Board Game Geek
- ● Game Overview: Federation, or Spicy Space Politics and Worker PlacementExplor8 to get a gameplay rundown of Dimitri Perrier and Matthieu Verdier's 2022 release Federation, an innovative worker placement game all about space politics. Worker placement games, by default, have player interaction, but Federation pushes the needle further in an exciting way, which I experienced firsthand on a review copy provided by the publisher.
In Federation, 2-4 players compete to gain the most prestige points and become the planet worthy of joining the Federation. Federation features a unique double-sided worker placement mechanism combined with what feels like multiple mini-games, making for a highly interactive eurogame.
Federation was successfully funded on Kickstarter in October 2021 and available in Europe in Q4 2022. However, in January 2023, Eagle-Gryphon Games announced they partnered with Explor8 to bring the deluxe version of Federation to the North American market and launched a pre-order, which is targeted to release at Gen Con 2023. As a pre-order bonus, Eagle-Gryphon Games is also including an exclusive, full-color wooden President of the Senate first player pawn.
The version I played is the deluxe version with dual-layered player boards, upgraded ambassador tokens and components, whereas the retail version from Explor8 would have all cardboard components without the dual-layered player board.
The first thing you'll probably notice when you see Federation sprawled out on the table is a large, busy-looking board with a lot of different components. It may appear intimidating initially, but once you understand the flow of the game, you'll appreciate the excellent art and iconography by Miguel Coimbra. It not only makes the game easier to teach and play, but it's also fully language independent, which is a nice bonus. In addition to the main game board, each player has their own player board for managing their ambassadors (workers), resources, special missions, and more. The setup for your first game may take a while because you need to sort through and place several tokens and tiles around the board. However, once you have your first game under your belt, you can easily divide and conquer to speed up setup if other players are down to help.
Federation is played over 5 rounds, and each round is split into 2 phases. In the Ambassador phase, players take turns in clockwise order, placing their ambassador tokens on action spaces within the Senate, then performing the corresponding action. After the Ambassador phase, there's an end-of-round Executive phase where players may gain income and score prestige points for political influence in the Senate.
On your turn during the Ambassador phase, first you must play an ambassador token on an available action space of the Senate, either on its voting side or its funding side. You have two ambassador tokens with a voting value of 1, one with a value of 2, and one with a value of 3. On the opposite side of each ambassador token, there's a funding icon which looks like a coin, and a checkmark in a green circle, which represents you gaining access to a special mission (on your player board). The 2 higher-value voting tokens also give you a resource when played on their funding side. That added bonus of gaining a resource is often very tempting, and often necessary, so it's nice to have that option. Of course you have to decide if it's more important to play those tokens on their voting side though.
The Senate area of the game board is divided into a left wing and a right wing. Most of the actions are available on both wings, but there are a few that are slightly different. Each wing has a 3x3 grid of action spaces, and at the top of each column are funding tracks. Each round, there will be 2 different law (scoring) tiles under each wing, which will factor into your decision of which action space to choose. There are also 5 different planet actions available on both sides which correspond to the matching planet actions around the board. Every section is color-coded, but there are also different shapes and icons to differentiate for clarity. The other action spaces represent rooms of the Senate, as well as an action space on both wings that allows you to spy, or spend a resource to copy another action space, which comes in handy since only 1 ambassador token can occupy a given space.
During the Executive phase, after all players have placed all 4 of their ambassador tokens, whichever player has the most voting strength for each floor (row) in the Senate gains prestige points. Any columns that have ambassador tokens funding side up increase the corresponding major project funding track(s). Then you'll see which side, left wing or right wing, has the most total votes (all players), and all players score prestige points according to the law tile on the corresponding side.
This worker placement system has so many interesting decision points to wrestle with. There are pros and cons to placing your ambassador token on the voting side versus the funding side at different points throughout the game. The voting side could lead to more immediate prestige points, but if you push the funding tracks where you have more influence than your opponents, you can score some big points at the end of the game. So you have to decide which side to place your token on (voting or funding), then you also need to decide which wing of the Senate to place your token on based on which laws might score at the end of the round. It's a worker placement game, so your opponent's may be blocking spaces you're desiring and you often won't have the option to choose which wing of the Senate you want to place your ambassador token on if you are hard-pressed to take a particular action. Ultimately, you're playing this area influence game with the voting side of your ambassador tokens, while also trying to take the actions you need (and want) to, and support the wing of the Senate that's going to score you the most prestige points if a particular law is passed.
As I mentioned above, there are planet actions and Senate room actions. Each planet action works a little differently and feels like a mini-game within the main game, but they're pretty straightforward and can be executed quickly. Each planet action is going to increase your influence for the corresponding planet and give you a helpful benefit, but in its own way.
The pink planet allows you to gain Erudite tiles that have special immediate or one-time use effects. Each tile you gain increases your influence by 1 for the pink planet.
At the yellow planet, you can carry out trades in different stalls. The first level stalls are each worth 1 influence, but if you trade at the same stall more than once, it'll push your marker to the second level which has a better trade rate and is worth 2 influence.
