Mystic Vale Wins ORIGINS Award for Best Traditional Card Game



COLUMBUS, OH — 17 JUNE 2017 Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) is pleased to report that Mystic Vale has won the 2017 ORIGINS Award for Best Traditional Card Game and has been recognized as the Fan Favorite Card Game.

The ORIGINS Awards are presented annually by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design, at a ceremony traditionally held during the ORIGINS Game Fair in Columbus, OH. The awards were announced this evening.



Mystic Vale is the first game to feature AEG’s card crafting system. Players in Mystic Vale take the role of druids working to heal a wilderness blighted by dark magic. Each turn the players acquire new Card Advancements from a shared pool, and add them to their existing deck, upgrading and changing their cards as they play. After a pre-determined number of victory points are scored, the player with the most total victory points from the shared pool, and from cards crafted in play is the winner. The game is designed by John D. Clair, and was released in 2016. Learn more at



AEG5861 Mystic Vale

A tabletop board game for 2-4 players. MSRP $44.99.

About Alderac Entertainment Group

Alderac Entertainment Group (“AEG”) has produced award-winning games and game worlds for over 20 years. Alderac publishes the popular games Smash Up, Love Letter, Mystic Vale, Istanbul, Automobiles, Valley of the Kings, Thunderstone Quest, and many more. Visit for more information.

Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter: New Card Reveal #1 Fire & Brimstone

Over the next few weeks we are going to bring you some of our favourite cards during playtest and what we did with them. The first instillment is from Erik Yaple.

Fire and Brimstone

So, during one of our playtest sessions, I just was not feeling it and thought I would take it easy – but the forces that be, sometimes have other ideas. One of the characters, Brimstone, is one I had not personally playtested much, so I was requested to check on that hero in our next session.

One of the Quest cards that I drew was The Dragon’s Hoard, so I thought I would retry a previously unsuccessful strategy and spend the majority of my time in the village buying high VP cards for my deck with little concern for the dungeon itself.

Well, fate had other plans. On my first hand, I drew a perfect dungeon hand: all Adventurers and Daggers, which led to more Adventurers and some light from my Lanterns. I ran past the Wilderness straight to a level 2 monster and slayed it.

Knowing my next hand would be a great village turn, I planned on leveling up and buying Lightstone Gems until they were gone.

Which is exactly what I started doing when it came my turn, leveling into Brimstone. For the next few turns I revealed darn near perfect dungeon turns, then village turns. This killed my no-dungeon strategy pretty quickly. I soon acquired a few level 2 Brimstones, which, back then, had a very similar ability to the level 3 Brimstone.

With all of the Lightstone Gems I was rocking, I was slaying monsters left and right, regardless of their drawbacks and abilities, just through sheer force. When you have multiple Brimstones they all benefit from your cards that produce light, and since I was the only one focusing on that character, it was easy for me to get double, triple, and quadruple duty out of my light cards.

Based on that day, we toned down the second level Brimstone – now he has sort of an ability that plays off of your other heroes that provide light – much less susceptible to abuse. That was a day when I tried to play passively, but the card gods drew me into the game, and I was forced to adapt to my shuffles and make the best of my situation. There are a lot of paths you can take in Thunderstone Quest, but there is a random factor that may make some of those paths more attractive despite that not being your original plan.

That’s a sign of a good game. Adapt or perish!

Edge of Darkness: Coming Soon!

The first glimpse of Edge of Darkness was included in the Mystic Vale rulebook. You’ve heard hints of this game since but never more than whispers…

Subscribe to our Edge of Darkness mailing list to ensure you get all the breaking news about AEG’s next evolution of the Card Crafting System as we take you on a journey to a world in crisis and a city filled with intrigue, danger, politics and heroes.

Cutthroat Kingdoms Designer Diary #2 Total Immersion

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came out when I was a kid. It forever changed my world. Before I played AD&D (or even knew it existed), I’d go into the backyard, deep into the woods, and I’d take a stick and cull the field of weeds with swipe after swipe, leaving my hands blistered and raw.

That was… kind of fun.

