Kickstarter Spotlight & Interview: TROVE

Geek subscription boxes seem to be everywhere these days. But Swansea-based company Only Tabletop are hoping to bring something a little different to the table.

I caught up with Anthony from Only Tabletop to chat about his board gaming subscription box, TROVE.

Geeks in Wales: In a nutshell, what is Trove?

Only Tabletop: TROVE is a not-for-profit, customisable subscription box for tabletop gaming with a specific focus on niche/indie gaming and supporting indie craftspeople/makers.

Geeks in Wales: Subscription boxes seem to be everywhere these days, especially since the popularity of Loot Crate. What do you think sets Trove apart?

Only Tabletop: I think Trove finds its place in this growing world of subscription boxes in a few unique ways.

The first and foremost of these is the bespoke quality to our boxes – there will never be a standard box. We take preferences from customers so that we can tailor the content to best fit their tastes.

The second key element is the nature of our content. Only Table Top is a retailer of niche and indie games and we believe in supporting small enterprise while introducing new worlds to gamers and this carries on to Trove.

Working directly with an array of artists and makers we aim to bring you games that support small businesses and champion high quality and original ideas.

Finally, I’d say it’s our “not-for-profit” model for Trove. It’s this that allows us to condense so much into the box. This isn’t about money, it’s about games and the fantastic people who create and play them.

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Geeks in Wales: Did you decide from the outset that you were going to support indie designers and publishers rather than the traditional subscription box route of securing licensed products from established publishers, or was this something that came about later?

Only Tabletop: Funny enough this all started with a love for Carcassonne and abject horror at realising that most people we knew had never heard of the game and generally thought of anything beyond Risk as some curious world they would never be exposed to.

It was at this point where we realised that we wanted to make a box that would be half a retail bundle of great niche-yet-established games, and half undiscovered territory.

So yeah, it’s at the very core of Only Table Top and it will always be our model.

Geeks in Wales: The main game that the initial box comes with is Tempus Nautica. Can you give a little more info about the game?

Only Tabletop: It’s set in a universe where time has become a commodity and one that has been mined to exhaustion. You’ll need to take control of one of five characters, from three species with distinct interests, and follow their particular aims to win in this space faring, time manipulating game of adventure, hijinks and combat.

What this makes in a game is a fast-paced game to help you lose your friends. It’s has a D6 roll-and-move system with a degree of customisability that we believe will be challenging enough to engage veteran gamers while being engaging with non-gamers too.

It’s not just for board gamers either, as Tempus Nautica expands in a roleplay system. The Trove box features two quests and the standalone version will also be the launch platform for a squad-based strategy game.

Geeks in Wales: Do you plan on going with a different theme for each box?

Only Tabletop: Yes, each box has a theme which we feel holds the boxes together and gives you a chance to opt out of a box with no fine or fee if you don’t care for this quarter’s theme.

The four themes across 2017 are Steam, Revolt, Science and Horror, all of which we are already having so much fun preparing for.

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Geeks in Wales: If you could give one piece of advice to someone about running a Kickstarter campaign, what would it be?

Only Tabletop: I’d suggest ensuring that you generate as much interest as possible beforehand and are able to break down all the elements of your Kickstarter for people to get a really good idea of what they can expect.

Some key points:-

  • People love pictures and videos. Show them everything you can.
  • Setting a low target can damage customer confidence surprisingly.
  • Make postage free if at all possible.
  • You will be spammed by bots and interested parties – learn to filter as there are some very important messages you might skip over.

This is our first Kickstarter and it’s been a heck of a learning curve. I wouldn’t launch another without a video and a larger social network that’s for sure.

Saying that, we’re stoked to see what happens over the course of the campaign and to package together our first run.

Geeks in Wales: Where can people find more information about Trove?

Only Tabletop: We can be found on Kickstarter and at www.onlytabletop.co.uk, though our site is currently under redevelopment.

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Geeks in Wales: And one for fun: If you decided to dress up in a costume for a convention (and expense wasn’t an issue) what would your dream costume be?

Only Tabletop: Well, I once spent spent a good month building a cardboard ARM commander from Total Annihilation but I reckon my next cosplay is a a custom that’s been in my head for a while. It’s some sort of rough ‘n’ ready galactic ranger, a weird amalgamation of Malcom Reynolds, Boba Fett and Bravestarr.

Due to personal circumstances, the campaign for TROVE is on hold until the end of 2016.

A preview of Xscape Reality Cardiff

Cardiff’s latest escape venue Xscape Reality is now open. Here’s a quick look at what to expect.

