60 minutes long. As well as the 100 characters there are 30 monsters/obstacles, and three different levels on a modular board. It’s coming to Kickstarter in summer 2021.

Follow our updates online!

Castleshire: After two years of designing and playtesting Castleshire, and another year of demoing and fine tuning our game, we are moving in big steps towards the publishing of it. The component changes from scrolls to books and the replacement of the neoprene mat to a thematically fitting foldable cloth helped to finalize the factory quote. Despite Chinese New Year, our factory is operating. We will start with the white sample manufacturing by April. Until then, our artwork for all game components and the game box will be polished.

Marketing: One of the things we learned from publishing Crimopolis was that marketing is essential … and the word itself derives from “market”. To widen our market (audience) for Castleshire and not only attract board game addicts, but also rather casual players, we opted for two editions: a downsized edition only containing the core game, and a deluxe edition for more players and a deeper gameplay. On top of that, we get a small number of unique collectable components for our dearest fans.

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Contest: There were 242 games submitted to the Cardboard Edison Award 2021, including our Castleshire. While we missed becoming a finalist, we got encouraging feedback from the judges such as this: “This game looks super tight and engaging. I love how core mechanics work and how the game will expand with play. Brilliant design work.”

Events: We continue having in-person board game events in New Zealand. The two larger of them are Wellycon and Board Games By The Bay. We aim to attend at least 5 events all around the country in 2021. So, if you happen to be here, get in touch, and say hello! We will have a neat Castleshire surprise for you.

Castleshire pitch video

Last month, I mentioned that we’ve made some good progress on preparing for Rucksack’s Kickstarter relaunch. Well, that streak in productivity has continued into this month and we’re on track to complete all of Rucksack’s artwork by the first week of March!

The cards are coming along nicely, and this week I’ve been working on finalizing the box art. We already have the box dimension and general layout of its design; I’m just working on the exact placement and look of gameplay icons, copy for the back of the box, etc. Next, will be ordering full prototypes to send out to even more reviewers.

I want to be cautious here, but we may actually be ready to relaunch sometime in May!

After a long, quiet preparation period, we’re finally starting to pick up steam again, which is getting me hyped! I’ve loved Rucksack ever since my brother showed his first prototype to me over two years ago, and we’re excited to finally get it out into the world.

Connect with us on Twitter

Things are marching nicely at Drop Dead Fun HQ (we couldn’t help ourselves). Our first game, Murder on the Cards is finding its way out in the world and we’ve now had time to work more on our company behind the scenes, as well as some follow up game ideas.

It’s been great hearing from our backers as they’ve started to play Murder on the Cards, as well as new customers who have bought and enjoyed the game this year!

There’s no better feeling than knowing that something we created has brought a little drop dead fun to someone’s day 😄

Visit our website

“Grave Descent” is our latest project and has been an exciting journey, largely because we have always wanted to create a sci-fi based board game. In particular, outer space is a perfect medium for a board game and opens up a nearly infinite landscape for adventure. Grave Descent is set in a galaxy not so far away where inhabited planets are being destroyed by a strange spatial anomaly. Time is short for these planets, and before long the inhabitants, resources and cultural treasures will be lost forever. Work alone or as a team to build a fleet of ships and use your fleet to attempt rescue missions. But be warned, the anomaly is treacherous, and the laws of physics are often in a state of flux as you try to navigate the planets in its grip.

Grave Descent introduces some fun new mechanics that provide variety and a challenge as you navigate the game play. Starting with traditional worker placement, the game provides a new mechanism where the spatial anomaly can influence how worker placement choices are completed. The game provides Competitive, Solo and Cooperative versions, and is recommended for ages 10+.

Grave Descent will be coming to Kickstarter in May and will be showcased at this year’s WellyCon (June 5-6).

Games by Gametime Again

[From “Dolphin Strikers, Jenkin’s Ear & Nugget-based Learning”]

What is nugget-based learning? And how is it related to game design? Well…I was crafting the afterword for my historical novel where I mention how research drives continuous learning, and it got me thinking. In this technologically-enabled education climate it’s so easy to, almost accidentally, learn about something new. We’re all learning more and more via interest-driven, bite-sized pieces, or nuggets, of information.

