Board Game Geek
- ● Tag the Streets, Power the Cities, and Settle the Moonshowcased two titles from Brazilian publisher MeepleBR — Brazil: Imperial and Paper Dungeons — and as is often the case, once I started digging for details on those two games, I discovered several more from the same publisher that I hadn't known about previously.
Luna Maris, for example, is a 1-4 player game from first-time designer Ricardo Amaral that plays in 30 minutes per player. Luna Maris is due out in the first half of 2021, and the setting and gameplay works as follows:Space exploration is developing thanks to the cooperation between private corporations and governments around the world. Before the challenge to occupy another planet, however, we need to create a Moon base to extract resources from our natural satellite. Iron, titanium, water, and a powerful fuel, helium-3, are natural riches available in the Moon. To get these riches won't be easy; it'll require lots of work to install lunar probes, process extracted minerals, and ensure the working conditions of scientists and engineers in the crew.
In Luna Maris, you take on the role of a coordinator in charge of the lunar operations of a big company, organizing the crew, fulfilling demands, supplying worker's necessities, improving rooms in the complex, and respecting the strict environmental parameters.
You start the game with six scientist cards, with which you can perform actions; to do so, place a scientist meeple in a room in the lunar complex, discard the appropriate scientist card, pay the activation cost (energy, water, oxygen, etc.), then receive the benefits of that room. The ten rooms each have their particularities and special rules:
—Exploration Plant: Don space suits and install lunar probes to extract minerals.
—Industrial Complex: Process extracted minerals. Also, control the air filters and decrease the CO2 emissions.
—Greenhouse: Create food to sustain the crew members.
—Expedition Area: Ship cargo to Earth and receive victory points.
—Mining Room: Extract basalt and titanium to sustain a high level of production.
—Communication Room: Hire better scientists and improve the human resources of the lunar base.
—Power Plant: Juice the solar boards for an extra energy supply.
—Recycling Plant: Recycle your waste to obtain resources in a green sustainable economy.
—Laboratory: Use research to improve the Industrial Complex, Recycling Plant, and other facilities.
—Dormitory: Take time off to recuperate.
A game lasts five rounds, and during that time you can focus on installing lunar probes and producing raw resources; investing in the industrial complex to guarantee access to water and helium-3; hiring high-level scientists and optimizing your actions; or doing other things that will deliver victory points in the long run. After five rounds, players tally their scores to see who runs the base and who gets ejected into orbit. (Kidding!)
• Grafito is a 2-4 player game from Rennan Gonçalves, another first-time designer, and the game is currently being aimed for release in the second half of 2021. Here's an overview:The four elements of hip hop are deejaying, rapping, break dancing, and graffiti painting, and these elements inspired Grafito, a rondel-based game about street art in the modern cities. Each player takes on a role of a graffiti artist, and you need to pick paints, and combine and use them to create great panels with your signature. Are you ready to control the walls of the street?
To set up, place eight paint cubes in each of the four rondels of the main game board; each rondel looks like an old-school LP record divided into eight colored sections. Use only primary paint cubes (blue, red, yellow and white) for now, then place the wall board next to the main board. Take an individual player board to organize your components, then shuffle the mural cards and reveal four face up.
On a turn, collect paint cubes or use a mural card to occupy a place on the wall board. By scratching the LPs — that is, turning the rondels — you can collect paint. You can rotate a rondel one space for free or spend workers to move more spaces or a second rondel; by matching colors across LPs, you can collect paint. By discarding a worker, you can use Basquiat's Lessons to duplicate paint cubes in your bag, change their colors, or obtain secondary colors.
Once you have the necessary components, you can complete a mural card by discarding the paint cubes required, possibly creating secondary colors along the way by discarding primary cubes. You receive points for these cards at the end of the game, and these cards depict different elements of hip hop, with you scoring bonuses from bonds of matching elements on the wall board.
When the wall board is finished, the game ends, and whoever has the most points becomes King of the Wall!
• The third title from MeepleBR is Eléctrica, a 2-4 player tile-laying game from Lucas Machado Rodrigues that might see release before the end of 2021.
Here's a summary of gameplay:Read more »In Brazil, a great amount of energy is produced by hydroelectricity. Dams are responsible for providing energy to industries, markets, and houses across the country. This electricity is distributed by great networks of transmission. It's a big business that moves billions every year.
Elétrica invites you and your friends to take on the role of energy entrepreneurs. During the game, you need to increase the size of the map and construct lines to supply energy to cities. With each new line, you can complete contracts and receive victory points.
In more detail, following a set-up phase in which you each place a tile next to the starting spring river tile, on a turn you either (1) reveal and place a new tile or (2) build. The tile-laying works as you might expect, with tiles needing to be adjacent with the elements on each side matching. After placing a tile, you can place a marker on it to reserve it.
The game includes five types of constructions — hydroelectric, electrical substation, transmission tower, utility pole, and city — and to build one of them, you use workers on a tile and choose an available construction, following certain limitations on building. A hydroelectric construction must be placed on a tile with water, for example, while a city can't be built next to a transmission tower and three constructions can't be neighbors to one another on a triangle of tiles.
When you build a functioning network, you can complete a contract and score points. Two constructions of the same type earns you 2 points, for example, while more complex combinations earn you more.
Once the final tile is revealed and placed, the game ends and whoever has the most points becomes an energy magnate!
- Assemble Orbital Modules, Ceremonies, and Lucrative Contracts
• Star Scrappers: Orbital is a re-working of Jacob Fryxelius' Space Station, one of the first releases from publisher FryxGames in 2011.
Over five rounds in Star Scrappers: Orbital, you add new modules to your starting core module, using your crew to take actions within those modules and repair them. At the end of each round, you score points for each of the six colors of modules for which you have the most. Publisher Hexy Studio ran a Kickstarter (link) for this new revised game in mid-November 2020, with delivery expected in mid-2021.
Kokopelli seems like an atypical Stefan Feld design and a very typical Queen Games release, with the 2-4 players in this card game playing ceremony cards into the four spaces of their own village or onto certain spaces in neighboring villages.
In each game, you use twelve of the sixteen types of cards — with nine more types being available in the Ceremonies expansion. Each time you start a ceremony in your village, you gain the special power for that card as long as the ceremony is active. Each player has three copies of each type of card in their deck, along with a few jokers, and you need four copies of a card to "close" a ceremony and claim one of the point tokens for it, so you and your neighbors will sort of collaborate on closing ceremonies, but you want to be the one who finishes the job since only then will you score for it. Queen Games plans to deliver this title and expansion to Kickstarter backers (link) in June 2021, with the game hitting retail some time later.
link) for Jason Dinger's Crescent City Cargo from Spielworxx, this being the second title in Dinger's "Cajun trilogy" following 2018's Captains of the Gulf, a reprint of which could be acquired during this KS.
Here's an overview of the game, which will be available only from Spielworxx, Indie Game Studios, the BGG Store, and Amazon prior to a possible release through distribution in 2023:New Orleans, affectionately known as "the Crescent City", is an important hub of commerce on the Mississippi River. The Port of New Orleans is a key conduit of imports and exports that are critical to the interconnected international economy.
In Crescent City Cargo, players take on the roll of competing logistics companies vying to fulfill lucrative contracts with domestic railways, foreign cargo ships, and future speculated trade opportunities through shipping containers waiting to be loaded at the dock. Players receive goods from warehouses and use them to improve the state of their company or earn valuable capital that will serve to establish their dominance in the local trade market.
Logistics can be a cutthroat tactical environment as others vie to grab the best contracts before you can. Will you be able to manipulate the market, complete your goals, and in the end stand atop the competition as the most profitable company?
• Designer T. Alex Davis, who co-authored 2020's Deep Vents from Red Raven Games is partnering with the publisher again for Rift Knights, an asymmetrical game for 2-6 players in which one side controls holy knights who must hold off demons until dawn while protecting elders, and the other side would be perfectly happy not to see those elders protected. Here's a bit more detail about gameplay:During the game, you choose a unique knight or demon, each with a variety of special powers, such as the Flame Knight's ability to surround his foes in fire, or the Bone Crusher's power to summon skeletal minions. You also play cards from your hand to perform actions each turn, and each card can be used in three different ways. Careful planning with these cards is rewarded with memorable, game-changing moments. A set of unique location tiles allows you to create the monastery with a different layout every game.
Although the Kickstarter campaign (link) had met its goal, Red Raven Games decided to cancel the project for now based on feedback from supporters and rejigger it for another go in the future.
Read more »
- Protect Lakeview from Monsters and Take Control of a Flooded EuropeRenegade Game Studios debuted its RPG line in 2018 with Overlight and Kids on Bikes, the latter of which won a 2019 ENnie for "best family game for Renegade and designers Jonathan Gilmour and Doug Levandowski.
The Kids on Bikes game line has since expanded with Kids on Brooms and Teens in Space, and in Q2 2021 it will be joined by The Snallygaster Situation, a board game from Gilmour and Michael Addison set in the world of Kids on Bikes. Here's an overview of this 2-5 player game that plays in 45-60 minutes:Something is very wrong in Lakeview. You know it, but nobody believes you, especially not the "adults" who dismiss you for being a kid. You've lived here your whole life, but it was only a little while ago that you started to notice the strange sounds at night, and now the new kid at school has vanished. You're sure that a hideous creature has been unleashed on your town — and it's up to you to defeat it!
In the co-operative game The Snallygaster Situation, which is based on the Kids on Bikes RPG, you and your best friends must face off against one of four diabolical monsters set on destroying Lakeview — and possibly the entire world! Get on your bikes to search for clues about the monster's weakness, find the missing kid it has abducted, and end the threat to your hometown. Oh, and watch out for the Federal agents because they can put a real damper on your epic adventure.
In more detail, one player takes the role of the Lost Kid, selecting a card to play each turn that provides clues about their location such as street names, buildings, or landmarks — but the card also dictates how the monsters and the Feds move and attack on the board. You might have the perfect clue to give, but then the monster will attack one of your friends, sending them back to the treehouse and advancing the "doom marker", i.e., the game's timer.
The other players are trying to defeat the monster and save their friend. On their turns, they use their rides — skateboard, dirt bike, inline skates, etc. — to search the town, look for clues, use special item cards, and avoid the monster, which might be the Jersey Devil, a Dover Demon, Bloody Mary, or (of course) the Snallygaster. Each monster has a different level of difficulty with unique gameplay elements.
Once the Lost Kid is found, they join their friends to try to defeat the monster.
APE Games was testing several upcoming games on Tabletopia ahead of Kickstarter campaigns to fund them, with one of those games being Kevin G. Nunn's Dealers in Hope, a 3-5 player game that plays in 90-150 minutes.
You can find preliminary rules for the game here (PDF), but this is overview of the setting and gameplay:Sea levels have risen, causing severe land and resource shortages. Europe has erupted in war, and it's up to you to salvage what is left for your people.
Dealers in Hope, set in approximately 2170, is a deck-building game of conflict. As faction leaders, players vie for control of a future Europe that is a shell of its former glory. Build a deck that matches your faction's play style and take back the continent!
Each player controls a different faction leader with unique abilities and a unique starting deck. The leader you choose determines how you score victory points to win the game. Regardless, all leaders score a bulk of their points through conquest. On your turn, select an action by placing one of your tokens on the action board. Actions fall into one of three categories: Train (add cards to your deck), Reorganize (manipulate your deck), and Assault (attack territories). Action slots are limited, so it is essential to plan ahead and guess your opponents' moves.
Dealers in Hope uses several types of cards, with some types, i.e., professional cards, being selected randomly and others coming from the game's preset deck suggestions. Each set of professional cards has three levels — level 1, level 2, and master — and you must Train these increasingly powerful cards in order. Battles are fought via back-and-forth card play. Cards contain attack, defense, support, and (often) effects. The attacker plays as many cards as desired from their hand, then the defender gets a single chance to play cards in defense. Finally, the attacker gets one more chance to beat the defender. The winner gains/holds the territory, along with bonuses associated with that territory.
Unlike many games of this type, Dealers in Hope focuses not only on the military side of warfare, but also on the people behind the scenes: the civilians, masses, etc. who affect and are affected by the campaign.
The Comic Book Bubble, a 2-6 player design from Scott Almes in which you try to buy and sell comics at the right time to profit from that market, and One Card Wonder, a design from Nat Levan that I first wrote about in 2016.
For those who don't recall that write-up from four years ago, here it is again, on the assumption that the game has not fundamentally changed:Read more »In One Card Wonder, each player receives a card that shows a wonder of the ancient world and a set of support buildings. The multiple stages of the wonder must be built from the ground up, while the buildings may be built in any order. Players have four worker meeples and a personal supply of resources, and a general supply of resources also exists. The resource supply bag moves from player to player to indicate who is the active player.
