Board Game Geek
- ● Get a Relief Column to Peking, Resolve Russian Civil War Crises, and Battle in World War II in Twenty MinutesWorthington Publishing launched a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) for a new deluxe edition of John Welch's solitaire gem Keep Up The Fire!: The Boxer Rebellion, which was originally released by Victory Point Games in 2011.
Keep Up The Fire!, the tenth game in the States of Siege series, plays in 45 minutes and is getting a fresh coat of paint with updated artwork, all mounted boards, thick counters, and more.
Here's a brief overview of the setting and challenges you'll face:Keep Up The Fire! is a solitaire States of Siege series game set in 1900 Peking (modern day Beijing), China where Foreign Legations (areas assigned to Imperial powers including ambassadors, business people, and a handful of troops to provide security) are besieged in their compound by Chinese anti-imperialist forces. The Chinese "Boxers" (Society of the Harmonious Fists), with the Imperial Manchu forces of the Qing Army, are angry and determined to expel these foreigners from China.
Note that this game can also be enjoyed in teams working together (just as the Eight Nations had to), deciding how best to defend the Legation Compound and get the Relief Column to Peking in time!
A set of five standards-based lesson plans are also available for classroom teachers should they wish to use this game as a teaching tool.
The game is a race against time as the Chinese forces besieging the Legation Compound are attacking relentlessly while the Relief Column battles its way to the rescue. With limited time and relentless attacks on the Compound, will you manage to keep up the fire?
Darin A. Leviloff's Soviet Dawn, which was originally released in 2009 from Victory Points Games as another solitaire game in the States of Siege series, will be available in March 2021.
Soviet Dawn (Deluxe Edition) was successfully funded on Kickstarter (KS link) in late 2020 and has also been spruced up and upgraded with new-and-improved components thanks to Worthington Publishing. In more detail:Soviet Dawn (Deluxe Edition) brings Darin Leviloff's novel States of Siege game system back for a much larger storytelling adventure covering the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1921. Upgraded with a bigger, hard mounted game board, beautiful linen finish cards, large counters, full color rules, and more!
With several enemy "Fronts" converging on Moscow, the fate of the revolution and the prestige of international communism rests on your ability to manage and resolve every crisis that the "Whites" can assail you with. As the headlines unfold, you draw upon military and political resources to help you, or try to reorganize the Red Army for special abilities that can greatly enhance your position. Who knows? You might even capture the Imperial Gold Reserve!
Can you deal with the great crises of that time and defend the revolution? Will you withdraw from the Great War (WW1) or exercise the Bukharin Option and fight on? Can you execute the Czar in time, or will the Whites rescue him? Will you fortify Petrograd or press your offensives home? How will you deal with internal and external dissent? Play Soviet Dawn and see!
This Deluxe Edition includes the expansion set.
GMT Games, Gene shared some excitement for a new P500 addition: a reprint of Vietnam 1965-1975, Nick Karp's award-winning, classic Vietnam game of the 1980s.
Vietnam 1965-1975, originally released by Victory Games in 1984, is a two-player game considered to be quintessential grand operational Vietnam game. There are no major rules changes expected, and GMT's primary goal is to modernize the components and clean up any ambiguity in the rules.
Vietnam 1965-1975 has a jaw-dropping (for some) playtime range of 360-6000 minutes because it can be played as scenarios or you can strap in for the entire campaign as briefly described below from original publisher, Victory Games:This simulation game re-creates one of the longest, most complex, and least understood conflicts in U.S. history in all of its military and political aspects.
The rules include detailed treatment of movement, terrain, search and destroy operations, special operations, firepower, air mobility, riverines, brigade-level formations, limited intelligence and auxiliary units in each scenario. The scenarios start out small with Operation Starlite, and slowly build in complexity, introducing more rules, until the entire Campaign Scenario which covers the entire war from 1965 to 1975 and introduces South Vietnamese politics, morale and commitment, strategic bombing, reinforcements, and pacification.
Paolo Mori's 2019 release, Blitzkrieg!, from PSC Games has a new "square edition" coming in Q2 2021. Not only will you save some shelf space, but this version also includes the Nippon expansion as an added bonus.
If you're not familiar with Blitzkrieg!, it's an excellent, WWII-themed filler game for 1-2 players that's packed with fun, exciting, and tense moments and even features a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi, who probably has a doctorate in solo game design at this point. It's also easy to learn and can be played quickly, true to its tag line: "World War Two in 20 Minutes". Here's a brief description with more details from publisher:The perfect wargame for non-wargamers, Blitzkrieg! allows two players to battle across the War's most iconic theaters, winning key campaigns and building military might.
Players draw army tokens from a bag to determine their starting forces and to replenish their losses. Rather than "fighting" battles with dice or cards, players allocate their military resources to each theater's campaigns, winning victory points, further resources, special weapons, and strategic advantages as they play. Refight World War Two several times in one evening!
Blitzkrieg! is one of my favorite filler games, and I feel it is a hidden gem that deserves to be more widely known, so I'm glad that's it going to be available again for folks to check out! Read more »
- VideoRace, Marry, Crawl, Meditate, Fight, and Dominate the Forest
• On a turn in David Van Drunen's Block and Key from Inside Up Games, you either take blocks from a reserve or add a block you have to a shared gamespace, ideally completing objective cards when you do — but you can complete such a card only when your particular 2D perspective of the 3D playing area matches what is depicted on the card. You play the game on an elevated platform so that your eyes will be at board level without you crouching down to rest your chin on the table like a sad dog. (KS link)
• Zombicide: Undead or Alive will land in 2022, marking ten years since CMON Limited debuted with Zombicide, the game that arguably defined what a table game Kickstarter should be. This zombie-fighting design from the original team of Raphaël Guiton, Jean-Baptiste Lullien, and Nicolas Raoult is set in the mythic wild West and invites you to mow down zombies with dynamite and locomotives as our ancestors did generations ago. (KS link)
• Designer Mitsuo Yamamoto regularly creates abstract strategy games from ceramic tiles, and for his current project he's offering a quartet of Shogi games — on a standard 9x9 board, on a 4x7 board, on a 4x6 board ("Le Shogi"), and on a 3x3 board ("Pop Shogi", which is Yamamoto's own design) — with a more accessible design for the pieces for those who don't speak Japanese. (KS link)
• Within three days of launching, Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition from Jacob Fryxelius, Sydney Engelstein, Nick Little, FryxGames, and Stronghold Games had garnered nearly $600k in support. The (KS page) could probably show nothing more than a logo and still do well, but of course it details the solo and co-operative play modes as well as the regular competitive gameplay in which you're once again trying to make Mars habitable.
• Bloodstone is a 1-8 player combat arena game from James Hudson and Druid City Games that was added to the BGG database back in 2017 and that will become a reality in 2022 — but only for those who back the KS campaign since the title won't have a retail release (outside of the publisher's webstore). Hudson explains why here.
• Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games are continuing their "tiny epic" game series with Tiny Epic Dungeons, this being a co-operative dungeon-crawling game in which 1-4 players must make it through a modular dungeon before their torchlight runs out so that they can face the "dungeon boss" that awaits for them in the second act of the game. (KS link)
• A Universal Truth is a Regency Era courtship game for 1-5 players from Patrick Einheber and Danger Toad Games that's filled with more than two hundred multi-use cards with which you'll earn money, build relationships with friends and family, get two people to fancy one another, then wed before anyone else. (The game ends at that point, so you will have to watch Bridgerton once again to experience the marriage's consummation.) (KS link)
• Root: The Marauder Expansion from Cole Wehrle, Patrick Leder, and Leder Games will be a thing, but you might know that already given the write-up from Candice Harris in mid-February 2021. The KS campaign has nearly $1.2 million in support as of Feb. 25, 2021, so apparently lots of people know.
• Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Board Game from Daryl Andrews, Morgan Dontanville, and Cryptozoic Entertainment is a solitaire game in which you play through the four "books" of Frank Miller's iconic Batman: The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, with each book taking 90 minutes. Check out these ridiculously on-brand dice! (KS link)
• In January 2020, I wrote about ZEN Tiles Solo from Youichirou Kawaguchi and ChagaChaga Games. Here's a short description:ZEN Tiles Solo is a solitaire board game that challenges you to look at yourself objectively while placing emotion tiles on a 24-hour timeline.
To win, you need to find a spot to place twenty different emotion tiles above these time boards, so think carefully about "your yesterday". You might have become happy about yourself — "I had a positive thoughts!" — or were perhaps surprised: "I didn't realize that I have negative feelings every time when I see this person."
In 2020, Kawaguchi released ZEN Tiles Basic, a lightly competitive version of this game that can be played with up to four people, and now the designer is using Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/guchifukui/zen-tiles-yo...) to make this game easily available to people outside of Japan.
• At Spielwarenmesse 2020, BGG recorded an overview of Tiny Turbo Cars from designers Hjalmar Hach, Laura Severino, Alessandro Manuini, Jonathan Panada, and Giulia Tamagni — and now Italian publisher Horrible Guild has brought the game to Kickstarter (link) for delivery by the end of 2021.
The hook in this racing game is that each player has a sliding puzzle to serve as their remote controller, and you program your moves for the round by sliding tiles into the middle two rows of the controller, with players moving in the order in which they lock in their moves. The faster you finish, the more likely you are to make the moves you set up — and the more likely you are to make mistakes, too. More details in the video below:
Youtube Video Read more »
- In Space, No One Can Hear You Complete ObjectivesRavensburger has become well-known for its licensed adaptations of movies, comics, cartoons, and theme park attractions, and following the release of two such titles in the U.S. in 2021 — Disney Villainous: Despicable Plots, which lets you take the roles of Gaston, Lady Tremaine, and the Horned King, and Pusheen Purrfect Pick, based on the Pusheen comics — Ravensburger has announced a more high-profile title that will debut on August 1, 2021: ALIEN: Fate of the Nostromo.
This game, designed by Scott Rogers and developed by Steve Warner, is a 1-5 player co-operative game in which you take on the role of Nostromo crew members Ripley, Lambert, Parker, Brett, or Dallas, all of whom are trying to survive on a spaceship that's been infiltrated by an alien. Executive Officer Kane has already been killed, and as for Science Officer Ash, well, we'll get to him. Here's an overview of the gameplay:Over the course of the game, crew members collect scrap, craft items, and fulfill different objectives. The crew will lose and gain morale as they encounter the Alien and other situations. If crew morale reaches zero, players lose the game.
Each turn has two phases. In the Crew Action phase, players creep through the Nostromo's halls, gathering scrap, crafting items, trading scrap and items with other players, and using items and their special abilities. Brett, for example, can craft items with one fewer scrap than other players. If the Alien is within three spaces of the player with the incinerator, that player can use the incinerator to send the Alien back to its nest.
In the Encounter phase, players draw and resolve an Encounter card. The Alien could be lurking behind any corner...
Once the players fulfill their initial objectives, they face one of five final missions, each with a unique set of requirements. Players must fulfill the final mission's requirements simultaneously to win the game.
In more detail, the game includes ten objectives, and during set-up you reveal one more objective than the number of players. You also choose a final mission at random, but you set it aside face down, revealing it only after you've completed all of the objectives.
Each crew member has a number of action points that you use to move, pick up or drop items or scrap, craft items out of scrap, trade with other crew members, use an item (some of which can be used a limited number of times), or take your unique special action.
The encounter cards move the alien around the board, with it always moving towards the closest crew member. If the alien and a crew member are ever in the same room, the team loses morale and the crew member must flee. What's more, the encounter cards replenish scrap in various rooms in the Nostromo, but they can also bring "concealed tokens", which must be revealed whenever someone enters that room. You might find nothing, or the alien might turn up — or Jonesy might surprise you, but don't worry because you can craft a cat carrier to catch him.
Some of the final missions initiate the Nostromo's self-destruct sequence, giving all players four more turns to complete the requirements of that mission before the game ends with a bang. And should you find yourself having an easy time aboard the Nostromo, you can introduce Science Officer Ash to the game, with Ash moving through the ship to remove scrap and force the crew to lose morale. Read more »
- Faiyum: Crafty Card Combos and Crocodiles in Ancient EgyptFriedemann Friese and his publishing company 2F-Spiele invited us all to relax with his uniquely-themed, "after"-worker placement game Finishing Time — but now it's time for us to get back to work in ancient Egypt during the reign of Amenemhet III to impress the pharaoh and develop Faiyum!
Faiyum is a deck-construction and hand-management strategy game fused with route-building elements in which 1-5 players take on the role of pharaoh's advisors in ancient Egypt, competing to earn the most reputation (victory points) by creating the best card combo-engine for harvesting resources and gaining money to build roads and structures, to gain the respect of the pharaoh.
I picked up a copy of Faiyum for myself the minute I read that it featured "a card mechanism reminiscent of deck-builders and the market mechanism successfully used in Power Grid". I'm generally a fan of board games that include any flavor of deck-building, so it seemed right up my alley. [Disclosure: BoardGameGeek sells Faiyum through the BGG Store to provide distribution for the game outside of Germany. —WEM]
When I unfolded the game board for Faiyum before my first game, I instantly loved its look and feel, and I was anticipating a pleasant gaming experience because of it. The colors are great and it's very well designed and illustrated by Harald Lieske. It also has this charming vintage appeal to it that I dig, which I'm assuming is a result of Lieske's history of contributing artwork to several older classics such as The Castles of Burgundy, La Granja, Arkwright, and many others.