But after I found AD&D, I went back into those woods, and looked for seed pods (that were ingredients for a potion of invisibility). I would take a stick, cut it in half, whittle a design into it, and instead of a weedbeater, it became a magic wand, capable (as long as I charged it) of casting incredible druid spells. Little stones became runes imbued with magic, the stream became an elvish river, a tree house was a magical fort, protected with crow feathers that warded away vampires.

I was completely immersed in an experience.

To begin to be immersed in an experience requires a trick of the mind. You need to forget about yourself, for a while. You know, the part of you that says:

“Magic isn’t real.”

“Rocks are rocks.”

“Garlic repels vampires, not crow feathers…”

We need to put ourselves aside, and live in a state of temporary disbelief. But to be wholly and utterly immersed in something does not require a trick. In fact, you are not completely immersed if you are doing anything at all other than experiencing what there is to experience. And that’s what I aimed to do with Cutthroat Kingdoms.

Cutthroat Kingdoms began as an idea to let mere mortals, like you and I, experience what it would be like to be inside a movie. I don’t mean as actors who have to speak a script, or pretend they’re falling when they’re just suspended by fishing line in front of a green screen. No. I mean… I wanted people to be able to know what it would be like to be sitting around a grand marble war table in a castle high above the town, elbow to elbow with the other five highlords or ladies of the realm, negotiating title, land and birthright. I didn’t, actually, want it to be a game. I wanted it to be an experience.

Games have very concrete mechanics. These mechanics make a really good game feel like an amazing puzzle. They’re a toothbrush for the brain! But when a player gets lost in an experience, and becomes the game, without even noticing… that’s the real magic. The best magic trick is the magic trick that is real.

In Cutthroat Kingdoms, I designed a way for players to interact with one another freely, and openly. In a normal game, you have very clear rules on what you can, and cannot do. In Cutthroat Kingdoms, you make the rules. A lot of people thought I was crazy.

“Nobody will know what to do!”

“If I can do anything I want, won’t it just be complete chaos?”

“That’s not a game, that’s life.”

The last statement was music to my ears. The actual mechanics of the game pull players (slowly at first) into their roles as lord or lady of a highborn family. You’re deploying soldiers to territories, purchasing mercenaries from the market, or trying to avoid the plague. But, ever so slowly… the game begins to take on a very different feeling.

The very first time a player wants to pass through a neighbors lands to acquire new territory, they must ask the intervening player permission. This simple mechanic isn’t even really a mechanic. You’re literally asking them…

“Hey, can I do a thing?”

In that moment, the game, and therefore the immersion, begins. The neighbor may not like this person. In fact, the neighbor being asked may want that territory for themselves. Maybe she is appalled that this player would move through her lands only to take possession of an area that brings in a substantial amount of revenue. Could you imagine him doing this without even giving her a smile or a gift? So the neighbor answers:

“Why do you want to pass through my lands? What’s your intention?”

The player stops. This gets complicated. Does he tell her the truth? That he secretly wants to wedge her out on both sides and force her to have to deal with him every time she wants to move? Of course he couldn’t say that, she would know he had dark intentions.

“I want to share in the profit of your neighboring territory.”



“Okay, well, what’s your idea of sharing?”

That’s when he’s forced to acquiesce. He needs to do something for her, so he doesn’t burn a bridge. If he acts on his initial plan to wedge her out, he may lose a potential political partner later in the game. What if he needs her to form a wall against his right flank in case another house comes storming in on him? She could be useful. Besides, if she says no, his only option is to go to war with her, and the cost of that war would be not in his economic interest.

“If you let me pass through your lands,” he says, “I’ll give you half of what I make on Corynthia.”

She smiles, sticks out her hand.

