The Carrier

The Carrier is now on Kickstarter!

The Carrier is an expansion to our game Infected. Set in the times of the Bubonic Plague, The Carrier adds new cards, characters, abilities, and chain reactions to your existing Infected game.

apothecary j.jpg

Infected is a quick, strategic, secret role, semi-cooperative social game. One of the party is a Plague Doctor, spreading the Bubonic Plague. The Villagers need to find and rid themselves of the evil doctor before they succumb to the greatest plague in history.

Now, one or more Villagers can begin with one of the Plague Doctor’s ravens in their hand. The malevolent Raven carries with it an Infection. As a Villager, if you receive an Infection card of any kind from the Plague Doctor, you MUST pass your Raven card on your next turn(The Raven now infects a villager, unless that Villager receives a vaccination).

Let’s hope your fellow Villagers are prepared.

Carrier Raven - delayed 1 round infection - Infected - Black Forest Studio.png

The Carrier introduces a powerful new Plague Doctor, 3 new ravens to infect Villagers, The Huntress, who is immune to ravens, the Blacksmith, the Sinister Villager, the Weak Villager, the Vaccination dice, the Priest, the Apothecary, and the Silent Villager miniature. 

Silent Villager miniature - Black Forest Studio - Infected.png

13 Questions with Shem Phillips

Shem Phillips is a game designer who is well known for his Vikings of the North Sea trilogy of games. I was able to play Raiders of the North Sea, which was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres. I really enjoyed the theme and unique take of worker placement here. Finding specific workers for different locations, and then also putting down a worker and picking up a different one added something new to consider while playing. Raiders of the North Sea is so good that it automatically vaulted into my personal top 10 favorite games of all time!

Raiders of the North sea game on.jpg


I was able to interview Shem who gave us some insights into his design process, as well as his new trilogy of games, set in the West Frankish kingdom. 

Below is our 13 Questions with Shem Phillips.

1.    Where do you get inspiration for your games?
The main inspiration is often other games – digital and tabletop. I played (and still play) a lot of Age of Empires II on PC. This has been a big influence on all my recent medieval games.

2.    Do you keep a note journal for your ideas, gaming or otherwise?
I use Google Drive for all my ideas. I have a Google Doc with a bunch of concepts – single paragraph kind of stuff. I also use Google Sheets when working on prototypes. Sometimes I will end up using Adobe Illustrator to jot down ideas, since it's easy to have graphics and text all in one place. This can help when trying to visualize the game on a table.

3.    When did you know that the trilogy of Viking games would be something special?
After the unexpected success of Shipwrights on Kickstarter, I knew I was onto something good. The Mico (artist) started growing quickly in popularity. There was a lot of demand for a follow up game, and so Raiders was born.

4.    When did you realize that you “needed” to create games and other creative projects?
I've always been creating. My brother and I use to design our own superheroes and other characters when we were very young. I started song writing when I was about 9 years old. In the past I've also designed websites, t-shirts, logos and various other things. I grew up playing a lot of the classic American games, but only discovered modern games in my early twenties. Being a creative junkie, I dove straight into designing my own.

5.    What kind of creative routines or patterns do you have, if any?
Trying to force creativity has never worked for me. I find I'm most creative away from my computer. Laying in bed early in the morning, thinking about new ideas is a common thing for me.

6.    What is your favorite morning drink?
Hot chocolate.

7.    What gives you the greatest satisfaction from designing your games?
There's a few things. I love when artists send me new files during development. Seeing others enjoy my games and discovering hidden depth within each game – that never gets old. I also really enjoy getting the finished print copy in my hands for the first time.

8.    What does your design process look like?
Stare at computer. Read old notes. Give up. Play some Age of Empires II. Play a prototype. Give up. Go to sleep and think over new ideas. Give up on sleeping – get up and 4am to work on my new ideas. Rinse and repeat! Not sure that counts as a process?

9.    What physical pieces do you use most when designing or prototyping a game?
Card sleeves, coloured cubes and meeples.