There are 4 different types of resources in Federation: lavendium (pink), coppernium (green), oceanium (blue), and gold diamond (yellow). The blue resource can always replace pink or green, and yellow is most precious since it's harder to get, and it can help you score points with the yellow planet action; in addition, it's required to build megastructures on the green planet, which can be worth a lot of victory points.
The orange planet is a mining planet where you'll move forward each action, similar to the blue planet, but instead of snagging alteration tokens, you gain resources. There are some randomly placed asteroid tokens which can be very tempting and lucrative, but instead of stopping to grab one, you can move 2 steps forward in some cases to increase your influence faster.
Last, but definitely not least, is the green planet where you can spend resources to either build a production structure which gives you an immediate benefit as well as end of round income, or you can build a megastructure to immediately score a chunk of victory points.
Your influence in these 5 different planets matters a lot for a few reasons. For one, you are racing your opponents to gain medals of honor. You can only have 1 medal for each planet, and they become increasingly harder to get the slower you are at getting your influence up. For example, in the 4-player game, the first person to have 3 influence for a planet gains the corresponding medal, then the next player would need 4 influence to gain a medal, the next would need 5, and so on. The more unique medals you have at the end of the game, the more points you'll earn from them. The game incentivizes you to get there before your opponents, but you can't do it all.
The other reason planet influence is important is because that is how the laws score during the Executive phase. The higher your influence for the planet that scores, the more prestige points you'll gain. As an example, if the left wing has more votes in the Senate at the end of the round and there's a green law token, it means all players score 2x their green planet influence level. The end-of-round scoring in Federation really fuels so many tough decisions during the worker placement phase.
Besides the planet actions, the Senate room actions are important too. There's one that allows you to take the President of the Senate pawn to become the first player for the next round, and you also get a medal of honor of your choice from a planet that you don't already have. When you get the medal, you take the one placed on the highest level of influence. Being first player didn't feel tremendously critical in Federation and there are sometimes advantages to being last, since you might have the final say in which law is passed. Either way, the free medal is a nice perk when choosing this action.
There are Senate room actions that increase your accreditation level on your player board and some that help you gain spaceships into the hangar on your player board. At this point, you're probably wondering why spaceships and your accreditation level even matter, so allow me to explain.
On your turn, in addition to placing an ambassador token and performing the corresponding action, you may optionally send 1 spaceship to accomplish a special mission on your player board, assuming you meet a few conditions. You must have an available spaceship in your hangar, the special mission must be accessible, and you must have the required accreditation level. If you meet all of these conditions, you can take a spaceship from your hangar, put it on the corresponding space and perform the action of the special mission. It's basically a bonus action on top of your normal action, so while your brain is processing every other decision in this game, you'll also be trying to set yourself up with as many special mission bonus action opportunities as you can.
On the left side of your player board, you'll keep track of your accreditation level. As you bump up to the next accreditation level, you open up more special mission opportunities that are in the corresponding row, in addition to being qualified for any special missions below. The special missions are almost identical to the action spaces on the Senate board, but you have to make them accessible before you can send a spaceship. Earlier I mentioned an icon with a checkmark in a green circle, which you can find on the funding side of your ambassador tokens. When you place an ambassador token on the funding side, you can add a checkmark token to the special mission matching the action space where you placed your ambassador token. Then assuming your accreditation level meets or exceeds it, you can send a spaceship there after your main action to gain a bonus action, which can lead to some cool combos on your turn.
There's also a Senate room action that allows you to increase your assistant die by 2, and make it available to you if it's not already. During the Ambassador/worker placement phase, your assistant die can be placed with your ambassador token on its voting side to boost that token's voting strength. This can be a tremendous help for winning majority scoring of each Senate floor at the end of the round, as well as influencing which wing's law passes.
At the end of the round, after all players have played all 4 of their ambassador tokens, you begin the Executive phase. First, each player receives income for every production structure they built. Then players with an accreditation level of 3 or higher must pay a resource corresponding to their level. If you can't, you have to lower your accreditation level back down to where you can pay the matching resource, or drop all the way back to the first space of level 2.
Then you increase the major project marker for each ambassador token on its funding side in the corresponding column. There's a joint major project that increases based on any excess funding, and that track has player markers to keep track of who contributed the most, which might factor into final scoring.
After adjusting funding tracks for the major projects, you score each floor of the Senate. The player with the most votes on each floor scores as many prestige points as their level of accreditation. This is one of the main reasons you'll want to focus some of your attention on increasing your accreditation level, besides the special mission bonus action opportunities.
Finally, you determine which law is passed depending on which wing (left or right) had the most total votes and all players score prestige points according to their level of influence for the corresponding planet. There are 2 sets of 5 different tokens corresponding to each of the 5 planets, so you can expect to potentially score each planet twice, but you won't know the timing of when exactly each law tile will appear, or which will be passed. Either way, you'll always want to be ahead of the pack or push for the law that will benefit you most. I love that this votes mechanism lends itself to politics around the table. You may want to work with another player to help push the vote in a direction that's favorable for both of you, or push it away from a player who's in the lead.
At the end of the 5th round, the game ends and you proceed to final scoring. First, everyone scores points for their medals of honor, based on the lowest uncovered value. Then you score points for your remaining resources, followed by majority scoring for any major projects that funded, meaning the marker got to the last space on the track. In a 4-player game, whoever has the most influence for each funded major project scores 16 prestige points, the player with the second most scores 8, and the 3rd most scores 4. It's a significant amount of points so be sure to pay attention to these funding tracks, on top of everything else.