I was lucky enough to have been invited to the launch event for Xscape Reality, with a chance to try out one of their rooms. Armed with my pixel shades and Escape Game Hub Ambassador shirt, I headed off with some of my escape buddies.

Boasting six escape rooms, Xscape Reality currently holds the title of Wales’ largest escape venue, though you wouldn’t think it to look at it from the outside.xscape-lauch-01

Its entrance is subtly nestled between two buildings on St. John Street, like the Welsh equivalent of 12 Grimmauld Place. As you ascend the stairs,though,  you quickly discover that the narrow entrance belies the sprawling complex that contains half a dozen rooms.

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You’re also greeted by a series of prints representing the six rooms: Jungala, Enigmista, The Heist, Misery, Alcatraz and Fibonacci. There’s also a victor’s wall as well as a league table for best escape time.

All of the staff are friendly and helpful, and even if you’re waiting for a game they make sure that you’re enjoying yourself. Also, Xscape Reality is the only escape game in Cardiff to have an on-site bar.

Our team of four was given the chance to try out two rooms – we went with Fibonacci (the most difficult room), then we tried our hand at Enigmista.

Both rooms will be reviewed in later posts, but this was our experience playing them both – no spoilers attached, so don’t worry.

Fibonacci

After our initial safety briefing we were told that we are trapped in an art gallery where the curator has been murdered by a shadowy organisation that’s heavy on symbolism. Think real-life Da Vinci Code and you’re more or less there.

Our time started and we were off, shining torches into every nook and cranny, pulling things off pedestals and tapping in codes. It took us at least 15-20 minutes to get past the first puzzle.

The Fibonacci room doesn’t pull its punches – this was by far the most difficult room I’ve played.

After several hints and solutions (more on the ingenious hint system later), we managed to get into the second part of the game.

As you’d expect from a room inspired by Dan Brown’s novels, the puzzles are fiendish – using a combination of traditional combi-locks, crypticies and ciphers to baffle all but the most experienced escapees.

We managed to break into the final portion of the game with three seconds on the clock, and then we had to stop. We were a tad annoyed with ourselves – this was the most interesting-looking portion of the game and we didn’t get chance to play it!

Dejected, we had our photo taken in the reception area with a variety of theme-appropriate props, and then headed on to Enigmista.

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Enigmista

Our thanks to the patient staff who let us play a second game – our team were the last ones out at past 11pm, and they were great with us the whole time.

While we were given the safety briefing for Enigmista, I spotted a few shiny objects dangling from one of the game master’s hands.

“I can’t help but notice you have four pairs of handcuffs on you,” I said to him.

“The handcuffs are optional, but they add a little extra challenge at the start of the game,” he replied.

Well, I’m not one to back away from a challenge.

Fast forward two minutes and the four of us are handcuffed to a pipe in a bloodied bathroom while a sinister voice tells us that “they want to play a game” with us.

Sound familiar?

We were off to a flying start. We blitzed through the first few puzzles like nobody’s business, solving a mix of searching and traditional keypad combination puzzles. We started to think we might actually beat this room.

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Nope.

We hit a brick wall in the middle portion of the game and spent longer than we should have on a puzzle because we over-thought the solution.

“What if it’s every other?”

“What if we look at the bit that’s missing?”

“What if we put these ones together?”

Turns out the solution was much simpler than any of that, and we’d inadvertently been giving ourselves the answers while trying to come up with more complex solutions.

We broke into the last portion of the game with 6 minutes on the clock, but the difficulty level kicked up a notch and then some. Our final puzzle had us scratching our heads until our game master called time on us and we had to admit defeat.

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Hint system

It’s safe to say that Xscape Reality is the most challenging escape venue in Cardiff. Granted, we chose rooms that had a four- and five-star difficult rating, and our over-confidence (and the celebratory pre-game launch drinks) were our downfall.

Given the difficulty, Xscape Reality have a unique hint system I’ve not seen elsewhere in Wales. You’re given an iPad when you enter the room that counts down your time, but it also doubles up as a scanner.

Dotted around the rooms are QR codes that you can scan for clues at certain points in the game. You can choose a hint – which adds a minute to your total time, or a solution, which can add substantially more. This doesn’t cut into your gaming time, though – you still get 60 minutes to escape, but using hints may impact your chances of hitting the leaderboard.

These clues are timelocked too, so you can’t blitz through the game by using solutions for everything. This gives you ample time to try and work things out yourself before you resort to the hint system.

A great addition to Cardiff’s escape scene

We had an absolute blast at Xscape Reality. The rooms look great and the staff are enthusiastic and helpful. Though we didn’t escape our rooms, we’re determined to go back and finish what we started.