On a turn, you take one of four actions. You may draw three cubes from the cloth supply bag, then add one to your personal supply, placing the other two in the general supply. You may take all resources of one type from the general supply. (You may hold only eight resources at a time in your supply, so if after drawing or taking you have more than eight resources, you must return some to the general supply.) You may build a level of the wonder or a building by paying its resource cost from your supply; your workers mark individual buildings as you build them, unlocking abilities. Finally, you may sell pairs of matching goods to the supply in exchange for coins. Coins can be used as a wild resource, but they also appear in the cost of some wonders. Resources sold or used to build are returned to the supply bag.
In games of four or more players, players may also trade. Trading occurs off-turn, that is, it can involve anyone except the active player. You may negotiate and trade freely with other players, but you must stop negotiating once you receive the supply bag and become the active player. The longer you spend on your turn, the more opportunity your opponents have to make deals.
The first player to complete their wonder wins!
- Designer Diary: Merv: The Heart of the Silk RoadMerv: The Heart of the Silk Road is my next board game, due out on November 26, 2020 from Osprey Games.
I began work on this game about three years ago, in the middle of 2017. Initially it was a generic city-building game in which players would collect resources every round, spend them in order to build houses and, at the same time, defend those houses from hordes of barbarians threatening to attack the city every few rounds; when I started doing research about where to actually set the game, I stumbled upon the story of Merv.
Merv, the Largest City in the World
I was reading a book about the Silk Road and was surprised to learn that, about one thousand years ago, Merv, now in modern day Turkmenistan, used to be the largest city in the world with well over one million inhabitants.
Thanks to its access to fresh water in what otherwise was a vast desert in central Asia, Merv was an important stop for all caravans traveling between China, India, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. It soon became a large economic and cultural center, with several mosques, markets, libraries, and schools with famous philosophers and mathematicians teaching there.
Sadly its fortune didn't last long, with Mongols raiding it in the 13th century, killing almost seven hundred thousand people, and destroying the dam that brought water to the city. The city never fully recovered and struggled as a small town for a few more centuries until it slowly disappeared — only to be rediscovered by archaeologists a few decades ago.
Interestingly, Merv had a rectangular shape, with tall walls running all around it, which seemed to fit nicely for a board game.
The First Prototype
The first time I tried a prototype with this setting was at one of the Playtest UK meet-ups in September 2017. At the time (and for quite a while), the game was centered around a dice-drafting mechanism, and the first board looked like this:
The general idea was that on your turn you would draft a die, place it on the leftmost available slot of the matching row, and collect money indicated on that slot. (Money could be used to change the number on a die.) Moreover, dice values from 2 to 5 would let you place a house on a matching slot on the city map, while 6s let you take a special action and 1s were wild.
One concept present from the beginning is that players would not take some actions to gain resources, then other actions to spend those resources and convert them into victory points. Instead resources would be available relatively easily through a caravan walking around and dropping cubes on all the houses that were built along the way so that on each turn players could mostly focus on how to spend them effectively.
When the Mongols Attack
Another idea present for a long time was that of the Mongols slowly gathering outside the walls, then eventually attacking the city, so players had to spend resources to defend their houses but didn't know exactly when the Mongols would strike. (The timing of this was linked to which dice were not drafted.)
I struggled a lot with the dice-drafting mechanism, which ended up being too restrictive on what players could do in their turn while at the same time having too many side effects on when and where the Mongols would attack, so I eventually dropped it and tried some other avenue.
For a while, I switched to cards: Each player had a hand of cards that decided which way the caravan moved and which kind of resources it dropped. On their turn, the players would play one card and the caravan would drop cubes of the given type on all the houses along its path, then the current player would spend those cubes to build or activate houses.
For every card played, a Mongol meeple was then placed along the wall where the caravan passed by, and when the whole row filled up, the Mongols would attack on that side. (Players could place their own soldiers along those walls to defend their houses behind it.)
From this point in the design, most of the building types would survive until the published game: the library provided scrolls for special abilities, the market stall provided various kinds of goods for set collection purposes, and the palace provided endgame victory points.
I was still not happy about how to trigger the Mongol attacks. One major problem was that players would forget to place the Mongol meeple at the end of their turn, then notice after a couple of turns that some Mongols were missing and had to trace back through their moves to see where they should have been placed.
An interesting solution I tried was to drop the meeples and instead picture the Mongols on the back of each card so that after a card was played, the card itself was placed on a slot along one of the walls. When that side of wall was full, the Mongols would attack. For a while, I had the game over two boards: a square board with the city and the mongols along its walls, and a second board with all the various building types and building actions.
This was the prototype I tried in the Playtest UK area of UK Games Expo in 2018:
Back to the Drawing Board
I was still unsatisfied with the game, which looked overly complicated, so I went back to the drawing board and started from scratch.
I designed an almost completely different game, much lighter in weight and without all the complications from the previous iterations. This version of the game still features a 5x5 grid, but this time the city starts with all the building tiles in it, and players claim tiles by placing houses on them. A row of caravan cards brings various goods, and players draft them in order to score points.
The core mechanism is this: Each round, players place their meeple along one side of the city, then from left to right along that wall they place a new house (or activate an existing one) on that row (or column) and move their meeple onto one of the caravan cards, reserving that card for drafting. Each card has a building type on it, and you can reserve a card only with the same building type as the tile you activated that turn.
Finally, going from left to right along the row of cards, each player takes the card they reserved and one of the still unclaimed ones, then moves their meeple to the rearmost open spot of the queue for the next side of the city. Thus, if you reserve an early card, you will have better choices for your second card, but you will move last next turn.
This was basically another game altogether, almost in antithesis to the previous iterations, but it created an interesting tension in the way the turn order was handled. As different as it was, though, some core ideas of the previous iterations were still present:
Since pretty much the beginning of the design, on your turn you would place or activate a building (of various kinds), then have a certain amount of resources available to spend on that building. If the building were a library, for example, you could spend a number of different color cubes in order to get a matching number of scrolls. If the building were a market stall, you could spend cubes in order to gain trading goods, and so on. Moreover, the placement of your buildings would affect your resource income in the upcoming turns.
In this streamlined version, the actual resource collection was abstracted away, but the core idea was still there: If I place or activate a library, I then claim a library card (with a scroll on it), and at the end of the game I will score victory points for sets of different scrolls. If instead I activate a market stall, I claim a card with trading goods and score points for various combinations of them.
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis
A piece of feedback I received during a playtest at SPIEL '18 was that the core mechanism was really cool and provided interesting choices and crunchy decisions, but that it needed a meatier game around it — so I took the advice and tried to integrate the new mechanisms into the original game, coming up with this:
At the beginning of the game, all the building tiles are placed randomly in the city. (Each tile has a different combination of type and color, and each color corresponds to a type of resource.) The game proceeds in three rounds, each round has four turns, and each turn is played along one side of the city.
On a turn, each player moves their meeple (starting from the head of the queue) into one of five slots along that side, then picks a building tile on the matching column (or row). If the tile is empty, they place one of their houses on that tile; otherwise they use the house that is already there. Then they collect resources from all tiles in that column that have a house of that player color on them. (Each tile provides one type of resource, based on the tile color.)
Finally, depending on the building that they activated, they perform the action for that building: If they activate a library, they can buy scrolls (with sets of different scrolls providing special abilities); if they activate a trading post, they can expand their trading post network, then acquire goods from the connected cities; if they activate a mosque, they can spend resources in order to advance on the mosque track, gaining various bonuses along the way, etc.
All these actions cost resources. and as the game proceeds and the city fills up with houses, you collect more and more resources so these actions become more powerful.
A twist was that you could choose to activate an existing house of a different player and collect resources from all houses of that player in that row. Since slots are exclusive, I tried various ways to compensate the original owner (who would not be able to reactivate the row on that turn) and finally settled on the owner getting a resource from the activated house (but not from the whole row), yet also getting possibly additional resources for houses that had been upgraded. (Upgraded houses provide more or better resources.)
An interesting effect of this change is that now if you build a strong row with four or five of your houses, then it becomes a juicy target for other players to use, making jousting for turn order even more important, so I added another currency (camels) that you can spend at the end of the turn in order to advance in the queue for next turn. Camels are a closed economy, with camels you spend to advance in turn order going to the players you skipped.
Things were coming together pretty nicely, and in January 2019 I brought the prototype to the national meeting of Italian game designers in Parma (IdeaG) where I got good feedback from a few seasoned designers.
In particular, Flaminia Brasini provided very insightful ideas: The game I tested in Parma was pretty good, but it lacked tension. The "Mongol attack" wasn't really there, having been abstracted away as a majority scoring for soldiers at the end of each round. In a way, players could do what they wanted, without having to worry too much about what the game could throw at them; what was lacking was the tension between what players "wanted" to do and what they "had" to do.
So the Mongols came back, with a vengeance. They would attack at the end of each round, and players who couldn't defend their houses would lose them. This was probably a bit too harsh, and I changed it so that they would attack at the end of the second and third rounds. (The game lasts only three rounds, where each round is played along the four sides of the city.) By the end of the second round, most houses would be defended and those that were raided could still be rebuilt during the final round.
As an extra incentive for defending houses, I introduced an end round scoring so that houses still standing after the raid would be worth victory points.
Defending houses soon became an important part of the game. You could defend houses by building walls around the city, and each piece of wall would defend the two houses immediately behind it (which might belong to different players). Moreover, a house is defended only if it has walls on both sides, e.g., an house in the top left quarter of the city needs a wall on its north side and a wall on its west side. While walls provide a permanent defense, you could still play a soldier on your house to defend it for a single attack, i.e., when the mongols attack, the soldier is killed but the house is saved.
Finally, you could still pay a ransom in order to defend a house, so if an orange house is attacked, you could save it by paying an orange cube.
Playtest, Playtest, Playtest
In the first few months of 2019, I managed to average almost three playtests a week between the Playtest UK meet-ups and meetings with other designers. One idea that slowly developed during this time was that defending other players' houses should provide some kind of benefit, so I eventually introduced a "civic" track on which you advance as you build walls. (You advance one step for each of your houses behind that wall, and two steps for houses owned by other players).
Advancing on that track gives access to scoring opportunities, such as the ability to fulfill high-value contracts or to acquire different types of spices. This means that if you are pursuing a strategy based on fulfilling contracts (which require combinations of scrolls and trading goods) or on collecting spices (which are acquired at the caravansary buildings), you also have to build walls and possibly defend other players' houses in order to advance more quickly on the track.
On the other hand, if you are focusing on some other strategy, such as advancing on the mosques track or sending your people to the palace for end round scoring, you might get someone else to build a wall around your houses instead.
I kept tuning and playtesting, with smaller and smaller changes every time, until the game almost converged into what it is today.
The Road to Publication
A dear friend of mine who was in my regular playtest group joined Osprey Games as a developer and took my prototype with him. The people at Osprey really liked it, and at the end of June 2019 — on my last day in the UK before moving back to Italy — I signed a publishing contract with them. We kept fine-tuning the game for a few more months and also came up with a challenging solo mode.
I had a very good relationship with the developers at Osprey Games. They kept me involved on the small tweaks and adjustments that improved the game in various ways, and I kept bringing the game to various gatherings for further playtesting until I was really happy with the way it played.
Finally, Ian O'Toole did an amazing job in illustrating the game with very vibrant and colorful art that brings the magnificent city of Merv to its original glory.
I now look forward to its release in late November 2020, although, sadly, this time I won't be able to play it with the public in the halls of SPIEL...
Fabio Lopiano Read more »
- Fight Free Radicals Thanks to the Antioxidants in Coffee Traders
That thought came to mind when I ran across Free Radicals, the first game to be published from designer Nathan Moll, which WizKids plans to release in 2021. Here's an overview of this 2-5 player game that plays in 60-90 minutes:In Free Radicals, players take control of one of ten fully asymmetrical factions, each with its own path to earn resources, power, and the knowledge stored in the "Free Radicals", which are giant mysterious objects that appeared around the world, causing a huge evolutionary leap in technology. You might play as the merchants, using action points to travel to different markets, and grow in influence and efficiency; the Couriers, using your drones to pick up and deliver valuable goods; the Entertainers, using card placement and abilities to maximize powerful abilities; or one of seven other entirely unique factions!
Players also interact through the main board, where they can visit each other's buildings and try to unlock the technology in one of the free radicals. You can even help your opponents' research in return for influence and other rewards!
Capstone Games has a reputation for releasing heavy games that feature an economic element, such as Arkwright (the title with which it debuted in 2016), The Ruhr, Pipeline, and Wildcatters.
The designers of that latter title — Rolf Sagel and André Spil — now have a new design coming from Capstone in June 2021: Coffee Traders, a game for 3-5 players that takes 120-150 minutes and that includes "over 650 components" as Capstone boasts in its announcement. Here's a summary of the game's setting, with the rulebook scheduled to be released on December 1, 2020:Read more »Thousands of coffee farmers all over the world support their families by using small stretches of hillside land for their coffee plantations. Farmers work day in and day out for very little, but the future of coffee farming is bright. Fair Trade organizations strive to improve living conditions for these farmers by helping them set up cooperatives. This enables them to establish better pricing agreements and take out loans for new plantations, all to help provide education and improve the quality of their lives, families, societies, and environment.
