Board Game Geek
- ● The Past Returns in Omega Virus: PrologueRestoration Games announced several upcoming releases during a press event in July 2021, but it had held back news of one additional forthcoming game, a game that will be preceded by a related but different, new design from Steve Aramini. Here's a quick take on Omega Virus: Prologue, a tiny two-player game due out in Q3 2021:Omega Virus: Prologue is a real-time, tableau-building card. Each player gets an identical deck featuring areas of the Battlesat as it is being ripped apart.
Simultaneously, in real time, players reveal the top card of their deck and play it in front of them, creating a floor plan. Creating specific "rooms" allows a player to collect "keys", and these keys let a player play the "locked" cards from their deck into their floor plan. Each of these locked cards contains a piece of critical equipment. Locate all three pieces to win the round, earning points for being first and finishing round objectives. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins.
In case the title of this game wasn't a giveaway, yes, Restoration Games will release a new version of Michael Gray's The Omega Virus from 1992, something that at least one BGGer had speculated on starting in mid-2018 following the publisher's trademark application for the name.
Restoration Games will announce more details of this project at a future date, but ahead of that game's release, it's offering this design set in the same world of that earlier game.
Read more »
- ● Control the Spice More Often, Trade Mysterious Artifacts, Rebuild Your Ancestral Village, and Survive on Plum IslandPortal Games release Dune: House of Secrets, as well as Rise of Ix, the first expansion for Dune: Imperium from Dire Wolf.
And if you're not completely Duned out yet, there's more! Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is a fast-paced, streamlined version of the classic Dune board game targeted for a September 2021 release from Gale Force Nine and the original Dune design team of Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, and Peter Olotka, along with Greg Olotka, and Jack Reda.
Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is all about controlling the spice as you'd imagine, but this new version allows 2-4 players to get the flavor of the original Dune board game with some new surprises and a dramatically reduced playtime of 20-60 minutes. Here's a brief overview from the publisher of what you can expect gameplaywise:Take part in one of the most famous science-fiction stories of all time. Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy builds on forty years of development, refinement, and evolution from the original classic game. It has the same beloved DNA, flavor, tension, and themes, but with new game-board design, more spice, new streamlined rules, and a new market deck from which you can purchase game advantages. Also, the brand new two-player mode really opens up new gaming opportunities, all making the game more accessible for even the most casual gamer.
In Dune, you will take control of one of the four great factions — House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Fremen, and the Imperium — all vying to control the most valuable resource in the universe: melange, the mysterious spice found only at great cost on the planet Dune. Ship your forces to Dune, harvest spice, seize control of strongholds, and destroy your enemies. Who will control Dune? You decide!
The game is played multiple phases, some of which don't have player-specific actions, such as the Spice phase, during which a Spice Blow card is drawn and spice is added to the board in two territories, or else a Sandworm attacks that last two territories where spice was placed. During the card phase, each player draws up to a hand of four Battle cards, then may purchase Market cards up to a hand of three for 2 spice each. On the Shipping and Movement Phase, players take turns adding forces to the board, then moving forces on the board.
The game plays 3-5 rounds. Starting on round 3, the game can end if a player occupies three strongholds at the end of the round. If no one occupies three strongholds at the end of round 5, then the player with the most spice wins (and each stronghold they occupy counts as 5 spice).
Mighty Boards will be launching a Kickstarter campaign on August 3, 2021 for Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum, a new expansion from Dávid Turczi for the 2021 release Excavation Earth, which was designed by Turczi and Wai Yee, with Gordon Calleja.
If you're not familiar with the game, Excavation Earth is a science fiction-themed, market manipulation, pick-up-and-deliver, hand-management game with some area control and set collection in which 1-4 players take on the roles of different alien races competing to earn the most space bucks from digging up artifacts, then trading and selling them. Excavation Earth plays in 30-120 minutes and features vibrant, unique artwork from Philipp Kruse.
From the very brief description below from the publisher, it sounds like Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum adds more variety and some new twists to the base game:It Belongs in a Museum, the second expansion for Excavation Earth, introduces two new alien races, mysterious artifacts, a deck of technology cards and a whole, new museum board. It Belongs in a Museum adds new ways of scoring that create new paths to playing and winning the game.
• Now or Never is a Q4 2021 release in the world of Arzium (Above and Below and Near and Far) from designer and artist Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games, who brought us the ever-popular 2021 release, Sleeping Gods.
In Now or Never, 1-4 players compete to rebuild their villages and guide the rest of the villagers on their journey home, while fending off strange monsters. In more detail from the publisher:Far to the south of The Last Ruin lies a cliffside village called The Monument. For generations, it protected an ancient shrine until the day a crystal meteorite descended. The meteor's denizens slowly crept out into the world — bizarre monstrosities from nightmare, attacking all in their path. As they spread across the land, there was no intelligent malice nor grand invasion strategy; the creatures acted like a fungus — spreading into new territory sporadically.
After many fruitless attempts to expel the monsters, the people of The Monument fled as their village crumbled, exiled to distant lands, resigned to a nomadic existence.
Twenty years later, there are rumors that the bizarre monsters are growing weak. They're slower, less impervious to attack, some undergoing a gradual petrification until they crumble to dust. Is it the atmosphere? Are they dying of old age? Do they suffer from a strange disease? No one is certain, but as the news spreads, various factions set their eyes on the vacant, ruined village of The Monument. The original villagers, now refugees, are desperate to return and rebuild. But they must do it quickly, before someone else claims their home. This is their chance. It's now or never.
In this game, you and up to three friends compete to best rebuild your ancestral village and guide the rest of the villagers on their journey home. Although the creatures of the meteorite have lost much of their strength, many of them remain, and you must fight them off to protect traveling villagers. Now or Never is the third game in the Arzium storybook series that includes Above and Below and Near and Far.
Now or Never is a competitive strategy game that allows you to:
—Choose one of four asymmetrical characters to play.
—Rebuild the village so that returning villagers have a place to live. You must carefully choose what and where to build to maintain an advantage, earning the biggest rewards for long-term planning.
— Interact with other players by hiring their specialists to perform special actions.
—Combat dangerous creatures to rescue villagers.
—Explore a fantasy landscape filled with bizarre places, technology, and peoples.
Now or Never includes two modes of play: standard and story. When playing in story mode, you read from a storybook when you explore, making choices and learning more about the characters and the world. Each character has their own set of stories, unique to the locations they explore and diverse in plot, perspective, and motive, allowing you to choose what direction your own story will take.
Journey to The Monument and help rebuild your ancient home!
• The Plum Island Horror is a co-operative, survival game for 1-4 players from Dawn of the Zeds designer Hermann Luttmann and GMT Games. Currently available for P500 pre-order on GMT's web site, The Plum Island Horror plays in 120-150 minutes, and sounds like it'll be a fun, unique, and challenging experience based on the high-level game overview (way) below. That is, of course, if you're not too spooked and actually make it through the background story first:Read more »On October 24th of an unspecified year — which we are legally allowed to disclose as only "from the recent past" — "Super Storm Nancy” plowed into the East Coast of the United States. Thousands of miles of coastline were devastated, but for Plum Island, a large albeit vulnerable atoll smack dab in the middle of the storm’s path of destruction, it was a horrifying gray-green, apocalyptic nightmare.
Plum Island is a sprawling isle off the Carolina coast and is home to the vibrant seaside town of Greenport. While the heart of the island's daily hustle and bustle lies in its commerce and tourism, the predominant employer and revenue generator for the island was housed in a huge complex of nondescript buildings located on the north end of the island. This mega-corporation was known locally as "The Pearl", or more precisely, the Plum Island Research Laboratory (P.I.R.L.). It was an enormous facility run by scientists who conducted government-sponsored biological research and experimentation. All legal and ethical practices of course — or so we were told.
After the hurricane's catastrophic cascade of water and wind abated, the island was crippled. All power was lost, there was much structural damage throughout, and the path to the mainland via the Great South Bay suspension bridge was rendered impassable. Due to a perfect confluence of unpredictable factors, the lab's super-secret and highly experimental cylinders ruptured. The entire facility was inundated with a horrific lethal mixture of chemicals resulting in the deaths and disfigurement of hundreds of personnel who were taking shelter from the storm within the main containment facilities.
But the true horror was yet to come — these "deaths" were only temporary incapacitations. The poor souls who succumbed to the toxins were somehow revived by the bizarre mixture of chemicals, returning to "life" as monstrously altered mutations. In retrospect, we refer to these reanimated creatures as "Horrors" because — well, honestly, what else could we possibly call them? The Horrors almost instantaneously evolved into vicious killing abominations that overwhelmed the survivors located in and near the main P.I.R.L. complex. After "The Pearl" was subsumed, there was only one place left to go to sate the voracious appetites of these re-born killers — a "human buffet" known as Greenport.
The Plum Island Horror is a 1-4 player game featuring co-operative play that combines tactical-level unit management with a tower-defense style survival mechanism. Each player controls one of six unique factions that represent the various groups that populate Plum Island. Each of these factions has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the system encourages you to optimize for the group's strengths and marginalize its weaknesses. Players must co-ordinate with one another, and the resulting synergy will hopefully be enough to successfully evacuate a city under siege and contain the horrific outbreak that threatens to spread beyond the island itself. If the players can succeed, they will win together, and the world will most likely be none the wiser to the averted crisis. If not, they will lose together and share the blame equally for failing humankind.
- VideoUnboxing Catan: 3D EditionKOSMOS and Catan Studio announced a special 3D edition of Klaus Teuber's CATAN, and the world collectively rejoiced and said, "Finally, a game that we can play outside the confines of Flatland! I never thought I'd see a game with depth, but at last that day has come."
Of course that day hasn't come yet as CATAN: 3D Edition isn't due out until August 2021, but that day is impending — unless you are reading this post after the game has been released, in which case yes, that day has come.
Anyway, Catan Studio sent me an unsolicited copy of CATAN: 3D Edition, so I thought I'd throw it in front of the camera and share the look of the game with you, gentle reader, in case you were curious about it. I had intended to play it as well and take more than a single picture of the game, but family matters intervened, and that's just how life works sometimes.
Should you be attending BGG.CON 2021 in November, you will have a better chance to check out this item as I plan to bring this game to Dallas and add it to the BGG Library for use during the convention. For now, this game is being used as a literal doorstop to keep my three cats from pushing open a door with a faulty latch and intruding upon a fourth cat that is housing with me temporarily. If nothing else, the game does make a fine doorstop because the box weighs nearly nine pounds!
