I’ve always been terrible at introductions: How do I start a campaign, how do I get players hooked, how do I entice my friends into spending two hours learning the rules of my favorite board games, how do I start a GYGO post? The answer continues to elude me and, I suspect, it always will. I’m more of an in media res kind of gal. Likewise, I always find the start of the year awkward; it seems like all the good things, the juiciest new releases and events, always happen far later in the year. Until then, it looks like we’re stuck with D&D and Pathfinder carrot-on-a-stick-type promises of Gen Con playtest material being dangled in front of our faces. And the threat of Chick-Fil-A themed games.

With the Super Bowl in the United States came a multimillion dollar advertisement from the State of Israel, propagandizing the continued ethnic cleansing of the Gaza strip. While this ad was airing over the weekend amidst the distraction of the Super Bowl, Israel began bombing Rafah, a section of Gaza that Palestinians have been told was “safe” for months. Rafah is currently home to 1.7 million displaced people, making it the most densely populated location on the planet. If you can, please consider donating to the UNRWA, one of the only relief organizations still active in the Gaza strip.

Without further ado, your tabletop news round-up.

Jenell Jaqauys Passes Away at 67

Jenell Jaquays was a key player in the early days of tabletop RPGs, when TSR still ruled the roost. Her fantastically stylistic art and dynamic approach to game design have left a mark not only on TTRPG design ethos, but in first-person shooters, as she served as a level designer for multiple Quake games. A solid write-up on her game-centric achievements can be found here. Jaquays also used her position as the creative director at the Transgender Human Rights Institute in Seattle to advocate for the banning of conversion therapy for queer minors in the United States. Jenell Jaquays joins a long line of women and other folks marginalized for their gender who were instrumental in the early days of the game design ethos and visions we take for granted today.

Here’s hoping that, with the desire to return to the heydays of the past and re-release classic modules during Dungeons and Dragons 50th anniversary, Wizards of the Coast considers revisiting Jaquays’s groundbreaking modules Dark Tower and The Caverns of Thracia.

Wizards of the Coast AI Art Fiasco: Part Too Many to Count

Shortly after my last GYGO post detailing Wizards of the Coast’s latest attempt to deny their obvious usage of AI-generated art in promotional materials for the Ravnica Remastered set of Magic the Gathering, Wizards admitted to using AI generated art in said promotional materials. What I find most baffling about the ordeal is the incredibly obvious hallmarks of AI generation within the nondescript background of the promotional material (the cards, thankfully, seem to be human-made). AI-generated art is new, but it wasn’t invented yesterday: For now, its hallmarks are quite obvious to anybody with even a passing familiarity with this latest attempt to avoid paying artists.

Wizards’ apology is rather milquetoast and noncommittal. They claim the art was provided by an outside vendor and thanked their “diligent community” for spotting “elements” of “generative AI.” The flat hyper-realism of the entire background, however, begs the question: what threshold distinguishes “elements of generative AI” from “AI made the entire image?” The company “can’t promise to be perfect,” so I’m certain we’ll be returning to this point again in the future, dear readers.

D&D 50th Anniversary Release Dates and Virtual Tabletop

Wizards of the Coast has unveiled a whole host of release dates for D&D’s 50th anniversary materials, which I discussed in a recent GYGO post. Curiously, Wizards seems to be gunning for its own virtual tabletop (VTT) system, a space already dominated by long entrenched (and damn good) VTTs like Roll20, Foundry Virtual Tabletop, and One More Multiverse. Certainly, it could be a good platform, but Wizards will be hard pressed to convince me to swap my Roll20 subscription. This attempt to enter the VTT market is, in all likelihood, part of the continued attempt to monetize and monopolize every aspect of player interaction with the brand.

Paizo to Unveil Pathfinder and Starfinder Materials at Gen Con 2024

Gen Con 2024 is right around the corner, from August 1st to the 4th in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gen Con began in 1968, led by Gary Gygax. Today, it’s perhaps the largest convention for all things tabletop gaming. It’s no surprise, then, that Paizo will be offering a smorgasbord of new Pathfinder and Starfinder materials at Gen Con 2024.

Pathfinder, a spiritual successor to old-school D&D, gained notable steam in the TTRPG community following the recent OGL controversy with Wizards of the Coast that saw a great exile of D&D players looking for new systems to call home. Starfinder, like the name implies, is a sci-fi space-faring themed spin-off of Pathfinder. Paizo looks to continue their newfound momentum, promising to showcase materials for a new second edition of Starfinder along with advanced and revised materials for Pathfinder Second Edition at the convention. The new Pathfinder core rulebook, dubbed Pathfinder Player Core 2, promises to consolidate, revamp, and revise player classes and ancestries, while adding new spells, feats, and heritages, all the while continuing to scrub D&D’s leftover influence from the system.

If, like me, you’ve been looking to get into Pathfinder, now seems like a perfect time while the system has loads of creative momentum behind it.

Homophobic Chicken Sandwich: The Board Game?

Have you ever wanted to play a board game that gives your money to conversion therapy and hate groups? No? Known chicken sandwich and bigotry purveyor Chick-Fil-A is looking to make a name for itself through family-friendly games (digital and analog) that make players say “That feels like Chick-Fil-A,” according to a job posting by the company for a Gaming Producer.

Fast food companies have a bizarre history of seeking organic, meme-ified branding and marketing through the gaming space. From those nameless handheld games I remember getting from Taco Bell as a kid, to the suite of Burger King games on the Xbox 360, and a recent bare-bones Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition supplement from Wendy’s, greasy fries and games are apparently a match made in heaven in the eyes of marketing firms. Likely, nothing substantial will come of this. If Chick-Fil-A does release something analogues to the Wendy’s 5E supplement, you can be certain I’ll check it out solely out of morbid curiosity.

Dying Light: The Board Game Kickstarter

Glass Cannon Unplugged, a tabletop studio devoted to translating video games to the tabletop space, has announced a soon-to-launch Kickstarter campaign for a board game adaptation of Dying Light, the parkour zombie apocalypse game. The game is set to be highly cooperative with up to four players taking control of different classes (the Bruiser, Ranger, Tank, and Medic) in the role of runners, inexplicably talented parkour ninjas defending the last bastion of humanity after a zombie virus apocalypse. The game will also allegedly contain a fully-fledged solo play mode. Players will navigate various obstacles around the map using loot, action die, and a careful balance between risk and defense in the form of the “Momentum” die system. While information on the win conditions of the game are scarce currently, it will likely be a tight scramble for resources and a careful weighing of risk with unavoidable pain against a doomsday timer, true to its video game roots.

In other news…

Funko, of Funko Pops notoriety, has left the tabletop industry in a hurry. The plastic figurine giant has sold its only tabletop studio, Prospero Hall, and all attendant licenses to Goliath Games. It is unclear if the employees of Prospero Hall are part of this deal or if they, like the thousands laid off from the games industry last year, have been cut loose.

Votes for Women, a board game about the suffragette movement in the United States, has a Kickstarter campaign for a second printing run. Meta being what it is, however, has banned the publisher from running ads on Facebook for purportedly potential subversion of political elections with zero explanation. Meta may be fine with being implicated in intentionally stoking genocides across the globe, but a board game about voting rights is a step too far, it seems.