In Coffee Traders, set in 1970s Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, the delicious Arabica coffee beans farmers harvest are sold in Antwerp — and all over the world — to coffee roasters large and small. Work with your competitors to develop the regions you see fit for the best coffee beans while keeping a watchful eye on the market. Construct buildings to help your Fair Trade coffee plantations thrive while enhancing your network for trading coffee. Will your plantations fall to ruin, or will you rise to the top and become the world's greatest coffee trader?
- VideoTell Weird Stories, Race in Three Dimensions, and Create Peacock PlumesReality Shift by Mat Hanson and Academy Games, which leans heavily into a Tron vibe for a 3D racing game in which you can shift blocks to create new paths for your lightbike, obstruct existing paths, or crush opponents to force them to respawn elsewhere.
The Kickstarter campaign (link) includes options for a regular game and a deluxe one so that you can take the nine cubes in each game and combine them to create more challenging racetracks — although I would think you could do this with two regular games as well. Reality Shift is due out in mid-2021.
• U.S. publisher Calliope Games is Kickstarting (link) a trio of releases due out in Q4 2021, with Brendan Hansen's Enchanted Plumes being a 2-6 player game in which you collect cards in a peacock tail-shaped array, with the longest row of cards counting against you and everything else being positive. You can make the first row of a plume as wide or as narrow as you wish, and each subsequent row must have exactly one fewer card and the color of a card in this row must be among the cards in the row immediately above it; if you complete a plume by placing a row of one card, you receive a bonus equal to the number of cards in the plume.
Zach Weisman's Allegory is another 2-6 player card game, but in this game you bid to collect cards in three themes, with you allocating your winning bid for a card on the remaining cards on display. Instead of placing a bid in a future round, you can pass to claim the card with the most money on it; that card might be worth negative points, but at least you now have money! When a player claims their tenth card, the game ends at the end of that round, then everyone scores only for their lowest-valued theme.
Mass Transit from Chris Leder and Kevin Rodgers is a co-operative game for 1-6 players in which dual-use cards create train, bus, and ferry routes out of a city and allow you to move commuters along those routes. If you get everyone home to the suburbs before all the cards are played, you win.
Tales of the Fabulist is the first release from Stacey Welchley, Jason C. Hughes, and Monkey Gun Games, and it falls into the category of "party game that you likely won't keep score on", similar to Concept and others. Here's an overview of this 2-10 player game that's due out (KS link) in the first half of 2021:Tales of the Fabulist is an interactive fiction device, a party game, an improvisation system, a drinking game, an ice-breaker at retreats, and an excellent gift for the young and old. You don't have to be William Shakespeare to have a great time making sh*t up regaling your loved ones with a fabricated fable. Here's how easy it is:
After the decks are shuffled and cards are dealt, The Fabulist begins by introducing the characters in the context of a grand quest upon which the characters will embark. The Fabulist has sixty seconds to weave the beginning of the tale, then play rotates clockwise. The next player selects a plot twist (PT) out of their hand and places it on the included playmat in the next open PT space. That player continues the story for 30 seconds, working in the words or phrases on the newly played card into the story. When the time runs out, draw a new plot twist card. Play continues clockwise. The lucky person who places the final plot twist card has sixty seconds to wrap up the story as best they can.
Now that the fable has ended, everyone gets to suggest a "Moral of the Story". The player with the funniest moral wins the quest card. If your group is competitive, the person with the most quest cards at the end of the session wins.
• SquareOne is a board game console from Wizama that's intended to merge board games and video games, with you having physical elements that you do stuff with while the console shows the results of actions, resolves die rolls, and does other things depending on whatever game you're playing.
The device is pricey at €500 (KS link), and it's launching with licenses for titles such as the virtual trading card game Urban Rivals and the giant board Cthulhu Wars, in addition to original games such as Crystal Bay by Roberto Fraga, who visited the BGG booth at FIJ 2020 to demo this design.
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- Interview: Train Games and War Games with Tom Russell
by Neil Bunkerfirst published on Diagonal Move on October 19, 2020. —WEM]
Tom Russell, co-founder of independent publisher Hollandspiele, joins Neil Bunker from Diagonal Move to discuss her unique take on game design and publishing.
DM: Hi, Tom, thank you for joining us. You are known for three things: unique takes on historical war games, train games, and co-founding publishing company Hollandspiele. Can you tell us the story of how you got to where you are today?
TR: Well, what it ultimately comes down to is, I'm the luckiest girl in the world.
It's not that I didn't work hard because I did, and not that I'm untalented because I do all right for myself, but there are plenty of folks who work a lot harder and are a heck of a lot more talented who don't get the same traction that I did.
Mary (Holland-Russell, co-founder of Hollandspiele) and I get to publish board games for a living, as our full-time gig. More than that, we get to do it while making very weird, very niche games in a very weird, very niche way — and that really comes down to one lucky break or coincidence after another.
For example, one of the earliest games I had published was Northern Pacific through Winsome Games. That game brought my work to Cole Wehrle's attention, and so years later as we were prepping to get Hollandspiele off the ground, I could write to Cole and ask him whether he could do a game for us, and he would have some idea who I was.
That game was An Infamous Traffic, and it brought our company to the attention of a wider audience, which ultimately made our model sustainable as a full-time endeavor.
Now, we stumbled upon that model because Mary and I worked for a publisher who had a somewhat similar model, which ultimately came about because of a magazine wargame I had done for another publisher.
One thing lead to another, and I can trace similar interweaving chains of coincidence and cause-and-effect all leading up to the present moment. I will say that I tried to position myself to take advantage of those opportunities.
By being interested in a lot of different things, I increased the probability that those opportunities might arise.
Our work with the other publisher gave us the model, and Cole's game gave us a head start, but we needed to put in the work and have the skill-set to grow our business and its audience.
DM: Your historical wargames cover a wide range of eras, game mechanisms, and player count. Can you describe your process for developing these three strands within a single game?
TR: These historical designs start with the history and with research. Most of this research is "passive", in that I'm not reading up on a topic trying to make a game.
If I go into it with my game designer hat on, I'm going to be looking for mechanisms or chrome and what-not, going to be focusing on the details, but what I'm looking for is the big picture, a general understanding of the topic so that I'm reasonably conversant in it.
Maybe this turns into a game, and maybe it doesn't. It helps that I'm interested in a lot of different things, so I read up on a lot of different things.
Once I decide to do a game on a topic, my research gets a bit deeper and more detailed — then I wait for the idea to fully form in my brain.
I don't start making counters or writing rules or any of that, not until I have a complete, coherent, and cohesive picture of exactly what I want the game to be, what I want it to feel like, what I want to look like, what tensions I want to be present, what thesis I want to express.
When all that is clear in my head, then I start working on the game, and I keep working on it until it looks like that picture. Sometimes that picture forms very quickly; sometimes it takes a while.
For example, in 2019 we released both The Toledo War and Westphalia. The Toledo War took maybe two or three days to come together. Westphalia took ten years.
Regarding the question of player count, it's actually pretty simple. I tend to think of player counts as falling into three buckets: solo games, two-player games, and games for three-plus.
Each of these to me suggest a very different space to explore. A three-plus game is a game about alliances and shared incentives. A two-player game is very much about direct and bitter conflict, control of tempo, control of the balance of the game itself.
I wouldn't be comfortable calling a solitaire game a "puzzle" or an efficiency game, but there are elements of that in my solo designs.
You'll likely never see me do a game these days that scales from one to six or from two to five because each of these experiences are so distinct that for me there isn't really much overlap between these kinds of games.
DM: Your games share many mechanisms with other games within the historical wargame genre, yet will often have something that sets them apart (a stack of steps, three draw cup system, a focus on logistics). Are these "twists" born from a desire to innovate, to better reflect a historical period, personal design challenges, something else?
TR: Honestly, it just feels natural to me to do it the way that I do it. I like having clever mechanisms, of course, and am reasonably proud of some of the things I've come up with, but I'm not necessarily trying to be "twisty".
I do feel like a good historical game needs to have a thesis or view its subject through a lens. It's not enough, I think, to have a game be "a game about the American Revolution", but "a game about the function of logistics during the American Revolution" is worth doing.
In the end, it's a matter of what you're trying to say and how you're trying to say it.
DM: Complex historical train games are another niche genre with a devoted fan base. How would you describe their appeal to an interested passerby?
TR: Well, I don't know if I'd call train games "complex". Most train games are actually very simple. Even something like the 18xx, which has a daunting reputation, isn't usually very complicated in terms of rules overhead.
I also wouldn't call them "historical". At least personally I don't approach the train games in the same way as I do the wargames. I'm not expressing a thesis, but creating a sort of a mechanical exercise to explore player dynamics.
That's probably the key I would zero in on: the interaction between players. Sure, I'd talk about building the track and investing in stocks, but I also know there are people who couldn't care less about that.
These are very competitive, very interactive games in which each player's portfolio gets hopelessly entangled with that of other players; everything you do to help yourself has the potential to help someone else, everything you do to hurt someone else might hurt you.
Every action matters, and if you make a mistake, it can sink your position and make it irrecoverable. That kind of experience isn't for everyone, but I think the people who would be into that would recognize that if you described it to them.
DM: When creating a series of historical train games, are there specific issues that you model with each game and how do you reflect these in a design?
TR: I've done several train games, of course, and in a way many of them are iterative, expanding upon what I did the last time. But each game is generally its own thing, conceived for its own reason and with its own emphasis.
Northern Pacific was intended to focus on shared incentives and chains of "if I do this, she'll do that".
Irish Gauge was, I think, an attempt to create a simple, streamlined, introductory take on Winsome's action selection-style cube rail games. I say "think" because unusually the entire game sprung forth fully-formed like Athena over the course of an hour while I was stuck in traffic, so I didn't so much go into Irish Gauge with a goal in mind as I decided that was the goal after the fact!
Trans-Siberian Railroad is a messy sort of game in which I was trying to do something heavier and a bit more capricious. This introduced the "track-leasing" mechanism that ran through my next three games. Those next three games are also interested in exploring more co-operative rather than destructive play patterns in the context of a competitive game.
Iberian Gauge has numbered shares, and players who are invested in a company build one track per share according to the order in which those shares are bought.
London & Northwestern is unique in that you can invest only in other player's companies and that their stock values only go up, never down.
The Soo Line is the last of those track-leasing games, and it's the weirdest of the bunch. It very deliberately breaks some of the "rules" of "good train game design".
For example, in games where majority shareholders make all decisions for a company, you want at least as many companies as you have players. Well, this is a game for up to five players with only three companies, which means that some players take a less active role, having to make their fortunes as pure investors.
Asymmetry is common in train games, and sometimes some companies are kinda rubbish, but here the three companies are rubbish in wildly different ways.
Some people like it. Some people hate it. That's to be expected as it's a deliberately abrasive game.
The newest choo-choo game that I have pulling into the station is Dual Gauge, and this is a multi-map train game system. How this happened is that Mary told me I needed to do a new train game every year, and I thought to myself, "Wow, that sounds like a lot of work — but if I do a system, I can do the base game this year, then just do a couple of maps every year to fulfill Mary's requirement."
Well, Mary was really happy to hear about me doing a system that could have expansions, but she told me that this didn't cut the mustard, and that I will also be on the hook for new standalone train games each year.
Dual Gauge borrows some elements of the 18xx — track shared by all companies, blocking by way of placing stations, buying trains and running routes, some of those trains become obsolete, and a two-dimensional stock market — but it's very much a cube rails game at heart (despite not having any cubes). It is, I think, its own thing, and the system is robust enough that each map should have some unusual tweaks and fresh challenges.
DM: Do the train and military game strands of your design career have more in common than meets the eye at first glance — simulation concepts, for example?
TR: Not really. The historical games are built to explore or express a thesis through a model. Sometimes this is a very serious subject where what I want to express is very important to me; This Guilty Land is about the complicity of compromise in oppression. Sometimes the subject is less serious, or at least less immediate: With It Or On It is a coarse-grain model of the advantages and disadvantages of hoplite formations.
The train games, on the other hand, are purely about mechanisms and player dynamics, and playing with genre conventions and expectations.
DM: Hollandspiele is a small, independent company in a crowded field. How do you manage to stand out from, and compete with, other companies?
TR: Well, the secret is that we don't really "compete" with anyone. We're off to the side of the market proper, catering to more adventurous tastes.
We use a print-on-demand model: You order the game from us, pay us for it, we turn around and pay our printer, who manufactures and ships you the game. So these games are essentially made one at a time. We never "over-produce", never have any inventory to sell off.
We don't deal with distributors, don't sell games at conventions. We're completely insulated from all the hubbub, and our model allows us to tackle more unusual and less commercial topics and approaches.
There's an audience for that which has traditionally been underserved, and I think that's a large part of our success.
DM: In addition to your own games, Hollandspiele also releases games by other designers. From a publisher’s point of view, what makes a game stand out from the masses? Are there any games that you are particularly glad to have been able to release?
TR: We're mostly looking for a game with a point of view or a strong authorial voice.