As for how it might look on your gaming table, well, there's this:
Youtube Video Read more »
- Hunt or Be Hunted in Cryptid: Urban LegendsHal Duncan and Ruth Veevers' Cryptid from 2018 is a delightful deduction game in which each of the 3-5 players holds a piece of information as to where a legendary creature is located, and the challenge is to discover enough of the other players' info — without revealing too much of yours — to track down that creature first. (For more details on the game, you can read Veevers' designer diary or check out my written and video overview.)
Now Duncan and Veevers have created Cryptid: Urban Legends, a two-player, asymmetric competitive game of deductive reasoning that publisher Osprey Games will release in April 2022. Here's an overview of the game:There's something hiding among us, a creature hitherto undiscovered prowling our very streets. If you track it down, well, that'd be the discovery of the century!
Play as a determined scientist manipulating heat, movement, and sonic sensors to scan the city, identify your quarry's true location, and capture them — or take the role of a cryptid, snaking your way through shadows and back alleys of the metropolis that surrounds you, eliminating all evidence of your existence as you go, desperately avoiding capture. Emerging victorious in this high stakes cat-and-mouse chase, played out across a sprawling urban landscape, will require all your ingenuity and foresight.
In the publisher's game announcement, the designers are quoted as follows:We've often described the game as a hidden movement game, but where the movement isn't actually hidden! While that might sound a like a joke, we actually arrived at the design by attempting to physically represent the possibility space of where the secret player could be in a hidden movement game. As the players engage in the game's core puzzle, they get to experience the highs and lows of seeing the cryptid's possible hiding locations grow and shrink. With both players manipulating a shared set of sensors, which can each move only once each round, they will have to balance choosing the right ones to move against managing their limited hand of cards. We hope that each round will give players an interesting new puzzle.
The concept of shared sensors makes me think of Mr. Jack, a two-player cat-and-mouse design from Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc in which the killer and the investigator manipulate characters and street lamps to try to respectively keep as many suspects on the game board as possible or eliminate suspects before time runs out. That 2006 design is a classic, so I'm curious to learn more about Cryptid: Urban Legends... Read more »
- VideoBask in Summertime, Become a Hero of Undermountain, and Solve Crimes in Detective RummyOmari Akil and Hamu Dennis run their own publishing studio, Board Game Brothas, but in addition to releasing their own titles, they also pitch designs to others, and in July 2021 U.S. publisher WizKids will release one of those designs — Summertime, a quick-playing card game based on the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince song from 1991.
Yes, thirty years old, but still popping! We'll get to the game in a sec, but first:
As for the game, which is for 2-4 players and due out in July 2021, here's how it works:It's summertime, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince have invited you to hang with them at the hottest spots in Philly. You will cruise, groove, and unwind across town, trying to vibe with them to prove you're the coolest in the crew. Do you have the energy to keep up with everyone else who has their eyes on the crown?
In the game, players have to outwit each other with a series of tricky decisions. First, reveal a "spot" card — something like a block party, car show, or family reunion — each with one of five different vibes. Players then pick an action card, an energy card, and potentially a boost card to play all at once. Actions can give you boosts and cancel your opponents'. Energy cards have a variety of values and give you boosts if they match the spot's vibe, but you can use each energy card only once!
Once players have taken their actions, and energy has been counted, whoever has the most wins the spot! Spots are worth points on their own, but are worth extra points if they are collected as a set, or match a player's personal vibe.
Turbo Sleuth from newcomer Daniel Lee Yingjie, a 2-8 player game that from this description resembles a combination of Spot it! and a logic puzzle, with players trying to decipher who committed the murder with which weapon:A murder most foul has been committed! Old Miser McGreedy’s body hasn’t even been laid to rest, and the murder suspects are already seeking to divide up his fortune. Was it his wastrel of a son? The nervous maid? The shady business partner? Or the oddly nonchalent butler? Can you nab the culprit before time runs out?
Turbo Sleuth is a puzzly speed-solving game in which players compete simultaneously to find the solution to the round's challenge. Choose one of five cases to solve, with dozens of possible solutions depending on which cards are drawn. Search quickly for the right clues, some of which might look right at first glance, but will lead you astray...
Only the first few players may attempt to solve the case, but rush to a hasty wrong judgment, and the murderer will up the ante for the next round!
Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Scrawlers – Heroes of Undermountain from Vangelis Bagiartakis and Konstantinos Karagiannis.
This 2-4 player game is a real-time racing game in which you want to kill and collect as much as possible. In more detail:In Dungeon Scrawlers: Heroes of Undermountain, you and other adventurers are drawn together to delve into Undermountain, an immense underground of dungeons created by the Mad Mage, Halaster Blackcloak. Use your markers to trace your path, defeating monsters, casting spells, connecting artifact fragments, and collecting shiny treasure on the way! The round ends when one player defeats that dungeon's mighty boss, so you have only a few minutes to collect as much loot as possible. The player with the most points after exploring three dungeons wins!
At the beginning of each game, players pick one of five characters, each with a thematic ability that helps them collect one type of points more easily as they draw their line through the maze. Normally monsters or treasure need to be entirely covered with marker to be collected, but rogues need only to touch treasure, while barbarians need only to fill in the monsters' heads to defeat them! While anyone can cast a spell by tracing an intricate pattern, a wizard needs only to draw a small circle!
Dungeon Scrawlers contains ten unique mazes of increasing complexity, introducing new challenges as you go. These include portals, locked doors, multiple bosses, time limits, and more! With multiple paths through each maze, and over one hundred different three-maze combinations, you'll never have to stop scrawling!
• We'll wrap this WizKids round-up with an introduction to a project that designer Mike Fitzgerald has been working on for years — years, I tell ya!
Fitzgerald is the designer of the Mystery Rummy series of card games based on infamous characters and mysterious stories, games that feature rummy-style gameplay with twists related to the story. He's been working on a campaign game in this line for a long time, and WizKids has now announced a November 2021 release date for Detective Rummy, which is co-designed with Ralph H. Anderson. Here's an overviewDetective Rummy is a rummy-style card game with a storytelling element revealed in a series of seven different cases. Players take the roles of detectives vying to solve the cases and gain fame.
The story begins at the legendary Rummy Detective Agency, and each case takes you to various locations to solve a crime, including the diner with the best doughnuts in town, the cozy "Quarter to 3 Bar", a ritzy fashion emporium, the circus, the most elite jazz nightclub in town, and more.
The cases in Detective Rummy can be played in two different ways: Campaign Mode and Case Mode. In Campaign Mode, you play all seven cases in order. In Case Mode, you can play cases 2 to 6 as standalone Detective Rummy games one at a time. Since new "Game Changer" cards are discovered in each case in different orders (if at all) each time you play, cases will never resolve the same way twice. You can play both the campaign mode or the individual cases as many times as you like.
Read more »
- VideoGame Overview: Rocketmen, or Mars Ain't the Kind of Place to Raise Your KidsMartin Wallace has created several games that use a deck-bulding mechanism — that is, a system in which you start with a deck of cards and add more cards to the deck during the game to customize what you can do relative to other players — and those games have typically been embedded in an elaborate setting, whether real or fictional, with the deck-building being only part of the design. He's covered historical conflict in A Few Acres of Snow, Lovecraftian nightmares in A Study in Emerald, medieval fantasy in Mythotopia, and space opera in A Handful of Stars.
Now in Rocketmen, a 1-4 player game from Polish publisher PHALANX, Wallace challenges you to participate in the space race that started in the mid-20th century and that continues today, albeit mostly in private ventures.
You start with a deck of twelve mission cards, with the destinations for those missions being Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. Each mission details what you'll establish at the destination — a base, a hotel, an orbital station, etc. — along with the minimum number of engines you need to reach that destination and the reward you'll receive for doing this: rockets, money, research tools, and a larger hand size for cards. In addition, each card shows in the upper-left corner what the card provides to you when you play it: money, an engine, a computer chip, a flask, a DNA helix, and...nothing. Yes, one of the cards (the Base shown in the image below) is useless for resources, but it provides the most points for a Moon or Mars trip, so there's that.
On a turn, you can buy cards from the six on display, placing them in your discard pile for use the next time you cycle through your deck, but that's standard to most deck-building games. The unique hook in Rocketmen is the concept of establishing your mission, building the resources for that mission, then launching the rocket to see whether you succeed.
In the image above, the Base is my mission. The cards to the left of my player board on my launch pad support that mission, with the Ion Drive providing four engines, and the other stuff providing tools for the specific destination or the launch itself. I have the flexibility to launch to the Moon or Mars — the two destinations shown on the card — and I need 10 engines before I can launch to the former and 15 before I can launch to the latter. If I lack those engines, I fail automatically. I also have one additional engine — as shown on the chit on my player board — thanks to an earlier completed mission.
The cost to start a mission is $10, which can be paid for by the mission itself (should it bear the $10 resource) or a separate card. Each additional card placed in your launch pad costs $10, and you can't add cards until the mission is established. You can't just pile up resources without some idea of what you're trying to do!
At the end of your turn, if you meet the engine threshold, you can attempt to launch. To do this, you count the number of icons in your launch pad that match your destination — computer chips for Earth orbit, flasks for the Moon, and helices for Mars — then advance the rocket token on the launch track this many spaces.
You then shuffle the "mission success" deck, which consists of cards numbered 0-4, and you reveal — one by one — 3-5 cards depending on whether you're aiming for Earth orbit, the Moon, or Mars; after each revealed card, advance the rocket token on the launch track as many spaces as the number revealed. Cards in your launch area can modify or replace the cards revealed.
If the rocket token reaches space #8 (for Earth), #10 (Moon), or #13 (Mars) by the time you reveal the final card, your mission succeeds! You remove the mission card from the game (thereby thinning your deck), discard all cards in the launch pad, then claim the reward for that mission. If you fail to reach the target space by the final card, then your mission failed and you must still discard all cards in the launch pad. After all, you launched the rocket and those resources are now gone, despite the mission still being in place.
That said, after each card you reveal, you can choose to abort the launch. Effectively, you can imagine the mission success cards as being evidence that you've planned correctly enough for the mission to succeed. If you reveal 2-3 cards, and they're low numbers (and you can't modify them) and you don't want to rely on the longshot of flipping the lone 4 in the deck, you can abort the launch, discarding cards from the launch pad equal to the number of cards revealed minus one — which means that if you have enough engines, you can always try to launch and flip the first card without penalty.
Given all that, Rocketmen is an amalgam of deck-building, engine-building (via the bonuses you receive from successful missions), and press-your-luck mechanisms, and you're often driven in your choices — at least initially — by your two starting goal cards. These cards show one mission each in Earth orbit, on the Moon, and on Mars. At the end of the game, you choose one of these cards and score 1 point for goal completed, with bonus points if you completed enough of these goals before anyone else did.