Xscape Reality
6-7 St John St
Cardiff
CF10 1GJ

Games start from £15 per person for a team of six.

Have you played any of the rooms at Xscape Reality? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Tibetan-inspired puzzler Mandagon available for free on Steam

Back in June I was at the Wales Games Development Show in Cardiff, where I played the beta of a puzzler called Mandagon from Blind Sky Studios.

It was a very calming, zen-like game that focussed on exploration and discovering the narrative over action or completion for completion’s sake.

Today (August 4), Blind Sky Studios release Mandagon on Steam – and it’s absolutely free.

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In a nutshell, Mandagon is inspired by Tibetan concepts of life, death and sacrifice.

You control a little cube fella and have to traverse the Tibetan Limbo, collecting glyphs that will unlock certain doors.

It’s a fairly short game, taking between 10 and 30 minutes to play, depending on your playstyle.

What you’ll get is a beautiful journey with wonderful pixel graphics and sound.

 

Download Mandagon now for free

 

CREDITS

Tom Kitchen- Concept, Artist
Lee Russell- Programmer
Richard Jackson- Audio
Rachael Brearton- Marketing/PR

What’s on in August

buffy-quiz

Thursday 4 & Tuesday 9
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Interactive Quiz
Gwdihŵ Café Bar, Cardiff

Think you know all there is to know about Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Grab your sharpened pencils (because stakes aren’t allowed, obviously) and prove your worth!

Advance tickets are sold out, but there will be a number of spaces on the day, so make sure you get there early.

Tickets: £2

PAY ON THE DOOR

geekedfest

Saturday 6 – 7 Sunday
Geekedfest
Newport Centre, Newport

Its second year running, Geekedfest is back with a number of guests including Gareth David-Lloyd (Torchwood,  Dark Signal), Patricia Quinn (Rocky Horror Picture Show), comic artist Mike Collins, cosplayer Dizidee and Cardiff Jack Sparrow.

Tickets: £10 adult | £4 children. Family and VIP tickets available

[GET TICKETS]

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Wednesday 17-20 Saturday
Monstrous Productions presents Going Postal
The Gate Theatre, Cardiff

Monstrous Productions are back with their stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel Going Postal. All proceeds for this play will go to Alzheimer’s research – I’m in this one too, so you can’t miss out!

You can also win some great prizes ahead of time, including official Discworld merchandise and a programme signed by the cast and crew!

Tickets: £8 adults | £6 concessions

[GET TICKETS]

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Saturday 20 – 21 Sunday
Cardiff Anime & Gaming Con
Mercure Holland Hotel, Cardiff

A haven for anime and gaming fans,Cardiff’s Anime and Gaming Con boasts a number of high-profile cosplayers and a large selection of boardgames and RPGs.

If you want to get competitive, videogame and TCG tournaments will run throughout the day too.

Tickets: £9 for one day | £16 for both days

[GET TICKETS]

board-game-bar

Monday 29
Bank Holiday board games with Rules of Play
Bute Park Education Centre, Cardiff

Spend the Bank Holiday in the (hopeful) sunshine and play some board games with the family. Rules of Play will be on hand with their library of board games – from Settlers of Catan to Forbidden Desert and more!

FREE ENTRY


Did I miss anything? If you know of something in August that you think should be on here, let me know!

WIN official Discworld stamps and a signed programme from Monstrous Productions

Fancy winning some Discworld goodies? Of course you do. Here’s how.

Cardiff-based theatre company Monstrous Productions are gearing up for their latest production – an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal.

The play will run between Wednesday 17 and Saturday 20 August at The Gate Theatre, Cardiff. All proceeds will go to Alzheimer’s research.

In celebration of the production, here’s your chance to win a set of Going Postal prizes, including:

  • a Going Postal programme, signed by the cast and crew
  • an A3 Going Postal poster
  • a set of official Discworld stamps from the Discworld Emporium

discworld-stamps

How to enter

It couldn’t be more simple – well, that’s a lie. But it’s still pretty simple.

All you have to do is fill in the entry form below, then tweet @geeksinwales (or share on the Geeks in Wales Facebook page) using the hasthag #GPostComp. If you’re reading this post by email or through a feed reader, you’ll have to view the page directly to see the entry form.

Going Postal will run on 17-20 August 2016 at The Gate Arts Centre, Keppoch Road, Cardiff.

Tickets are £8 for adults and £6 for concessions. You can get tickets online here or message me directly.

And don’t forget to get involved on the official Facebook event for the show!

Enter the giveaway