We're proud of all our releases, but the jewels in the crown, as it were, have been the aforementioned An Infamous Traffic, which went out of print last year, and Erin Escobedo's Meltwater, which we're still printing.
Both games were strong sellers, which is always nice, both were well-received critically, and both expanded our audience, bringing eyes to our other titles.
DM: What do you think the future holds for niche historical games? Do you feel they will remain in a niche genre, or will they become more (or return to the) mainstream as their mechanisms and design ideas become more frequently seen in popular games?
TR: I mean, "niche" games are gonna be niche games. That's not to say that historical games don't have broader crossover appeal, and there have definitely been strides toward making historical games more approachable to that wider audience.
I'm sure that this will continue to be the case. It's just not something I'm particularly interested in, and I have the luxury of just doing whatever the heck I want.
DM: Do you have any advice for aspiring designers and publishers?
TR: I make weird, brittle, abrasive games that alienate and frustrate people, so I'm not sure if anyone looking to be successful in this field should be listening to my advice. Read more »
- The Spice Definitely Flows in Dune: ImperiumDire Wolf's upcoming release of Dune: Imperium, designed by Paul Dennen, the creator of Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure.
While on the lighter side of my gaming spectrum, I've always enjoyed playing all versions of Clank!, especially Clank! Legacy. You throw Dune, deck-building, worker placement, and Paul Dennen into a blender, and before I even experience what comes out, my ears are perked and my eyes are wide. Thus, I had to reach out to Dire Wolf expressing my interest in a review copy of Dune: Imperium, which they graciously hooked me up with so that I could navigate folded space, taste the spice firsthand, and share my initial impressions.
Dune: Imperium is a hybrid deck-building and worker placement game for 1 to 4 players that plays in about 60-120 minutes. Each player represents a leader of one of the Great Houses of the Landsraad, competing to earn the most victory points by defeating rivals in combat, forming alliances with the four powerful factions on Dune (Emperor, Spacing Guild, Bene Gesserit and Fremen), and cleverly establishing your political influence.
Each player starts the game with a leader board corresponding to their particular leader, which has two different abilities, unique from other players. You also have two agents (workers), a starting deck of cards (same for all players), some wooden cubes representing troops, and a few other components to form your supply. There's also a card market as expected in a deck-building game, and a general supply area of the main resources of the game: spice, solari, and water.
Dune: Imperium is played over a series of rounds, with each round consisting of five phases: 1) Round Start, 2) Player Turns, 3) Combat, 4) Makers and 5) Recall. At the end of a round, if any player has reached 10 or more victory points or if the conflict deck is empty (after ten rounds), the game ends and whoever has the most victory points wins.
You start each round by first revealing a new conflict card, then each player draws a hand of five cards. Conflict cards show the rewards you'll be competing for during the current round should you decide to deploy troops to the conflict.
Next you jump into the player turns phase, which is the meat and potatoes of Dune: Imperium, or shall I say, the cinnamon and nutmeg. In this phase, players take either an agent turn or a reveal turn in clockwise order until all players have completed their Rreveal turn. This is where the cards in your deck come into play, and you have to decide which cards (if any) you'll use to place agents on the board, versus which cards you'll save to reveal in order to gain resources and/or combat bonuses.
During an agent turn, you play a card from your hand face-up in front of you and use it to send one of your available agents to an unoccupied space on the board where you gain access to that particular location's effects. The location icons on the left side of the cards indicate which locations you can send an agent to with that particular card. Then the agent box on the card may grant you some additional bonus effects as well when you use that card for an agent turn. When you use the "Worm Riders" card for an agent turn, you gain two spice.
There's a decent variety of locations on the board with various effects that allow you to pursue a plethora of strategies as you play, especially when combo'd with different card effects. Like most worker placement games, there will be many moments where someone beats you to a spot you were hoping to use, but considering several cards have multiple location options, you're likely to find a clever back-up plan and work around it.
Some card and location effects allow you to gain resources, draw extra cards, trash cards, and recruit troops. There's a spot where you can spend solari to gain a Mentat (extra temporary worker) for the round, and if you're able to pony up even more solari, you can grab your third agent.
You can also gain devious intrigue cards from certain location effects in addition to other ways. The intrigue cards add a healthy dose of spice to otherwise familiar mechanisms and are one of my favorite elements of Dune: Imperium. There are plot, combat, and endgame intrigue cards that come into play at various points in the game, but the best part is that your opponents have no clue what type of card(s) you have and when and how it will impact them; it's so fun to keep everyone guessing. You might have a plot card that lets you spend a certain amount of spice to gain a victory point. If you reveal that at the right time, that one card could push you over the edge to win the game. On the other hand, you could have a beasty combat card that you reveal to push you ahead of your opponents during combat when someone else thought they were going to take it. The intrigue cards are mighty juicy...mighty juicy!
When you place your agent on one of the four factions' board spaces, you gain the location and agent box card effects as usual, but you also gain an influence bump on the corresponding influence track. You gain a victory point when you hit the second space on each of the influence tracks, then if you're the first person to get to the fourth space on a given influence track, you gain the corresponding alliance token and get another victory point...but don't celebrate too fast.
You can manipulate faction influence quite a few different ways, and it adds an interesting layer to Dune: Imperium. Some players might focus on a single influence track and try to rush to the fourth space before everyone to snag an alliance token quickly, while others might try to just get to the second spot on all four tracks to lock in those 4 victory points. Some card effects are very powerful if you have an alliance token with a particular faction, and there's even a space on the board that you must have at least two influence with the Fremen in order to use. Gaining influence always seems pretty important, but how you approach it and how competitive it gets will vary from game to game and lend itself to exciting moments.
While you're thinking about gaining influence, try not to slip too much on the combat front. This is another excellent way to gain resources, influence, and most importantly, victory points.
Certain locations allow you to recruit troops from your supply to your garrison area, and also locations that will allow you to deploy troops from your garrison area into the conflict area. If a location has the combat icon in the bottom right corner, you can always deploy up to two troop cubes from your garrison to the conflict area. In addition, some locations with the combat icon allow you to recruit, and in those cases, you can move as many of the newly recruited troops from your supply directly to the conflict area, which is a great way to get more troops ready for combat. This can sometimes scare off your opponents, but if you deploy a ton of troops and your opponents decide not to deploy any, you're basically wasting troops that you could have saved in your garrison for future conflicts where they'd be better served. Figuring out when to deploy troops and how many troops to deploy is a tough decision.
During your reveal turn, you also set your combat strength for the round if you have at least one troop in the conflict area. Each troop cube has a strength of 2, and you'll add any additional strength for each sword on your revealed cards. Then you set your strength on the combat track and place all the cards you played and revealed into your discard pile. After all players have completed their reveal turns, let the battle begin!
After combat is resolved, in the makers phase spice accumulates on certain board spaces if no one moved an agent there that round. This is similar to some other worker placement games like Agricola, where it entices players to move to those spaces in future rounds.
If the game end hasn't been triggered, you take all your agents back and rotate the first player market clockwise — but if a player has 10 or more victory points or the conflict deck is empty, you resolve any endgame intrigue cards, then whoever has the most victory points wins.
I do wish there was a better system for determining turn order other than just rotating the first player marker clockwise, with player turns going in clockwise order. It's certainly simple and perhaps that was the intention since there's already a lot to think about in the game, but for worker placement games I tend to prefer more interesting decisions when it comes to determining turn order. Turn order is really important, as you read above in my Great Flat spice pile-up story, so I do wish the players had more control over it.
I managed to play Dune: Imperium at all players counts and enjoyed them all, but if I had to pick, I preferred the two-player game the least. Solo and two-player games are played with AI opponents driven by a deck of cards with minimal rules that are easy to pick up, and therefore pretty smooth to play. There's also a handy app available that streamlines solo and two-player games, but regardless whether you use the deck or app, you'll be zipping along after a round or two with your subtly, intrusive AI rivals.
My two-player game just lacked a bit of the tension I felt playing with three and four players — and even solo. In the solo game, you play against two AI opponents and they can score points in various ways, which made me feel the pressure I feel playing three- and four-player games. The two-player game, on the other hand, adds a single AI opponent that doesn't score victory points, so you're competing for victory points only against your human opponent, which was fine, but not as exciting to me. I liked it; I just didn't love it as much as the other player counts.
Overall, I'm really digging Dune: Imperium. There aren't necessarily any ground-breaking, new mechanisms, but the way these familiar mechanisms are blended together is awesome and works well. I would say this is only a few clicks above the complexity level of Clank!, but it offers such a different and deeper strategic experience. No disrespect to Clank!, of course; I love me some Clank!, but Dune: Imperium feels more mature and sophisticated gameplaywise.
I enjoyed the decision space of figuring out which cards to use for agent turns versus which cards to save for reveal turns, especially as you start incorporating fancier cards with juicier effects into your deck. Lots of cards synergize well together or with your level of influence with different factions, so it's fun to see what kind of card combos people pull off. I also like that you have a lot of different opportunities for drawing cards mid-round. That can open some exciting opportunities during agent turns or seriously boost your reveal turn.
I've already touched on how much I love what the intrigue cards bring to the table, but I also really love the tight victory point system and having combat rewards to consider each round. Each and every victory point is important and meaningful, and everyone knows it, so it makes the game feel tense. It's great that there are several different ways to score victory points, too, so players can pursue different strategies for scoring and it feels equally competitive in a really fun way.
There were multiple games in which I had a steady lead in the early game, then as newer players got the swing of it, their scoring discs crept closer and closer, gradually closing the gap, making me feel all sorts of anxious and stressed, but in the best way possible, all up until a climatic ending. There were many "Ohhhhhhh!" moments as we each tried to outwit each other with intrigue cards or by stealing alliance tokens. I love when a game sucks me in and makes me feel that way.
Kudos to Paul Dennen and Dire Wolf for taking control of the spice, then packing it into Dune: Imperium! Read more »
- VideoWiz-War, Dragonland, and Coconuts Return to the TableSteve Jackson Games announced a new edition of Tom Jolly's classic beer-and-pretzels game Wiz-War, with this title — Wiz-War (9th Edition) for those keeping score — featuring art by Phil Foglio and additional development by Steve Jackson.
SJG hasn't yet revealed how this edition will differ from others, instead noting that it plans to run a Kickstarter to fund this release and that it's doing all of the tooling with the manufacturer beforehand to ensure smoother fulfillment (barring all the usual complications for such things).
An excerpt from SJG's announcement: "We'll tool everything as if all project stretch goals are unlocked, in the hope that there's enough interest in the game to allow us to produce the game as Steve envisions it. Part of our prep work with the factory has been planning out how the stretch goals impact the finished game; this will allow us to reverse steps if some of the stretch goals remain locked at the end of the campaign."
• In September 2020, U.S. publisher Gamelyn Games joined the vast group of publishers with one Knizia title in their catalog thanks to a new edition of Dragonland, which initially appeared from Ravensburger in 2002. Here's an overview of this 2-4 player game for ages 9 and up:Adventure in Dragonland! The dragons store their treasure in the numerous volcanoes, but their treasure is in danger because the volcanoes will soon erupt! To save the treasure, the dragons have asked the dwarves, elves, humans, and magicians for help. Each group competes with the others to be the most successful at gathering treasure for the dragons.
Using strategy and cunning in Dragonland, each player moves their group of companions from volcano to volcano to collect sets of dragon eggs and gemstones. Each player scores points for each gemstone and egg, but extra points for a complete set: egg, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. All their movements are under the control of the tower of destiny, which sometimes arranges for a companion to reach their destination a bit too late. When the last egg is collected, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.
For this edition of Dragonland, some new features have been added, specifically a unicorn mechanism and token and a witch mechanism and token.
Underdog Games has released a new edition of Walter Schneider's Coconuts with — get this — green coconuts. Yes, the brown coconuts of editions past have been replaced with something that won't have players snickering about monkeys flinging poo at one another.
For those not familiar with the game, which originated from Korea Boardgames in 2013, in Coconuts you use a plastic monkey to launch coconuts into cups, which can be in the center of the table or on another player's tableau. When you land a coconut in a cup, you claim it, placing it on your tableau or on top of two cups you already have. If you build a six-cup pyramid, you win instantly; otherwise the game ends when all the coconuts have landed in cups, and whoever has the most coconuts in their cups wins.
One change in this edition is that instead of having special ability cards that can be dealt out to players, once per game each player can choose one of four special actions. This change reduces the number of components, while also giving you control over exactly what you want to do when.
If you want to see how this all works, you can watch this overview video that I recorded in 2014, with my then five-year-old son. I made some nice shots during this explanation! On the down side, I showed my wife this video while preparing this post so that she could go "Awwwwww" over our son, and she said, "Wow, you look so much younger here!" Divorce proceedings are now underway.
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- Getting The Crew Back Together, This Time for a Trip on EarthKOSMOS has started to tease its early 2021 line-up, with the buzziest title likely to be Die Crew: Mission Tiefsee (Mission Deep Sea), a co-operative trick-taking game that's a standalone sequel to Thomas Sing's The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, which won the 2020 Kennerspiel des Jahres and many other awards.