The first player to complete a mission scores 1 point more than anyone who comes afterward, and while a point here or there might not seem like much, the margin of victory in the four games that I've played on a review copy from PHALANX — two each with two and three players — have all been relatively tight. The first player to the Moon and to Mars pick up a 1 point bonus, and you can also "buy" crises cards in the market to solve them and earn 2 points for each at the cost of having them gum up your deck with their pointy uselessness.
Although in theory you could try to go anywhere on your first mission, you would need to acquire a ton of cards before succeeding with any Mars mission, so you effectively need to complete a mission or two in Earth orbit before heading to more distant locations, a nice replication of what has happened in reality with the probably not accidental result of players often competing to be first on identical Earth orbit missions, which means taking more risks.
We worried that the $20 bonus for completing a space hotel mission — money that you can spend each turn to purchase cards or pay for mission supplies — was too powerful, akin to a money strategy in most deck-building games, but that hasn't proved to be the case in practice. Again, part of the game is figuring out when to take risks, and if you build engines on the launch pad, you can take more launch attempts, and the more often you do that, the more chances you have of things clicking into place — as long as you have some number of icons to start with, mind you.
Or maybe not. In four games, no one tried to rely solely on the mission success deck to launch, and maybe we were overlooking that possibility to our detriment since it is possible to hit any of the targets solely with mission success cards. Hmm. I hadn't even considered that until writing this post, but that's possibly because I'm not one to swing wildly at long odds. That said, I won none of the four games I played, so perhaps I should get a clue and change my approach!
To find out more about how to play, see more of the cards you can add to your deck, and experience a few turns of play, check out this overview video:
Youtube Video Read more »
- VideoReturn to Mankind's Past to Place Dominos, Place Polyominoes, and Flip Tokens on Six ContinentsKlaus-Jürgen Wrede has visited prehistoric times previously in Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, and now he's looking at the same period of time on a global scale in Fire & Stone, due out in October 2021 from Pegasus Spiele.
Here's an overview of how to play this 2-4 player game:In Fire & Stone, players lead their tribe through the Stone Age. They scout new lands, harvest nuts and mushrooms, and finally build villages. The aim of the game is to have the most successful tribe by exploring new lands, building huts, and gathering resources. With the invention of new tools and techniques like ship building or pottery, the expansion of your tribe can even be accelerated.
Each space the scouts can enter contains upside-down discover tokens. When a scout moves on one of those tokens for the first time, the token is revealed and triggers an effect. From now on these tokens can be used as a player action with a different effect. By the end of the game, the player who made the most victory points with villages and accomplishing tasks wins.
Prehistories, a polyomino-based game design with bidding and hand-management elements from Benoit Turpin (Welcome To...) and Alexandre Emerit that French publisher The Flying Games released in December 2020.
Here's an overview of this 2-5 player design that plays in 30 minutes:You are the leader of a prehistoric tribe, deciding which members of your tribe go hunting and what prey they want to catch. To guide you, the Elders have created challenges that you can complete by painting on the wall of your cave.
Each round in Prehistories, you and your fellow tribe leaders bid simultaneously (and secretly) to decide who hunts where. The more hunters you have, the bigger the game you can catch, but the slower you are. The fastest player — that is, the one with the smallest sum of hunters — goes first, but they have few hunters with which to hunt.
To hunt, you assign your hunters to one or more locations to catch the prey waiting there. Prey is represented by polyomino tiles, and the larger the tile, the higher the sum required. If you have just enough hunters to catch your prey, they might be wounded in the process, which means you'll draw fewer hunter cards at the end of the round to refill your hand. (They distrust your leadership when you get them injured!)
In the second phase of a round, you paint your cave with the animal tiles collected during the hunting phase. Your cave is represented by a 7x7 grid that starts with a few tiles already in place. The first tile you place goes in the left-hand column, and all subsequent tiles must touch tiles already placed, with all tiles being oriented so that the animals are viewed with their legs (or fins) down. (Cavemen have simple tastes and want everything to be representational.)
When you fulfill the wishes of the Elders by painting your cave in certain ways — such as completing a horizontal line or connecting opposing corners or surrounding a legendary animal on all sides — you place one or more totem tokens on that challenge. Whoever first discards their eight totem tokens wins.
Kingdomino: Origins, a standalone game for 2-4 players from Bruno Cathala and Blue Orange Games that plays similarly to 2016's Spiel des Jahres-winning Kingdomino, but with twists:Go back in time to the prehistoric era with Kingdomino Origins, which introduces new components for additional actions and new ways to score points. Regions in your territory will earn you points if they contain fire. Fire is either part of your terrains or earned by adding dominoes with volcanoes. There are three game modes to play:
—The first one introduces fire and volcanoes;
—The second mode uses wooden resources;
—And the third one features cavemen tokens.
You earn points by collecting resources, with additional points when you have the majority of a type of resources. These resources allow you to bring cavemen to your territory, and each type of caveman has its own way to give you points based on their position.
Cathala presented an overview of this title (on a still in-progress version of the game) in French in February 2021:
Youtube Video Read more »
- VideoLinks: Less Crowded Conventions, Popping Publicity, and Games in the EnvironmentAsmodee Deutschland noted that due to the "still uncertain health situation in 2021" and despite the increasing speed with which vaccinations are being delivered in Germany, Asmodee and its studios will not have a stand at SPIEL '21. Asmodee had earlier stated that it would not attend Gen Con 2021, and Paizo Publishing will not be at that show either.
I've been compiling preview lists for Gen Con, Origins, and SPIEL — all visible here — and several publishers have responded to my outreach efforts to say that they don't plan to attend one show or another. Some have said they will exhibit in 2022 at the earliest.
When people have given reasons for not appearing at the shows, they primarily focus on health concerns (understandably), stating that they don't want to ask others to endanger themselves by representing them at conventions. Several publishers have said that due to social distancing requirements, they will likely focus solely on sales and not have demo space — or they will have only stand-up café-style tables that allow for a demo in a tight area, but not a full playthrough.
I can understand the stated health concerns, but I imagine that some publishers are taking advantage of the unique opportunity available in 2021 — a year in which you can roll over your booth fee to 2022 at Gen Con and SPIEL, despite the shows taking place — to determine how much value convention presence actually has. For many publishers, game sales in 2020 were mind-blowing, and for many titles, sales in 2021 have continued to surge faster than publishers can restock their warehouse. Given this condition, why not skip an event that costs thousands or tens of thousands of dollars/Euros to see whether sales roll along just fine anyway?
Normally you couldn't bail on a Gen Con booth without losing your place on the floor in the subsequent year, but in 2021 you can, so now's the time to experiment. Meanwhile, those publishers that do plan to exhibit can push all of their 2020 titles that lacked convention time to see whether the extra exposure makes a difference compared to sales in the previous year.
Players get to experiment as well to some degree, seeing whether they feel like they're missing out should they stay home — or perhaps realizing that they still have titles from the 2019 shows on their shelves that they've yet to play. We'll probably all have to wait until the 2022 conventions to see what, if anything, has "permanently" changed as a result...
• Speaking of Asmodee Deutschland, in March 2021 the company started handling distribution of titles from French publisher Cocktail Games.
• Canadian publisher FoxMind gets a callout in an April 2021 article in The Toy Book about the massive popularity of "fidget toys", with the company's Last Mouse Lost, a.k.a. Last One Lost, a.k.a. Go Pop! being hugely popular on TikTok.
At NY Toy Fair 2020, FoxMind's JC Dorais had told me that sales of game/toy were blowing away everything else in its catalog — and that was before the Covid-19 pandemic had led to a further surge in sales.
• In July 2021, The NY Times published an article by Ivan Nechepurenko and Misha Friedman titled "The Dark Side of Chess: Payoffs, Points and 12-Year-Old Grandmasters" that details the less-than-ideal situations in which two young players gained the title of "grandmaster".
Schmidt Spiele generated sales of €42.2 million in family and children's games in 2020, an increase of 37 percent over 2019. Puzzle sales for 2020 were €12.9 million, an increase of 66% over 2019.
Austrian publisher Piatnik totaled €40 million in sales, a 41% increase over 2019, with Speedy Roll — the 2020 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner — selling nearly 200,000 copies and Smart10 — the 2020 Spiel der Spiele winner — selling 50,000+ copies. I'm always curious about how the BGG audience compares to game players in general, so let me note that BGG's Speedy Roll page lists only 380 owners, which is less than .2% of what sold in Germany and Austria alone.
• In early July 2021, One Pip Wonder led a discussion on the environmental impacts of the board game industry to address comments on a June 2021 video on the same topic.
She followed up this video with one explaining how to recycle a board game. Read more »
- Relive the French and Indian War, Manage Armies in 11th-Century Spain, and Revisit NATO/Warsaw Pact Conflictsvoting is open through July 31, 2021 for the 2020 Charles S. Roberts Awards and that I'm buzzing from an awesome weekend during which I finally got the opportunity to play Triumph & Tragedy, Time of Crisis, and Europe Divided, wargames have been on my mind non-stop lately, so I feel compelled to share some exciting and interesting 2021 releases to check out ahead of next year's CSR Awards:
• Bayonets & Tomahawks is a new, unique, two-player card-driven wargame (without the usual hand-management element) from designer and artist Marc Rodrigue and publisher GMT Games. While it's primarily a two-player game, it can also be played solo or with teams with up to four players.
Here's an overview from the publisher as to what you can expect for gameplay:Bayonets & Tomahawks is a two-player strategic game focusing on the French and Indian War that took place from 1755-1760. Its fluid yet rich system ensures fun for players of all levels. One player controls the British, and the other controls the French and most Indians. Indian diplomacy, raids, constructions, naval operations, sieges: nothing is left out in order to immerse players in the fascinating military asymmetries of the 18th-Century colonial frontier.
A game of B&T can last one or more game years depending on the scenario chosen — up to the full conflict. Over eight action rounds in each game year, players move their pieces on land and sea, perform raids, build forts and roads, etc. Battles/sieges usually occur at the end of each action round. A game year also includes three logistics rounds: "Fleets arrive", "Colonials enlist", and "Winter quarters".
B&T is card driven, but unlike in most card-assisted wargames player don't manage a hand of cards. Each player starts the year with one undisclosed reserve action card picked randomly. At the beginning of each action round, both players draw a new card. They must then choose one of their two cards to play for the current round. The other card becomes their reserve for the next round. At each action round, the French player also gets a random Indians action card.
The action points (AP) on the cards in play determine how many stacks of pieces a player can activate during the current round. In addition the cards trigger events and determine initiative for the next action round. Movement is point to point. Pieces can also move via sea zones.
Each side has particular assets they must make the most of in order to achieve victory: the British have overwhelming numbers, the French are more adept at wilderness fighting with the help of their numerous Indian allies. To win, a player must control enough enemy key spaces to reach the scenario's "invasion victory points" requirement by game end. In one-year scenarios, pieces removed permanently from play yield invasion VP as well. The French player can also win if they succeed in enough raids during the current year to reach the scenario's "raid victory points" requirement.
