Tag Archives: K2

Boardgames in the News: What is Asmodee’s Grand Plan?

Four years ago, Eurazeo bought a small French games company called Asmodee from the investment firm, Montefiore.  Asmodee were a small company hitherto primarily known for a clever little kids game called Dobble.  With the financial might of their parent company behind them, over the next few years, Asmodee proceeded to gobble up many larger, well-established companies, including Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight Games, Z-man Games and most recently, Lookout Spiele.  Those companies produced some of the best known modern games including Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Pandemic, Agricola and Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game.  Not content with that, they also acquired the rights to the English language version of the Settlers of Catan (now known simply as “Catan”) and all the related Catan games as well as gobbling up a number of smaller and/or newer companies like Space Cowboys (producers of Splendor and Black Fleet) and Plaid Hat Games (producers of Dead of Winter and Mice and Mystics) and entering into a distribution agreement with many others.  There are now very few games companies of any substance that are not somehow tangled in the Asmodee web.

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor adamfeldner

The last major purchase was F2Z Entertainment in 2016, and since then it has been relatively quiet.  With the new year comes a new wave of acquisition, however, so at the end of January Asmodee announced that they were in exclusive negotiations with Rebel.  Rebel is a relatively small, Polish company responsible for games like K2 as well as Polish editions of many popular games like 7 Wonders and Codenames.  Perhaps more importantly, Rebel also produces the Polish language versions of many of the Asmodee games and is the largest distributor in Poland.  And Poland is a big country, smaller than France or Germany, but bigger than Italy and the UK,  globally Poland is the thirty-forth largest country by population.  That is a lot of Poles and they do like playing board games in Poland.

– Image used with permission
of boardgamephotos

This announcement was almost immediately followed by the bombshell that Asmodee had acquired all the residual assets from Mayfair and with it, Lookout Spiele. Although this is by far the largest deal in recent months, Asmodee have not been resting on their laurels and there has been a lot going on behind the scenes.  In December last year they announced that Esdevium was to be renamedAsmodee UK” bringing them in line with the “Asmodee North America” and “Asmodee Canada” brands.  At around the same time, Eurazeo announced that French publisher Purple Brain Créations would be joining the Asmodee Group.  Furthermore, they have also been streamlining their distribution network in North America.  Having reduced the number of distributors they deal with to five in 2015, in June last year Asmodee North America announced an exclusive distribution deal with Alliance Game Distributors, effectively creating a monopoly of supply within the USA.  This coupled with their Minimum Advertised Price policy (or MAP) gives them a stranglehold on the US market in a way that would never be allowed in Europe.  Whether they are planning to take that one step further and acquire Alliance themselves still remains to be seen, but that looks like a real possibility.  Finally, they have been pushing in a new direction, developing electronic versions of some of the most popular games through their studio, “Asmodee Digital“.

– Image from forbes.com

So what is Asmodee‘s Grand Plan?  Where will it all end?  Well, there are still a couple of other large manufacturers out there that are not yet part of Asmodee.  Looking at the companies they have already absorbed there is a clear trend: they typically have one particular feature that Asmodee are interested in.  In the case of Days of Wonder, that was the Ticket to Ride series, with Z-man Games it was Pandemic and Carcassonne, and with Rebel, it was probably their distribution network that caught the eye of the executives at Asmodee.  Going forward, the most obvious targets are probably Rio Grande Games, Czech Games EditionQueen GamesHans im Glük and maybe 2F, or Pegasus Spiele (who have just announced a partnership with Frosted Games).  For example, it would be surprising if Rio Grande Games have not been approached given the popularity of games like Dominion and Race/Roll for the Galaxy.  Similarly, Czech Games Edition are a small company with some very juicy morsels including Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords/Petz, and the hugely successful Spiel des Jahres winner, Codenames.

– Image by boardGOATS

Ultimately they may or may not add some or all of these to the Greater Asmodee Empire, but it is clear that at some point, eventually, there will be nothing left worth taking over and growth of the company will plateau, so what happens then?  And this is the crux of the matter. Some have speculated that the aim is to add Hasbro to Asmodee’s ever growing dominion, but Hasbro has a market value of $11.9 billion—Asmodee are mere minnows in comparison.  On the other hand, the parent company, Eurazeo are worth approximately $5.7 billion, which at least puts them in the same ball park, although even they are small by comparison.  According to the “Vision” page on the Eurazeo website:

The purpose of Eurazeo is to identify, accelerate and enhance the transformation potential of the companies in which it invests, even long after its exit. An active and committed shareholder, Eurazeo assists its holdings in the long term – 5 to 7 years – with control over exit timing. An extensive role enabling it to combine business development and corporate social responsibility.