I would say the rules make the game feel medium complexity wise, but all of the strategic decisions you're faced with makes it feel more complex, and to me, more interesting. Besides the fact that you're racing to beat your opponents to everything, from action spaces to medals, each planet action is very satisfying. You're always getting something cool, and it's a matter of figuring out what cool thing is going to help you most each turn. Sometimes you'll try to increase your influence for the planet which seems like its law will pass, but other times you'll march to the beat of your own drum and try to push harder for the law you want passed.
(subject to change)Federation is a blast with 4 players, and when you play with less players, there's a neat, easy-to-run, neutral player(s) which blocks action spaces, and influences the voting strength based off of blocking and voting tiles you place at the beginning of each round, which was designed to keep things tight and interesting at lower player counts.
There should be a decent amount of replay value from the variation of tiles and tokens on the different planets, in addition to the varied combination of law tiles that appear each round, but there's also an advanced setup variant where you can change up the green planet from game to game by placing production structure tiles and megastructure tokens for even more variation.
If you're a worker placement fan and thrive on heavy, indirect player interaction, be sure to check out Federation. I'm definitely looking forward to playing it more and I'm happy that it'll be more widely available in the U.S. soon enough. Read more »
- Stonemaier Games Launches Expeditions, Offers Fantasies and Futures for TapestryStonemaier Games has announced two new titles for 2023, with Jamey Stegmaier's Expeditions being a standalone game set in the world of Scythe. Here's an overview of this Q3 2023 release:Expeditions sends players on a new adventure into Siberia, where a massive meteorite crashed near the Tunguska River, awakening ancient corruption. An expedition led by Dr. Tarkovsky ventures into the taiga to learn about the meteorite and its impact on the land. Itching for adventure, heroes from the war privately fund their own expeditions to Siberia, hoping to find artifacts, overcome challenges, and ultimately achieve glory.
Expeditions is a competitive, card-driven, engine-building game of exploration. Play cards to gain power, guile, and unique worker abilities; move your mech to mysterious locations and gain cards found among the tiles; use workers, items, meteorites, and quests to enhance your mech; and use power and guile to vanquish corruption.
Expeditions is for 1-5 players, and rulebooks for the multiplayer game and solitaire game are both available on the Stonemaier Games website.
• The other title, due out in Q1 2023, is Tapestry: Fantasies & Futures, a design by Chris Scaffidi and Mike Young that's dubbed the third and final expansion for Tapestry.
Tapestry: Fantasies & Futures contains ten new civilizations, 38 new tapestry cards, twelve new tech cards, and a comprehensive rulebook that organizes all rules for Tapestry and the three expansions.
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- Designer Diary: Enola Holmes: Finder of Lost Souls
by Phil YatesThe original Enola Holmes movie from Netflix inspired me to read the books and, of course, develop a game for it, a game now on the market as Enola Holmes: Finder of Lost Souls.
I already had a concept for a Sherlock Holmes game so that's where I started. I wanted to give players a sense of being the genius detective seeking clues to unravel the schemes of a criminal mastermind. Since few of us are anywhere near as clever as Sherlock (or his precociously brilliant younger sister Enola), the trick was going to be making the game require enough deductive reasoning for the players to feel clever, without being sufficiently difficult to make them feel foolish instead.
The game that came to mind was the old Mastermind board game, the one in which one player selects four colored pegs and the other player has to deduce which ones they are. The game was simple, yet kept me and my little sister entertained for hours as we tried to outwit each other.
However, I didn't want a game as abstract as Mastermind; I wanted something more narrative, with the players traveling around London and its environs recreating moments from the show, and I wanted it to be playable with up to four players.
After a bit of playing around with ideas and a bit of back-of-the-envelope calculation, I grabbed a deck of playing cards and tested a small game with my co-workers.
With a reduced deck, I'd secretly draw six cards, then get them to deduce what the cards were over several rounds. Each round I'd roll a die and use that to decide how many cards to deal them, then give them clues based on those cards. The number of cards and rounds it took to deduce the cards I held was nicely consistent, with just the right amount of variation. This became the core of the deduction side of the game: A criminal picking a scheme of some sort, and the detectives seeking clues to help them deduce that scheme.
The next part was to figure out how to get the clue cards into the detective players' hands. Here's where the narrative side would come in. The detectives would move around a map of London, investigating puzzling crimes to gain clues as to the criminal mastermind's overall plan.
To increase the variety of puzzles and give the criminal player agency in this phase of the game, I came up with the idea of having cutouts on the puzzle cards. These revealed an additional talent for the map location, increasing the difficulty of the puzzle.
The puzzle-solving part of the game matches the talents on the detective's card to the talents shown on the puzzle. The detectives play on the case cards to add to their talent or otherwise outsmart the criminal, while the criminal responds with "making trouble" cards to make their lives more difficult. Should the detective succeed in matching the required talents, they get a clue card, either revealing one of the hidden crime cards or showing that there are no matching crime cards in the criminal's scheme. Once they have solved (or failed to solve) their cases, the detectives gather to make their next deduction. If they fail to deduce the crime before the game ends, the criminal wins.