“It’s a deal.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Cutthroat Kingdoms. Above is an actual moment of gameplay. It’s not a game, it’s an experience, and it’s certainly something you can get lost inside for a very, very long time. To be completely immersed inside an experience requires a certain level of freedom, freedom for a player to actually become the game itself, to become the characters, the coins, the meeples, the little wooden cubes. When your own words, the deals you craft, the lies (or truth) you tell, when all of that matters in the context of the game, you’re living inside it, not playing it. I wanted to get lost like I did when I was a kid, to see the woods in a whole different light. And in Cutthroat Kingdoms, I can. The stones turn into runes for me now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

– Bryan Merlonghi, Designer of Cutthroat Kingdoms

Cutthroat Kingdoms Designer Diary #1 Not Everyone Is Going to Like Your Game (and that’s okay)

There is, without a doubt, nothing more unnerving to a budding game designer, then a gamer who doesn’t like your game. Your beautiful creation sits on the table, shining in the pristine newness of its inception. Around you is the hum and bustle of a full convention hall, happy people walking up and down aisles, laughing, throwing cards on tables, pointing fingers at cool toys on vendor shelves… and there’s you, the budding game designer, with a beautiful new child on the table, a nifty sign to draw in potential fans, and the feeling (in your gut) that you’ve done something incredible.

That’s when she walks over to your table. The very first potential gamer willing to try your new prototype. That very first cherub face that took a remote interest in your sign. To you, new designer, that first look was total recognition of a perfect masterpiece. But in actuality they may have just sneezed, and their rolling eye just happened to swing in your direction post sniffle.

It is here, that my story begins:

I cannot tell you how many times a person would walk up to my table at UnPub in San Jose, California.

Actually, I can. It was 352 times. Secretly I had a little silver number counter that I flicked every time someone passed my table a.) because I was excited to tell a potential publisher just how many people were interested in my game, and b.) (truthfully) I was a complete nervous wreck and needed the fidget spinner of my generation to keep from running out of the convention hall screaming like a crazy person.

352 people came up to, or passed, my table. How many of those 352 people actually liked my game?


I’m kidding. But what happened was that whenever a person passed my table, initially, I would yell:


And they’d look at me and probably wonder why I’m shouting at them, they were just going to get a Coke Zero.

In my mind, getting as many people to the table to play your game was the prime directive. And my logic followed that the more people that sat at my table, and therefore played my game, the more interest I would get, the more fans I would get, and the more successful I would become. And then, if you will, travel with me here… that’s when I could buy my yacht and sail to the private island located in a beautiful part of the Pacific Ocean that I purchased off my first game royalty check.

Here’s the important lesson I learned. The more people who sit at your table, who are interested in playing the exact game you created, the more successful you will be. Now that sounds obvious, but it involves a critical lesson that I learned the hard way: you need to be okay with turning players away from your game.

Initially when I pitched Cutthroat Kingdoms to a potential playtester, I would tell them anything and everything they wanted to hear:

“Do you like worker placement?” I would ask.


“This is worker placement–”

“–but my favorite genre is really pip manipulation dice games,” they continued.

“Ah! Cutthroat has a lot of that!”

The person looked down, noticed there wasn’t a single die on the table, and looked back at me relatively perplexed.

Eventually I understood the importance to pitch the game exactly as it was. That it was a card game, had area control, negotiation, deal-making, hand-building, political relationships and that it would take a minimum of 90 minutes to play. And you know what? That turned away a LOT of that 352 people.

At first it really freaked me out. For every person who walked away, I was scolding myself that it could have been a potential fan, that I was doing something wrong, that I had built a terrible game. That was completely not the case. For every person I turned away, with the truth (mind you), I was not only respecting that player’s time, but also preventing a potential bad experience, and therefore a potential bad review of my game! Imagine a player who abhors negotiation getting hoodwinked into playing a 90 minute negotiation game. They would be furious, probably have a bad experience, and would have nothing nice to say about your game.

Of that initial 352, I narrowed my selection down to a good, solid, 50 people. And those 50 people had the time of their lives! Cutthroat Kingdoms was exactly what they were looking for all these years.

I told a passerby exactly how the game would play, what to expect, what not to expect, and how long it would take (really). The ones who stayed quickly became my major advocates, the ones who later paved the way and evangelized the game to other gamers that were very much looking for this type of game. It was absolute magic to watch it happen.

