A Conversation With…Jeremiah Lee, designer of Zombie In My Pocket & Zombie House Blitz


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Jeremiah and some of his progeny

Thanks for joining me this time on Go Forth And Game. This time I’m interviewing Jeremiah Lee, the designer of the hit Zombie In My Pocket and his newest Zombie House Blitz.

Tom: So Jeremiah, tell us about yourself.

Jeremiah: I’m a full-time father of four young children (8/7/5/3 years old), I live in the Ypsilanti, MI (in south-east Michigan). I’ve been seriously involved in boardgames since 2007, and played lots of different games before that. I played D&D as a kid, and a bunch of solo boardgames because I didn’t have many friends nearby that were interested.

Tom: Full time father of four kids. I’m impressed. How do you support your gaming habit?

Jeremiah: My full-time gig as a dad doesn’t pay very well, so I mostly just don’t spend much money on games. I get a lot of games in trade, through the math-trades on BGG, and really, I’m very happy with the games I already have. I want to make my collection a perfect and small collection. I only want things in my space that I love. I’m working towards that goal.

Tom: Full time dad is a huge job. Bravo! to your wife for working so you can stay home to raise your children. I’m with you as to holding on tight to my gaming dollars. The game has to be really good for me to spend my money on it. I recently purchased a dud in an auction because I didn’t pay enough attention to what I was doing. Hate that. What was the gateway drug? What game got all this started?

Jeremiah: The first and most important game in my gaming history is Diplomacy. I love the game. I played it in college, and was hooked. I played Diplomacy nearly exclusively for about a decade, though Settlers of Catan was mixed in there. The game that brought me to the designer game scene was Wolfgang Kramer’s Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix. I played it at a convention, looked it up on the internet afterwards, found BoardgameGeek, and was hooked.

Tom: Diplomacy! As a gateway! Wow, that’s interesting. You’ve designed a couple of games. Zombie In My Pocket is one of the ZIMP1most successful print and play games on BGG. And you have another game on Kickstarter right now – Zombie House Blitz. I’m detecting a theme here. Let’s talk about ZIMP first. Where did you get the idea?

Jeremiah: I got the idea for ZimP by playing Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Pocket Civ. Betrayal is a big production Avalon Hill game, and Pocket Civ is a print and play game. I loved them both, and wanted to mix them together to make something of my own. I had recently been watching Romero’s “Dead” movies, and thought I’d have a zombie theme. I wasn’t involved in the boardgame world very much at that point, and didn’t know how popular zombie themes already were.

Tom: What was the most difficult part of the design process for ZIMP? What challenges did you face?

Jeremiah: ZimP actually came really easily. I had the idea, I threw some math at the paper to balance the difficulty level, and everything worked. There were only a few weeks of tweaking the rules, and I feel really lucky it worked out as well as it did.

“Zombie in my Pocket” is my solitaire print and play game which has been downloaded over 40,000 times. It was the game that launched my “career” as a designer. After the success of the print and play game, I worked with CGF to make a 1-8 player game from Zombie in my Pocket, and the game turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s a game about knowing when to be selfish and when to keep helping the group. You know everyone is going to turn out to be selfish, perhaps you should be selfish first…

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There was a lot more work put into the published 1-8 player version of the game, and the biggest difficulty was making sure that it was worthwhile for players to work together at first, but advantageous to become selfish as the game went on.

Tom: That’s a really neat idea, shift in focus part way through the game. And is all about the theme. Now let’s talk about Zombie House Blitz. Talk about the development of it.

Jeremiah: I started making what would become Zombie House Blitz about two years ago, when I was being introduced to a bunch of speed games at the same time. When I played the classic game Dutch Blitz, I knew I could make something special with this as the inspiration. I wanted to make an accessible, low-cost, speed card game that could be played with families or gamers, and I love the zombie theme, so that was a perfect fit with me. Zombie House Blitz is under $20, with shipping included, so I was able to hit my goals for the game.zhb1

Tom: I recognized the Dutch Blitz connection when I read about the game play. I appreciate that you are keeping the price point low too. How’s the Kickstarter campaign doing?  Talk a bit about it.