By its nature, the game lends itself to solitaire play. Additionally, the rules allow the actions of each camp to be split, which means that up to two British players (British, Colonial) and three French players (French, Canadian, Indian) can relive the historic pains of shared command.
• Even though Nevsky: Teutons and Rus in Collision 1240-1242, the first volume in Volko Ruhnke and GMT Games' Levy & Campaign Series, sits unplayed on my "shelf of opportunity", I can't help but be excited and curious about the upcoming second volume in the series, Almoravid: Reconquista and Riposte in Spain, 1085-1086, designed by COIN Series creator Volko Ruhnke.
Following similar rules to Nevksy, in Almoravid Ruhnke challenges 1-2 players to manage logistics for their armies in 11th-century Spain as described below by the publisher:Almoravid] is a board wargame about a pair of tumultuous campaigns in the Spanish Reconquista: Leonese King Alfonso VI's advances against the 11th century's fractious Muslim Taifa states, and the resulting intervention by a fundamentalist African Muslim army seeking to roll the Christians back. It is the second volume in GMT Games' Levy & Campaign Series portraying medieval military operations.
Players will raise and equip their armies and send them out to ravage or conquer disputed territory and defeat enemy forces. Service obligations and alliances will provide a panoply of lords and vassals to serve on campaign but only for limited periods. Players must keep an eye on the calendar and reward lords to keep them in the field.
Every forty days, the sides will levy various lords and vassals and their forces, transport, and capabilities, backed by higher political authorities. Each lord is rated for fealty, lordship, service, and lays out his forces and assets on a mat. Wooden pieces represent units of knights, mounted sergeants, horse and foot units from North Africa, men-at-arms, light horse, militia, and serfs. Assets include counters for transport such as carts and mule trains; provender to feed the army; and coin to pay for longer service or loot captured by ravaging or conquering enemy regions.
The players then plan and command a campaign for that forty days with the lords who have mustered. To represent the limits of communications on medieval operations, stacks of command cards commit players to activating lords in a sequence that may or may not meet the needs of the developing situation. Cylinder pieces on the map show the lords' maneuvers, while markers on a feudal calendar show how much longer the lords will serve, influenced by success or failure in their campaigns. When lords clash in field battle or storming a castle, players array their lords' mats left, right, center, and reserve and attempt to rout the enemy. Various event and capability cards reveal cultural and technological particulars that influence levy, campaign, and combat.
Almoravid is solitaire friendly, or players can use optional screens to hide what the two players' lords levy.
Compass Games recently released NATO, The Cold War Goes Hot, Designer Signature Edition, a souped-up reimplementation of Bruce S. Maxwell's 1983 hit NATO: The Next War in Europe from Victory Games.
NATO, The Cold War Goes Hot plays with 1-4 players in 180-480 minutes and equally excites me and intimidates me based on what I've seen and read about it. It's great that it has different scenarios, especially the introductory scenario, so newbies like me can ease into trying it.
Here's an overview that details what this new edition has to offer:NATO, The Cold War Goes Hot marks the return of a true wargaming classic by Bruce Maxwell. NATO simulates a potential NATO/Warsaw Pact conflict in Central Europe during the Cold War years of the 1980s. First published in 1983, this game was Victory Games' best-selling title, purchased by over 75,000 gamers worldwide.
This new edition is based on an exhaustive two-year study by the designer of the records that have come to light since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The game combines highly accurate information on the forces the Warsaw Pact actually had with now de-classified reports from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency regarding what satellite surveillance and HUMINT revealed about their actual plans. The map has also been extensively updated with new satellite geography. Finally, the game system has been reworked to better reflect the fluid, fast-paced, and deadly nature of modern warfare, while retaining the original intention of simple and intuitive play. Here is the ultimate Cold War game, remastered, and playable in a single sitting.
NATO is a division/brigade level simulation of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. The game map depicts the area from Denmark to the Swiss Alps, and from France to Poland. The time frame covers the first fourteen days of war, after which one side or the other has usually run out of an army. The game offers four different scenarios, covering 1) a surprise attack from a standing start, 2) an attempt by the WP to quietly prepare without tipping NATO off beforehand, 3) an extended build-up of forces by both sides before war breaks out, and 4) an introductory scenario covering the invasion of Denmark.
Each scenario can be played with an Order of Battle from 1983 when NATO was still relatively weak, or with an Order of Battle from 1988 when NATO had rearmed and reorganized and was at the peak of its strength. The difference is impressive.
The game features infantry, armor, airborne and airmobile troops, and marines, with easy mechanisms to leverage combined arms operations. It also has extensive options for employing air power, chemical weapons and, for the truly desperate player, a last resort to nuclear weapons. The combat system is built around the concept that the best defense is a good offense, and features artillery, tactical and operational air strikes, reserves, counterattacks and deep exploitation, allowing for a rich set of tactical nuances in play. This is not a game in which the WP attacks and NATO defends. Both players have to attack relentlessly if they want to defeat their opponent.
This Designer Signature edition of the classic Bruce Maxwell game has been upgraded with new units, new scenarios, new terrain, new tables and new player aid cards. Additional enhancements introduced in this edition include:
• Super-sized components feature 9/16" counters and two game maps with larger hexes
• Game map information has been updated and includes all-new map artwork
• New units have been added, unit information has been updated and all units produced with new artwork
• Existing scenarios have been updated and two new scenarios added
• Orders of Battle are provided for all scenarios both 1983 and 1988, allowing players to see the impact of the Reagan Era rearmament programs
• The game system has been redesigned and the new rules include extensive illustrations, examples of play and designer's notes to aid clarity
• Each rules section now begins with a summary, allowing experienced players to skip many rules sections that embody classic game mechanisms they already know
• Rules details and restriction have been summarized graphically in player aids for faster reference and easier play
• Enhanced ergonomics are provided for scenario set up and reinforcement charts
• A new set of designer's notes contain a wealth of historical information on what the West discovered after the Warsaw Pact collapsed and most of its members joined NATO.
• Hidden Strike: American Revolution is a new, card-driven, area-control game based on the American War of Independence from designers Maurice Suckling and Dorian Richard and publisher Worthington Publishing.
The game plays in a variety of different modes with 1-5 players in 60-120 minutes as described below by the publisher:Read more »Hidden Strike: American Revolution recreates the struggle between the American colonists and the British forces during the War of Independence. Each side tries to win the war by controlling a majority of regions.
Confronted by overwhelming forces, the colonists will need strategy to defeat the larger British army and navy to gain their independence. This is a card-driven game in which players manage their hand of cards, usually playing just one card a turn to allow them to move tokens representing military forces across the board into key spaces at key times.
The game can be played in five different modes:
--• Solitaire: For those brave enough to take on the British forces on their own this mode offers a regular and a hardcore option. This mode is a good starting point if you're trying to learn the game by yourself.
--• Versus: A fierce head-to-head in which one player pitches the British forces against the other player's American troops.
--• Co-op mode: In this co-operative mode all players share the same objective — take on the role of the American colonists to win Independence from the British.
--• Traitor Mode: The inclusion of a secret traitor who will try to thwart the Americans' efforts adds a devious twist to the co-op mode.
--• Mastermind: As one player assumes the role of George III, the Sons of Liberty will have to band together to overcome the British King's formidable forces.
- Investigate Scandals, Create Works of Art, and Weave Victorious PatternsEttana: The Looms of Kanchi is the first design from Madhu Sundar and the first release from new publisher Mad4Fun Games in Switzerland and India. The game is available for purchase online (store link), but is not available in distribution yet as far as I know.
Here's an overview of the game's setting and how to play:Indian handlooms date back several centuries. The tradition of weaving by hand formed a part of the country's cultural ethos. A piece of fabric with a design could indicate the meaning, its purpose, the culture of the era, and even the way the people lived. Handlooms thus became a precious part of the generational legacy and exemplify the richness and diversity of a country and the artistry of the weavers.
Innovative weavers with their skillful blending of myths, faiths, symbols, and imagery provide the fabric an appealing dynamism. The appeal of the handloom lies in introducing innovative designs that cannot be easily replicated. This rich tradition of hand weaving still thrives at Kanchi, a prominent temple town in South India. Fabrics were part and parcel of trade done by the Indian weavers for which they got back "Annas" or goods in return.
In Ettana: The Looms of Kanchi, players take the role of weavers to complete designs and be the first to make eight "Annas" (victory points). In detail, set up the 5x5 game board by placing one of 25 yarn discs (five of each in five colors) on each space, then place 16 of the 18 number tiles (three each of the numbers 1-6) at the intersections of the spaces on the game board; place the remaining two number tiles on the side in the reserve, along with one yarn disc of each color. Each player receives a random action card, a random design card, and two tokens with a value of 1. Each player places their pawn on one number tile.
On a turn, you roll the two dice: a color die and a number die. If a player's pawn is touching a space that shows the color rolled, they receive a 1 token; if the die shows black, which is not a yarn color, you take an action card and no one else gets anything. You can then move your pawn as many spaces as the number rolled, after which you can swap two yarn adjacent to your location. Additionally, you can play as many action cards as you wish, and you can pay tokens to take design cards, take action cards, and swap any two yarns. Action cards allow you to move, swap, gain tokens, replace a yarn or number with one from the reserve, etc.
If the pattern of yarn on the board matches a design card in hand, you can reveal that card to score its points. As demonstrated in the image above, you don't have to match the precise colors — only the pattern; in this case, you need a line of three in one color, with two diagonal legs each in a separate color.
Megacorpin Games debuted in 2016 with Awkward Guests, and in September 2021 it plans to Kickstart (preview link) another deduction game from designer Ron Gonzalo García that uses his "Brilliant Deck System".
Here's an overview of the 1-6 player game ScandalOh!:ScandalOh! is a deduction game about investigative journalism in which each playing presents a different scenario, and players have to bring a scandal to light.
—WHAT is the scandal plot?
—WHICH celebrity is behind it?
—WHICH newspaper will make it public?
The game challenges you to use genuine investigative abilities to solve each case. To get the scoop, you have to keep an eye on the celebrities and their contacts, question the newspaper editors, search for clues anywhere in the city, and consult your sources. You do all of this while exchanging information with your opponents or hiding it from them, so get ready to use all your deductive skills!
The heart of ScandalOh! is simple: Players have a hand of seven cards, and each card has a value (1 or 2 points, according to the amount of information that it provides) and several references (i.e., the subjects of the card information). During a turn, you ask for information about three different references in which you are interested. The rest of the players can offer you cards that contain the requested references, and you can trade for those cards by giving the offering players the same number of points they have offered via cards in your hand.