This basic concept survived contact with all of the playtesting, although the details have been refined many times since then. The highlight of this initial playtesting was a game I ran with the staff of another company that shared our office space. They weren't gamers, but quickly picked up the game and enjoyed it. However, soon after this, things got busy, and the game got sidelined as other things took my attention.
Things changed when I discovered a second Enola Holmes movie was in the works and Gale Force Nine had gained the license to produce a board game for it. Out came the old design for a revisit. The first thing I decided was that I'd made the game way more complicated than it needed to be. If it were going to appeal to an Enola Holmes audience, it needed to be slimmer, faster, and less daunting, while at the same time retaining the gameplay that the experienced gamers on the playtest team loved.
I slashed the number of turns from six to four, the number of cards in the crime from six to five, the number of spots on the map from twelve to eight, and the number of other components commensurately. When I put down my axe, I was pleased that further playtesting showed that this streamlined version of the game played much faster, without losing the charm and challenge of the original version.
The rulebook got a similar treatment, with all the complicated and hard-to-explain bits clarified, simplified, or simply removed as unnecessary. An example of this is the way the rules handled the criminal's first turn. Since the criminal's first turn was sort of a double turn, putting out twice as many puzzles, the old rules were quite messy. By moving the criminal's turn to the end of the round and adding the necessary parts of the criminal's turn to set-up, I managed to make things easier to understand for first-time players.
I also split the rules into a quick start rulebook and the main rulebook. The quick start rulebook runs the players through the game without getting distracted by all the ifs, buts, and maybes. It uses illustrated examples so that players can follow through it, page by page, as they start their first game. The main rulebook then covers the same ground, but from a more technical viewpoint, answering all the questions that may arise and advising on the finer points of play.
As an all-against-one game, balancing it for two, three, and four players was one of the biggest challenges. One of the things that I'd done in my cleanup was to remove the previous attempts at balancing. Unsurprisingly, that didn't work, but it did make clear the exact extent of balancing needed. That way, the bits that I brought back balanced the game for any number of players, without unneeded complexity or making any player's task too difficult to manage.
Once I had everything working with the experienced gamers that I used to playtest, it was time to try it out on teenagers, especially fans of Enola Holmes. This went well, with the players picking up the game from the rulebook with little difficulty, despite an unfamiliarity with board games. The players enjoyed the game, loved the theme, but weren't so enamoured of the way the deduction process was working. One family asked to take the playtest version home so that they could play more games!
That took me right back to the beginning. Grabbing a pack of cards, I spent an afternoon with my (not at all competitive) wife tweaking the deduction game in all sorts of directions until we settled on its final and much more satisfying form. A little more playtesting confirmed the changes had solved the problem, and it was off to the graphic designers to make the whole thing look pretty.
Inspired by the color palette and style of the movies, the graphic designers have created a visual look that matches the style of the game, simple, accessible, fun, and an intellectual challenge.
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- Sébastien Dujardin on the Future of Pearl GamesSébastien Dujardin, founder of Pearl Games, has announced that the Belgian publisher is closing — or perhaps only changing hands.
The future is uncertain at this moment, as he explains in this press release:Pearl Games, located in Frasnes-Lez-Buissenal, in Belgium, has been publishing board games since 2010. The beginning of the adventure was just a simple hobby that gave birth to my first published game: Troyes, created with my friends Alain Orban and Xavier Georges. The success of this first game, especially during the Essen show, allowed me to continue the adventure with 11 games (Tournay, Bruxelles 1893, Deus, Bloody Inn, to name a few). That's 11 games in 13 years, a few by today's standards, but I am happy about it, my credo being to develop each title as best as possible.
In 2014, the French group Asmodee bought Pearl Games and made it an Internal Studio of the company. The confidence associated with the new organization allowed me to work more calmly. My strength is as a creative editor more than a business manager, so this collaboration offered me many new tools: openings to new markets around the world, competence in quality and manufacturing, logistics, after-sales services, etc.
All good things must come to an end, and Asmodee has decided to end this collaboration. Asmodee will close the Pearl Games studio as of the end of March. Why? It seems to me that the most important reason is the evolution of Asmodee, which has become bigger and bigger, to the point that Pearl Games has struggled to keep its place by remaining faithful to its editorial line. Also, the game market has exploded in recent years, in quality and quantity. You have to take this into account and adapt to it, and that's what I will do!
At the end of this adventure, the most difficult part to manage is the human aspect and the dismissal of Anaëlle, Martin and me. The most important are the moments spent with the players, my direct colleagues (Renaud, Martin and Anaëlle) and those further away from Asmodee, but also with the designers, illustrators, graphic designers, translators, demonstrators, manufacturers, etc.
A question obviously arises: what about the future of Pearl Games? We are making arrangements with Asmodee so that I can retain the brand and catalog of Pearl Games, moving forward as an independent publisher. The challenge will be great, and it will take time to gather the funds, organize the new ideas, find new partners, finalize these game projects. For this project to be successful, a transition period without new releases and reprints will be necessary.