In a personal example, I recently came across the term “dolphin striker” when reading about sailing ships. Curious, I looked it up. cited the earliest usage as 1833. The setting of my novel is 1702. Did the ships from that time use something similar/different as a spacer in their bowsprit rigging? This led me to the HMS Falmouth, a ship that jumped out at me because of its construction date and because its name is the first location in my story. Of course, I followed the link for more information and found out it participated in battles during both the War of Spanish Succession and Jenkin’s Ear. Is that last one a place? Nope…

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This is just one of the smaller research rabbit holes I’ve dived into when working our educational board games or…

Keep reading (plus links)…

The big news this month is that we have received the pre-production prints for our narrative puzzle game, The Emerald Flame! We still have a few components to tweak and are waiting on two more samples, but we are getting closer and closer to being ready for production and are hoping to deliver the game in summer 2021.

We are also excited to be making progress on our new game, to be released later this year. The project is a narrative puzzle adventure in the form of a tarot card deck and is a collaboration between PostCurious and illustrator Jack Fallows. Currently we have the puzzles designed, the story written, and are in the midst of playtesting the game mechanics as well as starting on sketches for the final art. You can follow @postcurious on Instagram for sneak peeks of the process!

Find out more!

Colour MY Kritters: Hi all, here’s a quick update on our gateway deck-building card game for kids and families. We’re almost done colleting quotations from 10-20 different manufacturers. If anybody would like to discuss and get advice on which one to choose for your own game, feel free to contact me!

Last time I mentioned that it’s a good idea to make space in the game box for sleeved cards. This is especially important in our case, as deck builder for kids, will both have a lot of shuffling and more general wear and tear than a game for adults, including the possibility of getting more dirt on the cards.

We ran a quick poll among our backers, and found that almost 4/5 will sleeve their cards. Of these, more than 1/2 will use premium sleeves (thickness of 100 micron or more), and the rest will use standard sleeves (around 50 micron). I’m curious as to whether this distribution applies to other games with cards as well.

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Developer: The line between “indie designer” and “indie publisher” is somewhat blurry when it comes to setting up a company, which is practical for Kickstarter funding and useful to look more professional by self-publishing “on a label”.

The next step can easily be working with another designer like in our case. I believe that an Indie Publisher needs to run quite a few Kickstarter projects with several designers before they would outgrow the qualification (and need) for participating in ITN.

I know many indie designers/publishers that cooperate with other designers after successfully running several Kickstarter campaigns. And of course, many start out with a team of designers instead of working alone.

Even indie publishers that are quite successful after several Kickstarter projects with different designers (and have some retail sales) will often have a core team of 5-10 people, and rely mostly on crowdfunding for their income. And some have a team of 5-10 people already when they run their first Kickstarter.

What does your team look like? How do you see your board game business in 5 years? How many games will you have published, and how many people will you be working with for design, development, testing and publishing?

Indie Tabletop Publishers on Facebook: Whether you only self-publish or you also work with other designers of tabletop games, you might like to share experiences and advice with other indie publishers. Self-promotion of your own games and Kickstarter campaigns (like here in ITN) is encouraged, as well as relevant cooperation of all kinds.

You are welcome to join our community on Facebook, simply search for the group “Indie Tabletop Publishers” and click “join”.

Simplicatus Games website

State of Mind Games is an indie studio working on tabletop & digital game designs. Recent projects include a project shrinko version of Targi that fits into a mint tin (pnp files are available on boardgamegeek) called “Freemen”, “Wild, Wonderful, & Weird” which is a 2-player set collection game about Australian Native animals & the effect feral animals can have on them (card image shown). A game co-designed by Sean, “Panakizhi”, is also shown in the comic “Master & Apprentice” which is live on Kickstarter until mid-March 2021. Sean’s latest Kickstarter for the Pocket Game Design Kit has just completed & was fully funded.

During the day Sean works as a game design teacher as well as running workshops for school students, adults, & other teachers in his spare time. You can follow his very intermittent posting on Twitter & Instagram on @tedthebug2602

This comic features Panakizhi

The Board Game Survival Kit: finished its Kickstarter campaign on February 18th at 533% funded with 234 backers. I’m so happy and excited to get going and make everyone’s kits! The pledge manager is actually opening today for backers and if you missed the campaign the pre order page is live on GameFound for you to get your very own kit (link below).