10.    Do you collect anything?
Board games (surprise, surprise). I have some figurines from Final Fantasy and Lord of the Rings. I collect dice too.

11.    Is there somewhere you would like to travel that you haven't been to yet?
Egypt, France, Italy, New York in Christmas.

12.    What game designers are you a fan of?
The Brunos – Cathala and Faidutti. Stefan Feld, Matt Leacock, Vlaada Chvátil.

13a.    What games are you currently playing the most?
Other than prototypes, Scythe, Sagrada, Kingdomino, Pandemic (in various forms), By Order of the Queen. Dead of Winter.

13b.    Any hint or ideas of something new you are creating next?
Architects of the West Kingdom will be my next release. As you might guess, it's part 1 in the start of a new trilogy, set in the West Frankish kingdom. This game is also my first co-design. It's been a really great experience working with a good friend.

Thanks Shem for the interview!

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Plague Doctor Strategy in Infected

Let’s face it: it’s fun to be the bad guy. It’s time to discuss how you can secretly and strategically infect the Villagers in Infected.

Infected is our semi-cooperative social deduction game set during the time of the Bubonic Plague. One of the party is a Plague Doctor trying to infect the other players.

With “Infected”, you’ll need a good strategy to win as the Plague Doctor. While Villagers don’t know who anyone is in Round 1, as the Plague Doctor, you know quite a bit. You know you’re going to win by giving out Infected cards and silencing others. At least one other Villager is a “Silent Villager,” meaning they can never make a guess as to whom the Plague Doctor is.

First, you’ll need to take advantage of the situation by giving out your 2-Round delayed infection in Round 1. You can also consider giving out a 1-Round delayed infection on a game-by-game basis, if you know who you’re going up against. If you do give out 2 infection cards and there is a Silent Villager, that means there are 4 possible players of the 6 who will not make a guess as to who you are (you, the Silent Villager, and 2 villagers who received a delayed infection from you). Take advantage of this opportunity to cast doubt on others!

You could think about giving out a roll dice card in Round 2 if you happen to be passing back to someone who passed to you in Round 1. This would make other players think that you’re seeking revenge upon the Plague Doctor by forcing him/her to roll the dice.

If you are passing a card to someone new in Round 2, you could always give out another delayed infection card. This will cause absolute havoc in Round 3 when other players start dropping from your infections. Because only 1 player (or 2 at the most) can make a guess as to who the Plague Doctor could be, you could target the remaining player with any kind of infection card you have left in your hand, including an immediate infection.

In following rounds, players who have the chance to pass cards back to you will try to send you a “roll dice” card, so if you can survive those things, you have a chance at winning.

Try to look to the future and the past for the card passing order for your best strategy so you’ll know when to send infections and roll dice cards.

Remember that the Expansion Pack for Infected will carry a lot of surprises, so prepare well!


We just completed our Infected campaign on Kickstarter, and it was a blast. Infected launched on Kickstarter the morning of March 28, 2017, and and fully funded within 3 hours. It went on to the #3 spot on Kickstarter's popular page, and raised almost $112,000 in funding in a 27 day campaign. You can view the Kickstarter campaign here.

I'm really looking forward to getting Infected to your table!

More about Infected:

The great Black Death has come to you in the Middle Ages, ravaging everyone you know. A Plague Doctor visits your village, promising help. Can you trust him, or will you be next?

Infected is a strategic, secret role, semi-cooperative, social tabletop card game with dice and a miniature.

13 Questions with Joan Lesley Hamilton, pseudonym William Sarabande

13 Questions with Joan Lesley Hamilton, writer behind the pseudonym William Sarabande and author of the internationally best selling eleven volume historical fiction series, The First Americans.

It's a great honor for me to be able to interact and communicate with Joan at this time. The First Americans is such an acclaimed series of books, well known for its accuracy to prehistoric times, and loved by its readers. The First Americans tells the story of first peoples coming to America in a bold move for survival. It's an amazing series of adventure in ancient times.