Details are sketchy — these announcements being only teases for now — but here's what we know about this release, which like The Crew is for 3-5 players with special rules for two players:In Die Crew: Mission Tiefsee, you and the other players are on the trail of a great secret. Do your best to lead the entire team to the destination. With each card, you dive deeper and deeper into the darkness of the deep sea. Have you completed another mission? Let's go further!
So, more of the same? If so, that would be fine by me as my time playing The Crew during BGG.CON 2019 was the highlight of the show. (Admittedly, I spent half my waking hours at BGG.CON 2019 playing The Crew, so I had little time for anything else.)
Die Crew: Mission Tiefsee has a release date of March 1, 2021, based on listings on multiple retail sites.
Other titles teased by KOSMOS, with approximate release dates listed, include:
• Raffi Raffzahn, a children's game from Gunter Baars about using a dragon to grab gems from a castle occupied by a wizard bear - 18 January 2021
• Adventure Games: Die Akte Gloom City ("The Gloom City Files") - 30 January 2021
• Jäger der Nacht, a new edition of Yasutaka Ikeda's Shadow Hunters, which KOSMOS first released in 2010; this new edition features new art and small changes to some cards, but otherwise identical gameplay - 8 March 2021
• Harry Potter: Verteidigung gegen die Dunklen Künste, which is a German edition of the two-player dueling and deck-building game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defence Against the Dark Arts - 8 March 2021
• Welcher Dino leuchtet da? ("Which Dino Shines Here?"), a children's game for which we have only a title - 8 March 2021
• Catan: Das Duell – Finstere & Goldene Zeiten ("Dark & Golden Times"), this being a collection of six theme sets to expand Rivals for Catan, allowing you to fend off barbarians, discover new islands, and more - 8 March 2021
• Die Geschichte vom kleinen Siebenschläfer, der nicht einschlafen konnte ("The Story of the Little Dormouse Who Couldn't Sleep"), a children's game by Heinz Meister - 8 March 2021
• Monster 12, which has no details other than being authored by Peter Wichmann, best known for NMBR 9 - 15 March 2021
• Ubongo! Brain Games, with this being a collection of solitaire placement puzzles by Grzegorz Rejchtman - 10 May 2021
• Das NEINhorn, a reveal-cards-and-say-the-right-things-quickly design based on the children's book by Marc-Uwe Kling - 10 May 2021
• EXIT: Das Spiel + Puzzle – Das dunkle Schloss, another jigsaw puzzle and game combination - 10 May 2021
• Harry Potter: Der Aufstieg der Todesser, a German edition of Harry Potter: Death Eaters Rising - 11 May 2021
• EXIT: Das Spiel – Die Entführung in Fortune City ("The Abduction in Fortune City") - 12 May 2021
• EXIT: Das Spiel – Das verfluchte Labyrinth ("The Cursed Labyrinth") - Q2 2021
• EXIT: Das Spiel - Adventskalender - 6 September 2021 Read more »
- VideoGame Preview: Star Wars: Unlock!, or "It's a Trap!"Unlock! series of escape room games from Cyril Demaegd and Space Cowboys has had huge success since it debuted in February 2017, being beat to market by only a few months by the Exit: The Game series of escape room games from Inka and Markus Brand and KOSMOS. Apparently everyone wanted to escape from things starting in late 2016, and the trend hasn't stopped yet.
Space Cowboys has released eight Unlock! collections, with each collection having three independent "escape room" scenarios, and now the publisher has grabbed one of the IP granddaddies on the market to release Star Wars: Unlock!, a trilogy of escape room scenarios set in a galaxy far, far away, with Jason Little providing design work.
Each of the scenarios puts you in the role of one of the three Star Wars "factions" — Rebels, Imperial forces, scum & villainy — and you're given a lodestar mission and a few details on the situation, then placed on a bantha that's slapped and sent on its way.
The scenarios all use the Unlock! game engine: You combine blue and red objects by summing their numbers, then seeing whether the sum matches a card in the deck; you use machines by entering their number in the Star Wars: Unlock! app that you must download, then doing...something; and you must find four-digit codes to get you past certain obstacles and make your final escape. You're confronted by logic puzzles and observation puzzles of all types, with the app providing hints as needed as well as challenges that would be difficult or impossible to present in a paper format.
I know some folks hate games that require apps, but some designers are using them in smart ways to provide an experience you couldn't have otherwise. That said, while the box lists this game for 1-6 players, you will need at least two players to complete one of the challenges in scenario #2 in the manner intended. (If you're playing solo, you'll get the answer immediately and miss out on silly app fun.)
Knowledge of Star Wars is not required to play out these scenarios, but if you have it, you'll likely lean on that knowledge in ways both good and bad. In the second scenario, you're searching for your astromech droid (among other things), and the person I was playing with said, "Well, if you have an astromech droid, that means you probably need to [INFORMATION REDACTED]." His assumption was correct, which probably saved us time getting past a certain obstacle.
In another scenario, however, we had a vehicle, and I thought, "Oh, we can just use it to move to X" — but when I looked at the remaining cards once we had finished that scenario, I discovered that my assumption had jumped us past many things that we should have revealed with in-game clues. Oops.
The nature of escape room games is fascinating in that you start with the rules of how they work and a (possibly vague) goal, with all the stuff between your starting point and that goal being a foggy muddle, yet after you finish, you realize (yet again) that exactly one path existed between that starting point and that goal. You just had to do the work of sweeping that path clean, then following it.
Games are weird.
Youtube Video Read more »
- Orcs Invade Caverna, and Mr. Jack Returns to New YorkLookout Games hosted a Twitch stream (now gone) in which it revealed first details of a new expansion for Uwe Rosenberg's Caverna: The Cave Farmers, an expansion called Frantic Fiends that's scheduled to debut in October 2021.
Lookout's Hanno Girke says, "There is a horde of Orcs invading, and you better take care of them before they enter your dwellings. Now adventuring gets a new twist as you can go out and hunt Orcs." BGG user Niklas Thomas watched the German stream, and he offers a translated summary in English here.
Girke adds, "[W]e can't tell at the moment if we're going to develop it into full balance with the first expansion [The Forgotten Folk]. It might work out, but no promises. It might be too much on some accounts."
• Another SPIEL.digital 2020 revelation was the announcement of a new 2021 edition of Mr. Jack in New York, a design from Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc that Swiss publisher Hurrican first released in 2009.
The material below shows the new, not-yet-final look from Pierô. Cathala has stated that nothing has changed regarding the gameplay.
Read more »
- Take Charge as a Monarch in Brazil: Imperial, Then Explore Paper Dungeons
One of those items involves Brazil: Imperial from designer Zé Mendes, a game that was first announced in 2018 as a potential crowdfunding project titled "Brazil: Mundus Imperial". The game has been in development for a while and has now been given a SPIEL '21 release date, with the game being released in Brazil by MeepleBR and MUNDUS and in Germany by Hans im Glück.
Here's an overview of this 1-4 player game, which I've seen listed with competing playing times of 60-90 minutes and 120-150 minutes:Take on the role of one of the great monarchs of the past, and show your valor! You will arrive in a vast and rich territory, but the road to the prosperity is filled with challenges.
In Brazil: Imperial, you need to construct buildings, manage resources, explore the land, create trade, acquire the support of the greatest personalities of the country, and recruit a powerful army to protect your interest against the rival states. If you make the right choices, you can complete missions to progress to a more advanced era, receiving new interesting options of development and victory points. In the end, the best monarch receives the title of Brazilian Emperor and constructs a new era of prosperity, enlightenment and peace!
In more detail, while playing on a modular board, you use a combination of worker placement, area majority, and individual powers to construct an empire in Brazil between the 16th and 19th centuries. You start by choosing one of the available monarchs and its personal game board and components; some monarchs are strong in combat, while others prioritize science or exploration. You receive tasks that advance you to a new era when you complete them, giving you access to more power constructions as you move into the second and third eras of the game, then you choose a starting point on the shared map.
On each turn, you can participate in an action phase and a movement phase. You manage actions on your individual game board, and you have these seven choices:
—Summon: Summon one military unit to explore and defend your territory.
—Frame: Buy cards that represent famous historic figures to receive special powers and victory points.
—Build: Construct farms, mines, cities, and other structures to generate resources and do other things.
—Renovate: Overhaul an old building to produce new resources.
—Manufacture: Produce basic resources — wood, sugar cane, cotton, or coffee — to receive victory points, improve your "action arches", and have raw material for more valuable products.
—Port: Go to the port to receive a small amount of basic resources.
—Market: Sell your basic resources to receive gold and special cards to improve your empire.
During the movement phase, you can explore hidden places or attack other players. For combat, you check the power of the troops involved in the conflict to determine the winner, with cards being able to modify these values. Once a player completes their goals in the third era, the game ends and players tally their scores.
Brazil: Imperial was developed with the concept of it being "Euro X", a new style of game that combines Eurogames (in which you collect and manage resources) and 4x games (in which you explore, expand, exploit and exterminate). Each game you can focus on resource management, combat, or a combination of both, depending on your choice of monarch and the interaction with other players.
Paper Dungeons: A Dungeon Scrawler Game, a Leandro Pires design for 1-8 players that is available in Portuguese and that will be released in English in (approximately) Q3 2021, according to distributor Alley Cat Games.
Here's an overview:Read more »Prepare your adventurers for a challenging dungeon exploration in Paper Dungeons, a roll-and-write game that seeks to reproduce the feel of a dungeon-crawler.
In the game, you control a classic group of medieval adventurers: warrior, wizard, cleric, and rogue. In each of the nine rounds, you select three of the six rolled dice and use these results to raise the level of your characters, produce magic items, obtain healing potions, and explore the dungeon to face challenges and collect treasure. You'll also find three large monsters waiting in the dungeon, and you can fight them for glory.
In the end, whoever collects the most glory wins.
- VideoDefeat the Villains, Run the Court, and Become the Dark Knight
• At SPIEL '19, U.S. publisher White Wizard Games announced that it had picked up KAPOW!, a dice-building game in which superheroes and supervillains beat up one another that was originally Kickstarted in November 2017 by L4 Studios.
One year later, White Wizard is now funding a KS campaign (link) of its own for delivery of KAPOW! Volume 1 and KAPOW! Volume 2 in December 2021. Each game is a two-player-only title that includes three heroes and three villains, with the combined sets allowing for games with up to four players. Here's an overview of the game from SPIEL '19:
• And here's another game that first appeared from one publisher, then was reborn from another: Atlantis Rising, which debuted in 2012 from Z-Man Games to a decent reception, but which has received far more acclaim for the second edition released by Elf Creek Games in 2019. Now designer Galen Ciscell is upping the challenge of saving your island people from sinking beneath the waves in Atlantis Rising: Monstrosities, with new threats like Medusa and harpies, new tools like magic items and allies, and new content for games with 1-3 players. (KS link)
Vabanque, a bluffing and gambling game from Leo Colovini and Bruno Faidutti. Over four rounds, 3-6 players increase the amount of money available at the casino tables, trying to grab the cash without falling into an opponent's trap and giving them the money instead.
Here's an overview of the new edition being released by Igiari in 2021 from a preview BGG got at FIJ 2020:
• Hoop Godz is the second title from designers Hamu Dennis and Omari Akil and publisher Board Game Brothas, with this two-player game being a simulation of 3-on-3 street basketball, with players spending juice to move, pass, boost, play action cards, and grab G.O.A.T. rule-breaking cards — although juice you spend on these latter cards is locked until you score, so if you spend fruitlessly, you'll need to rest more to keep your juice in circulation.
The Kickstarter campaign (link) is also helping to fund a reprint of Rap Godz, BGB's first release in 2020.
• To swing into news of titles just announced, here's a trio of games that Cryptozoic Entertainment is bringing to market, with the concepts for these designs apparently being based on the work of Australian illustrator Steven Rhodes, who creates parodies of children's books from the 1970s and 1980s, then sells those designs on T-shirts and other items.
• To end with the same subject matter with which we began, Cryptozoic is also planning to run a Kickstarter in early 2021 for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Board Game, a solitaire game designed by Morgan Dontanville (a former editor at DC Comics) and Daryl Andrews.
Here's a summary of the game's setting, which seems to come directly from the Frank Miller comic book series The Dark Knight Returns from 1986, a series that together with Alan Moore's Watchmen upended the superhero genre:Read more »In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Board Game, you play "The World's Greatest Detective", who's been pulled back from retirement into a gritty Gotham. Do everything you can to beat back a relentless tide of ruthless mutants, cops, and press looking to bring you down. Instead of traditional leveling up, this is a game of attrition. An old Batman tries to survive one final gauntlet, facing old and new villains — such as Two Face, Billy Berserk, and The Joker — and even his most powerful ally, The Man of Steel himself.
The game is playable as standalone "missions" or one epic playthrough in which the results of each mission carry over to the next.
- Avoid Idle Hands, Play Cards to the Beat, and Flip Hello KittyFukutarou of 梟老堂 (Fukuroudou) will present Idle Hands, a.k.a. 悪魔でお仕事, which is for 3-4 players and which will have you trying to take or avoid tricks at various times.