Some very practical uses for The Board Game Survival Kit were mentioned during the campaign and I love that people have such wonderful ways planned to use their kits. I mentioned last month that it can be used as an aid to colour blind players, it’s also been suggested that it will make a great stand by kit for print and play games. Also, how in a post covid world we might feel safer coming to a game table with our own components, especially dice, rather than sharing.

Press: I had a lovely video call with Bogue of Meepology about The Board Game Survival Kit and why playing as your chosen colour might be important to you and how nice it would be as a gift to welcome a new board gamer to the table.

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I also had a wonderful time chatting with Oliver and Antoinette of The Tabletop Inquisition podcast about all things Atikin Games and everyone learned a little more about me, Nikita, the woman behind the cat logo. With their fun questions and in the friendly atmosphere they instil together, it was the perfect time to announce my next mint tin games.

The Playful Pets Series: speaking of my next mint tin games! I’m working on a series of mini board games playing as your favourite pets. The first two will be ‘Feline Felonies’ and ‘Canine Capers’, followed in the future by ‘Rabbit Remedies’ and ‘Tortoise Terrors’. The idea of the games is that they can be played separately and then combined together to make a new game. For instance in Feline Felonies you play as felonious cats stealing toys from around the neighbourhood, even stealing from each other and trying to bring them back home. In Canine Capers you play as investigating/detective dogs sniffing out clues to imagined neighbourhood ‘crimes’. When you combine these two games you play as cats vs dogs with the dogs trying to stop those criminal cats.

I also have ideas for festive versions of these games called: “Feline Festivities” and “Canine Christmas” and I’d love to include them as stretch goals when I do my first Playful Pets Kickstarter.

If these games sound interesting to you please consider:
     • Signing up to my Kickstarter notifications list on the homepage to be the first to know of any important Kickstarter information from Atikin Games.
     • Signing up to this newsletter for news from all the wonderful indie tabletop designers involved.
     • Follow @AtikinGames on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
     • Check out the Atikin Games Etsy store for my published games and handmade gaming accessories.

The Board Game Survival Kit

Hello again!! Hey, it’s my birthday month!! Let’s kick this month off with a new Kickstarter with a game designed by me and published by my buddy Lagniappe Games. As you all may remember from Standing Stones Kickstarter, my designs are about trying to push boundaries for what we know roll and write games to be.

This time around, you will have opportunity to back Illusions of Prestige! Illusions of Prestige is a game that was inspired by my research into African American magicians and illusionists in the Victorian era. This game brings trick-taking card play to the roll and write genre in a way that will innovate both!

Players will have the opportunity to play against a vicious AI solo or play up to 4 human opponents. The trick-taking play will be familiar to players who have played Hearts. The filling in of tracks will be familiar to players of roll and writes. Players will fill in Props on their player sheets only when they lose, which allows them to activate powerful Illusions!

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Also losing the trick gives players Apprentices that can be used to tactically bid up cards the player has play on a following trick. Winning the trick gives the player a bonus on the next trick which can be very helpful as well! We hope you will check it out.

Lagniappe Games Website

Over the past four of weeks, the pace of development for Pilfering Pandas has really picked up. We’ve already booked out manufacturing slot and have lots of work art to share. Here’s our sharing panda who will be one of the partake characters in the game.

The initial sketch is on the left and then the flat colour version on the right. The next step is the full colour version which we should have available soon. What do you think?

We’ve also had an amazing uptake for playtesting, especially as we now have Tabletopia and TTS versions available. If you’re interested in joining in then just fill out your form and we’ll be on touch 🙂

Apply to play test

Over the last month, the physical proof of Top Tale: The O.G Volume 1 arrived! It came in just before Lunar New Year, which gave us most of February to study the design in detail and make slight changes to the artwork and card content. By the time you read this, all those changes should have been submitted and we may have even given the green light for production!

The quality turned out fantastic, and with some small design tweaks, the production copies will be something that should stand out on your game shelf! The only design element that the proof copy did not have is the UV spot treatment, which will make all the graphics stand out as glossy against the matte background. Something else that finally happened, is that I was able to get the Top Tale Mobile App published on iOS. This was a struggle, but will be 100% worth it in the long run, and people who buy the physical game will be able to unlock the same content in the app. That feature update, and many more feature updates, should be getting published by the end of April, if not sooner!

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Next month I plan to update everyone on the production progress, and potentially share more about the Top Tale Mobile App developments. In the meantime, I encourage anyone interested in the Top Tale game series or other Yub Nub Games news to visit the homepage and sign up for updates.