The game board is a map of Faiyum with a channel dividing two separate peninsulas which are connected only by a dam, with both peninsulas being surrounded by a lake. There are resource spaces for wheat (yellow), grapes (purple), and stone (gray), clearly identifiable by color and graphics. All three types of resource spaces are considered "undeveloped" at the start of the game. Additionally, the wheat and grape resource spaces are swampy, and therefore covered with adorable, wooden crocodiles. (Googly eyes not included, but highly recommended!) There are also four building sites (brown) and one starting settlement space (red) on the board which are considered "developed" areas in Faiyum.
Off to the left side of the game board is the card market that demands your attention if you want to impress the pharaoh and stand a chance at winning Faiyum. In the vein of Friese's popular classic, Power Grid, Faiyum's card market has four spaces for the current card market where players can buy cards, and four spaces for cards that will be available later in the game so that you can plot and plan accordingly.
During set-up, you shuffle the main deck of cards into a draw pile, then prepare a "final turns" stack which is seeded with four natural disaster cards that will trigger the end of the game. Each card has a unique, even number on it, and the card market is always sorted in ascending order such that the four lowest cards form the current market and the flour highest cards cannot be purchased until they slide into the current market slots.
The cards in Faiyum are action cards, and they are the heartbeat of the game. You don't have a personal deck of cards from which you're randomly drawing, but instead your cards will either be in your hand or in your discard pile reminiscent of Concordia. There's a variety of different cards you can purchase throughout the game, which keep things interesting — but can also look a little crazy and complicated when you initially skim through them. Even though there are a lot of different action cards to familiarize yourself with, they will click and make sense faster than you'd expect thanks to a few key features in the game.
First of all, there's an awesome card glossary that comes with the game, and it explains every card really well with plenty of excellent examples. I would be very surprised if anyone had a question after checking the card glossary, but regardless, there's more. [Second disclosure: I edited the rulebook, so this is nice to hear! —WEM]
The iconography on the cards is excellent. After you learn what the action is from the card glossary, the images on the card make sense and more often than not, you won't need to look up a lot of cards after a game or two. For example, there's always the main action graphically represented and then at the bottom of each card you'll see the cost for playing the action always has a red background and the benefit always has a green background, which makes the cards easy to parse at a glance. I've played Faiyum only with gamer friends, and they picked it up quickly due to the clear iconography, but I get the impression that even non-gamers can pick it up fairly quickly especially with a good teacher.
On top of the wonderful card glossary and iconography, each card falls into one of four types of actions, and when you understand how one type of action works, I found it easy to grasp how different cards of the same type worked. There are harvest actions to help you gain resources; build actions which allow you to develop Faiyum with settlements, roads, bridges etc.; commerce actions to help you earn money; and "other" actions the feature some different gameplay effects.
For example, everyone starts the game with three Farmer cards, which are harvest actions. Farmer cards allow you to place a worker on an undeveloped resource space adjacent to another space that has a worker on it and gain one matching resource based on the space where the worker is placed.
Other harvest actions look and function similarly as you can see above from the following examples: The Senior Farmer works the same, except you gain two matching resources, the Grower allows you to gain two roses (a wild resource) when you place a worker on any undeveloped space adjacent to the channel, and Harvest Hands follows the Farmer rules, but allows you to spend $1-$3 to place 1-3 workers and gain 1-3 resources depending on where you place the worker(s).
Along with gaining resources, if you place any workers on a space that has a crocodile on it when taking a harvest action, you remove the crocodile from the game and gain $1 since you're draining the land and opening it up for development opportunities. There are even cute little crocodile icons on the top corners of harvest action cards as a reminder.
A key thing to note is that everything built on the board does not belong to a specific player; it is all common property for all players to interact with. This, combined with the card market variation, lends itself to a great deal of variety and some interesting player interaction.
Faiyum has a smooth flow to it and moves at a decent pace. It doesn't have any rounds or phases, but instead players simply alternate taking turns, in turn order, until the end of the game is triggered. Continuing with the vibe of simplicity, there are only three actions you can take on your turn, which I found makes it fairly easy to teach and get into for your first game:
1) You can play a card from your hand, either using it for its action or to get money for it.
2) You can buy a card from the current card market, placing it directly in your hand after paying the cost.
3) You can take an administration turn and do admin-y things such as gaining income and refreshing your hand and the card market.
Everyone starts the game with a hand of five cards (three Farmers, Settlement, and Two Roads) and some amount of money depending on turn order. When it's your turn, you can play a card for its action or discard it to gain $2. Regardless of the type of action card, you'll typically be playing cards to gain resources, money, and reputation (victory points) in some form, whether it's from harvesting, building, or taking some other late-game scoring cards. There are also "other" cards mixed in that allow you to do fun different things like take cards from the market at a set price or copy the action on the top of your discard pile.
After you take your newly purchased card, you draw a card from the main deck to refill the market. Remember whenever you add cards to the market, you shift them to ensure all cards are in ascending order from the start of the market. This could shift existing cards in the current market making them cheaper in some cases, and more expensive in other cases. Again, it is important to pay attention to the card market and try to catch good deals before your opponents. Of course, there will be many occasions where you unfortunately won't have the funds you need to seize the opportunity, so money is also important to have on hand.
I found the key to doing well in Faiyum is all about gaining cards that can be comboed with your existing cards so you can build the best money, resource, and reputation engine. For example, one game I had a card that allowed me to gain roses, then I was able to get another card that let me convert roses into reputation. Another time, I had the Plantation card that let me build a workshop on a grape resource space to gain grapes and reputation, that I comboed with the Vintner, which let me place a worker on a space with a grape workshop to gain reputation and money.
Eventually after buying cards and playing cards from your hand into your discard pile, you'll be wanting to get your cards back into your hand. That's when you should plan to take an administration turn. Administration turns have three main steps to them for gaining income, buying back cards from your discard pile, and replacing cards in the current market.
For income, you first (potentially) gain money based on the amount of cards remaining in your hand. It's always $3 minus the amount of cards in your hand, so if you have three or more cards in your hand when you take an administration turn, you won't earn any base income. Then you can remove 0-2 workers from any spaces on the game board earning $0-$2 accordingly. Sometimes this decision doesn't matter too much, but it mostly does. The reason is that if you remove a worker from, let's say, a settlement space, and your opponent has a card in hand that allows them to place a worker on a settlement space to get some goodies, you probably don't want to help them with that — but on the other hand, you may need to clear some workers for your own sake, and it ends up being a tough decision. Finally, you gain the top three cards back from the top of your discard pile (for free).
Next you can optionally buy back additional top cards from your discard pile by spending $1 per card. Your discard pile is never shuffled, and this makes it very important to consider the order in which you play your cards in Faiyum. Buying cards back from your discard pile can get expensive, so if you don't consider the order when you play your cards, you might not be able to afford to pick up some of your best cards, and that would be sad. With this in mind, it's also a good way later in the game to bury weaker cards towards the bottom and just never pick them back up. Although, there's no hand limit, so you could always hold onto the weaker cards and cash them in for $2 by discarding them towards the end of the game, and that might help you buy some juicy, late-game scoring cards.
The last step of your administration turn is to replace 1-2 cards in the current market based on player count. You'll always remove the lowest card(s) with discount tokens on them first, then the lowest cards. The remaining cards in the current market get discount tokens, then you refill the market, always shifting cards into ascending order.
Players continue taking turns, playing cards, buying cards and retrieving cards from their discard pile until eventually, the fourth natural disaster card makes its debut appearance in the card market. When this happens, players can no longer take administration turns, which can be rough if you're not planning for it. In most of my games, I was the one to trigger the end of the game by strategically timing my final administration turn well. This allowed me to swoop up all of my cards one last time and the others were stuck with whatever they had in hand. If you try this at home and make your friends bitter, you didn't hear it from me.
After the end of the game is triggered, players can only play cards, buy cards, or bow out by taking the natural disaster from the card market with the most reputation. In a four-player game, the first player to quit gains 10 reputation, the next player gains 6, then 3, and 0 if you are last. This often adds a bit of tension since it becomes a race to snag the extra bonus points before the end of the game. The player with the most reputation wins the game and is considered the pharaoh's most cunning advisor!
I didn't get to play Faiyum with five players, but I'd imagine it would be a bit wild since the card market would likely change a lot in between each of your turns and therefore it would be harder to plan out your turn. It could be totally fun, though! I'm sure I'll give it a try at some point, but alternatively, I was pleasantly surprised how well Faiyum plays with two. It was quite enjoyable, and there were plenty of moments of tension with the card market. Plus, I really like that you use the full deck of cards for every player count, but with the timing of administration turns, you never really know which cards will end up getting removed from the game and this adds to the variation of Faiyum.
The solo mode is similar to the multiplayer gameplay, so there aren't a lot of new rules to learn if you plan to play Faiyum solo. You can play one-off games and try to beat your best score, or for something a bit more interesting, they've also included campaign challenges. You have seven different goals to achieve, starting with gaining at least 150 reputation in a game, and each time you fulfill a goal, you can unlock a variety of achievements that change the solo rules slightly in your favor.
It's not a very thematic experience, but the cardplay is where it really shines. I appreciate how each game I played evolved completely differently depending on the timing of when different cards appeared in the market, which ones got purchased, and how different players chose to execute the card actions relative to the state of the game board. Plus, creating those rewarding card combos always felt very satisfying. The more you play, the more you'll know the potential of the cards, which could seem like it'll eventually get boring, but when you have no clue when different cards will be available or when they'll be removed from the market from an administration action, you have to be flexible and prepared to readapt your strategy each game.
Then you have the game board being built up differently each game, too, which helps keep each game feeling fresh. For example, one game I placed the first worker on the smaller peninsula and we were off to a tighter start and had a different experience than when the first worker was placed on the larger peninsula.
I appreciate the simplicity of Faiyum. It's awesome that there are only three main actions you can take on your turn, and you can explain the cards as they appear in the market, so it ends up being a straightforward teach and quick to get into with new players. Don't get me wrong, though, because while the game structure is relatively simple, the decision space gets deeper and more complex, the more cards you acquire.
If you enjoy strategy games with awesome cardplay opportunities, player interaction, and/or adorable wooden crocodiles, then Faiyum is worth checking out. Read more »
- Metal Gear Release Plans Less Than Solid, and UNO Gets RemixedIDW Games announced Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game from designer Emerson Matsuuchi, teasing the game as "Coming 2019" in a tweet from the show.
Yet 2019 has come and gone, not to mention 2020, and on Feb. 15, 2021 Matsuuchi announced on BGG that the game is not coming to market anytime soon — at least not with IDW Games:The decision was made back in December  not to move forward with the MGS Project. Since that time, I have been pursuing a myriad of options to keep the project going. I have offered to put in capital from my company to help fund the last leg of the project, and even to buy out IDW's interest in the project along with purchasing all of the assets. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any traction with those options.
The rights to the design were finally given back to me a few weeks ago. So I have reached out and enlisted the help of a friend that is a bonafide expert in licensing and has connections with Konami. We're working to keep this project alive and exploring possible options. While there are no guarantees that our efforts will bear fruit, I'm still optimistic that we will be able to get the MGS game to market, to the patient fans that have been kept waiting.
Answering questions in that thread, Matsuuchi says that crowdfunding the design with a MGS license is not an option based on the licensing agreement, and he is willing to re-theme the design should it be impossible for another company to acquire the MGS license.
For a taste of what could have been — and what might still be — you can watch this overview of the game from Matsuuchi that BGG recorded at Gen Con 2019.
profile post of Damon Saddler, a Key Lead Designer at Mattel, with news of yet another new version of UNO, one that will likely feel familiar to folks who play hobby games.
UNO celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021, and to mark the occasion Mattel is releasing many editions of the game, which makes sense given that by many accounts UNO is the best-selling game in the world. Thus, we now have a specific "50th Anniversary Edition" that includes a gold-ish coin as well as a small box version that has gold Wild cards, not to mention five themed versions for the various decades in which the game was sold.
In addition to all of those — and what is undoubtedly more to come throughout the rest of 2021 — in February 2021 Mattel released UNO Remix, which works as follows:UNO Remix features familiar UNO gameplay, with players trying to empty their hand by playing cards that match the value or color of the topmost discard play, but now you can personalize the deck to make it your own and change what's possible during the game.
At the start of each round, you add special cards or write-on cards to the deck. You can personalize cards to specific players, e.g., "Skip to Aldie" or "Draw 2 Chad", you can add a mark to a card to increase the number of cards drawn the next time it's played, you can introduce cards that block penalty cards, and much more!
And as always, when you have only one card left in hand, you must yell "UNO!" to warn others that you're about to win.
Yes, legacy elements of game design have come (back) to mainstream titles, and their implementation here makes perfect sense given that (due to their low price) these UNO titles are often viewed as disposable commodities anyway and (due to the condition of the world) you're probably going to be at the table with the same group of people, which will make the in-jokes more entertaining, as with the legacy-originating and now decade-old Risk Legacy. Read more »
- Revisit Great Western Trail, Then Follow Trails Elsewhereeggertspiele brand, has announced a second edition of Alexander Pfister's Great Western Trail.
You can see the changes immediately from the box, with artist Chris Quilliams taking inspiration from Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, using black bands across the box top and bottom to give a panoramic, cinematic feel, with the image also stretching around the sides of the box. Quilliams has also created new art for the game board and cards, with Plan B planning to reveal the new look bit by bit over several weeks.
On top of this, Pfister and eggertspiele are working on two additional Great Western Trail titles, each of which will use elements of the original game — deck-building and a rondel — but in new ways. Says Martin Bouchard of Plan B Games, "Alexander is re-exploring the core mechanisms of the base game because it's an open field for creativity."