Fukutarou says that English rules will be available by the end of November 2020, but here's a summary of the gameplay for now:In the must-follow trick-taking game Idle Hands, the led suit is determined by an extra card played to the trick from among a player's face-up task cards. The highest card of the led suit wins all the cards, then adds the task card to their hand! Every trick is worth points, but this isn't necessarily a good thing since the 4s and 8s are worth their face value in negative points.
At the end of the game, whoever has the most points — or more frequently the fewest negative points — wins!
• At Game Market, Japanese publisher Oink Games will debut a special "Sanrio characters" edition of its quick-playing, tile-flipping game Nine Tiles from Jean-Claude Pellin. You can watch an overview video of the game here, but the gist of the game is that each player has a 3x3 grid of double-sided tiles, and after a target card is revealed, everyone must flip and move tiles to recreate that pattern and claim the card.
Nine Tiles: Sanrio Characters will include rules in Japanese and English, but will be sold in Japan only, presumably due to licensing restrictions.
• Oink will also debut a new game at the show — Hey Yo: The Card Game to the Beat, a design for 2-10 players by Takashi Saito. Here's a short description that's somewhat minimal on gameplay details:In Hey Yo, you all play cards to a shared music chart so that you can ideally create solid rhythms and score points. The game includes a small dedicated device that you can use to accompany the gameplay, with players needing to play a card when the music indicates this. If you can't play in time to the rhythm, you're penalized, so you must talk quickly to share information and decide which cards to play. (Alternatively, you can play music of your choice to set the rhythm of play for the game.)
Hey Yo includes two identical decks of cards, so instead of playing a co-operative game with 2-5 players, you can have 4-10 players split into teams to compete against one another.
• Hey Yo appears to be a new or modified version of Saito's FiveLines, which he released through his own BrainBrainGames in Nov. 2019. Here's a description of that game, much of which might apply to Hey Yo:Read more »FiveLines is a game played while listening to music, and the active player must play a card according to the rhythm of that music.
Your goal is to co-operate to achieve a high score. On the beat, you play one of your four cards in hand to the end of the line, then draw a new card. If you miss playing on the beat, you'll play one fewer card total and probably miss out on points. Each card has five lines on it, so when placed together, they look like a music score. Sometimes a line is blank, sometimes it has 1-2 colored symbols on it, sometimes it has an X over the colored symbol, and sometimes the symbol has a scoring halo around it.
Once the music ends, you advance from the first card onward with a pawn, stopping whenever you hit a scoring halo. You then count backwards to see how many symbols of that color (shape) there are before you hit an X, with the symbol inside the halo also counting. Sometimes a halo has an "x2" mark to indicate that you double the score for that halo. Some cards consist of nothing more than a "cancel" symbol, which tells you to ignore Xs on either side of that card. Combine your cards to score lots of points, with anything higher than 100 being excellent!
- Cooperatively Infiltrate Human Corporations, Program Your Marbles, and Explore a Volcanic Temple
sneakilycleverly get family and friends into board games, and sometimes there's no better way to do that than bust out a co-operative game. Here are a few 2021 co-op releases that I'm looking forward to trying:
• Cloudspire, Too Many Bones, and Hoplomachus have a new, futuristic sibling on the way! In mid-November 2020, Chip Theory Games launched a Kickstarter campaign (link) for its latest co-op release, burncycle from designers (and cousins) Josh and Adam Carlson.
Here's a description of how it plays and the challenges you'll face as your team of robots tries to take down those corrupt human corporations:A puzzly infiltration game for 1-4 players, burncycle puts you in command of a team of robots in the far future. Their mission: taking down evil, human-run corporations responsible for subjugating AI under their heel. Your team arrives at each corporate headquarters and must sneak inside, shutting down the companies' physical operations as well as their circuitous digital networks. As you search rooms and advance to the higher floors, you'll be rewarded with new items and abilities, but you'll also be challenged by threatening guards, fatal viruses, and the architecture itself, which was built to fight off robotic intruders.
Key to this solo and co-operative experience is the idea of "creative action sequencing". During each round of play, all players contend with a randomly drawn set of programming directives that tell them in what order their bots are allowed to take physical, digital, and command actions. Players can choose to skip over directives at the cost of having an incomplete turn, or they can disobey the directions by paying costly action dice. The best players, however, find a way to work within the "burncycle" — essentially, organizing their actions so that they benefit the team while staying within the directive order.
Each of the corporate headquarters in the game uses a unique neoprene layout on a larger mat, changing the geography of the game to suit your target. Each CEO also has at their disposal a special threat meter, which will trigger new obstacles for your robots as time runs out. If you don't complete the mission quickly, you may end up leaving bots behind, the victims of immobilizing power drains or destructive counterhacking.
Your team wins the game if you complete your objectives on every floor without losing your captain or maxing out your threat level.
More glorious premium poker chips, neoprene play mats, and custom dice, but with a new theme? Sign me up!
Crack the Code is a limited communication, co-operative puzzle game from Sarah Graybill, John Shulters, and Indie Boards & Cards that's being funded on Kickstarter (link) ahead of a planned release in the first half of 2021.
Here's an overview:In Crack the Code, players form a hacker team that tries to build a piece of code before they run out of moves and their program is terminated. Players can see the marbles in front of their teammates, but they cannot see the marbles in front of themselves. Using a series of action cards, they work together to rearrange the marbles to build a certain sequence before they run through the deck.
In slightly more detail, each round you action cards available equal to the number of players plus one, and each player must choose a different action card to use and discard, with the final card being left on the table for the subsequent round. The game will also include a campaign mode.
Sub Terra II: Inferno's Edge is a 1-6 player co-operative adventure game with some strong Indiana Jones vibes from Inside the Box Board Games designed by Tim Pinder and Rose Atkinson.
As a standalone sequel to Pinder's 2017 hit, Sub Terra, Inferno's Edge features a new objective-driven puzzle to solve; ten new specialized explorers, each with a unique style of play; more monsters and more ways to fight back; and a thrillingly explosive finale.
Here's a more detailed overview of the heated situation awaiting you:Read more »Sub Terra II: Inferno's Edge is a co-operative adventure board game. You and up to five friends must explore a tile-based volcano temple to steal a legendary artifact. To get it, you must find the path to the inner sanctum, unlock the secrets within, then escape the way you came.
This is a dangerous place. You need to work as a team to avoid deadly traps, brave scorching lava and defeat the temple's mysterious guardians. Stick together to share your skills, or split up to cover more ground, but be aware that the volcano stirs beneath you, and you're running out of time...
In Sub Terra II: Inferno's Edge, players progressively reveal new tiles, forming the board and mapping the volcanic temple from its sunlit entrance to its fiery core. As players explore the temple, they have to overcome obstacles, avoid hazardous terrain, and face the ferocious guardians of the "artifact". After a player takes actions on their turn, a random hazard activates, making careful planning of actions essential to survival.
Players must collectively locate and obtain 3 "keys" — mysterious objects that are needed to gain entry to the chamber containing the legendary artifact. Your adventures must be quick, though, as the volcano stirs and as the game progresses you get closer to the volcano erupting, flipping tiles to completely inhospitable lava flows that will chase the adventurers from the cave.
- Create Awe with Your Fireworks, and Keep Nessie's Identity a Secretitten released a teensy version of Nessie's True Identity (ネッシーの正体) from designer Naotaka Shimamoto. Now for the Tokyo Game Market scheduled to take place on Nov. 14-15, 2020, itten plans to release a second edition of the game with larger components, reorganized rules, and a few additional items.
Gameplay remains the same, though, and here's how this deduction game for 2+ players plays out:As the only witness to the mythic creature, you are determined to protect Nessie's romance and mystery, while also providing hints to the enthusiasts to promote the creature's popularity. Enthusiasts, get on the search boat to discover Nessie's True Identity! Will the truth be uncovered? Or will the mystery deepen?
To play the game, place the Nessie figure on one end of the table and the ship on the other end, with the five characters W H A T ? lying down between them. If you are the lead player, think of any noun to serve as Nessie's true identity. (Proper nouns are discouraged.) The other players — the Nessie fanatics — now try to guess this identity.
At the start of a round, you give a one-word hint to the hidden identity. Each fanatic then makes one guess about this identity in whatever order they want. If none of the guesses are close to Nessie's identity, move the ship farther away from Nessie and stand up one of the letters; if any guesses are close but not correct, move the ship closer to Nessie, then stand up one of the letters.
If one of the guesses matches the identity, don't reveal this when the player guesses. Instead, at the end of the round after all players have guessed, move the ship adjacent to Nessie. On the count of 3, each fanatic must point to the person who they think gave the correct answer, which might be themselves. If more than half the fanatics identify the correct guess, they win; if not, then you win. If five rounds pass and no one has guessed the correct answer, then you'll all be staring at WHAT? and realizing that the clue giver didn't do a good job.
Nessie's True Identity includes a scoring system in case you want to have everyone be the clue giver once and keep track of points earned over multiple games.
Saori Shibata creates gorgeous-looking games, both for Japanese publisher analog lunchbox (Airship City, passtally, Dazzling Diceline, Orchard Ocean) and now for POLAR POND GAMES, where she is once again paired with Masaki Suga (designer of those aforementioned games) for the release of Yakatabune, a.k.a. 屋形船.
Yakatabune is a two-player-only card game that seems like it has a lot going on in very little space. Here's an overview of this Game Market release:Read more »In Yakatabune, you and another player are rival pyrotechnicians who are competing to prove your mastery in the summer's most anticipated fireworks festival. To do so, you need to place fireworks cards on your side of the river to complete your program cards while attempting to earn the applause of each "yakatabune" — that is, "houseboat" — card by having a majority in that column.
In more detail, to set up lay out the seven yakatabune cards in a row; place three starter fireworks (value 1) on the starting player's side of the board and four starters on the other side in alternating columns. You start with two cards in hand from your deck of 13 cards, and you choose two program cards from the three you're dealt.
On a turn, play a fireworks card on your side of the board in the closest empty space next to a yakatabune on your choice. Your opponent may then use the effect of that fireworks card — swapping two cards, shifting a card to an adjacent space, or flipping a card — on either their cards, your cards, or the yakatabune, depending on the icons depicted on the associated yakatabune. Alternatively, your opponent may decline to use the effect and instead draw a program card.
After you play a card, if you have a program card in hand that matches the pattern of fireworks on your side of the board, you can play that card, take the bonus actions on it to shift one or more of your cards, then play another program card if you now have that pattern.
Next, if the number of cards surrounding a yakatabune equals or exceeds that boat's limit, you sum the fireworks on each side to see who has captured the awe of the viewers on that boat. Mark this boat with an applause token, then turn all of the winning player's fireworks face down. (Face-down cards can still be used to complete many pattern cards.) End your turn by drawing a fireworks card from your deck.
When the game ends after five applause tokens have been placed or the fireworks or program cards run out, players tally their collected awe to see who wins.
- Command the Four Humours, and Push Bugs to Their DoomBoardGameTables.com is closing out a Kickstarter (link) on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 for Kabuto Sumo, a 2-4 player game from Tony Miller, a.k.a. Bearded Rogue on Twitter and a member of the Breaking Into Board Games podcast.
Here's an overview of Kabuto Sumo, which you can get a feel for in second by watching brief videos of the gameplay and which is due out in mid-2021:Spring time in Japan means the return of the rhinoceros beetles — "Kabutomushi", which is Japanese for "helmet bug" — and their athletic contests of dominance. Out in the wild, you can find them butting heads trying to show off their strength and impress their insect friends with their wrestling skills. This is the origin of the phenomenal World Insect Wrestling Championship.
In Kabuto Sumo, you are one of the contending beetles that is battling for supremacy in the ring and your place in the pantheon of legendary wrestlers. The gameplay of Kabuto Sumo resembles the coin-pusher arcade games in which you strategically drop quarters and anxiously anticipate coins cascading off the platform. This game features a similar experience, with you trying to strategically slide pieces onto the board and push the other players out of the ring. It's an exciting combination of dexterity, strategy, and luck.
Cwali to release six titles from Cwali owner/designer Corné van Moorsel over the next three years: Factory Funner, Habitats, Roll to the Top!, BasketBoss, Powerships, and a game to be named later.
In a press release announcing the deal, BGT's president Chad DeShon wrote, "All of the games will receive brand new art and components. Each game's rules will be evaluated for small improvements, but the core gameplay is expected to stay the same... The games match well with the BoardGameTables.com brand of quick-to-teach games with surprising depth."
link) underway is for Four Humours, a bluffing-ish game for 2-6 players from first-time designer Charlie McCarron and publisher Adam's Apple Games.
The artwork by Shirley Gong, who previously illustrated Thrive for Adam's Apple, brings a lot of whimsy and personality to the game. As for the gameplay, here's an overview:Read more »In Four Humours, you are a pharmacist in medieval times, and everyone knows that your personality is determined by an imbalance of your bodily fluids, a.k.a., the four humours:
—Choleric (Yellow bile) - Goal-oriented, decisive, ambitious.