Managing to create, develop, and publish games as soon as possible is an extremely exhilarating challenge! Several games are already under development, at very different levels, and I will do what is necessary to ensure that these ideas come to fruition, regardless of the organization to be put in place. Let's continue to have fun creating and playing!
I'll note that Pearl Games' Time of Empires from David Simiand and Pierre Voye was released in November 2022 and Dujardin's two-player game Lofoten debuted in France in October 2022 and will be released in English, Spanish, Chinese, and German in February 2023.
Good luck to Sébastien Dujardin — ideally your longship takes you where you want to go...
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- Game Overview: Tiletum, or To Let 'Em Stress over Which Die to ChooseDaniele Tascini or Simone Luciani's name on a board game, I'm instantly curious to try it since they're both highly reputable designers and I've enjoyed many of their games in the past. When I see their names together on a board game, I know I'm in for a treat, considering this is the same designer duo behind Tzolk'in and The Voyages of Marco Polo. After I demoed their latest release Tiletum from Board&Dice at Gen Con 2022, I wasn't blown away, but I thought it was a solid, classic-feeling eurogame with mostly familiar mechanisms that worked well together. It wasn't until I played my first full game of Tiletum, where I got the full picture and my eyes and brain lit up.
In Tiletum, 1-4 players take on the roles of rich merchants traveling throughout Europe during the Golden Age of the Renaissance, gathering resources, fulfilling contracts, and competing for victory points at fairs in various towns. The gameplay for Tiletum is centered around a dice drafting, action selection mechanism where the dice have a dual function; the die you choose each turn informs which resource you gain and which action you perform.
Tiletum is played over four rounds and each round is divided into five phases: Preparation, Action, King, Fair, and Cleanup. The goal of the game is to have the most victory points by the end of the game. This is a point salad game where you get points for a lot of different things, and it's not unlikely for scores to be in the 200+ zone by the end of the game.
In the Action phase, the heart of the game, players take turns taking a die from the action wheel, then gaining the corresponding resources provided by the die, and performing the associated action. The color and number on the die you take indicates which resource you get and how many. Then the amount of action points you get is always the difference between 7 and the number on the resource die you chose. For example, if I draft a pink "5" die, I gain 5 food tokens but, I only get 2 action points for the corresponding action. Alternatively, if I pick a yellow "1" die, I only get 1 gold token, but I get 6 action points. So already, you can probably see how there's a lot to consider when choosing a die on your turn. You might need a certain amount of a particular resource, and at the same time you need to take a particular action, but often the stars don't align, so you'll need to do one or the other. That decision is often very tough, especially because your opponents will have their eyes on everything you're considering as well.
On the action wheel, there are 5 different actions you can choose from, but there's also a joker action space, which allows you to take any action. In addition to the interesting choices that arise from the dice distribution and actions, there are also super juicy bonus tiles placed around the action wheel at the start of each turn. There's only 1 tile on each action space, and they're first come, first serve. Thus, they will also factor in your decision process when you're figuring out which die to take on your turn. As you can imagine, turn order is very important.
There are 5 main actions in Tiletum, in addition to tasks (free actions) you can take at any point during your turn. Most of the actions have a variety of ways you can allocate your action points. Again, the amount of actions points you gain depends on which die number you draft.
A big chunk of the game board represents a map of Europe, which initially gave me some Orléans vibes. Players start the game with a merchant (wagon) and an architect (pencil compass) in the Tiletum town space, and there are 2 actions that allow you to manipulate those pieces on the map. When you perform the Architect action, you can spend action points to move your architect around the map, to add a pillar from your personal supply to an empty pillar space in a town with your architect, or to take a bonus tile from the town where your architect is located. The Merchant action works similarly since you can spend action points to move your merchant, take a bonus tile, or you can place a house on an empty house space in the town where your merchant is located.
During final scoring at the end of the game, you'll multiply the number of houses you have on the map by the number of pillars you have on the map and gain that many victory points. Also, when it comes to pillars, having pillars in towns allows you to build cathedrals which are worth a decent amount of points. On the other hand, houses are very helpful especially at fair locations, since you either need to have your merchant at the fair location or a house placed there to participate and score points. Therefore, it's usually a good option to place houses and pillars when you can. There are limited spaces at each town, so it's always a race to beat your opponents there.
Before I explain how the Character and Contract actions work, it's important to note that each player has their own player board in Tiletum, which is where you'll be managing tiles you collect as well as juggling a set collection mini game. Your player board has a warehouse section to store 4 tiles, and a main section where you can place character and crest tiles in different rows and columns. Throughout the game you'll be picking up a variety of different bonus tiles (crests, resources, actions, etc.), as well as contract and character tiles. You can only ever have or take one type of each crest, and each column can only have one type of each character.
When you perform the Character action, you can spend action points to take character tiles from the character offer, which has 5 face-up character tiles to choose from. When you take a character tile, you immediately place it in your warehouse, so you must have an available empty space. With the Character action you can also spend an action point to discard all character tiles from the offer, and immediately refill it with new tiles. You can also spend action points to move a character tile from your warehouse into a room on your player board, noting you cannot have two different buildings (columns) with the same character. After you place a character tile, you'll also earn the bonus in the left corner of the tile. Each player starts the game with a house at the top of each column/building, which you can add to your supply once that column/building is filled with character tiles.