The second edition of Great Western Trail is due out in Q3 2021, while Great Western Trail: Argentina will debut in mid-2022 and Great Western Trail: New Zealand in mid-2023. Bouchard notes that unlike Plan B's Century series, these titles will all be standalone games that don't have crossover elements.
A new edition of Rails to the North, first released in 2018, will also arrive in 2021 to be compatible with the second edition of GWT. Read more »
- Designer Diary: InklingInkling, a word card game designed by me and published by Osprey Games in February 2021.
To help make sense of a game you are unlikely to have played here is a brief overview of the final game: Inkling is a game about using letter cards — in any way you can — to help the other players guess words on a secret clue card. Longer words are worth more points, and you are playing in two teams at once, one with each neighbor.
Concept and Prototype
I've always been bad at word games as correct spelling does not come naturally and anagrams remain completely opaque, but in March 2019 I was listening to the latest Ludology podcast — all about word games — and I thought rather than start with the letters and make words, you could start with the words and make letters, and in that way you can play with words even if it's not normally your thing.
The prototype came together quickly, and the core of the game has remained the same: Drafting letters to spell words on your card for people to guess.
The components were the letter cards from Lexicon and the word cards from Concept. Both were ill-suited to the task, but making up words proved fun enough to develop the game further.
Design and Playtesting
The bulk of playtesting happened at the UK Playtesters group in Oxford and Oxford on Board, although I also took the design to the playtest area at the UK Games Expo 2019, which let it receive feedback from a much wider variety of people.
There were three challenges to work on before the game could be finished: the clue cards, the letter cards, and the scoring.
• Clue Cards: Dedicated clue cards were the first component to be made — the same list of the most common English words with 4 to 9 letters that made it into the final game. The problem was word distribution as early versions had very easy cards and very hard cards depending on the letters in the words.
Fixing this took learning what made cards easy or hard, then making a formula to calculate a difficulty score in a spreadsheet. I then played with the word lists until each card was balanced with the others.
• Letter Cards: While the word lists were being balanced, the letters needed designing. First, the cards became stylized, which gave players much more scope for playing with them to make words. After that, a new set was printed without the black border of the originals.
• Scoring: This was originally both more chaotic and more rule-intensive. You were limited to guessing 1, 2, and 3 words in rounds 1, 2, and 3, and these words could be from anyone. You received the points from words you guessed, as well as from each of your own words guessed by at least one other player.
You may be able to imagine the problem already, but with six players it could take a while to look at everyone else's creations, with players often getting up from the table and walking around it. There was also some unwanted randomness in whose words received the most attention, and some unwanted strategy that emerged from a mixture of competitive and co-operative incentives.
Laying the problem out like that makes the eventual solution seem much more obvious that it was, but ultimately, instead of playing as individuals, players would guess only their neighbor's words and total their scores as a team of two (so each player is on two teams).
The game became much more comfortable to play, the time taken was more consistent across player counts, and all you had to worry about was creating good letter combinations for your neighbor to guess.
Come September 2019 I was playtesting the game at the UK Playtesters event in Oxford, and Anthony from Osprey Games was also there. He liked the game, they took it back to the office, and it was soon signed.
While most of the game was finished at that point, we continued playing with the word list until it was as balanced as we could make it.
That all seems like a lifetime ago, with how long 2020 has been, but I'm very excited to be able to see the game in print come February 23, 2021.
John Keyworth Read more »
- Welcome New Factions to the Woodland, Survive on Mars, Prepare for a Siege, and Return to the West KingdomPatrick Leder, Cole Wehrle, and the creative team at Leder Games have cooked up yet another savory Root delight: Root: The Marauder Expansion, which I'm thrilled to announce is coming to Kickstarter (KS link) on February 23, 2021:Root: The Marauder Expansion introduces two new factions and new gameplay options:
• The Warlord is both charismatic and terrifying. He rules over a vast horde of warriors recently arrived to the woodland and is interested only in its domination. To help speed his conquest, he lights massive fires which can spread throughout the woods and destroy the buildings of other factions. The Warlord also interacts with crafted items, which he can plunder from players. These items increase his strength, but also cause him to develop an increasingly fearsome monomania.
• The Stone Seekers are strangers to the Woodland, here only to recover the scattered and lost relics of an ancient civilization. The Seekers work to establish way-stations across the woodland and form alliances with other factions in hopes of recovering their relics more quickly. They will often find themselves deep within enemy territory as they search for their relics. Thankfully their finely crafted armor makes them difficult to dislodge.
Both of these factions are suitable to Root's two-player game, bringing the total number of two-player factions up to five without the use of bots.
Root: The Marauder Expansion also introduces a new level to the conflict for the woodland: minor factions! These small factions can be used at any player count and introduce surprising new power combinations as well as a chess-like tension to lower player count games of Root.
Finally, The Marauder Expansion also includes a new set-up draft system suitable for both casual and competitive play.
In true Leder fashion, Cole, Patrick and Joshua Yearsley have already posted a few designer diaries (Designer Diary 1, Designer Diary 2, Designer Diary 3) sharing Root's backstory and fascinating insight on the development of the The Marauder Expansion. I'll try to contain my drool as we await updates from Leder Games.
Vital Lacerda and Eagle-Gryphon Games are sending us back to Mars with a new co-operative expansion for On Mars called Surviving Mars, which is targeted for a Kickstarter campaign around May 2021.
There aren't too many details available yet as you will notice from the brief description below, but I love the idea of having more heavy co-operative game options to play. It also seems like a great way to ease players who might otherwise be intimidated into Lacerda games. Here's what we know:Surviving Mars is a short story expansion to On Mars made in four chapters with four different modes of play, and it uses elements of the Paradox digital game by the same name.
The short story is called "Alien Invasion" and contemplates the following Chapters and modes of play:
Chapter 1 - The Invasion - 1 vs All - 3 to 5 players
Chapter 2 - Outbreak - Co-Op - 2 to 4 players
Chapter 3 - Power Shortage - Co-Op - 2 to 4 players
Chapter 4 - Monolith - Solo - 1 player
Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson's Undaunted releases (Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa) from Osprey Games. In true Candice-fashion, I ended up ferociously digging around BGG to see what else they designed, which led me to discovering the abstract, bag-building strategy game War Chest from AEG and the same dynamic designer duo, which also became an instant hit with me.
Naturally, I was pumped to hear that War Chest: Siege, the second expansion for War Chest, is available for retail pre-order and will be released in March 2021. Here's the description of the Siege expansion from the publisher:Not all battles are fought on the open field. In many cases defenders hide behind the thick walls of mighty castles. Now is the time to prepare for siege! As castles grew larger and stronger throughout the middle ages, new ways evolved to scale, knock down, and even undermine their walls.
In War Chest: Siege, you will be confronted with fortified locations. Fear not, though, as you have siege towers and trebuchets at your disposal and hardy sappers to both build your own fortifications and undermine your opponents'. Can you successfully return to the battlefield with your war engines in this ingenious and engaging game of tactics and strategy?
In more detail, the Siege expansion comes with four new units (shown below), fortification coins, and fortification map cards. During set-up, you randomly select one of the six map cards to determine where the initial four fortifications will be placed. The fortifications aren't units, but can be attacked like units.
The Sapper, one of the new units, allows players to build additional fortifications throughout the game. The other three new units (Siege Tower, Trebuchet, War Wagon) introduce siege weapons and tactics to War Chest to further spice things up.
From reading the Siege expansion rulebook, I can already tell the addition of siege weapons/tactics and fortifications will add a lot of variety and refreshing, new choices to War Chest — and with the added bonus of minimal, additional rules to learn. I'm very much looking forward to playing this!
West Kingdom Trilogy games — Architects of the West Kingdom and Paladins of the West Kingdom — from designers Shem Phillips and S J Macdonald and publisher Garphill Games.
In the Works of Wonder expansion for Architects of the West Kingdom, players compete to build wonders as described below by the publisher:In Architects of the West Kingdom: Works of Wonder, builders from far and wide have travelled to partake in the King's latest endeavor: five glorious monuments to beautify the city. However, not just any architect can be entrusted with such a task. Only those of influence and charitable reputation shall receive this great honor. Will you accompany the Princess as she surveys the projects, or rally support from the elusive Profiteer?
Works of Wonder introduces an extension to the main board to hold the new Contribution/Consequence Cards and keep track of players' Influence. Players compete to construct the five Wonders, while gaining support from the new Princess and Profiteer tokens moving about the main board. Also included is an entirely new solo system with six unique opponents against which to compete.
In the City of Crowns expansion for Paladins of the West Kingdom, players will seek support from noble allies as described below:In Paladins of the West Kingdom: City of Crowns, noble allies have responded to the recent attacks against our borders. Only through careful negotiation and diplomacy will these dukes, barons, counts, and margraves offer the aid we so desperately need. Will you be able to muster enough support to once again defend this great city, or will you crumble beneath the weight of indecision and apathy?
This expansion adds new extensions for both the main board and player boards. Players have a new attribute to manage and new actions available on each turn.
In either case, I'm looking forward to hearing more about both of these expansions since I've enjoyed my plays of the base games! Read more »
- Collect Coins — and Trophies — in The Witcher: Old WorldGo On Board has announced a deal with video game developer CD Projekt RED to release a new board game set in the world of The Witcher. Here's what you can look forward to in The Witcher: Old World, designed by Go On Board co-founder Łukasz Woźniak:In The Witcher: Old World, you become a witcher — a professional monster slayer — and immerse yourself in the legendary universe of The Witcher franchise.
Set years before the saga of Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher: Old World explores a time when monsters roamed the Continent in greater numbers, creating a constant peril that required the attention of expertly trained monster slayers, known as witchers. Five competing schools trained their adepts through brutal regimes, and once fully prepared, these now-recognized witchers set off to explore the land, seeking trouble and adventures and helping others for coin.
In this competitive adventure board game, 2-5 players travel across a vast map, embarking on masterfully penned quests, encountering and making ambiguous moral choices, fighting monsters — and sometimes brawling with other witchers to defend their school's honor!
The game lets players construct their own unique decks of cards by choosing from a wide range of abilities: attacks, dodges, and witcher combat magic — known as "signs". Through card synergy, players aim to achieve powerful combos as they utilize their witcher school's hallmark abilities to their full potential. Quests, battles, and even dice poker allow each player to earn money, obtain new items, and train their skills.
The first player to acquire 4-6 trophies, with the number being set at the start of play, wins the game instantly. You can obtain trophies by killing monsters, instigating and winning chaotic tavern brawls against another witcher, training attributes to their highest level, and resolving certain quests throughout their adventure.
In more detail, each player chooses to be a witcher from a different school: Wolf, Cat, Viper, Bear, or Griffin. Schools have a unique deck and specialties — including skills that can be used to gain an advantage over other players:
• A Wolf's Swordsmanship makes them masters of the blade.
• A Griffin's Magic helps them in the most dangerous fights.
• A Cat's Speed keep them to one step ahead of the opponent.
• A Bear's Armor makes their skin almost impenetrable.
• A Viper's Venomous Steel enables them to inflict poisonous wounds.
You begin with a deck of ten cards specific to your school, with cards representing different attacks, blocks, dodges and magical signs. Various opportunities in the game allow you to gain or lose cards, with you trying to build combos and advance your skills. Each card has its own color, and most cards have "combo extensions" that allow you to play an additional card if it's the proper color. The more cards you play and
link together, the more powerful your combo.
In a press release announcing the game, Rafał Jaki, Business Development Director at CD Projekt RED, wrote:"Our studio is full of board game enthusiasts and creating one tailor made to fit The Witcher universe is something that we've felt very passionate about for quite some time now. We wanted the game to be easy to learn, hard to master, and offer high replay value. Story-wise, we thought it would be interesting to focus on times when witchers were more frequently seen throughout the world. We also wanted to show how the different witcher schools tackled unique monsters that inhabited the continent in abundance. I'm looking forward to seeing how gamers take to Old World when it releases!"
A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for The Witcher: Old World will launch in May 2021, with base and deluxe versions being available and with the game currently scheduled for release in April 2022. Read more »
- Designer Diary: Waddle, or How I Learned to Love Penguins
by Isaac ShalevWaddle was designed by Raph Koster and Isaac Shalev. Raph's part of the story comes first.
Hi! As you read this Waddle is just hitting the market from WizKids. It is my first published tabletop game after designing several dozen. My career is as a videogame designer, and for a long time, my tabletop designs were just things that I would prototype, get printed into presentable versions, and play with friends and fellow designers at videogame developer conferences.
Even though I am a game designer by trade, and videogame and tabletop design have a lot of similarities, there are also some huge differences — but frankly, the differences between the businesses of board versus digital are a lot bigger. I had no idea how to go about getting any of these turned into a real thing.
Now that the game is actually going to be hitting store shelves, I thought it might be interesting for people to see the process of getting Waddle from a vague notion to something that will be on FLGS shelves soon!
The earliest design document I can find was nothing more than a sketch. Long ago, I used to carry a pad of paper or a sketchbook with me everywhere I went to take notes and sketch out ideas. I switched over to an iPad a long time ago, and I've used various different note-taking apps ever since.
I think this game was originally prompted by a vague memory of Eric Zimmerman telling me at a Game Developers Conference (GDC) dinner about his new game installation Interference, probably in 2013. (See this page on his website for a description.) I don't actually know the rules for the game, but I do recall how the images of the game struck me: hanging sheets of cut metal, with pegs that are placed in holes in the sheets. The sheets are arranged in ovals, and each oval has a different number of pegs and slots in it.