—Sanguine (Red blood) - Talkative, enthusiastic, social.
—Melancholic (Black bile) - Analytical, detail-oriented, reserved.
—Phlegmatic (White phlegm) - Relaxed, peaceful, easy-going.
The kingdom — composed of six map tiles with various locations — is filled with all types of personalities, from choleric sorcerers to phlegmatic peasants. Prove you're the best medieval pharmacist by influencing citizens throughout the kingdom so they can live out their life's ambitions...or lack thereof.
Each turn, you play a color-coded humour token from your hand onto a character on a scene card to influence one of that character's four humours. (Alternatively, play a token onto your personal Midday or Midnight Parties board.) Each character can have one of two humour types played onto it, and you play each token face down so you know the humour of the character, but none of the other players do. Once all characters on two of the four scene cards are covered with humour tokens, all humour tokens are resolved in the following order:
—A lone choleric token wins, whereas two or more are discarded, after which...
—Two or more sanguine tokens win, whereas a single one is discarded, after which...
—Exactly two melancholic win, whereas more than two are discarded and a single one withdraws, after which...
—Any number of phlegmatic tokens win.
Place each winning token on the location in the kingdom that corresponds to that scene. If a melancholic token withdrew, place that token on an adjacent location connected by a path or bridge. After all tokens have been placed, see whether you've completed any of the four randomized goals on display, such as having a token on each of the six map tiles or occupying two pairs of locations that are connected by bridges. Then reveal four new scene cards and begin another round.
The first time that any player achieves a goal, you all reveal the tokens on the Band Wagon space of your Midday board, resolving the hierarchy of humours for the Band Wagon location, then you do the same for tokens on the Round Table Midday space. The first time any player achieves a second goal, you then resolve the four spaces of the Midnight Parties board, which might help you or others complete more goals. The game ends at this point, and whoever has completed the most goals wins, with "most tokens in the kingdom" being the tiebreaker.
Alternatively, instead of using a shared kingdom board, you can play in "Fiefdom Mode", with each player having their own fief board. Now when you would place a token, you cover a matching character in your fief instead of placing the token on a specific location. The goals now encourage you to cover all characters of certain types or to create a specific pattern of tokens. The Midday and Midnight Parties boards still work the same way.
- Designer Diary: Whistle Mountain, or How Beers and Pentomino Tiles Led to Dirigibles Saving Workers From Drowning
by Scott CaputoLuke Laurie, who lives hundreds of miles to the south in Santa Maria. I was hurriedly setting up our game prototype, "Rising Tide", hoping to get it all ready for Ted and Toni Alspach of Bézier Games, who would soon walk through the door to evaluate it. Though Luke and I had worked together on this project for nearly a year, tonight I was on my own. Pizza could wait. Maybe just a bite.
At this time, Ted and Toni were already in the process of publishing my game Whistle Stop, which was to be released at Gen Con 2017. I felt like I had an open door to pitch other games to them, except the Alspachs had decided to move away from the Bay Area to Tennessee. Soon, they would be halfway across the country, and this sort of informal pitch session would be next to impossible. Improbable as it seems, Luke and I created this game, our first collaboration, in just nine months. How the heck did we pull that off?
Flashback to June 2016: Luke and I met for a beer in San Jose to kick off the game. Luke was in town with his family touring colleges. I had known Luke for a few years as we were both writing for League of Gamemakers, an online resource for aspiring and emerging game designers and publishers. We had blogged on various topics and enjoyed the camaraderie of design discussions.
In one of my articles, I interviewed game designer Sen-Foong Lim, who talked about the virtues of co-designing games. I wondered whether I should try it and thought Luke would be the right person. I had played and enjoyed Luke's games, and I knew that he had experience in co-designing games with veteran Tom Jolly and collaborating on various other projects. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire was a really interesting design, and I had playtested another of Luke's games that should be coming out in 2021. (Yes, yet another great game that's neither Whistle Mountain nor Dwellings of Eldervale). Luke brought a rigor of worker-placement design while I brought the spatial puzzle of tile-laying. I approached Luke with the idea of working on a game together, and he agreed to give it a try.
As time would tell, our collaboration was like peanut butter and chocolate. Together, we built something that neither of us could have possibly created alone.
Before our first meeting in person, we had traded game ideas back and forth online. I started with the basic concept of players building a shared board with pentomino tiles and placing workers beside the tiles to gain adjacent resources. Additionally, players could place rectangular building tiles on top of the pentomino tiles, but only if the rectangular tile was fully supported underneath. These rectangular tiles came in different sizes and had various powers; some gave resources, while others gave strong or even game-changing effects.
Luke had chimed in with his own design ideas about turn sequence and game flow. Luke prefers designs with a continuous, player-controlled flow, like The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire in which players place workers, then bring all their workers back for a big exciting turn. There are no set "rounds" or set-up stages that occur during the game. Instead, set-up and effects are a result of player actions throughout the game. For our design, we decided that players should place their workers to gather items to build, but they should build machines and scaffolding only when they bring all their workers back. That would make the "pull-back" turn exciting and interesting and create a sense of suspense building up to those dramatic moments.
Luke also loves the concept of an "external threat" in his games that all players must manage. In Energy Empire, players must mitigate pollution in their environment to avoid disastrous effects. In Dwellings of Eldervale, players must deal with giant monsters on the shared map. What kind of external threat would fit our collaborative design? And how would that threat become part of a unifying theme for the game?
So after meeting in an empty hotel breakfast bar, Luke and I sipped our beers and cut out pentomino pieces. While we worked with the simple prototype components, we chatted and debated about design principles and thematic concepts.
We are both very concerned about climate change and the environment. Luke was thinking that maybe since we're using a bunch of resources and intensely focused on building, then perhaps we should create some harmful consequence of our reckless industrialization. We settled on rising water. The more you build, the more the water would rise. This concept also established that building would be somewhat directional. You build "up" on a two-dimensional game board that you're viewing from the side rather than using a top-down view as in many tile-laying games — and as you do so, you face the adverse consequences of the rising water.
Not to be too realistic or preachy in our environmental theme, we decided on a dystopian steampunk theme, loosely inspired by science fiction movies such as Metropolis. In that film, workers toil in the dangerous underground while the rich live in beautiful towers. In our game, players use dirigibles to gather resources and construct the city, but by doing so, they produce pollution, causing the world's ice caps to melt and waters to rise, putting everyone's workers in danger.
The workers would start in buildings at the bottom of the board and scaffolds would be built on top of those barracks. Players would need to spend resources to keep climbing their workers to safety while avoiding rising waters, even as they earn points building machines and scaffolds. Workers would need to prove their worth by being present on a spot where a machine is built. At that moment, the worker is promoted to a tower, where they would be safe. Additionally, Luke had the idea that the higher a player promotes a worker, the more points they are worth. Plus, bonus cards could be available at different heights in the tower, so that players who promote their workers first get a bonus card they can use at any time.
We used unpunched token boards as the worker barracks. We used other unpunched token boards for the tower. We drew resource icons on the tiles and played around with placing cars (standing in for airships) adjacent to them. These were just a few scraps, not a full prototype, but it gave us enough confidence to move forward.
First Prototype and Playtest
It was mid-2016, and the Pacificon Protospiel in Santa Clara, California was a couple of months away. Luke assembled a team of volunteers to run the Protospiel, including myself, so it would be the perfect opportunity for us to meet and playtest this new game. To make that happen, I went into full beast mode trying to produce an initial prototype in time. Making prototypes is time consuming, especially when you're cutting out lots of pentomino tiles. The game had a lot of bits: scaffold tiles, machine tiles, worker meeples, airships, a tower, cards, and my favorite piece, the blue foam water line.
That first playtest at Pacificon was rough, let me tell you. I discovered too late that the meeples were too big to fit on the scaffold tiles. The special powers I had come up with for the first machines were overpowered, underpowered, and all over the map. The game was clearly unbalanced. The blue water line was a challenging component. It covered up the board, so you couldn't see what was underneath. When you promoted workers, it was weird to have tower points on one side and bonus cards on the other side — yet as the water began to rise in the game and players watched the impending danger get closer to their workers, we could feel the tension.
As ugly and unbalanced as the game felt, there was something there, something we could build on.
At the end of Pacificon Protospiel, Luke took the prototype and agreed to make a new cleaner version of the game. Luke sent me detailed layouts of what the new prototype could look like.
In Luke's new version, three starting machines were between the four worker barracks at the bottom of the board. This gave players more places to get valuable resources. Luke also consolidated the left and right towers into just one tower with variable bonus tiles that were available for anyone who promoted a worker onto the corresponding levels. Luke created a rising water bar on the left side that didn't cover any board elements, while also providing a game end trigger. When the top part of the water bar reached the top of the board, the game ended. Luke built other worker-placement spots into the board where players could place airships to gain scaffolds and machines of three sizes, as well as a spot to gain resources to help players if none of a resource were available on the main board.
With a brand-new prototype, Luke began testing the game with his family and local playtesters — but something wasn't right. It just wasn't as much fun as he hoped, and despite the early promise of the game, Luke felt stuck.
Eventually, as Christmas season arrived in 2016, Luke shipped the prototype to me and told me to run with it for a while. I had enjoyed a rather blissful fall, providing feedback on Luke's pitches and proposals, but not having to do much else. This co-designing venture was amazing so far. I had picked the right partner, someone who could do prototype art and graphic design so much better than me. However, it was my time to step up, salvage the game, and find a way forward. Still keeping track of the timeline? Yes, we were three months away from pitching to Bézier Games. Impossible, you say? Keep reading.
I playtested the new prototype Luke had made and agreed with how he felt. The gameplay was flat and too constricting. Some of the things Luke had added were maybe taking the game in the wrong direction. Luke had added the concept of security clearance, which players needed before they could receive a bonus for promoting workers in the tower, but until they got security clearance, they could not build or place workers on certain buildings marked with security fences. This seemed to limit players' options too much. Luke had also added permanent airship docks on the board where players could gain and trade resources. I felt strongly that players should be able to get resources only from the main board.
Aside from removing these elements, I thought the game needed more surprises, more twists and turns that would cause players to adapt their game play strategies. I came up with two ideas that really helped.
First, I added "epic" buildings to the game to amp up the player interaction and add new possible endgame conditions. For example, there were "hoarding" buildings for each resource type. If a player activated one of those buildings, they would gain two of a particular resource, then permanently remove two of that resource from the game. This could cause players to take resources from other players. If a resource were entirely removed, the game would end immediately. The "Doomsday Machine" let players spend resources to raise the water and earn money — cue maniacal laughter.
I was leaning heavily into the dystopian theme, increasing player interaction and tension as players had to scramble to adapt their plans to the appearance of epic buildings. I remember one playtest in which you could activate a building and remove a worker from the board to score 3 points. A playtester quipped, "I just killed one of my own workers to get 3 points. This game is dark."
Second, I added cards to the game. Every player started the game with three cards, but players could play a card only if they placed an airship on a new "play a card" spot and if they paid the cost of the card. Again, I took a lot of license in creating crazy powers, some one-time effects ("Water Bomb") that might raise the water and others that would give the players a permanent ability such as making a resource wild. With the addition of the cards and the epic buildings, the game felt looser and more surprising. Players responded well to the new elements. There was definite fun in the game.
Luke and I met up again at the DunDraCon Protospiel in San Ramon in February 2017. We were able to get in multiple playtests of the revised prototype, and feedback seemed mostly positive — yet there were signs of future trouble. The game did seem to have a lot more "take that" elements, and the new epic buildings and cards tended to unbalance the game. Some game effects could produce infinite loops and very long turns. Also, players found it constricting that there was only one spot to play a card.
Luke kept an open mind, but I could tell he had concerns. The game was maybe straying too far from its "Euro" roots.
The Pitch and the Kickback
Yes, we are back to the first scene with the pitch about to happen and my pizza getting cold.
Ted and Toni Alspach walked into the prototype night happening at a pizza parlor in San Jose, California. I was upfront that the game was still pretty new and probably needed more development, but I hoped they would like it anyway. I thought back to the first time Ted and Toni played the Whistle Stop prototype at KublaCon in a room overlooking the San Francisco bay. As any game designer can tell you, you can only hope the game will speak for itself since it doesn't matter what you say. Publishers play tons of prototypes and can see problems more quickly than most people.
In any case, Ted and Toni said thank you and that they would get back to me, but they seemed impressed. Maybe since this is a designer diary for that prototype, there isn't that much dramatic tension here...
Dale Yu to develop it. Yu runs Opinionated Gamers and was the developer behind Dominion and Ted's own games like the Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Things seemed to be progressing the right way. The next few months, Luke and I sent files and answered questions, and we hoped final publication wouldn't be too far away. Unfortunately, we were wrong, so wrong.