So, it would seem that Eurazeo is not looking to hold onto Asmodee for the long haul, instead they will be looking to maximise Asmodee’s growth and then make their exit, probably in the next two to five years.  So the big question is, how are Eurazeo going to make their “controlled exit”?  With this in mind it seems unlikely that acquiring Hasbro is on the agenda, but making Asmodee attractive to Hasbro just might be…

– Image from twitter.com

21st April 2015

While Blue attacked her pizza, Red, Green, Burgundy, Black and Purple attacked a quick game of Coloretto.  This is a great little little set collecting game that forms the basis of the well-known boardgame, Zooloretto.  The idea of Coloretto is that players take it in turns to either draw a chameleon card and place it on a truck, or take a truck (after which they are out for the rest of the round).  Each truck can hold a maximum of three chameleons and the round continues until every player has taken a truck.  The chameleon cards come in seven different colours and players are collecting sets which score according to the triangular number sequence (one point for the first card, three points for two cards, six points for three cards etc.).

– Image by BGG contributor SergioMR

The clever part is that each player can only score three sets as positive, all the others are negative, and the highest score wins.  Thus, there is an element of push your luck and players can make life difficult for each other by putting cards a cards someone wants with cards they don’t want.  As usual, the game came down to a choice between taking the one or two safe wanted cards and waiting to see if a useful third card might be added to the set.  With a five player game, however, there was always a high risk that someone else would take it, so Burgundy started off very cautiously and managed to quickly collect a lot of red chameleons and a few two point bonus cards making him the obvious front-runner.  Green had also started out going for reds, but quickly realised he would have to broaden his horizons.  Meanwhile, Red, who was new to the game began to realise what cards people might want and how to cause them problems.  It was purple however, who finished with her nose in front with final total of thirty-one, thanks to the large number of cards she had managed to accrue.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Although Zooloretto is a more popular game (possibly helped by its cute animal theme), it is arguable that Coloretto is actually a better one.  In Zooloretto, players are building a zoo and instead of simply collecting sets of cards, they are collecting sets of animal tiles and have to place them in pens.  If you can’t place an animal, then it goes into the barn, where others can buy it or, if there space becomes available, it can be recovered and placed in a pen.  The light nature of the game and cute animals make Zooloretto very accessible for families, but there are more bits and it does take longer to play.  There is no question that the tile/card drawing and truck choosing mechanism is very clever and integrates well with the zoo theme, however, Coloretto is a simpler, “purer” game, which is short enough that it doesn’t risk outstaying its welcome.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Toynan

With the arrival of Grey, and Blue finally finishing her pizza, we decided to split into two groups.  The first played the “Feature Game”, Black Fleet.  This was one of the games brought back from Essen last year and is a beautiful game involving skulduggery on the high seas.  The game is very simple.  Each player commands a merchant vessel and a pirate ship.  Players also have a hand of two “movement” cards and on their turn choose one to play.  Each of these cards has movement values the player’s merchant and pirate ships, but also allows them to move one of the Navy frigates.  As the ships move they can carry out various actions.  For example, before, during, or after its movement, a player can sell their cargo at the indicated price (two or three doubloons per goods cube) at the port if their merchant is in a space adjacent to it.  Alternatively, pirates can steal treasure or bury it safely on an island.  Once per turn, players can spend their gold to activate their bonus cards.  These are cards that are dealt out at the start of the game and once activated, remain active for the rest of the game with the player that has activated all their bonus cards winning.  In the event that more than one player succeeds in activating their bonus cards, then ties are broken by the amount of gold held at the end.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG
contributor The_Blue_Meeple

After a short rules explanation, we set our ships afloat, each hoping to get to another port to trade our valuable cubes.  It wasn’t long before the first pirate came relieved a merchant ship of one their goods cubes.  Then, the gloves were off and the game became one of attack and counter attack.  With four pirate ships sailing the seas it was rare that anyone managed to dock into port with any more than two cubes, and sometimes they only had one to sell.  However the two navy ships mostly kept the pirates from burying their loot.  Very soon players were paying for their bonus cards and beefing up their attack or trading capabilities.  Purple was heading down the trading route,  but misreading her cheapest bonus card, she left that to one side and plugged away at getting her more expensive ones.  On a sea so full of marauding pirates (and the occasional back-stabbing navy ship and ruthless merchant), this proved to be a difficult strategy to make work.