I would not be surprised if the following notes were taken at GDC fairly soon after the conversation with Eric, to be honest. I don't have an exact date, but these are from early 2013, and before May for sure because I have a date of the contents of the next page in the notebook!
The text is a bit hard to read from the image, but the idea is quite short, which is pretty normal for me. It reads:A board with spaces on it. You get to put in your pieces anywhere...but we rotate through win conditions per turn. So who owns the space changes as the win condition does.
Probably the most notable thing about this quick idea is that this is not what the game ended up being at all. Waddle is not an area-control game, so there is no "owning" of spaces!
After that come some questions and elaborations:Do they rotate with dice? With cards? Can you see in advance what is going to come up? And do you score at the end or when you end a phase and the condition changes? Or maybe you choose from your hand each turn: play a piece (or several) and then play a card.
The answer to these questions ended up being "with cards, no, and yes, it will work like that!" So in the space of just a couple of sentences, the original idea was already dead, and the bare bones of Waddle started taking shape.
At the bottom are then the seeds of the actual strategy behind the game: the varying scoring conditions that you can play in order to score the individual spaces on the board: Majority — minority — even — odd — multiple — empty neighbors — neighbor count — empty...
The struggle in the game development process was going to be about picking the right set of scoring rules, the right number of spaces, and the right number of pieces. This would turn out to be a lengthy process.
I instinctively lean towards abstract strategy games when I do tabletop design. This is a little weird to those who know my videogame work, which is mostly big sprawling online worlds with tons of mechanisms and systems. The commonality is that even in those giant projects, I try to keep each system small and super simple. This also means that I tend to design games for two players, which isn't necessarily in step with the market realities of tabletop gaming.
You haven't gotten to play the game yet, but here's how it ended up working: You have different colored tokens that go into spaces on the board. Each space has room for five tokens. There isn't really a spatial relationship between the spaces. Each turn, you either place several tokens into spaces, or choose one space to empty of all tokens and redistribute them to the other spaces. Then you play a card that has a scoring rule on it. You get as many points as there are now spaces that match your scoring rule. You get to play each scoring rule only once, and you cannot play the same scoring rule as the previous player.
I often do the first few iterations entirely in my head, or playing against myself. The original board consisted of five circles drawn on a blank sheet of paper, shaped like a five-spot on a die. I had plenty of glass beads laying around to use as the tokens. Pretty quickly I was calling the game "Pebbles" in my mind.
It's my habit to rewrite the rules from scratch every time I do a big design iteration, while keeping the old version in the document. It turns into a longer and longer design history of how the game evolved. It means I can often go back to earlier versions and check out discarded ideas to see whether they once again fit into the game.
The very next ruleset I wrote down looked like this:There are five wells on the table.
Player starts with either three cards or all of them.
Each player has white and black pebbles to distribute. Each turn they get to put a pebble on the board or move a pebble on the board. A given well can have only five pebbles in it. Is there a cap on the number of pebbles? Say, 16? (works out at avg of 3 per well)
Each player has a hand of cards. Each turn after their pebble actions, they get to choose to play one of the cards in their hand to claim points according to the rules on the card.
The cards are things like:
● A point for each even well
● A point for each odd well
● A point for each empty well
● A point for each well with more white than black but split
● Each well with more black than white but split
● Each evenly split well
● All white
● All black
● Each full well (five)
When they play that card, the pebbles in the wells that score are removed from the board, and that card is discarded, never to be played again. The player gets one point for each well that meets the criteria of the played card. Play ends when all players have gone through all the cards.
The big new thing was the idea that the scoring rules were a consumable resource. This imposed a length limit on the game; it would always consist of the same number of turns. This is a nice thing for a tabletop game, I think, many of which have unpredictable durations.
I also baked in a couple of things after that early playtesting: five spaces and 16 tokens total. Why those numbers? Because they have awkward relationships to one another. Perfect multiples here would lead to a lot of symmetry and repeated moves, I thought. I eventually tried out letting players pick from pools of white and black beads, letting them get more beads over time, letting them play varying quantities of beads in a turn, but kept coming back to the idea that this would be a game about fixed resources, about managing a decline in choices.
Version 2 suffered from really disjointed pacing. You added only one pebble every turn, which meant that spaces didn't build up fast at all — you rarely got to a full space before the game ended. Most of the scoring cards were useless. Emptying the wells when you scored them added to this. If you play version 2, you will find it truly sucks and doesn't really feel like a game at all.
In the next version I am still stubbornly hanging on to forcing the player to choose from among three cards. In an effort to make the board more dynamic, you now can choose from several actions — what I tend to call "verbs" from my videogame design life.Players shuffle their decks.
They choose three cards to lay in front of them.
They take turns adding or moving a pebble, then playing a card from the three they laid in front of them.
● Add a pebble
● Move a pebble
● Remove a pebble
● Empty a well
Total failure. This didn't help the game at all.
But there was something to keep, something I still had strong faith in: the scoring rules mechanism. It was the beating heart of the original idea, and it had evolved into basically a permutation space: every axis of comparison that I could think of for two sets of five. I explored having scoring cards for exactly 1, exactly 2, exactly 3, and so on, but discarded it as less interesting; it made the game longer, but also meant that players had too many choices on their turn.
It was time to make radical changes. The problem was that choices weren't interesting yet, even though the scoring rules, I felt, were solid.
I cornered one of my kids, we sat down at the game table, and we started playing. I would change the rules every few turns, just to see whether more interesting choices appeared. When they got sick of me changing rules, and as the changes started becoming less frequent, we set my phone up on a tripod, pointed it at the board, and used video calls to loop in other kids so that they could do head-to-head matches while I watched.
One of the first things that changed was the realization that there was no need to limit players to just three scoring card choices. In practice, the board layouts tended to force a small set of choices on you. Even with nine scoring rules on the first move, most of the possible choices were obvious dead-ends, so it never felt overwhelming.
Where a limit of three cards had made the game feel like you were pushed into bad choices or had no real choice but to play a given card, allowing you to choose from all the cards put agency in the player's hands and made them feel like every choice was in their control on every turn.
In fact, this led to an interesting change in the dynamics of the game over time. Some scoring cards have pretty low utility early in the game — the one that calls for full spaces, for example — while others are of limited utility late in the game, such as the one that calls for empty spaces. Even though those are the two most obvious examples, it holds true for all the cards: their "potential" value changes over time in the game. Some move in a straight line, some swing back and forth.
I visualized it in my head as a line graph: What's the "potential value" of this card, on average, as the game progresses? This landscape of intersecting curves headed in different directions was very interesting to me. I now had a lens through which to look at the game for tuning it as a system.
All About the Value Curves
This realization led immediately to the choice to not allow beads to be removed from the game. Otherwise, you didn't get a nice clean set of graph lines. They bounced around too much. I was persuaded that having regularity to these curves helped the game. Players could speed up the demise of the empty card's value through their choices, but it was always doomed to go down over time. This created a sense of risk-taking: How fast is this curve going to decline? It contributes to a sense of pushing your luck, without actually using that formal mechanism.
Pretty soon, I was thinking of the mechanisms all in terms of these curves. "Empty" versus "full" was a natural progression through the game, but we could get more curves to be strategic. In the earlier versions, both players had access to both colors of beads. By giving each of the two players control over only one of the colors of beads, rather than a mix of both, they each controlled the ramp of availability of a color. This then affected the curves of all the scoring cards that called for scoring based on color.
The last scoring card curve that needed to be put under player control was the odd/even pairing. Adding beads one at a time was not only really slow paced, but it tended to move this curve in far too predictable a way, swinging back and forth. The earlier versions of the game let you break the pattern only by skipping a bead, that is, by moving a bead from one space to another. This basically was a parity shift, but in itself wasn't that interesting. Both problems could be solved at the same time by letting players place a varying number of beads in any of the spaces. Now there was a new curve to manage the speed of: running out of beads, which could happen very early or very late depending on player strategy.
Lastly, the old moving mechanisms were now obsolete. We didn't need them as cards. Moving a single bead felt pointless now that you could place a bunch at the same time, yet a board that only accumulated felt too static, so I kept the rule that allowed you to empty a space, but now the beads had to be redistributed to other spaces, as long as they were not full.
I now had what I felt was an interesting mathematical landscape. Players, through their choices, were basically pushing the game along these curves. Every choice they made was going to affect more than one of them, sometimes perhaps in ways they didn't see (though a thoughtful player could work it out). There were enough curves that even though the game has no hidden information, it's more than you can reasonably keep track of. Every scoring choice you make is actually deeply consequential — which they had to be because you got only nine of them.
What I had, at this point, felt very much like a battle of wits. It was determinedly two player and very simple in appearance: five circles, and white and black beads. It conjured up the unholy marriage of go and mancala, despite not playing very much like either, so I decided to skin it that way. I used The Game Crafter, my usual go-to for making pretty prototypes, and put together something that I was trying to make look ageless or timeless.
I even thought about actually making a real wood version of it, but I am not a very good woodworker.
The final ruleset was still quite small and elegant:There are five wells on the board. Each player starts with eight beads, either black or white. Each player has nine cards as well. White goes first.
Each turn, a player can choose one of the following actions:
● If the player has beads left, they can place between 1 and 5 of their beads in the wells. These beads can be distributed into any wells you choose as long as a well does not exceed five beads total.
● Select a well that has beads already, pick up the beads in it, and distribute them into the other wells. They can be distributed into any wells, as long as the destination wells do not exceed five beads total.
After performing one of these moves, the player plays one of the nine cards from their hand. The cards have rules for scoring on them:
● Score one point for each well that has only black beads in it.
● Score one point for each well that has more black beads than white beads, with at least one white bead present.
● Score one point for each well that is split evenly between white and black beads.
● Score one point for each well that has more white beads than black beads, with at least one black bead present.
● Score one point for each well that has only white beads in it.
● Score one point for each well that has an even number of beads in it.
● Score one point for each well that has an odd number of beads in it.
● Score one point for each well that is full, at five beads.
● Score one point for each well that is empty, with zero beads.
Set the card face up on the discard pile so that the other player can see what it is. Scoring markers are placed in the spot on the board that matches that card. The next player cannot play the same card in their next turn, unless it is their last card.
Players then play until all cards are exhausted. Tally up the points, and the player with the most wins.
I came up with an abstract way of indicating all of the different scoring methods, and used that to guide the card designs and the scoring boards next to the card wells.
On the Road
Once printed, the game made for an attractive package despite the uninspiring name of "Pebbles". I started to take it with me to game conferences in 2017, four full years after I had first jotted down the notes for the original concept. At 2018's Austin Game Conference, it was played by famed videogame designer Dr. Cat, who quite fell in love with it — so much so that I gave him my test copy. As a designer, of course, his big interest was whether the game was going to break because of its small size, that is, whether there was a degenerate strategy that resulted in always winning.
I was pretty sure that the permutation space of the possible states in the game was too large for the game to be easily solved — but as the game went on the road, I did start to see something that had never happened in earlier playtests: playing to a draw. And so I had to add a rule for breaking the tie.
In 2018, I took all my prototypes with me to the Tabletop Network conference, where I had been asked to speak by my friend Tim Fowers, designer of many wonderful boardgames, including Burgle Bros., which I had helped workshop when Tim lived in San Diego. I spoke about applying what I call "game grammar" to tabletop games, using poker as a particular lens.
It was a great chance to reconnect with many friends who work mostly in tabletop, such as James Ernest and Scott Rogers, as well as meet some folks whom I mostly knew only from online interactions. I felt a bit like a fish out of water there as I quickly discovered that tabletop's ecosystem for aspiring designers, pros, and publishers is quite different from that of videogames. They were all encouraging about taking my prototypes to publication, but also cautioned me that my predilection for two-player abstract strategy might prove to be a barrier to getting the games signed.
One of the folks I met there for the first time was Isaac Shalev, who worked with my acquaintance Geoff Engelstein on a boardgame design podcast and later book. Isaac and I played many prototypes together (not just mine — playing each other's games, and other people's, was the primary evening activity for the event, of course). I mentioned to him that I felt like several of the games were good enough to get published, but it was clear that given my day job, there was no way I would ever have the time to go to all the boardgame conventions and pitch. Isaac kindly offered to take my bag of prototypes on the road with him!
And so it was that our partnership on this game began. Little did we know there was one more huge design hurdle ahead of us...
I enjoyed Raph's prototypes because they were both beautifully rendered as products, and they were unapologetically mathematically tight. I like games that balance on the edge of a knife, and I enjoy the way playing an abstract game almost feels like communicating in another language. I knew that these games could be published, but they needed to fit the taste and aesthetic that publishers and gamers were looking for, and it was my job to develop the design further, based on the feedback I received from playing the game with others, from gamers to industry professionals.
At Dice Tower Con 2018, I had the opportunity to show "Pebbles" to Tony Gulloti, who was working for Arcane Wonders, the publisher of Onitama. I thought that "Pebbles" could perhaps be the "Go" of that world, and in any case, Tony understood what it took to sell a two-player abstract that meshed a classic movement and spatial mechanism with a modern card-based system. Tony's advice was to make the game work for a higher player count. He wasn't alone. Designers, publishers and players all agreed that the game was compelling, but nothing about it suggested that the game had to be for only two players.
I had already been toying with some ideas for increasing player count. I knew that the game's math was wound pretty tightly, and the symmetry of both players playing the same nine cards over nine turns was something I could unwind a bit. I knew I could create new scoring cards and loosen the game some by cutting a turn or two off, giving players a smaller hand of scoring cards, and having players play with only a subset of the scoring cards in each game. But how to add more players?