In mid-2017, Luke and I received an email from Ted and Dale that was hard to read, but necessary. Our game was falling short. The feedback from playtest groups had been mediocre, and there was animosity towards the "take-that" elements. Ted said he would still be interested in publishing the game if Luke and I could solve several key problems:
1. Get rid of the take that elements.
2. Increase the replayability of the game.
3. Make the bonus awards more varied and useful, avoiding the issue that they come up in a bad order.
4. Improve the prototype graphics so that the design is more intuitive.
5. Shorten the game length as it seemed to overstay its welcome.
There was too much to solve for Ted and Dale to do it themselves, so it was up to Luke and I figure it out. I had been here before on Whistle Stop. Ted had signed that game, but then early playtests were not encouraging, so I had to spend time in the design wilderness to figure out a way forward. Could I do it again? Encouragement from family and friends helped.
Airships and Gadgeteers
Luke and I talked through the feedback and agreed we needed to remove the "take that" machines and the machines that added new endgame rules. It was hard for me to let go, but I had to trust the feedback. Maybe we could create machines inspired by those epic buildings without going so far.
Card play was too restrictive. Players should be able to play cards on their turns without going to a spot on the board. We decided the restriction should be on getting the cards, not on playing the cards. The new rule was that players could play one card at any time during their turn. That would allow for interesting combos since you could play cards when you really needed them. To get cards, players could go to a spot on the board to buy them.
Luke also took it upon himself to completely revamp the prototype from the bottom up. What Luke created was stunning, a true beauty of a prototype with wood block airships. The worker barracks was moved to the left side, and there was now no need for starting buildings. Luke crafted a water line on stilts that could sit above the board and slide upward easily. Iconography was cleaned up.
Luke also added starting roles, that is, a permanently asymmetrical power each player would gain at the start of the game. These starting roles added replayability as it would take players a long time to play through them all, and each would offer a different way to score and excel in the game.
During the next six months, Luke took the lead in getting the design to a good place. Luke shared the files of his new prototype, and I was able to build my own copy to playtest locally while Luke used a remote playtest group he had gained while working on other games. It was an amazing arrangement. The remote group would send us detailed audio files of each playtest, and we could hear how players responded to new starting abilities or machines. Luke changed the endgame trigger from the water rising to the players running out of scaffold tiles, which meant that players would use fewer scaffold tiles with two or three players. Luke created new large machines that were still surprising without being overly aggressive.
One building, called "The Trap", would capture all workers it covered instead of promoting them. Players had to fly their airships to the building and pay to rescue their workers from The Trap. This felt like a nod to my earlier epic buildings. Luke also added the concept of the whirlpool. Workers that drowned were not lost forever but could be rescued if the player paid enough resources. Players had to pay two gold to rescue a worker from the whirlpool. At some point, Luke experimented with having all players start with a worker in the whirlpool to increase tension. That seemed to work well.
During this time, the name of the prototype changed to "Airships and Gadgeteers". Mat Leacock had just published a new Pandemic game called Pandemic: Rising Tide, so we had to adjust the title. The new title felt snappy and suggestive of the game play.
As Luke balanced the game, adjusting VPs for various elements and tweaking game powers, I felt like I learned a lot. I appreciated Luke's methodical approach to game balance and tried to internalize his thought processes into mine. Given our target player, we wanted to avoid mechanisms that were too swingy, random, and attacking. Instead, powers should be focused on giving players more options and more ways to accomplish their goals.
By the end of October 2017, we felt like we had answered all of the publisher's concerns and were ready to send the game back to Bézier.
Still, Ted wanted us to do blind playtesting to ensure the game was solid. We agreed. I approached some mutual friends of Ted's and mine and had them playtest the game, then send Ted their feedback. As Ted took the game back, he announced he would handle the development personally. I felt comfortable with that arrangement as Ted had developed Whistle Stop and that design had turned out well.
Down the Stretch
As we came down the stretch toward publication — which in the end took 2.5 more years — several issues came up as Bézier Games took the lead in playtesting and finishing the game.
First, the game's release kept getting pushed off. This is not necessarily a bad thing and publishers are busy, so this sort of thing happens. We were compensated fairly for the delay, and it was better to wait for Ted's full attention.
Second, the theme was a big struggle. Ted was reluctant to adopt a dystopian theme, and he didn't like the name "Airships and Gadgeteers". At least according to Ted, games named "Airships" tended to fail. At one point, Ted suggested a theme with dwarves working in a volcano with rising lava, but how did airships fit into that and why were there dwarves working in a volcano? I'm not sure Luke and I were enthusiastic about going high fantasy with dwarves.
Ted even jokingly suggested the title "Whistle While You Work", a pun on the dwarf workers. Ted is a funny guy, but I wasn't sure this joke would hold up. I suggested putting the dwarves in a Viking epic universe in which Loki was causing the water to rise on the dwarves to punish them. Okay, maybe that was a weird idea too.
Eventually, Ted decided to put the game into the Whistle Stop universe and call it "Whistle While You Work". It would be a cheery steampunk theme with airships over a beautiful landscape. The idea was that after finding success in Whistle Stop, players were mining a mountain for resources, which was causing ice to melt and water to rise. Since all the action took place on a mountain, I suggested changing the title to Whistle Mountain and Ted liked that, so finally we had a theme and name.
Does everything 100% make sense? There probably weren't airships in the Old West, but it's fun and maybe a bit cheeky, which fit Bézier's sensibilities.
Third, finding the right endgame trigger was tricky. In the prototype we gave Bézier, the endgame was triggered by running out of scaffolds. Ted found that a bit fiddly. He preferred having the same number of scaffolds for all player counts and thought having fewer scaffolds for two players felt restrictive. Maybe the endgame should be based on the water rising to a certain level? That was pretty good, except sometimes a player would get all their workers to safety in the tower and had little to do after that happened. Eventually, Ted came up with the idea that the game should end when all workers were out of the barracks. This could happen because of rising water, but it could also happen because of proactive players. This endgame trigger seemed very flexible.
Fourth, finding the right penalty for workers still in the whirlpool was challenging. We had started with a -1 point per worker in the whirlpool, but that was too low to be motivating. Ted suggested that at the end of the game, players had to remove one worker from the tower for every worker in the whirlpool. That felt incredibly punishing and sometimes erased a game's worth of hard work. Maybe you had to move one worker down one floor per worker in the whirlpool? No, that was too fiddly.
Eventually, I tried keeping the penalty a straight-up loss of points per worker, increasing that amount until it started to hurt. In the end, -5 points per worker seemed like the sweet spot as it hurt just the right amount. You cared if you had workers in whirlpool, but the penalty didn't erase your whole score. You could still recover if you lost a couple of workers to the whirlpool.
Along the way to final publication, Ted adjusted the set-up phase of the game, letting players place scaffold pieces themselves to set up the initial board the way they wanted. Ted separated out cards into two types: cards you used immediately remained as cards, and cards that were ongoing abilities became upgrades. In fact, the upgrades would look just like the upgrades in Whistle Stop, a thematic element in common between the two games.
Ted also loosened up some of the restrictions we had had in the game from the beginning. Why limit the number of airships that can be on a building, and why limit the number of machines an airship can activate? These changes led to even more combo possibilities for players.
Last Minute Additions
Two important additions happened near the end of the production process: Ted added three different sizes of airships — a brilliant idea that really opened up the strategy of the game. Previously, the airships all had the dimension 1x2, but now players would have a 1x1, a 1x2, and a 1x3. Sometimes you wanted to use a large ship to scoop up a lot of resources and activate a lot of buildings, and sometimes you could fit only a small airship in a particular spot on the board.
Ted also asked for a ton more content. He wanted more cards, more medals, more machines, more upgrades, and more starting abilities. Luke was feeling tapped out after having spent his time playtesting many factions for Dwellings of Eldervale, so I took the charge on this new influx of content.
Brainstorming all of the new content was fun. In some cases, it made sense to add duplicate cards and medals. In other cases, I went crazy with new starting ability ideas and big machines. This time around, I had a better sense of which ideas would keep the game in balance and which ideas provided the right amount of player interaction without going overboard. My thought process was to figure out the relative value of all the elements (resources, cards, machines, upgrades, etc.) in the game and how many turns it would take to earn each element naturally. As I created new abilities, I made sure players were not gaining the elements at a significantly faster rate than normal. I also looked at all of the abilities in the game already and tried to create abilities that would combo well with them. I took inspiration from the cards and medals already in the game. For large machines, I let my mind run wild coming up with wacky concepts, such as the "Jetpack Lab" that would let players place their workers floating above scaffold tiles. Ted's playtest teams rigorously tested all of the new content in record time and gave a thumbs up to the new abilities.
So we've reached the end of the story. I think Luke summed up the design best: We accomplished something neither of us could do by ourselves. Whistle Mountain is truly a collaboration of my tile-laying design sense with Luke's worker-placement design sense. Throw in Ted's expert eye as the developer, and I think the three of us cooked up something unique in the world of board games. We hope you will enjoy it, too.
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- Dive Through Transparent Cards, and Smash Up Tiny Evergreen Goblinswrote about Rush Out!, a real-time game then due out in October 2020 from Belgian publisher Sit Down! That title, like so many others, has been delayed, with the new scheduled release date being May 2021.
Releasing ahead of it in February 2021 is the Sit Down! title Dive, a 1-4 player game from Romain Caterdjian and Anthony Perone that features an entrancing cover by Alexandre Bonvalot. Dive was teased at SPIEL.digital 2020, but it features game components that can't be easily simulated on Tabletopia or other digital game spaces. Here's an overview:Beyond the last continent on the remote island Windbark, diving is an ancestral tradition. During a rite of passage celebrated at the summer solstice, divers compete to retrieve the sacred stone of the village. The elder throws it from the top of the cliff, and the stone leads the contenders for the title of "hero" down to the depths of the ocean, aided in their quest by friendly sea turtles and manta rays.
However, to retrieve the stone, they will need to avoid upsetting the sharks that inhabit the ocean...
Dive plays simultaneously for all player divers, who start the game facing a shuffled stack of 36 transparent "ocean" cards. You have your own diver board and a set of five air tokens that are numbered 1-5 on both sides, with a shark on one side of each token.
Dive explores the notion of perception, the ability of the divers to observe the ocean through a deck of transparent cards and to benefit from their observations. At the start of each round, you look into the "waters" before you to see how far you want to dive, with five levels being the maximum you can go (since you have five tokens). You then place the tokens on your board:
—If you think a shark is at a certain level, you need any tokens on this level to be shark side up — and if you goof, calling "shark" when no shark is present or vice versa, then you remove all tokens from your diver board at this level and at deeper levels. You're done for the round.
—If you think a certain level has a sea turtle or a manta ray, you might want to stack tokens on this level because whoever places the highest sum advances 1-2 spaces on the descent board (for a sea turtle) or moves onto the player token directly in below them on the descent board (for a manta ray).
If you've finished evaluating a level for sharks, sea turtles, and manta rays, and anyone still has an air token on their board, you explore the next level. Once no one has any air tokens for the next level, the round ends, and everyone advances on the descent board equal to the number of levels that they successfully dove. Once you reach space #16 on the descent board, you can't use a manta ray to catch up to anyone, and if you fail the shark/no shark question for a level, you don't advance at all during that round, regardless of how many levels you first dove through successfully.
Dive includes rules for solitaire play in which you compete against the village chief, and you can optionally play a competitive game with animal companions that give you a one-time bonus.
Alderac Entertainment Group announced that it would reduce the number of games that it releases annually, and the company has seemingly scaled back — but to close out 2020 and lead into 2021, AEG has announced seven mini-expansions for games in its catalog:
—Tiny Towns: Tiny Trees, Nov. 2020
—Mystic Vale: Evergreen, Nov. 2020
—Space Base: Biodome, Dec. 2020
—Valley of the Kings: Necropolis, Dec. 2020
—Smash Up: Goblins, 2021
—The Captain Is Dead: The Problem with Priggles, 2021
—Cat Lady: Kittens, 2021
AEG is also returning older promotional items to its catalog, such as Trains: Saitama & Texas and Trains: Bay Area & China, which were released at Gen Con 2014 and 2015, and Smash Up: Titans, which was originally available only as part of the Smash Up: Titan Event Kit in 2018.
Given the state of the market right now, with stay-at-home gamers discovering older titles that they've never played before and newer titles not picking up buzz since conventions largely don't exist, it makes sense for AEG to release expansions for its proven sellers.
Sheepy Time, a game for 1-4 player from Neil Kimball, with charming art by newcomer to the game industry Zoé Plane.
Here's an overview of this press-your-luck game due out in Q2 2021:You are one of the Dream Sheep, the sheep that people count in order to drift off to Dreamland! Each time you jump the fence, you help your person fall asleep easier — but the Nightmares that haunt these dreams threaten a rude awakening...
On a turn in Sheepy Time, you play one of two cards in your hand to move around the circle, potentially activating neat effects, while jumping the fence each time you complete a lap to put yourself in position to earn more points. When refilling your hand, however, if you draw a Nightmare card, you have to activate the Nightmare — and if it crosses your path, your human may be scared awake, which means you'll earn no points this round. How far do you dare push your Zzzs to prove you're the dreamiest sheep of all!
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