Joan is a historical novelist, and is now giving us insights into some of her thoughts and ideas.

1.  How did you get started writing?

A science teacher read an essay I’d written on geology and told me that I had a talent for “painting” images of the natural world and conveying my emotions about it with words; although I was majoring in Art, she encouraged me to rethink my major and take a class in Creative Writing.  I did.  And loved it!

2. Where did the character names come from in your "First Americans" series?

Finding the names was a challenge. The time frame of the first four novels placed my characters in a prehistoric world that predated any known language, and yet I wanted my readers to sense a connection with the roots of specific ancestral cultures that would later evolve in the areas I was describing. Having grown up in a theater family, I did a lot of role playing and sounding out vowel and consonant combinations until names eventually fell in place and sounded right to me. In later volumes, those dealing with Clovis and ancient Maritime traditions, many of the names were drawn from native American mythology which, I strongly believe, to be an oral tradition soundly and largely based on historical fact.

3. What initially drew you to this prehistoric time period?

Life is strange. Maybe it does flow in circles? When I finished WOLVES OF THE DAWN, a novel of ancient Celtic Britain, my publisher was so taken with the book that he told me he’d love to see me set my hand to developing a new novel on one of HIS favorite topics: the coming of early Man to Ice Age Alaska. I was stunned. This was a book concept I’d had simmering on a “back burner” for years and hadn’t shared with anyone, and he had no idea that my great great grandfather was the first unofficial governor of the Territory of Alaska . . . or that, when I was a kid growing up in LA, one of my favorite places was a stretch of lake and parkland on Wilshire Boulevard smack dab in the middle of the city - the La Brea Tar Pits. It was - and is - one of the largest Ice Age excavation sites in the world! And I loved it!  There are life-size statues of mammoths and other Ice Age megafauna all around. It was my favorite place to do my homework. As I said: life is strange and surely does seem to have brought me full circle. The creatures in the Ice Age world of my First Americans seem like old friends to me.  Bringing them to life in the imaginations of my readers has been a joy - and a privilege.

4. You've obviously done your research for your novels. Where do you find your best information? Any great resources you would recommend?

Museums. University libraries. And, of course, the Internet is a great asset. Many of my sources are referenced in my novels. Monographs of Nineteenth Century explorers are a treasure trove as are sources too often overlooked by Academia - elders in small country towns or on “the Res” who are versed in the stories and life ways of their own elders. Also, when I have questions that reading and leg work can’t put to rest, I’ll write or call a source directly: Dr. J. M. Adovasio, executive director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute could not have been more gracious when it came to fielding my many queries about the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania; Dr. Richard Michael Gramly, curator of the Great Lakes Artifact Repository Buffalo, New York, and Clovis Project director at the Richey Clovis Cache in Wenatchee, Washington even went so far as to send me what seemed his entire library of rare books on the Maritimes when I was blocking “Time Beyond Beginning” and “Spirit Moon”.

5. When you are outside in nature, do you feel stories coming to you? What inspires you to write these?

Yes. It’s really impossible to say just where inspiration comes from, save to say that I am immensely grateful for it and often deeply moved.

6. Is writer’s block something that you’ve come across yourself? If so, how did you get out of it?

Oh yeah! When on deadline I simply have to sit down and write and write and rewrite until I’ve worked through the dead zone.

7. Do you collect anything?

No. Not really. But “things” come to me from my readers, so my home has become a repository of some truly wonderful treasures.

8. It’s interesting to see how current research with DNA and new archaeological evidence changes what we know about the past. Is there any evidence that surprised you when you first discovered it?

Not yet! And I’ll be thrilled when it does! But I must admit that I have been surprised and delighted - and oh-so-relieved! - when my wild guesses have been proved right.

9. What museums have you visited or artifacts have you seen which featured Stone Age relics?

Too many to name! Recently, the First Nations Museum in Prince Rupert, Canada, had me literally on my knees with awe!