After each round ends, players can try to uncover the scandal. If the actual scandal is not revealed, players discard part of their hands and receive three new cards. The player or players who uncover the scandal first win.
Moaideas Game Design has a new design coming from DuGuWei, who designed the fetching, yet little seen game Yin Yang in 2019.
Here's an overview of Jiangnan: Life of Gentry, which will be Kickstarted in October 2021:Jiangnan: Life of Gentry is a 1-4 player worker-placement and action tile bag-building board game about life in Ancient China where players are literati artisans searching for inspiration to compose and present great literary works at the capital city of Nankin; however, aristocracy is fickle. Will you follow the latest trends or start them?
In the game, players are part of the elite gentry class living in "Jiangnan", the prosperous region to the south of the Qinhuai River. As part of your education for attending the Imperial Scholar-Official exams, you are highly skilled in literature, calligraphy, brush painting, and the musical and performing arts — but becoming a bureaucrat is not your cup of tea; you'd rather follow your passion and thrive to compose great works of arts, publishing everlasting classics to be sung and studied for a hundred thousand years.
More images and game details are on the Moaideas website. Read more »
- VideoCure the Pandemic of the Lich King, Flip Ships at Space Invaders, and Try Not to Get Bit...AgainKane Klenko's Flip Ships was released in 2017 by Renegade Game Studios, many people said, "That seems like a cool take on Space Invaders."
Apparently Space Invaders' owner Taito thought so as well as the game design has now been picked up by Buffalo Games for release as an officially licensed Space Invaders game, with the title bearing a July 25, 2021 release date at the U.S. retail chain Target and an August 1, 2021 release date more generally.
Gameplay remains mostly the same as in Flip Ships, with this being a co-operative dexterity game in which you take on the roles of brave pilots defending their planet from an onslaught of firepower. You need to flip your ships to take out the encroaching enemies, then take down the powerful mother ship before it's too late. On Facebook, Klenko noted, "Space Invaders will feature a few new things, including a board to make the invader movement easier to track, a Hi-Score system so you can not only try to beat the game, but also your previous scores, and a super cool Joystick Catapult to fire your shots, so even if you were a terrible shot in Flip Ships, you might have a chance now!"
Dave Chalker's super fun game Get Bit!, first released in 2007 by Robot Martini, is getting a new edition from Greater Than Games.
In the game, you're trying to escape a shark along with 2-5 other players. All of you are in a line with the shark at the heels of the backmost swimmer. On a turn, all players reveal a numbered card from their hand simultaneously to determine where they move in line — but if you play the same number as another player, the two of you don't move! The shark then bites a limb off whoever is at the back of the line, with fear of death inspiring that player to race to the front of the pack. Lose four limbs, and you're chum for the shark. When only two players remain, whoever is ahead of the other player escapes and wins.
On Facebook, Chalker noted, "There will be some brand new parts for those who already have a copy, but also it will be the best time to get a copy of the game."
• I missed covering this reimplementation a couple of weeks ago when it was announced on the same day as many other things that I did cover — World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, a Z-Man Games publication described as "A Pandemic System Board Game".
Initially Z-Man Games had posted only a teaser trailer, but now it's revealed more info about the game, which is designed by Justin Kemppainen, Alexandar Ortloff, and Michael Sanfilippo:In World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, players journey to the frozen continent of Northrend to face the armies of the Lich King. This "Pandemic System" game showcases familiar mechanisms and gameplay, now tweaked to embrace the setting of the Wrath of the Lich King. Forts, temples, battlegrounds, and more populate the game board as you and your fellow heroes journey across the cold landscape. Along the way, you'll set up strongholds, complete quests, and do battle with legions of undead.
In more detail, players team up as legendary heroes from across Azeroth, each with their own unique abilities to help in and out of combat. Heroes such as Thrall, Warchief of the Horde; Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind; Sylvanas Windrunner, Banshee Queen of the Forsaken; and many more are at your fingertips. As the Scourge grows, more undead will populate the board. Throw dice as you enter into battle against the hordes of ghouls and ferocious abominations, using hero cards to add power to your attacks, block incoming assaults, heal wounds, take mounts to far off spaces, and so much more.
As you fight your way to the Lich King, all manner of dark magic and terrible creatures under his control need to be neutralized. This comes in the form of quests, a brand-new mechanism that can be completed as a team through a combination of dice rolls and the hero cards at your disposal. However, each quest comes with its own dangers and hindrances. Complete these quests to move closer to the final assault on Icecrown Citadel, where the Lich King himself resides.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is due out in November 2021, accommodates 1-5 players, and has the complete rules posted here.
The publisher has also posted a more detailed, yet still teasery video:
Youtube Video Read more »
- Designer Diary: The Accidental Game Design of Hashi
At the beginning of 2019, my employer allowed me to take one month off from work in order to enroll in a full-time course at the Berlin School of English to become certified as a TESL teacher (Teaching English as a Second Language). I knew that this intensive course also meant that I would have no time for most of my other activities, including game design, so I vowed to put all my projects to the side temporarily in order to focus on the course.
However, just as Steve Martin discovered, it is very difficult for creatives to turn off their creativity. And so it happened that, while I was fully immersed in learning the art of teaching my mother tongue to adults from around the world, I accidentally designed a game.
I should not have been so surprised. After all, my environment is oftentimes my inspiration, and I view daily life through the lens of play. Suddenly altering my routine was bound to expose me to new stimuli, especially in the ever-changing city of Berlin.
Taking the subway downtown was something I hadn't done on a daily basis since I worked there as an architect over twenty years ago. I reveled in mixing with the masses of people streaming in and out of the underground tunnels, like tributaries emptying into the Elbe.
One of those first mornings on my way to school, as I was waiting on the train platform, a man near me caught my attention. He was drawing lines in a book. I edged closer and tried to peer inconspicuously over his shoulder. It was a book of puzzles consisting of numbered circles, and he was drawing lines to connect the circles. The circles were like islands and the lines were bridges, and whenever an island had as many bridges connected to it as its number, the man crossed that island out.
As we boarded our train, I was so intrigued that I looked it up on my phone. Before the train arrived at my school, I had already downloaded a free app with the puzzle and had solved several of them.
These puzzles are called "Hashiwokakero", or "Hashi" for short.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Puzzle
I have a confession to make: I don't really like puzzles. Not jigsaw puzzles, not logic puzzles, not puzzle hunts, and not even escape rooms (although this did not stop me from designing several puzzles when I had a pitch appointment in Essen one year with ThinkFun).
In a puzzle, there is only one solution, one road to follow that everyone must tread — and it's guaranteed to be a well-worn road as I will be far from the first to ever solve a puzzle. In a board game, having only one solution — one path to victory — is considered poor design at best, "solved" at its worst.
The best modern board games usually allow for the creativity of the players, with multiple branching paths to explore. Sometimes you can even go off-road.
In fact, playing my game Pandoria (co-designed with Bernd Eisenstein) online at Yucata has exposed me to different playing styles from around the world, some of which we never encountered before in our test groups in Berlin. That's one of the exciting things about game design: creating a world and then "letting it loose". When I explore that world further myself, even I discover things I haven't seen before. It is as if the game has taken on a life of its own.
However, despite all my prejudices against puzzles, here I was on my phone in the train, enamored with a simple, one-solution "game" with no replayability. It was the mechanism I liked so much, the number of bridges being determined by the number on each island, and the challenge of making it all fit together. And it had a topographical feel to it, rather than the stale numbers-in-boxes puzzle books that had been so popular recently.
Yes, this simple mechanism could be the basis of a game, a competitive game that allowed for creative play with different challenges each game.
I arrived for my class on time, but during my coffee break, I made my first sketch.
To Roll & Write, or Not to Roll & Write?
It is interesting to me to follow trends in the boardgame industry, and I enjoy new challenges, but trying to design a game using the latest hot mechanism or a popular genre is never a motivation for me. I have yet to try my hand at making a deck-building game, and Alea Iacta Est/Order of the Gilded Compass is the closest thing to "worker placement" I've ever tried. And with the market recently becoming saturated with "roll & write" games, making one of my own was not exactly a priority.
But as I said before, games often take on a life of their own, and this even starts to happen during the design process. When I worked as an architect, we would often say, "I think this is what the building wants to be."
It was clear from the beginning that Hashi, the game, wanted to be a roll & write, and it was my job to make that happen, no matter what my reservations were at the time.
Gamifying a Puzzle
The thing that captivated me about the "Hashi" puzzles was their main mechanism: the number of bridges needed to complete an island was equal to the number on that island — but since a puzzle has only one solution, the numbers were already pre-printed on the islands.
As a gamer, I wanted the freedom to assign the numbers as I played. The positions of the islands would still be predetermined by the map — although there could be many different map variations included — but it would be up to each player to fill those islands with numbers and connect them with their bridges. Each turn, players would be given a new island number to write on their maps and a number of bridges to draw between islands. These would, of course, be determined by dice rolls each round.
Playing the Game vs. Playing the Players
If I was going to enter the field of roll & write games, then I had to address one of its greatest weaknesses, in my opinion: a lack of player interaction.
There is a long-standing — and often emotional — debate in the hobby between those players who prefer interactive games and those who would rather compete against the game system unhindered by their opponents.
Labels for these positions can be negative and unfair: the former often referred to as "mean games" and the latter as "multi-player solitaire", even when not many games are purely one or the other.
As one of my favorite type of games to design is tile-placement (Citrus, Heartland/Gunkimono), I don't shy away from direct player interaction. However, I am also not opposed to players having their own private "sandboxes" in which to play (Jedzie pocaig a deleka), and I even designed a game with both, a central competitive space together with a private space free from the influence of your opponents (Rolnicy/Gloomy Graves). But even in my sandbox games, I try to have at least some interaction, which usually comes from some type of race.
The Urgency of a Race
Another thing I find missing from puzzles is a sense of urgency. The fact that you can take as long as you like to solve a puzzle is part of its appeal as a leisure activity. Games, on the other hand, usually have a time limit. Simply playing a game until the time is up, however, isn't that interesting to modern audiences. We've grown accustomed to a "story arc" in well-designed games, something that builds tension as the game progresses to a climactic finish. The tension and sense of urgency increase as the board fills up and players seek to finish what they started.
In Hashi, you have the built-in goal of completing as many islands as you can by the end of the game, when you no longer have any more islands without numbers.
However, I wanted more urgency than simply "finish this by the end of the game". Each player had their own board, but I wanted them to be looking at their opponents, too. Additionally, I find that games with multiple goals are usually more exciting and allow for more varied playing styles.