The final action is the King action, where you can spend action points to advance on the King track. That is literally all you do action wise, so it may appear insignificant initially, but your position on this track relative to your opponents is important. During the King phase, you'll adjust turn order based on the King track and this is a game where turn order is extremely important. It's also worth noting that before the first player takes a die in the action phase, they will reveal the rightmost face-down corruption token under the King track and move all players markers back according to the number on the token (0, 1, or 2).
After the last player has taken their third die and has finished resolving their last action for the round, there is a King phase. In the King phase, the player whose marker is highest on the King track takes or discards the bonus tile next to the track. Then players score or lose points based on their position on the King track. Finally, turn order is adjusted so the player highest on the King track becomes the first player, the second-highest becomes the second player, and so on.
Then comes the Fair phase, where players have the opportunity to gain a decent chunk of victory points. The first fair is always in Tiletum, but the subsequent three fair locations (out of eight) are randomly selected at the beginning of the game, along with four (out of eleven) randomly selected fair tiles. The fair tiles have different scoring objectives such as scoring points for each pillar you have on the map, or for each contract you have fulfilled, or for each crest tile on your player board, or for sets of houses and pillars you have on the map, etc. The variety of combinations of fair locations and fair tiles forces you to change up your strategy each game; it makes Tiletum highly re-playable.
After the Fair phase, there's a Cleanup phase where you'll replenish bonus tiles around the action wheel and on the King track. Then you'll return all dice to the bag and rotate the action wheel one step clockwise before starting the next round. Rotating the action wheel each round keeps things interesting as well.
At the end of the Fair phase of the 4th round, there's final scoring where you may earn additional points for the houses and pillars you have on the map, as well as completed buildings on your player board. You can also cash in your remaining resources and gain a point for every 4 resources. Then the player with the most victory points wins.
I glossed over crest tiles, but they also play an important role in Tiletum. You can gain crest tiles as bonus tiles or some may appear in the contract offer as well. To move them from your warehouse to the bottom of a column/building, you have to spend some amount of food, then you gain the bonus of the space you covered. You can cover up the crest spaces in any order you'd like, so if you have the right amount of food, you can strategically place one at the right time for a powerful, helpful bonus. For example, there's one space where you can immediately move your merchant anywhere on the map. There's also one that allows you to place a house from your supply onto any town on the map. Just imagine, your opponent could be gradually moving their merchant somewhere to be first to place their house, and you place a crest just before that and build a house where they were hoping to. The bonuses for placing crest tiles can be very powerful.
If you manage to fill a building on your player board with character tiles and you have a crest placed below it, you get to add one of your bonus action markers near the action wheel space indicated on your character tile(s). These bonus action markers give you 1-3 permanent extra action points for the corresponding action. Action points are valuable so this is an awesome bonus that's worth getting as early as you can. Of course, there are so many things you'll want to do, but you can't do it all.
Tiletum is an excellent, medium-weight eurogame that feels highly competitive. Everything you'll want to do, your opponents will be trying to do as well, whether it's drafting a particular die, or trying to build a house at the next fair location, or snag a particular contract or bonus tile. There is so much that everyone will be trying to do at the same time, which again, makes turn order very important...while also being another thing you'll be trying to beat your opponents on. It feels like there's always a tense race to do everything. Since your opponents will almost always be doing everything you'll want to do, it can be difficult to plan your turn in advance. You really need a backup plan to your backup plan's backup plan to keep the game moving along. There are so many satisfying options to choose from and exploring all of your options can be mentally taxing, so beware of analysis paralysis. If players are familiar with the game and aren't taking too long on their turns, you can play a 4-player game of Tiletum in less than 2 hours.
Tiletum also includes a solo mode designed by Dávid Turczi with Jeremy Avery where you compete against "The Cardinalbot", an automated solo opponent. You win if you have more victory points than the Cardinalbot at the end of the game. In addition to the solo rules, there are also 8 challenge cards you can play with to modify the rules of the Cardinalbot.
Because Tiletum is so competitive, clever, and highly re-playable, it feels like a classic already. I think part of that feeling comes from the classic eurogame theme as well, which is the weakest part of the game for me. As it stands, I really enjoy the gameplay and it's obvious that Tascini and Luciani are still going strong as a designer duo, but a stronger, more interesting theme would've made Tiletum pop even more for me.
If medium-weight eurogames are your thing, I highly recommend checking out Tiletum. It is a very satisfying and competitive game that provides fresh challenges from game to game, primarily because of the fair location and objective variability, but there are so many other contributing factors, such as the dice distribution around the rotating action wheel, and the variety of bonus tiles, which all really vary up the gameplay and make Tiletum shine. Read more »
- Describe Your Level of Interest in an English-Language Edition of Top Ten from Worst to BestAurélien Picolet's co-operative party game Top Ten debuted in France from Cocktail Games in late 2020. The game saw editions in Spanish, Russian, Italian, Korean, Hungarian, Chinese, and German in 2021, with the latter — a publication of Cocktail Games itself, not a licensed version — being nominated for the Spiel des Jahres award in 2022.