Jeremiah: It’s going really well, we’re at over 40% of our funding with 20 days left as I write this, and we’re getting new pledges every day. I feel really confident about our chances to get this game funded and produced, but we still have a long way to go. This is the first project I’ve self-published (though I’ve had a game published by Cambridge Games Factory, and I’ve worked with other publishers on other games), so I’m really excited about it, and excited to have so many people stand up and help support the project.

Tom: Do you have a favorite design element?

Jeremiah: My favorite part of gaming is the social aspect. I love “playing the people, not the game” as I often say. I want the game to happen in a space that exists more in between the players than between the players and the game. Zombie House Blitz is a race, and Zombie in my Pocket is a game about limited trust relationships, both are about your friends playing the game with you.

Tom: Speaking of games with a high social aspect you should try Viva Java. It’s very social with up to 8 players. It has tons of strategy and plays smoothly. Pretty unique game. What inspires you?

Jeremiah: I’m inspired by other games, and by other designers. I love thinking about ways to create new interactions between players. A game that gets me excited about the way players are interacting excites me.

Tom: Why are you designing games?

Jeremiah: I’m not sure. It’s what my brain does, without asking. Things pop into my head, and then I have to give them some time to develop, or they just sit there and ask, “when’s it gonna be my turn?” That, and I love seeing other people have fun playing a game I’ve designed. That’s a thrill.zhb3

Tom: I got my first taste of that feeling a couple of weeks ago. I premiered Duck Blind at UnpubMini-AtomicEmpire. Wow it is so cool seeing people liking your game. You’re pretty active on Twitter and in the design community. How helpful is that to you? Is community important to you?

Jeremiah: There are some really great designers working on games that have built up this great network of designers, and I’m really excited and proud to be a part of it. People like Chevee Dodd, Grant Rodiek, Alan Gerding, and Brett Myers (just to name a very few) keep me interested in their designs, while helping me remember to give some focus-time to mine as well. Community is hugely important to me. I wouldn’t still be doing this, pushing to make more of my own designs come to life, without the community.

Tom: I ‘know’ Chevee and Grant but don’t recognize the others. I need to look them up. This community we have is awesome. People like those above and Daniel Solis, John Moller. Everyone is so supportive of each other. Theme or Mechanic. Which comes first for you?

Jeremiah: Though I tend to design theme-first, both of my published games have been mechanism-first games. When I do theme-first (and I do, a lot) I will often get too involved, and make things that are just too big, too cumbersome.

Tom: Standard GFG questions: What are the aspects of a good player?

Jeremiah: There are so many different games, it’s hard to say what makes a good player. I’m going to step away from trying to figure out what makes a player good overall, and focus on what makes someone a good player in the kinds of games I like. I like players to be funny, to be there to experience the game, and try to win, but not be focused on winning. Be at the table to have a good time with me and our friends.

Tom: Is one play enough for a review?

Jeremiah: It is, especially if you’re in the market for “first impression” reviews. Some games give away most of what they have in the first game, some don’t. Hopefully we can all tell which are which.

Tom: Microgames like Love Letter seem to be the hot new topic. Do you have one on the design board? What is your take on this? Fad or legit? Have you played any?

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Jeremiah: I’m not currently designing a microgame, though many of the games I have designed might fit that description. ZimP (solo) is a pretty micro game. I think it’s a legitimate way to make games happen and have quick portable (and affordable games). I really like the idea, though I can’t say that I’ve played anything that I’ve heard labelled as a microgame (perhaps Coup, which is fantastic).

Tom: Heard only good things about Coup.  I need to play that. What’s your favorite unpublished game right now?

Jeremiah: Two Rooms and Boom, by Tuesday Night Games, you can find it on BoardgameGeek.com. It’s a great light social deduction game and it has an amazing range. You can literally hand out cards to people, send them into different rooms, and get a game moving.

Tom: The latest The State of Games – the one about Unpub, talks about that.  It sounds pretty cool. What are you currently playing the most?