The major lesson here is that you shouldn’t have 352 people playing your game, you should have a quarter of that, and they should be exactly the type of people who would love the type of game you made. Even if they don’t love it, they will thank you that you respected their preferences, and most importantly, their time.

– Bryan Merlonghi, Designer of Cutthroat Kingdoms

Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter: And You Thought Figuring Out The Dungeon Was A Puzzle?

A couple of work-in-progress updates for you.

Firstly a quick pic from China, where our production manager is working with our production partners to figure out the best way to put together the Champion reward level box. Coming up with something that will store nearly 2,000 sleeved cards and all of the other components in a way that is easy to use, is a challenging puzzle to solve! As you can see from the picture this box is a monster. At the moment this is just a white sample, and not all of the pieces are there (missing various trays etc.). You can also see the smaller box for the Adventurer level pledge.

You will also recall that we sent out the awesome graphic for the board a couple of weeks ago. We are still working on the final board layout, but we thought we would give a sneak peek of the work in progress. Those of you who watched John and Mark play through the print and play set might recall that we said some of the abilities available to the players would be on the board, and this would be a little more expansive than what we were showing you in the learn to play and print and play that we sent out.

As you can see, there are four locations that you can visit in the village. You generally have three actions available to you – buy a card (either a hero or marketplace card), heal a wound, and level up a hero. But the four locations add (or subtract) from those basic options. In the Guilds’ Quarter you can level up an additional hero. If you place your Champion (your miniature) in the Bazaar you can buy one of the three Gear tokens available in addition to a card. The Temple is very similar to the old Prepare action in Thunderstone Advance, in that you can use it to set yourself up for future turns, but in this case you can also heal and additional wound – it comes with a cost though, you lose the ability to level a hero and cannot use card effects that might also let you go to the Dungeon. Finally there is the Shop of Arcane Wonders, where you can buy Treasure cards (at a price of course).

As you see the Village Board is labeled where all the different card types will be placed. We recognize though that some players prefer a more free-form game. Thus, the back of the Village Board will have these labels removed. Players may use either side as they choose.

Thanks for continuing to support Thunderstone Quest!

— Mark Wootton, Project Lead

Thunderstone Quest Kickstarter: Pledge Manager Information

Attention Backers!

We are almost ready to begin using the Pledge Manager for Thunderstone Quest!

We have selected BackerKit as our platform provider for Pledge Management. BackerKit has powered thousands of successful campaigns and they have by far the best suite of tools that we reviewed while selecting a platform.

You will be able to add additional Champion Rewards to your order, add and manage Add-Ons, and we’ve made our best-selling Card Crafting Game Mystic Vale available as an Add-On as well (we’re testing the ability to offer other games in our catalog to Kickstarter backers)!

Late Pledges

We have received enormous interest in backing the campaign since it ended and we have decided to enable people to join the fun! Anyone who wants to make a late pledge will be able to do so through the BackerKit system, at this URL:

Late pledges will receive the same Rewards as those who backed during the campaign.


We have also been working to select a fulfillment system and we have been able to use the shipping rates and information we’ve been provided to calculate shipping costs for the Rewards and Add-Ons. As we noted in the campaign we are going to be charging as close to actual shipping costs as we can for each order. AEG is not making any profit on shipping & handling.

The Champion Reward is enormous.

These are images of production samples for the components. (They are obviously not the actual components, tokens & dice are just placeholders, etc.) Premium Box not shown.

We are estimating the weight of the Champion reward at 15lbs.

We significantly overshot our original weight estimates because of the addition of the Grand Finale Quest so we’re going to be at the high end of our estimated shipping costs (and over those estimates for some backers).