At first I thought I'd try to add more colors — one for each player! Instead of using white versus black on scoring cards, I tried to have your color versus opposing colors. When I ran it by Raph, however, he pointed me to some problems. It would be easy to score some of the opposing colors cards and hard to score some of your own. We could rebalance how the cards score to account for the difficulty, but it might still make for lousy gameplay.
Elm City Games, a New Haven, Connecticut game store and design community, was hosting Fantasticon, and I knew it was my best shot to get a lot of players playing "Pebbles". This is the advantage of having a nice prototype with components that players want to touch — you're never short of playtesters at public events. With the event upcoming in March 2019, nearly a year after Raph and I had met, I finally came back to working with only two colors.
Raph had previously shared some math on how the game worked in terms of the overall number of stones (16), the limits of each well (5), and the total number of wells (5). I realized that something would have to change, but I also knew that solving an equation is hard when there are too many variables. I determined that the capacity of each well would remain at 5, which was a nice number that felt good in the hand. However, the number of stones in the game would increase, as would the number of bowls. For three players, I added three wells and eight stones, and four four players I added five wells and sixteen stones.
This approach succeeded in replicating the overall feel of the game and the density of stones on the board. But because a well could never have more than five stones, it was not possible to impact all the wells on the board in a single move. On the other hand, some scoring cards — particularly Odd, Even, White, and Black — were overpowered because they could score too many points now that there were more wells to count. I considered simply declaring a maximum score for these cards, but the circumstances that would allow a player to score the maximum amount cropped up too often and with little effort.
Another problem child was Empty, a card I had misgivings about from the very start. In my many early games of "Pebbles", I found that players typically chose from one of a couple of standard openings, either dropping one stone in each of the five wells to play Odd or White/Black to score five points, or playing a single stone to score Empty for four points. I had already nerfed the first opening by changing the mix of stones players received. To help unmoor the game from its two-player roots, I chose to give each player four white and four black stones. This meant that the maximum score from White or Black as an opening was now four. You could play this opening, but you would concede the ability to add stones of one color for the rest of the game. Odd was still viable as a five-point play, but now the player had to have the card in their opening hand, which happens less than half the time, and in any case, Odd was a reliable high-scorer later in the game, and stronger players concluded that opening with Odd and giving up five stones was unsound.
But Empty! Even in the original game, playing a single stone to score four points using a card whose scoring potential only continued to decrease seemed like a very strong play.
In the game that was slowly becoming Waddle, all those extra wells, those extra locations, made Empty even stronger. In a four-player game, it was not uncommon for the first player to score nine points on Empty with nobody else able to score better than six for it. Disaster!
Design disasters are not really disasters, though; they're oracles. They provide clear feedback that something fundamental is not right, and that you ought to consider making changes to the game's core structures. Earlier in the process, I had dealt with the issue of how to translate the rule that you couldn't use the same scoring card your opponent had just used from its two-player version into multiplayer. I tried having the rules apply only to the next player in turn order, but this led to some awkward ping-ponging in which alternating players took advantage of a good board state while the other two players were a bit snookered. I decided that the bar on playing the same scoring card would apply for as long as the card was face-up in your discard pile, that is, until the end of your next turn.
Surprisingly, this led me to the big breakthrough. By taking the deck of scoring cards, adding a few, and then having players play from a smaller hand of cards, I had limited the chances of particularly unfair arrangements of cards and stones from cropping up, but I hadn't eliminated them — and the existence of more wells, and thus more scoring potential, had exacerbated their impact. A play that earned 6+ points could create a massive swing, and players couldn't counter by playing the same card, both because of the rule against it and because the odds that they had the card in hand was low.
I realized I needed to address both sides of the problem. First, I introduced the Copy card, which allows players, once per game, to copy the card an opponent has played previously in the round. This is an insurance card. Every player starts with Copy in their hand, and it gives players a tool to counter the overly-good fortune of another player.
The first half of my answer broke a fundamental rule of "Pebbles", but the second half of my answer was even more transformational. I realized that all these new wells could be organized into two separate domains. In essence, in a four-player game, there would be two regions of five wells each, and players could manipulate one of those regions and score it, but could not freely manipulate all ten wells. Either you could add stones to one region and score it, or you could redistribute stones all into one region — whether the region of origin or the other region — but you could not add stones to both regions in one turn, or empty a well and distribute its stones to wells in both regions. Your scoring card would apply only to one region: the region to which you added or redistributed stones. In the three-player game, three wells would count as being in both regions, creating two overlapping regions of five wells. Frankly, this worked a lot better than I initially expected!
With the concept of two regions, the flow of stones and their balance was closer to the two-player game. There were no huge scoring plays that felt undeserved. At the same time, the tactical space of the game increased as players could consider how the two regions were evolving, and how that might suit their cards. It also opened up design space to create some new cards and adjust some old ones.
Empty had now been conquered. The Copy card curbed its advantage as an opening, and the regions diminished its top-score potential. In fact, it was now a bit of a problem when Empty showed up in hands later in the game when it was hard to use effectively. We tweaked this by introducing the concept of a special action. Instead of taking the normal action of moving stones around the board, you would instead empty a well and give the stones back to your opponents before scoring. On the one hand, Empty guaranteed you an additional point thanks to the special action; on the other hand, giving stones back to your opponents gave them a bit more power, a few more options for their turns. The idea of a special action also expanded the template, the possibilities of what a card could do, and opened up even more design space.
Full, the mirror-image twin of Empty, now got my attention. In the two-player game, Full could score only a maximum of three points because there were not enough stones to fill more than three wells. This was always a bit of a letdown for me. Going to the fully open, non-regional board had rescued Full from its weakened state, but with regions, Full was back to being a poor-scoring, uninteresting late-game card.
And then it hit me — just because there are regions does not mean that ALL cards must be limited to scoring a single region! A card like Full could score both regions! It would still top out at no more than six points in a four-player game, and achieving that condition was difficult and satisfying. Another OG card, the card now known as Equal benefitted from similar treatment. It had previously been somewhat challenging to score well with this card for wells with an equal number of white and black stones. Early in the game there aren't enough stones on the board, and later the board is too tight to manage the manipulation, leaving only a brief mid-game period in which a good score was possible. Allowing Equal to score both regions made the card more powerful, while increasing the ways players could cleverly construct the right arrangements.
It took some time to finalize these new cards and make all the little adjustments and decisions that take a game from "fun" to "ready to be signed". Fortunately, Zev Shlasinger, whom I've been lucky enough to know from before I even started designing games, had taken an interest. Zev saw the game over the summer convention season in 2019 and took the prototype for further evaluation. We had an agreement to go forward at BGG.CON, where Daniel Solis, the Wizkids product manager — and the graphic designer for Building Blocks — began to consider the theme, product, and packaging as well.
My design goals for "Pebbles", now Waddle, were to extend the game to four players and to loosen it up a bit, to make it more fluid, fun, and not quite so tense! I knew I succeeded when Daniel came back with the art and the re-theme for the game. We had always thought of "Pebbles" as an Asian-inspired game of stones and wood and leather wingback chairs with smokey scotch and a cigar in amber light. It was Serious and Formal — but that was the game that we started with. At the end of our design work, the game was much lighter on its feet, and the movement of the penguins from place to place brought more smiles than grimaces to the faces of players. It took Daniel and Zev seeing what the game in front of them was and bringing that to life, instead of being tied to the game that had been.
Raph came up with this game back in 2013. We met in early 2018. The game was signed nearly two years after that in late 2019. It will arrive in stores in February 2021. This eight-year journey is not even that unusual in tabletop game design. Sometimes that's simply how long it takes. But the journey from "Pebbles" to Waddle, from stones to penguins, and from two-player mindbender to a delightful family game is, like the march of the penguins itself, remarkable. Read more »
- Throw Planes, Relive Stonewall, and Survive on a Frozen WorldZ-Man Games has announced a new title from designers Tom Jolly and Luke Laurie, who had previously worked together on 2016's The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire.
Cryo is a 2-4 player game that takes 60-90 minutes to play and the rest of the evening to recover from its bleakness. Here's an overview:A mission gone wrong. Tensions continued to mount aboard your colony ship as the days dragged on. An anonymous act of sabotage has sent the ship plummeting to the surface of a frozen uncharted planet. Damaged beyond repair, the scattered remains will do little to protect you from the brutal cold.
In the engine-building, worker placement game Cryo, leaders of separate, hostile factions compete to survive and claim control over the underground caverns on a remote icy planet. You need to act quickly and strategically to avoid further sabotage from other factions. Send drones out from your engineering platform to scavenge resources and save your crew still in cryostasis. Gather different materials to upgrade and customize your platform, fine-tuning new actions to suit your individual strategy. Utilize multi-use cards to your advantage, and claim the underground caverns for your faction to survive.
Though unplanned, a new chapter for humanity has begun. Scavenge, build, explore, and lead your faction to victory within this frozen world before the sun sets!
Z-Man Games has already posted English rules (PDF) for Cryo, and when it announced the game, it noted that it's "working on creating a digital version so you'll soon be able to try out the gameplay". Sounds like the thing to do right now, and I can imagine digital samplers becoming a regular thing in the future given how crowded the market is.
• California-based Taylor Shuss is a new game designer who has two titles in the offing. The Great Airplane Race is coming from his own Updraft Games in 2022, and it might be stretching the definition of "tabletop games" to include this title on BGG, but I love games that stretch definitions, so here we go:The Great Airplane Race is a short family-style game for 2-50 players.
Each round, players fold planes on their airplane templates, then throw towards the finish line! If no one crosses that line, players re-fold and try again. Players choose which color lines to fold based on where their airplane lands compared to the color disc. They usually have three color lines from which to choose, but if a player lands their airplane on the color disc, they can choose any single color line to fold.
If your plane crosses the finish line, you win instantly; otherwise whoever has gotten closest to the finish line after five rounds wins.
And here is the game being playtested at AEG's Larkstone house in 2019:
• The other title from Shuss is Stonewall Uprising: The Fight for Gay Civil Rights, which U.S. publisher Catastrophe Games announced via Twitter in early February 2021:
Joe Schmidt's The Landing: Gallipoli 1915, this being an updated version of his self-published Anzac Cove from 2019. Here's a summary:The Landing: Gallipoli 1915 is a narrative solitaire wargame that tells the story of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) and the landing on the beaches of Gallipoli in the early morning of April 25th, 1915.
Using a combination of card-driven gameplay and action economy, you must lead your fellow Aussies and work together with your Kiwi and Indian allies in the desperate fight to take and hold the heights. Victory conditions in the game are simple. You must occupy and control the Third Ridge (7th Map Card) by the end of the Dusk Round. If you do, then you are victorious. Anything less is a loss and will result in a descent into the horrors of trench warfare.
• And Catastrophe's second title — Robin David's Judean Hammer — is heading to Kickstarter in early 2021. An overview:Read more »Judean Hammer is a fast-playing tense struggle between the rebel player (The Maccabeans) and the empire player (The Seleucid Greeks) trying to re-assert their control. This two-player game plays in about an hour or two, with a lightning fast set-up time. The Greeks start in their unassailable supply centers, controlling Jerusalem, but the Maccabeans can use ambushes to whittle their foe while cutting off the Greek supply.
At the heart of the game you strive for control of critical cities in the region, especially Jerusalem, playing cards to move or recruit units or to use a special ability that benefits only your faction. However, there's only one deck, and the more special ability cards you play, the weaker your side becomes in combat — which leaves you to make tough decisions at almost every play: Do you push for an early advantage, capturing critical regions and amassing a victory point advantage? Or do you bide your time, watching your opponent weaken themselves, then strike hard at the end to steal the win?
- Game Brewer Invites Us to Adventure Through Multiple Themes, Collect the Best Furs in Siberia, and Save Patients in Ancient Greecementioned Game Brewer's Kickstarter campaign for Arkwright: The Card Game, a streamlined, smaller box version of Stefan Risthaus' beasty, brain-burner Arkwright. Its Kickstarter fulfillment is targeted for August 1, 2021 and will be followed by a regular retail release. In the meantime, Game Brewer has shared more of its 2021 line-up with a lot to look forward to.
• Stroganov is a new medium-heavy euro from Andreas Steding, the designer of Hansa Teutonica and Gùgōng, which will be launched on Kickstarter in mid-February 2021 with an October 2021 release date.
Stroganov plays in 60-90 minutes and allows 1-4 players to compete for the most victory points while journeying through Siberia in the 17th century. In more detail from the publisher:In the 17th century, Russia began to expand eastwards to develop the vast expanses of Siberia. This phase in history is closely associated with the name "Stroganov".
In the game, players try to collect the best furs to gain wealth and fame as they move across the vastness that is Siberia. They will journey through Siberia in spring, summer, and autumn before returning home each winter. After four years (rounds), the player who has best utilized their actions and collected the most victory points wins.
Each year, the players must move eastward across the landscape. They can spend horses if they wish to travel further. Once they have advanced, they may take a basic action, such as trading or collecting furs or coins. Lastly, they may take more advanced actions such as visiting a village, setting up a yurt, taking a Tsar's wish (card), setting up a hunting lodge, or buying a landscape field. All of these actions — combined with exploring and some storytelling along the way — earn players victory points at the end of the game.
Every winter, players return home to Tyumen to prepare for a new year.
After four years, the game ends, then players score victory points based on having collected the right landscape tiles, fulfilled the Tsar's wishes, built hunting lodges, collected furs, and more.