As I explained in this overview post and video, Top Ten was my choice for SdJ based on how the design encourages interaction and creativity among all players. In each of the five rounds, you are given a topic — e.g., "You would like to dive into a pool full of... Complete this sentence, from the worst to the best." — as well as a number in secret from 1 (in this case worst) to 10 (best). You must give an answer to the prompt — sometimes just a word, sometimes a more involved presentation or full-on mime — ideally landing in the right spot based on your number, and that round's Captain needs to identify players from low to high.
The game is all about being clever in unusual situations, but more than that it's about being clever based on what everyone else is doing. You need to figure out where they land on the 1-10 scale so that you can fit your performance to match, and the more you play with the same people, the more you read them correctly — which feels great! You have the joy of the performances themselves, as well as the feeling of guessing everyone's role correctly and winning, assuming that you do. (As I noted in my post, my father-in-law never quite seemed to get the game, but the rest of us adapted to try to make it work.)
Why am I bringing all of this up six months after Top Ten lost the Spiel des Jahres award to Cascadia? Because at the time of the nomination, an English-language edition of Top Ten did not exist. Cocktail Games told me that it was looking for the ideal partner for this game on the vast U.S. market, and now that partner has finally been announced: Exploding Kittens.
So when will the game be released? Well, not until 2024 because Exploding Kittens isn't just releasing the game as is. (I'll note that no edition is quite the same as another because the topics are customized to the culture of the audience. A French topic about creating your "Asterix and Obelix -ix name" became in the English mock-up that I received from Cocktail Games a topic about creating your Kardashian K- name. The concept remained the same, but the specifics did not.)
Here's most of the press release for this announcement:Exploding Kittens, the leading game and entertainment company, today announced that it secured the rights to recreate the English-language version of Top Ten from Cocktail Games, the French party game and board game publisher best known for classics such as Hanabi. The reimagined game with an Exploding-Kittens twist will feature new game mechanics, title, and packaging, and is expected to be released in 2024.
Since its release in 2020, Top Ten has been a favorite party game in the European market. [game explanation removed] The game celebrates creativity, humor, and teamwork as players try to communicate secret levels of intensity in the answers they make up on the fly. Exploding Kittens' team of designers will build upon the game's existing fundamentals and update the mechanics to appeal to English-speaking markets, leaning on their experience in building easy-to-play, interactive party games that make players more entertaining.
"Exploding Kittens has a fantastic understanding of English-speaking audiences and their love of party games, and Top Ten is a great fit for their library," said Matthieu d'Epenoux, Owner of Cocktail Games. "We can't wait for Exploding Kittens' new version to be played in all of the English-speaking countries around the world."
Despite not feeling that any changes needed to be made with the design of Top Ten, I'm curious to see what will change. Exploding Kittens has a fairly successful track record, after all, and it's aiming for a market that is far larger than "what Eric likes", even though I often view myself as squarely in the SdJ audience, so who knows? Read more »
- New Editions for New Times: Wiz-War, Expedition, Cranium, and Camel Up: The Card Gamewrote about Steve Jackson Games acquiring the rights to Tom Jolly's Wiz-War in November 2019, and after more than three years SJG has launched a Kickstarter campaign for the ninth edition of this classic game, with delivery anticipated in Q3 2023.
Steve Jackson, who has overseen development of this edition, notes that it's a back-to-basics version that is complete in one box with no expansions forthcoming. From the Kickstarter FAQ: "I absolutely don't envision any [supplements]. All the 'good stuff' for Wiz-War is in this game, and if we duplicated it with different spell names or something, we'd be cheating you. An expansion would not be a good use of our time or your $$$!"
Wolfgang Kramer's Expedition, which French publisher Super Meeple will release in July 2023 as Expéditions.
In case you're not familiar with the design, here's an overview:Expedition is a game about moving three commonly held expeditions around the world in search of various archaeological sites. The board shows a map of the world with many different branching paths, and players advance the expeditions by placing plastic arrows. When an expedition arrives at a location that matches one of your private site cards or one of the public site cards, you score that card. Certain spaces on the board allow you to play again immediately, and other spaces allow you to pick up a bonus action card that you can play at any time on one of your turns.
The game ends when someone has scored all of their cards, then whoever has the highest total score wins. (Public goals are worth more than private goals.)
I found it amazing to look at the BGG page and discover that (1) I've played Expedition more than thirty times and (2) I haven't played it since 2009. I need to dig out my copy and introduce it to the youngsters who attend my game days...
Cranium, and in January 2023 Funko Games signed a licensing deal with Hasbro — which bought the Cranium game line in 2008, ten years after its debut — to celebrate that game with the Q2 2023 release of Cranium 25th Anniversary Edition.
This game will feature eight hundred new questions across eighteen diverse activities that will have you sketching, acting, humming, sculpting, picture-puzzling, and word-unscrambling.
In Q3 2023, Funko Games will follow this initial release with new editions of Cranium Hullabaloo and Cranium Hoopla, as well as the new title Cranium Big Brain Detective Game, which seems akin to the MicroMacro game line, with players looking for clues in a wildly busy image to solve mysteries (and with this game line being similar to earlier things that present similar challenges, of course).