So I designed several additional goals for the players, and if you were the player (or players) to complete these goals first, you received a larger bonus than simply completing them before the end of the game. One of those goals is completing a chain of six finished islands that are all connected to each other by bridges. The other is completing a number of islands with flags that are scattered around the board. There are four red flag islands and three blue flag islands, and completing each group awards bonus points as well.
It is, of course, a challenge to complete all of these additional goals by the end of the game and nearly impossible to complete them all before your opponents do. Not only does this create the sense of urgency, it also adds to the interaction as players look at each others' boards to see how they are progressing toward each goal, then adjust their own strategies accordingly.
I also designed interaction into the dice mechanism. There were two dice, each with a number between 1-6 and 1-3 lines (bridges) on each side. Players took turns rolling both dice, then placing one die on an illustration of a bridge and the other on a picture of an island. All players then wrote the island number on a free island of their choice and draw the number of bridges shown on the die designated for bridges. In this way, the active player had a choice and could take into account the positions of their opponents as well as their own position.
Playtesting and Pitching
I have to admit, playtesting a roll & write has its advantages! After I had completed my studies, I traveled with my family for a week vacation to an old farm that also had guest rooms and was tucked away in the mountains of "Swiss Saxony" south of Dresden. It is a beautiful and peaceful retreat from the big city, and we've made it our annual winter tradition.
We also invite friends to join us during the week, and I brought along several of my prototypes, including my new one, Hashi. And even when others were not interested in playing, I could play the game myself and experiment with different board configurations.
The game was also easy to bring on the airplane during our many flights overseas, and it became a favorite one for my wife to play while traveling, often attracting the eyes of other curious passengers, who would then ask where they could buy a copy of the game.
But there was also a sense of urgency in getting the game to interested publishers. After all, I was surprised that no one had attempted to use the Hashi puzzle mechanism in a game before, and I knew that there may be others working parallel on the same idea, so I made a black-and-white version that was easy to print and play, then sent it to several German publishers I knew, as well as several friends around the world to expand my pool of playtesters.
I was thrilled when Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag responded that it was interested in the design as NSV is a world-renowned publisher of roll & write games. I'm also a fan of editor Reinhard Staupe, and he was excited about the game.
Reinhard wanted to change the game to a flip & write, however, and it did improve the game as we could eliminate the extreme situations of rolling too many high or low numbers, which were not as fun. We were also able to print all of the cards on the player boards so that players could keep track of the cards that were still in the deck (to eliminate the need for card-counting), but, of course, one card would be out of play so that you would not have perfect information for the final rounds.
I am very happy with the clean, serene art and graphic design by Oliver and Sandra Freudenreich. NSV included high-quality dry-erase markers with the game, and the player boards are double-sided, offering players two different map variations.
However, these only scratch the surface — so much more is possible! My prototype included ten different boards, each with different island configurations and different rules and goals. Hopefully, if the game does well in the market, some of these will also be published.
Accidental Game Design Redux
The design of Hashi showed me that I cannot help but design games, even when I'm not trying to. And it also opened the door to a new source of inspiration. I now find myself mining puzzles for other interesting mechanisms that can be used in the more creative space of board games...
...and this time, I'm doing so intentionally.
Jeffrey D. Allers
Read more »
- VideoGame Preview: Top Pop, or The Game That Will Not Resolve Your Daddy Issues
The intent of "Outside the Game Box" is to host game-related events that are not solely about playing games, although sometimes we will just play games. The first few events took place outdoors — a meet-and-greet, a disc golf outing at a nearby course followed by dexterity games at my place, and (the focus of this post) a game demo combined with related food.
Local designer Matt Wolfe knows my tastes, so he had put me in contact with designers Mark McGee and Joshua J. Mills, who were interested in showing me a highly tactical, highly interactive game prior to it being Kickstarted in mid-2021 by Talon Strikes Studios. Among the event ideas on our list, Linda and I had included "designer Q&A and game presentation", so we invited McGee and Mills to bring multiple copies of the game — Top Pop, in which you are trying to prove yourself the best owner of a soda company — and we organized a group of players and picked up two dozen sodas so that we could "live the theme" during the event.
We ended up having fifteen attendees, with groups playing the game once, then breaking for snacks and soda tasting — with us divvying a bottle into tiny cups so that whoever wanted could try the same soda at the same time — then redistributing for a second game, followed by more soda tasting, with a designer Q&A being sprinkled throughout all of that. The event went great and has inspired us to do more along these same lines. We've already hosted a chill A Gentle Rain + tea-tasting event, and in the autumn months we'll have a chili cook-off paired with Bohnanza.
As for the game, I've now played Top Pop four times on a mock-up copy from Talon Strikes, twice with three players and once each with four and five players. The game isn't currently described as a bidding game on the BGG game page, but it is 100% a bidding game in my mind, with players trying to have both majorities in various cities and diversity among the cities they've collected — although it's tough to have it all, which is the challenge of the game, of course.
The deck contains city cards numbered 3-9, with adjustments based on player count, and each city appears as many times in the deck as the number on it: three 3s, four 4s, etc. Within each number, one card is a night card with a different back, while all the other cards are day.
On a turn, you place a city card in front of yourself (gaining nothing) or in front of another player (gaining a token of their color). Then you claim a token of any color, often your own so that you can place bids. Then you can place bids on as many cards as you wish, after which you fill your hand to three cards. If you place a day card, it goes face up, whereas a night card goes face down and can be looked at only by the person who played it and the person it lies in front of, which might be the same person.
To place a bid, you put any number of tokens in a stack on the card with your color on top; if someone else has a high bid on the card, your bid must have more tokens than theirs and you must include their color in your bid, along with one token of your own color on top, effectively saying, "I know you are, but what am I?" If someone tops your bid, you can add to your initial bid, but you must once again include a token of their color and of yours.
At the start of your turn before doing anything else, if you have the high bid on a card, you claim that card. The high bid goes to the player who has the card in front of them — except that if the card is in front of you, the high bid goes to the bank. You cannot place a "bid" on what you're "selling", then keep both the item and the money. Again, the game doesn't talk about bidding and auctions, but I find it easier to process all the moving parts if I do think of it this way. Everyone else who has a bid on a claimed card takes back their stack, and now they have those tokens to use again on a future turn.
Managing your tokens — which will be plastic, stacking bottle caps in the published version of the game (KS link) — is the heart of Top Pop, just as money management is at the heart of any auction game. If you lack money, you lack power, and everything in the game will be determined by others for you.
You need tokens of your color to place bids, but you also need tokens of other colors to beat the bids of others. You might need to place a card in front of someone so that you can collect a token of their color and beat a high bid of theirs — but in doing so, you have likely guaranteed them future tokens when someone bids on and wins that card. You might want to place a card in front of yourself, then bid on it so that someone has to include your color to overbid, thereby giving you tokens for two possible bids in the future — but doing so locks your token out of play initially and the card might end up being more valuable than the tokens depending on the flow of the game.
The game continues until someone claims their sixth card, and depending on how well they've managed bids, that might come sooner than expected. In a three-player game, for example, I managed to place four bids on a single turn, with three of those bids holding until my next turn, getting me to the six-card threshold. At that point, all players throw away all cards in hand and carry out only the final actions of a turn: claim a token of any color, then place as many bids as you like. After all players have had a chance to do this, gameplay ends, and cards still in play are awarded to the high bidders.
As for who wins, you score 2 points for each different city you have after the first. For each city, whoever has more cards than each other player scores 2 points per card; if players are tied for majority in a city, they each score 1 point per card. In the event of a tie — which seemed to happen often as high scores were typically 12-14 — whichever tied player has the most tokens wins.
"Highly tactical, highly interactive" turned out to be exactly the right description of Top Pop, which forces you to adapt constantly based on what you see people play and bid on and win, not to mention which tokens they're collecting since that tells you where they can strike on their turn. Money flows in a tight system, and prolonged bidding wars can hurt the parties involved since they have neither won the card nor reclaimed their tokens for other bids — yet sometimes you're going to overbid because you think that card is precisely what you need, especially since not all cards get played and the night cards add uncertainty as to who has claimed what.
For more details on the gameplay and a visual sense of how money flows in the game, check out this video:
Youtube Video Read more »
- MicroMacro: Crime City Wins Spiel des Jahres 2021, while Paleo Wins Kennerspiel des Jahres 2021MicroMacro: Crime City by Johannes Sich and Edition Spielwiese has won the 2021 Spiel des Jahres, German's game of the year award, which is arguably the best known and most influential award in the hobby game market, beating out The Adventures of Robin Hood by Michael Menzel and Zombie Teenz Evolution by Annick Lobet.
Here's an overview of the title for those who have not played:Crimes have taken place all over the city, and you want to figure out exactly what's happened, so you'll need to look closely at the giant city map (75 x 110 cm) to find all the hidden information and trace the trails of those who had it in for their foes.
MicroMacro: Crime City includes 16 cases for you to solve. Each case includes a number of cards that ask you to find something on the map or uncover where someone has gone or otherwise reveal information relevant to a case. The city map serves as a map in time as well as space, so you'll typically find people in multiple locations throughout the streets and buildings, and you need to piece together what happened, whether by going through the case card by card or by reading only the starting card in the case and trying to figure out everything that happened for yourself. Will you be able to answer all questions about the case without fail?
For a more detailed presentation of this engaging and disturbing title, I recommend checking out my written and video overview. Detective Max would appreciate a moment of your time...
For the Kennerspiel des Jahres, an award intended for enthusiasts comfortable with a more involved game than the mainstream-friendly Spiel des Jahres winners, the SdJ jury chose Paleo, by Peter Rustemeyer and Hans im Glück, which means that both awards this year went to co-operative games.
Here's an overview of the game:Paleo is a co-operative adventure game set in the stone age, a game in which players try to keep the human beings in their care alive while completing missions. Sometimes you need a fur, sometimes a tent, but these are all minor quests compared to your long-term goal: Painting a woolly mammoth on the wall so that humans thousands of years later will know that you once existed. (Okay, you just think the mammoth painting looks cool. Preserving a record of your past existence is gravy.)
What might keep you from painting that mammoth? Death, in all its many forms.
Each player starts the game with a couple of humans, who each have a skill and a number of life points. On a turn, each player chooses to go to one location — possibly of the same type as other players, although not the same location — and while you have some idea of what you might find there, you won't know for sure until you arrive, at which point you might acquire food or resources, or find what you need to craft a useful object, or discover that you can aide someone else in their project, or suffer a snakebite that brings you close to death. Life is full of both wonders and terrors...
At the day's end, you need food for all the people in your party as well as various crafts or skills that allow you to complete quests. Failure to do so adds another skull on the tote board, and once you collect enough of those, you decide that living is for fools and give up the ghost, declaring that future humans can just admire someone else, for all you care.