• I previously mentioned the upcoming 2021 release Galenus from Ion Game Design and designer Harry-Pekka Kuusela, a game in which players compete to become the best doctor in Ancient Rome. Now it seems we'll get the opportunity to lead a team of doctors in ancient Greece in Hippocrates from Alain Orban (Troyes, Black Angel).
Hippocrates plays with 1-4 players in 90-120 minutes and is going to Kickstarter in April 2021. Here's a high-level overview from the publisher of what you can expect to experience in Hippocrates:Travel back to Greece in 370 BCE on the island of Kos. Hippocrates has just passed away and that leads to a lot of doubt regarding the durability of his medical activities. As one of his successors, you lead a team of doctors with the goal of perpetuating the treatment of patients in the temple of Asclepios, later known as the first hospital in history. Be the right successor of Hippocrates and increase your notoriety, so that patients from all around the Mediterranean will come with the hope of receiving the best treatment ever.
The game lasts four rounds, with each round divided into five phases:
1. Kalosorisma — Each player welcomes up to three patients in their hospital. You need to select your patients carefully as all patients need urgent help, and some may be easier to treat than others, but make sure to help the most in need or you will lose notoriety as a doctor.
2. Pliromi — You have to remunerate your doctors or risk their departure.
3. Stratologisi — In this phase, players try to hire new doctors and purchase medicine kits. If a player obtains both, they receive a bonus.
4. Therapeia — Now is the time to treat patients. Players have to carefully puzzle and link the right patients to the right doctors to maximize their assets.
5. Exis — Players count victory and notoriety points, and prepare the board for the next round.
Hippocrates combines auction bidding, tile placement, resource management, and more to create an exciting mix that will challenge each player to best manage their patients and try to become Hippocrates' worthy successor.
Paris from designers Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer, and the Kickstarter for that reprint will include a new, small expansion: Paris l'Étoile, which will include a new set of tiles to spice up your strategies, along with variations on the bonus tiles in a package that will fit in the original box.
• After a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2020, Tom Vandeweyer's innovative-sounding game Rulebenders is planned for a late 2021 release, and there may still be time to snag a late pledge before Game Brewer caps the print run.
Rulebenders plays with 2-5 players in 45-75 minutes and seems like a clever solution when gaming with people that have varying interests in themes:Read more »Embark on a fascinating adventure through multiple themes like pirates, sci-fi, fantasy, prehistoric, zombies, and more in Rulebenders, a time-traveling game that twists the rules of the game (literally and figuratively) and will create a unique game experience every time you play!
In the game, players choose a number of themes out of the available six, changing the character of each round as the game progresses. Players fight for control over the different rules aspects of the game, bending the rules of the game to their advantage. You have to use your wits in this unique game where the rules change as you play.
- Build Bridges, Arrange Leaves, Fight for Whiskey, and Mark Up EuropeThe Mind (one example) and The Game (example) among other things, I'm a fan of German publisher Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag, a.k.a. NSV, as it releases quick-playing, family-friendly games with minimal rules, which I appreciate since I'm always trying to introduce games to new people. What's more, I like these types of games myself, partly just because I'm curious to see what designers do in a "small" game space.
With that in mind, here's an overview of the early 2021 game releases from NSV, starting with Jeffrey D. Allers' Hashi, a 1-4 player game built around the concept behind the Hashiwokakero logic puzzles (a.k.a. Hashi or Bridges) of connecting islands with bridges, but this is a competitive game in which you try to "complete" as many islands as possible. In detail:To set up, all players decide on which side of the board to use; each side shows 18 islands: 4 with a red flag and 3 with a blue flag, with all others having no flags. Write a 3 or 4 on a non-flagged island, then give this board to the player on your left. Remove one of the 18 number cards from the shuffled deck without revealing it.
On a turn, reveal a card, which will show a numeral (1-6) and a number of bridges. Write the numeral on an island that doesn't yet have a numeral, writing on a flagged island only if it has at least one bridge connected to it. Then draw the number of bridges on the card from numbered islands to orthogonally adjacent islands, noting that:
—You can't cross bridges.
—At most two bridges can connect orthogonally adjacent islands.
—The number of bridges connected to an island cannot exceed the numeral on that island.
You can skip one or both parts of this card, if you wish to or are forced to. If the number of bridges touching an island equals the numeral on that island, circle that numeral. If you're the first player to circle all the red-flagged islands, all the blue-flagged islands, or six connected islands of any type, you score a bonus and all other players cross off this bonus; they score only a bonus of lower value if they complete one of these goals on a later turn.
After 17 cards have been revealed and played, players then score 2 points for each circled island in addition to any bonus points. The player with the highest score wins!
To play Hashi solo, you play the same way, but you score bonuses only if you complete goals within a certain number of turns.
• Designer Steffen Benndorf is a regular with NSV, having partnered with them for Qwixx, The Game, and several other titles.
Benndorf has three titles with NSV in early 2021, the "largest" of them being Alles auf 1 Karte, or "Everything on 1 Card", which is a game rule that has been transformed into a title. Here's how to play:Players need to complete the colored rows on their cards in order to score points, but they can mark off rows on only one card at a time.
During set-up, each player is dealt two (erasable) cards that have five rows on them, with the rows being 2-6 spaces long; the rows are in five different colors out of the six colors included on the six-sided dice.
On your turn as the active player, you roll the five dice, then re-roll as many dice as you wish up to two more times. After you stop, all players can then use the results of the die roll to mark off empty spaces on one of their two cards — but if you want to use a color rolled on the dice, then you must use all of that color. If the die roll shows three purple, for example, you must cross off exactly three purple spaces; if you can't cross off three, then you cross off zero!
The turn that you complete three or more rows on a card, you score that card, earning points equal to the collective length of the filled rows. You can also earn bonus points for completing one or both rows with sun symbols. You then take a new card from the deck.
The game ends the turn that a player completes their fourth card. Every player then scores for completed rows on their cards (but not sun symbols), then whoever has the most points wins.
Another way to play Alles auf 1 Karte is to start by choosing three cards from the five you are dealt, shuffling the others back into the deck. When you complete a card, you choose one of three face-up cards as a replacement.
• The other Benndorf title is 5 Minuten Puzzle, part of NSV's "MINNYS" line of even smaller games, which come packaged along the lines of a Magic: The Gathering booster pack. The gist of the game is "fill in as many spaces as possible", but in more detail:Each player in 5 Minuten Puzzle takes one of the player sheets — making sure that everyone is using the same side — and a pen. One side of the sheet shows a roughly hexagonal grid composed of black hexes and blue and red circles (collectively "spaces"), while the other side has these hexes and circles arranged like a bear's head.
On a turn, any player rolls the die, then you each must draw one of the shapes next to this die result— e.g., a circle, two hexes, and another circle in a line — into the grid, then cross it out to indicate that you can't use it again. You can place the first shape anywhere, then all subsequent shapes you add must touch something you've drawn previously. If you've used both shapes for a number, you can choose any available shape, then cross it out. If you can't place a shape or decline to do so, you must still cross one out.
After twelve die rolls, you will have three or more spaces still open (because the grid has 51 spaces). You then score penalty points for each unfilled space: 3 for red, 2 for blue, and 1 for black. Additionally you score 1 penalty point for each different area of unfilled spaces in your grid. Whoever has the fewest penalty points wins.
As a variant for experience players, each player can fill in 0-3 spaces in their grid before starting play. This possibly allows you to have a lower score, but only if you can still place all of the shapes in your grid.
• The third Benndorf title is a co-design with newcomer Kaddy Arendt, with Go for Gold being a simultaneous "roll and move" game that works like this:In Go for Gold, you and others explore an island with temples and treasures, attempting to grab more loot for yourself than anyone else can.
To set up, each player takes their own double-sided player sheet, making sure that everyone is using the same side. The sheet shows an island of hexes, with various spaces displaying shovels, footprints, treasures, and five colors of temples. Each player starts the game in a different harbor space on the island's perimeter.
On a turn, the active player rolls a die, then each player moves that many spaces in a contiguous line, marking each space as you go. You can't re-enter spaces you've visited previously. If you pass through or land on shovels or footprints, you circle those icons on your player sheet. By crossing off a footprint, you can ignore the die and move 1-6 spaces.
If you end your movement on a treasure, roll the die, and if the die result equals or exceeds the treasure value (4-6), you collect these points in one of your six scoring spaces. For each shovel you cross off, you can add 1 to the result of the die.
If you end your movement on a temple, roll the die; if you have at least as many shovels as the number rolled, you score 9 points, and if you don't, you lose 1 point. If you succeed in exploring a temple, all other players mark it out since you've looted that location.
As soon as a player has filled their six scoring spaces or no one can score any more points, the game ends, and whoever has the highest score wins.
• A third MINNYS title is Bunte Blätter ("Colorful Leaves") from the design team of Jens Merkl and Jean-Claude Pellin, with Pellin specializing in real-time games such as Cookie Box, Flip Hop, and together with Merkl Nine Tiles Panic in which you need to put stuff in order quickly. Bunte Blätter is the newest title to join this family:In Bunte Blätter, you want to recreate a pattern of leaves as quickly as possible.
Each player has a set of five double-sided leaf cards, with four leaves on each side of each card. The game also includes 16 double-sided target cards that show a pattern of 16 leaves.
To play, flip over a target card to reveal the pattern on the opposite side. You then race to recreate the leaf pattern shown, placing four of your cards in a 2x2 grid, then laying the fifth card on top of this grid, overlapping at least two of the cards on the bottom layer. If you think you've recreated the pattern, slap the target card. If you're correct, you claim that card; if not, you're out for that round.
The first player to collect three target cards (or whatever total you decide upon) wins.
• Loot, Shoot, Whisky is a two-player dueling game from Moritz Dressler that brings the total number of new MINNYS to four:
After a greenhorn foolishly drops their golden nuggets on the saloon floor, the two players in Loot, Shoot, Whisky are caught up in a struggle over the precious loot.
Each round, four saloon cards are revealed, with the cards showing either gold nuggets, whiskey, or a bullet. Each player has a hand six cards: two each of Loot (go for the card), Shoot (take a shot at their opponent), and Whiskey (grab the whiskey bottle). Players each secretly play one card on the two saloon cards closest to the deck, reveal and resolve those cards, then secret play on the next two saloon cards, resolve those, then refill the saloon layout to four cards.
The outcome of these confrontations uses a rock-paper-scissors mechanism:
• Whiskey beats Shoot, with the winner gaining a separate, non-saloon whiskey card or (if they already have it) flipping it over to "drink" it; if you win whiskey three times without the opponent taking back the bottle, then you finish the bottle and win.
• Shoot beats Loot, with the shooting player taking a hit card as a badge of honor. If you collect four hit cards, you win.
• Loot beats Whiskey, with the winner claiming the current saloon card. If this card is a shoot or whiskey, then you resolve those cards as described above; if this card shows gold nuggets, you collect those nuggets, and if you have collected nine or more nuggets, you win.
In case of a tie, discard the saloon card.
If someone doesn't win the game instantly as described above, then the game ends when you can't refill the saloon to four cards. In this case, whoever has the whiskey bottle on their side of the board wins.
• Inspektor Nase from NSV developer Reinhard Staupe continues the "yellow" line of titles for younger players, with this design having a similar feel to Similo, but with more unpredictability as to how you lead people to the proper card. An overview:In the co-operative deduction game Inspektor Nase, players take turns in the role of "Inspector Nose" to try to lead everyone else to identify the correct card.
The game plays over five rounds, and you start each round by laying out five image cards from the deck. If you are Inspector Nose, shuffle the number cards (1-5) and look at one of them to determine which target card players must not remove from play. You then roll five image/symbol dice, choose one of them, and place it on the clue card. The other players then debate and remove one image card from play. If they didn't remove the target card, you add one more image/symbol die to the remaining four, roll them, choose another die, and so on.
If the players remove four cards and leave only the target card behind, great! If they remove the target card earlier, well, better luck next round. The team scores 1 point for each correctly removed card, with the highest possible score being 20. How well will you do?
• Finally, NSV has released Würfelland: Europe, an expansion for Andreas Spies and Reinhard Staupe's Würfelland in which you'll be marking off spaces in the same manner as in the base game, but with each player now marking up a colorful European country while on the hunt for treasure spaces.
Read more »
- Combo Your Way Higher in the World of Red RisingStonemaier Games has announced its next release: Red Rising from Alexander Schmidt and Jamey Stegmaier, with the game being set in the world of Red Rising, the first novel in a two-trilogy series by Pierce Brown. Here's a quick take on the first novel from Wikipedia for those unfamiliar with it:Red Rising is a 2014 science fiction dystopian novel by American author Pierce Brown, and the first book and eponym of a series. The novel, set on a future planet Mars, follows lowborn miner Darrow as he infiltrates the ranks of the elite Golds.
And with that background in place, here's a short overview of the game itself, which will initially be available directly from Stonemaier Games in March/April 2021 ahead of a retail release at a time yet to be announced:Read more »Enter the futuristic universe of Red Rising, based on the book series by Pierce Brown featuring a dystopian society divided into fourteen castes. You represent a house attempting to rise to power as you piece together an assortment of followers (represented by your hand of cards). Will you break the chains of the Society or embrace the dominance of the Golds?
Red Rising is a hand-management, combo-building game for 1-6 players (45-60 minute playing time). You start with a hand of five cards, and on your turn you deploy one of those cards to a location on the board, activating that location's benefit. You then gain the top card from another location (face up) or the deck (face down), adding it to your hand as you enhance your end-game point total.