Backers in China (including Hong Kong), Australia, Canada, the UK, and the European Union (plus Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) plus the United States will have their rewards delivered from a depot in those regions. We will handle the customs and taxes to ship from our factory into those depots. Most backers in those regions will receive their shipments without additional taxes or fees as a result. If for some reason there is some assessment made at the point of delivery it will be beyond our control and you will be responsible for payment.  Shipping costs for the Champion Reward for these depots will be:

  • US: $18
  • Canada: $25
  • Germany: $17
  • EU+: $27
  • UK: $28
  • Australia: $24
  • China: $22
  • Rest of world: ~$53-63

Backers outside the regions directly served by a depot will be shipped from the closest available depot. Most shipments in Asia will originate in China. New Zealand will be shipped from Australia. Shipments in Central and South America will originate either from the US or from Germany depending on the best available rates. Shipments to the rest of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East will be shipped from Germany. Backers outside the regions directly serviced by the depots may incur taxes and customs fees on receipt and you’ll be responsible for payment.

Shipping will be charged directly in the Pledge Manager.

Refund Policy

As noted in the campaign we offer a refund at any time for any reason. We will refund 92% of your pledge (the full amount less the Kickstarter fee and payment platform fee).

8 Week Time Window for Using the Pledge Manager

Once you receive your invitation to use the Pledge Manager you will have 8 weeks to log in, confirm your pledge, manage Add-ons, and pay for shipping.

After 8 weeks we may not be able to accommodate requests to make changes to your pledge and we will work with you as necessary to resolve any issues outstanding.

At the end of the 8 week window we will be finalizing our orders with our production facilities and we will not be able to make major changes to the number of units being produced without additional costs and delays. So please please please access the Pledge Manager within the next 8 weeks to ensure your order is updated and finalized!

Some backers will receive an invitation to the Pledge Manager in the next 48 hours. We’re going to issue invitations to about 10% of the backers and allow them time to use the platform to detect any problems or issues that we need to correct before we invite the rest of the backers to the platform. Everyone should have a Pledge Manager invitation by the end of the weekend.

If you have any questions or comments please email for fastest response! Messages left as comments on Kickstarter may not receive a response in a timely manner.

— The AEG Thunderstone Team

Mystic Vale Nominated for ORIGINS Award



SAN CLEMENTE, CA — 26 MAY 2017 Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) is pleased to announce that its best-selling card crafting game Mystic Vale has been nominated for a 2017 ORIGINS Award for Best Traditional Card Game.

The ORIGINS Awards are presented annually by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design, at a ceremony traditionally held during the ORIGINS Game Fair in Columbus, OH. This year’s ORIGINS will be held from June 14-18.

Mystic Vale is the first game to feature AEG’s card crafting system. Players in Mystic Vale take the role of druids working to heal a wilderness blighted by dark magic. Each turn the players acquire new Card Advancements from a shared pool, and add them to their existing deck, upgrading and changing their cards as they play. After a pre-determined number of victory points are scored, the player with the most total victory points from the shared pool, and from cards crafted in play is the winner. The game is designed by John D. Clair, and was released in 2016. Learn more at

AEG5861 Mystic Vale


A tabletop board game for 2-4 players. MSRP $44.99.

About Alderac Entertainment Group

Alderac Entertainment Group (“AEG”) has produced award-winning games and game worlds for over 20 years. Alderac publishes the popular games Smash Up, Love Letter, Mystic Vale, Istanbul, Automobiles, Valley of the Kings, Thunderstone Quest, and many more. Visit for more information.

The Captain is Dead Engineered Chaos by Scott J. Magner

As chief engineer on a starship, the last thing you want to hear is that the captain is dead. It’s the worst kind of exciting day, and actually watching it happen just magnifies the problem.

Sure, it wasn’t our fault. But review boards always think equipment malfunctions are deliberate, and careers can (and do) end over something as ridiculous as ruined laundry.

But the captain was dead, and we had to find out why.

The how was easy enough. A tear in a supposedly indestructible transit tube caused a catastrophic loss of pressure. It’s just bad luck that it happened while the captain was coming back to the ship from a diplomatic mission, on a day when every airlock above our deck was malfunctioning.

Of course, ours worked just fine, the outer doors slamming shut right in the captain’s face to prevent the entire compartment from being sucked out into space along with him. They still haven’t found his body, but that’s the least of our problems right now.

At top of our list is that the first officer won’t let us examine either the airlock, or the transit tube itself.