Yub Nub Games homepage

Nate Thompson

Hey there! For a while I’ve been meaning to make a reference card for the actions that can be taken in Landstorm. I have a reference card for resource costs of structures and upgrades and the back of that card would be a great place for actions. There is quite a bit of information to remember when first learning but a few icons will help players see their available options and get into the fun of the game faster.

In Landstorm, one of my goals has been to create a lot of freedom and agency for the players. Instead of conceptual mechanisms, I want very literal ways to explore, build, travel and interact with the world in the game. When giving so much agency to the player I needed to make the system as streamlined as possible to not be overwhelming and keep the barrier to entry low.

Creating a reference card really helped me see and define all that can be done once I simplified it into 7 actions. They are: Move, Hire, Explore, Gather, Build, Attack and Gain Renown.

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I made placeholder icons to represent and clarify aspects of each of these. This makes it much easier to get a sence of all your options. It can still be a lot to remember at first so another way I’ve tried to facilitate for beginners is that only 4 of these actions are possible on the first turn. As the game progresses, opportunities for the rest of the actions are made available which helps ramp players into the experience. I’m excited to print these up and have them ready for my next playtest!

Follow Landstorm news here!

There is a ton going on here at Big Girl Games. I’ve teamed up with some other designers to create a new stream called “Girls Drinking Wine and Playing Games” which kicks of March 3 at 8 pm eastern time with Eric Yurko of What’s Eric Playing. We’re going to pick his brain about reviewing games, moderating followers, and keeping a positive attitude. Going forward, the stream will feature designers from the traditional “fringes” of game design: women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and more. We want to provide a free preview venue for designers, and way to get their name and face out to the gaming public.

I’m working on preparing DinoFaeria to be pitched to some publishers. No hard decisions–I may still Kickstart it, but have decided to give the pitching route a go. I’ve had a little time to work on that game and it’s now up on TTS for playtesting. Please email me if you want to play!

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The year has started out pretty well with a new job, but I’m excited about what’s new around here. Always check the Games Link page for new free content–this month’s free game, Plunder Plotter, was created during the Stuff by Bez game jam last month. Huge hugs to Bez and kudos to all of us who participated!

The Big Girl Games wensite

Some Recent Highlights: Being announced as double winner of the ELL deck contest! Invizibell (possibly the first ever hidden-movement deduction word game?) and Biddabell, a quick but tricky bidding game (co-designed with xate / @willcookforboardgames)

Bez and I got to test out both games live on YouTube with the help of the lovely guys from In Game UK (twitter: @InGameUK_2097) They’re on the lookout for more designers to get involved with their regular live playtest sessions, so if you have something that can be played on an online platform or over video definitely give them a shout!

Over the last couple of months I’ve done a couple of fun little game design challenges on my twitter (@al_cannon) – In January I came up with a total of 58 new(ish) game concepts, and in February I created 12 business-card microgames sketches based on people’s suggested themes. Both great exercises! I think I’m going to try exploring dice in March.

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There is a one of a growing group of game designers streaming on Twitch, which I thoroughly recommend exploring: Bez (StuffbyBez) Michael Fox (idlemichael) Matthew Dunstan (mtdunstan) Omari Akil (akilaverse) and for French speakers Theo Riviere (Theo_Sacha). If you know any others please let me know! Being part of the Twitch community (and related Discords) has been super-fun!

Lastly: I have decided at last to create a central portfolio for my own designs (being previously spread across all sorts of forums and discords) and although I am no way near an expert in this, I have a bit of experience putting together blogs on WordPress. If you’d like to do something similar, give me a shout and I’ll happily take you through the steps I’ve taken.

Business Card Game Design Challenge

Cult of the Deep’s Kickstarter campaign ends March 3. It has been an amazing ride! We funded in the first 2 days of the campaign and have raised more than $36,000 USD. It has been phenomenal the support we have received from the community and we are excited to get this game into your hands. Together we have unlocked multiple new characters and sigils, as well as a new ritual. We have upgraded the base game tokens, the acrylic tokens, the tarot sized cards, the bags, and even the box. Cult of the Deep is now not only a fun hidden role dice game, but a work of art with expanded replayability. This is all thanks to you, our supporters. Thank you.

Current Kickstarter


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