10. Who are your favorite authors, and do you read other historical fiction?

Loren Eisely. Gary Holstun Lopez. Carl Sagan. Thomas Cahill. John Steinbeck’s “To A God Unknown” is my favorite novel. And a good murder mystery is always a welcome diversion. I stay away from historical fiction.

11. When you aren’t writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Spend time with my two great kids. Invite friends over. Catch up on movies I’ve missed. Cut loose and drive up Coast Highway 1 here in California, no schedule, enjoying whatever comes, especially the sight of whales and orcas close to shore this year. Since I live in a four season mountain resort, in winter I’ll x-country ski a bit right out my back door when snow conditions allow. And now and then, I’ll do a little theater if the right part comes along.

12. Is there somewhere you would like to travel that you haven’t been to yet?

Too many places to name!

13. Finally, I read the exciting news where you mentioned you may be working on a novel set in the more distant past. Can you give us any more clues on this?

Not at this time.  But I am jazzed about it. And hope my readers will be, too!

I can't wait to see what Joan's new book is all about! She is creative beyond belief. You can follow her on Facebook so that you can keep up with information regarding her new book and other updates! - Bryan Sloan, Black Forest Studio

#joanlesleyhamilton, #williamsarabande, #firstamericans #historicalfiction #stoneage #iceage #writing #prehistory #clovis #labreatarpits #losangeles #california #prehistoric #archaeology #history #science

Electronic Games into Board Games

I’m a fan of games. Spending time with friends and family is important, and this is one way to do that. I like board games, parlor games (like mafia), playing cards (I’ve produced several decks on Kickstarter which were printed by USPCC and Bicycle branded), and video games. Games on phones can be a fun way to kill a few minutes if I have to wait around.

One strategic game that I discovered a couple of years ago is Plague Inc, by Ndemic Creations. In this game, you are a plague which is trying to infect the world. It’s a really infectious game (yes I did that) with a lot of strategy. New iterations including viruses, bacteria, apes, zombies, and other various sicknesses make the game a lot of fun while adding some unique twists and turns. You get to choose which country your infection starts in, and then the real work starts. Your infection grows in strength and ability, and it’s your job to infect every last human on earth. Fun, I know.

But how many electronic games make good board games? From my experience so far, the best board games don’t come from electronic games. But this one might be different. Plague Inc is actually a project on Kickstarter right now, and I think it’s worth taking a look at. I just backed it because the company who made the game for my iPhone has done such a great job supporting it that I think they’ll continue to do a great job with this game. I’ll look forward to playing it after the months it will take to manufacture it.

What do you think? Do video games and other electronic games make good board games?

Emotional IQ Card Back Design Process

I would love share with you the thought that went into the back designs for the cards in Emotional IQ, which is now on Kickstarter:

 As a game, I wanted the design to be simple, colorful, clean, and effective. With only 2 card backs to design, I wanted them to work together, but to look different. I also needed to keep in mind that some people are affected by color blindness, so I couldn’t simply change colors within the same design.

I created something that would work on a micro and macro level. First, for the Emotion card, I wanted something that could express a multitude of colors, just as our Emotions could be varied. For this design, I used both hot and cold colors to reflect the variance of our own changing Emotions. One thing that is innate to us is the ability to read each other’s eyes to a degree. I designed the Emotion card to be an ultra-close up abstract interpretation of an eye.

To take you back to science class, the black circle in the middle is the pupil, the color outside of that (I have blue eyes) is the iris, and the white portion is the sclera.  The red outside of that is what happens when you have children.

For the back of the Sentence card, I wanted to think wider. The yellow circle on the Sentence card is shared with the yellow from the Emotion card. This brings them both together. But there is a long black rectangular shape on the Sentence card which “blocks” you from reading the Sentence. When you turn the card to the Sentence side, the black shape is “removed” with the Sentence now being visible, and the yellow Sentence portion and text remaining.

This way, the cards have some cohesiveness in the game, but are different enough so that you know to take 1 of each while playing.

Now that you know the ideas behind the cards, what do you think?