Paleo includes multiple modules that allow for a variety of people, locations, quests, and much more during your time in 10,000 BCE.
Congratulations to all involved with these two games! Read more »
- Manage Your Reputation at the Dog Park, Listen for Echoes, and Take Tricks DailyLottie and Jack Hazell are the hosts of the "Board Games with My Wife" podcast, and in late 2021 they plan to move into publishing under the name Birdwood Games with the Kickstarter launch of the 1-4 player game Dog Park, which will be released in 2022. An overview:Welcome to Dog Park, a mid-weight, competitive set-collection and point-to-point movement game in which players take on the role of dog walkers who recruit, walk, and care for their dogs over four rounds. Each round is split into four phases:
—Recruitment Phase: Players compete in two rounds of offers to add dogs to their kennels. Offers are made with players' reputation (victory points), so must be placed wisely.
—Selection Phase: Players decide which dogs to place on their lead to walk this round.
—Walking Phase: Players journey through the dog park with their fellow walkers, collecting resources, earning reputation, and interacting with other walkers.
—Home Time Phase: Players earn reputation for their walked dogs, and lose reputation for any unwalked dogs in their kennel.
Players must choose their routes and dogs carefully to earn the best reputation and prove they are the most accomplished walker of them all. At the end of the game, the player with the most reputation wins.
Lottie Hazell has posted a first designer diary about the game on BGG, explaining her desire to incorporate more than two hundred unique dogs into the game.
• German publisher Ravensburger has a new twist on "escape room" games with a trilogy of designs from Dave Neale and Matthew Dunstan that bear the name "echoes". Here's an overview of how to play these designs:echoes is a co-operative audio mystery game. Using the free app, players listen to mysterious noises and voices that are connected to the playing material. Together they look for hints in the sound bites to bring the story parts in order and solve the case.
In more detail, your task is to assemble the 24 parts of the story in the right order; each part is represented by an object — either a game board or a card — and its associated echo. The entire story is divided into six chapters, with each chapter being represented by a game board. By scanning the objects with the app, you'll hear the echo connected with each object, and by using conversations and noises in the echo, you try to figure out which three object cards are associated with a chapter and in which order they should be placed. If you're not correct, the app will inform you which cards are incorrect or in the wrong place; if you are correct, you can listen to the entire chapter all at once — and you should since new, additional hints can then be heard.
The objects themselves also provide you with clues from time to time, so neglect no details.
As for the specific cases, here are short teasers:
—The New York underworld makes dark plans in an illegal bar, and the echoes of the past hide the identity of its leader. You need to discover that identity in echoes: Der Cocktail.
—The ghost of a young girl is haunting a Scottish manor, and the echoes of the past hide the secret of her death. See whether you can unravel this secret in echoes: Die Tänzerin.
—In the far future, civilization is lying in ruins, and the echoes of the past hide the tragic story of its downfall. See whether you can uncover the truth in echoes: Der Mikrochip.
Exit: The Game designers Inka and Markus Brand have a new design from Ravensburger that seems to fall in the same ballpark — Mystery Games: Der verfluchte Geburtstag (The Cursed Birthday). Here's a short overview of the title, which hits the German market on September 1, 2021:Lady Hampton is planning a party, but a ghost is disrupting the preparation and threatens to drive away the guests.
In Mystery Games: Der verfluchte Geburtstag, you must work together to find the key to the drawer in which the ghost is hiding inside this three-story villa. When you have mastered all the challenges presented over the six rounds, which includes information from guests and employees via a supported app, a final test awaits...
What's in the Hampton Mansion rooms?!
• To continue with Ravensburger releases, the Brands have co-designed the trick-taking game Stichtag with their daughter Emely, and this design for 3-5 players has a daily twist that will perhaps inspire players to log their games:The basic rules of the trick-taking game Stichtag are straightforward: Each player starts with twelve cards in hand, red is trump, and players want to collect the most tricks to win.
However, the game includes a desk calendar with three flippable stacks of cards: two for the numerals in the date and one for the month. Each combination of cards corresponds to a different day of the year, giving you 366 game variants — or even more should you wish to play on March 38...
Read more »
- Tulips and Canals from Uwe Rosenberg, Vector-Based Racing from Spartaco AlbertarelliAMIGO has teased its game releases in the latter half of 2021, promising detailed information about the games on August 2, 2021. Since I somewhat know what the BGG audience is interested in, I'll note that Tulpenfieber (Tulip Fever) — the box in the lower left with the hard-to-read logo — is a 1-4 player dice game from Uwe Rosenberg for players aged 8+ that plays in 30 minutes.
• Speaking of Rosenberg, in mid-July 2021 developer Uli Blennemann of Spielworxx announced a 2022 release from the designer:
Spartaco Albertarelli of KaleidosGames has been posting teaser pics of a new version of VektoRace, a 2018 release co-designed with Davide Ghelfi. This racing game has a decently high rating almost primarily from Italian players and seems not to have had much exposure outside of Italy and SPIEL, with the BGG description not helping in terms of telling us what the game is like:VektoRace is a racing car simulation based on a vector movement concept called "Octagon System". The game requires only a flat surface to be played so you won't find a game board inside.
The official maximum number of players is four, but the game can be easily played up to eight players.
If you've played VektoRace, perhaps you can chime in below as to how this game compares to other racing games — or update the BGG description, then paste that new description as a comment. Two birds with one block of text!
Here's the packaging of the new edition, which will apparently be delivered on fire to all buyers:
The publisher also plans to sell a package of pre-assembled vehicles:
Read more »
- Welcome Cats & Dogs to Your Fort, Enhance Your Defenders of the Realm, and Battle with Tanks in North AfricaLeder Games released the playful and uniquely-themed deck-builder Fort, a remarkable reimplementation of Grant Rodiek's 2018 hidden gem SPQF, featuring Kyle Ferrin's dope signature artwork.
If you couldn't already tell from my game overview post of Fort, I really dig everything it has to offer. I mean, come on...pizza and toys as resources? What's not to love??
Naturally, I was all smiles when I saw Leder Games announce the upcoming Fort: Cats & Dogs expansion, designed by Nick Brachmann and Grant Rodiek. Preorders open in July 2021, and based on the brief description below from the publisher, it sounds like such a fitting expansion! I'm also happy to hear it fits in the base game box, which is always nice:You've begged and pleaded with your parents and finally...it's time to get a pet!
Fort: Cats & Dogs Expansion adds two modules to the Fort base game: dogs and cats. You can use one or both, as desired.
Dogs are loyal. If you play one, it will (usually) go stay in your doghouse, but they're fussy, so you can play a dog only if you meet its needs. Neglect a dog, and it'll wander off. At game end, whoever has the most dogs in their doghouse scores seven points!
Cats are fickle. Their actions happen at specific times, and they move around a lot. Cats will be attracted to a different player if their yard has cards of specific suits, even if the cat's current owner has them, too. The more cats you have at the end of the game, though, the more points you score.
Eagle-Gryphon Games launched a pre-order for some new goodies for the fantasy co-operative hit Defenders of the Realm from Arkham Horror designer Richard Launius: two new expansions — The Hero's Calling and Companions & Catacombs — as well as a revised game board that has improved text readability and images on the map, along with some additional improvements.
The Hero's Calling is a character-building expansion that allows players to create their own heroes, which the publisher describes as follows:The King's call to arms brings forth the finest heroes to defend the realm against a darkness that engulfs the land. In this expansion, players will construct unique heroes by combining power abilities and traits to battle the tainting of the realm. New heroes come forth to answer the call!
In The Hero's Calling, players will construct new characters by combining new abilities from three different types. The combination of these new abilities create powerful new heroes to defend the realm against the darkness.
Companions & Catacombs is the final expansion in the Defenders of the Realm series and features companion and event cards as well as new dungeons for players to explore to acquire powerful treasures while avoiding or overcoming dangerous enemies and challenges. In slightly more detail from the publisher:The Companions & Catacombs expansion for Defenders of the Realm takes the realm to the next level in regard to questing as heroes can now enter the dangerous dungeon catacombs where great treasure is hidden.
Heroes may enhance their combat abilities by obtaining this treasure, but only the bravest and most valiant heroes can gain such hidden and guarded treasures, and many that seek them may not return. Fear not brave heroes because you will not be alone in these new challenges for new allies come to your aid, companions that join in your battles and venture with you in the quest for treasure in defense of the realm.
Darkness has a way of expanding as well, however. The enemy grows off the dark places and rises up in opposition of the heroes seeking treasure and allies. They too recruit from the dungeons and send new challenges the heroes must face in the form of spies, renegade trolls, and brutal warlords joining their forces.
Tank Duel Expansion #1: North Africa, as its name implies, is the upcoming first expansion for Mike Bertucelli's card-based, World War II tank-to-tank warfare release Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs from GMT Games.
Tank Duel, which plays with 1-8 players in 60-180 minutes, has been expanded with a new desert setting and new scenarios, offering players fresh, new challenges as described below by the publisher:
Panzer IV Ausf. E
Panzer III Ausf. F
Sd.Kfz. 232 Rad-8
Semovente da 75/18
M4A2 Sherman III
Cruiser Mk. IV A13
Matilda Mk. II A12
Crusader Mk. II A15
Valentine Mk. II
Churchill Mk. IV
Valentine Mk. VIII
Tank Duel: North Africa includes ID counters allowing you to assign any ID number to each tank, enabling players to combine the tank boards from multiple Tank Duel sets in order to create new tank matchups, or have four Tigers mix it up! North Africa also comes with brand new scenarios, including new historical scenarios for you to test your crews. Tanks and terrain from North Africa can be combined with some scenarios from Enemy in the Crosshairs to give you even more ways to play Tank Duel!
North Africa supports the popular Robata system from Enemy in the Crosshairs and will have new Robata compatible scenarios, and additional rules for Robata to handle desert terrain and new AFVs. From Egypt to Morocco, Tank Duel Expansion #1: North Africa allows you to experience the sun, heat, sand and grit of World War II like never before!
Sinister Fish Games launched a Kickstarter campaign for Shifting Seasons, a new expansion for Haakon Gaarder's 1-5 player, card-drafting, set collection game Villagers.
Shifting Seasons is a modular expansion, targeted for a 2022 release, that adds interesting new options, twists, and more variety to your Villagers games as detailed below:Read more »Through the year various traditions, visitors, and events give the villages interesting opportunities for business and expansion.
Shifting Seasons features several new modules for the Villagers base game, allowing for greater variability, more opportunity, and even more crucial decisions. The expansion adds enough new cards and official rules for games to last an extra round on average, allowing players to build even bigger and better villages!
—Event cards offer new actions and scoring opportunities for all players.
—Powerful new special villagers like the Engineer, Inventor, and Merchant offer rule-bending abilities.