- Travel to the Moon with Oink, Turn One Wallet into a Dozen, and Build Again with Mad King LudwigOink Games has taken to Kickstarter (KS link) with a trio of titles that it will debut at the Osaka Game Market at the end of March 2021. Details about the games are brief, which is appropriate given the size of the game boxes:
—Moon Adventure is a co-operative game from Oink founder Jun Sasaki based on his Deep Sea Adventure, with players needing to work together on the moon to recover supplies, survive magnetic storms, and make do with a limited oxygen supply?
—Dokojong is a co-design between Sasaki and Shunya Shiina in which you're trying to keep your pooch hidden among five tiles while spotting the dogs owned by other players.
—In a Grove is a Sasaki design from 2011 that's being re-released with slight changes to the components and rules that now allow for play with up to five people.
Button Shy is running a Kickstarter (KS link) in which it's funding reprints of a dozen out-of-stock titles.
If you're not familiar with the company, Button Shy releases "wallet games" that consist of at most 18 cards packaged in a bi-fold plastic wallet. The KS campaign started with three titles on offer: John Baluci's two-player time-flipping, wizard-battling game Antinomy; Robin Gibson's Arcane Bakery Clash, in which two chefs square off in the kitchen to cook up attacks; and Jon Simantov's galactic battle game Liberation that challenges the Liberation player to cycle through their deck three times before Dynasty locates their base.
Instead of "normal" stretch goals, Button Shy had KS backers vote on which additional titles should be added to the campaign, and this project that closes on February 6, 2021 now has a dozen different titles on offer. The more you order, the more challenging fulfillment will be for the publisher!
• At the other end of the size spectrum on Kickstarter, we have Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Collector's Edition from Ted Alspach and Bézier Games, with this title including the original Castles of Mad King Ludwig base game, the Secrets expansion, two new expansions ("Royal Decrees" and "Towers"), material for a fifth player, new 3D bits, GameTrayz to hold everything, and art by Agnieszka Dabrowiecka, who originally did the art for the Polish version of Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
The final package for Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Collector's Edition (KS link) looks to be on par in size with the 2019 Suburbia: Collector's Edition, which means both of these titles can double as workout equipment.
Warlord: Saga of the Storm – 20th Anniversary, this being an expansion for the collectible card game Warlord: Saga of the Storm, which debuted in 2001 and hasn't been in print for more than a decade.
As AEG's John Zinser's explains in this blog post, they still love the game in house and enough fans still play the game that a 20th anniversary expansion made sense — although given that the market might be somewhat limited, this will not be a retail item. Instead AEG is taking preorders for this expansion solely through its webstore with a cutoff date of February 5, 2021. As for what the expansion is, here's an overview:Read more »The legendary collectible card game of d20 combat, Warlord: Saga of the Storm had a long history with many players still active in tournaments and leagues to this day. Warlord is a long-time favorite of many at AEG, and we did not want to let the 20th anniversary of this classic game pass without a tribute.
In the days of the CCG, Warlord was unique in its "Challenge System", which allowed players to take on rare and powerful enemies at special events. The most coveted of these were the Medusan Lords, completely unique cards that represented the creators' own role-playing game characters. If you beat the odds and defeated one, you claimed it as your own.
Warlord: Saga of the Storm – 20th Anniversary is an expansion for Warlord that looks back at the origins of the Medusan Lords when they were simple warlords, which means that everyone can now build decks using these characters!
- VideoGame Overview: Monasterium, or A Game for Professional NovicesArve D. Fühler — Pagoda (covered here), El Gaucho (covered here), and TA-KE (which I still want to cover at some point, despite the game being three years old) — so when German publisher dlp games announced a larger, more involved game from Fühler, I was eager to give it a try to see how it differed from these more streamlined designs.
In Monasterium, you run a cathedral school and want to place your novices in the handful of monasteries on the game board to increase the standing of your school above all others. At the end of three game years, with each year lasting 2-4 rounds depending on the number of players, you score points for having a plurality of your novices in a monastery (with ties being friendly), for having your novices in chapels (and the more chapels, the better), and (oddly) for having novices in both the chapel and the cloister at a monastery. Maybe they work in tandem to take down all of the other novices, which is why you need them in both places? I don't know.
Each round plays out in two phases: First, players take turns rolling their dice, choosing all dice of one number rolled, then placing those dice in the appropriate place on the game board. You keep taking turns until all dice have been placed, with one re-roll being possible.
Second, you take turns choosing dice from the board to take actions. You can choose only one 6 (as it's a joker that allows any available action) or up to three dice of the numbers 1-5. If dice of your color are on a space, you must take those dice before you can take neutral dice, and you can never take dice of another player's color.
To start, the actions available to all players are the same, but as you place novices on the game board, you open up other possible actions, so over the course of the game, each player develops their own action menu — which means that a 4 might be great for me while you still have only the basic "claim a rosary" action available to you.
If you clear out all of the novices in a row on your action board, you immediately place the "bonus" novice at the end of that row. Otherwise they have no chance of being freed, which seems somewhat cruel.
During the game, you score points for placing novices in buildings, for taking actions with certain die numbers (once you place a novice in a cloister to upgrade that number), and for completing rows and columns in your personal stained glass window. You also receive a bonus item for each pane you place, choosing the bonus from either the row or column of that pane.
Beyond that, you are given direction as to what you might want to do thanks to six objectives that are somewhat randomized. (I say somewhat as four of the objectives will always be about placing three novices in particular places in particular monasteries, but the other two will vary a bit more.) Direction is good since that gives you some idea of what you'll need to do first, which means you won't just be doing things for no reason. Well, you might, but you might not realize that initially...
Monasterium, as you might have gathered, is an efficiency game, with you trying to do as much as possible in the time allowed. With more players, you'll generally take fewer turns each round since more people are drafting the available dice, but each year will have more rounds, so things somewhat balance out.
Beyond that, you need a game or two to figure out how to do things better, which is true of nearly all games of this type. In our first game, the winning score was in the high 70s; for our second game, the winning score was 100; and for our third and fourth games, the winner was in the low 130s. It's easy to complain that a game is dumb and you barely did anything and this stained glass mechanism seems somewhat useless, but you might inadvertently be complaining that you are a bad player and just haven't yet understood that.
I've played Monasterium four times so far on a review copy from dlp games, twice with two players and once each with three and four, and I talk about the game in far more detail in the video below. As a bonus, here's a second video demonstrating how you can clean up after playing this game in less than a minute!
As for the availability of Monasterium outside of Germany, Reiner Stockhausen at dlp games tells me that he's consulting with U.S. publishers about licensing, and if that falls through, then possibly he can find retailers in the U.S. that can make the game available.
Youtube Video Read more »
- Slide Juicy Fruits for Business, and Test Your Rorschach SkillsDeep Print Games has announced two titles it plans to release in the first half of 2021, with Capstone Games putting out both games in the U.S.
Juicy Fruits is a 1-4 player game from Christian Stöhr, co-designer of the Spiel des Jahres-winning Pictures, and the game plays as follows:You have a small island paradise where you grow delicious fruit, and you want to supply ships with fruit and add businesses to your island so that your place is better than everyone else's.
Your turn in Juicy Fruits works like this: First, you slide one of your fruit collector tokens a number of unblocked spaces and collect that many fruits of the token's type: banana, orange, lime, pomegranate, or mangosteen. Then you may either fulfill the order of a ship on your shores or claim a business from a shared display and place it onto your island (or do nothing).
Clever planning and timing is vital because until you supply the ships on your shores, they block valuable island space which could be used to collect more fruit — but if you concentrate too much on the ships, the most promising businesses may get snatched by your opponents. Also, the sooner businesses are claimed, the quicker the game might end.
With each play, Juicy Fruits poses new puzzles of how to move your tokens efficiently and how to balance clearing your island with claiming businesses. The game also includes an additional "juice factory" mode and four modes of solo play.
• Rorschach is a party game for 4-10 players, and I have high hopes that it will be better than the 2008 party game Rorschach that I reviewed after five plays, then forgot about completely. Here's an overview:Read more »Rorschach, named after the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, uses some of his famous inkblot images (and many new ones) to put two teams to the test. The teams earn points by correctly guessing how their members paired randomly selected words with these inkblot images.
Reading the other players and learning their associations is the key to success, but the real fascination lies in seeing how differently these images can be perceived — and in discussing and explaining the pairings afterwards.
- Interview: Shem Phillips, Designer of the North Sea Trilogy and Founder of Garphill Games
by Neil Bunkerfirst published on Diagonal Move on January 15, 2021. —WEM
For today's interview Shem Phillips, designer of Raiders of the North Sea and founder of Garphill Games, joins Neil Bunker from Diagonal Move to discuss the West and North trilogies.
DM: Thank you for joining us today, Shem. Can you tell us how your career as a game designer began and what prompted the decision to found Garphill Games rather than seek an established publisher?
SP: It started out by me simply wanting to make my own game. I had no knowledge of the modern board game market or any prior experience in game design/publishing, so I set out to create my own simple, roll-and-move family game. It was after producing this game that a friend introduced me to Catan. From there I rushed out to my local toy store and picked up Carcassonne and Family Business. Later, I was invited to a local board game convention, and I've been discovering more and more great games ever since.
DM: Garphill Games was founded in 2009. It was some years later that your games began to receive notable public attention. How were those first few years as an independent publishing company?
SP: The first six years were purely run as a hobby. I wasn't aiming to make money or even turn it into a business. I was just designing games and printing small print runs for friends and a few loyal supporters. It was very boutique back them.
DM: You are most well-known for your two historical trilogies, the first of which — The North Sea Saga — began with Shipwrights of the North Sea. How did this game develop, and what was the initial reception like?
SP: Shipwrights started with me wanting to make a game about building ships. I already had some mechanisms in mind, including using only three resources to construct the ships. Through some research, this led me to discover that Viking longships were predominantly made of wool, oak, and iron. After delving more into the theme, I knew that Vikings were the right fit for the game. The initial reception was far beyond what I had ever expected. This was my first Kickstarter campaign. I had an extremely low funding target, and planned to print only five hundred units (hoping to sell at least two hundred of those). A lot of the buzz was generated from the artwork. This was the first time anyone had seen The Mico's art in a board game, and it seemed that the large majority of people who saw the campaign loved the art.
DM: The trilogy continued with Raiders and Explorers, which are both playable as standalone games. What prompted the decision to turn the games into a trilogy, and how did you strike the balance between the new and the familiar from a design point of view?
SP: That came from a lot of Kickstarter comments. People liked the idea of building ships, but felt like they wanted to use them for something once the game had ended. This sparked the idea of creating a second game, this time focusing on raiding. In my mind, doing a trilogy just made sense, which is why I committed to designing Explorers before Raiders even went to Kickstarter.
DM: The West Kingdom games (co-designed with S J Macdonald) follow a similar pattern — a trilogy of standalone games — and incorporate multiple layers of mechanisms in each game. What is your approach to this layering of mechanisms?
SP: We always start with the general setting, perhaps a title or at least some sort of story that we want to base the game around. Then we do a lot of brainstorming on how the game could look visually on the table, and also how it might work mechanically. Sam and I both love games that have interconnected mechanisms, which is probably why you see that a lot in our own games. I'm not sure we ever set out to mix mechanisms. It's more likely that it just comes out of the development process.
DM: The trilogies are both themed around turbulent historical periods. Is this something that you are interested in, and did you try to reflect the historical period within the game mechanisms? If so, can you describe how you approached this?
SP: I'm a big fan of Age of Empires II on PC. In fact, so is Sam Macdonald. I grew up always wanting the more medieval LEGO sets over the sci-fi or trains as well. I guess there's just something about the swords and shields period that interests me. While our games are set in history, we still like to give them a little twist of fantasy and fiction, so don't expect too much historical accuracy. Hah. I love the setting, but I'm not so particular on every little detail.
DM: Like many more complex games, North Sea and West Kingdom lean heavily on iconography to aid players during play. What challenges do you face when developing this aspect of a game? How tricky is it to get the balance right, and what are the implications for the success of a game if this aspect doesn't work?
SP: There are plenty of times where Sam might think up a new card ability, and my answer is simply, "How would I show that with icons?" So they can be quite restrictive. You really need to approach each game separately. Sometimes using text is actually better for the gameplay. Icons are often better when there are a lot of cards on the table, and players need to quickly decipher them without trying to read text upside down on the opposite side of the board.
DM: With numerous award nominations and three games currently in the BGG top 100, you've clearly achieved a certain level of both critical and popular success. How does that feel, and was there a point when you first realized that you had "made it"?
SP: It's still hard to believe, and it's an absolute privilege and blessing to have received so much recognition for our designs. I suppose the first time it really hit me was receiving the Kennerspiel nomination for Raiders of the North Sea. That was a huge shock and honor.
DM: Now that you have achieved that certain level of success, has your design and publishing career become easier or have the challenges also grown?
SP: I definitely trust my gut a lot more than in the past. The more you design and get positive feedback from players, the more the imposter syndrome begins to fade away. It took a long time, though. I'm a lot busier now than I've ever been. It's still just as fun, but there is a lot more responsibility and expectation to keep delivering quality games. I'm not complaining, though — I'm up for the challenge!
DM: What's next for yourself and Garphill Games?
SP: 2021 will see the release of three expansions for the West Kingdom trilogy. We also have the second part of our Circadians universe coming to Kickstarter later in the year, along with an expansion for the first title. We're also well into the designing process for the "South Trilogy", which should debut in 2022. Read more »
- Explore Space, Invade Tarawa, Complete Missions Against Nazis, and Defeat a Slasher...All By Yourself!