I’ll say this about the first officer, his paranoia is on par with his attention to detail. Soldiers at his back, he marched in minutes after the accident, hustling us all away from our stations at gunpoint. Then, as per protocol, he’d had any potential witnesses taken off to holding cells, until only the two of us and his goon squad remained.

“Just what is it you’re trying to accomplish, sir?”

Engineering section isn’t all that spacious with just us in here, and a half-dozen extra bodies scattered amongst open panels, diagnostic equipment, and the aftermath of explosive decompression made for very close quarters. But now the soldiers were applying orange warning tabs to every panel they could, including the controls to the still-open airlock. The first officer himself was rooting through a maintenance locker, tossing out tools and binders into yet another pile.

“I’m not letting you idiots destroy evidence of your negligence!”

“Sir, we have to know what went wrong. Every system on the ship could be compromised right now, and the longer we wait to investigate, the worse the problem could get. As first officer, it’s your duty to…”

The first officer spun around, and the double handful of binders he was rifling through exploded across the compartment.

“I’m the Captain now, and don’t you forget it!”

I’ve never seen someone’s face turn exactly that shade of red before, and my eyes darted to the airlock’s pressure indicator just to make sure we weren’t having another problem. One of the binders landed at my feet, and I bent to pick it up before replying.

“Okay, Captain, but every minute, every second we wait could mean another malfunction. We still don’t know what happened to the other airlocks, and if something happens to this one, all your pretty warning signs won’t stop us from dying either.”

The acting captain’s eyes looked about ready to pop out of his head, and it took me a moment to realize he wasn’t staring at me, but at my hands.

Turning the binder over, I read the big blue letters on the cover: Maintenance Log.

On my ship, in my section, every part and wire is double-checked before installation, and documented with two signatures. I’m usually one of them, so I knew exactly what part of the log to open up for airlock maintenance.

“Hand that over right now, chief, if you know what’s good for you!”

And there it was.

The first officer’s signature, checking out a pressure suit and cutting torch late last night, and returning them just before the end of the shift.

“What’s good for me, Captain, is letting these fine men and women with guns know that you are to be relieved of duty, on suspicion of murder!”

The soldiers swiveled their attention between the two of us, not exactly sure what to do. Technically, the first officer and I held the same rank, but he was one step above me in the chain of command, and aboard a starship that’s the only thing that matters.

And he knew it.

“I think we’ve heard just about enough out of you, chief. So put down the log book, step away, and I promise this will go easy for you.”

The manic paranoia in his voice was gone, replaced by cold conviction of purpose. That, more than anything, convinced me he was the one. His motives didn’t matter, the deed was done, and I was clearly going to be the next one out the airlock.

“So, do you even have a plan? Or was killing the captain the extent of your ambition?”

With each word, I took a half-step away from the open airlock doors. The soldiers’ guns tracked me as I shuffled, and whether or not they were conscious of the fact, they moved away from the open doors as well.

Not so much the first officer, who stepped right in front of them. Maybe it was my smile, or the way I was looking at him, but removing whatever threat I or the logbook posed was the only thing on his mind.

So I threw it over his shoulder into the airlock, and he reflexively dove in after it.

At least six witnesses will attest to the fact that all I did was shut the door after him. It was his pounding and screaming that tripped the emergency release, but to his credit, he kept hold of the log book as he was blasted out into the void. Good thing, too. The transponders on those things last forever.

And then, for the second time in as many hours, I had to call it in.

“Bridge, this is engineering. So the Captain is dead, again….”

The Captain is Dead is an upcoming new release from AEG that features co-operative gameplay as players race against time to repair malfunctioning ship systems, deal with hostile aliens, and warp the ship out of danger. Releasing in 2017.

Scott J. Magner is rising star in the fiction world best known for his novel Homefront. He is a writer, editor, designer, developer, and worldbuilder. His work appears in books, tabletop and online role-playing games, card games, miniatures games, and board games. He has a passion for movies and classic science fiction, and spends his days tweaking and twisting new universes. He is known to be a member of the loyal order of the buffalo and a proud member of #leftshark.

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