Jeremiah: Coup, Plato 3000, and Zombicide. I love all of these games, though I don’t see Coup getting much more play, as I prefer the earlier Hoax, with very much the same feeling.

Tom: What game surprised you and how?

Jeremiah: Connect 4 Launchers. Yes, it’s a mass-market dexterity game with enough crazy chaos of catapulting plastic rings into a tray to make me way-too-loud when the kids are sleeping.

Tom: What is next for you?  What else is in the queue?

Jeremiah: Oh, I always have a few things that I’m working on. Right now I’m just focusing on the Kickstarter campaign. After that, I think I’m going to put my head down and focus on a postapocalyptic evolving story game. It’s very much a mix of rpg and boardgame. An idea I’ve been stewing for a good year or so.fiasco

Tom: Lastly from me. I see from BGG that you are a Fiasco fan. Talk about what a fantastic game it is.

Jeremiah: Fiasco is a crazy game, I didn’t even know things like this existed until very recently. Fiasco gives me a space to “act” again (I was involved in theater in college, and I miss it. Plus, Fiasco can get wacky, and I love wacky. I love silly humor, silly friends, and putting those things together to make great stories.

You have to find a group of 3-5 friends that actually want to play this kind of free-form role playing game. Without people who have a desire to play, this game won’t be fun.

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My first Fiasco playset.

Tom: I love Fiasco. It’s one of the nearly perfect rpg’s. Did you know I wrote 2 of the published playsets – Reconstruction and News Channel Six? Jason lives in Durham and is an acquaintance of mine. Really great guy. Here’s an interesting game design thought that I’ve had – Are there any aspects of rpg’s, the indie variety especially, that could be ported to board or card games? I have a couple of ideas.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

Jeremiah: I always enjoy talking about the workings of my 1993 Ford Probe GT’s engine. Perhaps that’s best saved for another blog? I’m also happy to talk about unschooling, and living as a full time dad to kids that don’t go off to school every day.

Tom: I actually know what unschooling is. We homeschool too. And have a very unschooling attitude with it most of the time. Drives the in-laws crazy but my oldest (19yr.old) is at UNC-CH on a scholarship with a 3.3 gpa, an internship, is a photographer for the school paper, and is just pretty awesome. My 14-year-old is becoming a master equestrian, cook, and just a fantastic girl. My 11yr. old is designing games like crazy and he is becoming a pretty good archer. My wife is super fantastic for devoting herself to our kids. I commend you for doing the same. They will do so when they grow up too. How can people contact you?  Are there any links you would like folks to visit?

Jeremiah: I’m on twitter @jeremiah042 where I stay pretty focused on games. The kickstarter page for Zombie House Blitz is http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stupidawesome/zombie-house-blitz-tabletop-card-game. You can keep up with my designs at : http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/9817/jeremiah-lee

Tom: Any final words?

Jeremiah: Thanks, I appreciate your time, and I hope to talk to you again sometime after the successful end of the Zombie House Blitz campaign.

It was really cool talking to Jeremiah. He seems to be on track to being one of the hot, new game designers. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has next. As of today, the Kickstarter campaign has 4 days to go. Head over here to check it out.

Thanks for joining me at Go Forth And Game for this interview. I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned some things. How about leaving a comment?

Come back soon.

Tom G

Under The Microscope – The Card Game of Oz


“To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.” – L. Frank Baum

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Abstract: Everything old is new again. And L. Frank Baum is no exception. He has the biggest movie at the box office at the moment. And hot on its heels is a brand new game from Orion’s Bell and Game Salute. In The Card Game of Oz by Jim O’Connor players are the authors ‘writing’ their own story in the World of Oz.

Materials & Methods: The game introduces a new game system called the StoryLine Game System. The StoryLine System uses Location Cards to build the basis for the story. Each player has a hand of Characters,Events, Objects, and Effects. They use these cards to create their story and to mess with the other players’ stories. The game also includes Story Dice which are used to generate Story Points.