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

Grey was trying a more balanced strategy, while Green and Burgundy were making their fleets the menace of the seas.  The game seemed well balanced between Green, Burgundy and Grey until Burgundy turned over his penultimate bonus card and it became clear that he would earn enough on his next turn pay for his last card and finish the game.  Green and Grey did what they could to attack Burgundy to prevent this from happening while also trying to turn over their last cards.  Burgundy duly paid for his final card ending the game and giving Green and Grey one last turn.  Green was able to turn one card over, however, although that would not be enough to tie with Burgundy, it would be enough to tie with Grey if Grey could be prevented from turning over his last card.  Thus, Green abandoned his plans and instead in a ruthless pirate like manner turned the tables on Grey.  This left Grey unable to pay for his final card and with less money remaining than Green, he finished in third place behind Burgundy and Green. As it turned out Grey would not have been able to buy his final card anyhow, which made Green’s last move look particularly vicious, but then if you insist in playing with a poker face, that’s what you get!

Black Fleet
– Image by BGG contributor spielemitkinder

Although none of the players had played it before, on discussion with Blue and Black after the game, it is clear that Black Fleet is a much better game with four than three and everyone was keen to play it again.  However, there was much discussion about the balance of the cards:  since the bonus cards are drawn at random, some combinations end up being well balanced while others are less synergistic.  For example, in this game, the cards definitely made it much harder for Purple to win, but easier for Green.  We’ll have to play it again to see if this is something which detracts from the game, or makes it more of challenge!

Black Fleet
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Meanwhile, Black, Red and Blue tried out a game that was new to the group, K2.  This is a fairly straight forward hand management game, that can get quite brutal as players find the route up the mountain increasingly challenging.  The idea is that each player has two climbers, two tents and a hand of cards.  Simultaneously, everyone chooses which cards they are going to play and then players take it in turns to move their climbers up the mountain.  There are two possible routes which are slightly different lengths and  difficulties.

– Image by BGG contributor Oskarete

Some cards enable players to move along the paths and others help them to increase their levels of acclimatisation.  The acclimatisation cards are essential, because going higher up the mountain, saps your energy.  The weather also plays its part, both making it more difficult to climb and reducing players’ acclimatisation and if a climber’s acclimatisation drops to zero, they die.  As inevitable when playing a new game, an important rule got missed out – in this case, we didn’t realise until we were more than half way through the game that the weather only affected certain parts of the mountain, thus we made it much more difficult for ourselves.  The winner is the player who’s climbers get the furthest up the mountain without dying.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Blue took the slightly harder eastern ridge while Black and Red took the western pass.  Fortunately, Black started off trying to get one climber to the top, leaving the other safe at the bottom, which meant the western pass didn’t get too congested.  Red and Blue tried to get the two climbers to help each other, but quickly realised the wisdom of Black’s approach as their climbers suffered from exposure, especially Blue’s on the exposed ridge.  Black’s first climber made it to the top, only to find his way down blocked by Red.  This turned out to be fatal as the extreme effort proved too much.  By this time, Blue’s first climber had realised she was in difficulty and headed back to the foothills, just making it in time thanks to a lull in the weather.  Red had also made it as high as she dared having had her route blocked by Black which delayed her progress to the summit.  In the meantime, Black’s well acclimatised second climber had made it to the top and was also heading back down to avoid the same fate as his companion.  Blue’s second climber then made a dash for it and, with the path clear, made it to the peak just as the game drew to a close leaving Blue the winner.  Definitely a game to try again, but perhaps with the correct rules next time…

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor mothertruckin

Early starts in the morning left just Blue, Green and Burgundy, and they decided to give Blueprints another outing.  We’ve played this a couple of times at the group and it always goes down well.  Burgundy really struggled this time, but the game began as a closely fought battle between Green and Blue, enhanced by some really unlikely dice draws and rolls.  In the first round, Green took first place in the general classification and an award, while Blue took second and the award for using dice with the same number.  In the second round, positions were reversed with Blue taking first place and an award leaving it all to play for in the final round.  However, Green finished the game three points ahead of Blue who lost out on tie-breakers to both Green and Burgundy in every category in the final round.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor bkunes

Learning Outcome:  If you manage to get people to believe you are a threat, don’t be surprised when they attack you!