GMT Games caught on to this growing demand for solo gaming options and announced "GMT One" in its January 2021 Monthly Update Newsletter, which is a new in-house development studio dedicated to enabling solo gamers to enjoy the wide variety of multiplayer games that GMT publishes. In more detail:GMT One will help bridge the gap in knowledge and experience between our multiplayer designers and the skills and techniques used to craft Solitaire experiences and support these designers in creating top-notch designs. Our design group includes the designers who built the Solitaire systems in Tank Duel and Gandhi, and we will partner with designers like John Butterfield, Mark Herman, Volko Ruhnke, Harold Buchanan, Mike Bertucelli, and others to create best-in-industry Solitaire experiences for you.
In addition to the ever-growing and improving multiplayer solo options, there are a lot of exciting games coming out designed specifically for solitaire play, featuring a wide variety of mechanisms, themes, and complexity levels. There's really no better time to check one out if you've ever been curious.
mentioned the 2021 solitaire release Final Girl from Van Ryder Games and designers Evan Derrick and A. J. Porfirio.
Final Girl is a reimplementation of Porfirio's Hostage Negotiator that plays in 30-45 minutes, but instead of negotiating with abductors to save hostages, you'll be trying to survive and defeat a horror movie killer:Playing on a famous horror movie trope, Final Girl is a solitaire-only game that puts the player in the shoes of a female protagonist who must kill the slasher if she wants to survive.
The Core Box, when combined with one of our Feature Film Boxes, has everything you need to play the game. Each Feature Film Box features a unique Killer and and iconic Location, and the more Feature Films you have, the more killer/location combinations you can experience!
In game terms, Final Girl shares similarities with Hostage Negotiator, but with some key differences that change it up, including a game board to track locations and character movement. You can choose from multiple characters when picking someone to play and multiple killers when picking someone to play against. Killers and locations each have their own specific terror cards that will be shuffled together to create a unique experience with various combinations of scenarios for you to play!
I kept hearing good things about Hostage Negotiator, but I was initially hesitant to try it because the theme didn't really jive with me. I'm so glad I did finally pick it up and try it though! It really surprised me how much I enjoyed it, and I love how the mechanisms and theme are so well-implemented together. I ended up loading up on all of the expansions and I'm especially looking forward to trying the Hostage Negotiator: Career expansion that was released in 2020. This is all to say, based on Hostage Negotiator pleasantly surprising me, I want to play Final Girl — even though the theme, once again, has me hesitant.
• On the historical wargame front, Worthington Publishing LLC launched a Kickstarter (KS link) on January 23, 2021 for Tarawa 1943 a WWII solitaire, card-driven game on the invasion of Japanese controlled Tarawa by the 2nd Marine Division that plays in 30-60 minutes, from designers Grant Wylie and Mike Wylie:TARAWA 1943 is a solitaire, card-driven game on the invasion of Japanese controlled Tarawa by the 2nd Marine Division. Each turn the USMC player will activate one of their eight battalions. During its activation, it can move, attack, and attempt to regroup. The USMC player further has a three-card hand (out of a deck of thirty cards) that gives additional resources to the player (naval support, air support, engineers, tanks, etc). The USMC player can play one card during their turn and one card during the Japanese turn.
As a battalion is activated, it reduces its cohesion (reflecting wear and tear and exhaustion). Battalions are further reduced in cohesion due to Japanese attacks and the marines "pushing their attacks".
After the USMC player finishes their activation, the Japanese turn begins with the flip of a card. From this, the USMC player will face fire attacks, banzai attacks, bunkers, cross fires, infiltration, and more. The card engine will ensure an ever changing game and no two will play the same.
The game will give the historical starting invasion site. However, we have included the alternate "south beach" landing possibility that the Japanese had expected and prepared.
Victory is achieved by taking the island as quickly as possible while minimizing casualties. This was the first invasion of the U.S. island hopping strategy and high losses or a prolonged fight could have led to a cancellation of the island hopping campaign.
From the videos I've checked it out, Tarawa 1943 seems like it'll be a fun and challenging solitaire wargame, and with a 30-60 minute playtime, it seems like I'll be able to get it to the table more easily than some of my beefier wargames. The Player's Aid also posted a great interview with Grant Wylie if you're interested in learning more about the background and mechanics for Tarawa 1943.
Journey's End, the latest expansion and final chapter to Chris Taylor's highly thematic Nemo's War (Second Edition), was launched on Kickstarter in late November 2020 and is open for late backers. The Nemo's War: Journey's End expansion was designed by Alan Emrich, who also designed the Nautilus Upgrades Expansion Pack which was the first expansion for Nemo's War.
If you're not familiar with the game, Nemo's War is a deep sea, adventure, exploration game based on Jules Verne's classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in which players assume the role of Captain Nemo and travel across the seas on missions of science, exploration, anti-imperialism, and war! It's primarily a solitaire game, but also includes rules for 2-4 player fully co-operative and semi-competitive variants.
Here's what you can expect from the Journey's End expansion as described by the publisher:
A COMPREHENSIVE OPERATIONS MANUAL & BETWEEN VOYAGES GUIDE: The new Operations Manual shows how to run the ship turn-by-turn and includes many useful appendices at the end, while the new Between Voyages Guide features instruction for setup, ending the game, scoring, epilogues, variants, and more!
A NEW TWO-PLAYER VERSUS VARIANT: Joining the riveting solo and cooperative modes where players command the Nautilus, in this game variant one player will play as the Imperialists, bent on its defeat. Includes special cards and two Imperial Squadron Miniatures!
A NEW CHARACTER TILE: Entering our story is Nemo's son, Nadeen Dakkar, who crosses paths with his father after hearing news of mysterious events at sea!
NEW FINALE CARDS: Spice up your endings with The Trap, Imperialists' Catspaw, Scientific Espionage, and The Kraken!
NEW STERN MOTIVES, ADDITIONAL NAUTILUS UPGRADES, AND EVEN MORE TOKENS & MARKERS!
In addition to the Journey's End expansion, Victory Point Games is releasing an "Ultimate Edition" of Nemo's War that includes the second edition of the base game with all of the expansion content.
Nemo's War happens to be a top 5 solo game for me after playing only a single game. I highly recommend checking out Nemo's War if you're looking for an excellent, narrative-driven, solitaire game and you're not turned off by dice rolling. It's challenging, is very thematic and immersive, and features some gorgeous Ian O'Toole artwork, which all adds up to an awesome solitaire gaming experience.
Side Room Games is launching a Kickstarter campaign (KS link) on February 1, 2021 for the second edition of Jake Staines' 2013 solitaire worker-placement game Maquis.
Maquis plays in 20 minutes and the new edition will also include new missions for some fresh challenges. Here's a brief overview of Maquis from the publisher:Engage the Nazi occupation of France in la petite guerre to throw off the yoke of the oppressors and free your homeland!
Maquis is a solitaire worker-placement game with variable goals and a play time of approximately twenty minutes. The player places their resistance agents on spaces around town to achieve their goals — e.g., blowing up trains, publishing underground newspapers — but at the same time Milice collaborators and Wehrmacht soldiers patrol the area. Agents who can't make it back to the safe house at the end of the day are arrested and never seen again.
I haven't played Maquis yet, but I did recently score a copy of John Kean's Black Sonata, which is a solitaire hidden movement game from Side Room Games that's in my queue to check out. I was so fascinated by the fact that someone designed a solitaire hidden movement game that I had to get myself a copy, and now I'm also curious to try Maquis.
After reading Neil Bunker's interview with Morten Monrad Pedersen, the founder and lead designer of the Automa Factory, it was also cool to find out the worker-placement solitaire system in Maquis is what inspired the AI opponent in Viticulture!
Mark Chaplin, who co-designed the sci-fi, horror, survival game Lifeform from Hall or Nothing Productions, has two upcoming solo game releases that sound mighty interesting and their descriptions have me already enticed.
The first, Where Humans Don't Belong,, is a suspenseful, space exploration game that plays in 45-90 minutes and is targeted for a mid-2021 Kickstarter launch:Where Humans Don't Belong is a single-player, deep space exploration game in which you are trying to escape the unknown galaxy into which your damaged starship has been thrust. The fate of your ship and her crew lies in your hands!
Explore uncharted space, board derelict freighters, and land on ringworlds and other amazing locations — all while being hunted by an alien dreadnought intent on your destruction.
Where Humans Don't Belong is a standalone game in which you get to name your ship, choose its load-out, and pick your own bridge crew. They will encounter awesome galactic horrors and fight battles in space as well as on the surfaces of strange alien planets.
Featuring innovative combat and exploration systems, the game presents a unique, suspenseful adventure unlike any you've seen before.
Then there's Deepwater, which plays in 45-60 minutes and is slated for a 2022 release:Deepwater is a solo game set in the year 2047 in which the player assumes the role of a tech billionaire taking over a loss-making, underwater, deep-sea research and farming facility, six months after an industrial accident at the base released a crystalline, genetically-engineered mutagen named "Zenobia" into the sea.
During each game, the player has to recruit marine biologists, deep-sea engineers, offshore operations staff, and security personnel. As the game progresses, the player also has many opportunities to build onto their facility and develop superior underwater tech and submersibles to help achieve their character-specific goals. Will the player be a philanthropist, or a greedy business magnate, for example.
Many dangerous situations will arise throughout the game, which the player will have to make tough decisions to overcome, including underwater earthquakes, superstructure fails, flooding, intrusions by eco-terrorists, and shark attacks. The multiple choice nature of these hazards will lead to the player having to sacrifice resources, cash, crew, and moral standing — with potentially devastating environmental impact.
Deepwater presents a tense, suspenseful, narrative-focused adventure with each and every game.
Both games will be published by Chaplin's company, Giant Spider Games, which is focused on releasing thematic, narrative-driven games tackling genre aspects that are typically unexplored or overlooked. I have subscribed to both game pages, and I'll be eagerly awaiting updates. Read more »
- Orcs Come to Caverna, Llamas Find a Home, and Lookout Revisits 1880: ChinaLookout Games has unveiled its 2021 line-up, with the titles largely falling into the expected categories of Rosenberg expansions, a two-player game, a giant involved strategy game, and a family game from Phil Walker-Harding. Release dates and prices were not included in Lookout's announcements, so you are welcome to conclude that these items are all free and will appear on your shelves the moment that you wish them to do so. You would be wrong, however.
In more detail:
• Caverna: Frantic Fiends from Koal, Morphy, and Uwe Rosenberg challenges you to protect your cave from uninvited visitors. An overview:Orcs are ravaging the lands and threatening your caves and families! Can you defeat the ravaging orcs and bring back peace and prosperity to your people?
In Caverna: Frantic Fiends, the second large expansion for Uwe Rosenberg's Caverna: The Cave Farmers, you have to face these hostile plunderers. Luckily, you can either use your proven axes to teach them a lesson or build traps to keep them away from the cave entrances altogether. You can even push them into these traps with stone or bribe them with wood to weaken their strength. Defeating orcs will bring precious rewards, but if you fail to drive them off, all your plans might be in jeopardy.
• The cave action continues — or rather, is revisited — in Caverna: Cave vs Cave – The Big Box, which collects both the Caverna: Cave vs Cave base game and the Caverna: Cave vs Cave – Era II expansion. From the description, this edition doesn't seem to include any new elements.
• The Agricola: Consul Dirigens Deck contains 120 cards for use with the revised edition of Agricola, 96 of which are the missing numbers from the Corbarius and Dulcinaria decks and 24 of which are their own thing.
• Gamegenic plans to release card sleeves specific for the 91x55 mm cards in Agricola, with the backs showing Minor Improvement and Occupation imagery.
• Continuing its trend of 18xx reprints, in 2021 Lookout Games will release a new version of 1880: China, which first appeared in 2010 from Double-O Games, the company run by designers Helmut Ohley and Leonhard Orgler.
• Another game getting a new edition is Family Business, a card-based mob warfare game that is the only published design from David B. Bromley, a game that was first released by Mayfair Games in 1982.
• In the two-player category, we have Great Plains from Trevor Benjamin and Brett J. Gilbert, the design team of the wonderful 2019 title Mandala (covered here). Here's all I know so far about this game:Our ancient ancestors created images on the walls of caves to tell stories about the world around them and the animals they shared it with — and perhaps they, like you, played games to make those stories come to life...
Great Plains is a mysterious game about a not-so-mysterious behavior of our kind: two players competing for the dominance over the Great Plains! With help from the spiritual animal world, they overcome hills, cross the lowlands, and invade each other's territory in order to become the tribe who will live on.
I'm bummed that the Spielwarenmesse toy fair isn't taking place as normal as in 2020 I got to play Glasgow in prototype form and write a decent preview of the game. Ah, well, all things in good time.
• Finally, we come to the 2-4 player game Llamaland from Phil Walker-Harding, who has previously collaborated with Lookout Games on Bärenpark and Gingerbread House. Here's the cursory overview of this title:Read more »The plateaus are wild, stunningly beautiful, and...full of llamas?!
Being a farmer in Llamaland isn't exactly easy with all the hills and mountains around, but even so, growing potatoes, corn, and cocoa on the slopes of the mountains is what you love. Luckily the llamas are a big help, too!
By fitting your fields in giddy heights, you gain the necessary crops in order to obtain the desired llama cards. These cards not only provide victory points, but also allow you to place a llama on your farm. After about 45 minutes, you will have an impressive crop-growing area in front of you, including your sweet and cuddly llamas.
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