At the beginning of the game, a title card is placed in the central play area. Next the Location cards are shuffled face down and each player chooses 3 cards. These are placed,face down,  in a line in the central play area.  Then the other player(s) place their Title card at the end of the Story Line. The first player rolls the4 blue Story Dice to generate Story Points for his turn. Story Points are used to play cards to a Location. The Location is revealed at this point. Locations give some Characters bonuses and hinder others. Each card has a Story Point cost to play, some more than others. The other players take their turns similarly, each playing cards to their side(s) of the Story Line. Once a player plays a Character card they are able to add a Gold Story Die to their rolls. They add Gold Dice for each Character they play. Story Points are also used to move Characters along the Story Line, one Location per point. In addition to playing cards and moving Characters, players can use Story Points to replace a Location card with one from the Location card deck, or draw a new card to their hand. Players may also discard or archive cards from their hand to gain Story Points. The game ends when one player moves one of their Prime Characters to an Opponent’s Title Card and flips it to ‘The End’. Points are then summed and the winner determined.oz4

The components of The Card Game of Oz are very nice. The Location cards are large, oversized cards with very nice art. In fact the art of the game is fantastic. Cudos to the many artist who contributed. The Location cards also have text that gives or takes away bonuses to the Characters at that Location. The rest of the cards are average sized and again container wonderful depictions of the Characters, Objects, etc.. These cards have several pieces of information on them. They have a Title telling who or what the cards is,  Story Point cost, text describing the Character and its ability, and how many Vitality Points the card scores. There are also a few other things that the graphics on the cards tell you. The frames of the cards have symbols indicating the alignment, to borrow a phrase, of the cards – Good, Neutral, Evil.  The background of the text area tells what kingdom the card comes from. And there is another symbol at the bottom of the card that indicates whether it is magical or not.

I’ll mention the Story Dice briefly. These are custom dices, four blue and six gold. They have either blanks or symbols on their sides. As mentioned, players roll the blue dice to generate Story Points until they have Characters on the table.

Discussion: What do we think about The Card Game of Oz?

It’s a good, fun little card game. The StoryLine System is pretty unique. We thought it worked well in generating a story. The gameoz2 is easy to learn and easy to play. My son was able to teach his cousin to play after only playing the game twice himself. We liked the art of the game a lot. The core of the game is hand management. Knowing what to play when and where is the key. And having the cards in your hand when you need them is necessary. Efficient use of Story Points enables you to acquire and play the needed cards AND to move Characters to their optimal scoring positions. The game is relatively compact, consisting of cards and dice. The variety of Locations and cards gives the game a relatively high degree of replayability. So overall I give The Card Game of Oz a 7 and  my son gives it an 8 on the BGG scale. It’s his game of choice right now.

This game was recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. It will be produced and will be available to the rest of the world soon. The creators have expansions planned in the form of Story Packs of cards that will contain new Characters, Events, etc.. This will increase the replayability of the game tremendously. They say that there will be a Story Pack for each of the Baum books.

Results: The Card Game of Oz is a great family game. We give it 3 out of 5 microscopes.

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You can find out more about The Card Game of Oz at the KS site or here at the Game Salute site.

I would like to thank Game Salute for providing a preview copy of The Card Game of Oz for us to review.

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What’s New with Dice Hate Me Games


Dice Hate Me Games is a special game company because company head honcho Chris Kirkman is a good friend and I get to game with him on a regular basis. So it is only natural that I launch What’s New…! with DHMG.

Chris made several BIG announcements last week. DHMG has signed three new games to the family.PortfolioVivaJavaDice-435x435-1

First is no real surprise. It’s Viva Java: The Dice Game from T. C. Petty III the designer of DHMG’s Viva Java: The Coffee Game. VivaJava Dice, is the successor to the well-received 2012 release of VivaJava: The Coffee Game. Just as in its predecessor, players of VivaJava Dice take on the roles of employees at the VivaJava CoffeeCo., scouring the globe for the best beans to keep the company on top while keeping themselves one step ahead of the rest of the executives.