—A whole new suit of villagers allows for longer games with 4-5 players or can be used to mix up any game by replacing the Grapes suit.
—Teams are a new villager type that can be recruited at any time to add an extra food or build icon.
—The new "Monastery" solo mode offers a more relaxed single-player experience.
- Return to Jamaica, Build Rail in Imperial Steam, and Struggle with The Queen's DilemmaSpace Cowboys has announced a new edition of Jamaica, a racing-and-fighting game from Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, and Sébastien Pauchon that first appeared in 2007 from Swiss publisher GameWorks.
Cathala has stated that this version contains only two changes: a redesigned rulebook and "the shortage rule (about which I continue to receive questions 14 years later) has been simplified".
• Italian publisher Horrible Guild has announced a sequel to the 2019 release The King's Dilemma from Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva, with The Queen's Dilemma being an interactive narrative legacy game that uses "the same Dilemma Card System to bring players into another adventure set in the Kingdom of Ankist".
Here's a short description of the game, which is still being developed and currently has no release date:Much of the gameplay of The Queen's Dilemma will be focused on a big map of the kingdom. Players will take control of different regions, and manage them. There will be several resources to gather, with different uses, and players will be able to exchange them to construct buildings and other personal improvements.
The tense voting sessions and tough decisions that made The King's Dilemma such a huge success will still be there, right at the center of the experience, but their outcomes will involve more than resource tracks going up and down this time. Event cards will have more varied effects, too, having an impact on specific regions.
•U.S. publisher Capstone Games has announced an October 2021 release for Imperial Steam, a 2-4 game that plays in 120 minutes from Alexander Huemer, whose only previous design is Lignum, the second edition of which Capstone released in 2017.
Here's a concise description of the game from the publisher:The Industrial Age is starting to boom. You are in need of more workers for your factories, and you also need more workers to build railroad tracks to expand your railway network. This, in turn, will enable you to deliver the goods from your factories to cities with high demand — but be sure to earmark goods for fulfilling profitable public contracts because when the connection to Trieste is made, your net worth is all that matters.
Imperial Steam is a highly strategic yet accessible economic and logistics game that sees you making difficult decisions as you manage your business's operations while navigating fierce competition to ensure your victory!
Yep, that's it. Perhaps this picture supplies a bit more of what you might want to know...
Read more »
- Merge Islands in the Clouds, and Become One with Fernando PessoaSPIEL '21 Preview is coming along nicely, with 180+ titles listed as of July 13, more than three months ahead of the event taking place. Side note: This preview, along with all other convention previews and new game release catalogs, can now be found under the BROWSE tab in the header under "Previews".
Let's highlight a few titles on this list, starting with Pessoa, a 1-4 player game from designer Orlando Sá and publisher PYTHAGORAS that has a fascinating background driving the action of the game. Here's an overview from the publisher:Fernando Pessoa (13 June 1888 - 30 November 1935) was a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher, and philosopher and has been described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets of all times. Pessoa was a prolific writer — and not only under his own name because he created approximately seventy-five others. He did not call them all pseudonyms because he felt that some did not capture their true independent intellectual life and instead called them heteronyms.
In Pessoa, you are one of Pessoa’s most famous heteronyms — Alberto Caeiro, Ricard Reis, Álvaro de Campos, and Bernardo Soares — and move between the metaphysical space of Pessoa's head and the physical spaces of Lisbon to gain inspiration from the iconic cafés, visit bookshops to expand your library and knowledge, and seek inspiration to write poems, thereby scoring victory points. Whoever has the most victory points at the end of the game wins.
In more detail, Pessoa is a worker-placement game with special rules in which players can place their heteronyms since each player is a different heteronym, but all players are also the same physical person, that is Fernando Pessoa.
The game comes with two modules that can be switched on and off as the players wish. If you play with only the base game, Pessoa fares well as an advanced family game with straightforward rules, but interesting decisions and a more tactical nature. With the modules, Pessoa becomes a more crunchy game, in which extra layers of strategy combine to offer you a rich experience that tries to shine light on the complex figure that Fernando Pessoa was.
The game's rulebook includes historical notes to explain how theme and mechanisms are interconnected, providing you an accurate historical background about this extraordinary poet and his metaphysical creations that had their own personality and writing style: his heteronyms. We hope that at the end of your first game, we have spiked your interest to learn more about Fernando Pessoa and his poetry.
• A second title from PYTHAGORAS is a Michael Schacht design for 2-5 players released in May 2021 titled Magellan: Elcano that plays as follows:In Magellan: Elcano, you assume the role of a captain on one of these ships circumnavigating the world, and you want to collect as many goods as possible. Each player has an identical deck of 15 cards, and you start with five random cards in hand. These cards have values on them in two colors (from red, blue, and green) on opposite ends, and three decks of ocean cards in red, blue, and green lie in the center of the table.
Reveal the top card of each deck. Each player then takes turns playing a card from their hand in front of them, building up to three piles — one in each color — and rotating a player card as desired to make it one color or another. Continue around the table until all players have passed or have no cards remaining in hand. Whoever has played the highest total in red discards their played cards and claims the matching ocean card; all other players return their played red cards to hand. In the event of a tie, all players return their cards to hand, with the red ocean card remaining in place. Do the same with the blue and green cards.
All players draw two cards from their personal deck, then you reveal a new red, blue, and green ocean card, piling up cards of the same color if they weren't claimed the previous one. Continue playing rounds until all players' decks are empty. Total your claimed ocean cards. Whoever has the highest sum wins!
Eriantys is a new version of Leo Colovini's Carolus Magnus from 2000, with the look of the design from publisher Cranio Creations very much in tune with this era's "comic fantasy" trend.
Here's an overview of this 2-4 player game due out in Q4 2021:Read more »Hidden by the soft cloudy whiteness is a world where floating islands are home to great schools for young magical creatures from five realms. Cute little red dragons, clumsy pink fairies, spiteful yellow gnomes, small blue unicorns, and green frogs who dream of becoming princes show up at the gates of schools, with the hope of being admitted to the great hall and being able to admire the famous professors of their realm.
In Eriantys, a game full of strategy, tactics, and twists and turns, you run one of these four great schools and compete with other wizards to increase your fame! Carefully plan your moves and try to control your opponents' moves. On your turn, play a card, place three students, and advance mother nature a certain number of steps across the islands. The island on which mother nature lands is evaluated, and whoever controls it can erect one of their own towers, possibly taking control from an opponent. Additionally, adjacent islands controlled by the same player can merge with that one.
The game ends if only three islands remain, if the students run out, or if a player builds all of their towers. At this point, the player who built the most towers wins.
With three different game modes, including team play, Eriantys always offers different and interesting games. In addition, if you play with the expert version, you can use the fantastic skills of the special characters; each adds many possibilities, enriching the fun and beauty of the challenge.
- Designer Diary: Brew, or Designing the Whimsical Wilds
by Stevo TorresBrew began its journey with this approach.
At the beginning, the game was a simple push-your-luck game for children. Players would need to roll their dice and match the symbols along a path, trying to reach the end. Each time a die was placed, you would collect a gem and have one fewer die to roll for the next space. The goal was to get to the end and gain the biggest treasure. If you had a bad roll, you could use your collected gems to re-roll as long as they matched the space you were attempting to re-roll.
While this game was fun for kiddos, it didn't scratch the itch for the types of games I personally enjoyed. At the time, I didn't realize that this would be the core of Brew, but I continued iterating and experimenting with the ideas of area majority and set collection. In subsequent versions, players still raced to complete the tiles, but now each card completed would act as a space on a map that could be claimed. Mechanically, this worked fine, but players felt very disconnected, with little to no player interaction whatsoever.
The next version was where Brew began to take shape, and it's the base for what you see today. I remember this moment vividly because it felt like I had broken through. The game no longer felt like an exercise and began offering players meaningful decisions and interactions.
Keeping the dice-rolling and placement core, I scrapped the push-your-luck element and moved the area majority from a separate board to the cards themselves. I changed the gems from victory points to resources that could be spent on cards and provide "take-that" actions, dice manipulation, and additional scoring opportunities.
It was also at this stage of prototyping that the theme of "brewing potions" took shape. The goal in this version was to collect sets of the different types of forest cards (orange, teal, purple, maroon) by fighting for the majority of each card. The more of a specific type won, the more points you would earn at game's end. Collecting one of each would also score points. This scoring method stayed intact for several versions before ultimately being replaced with a simplified option. Players also had small objectives worth points once achieved.
While this was a major improvement from the previous version, something was still missing. Three- and four-player games played out fine, but two-player games lacked the same tension. To address this problem, I added a new die type that both simulated a third player and served as a "wild" die. This change also allowed me to incorporate a series of worker placement spaces in the form of tiles. These were separate from the cards players were fighting to claim and acted as additional, more powerful actions.
With the additional dice and new worker placement spaces, gameplay really opened up. It was a pleasant surprise when these dice improved the three- and four-player experience as well. Allowing players more options, they would choose between using their wild dice to cause havoc in the forest, or use special actions on the worker placement spaces.
After about eight months of iterations and playtesting locally at Unpub, PAX, and BGG.CON, I felt comfortable with the idea of pitching Brew to publishers. A few months after I submitted my sell sheet, Jon Gilmour from Pandasaurus Games responded to my submission. In November 2018, we met at PAX Unplugged and played Brew. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked to keep the prototype for further review. The following January at PAX South, I played once again with Pandasaurus owners Nathan and Molly. Soon after, Brew was signed!
Brew went into development later in 2019, at which point Jon Gilmour and I began working together. It was during this time that the creatures were introduced into the game, serving as an alternate route within the core loop. Major adjustments during development with Jon included balancing of forest cards, player abilities, potion powers, creature powers, endgame scoring, and a handful of other tweaks.
While development continued on with Jeff Fraser, I began focusing more heavily on the graphic design and art direction alongside Nathan and Molly. I ran across Jake Morrison's art on Instagram and immediately fell in love with his work. His style and imagination brought this game to life and provided a whimsical look that really stands out. I worked directly with Jake to establish the world, and we took a "sprite sheet" approach to the illustrations, similar to what one might do when creating an isometric video game.
With this method, I was able to make unique scenes for each forest card. The creatures and potions took on a similar approach. Jake created a set of base illustrations, then added additional features to make each creature feel unique and match the actions of the cards. This also allowed us to make additional content as needed. Andrew Thompson was later brought on to help finish out some creatures and details with the world.
Brew has been on a long journey, and it wouldn't have been possible without the support and hard work of my family, friends, playtesters, and coworkers. I cannot be more pleased with how the game has turned out, and I'm excited for folks to get their hands on Brew!
Read more »
Powered by: RSS Feed News Blocks