Next up is Brew Crafters. From the DHMG site –  Brew Crafters, players assume management of a local craft brewery, working hard to manage resources, use their workers PortfolioBrewCrafters-435x435-1wisely, and develop their brewing line to create the best local brews. Brew Crafters honors the tradition of classic Euro games such as Agricola and Puerto Rico, but at its heart beats a unique brewery processing system that must be constantly improved, monitored and manned in order to keep the beloved beverages rolling off the line.

Lastly is my favorite, Belle of the Ball from Daniel Solis. It’s my favorite cause Daniel is a good friend and it’s the only one I’ve actually played. Oh, and it’s a REALLY fantastic game. It’s accessible, anyone can play this one. Daniel has been working on this one for a loooonngg time and it shows. It’s a smooth, easy to learn, easy to play. I am really glad Chris picked this one up. It’s going to be very successful I know.  Here’s some info on it from DHMG. In the card game Belle of the Ball, players take on the roles of party hosts, seeking the best mix of guests to make their gala the greatest by the end of the night. In order to ensure that they stay one step ahead of the other hosts, players will have to carefully watch the growing line of guests at the door, inviting those in that seem to share passions with party-goers alrePortfolioBelleoftheBall-435x435-1ady inside, all the while handing out their precious stash of Regrets to those who should seek refuge elsewhere. Of course, other hosts may find it advantageous to invite a rejected guest inside just to collect their accumulated Regrets for later use.

In addition to these games, Chris will be delving into video reviews as well as increasing his review output.

It’s looking like everything is coming up sixes for Dice Hate Me Games.


I thought I would do a quick update and highlight some interesting Kickstarter games.

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First up, Dungeon Roll from Tasty Minstrel Games. Dungeon Roll is a quick dice based dungeon crawler. Here’s some flavor text from the KS – “A vicious dragon is out there… Assemble your party at the tavern… Slay the dragon! Grab the treasure! OH GLORIOUS GLORY!!! Dungeon Roll is a light and quick press-your-luck dice game with many important and interesting decisions.” It has custom dice, cool art, and a TON of other stuff. It  is only $15 delivered! Here’s the link.

Achtung! Cthulhu is a really cool rpg setting that deserves some attention. Here’s the flavor text – Discover thachtung!e secret history of World War Two – stories of the amazing heroism in which stalwart men and women struggled to overthrow a nightmare alliance of science and the occult, of frightening inhuman conspiracies from the depths of time, and the unbelievable war machines which were the product of Nazi scientific genius – and how close we all came to a slithering end! The Secret War has begun! It is compatible with Call of Cthulhu RPG and Savage Worlds RPG. You can support it here.

Here’s an older game that is making a fresh new start – Deadwood Studios from Cheapass Games. Deadwood is one of Cheapass’s ‘bigger’ games.  From the KS – “The game happens at Deadwood Studios, makers of terrible Western movies. DeadwoodWebHeaderPlayers wander across the backlot each day, looking for acting jobs. After you take a role, you can roll a die and try to “act,” or you can “rehearse” to improve your odds.'”It had a base game with multiple expansions for different genres of movies. I really like the Cheapass Games that I have played and this one, with the sweet update, looNP cardsks just as good. Check it out here.

Nothing Personal is a game from TomVasel and Stephen Avery that had a successful KS campaign a while back. Now there is a deck of standard playing cards with the art from Nothing Personal available on KS. You can check it out here.zombie house blitz1

Next, Zombie House Blitz from Stupid Awesome Games. A speed card game to play with friends and family. Save people from the zombies, even if grandma might have to be left behind. This sounds like a pretty cool take on Ligretto from designer Jeremiah Lee. You may remember him from Zombie In My Pocket, one of the most popular print ‘n’ play games on BGG. Jeremiah is back with ZHB. AND he’ll be a guest on Go Forth And Game very soon.  Support Zombie House Blitz right here.

Under The Microscope – Belfort from Tasty Minstrel Games


Under The Microscope – Belfort

Well here is the long awaited review of Belfort. I want to apologize to Michael Mindes, Jay and Sen-Foong, and the rest of the folks at TMG for it taking me SO long to get this done. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I really feel that I need to play a game at least three times to fully review it. And I couldn’t get anyone at my game group to take the plunge. I don’t understand it except that it was rumored that the game was looong and no one wanted to commit to it. Second, I didn’t realize that Belfort was just beyond the ability of my primary gaming partner, my son. At the time he was 9 and it just didn’t gel with him. So we waited. Now he is a gamery gamer and really likes the game. So lets get to the review.

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Designer: Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games

Abstract: Belfort is a worker placement game. Using elf and dwarf workers, players collect resources. They then use these resources to build the building of Belfort. Players score based on how many buildings they control in each district of the city.

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Materials & Methods:

Components: This game has a ton of components. Lots of wooden bits, heavy cardboard tokens and boards. You really get your money’s worth with this one.  The production of Belfort is very good. Tasty Minstrel Games has done a fantastic job. The components are well made. The Josh Cappel art is fantastic. It is whimsical and offsets the heaviness of the game. Josh is a very popular game artist and this game shines because of his skill.

Belfort has a pretty unique pentagonal board representing the city with the various guilds and building depicted as well as a score track. There is a side board where resources are obtained. Both are made of a heavy cardboard. The game board wedges show the building that can be built and the guilds that are available.  Players place either their workers on the guilds or their player markers on the buildings to claim them when built.

The cards look nice and are the buildings that can be built. The buildings give extra abilities when built. The game comes with wooden elf, dwarf, gnome, and resources bits that are well made.

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Results & Discussion:
In Belfort players are master builders constructing the city of Belfort. They use their workers, Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes, to obtain resources and perform actions. The resources are used to build the buildings of the city. Buildings give extra abilities and lead to victory points. And victory points are what it’s all about.

 

The game has seven turns (three of those are scoring turns) and there are five phases to each turn. Those phases are move the calendar marker, place workers, collection, actions, and scoring.
On a turn, players, in turn order, place one of their workers. Workers are placed on the planks areas of either the Guilds on the board or on buildings the player has built. If the player chooses to place on a Guild, they pay a coin and place a worker token on that Guild’s plank. Players can also place workers on the building they have built. Guilds and Buildings give the players special things during the Collections phase. This continues until either everyone has placed all their workers. Or someone passes. When a player announces that he is passing, the rest of his workers go to the three spaces of their choice on the resource board. Play continues as before until everyone has passed or all workers are placed.
The game now moves to the collection phase. During this phase, players collect the resources from their workers placed on resource producing spaces from the Guilds, Buildings, or Resource Board. They also collect any income from their buildings and pay taxes if applicable. The Actions phase is next. Here the players can perform the actions from Guilds or Buildings. Or they can build buildings using the resources they have collected. If buibelfort4lding, the player plays the building card in front of them. They then place one of their building tokens in one of the sections of the board on one of the buildings that matches the building card they played.
If it is a scoring turn, players score points based on two criteria, area control and number of workers. To score area control, players go section by section and the player with the most buildings in each section scores the most point. Next players score based on who has the most elves, who has the most dwarves, and who has the most gnomes.  Scoring markers are moved along the score track on the outside of the board.

The turns continue for six more rounds then the final scores are tallied.

What we think: My son is 10 and loves it. My 14 yr. old daughter killed us in her second game. And I agree with them. This is a very good game.

First though let me get the one cavet out of the way. The game can run long timewise. It averages about 1.5 hours but can go as long as 2.5 at times.

With that out of the way on with the good stuff.   Belfort is well designed and plays smoothly. The theme of the game comes through well thanks to the art and graphic design. It is easy to teach but has a lot of depth.  The endgame can really sneak up on you if you are not paying attention. You need to balance obtaining resources and building to be successful and this is not easy. It has hard decisions and multiple choices and paths to victory.  All of these are qualities of a great game. And I place Belfort in the Great Games category with an 8 on the BGG scale.
For more information about Belfort you can find it here on BGG or go to the Tasty Minstrel Games.

All photos were obtained from BGG and are the property of their various owners.

I would like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for the review copy of Belfort.tmg logo