• Of more recent vintage is Steffen Bogen's Camel Up Cards, which debuted in 2016 and which is coming back to print from Pretzel Games as Camel Up: The Card Game, with new art by Chris Quilliams and a "crazy camel" similar to those in Camel Up (Second Edition) that race backward on the track. This title is due out late in Q2 2023.
• And I'll have news of an even more recent new edition a few hours after this post goes live. Any guesses before the press embargo ends? Read more »
- Can You Get Enough Azul Things, Villainous Stings, Mad Kings, and Lord of the Rings?
• Next Move Games, for example, has announced the late Q2 2023 release of Azul Mini, a scaled-down version of Michael Kiesling's fantastic strategy game Azul.
If you like Azul but find it too bulky for your travel bag, perhaps this version will be for you as the tiles are smaller, the player boards have plastic trays on them to keep tiles in place, and the game includes a travel bag that can apparently carry the entire game, in addition to doubling as a draw bag for the tiles.
• Ravensburger has announced the next "expandalone" title in its Marvel Villianous line, with Twisted Ambition featuring Doctor Octopus, Titania, and Kang the Conqueror.
In Marvel Villainous, each player has somewhat the same actions available to them — move to different locations within their domain, carry out the actions there, and deal twists of fate to their opponents from a shared fate deck — while trying to work toward your specific victory condition. To win as Doctor Octopus, players must complete five schemes, such as defeating Spider-Man or amassing and paying power. As Titania, you need to gain strength to become empowered and defeat She-Hulk. Finally, Kang the Conqueror requires its player to unleash variants of Kang into other villains' decks and conquer four locations in other villain domains with robot duplicates.
Each of the characters in Marvel Villainous: Twisted Ambitions can be played on their own in a two- or three-player game or be mixed and matched with villains from previous Marvel Villainous releases.
This set will be available for pre-order starting in early February 2023, with Target offering a special edition that features a cardboard sleeve and a chrome character mover for Dr. Octopus instead of the gray one.
The Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game from Marcus Ross, Jay Little, and Ravensburger, with this game debuting in February 2023.
Like the earlier releases The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game and The Wizard of Oz Adventure Book Game, this is a co-operative game told in chapters, with each chapter taking place on the pages of a game board book. The Lord of the Rings Adventure Book Game consists of eight chapters, with each chapter providing puzzles and challenges that players need to overcome to advance from The Shire to the fires of Mordor, all while avoiding the Eye of Sauron.
• Bézier Games has announced a February 7, 2023 Kickstarter launch date for Blueprints of Mad King Ludwig, a spinoff of Ted Alspach's Castles of Mad King Ludwig that will be released in 2024. Here's the pitch for this design:Test your architectural skills in Blueprints of Mad King Ludwig, a flip-and-sketch strategy game to draw the most extravagant blueprints for King Ludwig's next castle!
Select rooms to add to your castle's floor plan. As you complete rooms' entrances by connecting them to other rooms, earn new abilities such as adding or removing entrances, earning new bonus cards, and taking extra turns. Keep your eye on the King's favors to beat out your opponents for public goals, as well as create courtyards and moats around your castle for some massive points to get ahead! The player who sketches the castle most suited to the whims of King Ludwig takes the royal victory!
You can slide the room cards under vellum paper to determine how a room might fit — or not — in your developing castle. I took a few architecture classes in high school, and this detail is a nice touch!
Trivia note: BGG has five titles in its database that contain the word "blueprints", and Ted Alspach has designed three of them, the other two being Age of Steam Expansion: Secret Blueprints of Steam Plans 1 & 2 and Age of Steam Expansion: Special 2008 Spiel Limited Edition – Essen Spiel & Secret Blueprints of Steam Plan #3.
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- Designer Diary: EnduranceEndurance six years ago. The idea was that it would take the "three cups" mechanism I had used in my solitaire games Agricola, Master of Britain and Charlemagne, Master of Europe and apply it to a non-military topic: Shackleton's 1914 expedition to Antarctica.
The game ended up not being a "three cups" game. That's one reason why it took me six years.
But there's also the fact that the person who made those other games didn't make this one. I mean this somewhat literally. For starters, there's a different name on the box.
At the outset, I identified three problems I'd have to solve.
First, there was the problem of agency. The previous solitaire games I had done saw the player on the move, winning battles, solving problems, building infrastructure. The actions that you took then directly impacted how your subjects felt about your rule: aggressive actions bred hostility, conciliatory ones quieted things down. A very basic carrot-and-stick model of leadership.
But none of that really applied to this situation. This isn't a game about you making things happen, but about things happening to you, and how you and the desperate men you're responsible for react to that pressure. I needed a way to model this limited agency that didn't make you feel like you were just along for the ride.
Second, there was the problem of suffering. The expedition was an agony in a physical sense. It was bitterly cold. Malnutrition and starvation wreaked havoc on the men's intestinal systems. When they ran out of toilet paper, they wiped with ice, which chafed. During a three-day lifeboat journey, having failed to bring potable water, they sucked on pieces of frozen raw meat so that its juices could slake their thirst.
These were merely the more mundane horrors. They lived these months constantly on edge, never knowing when a sea leopard might attack, when the ice underfoot might give, when frostbite might turn gangrenous – all things which happened and easily could have proven fatal.
This is not a heroic story, not an adventure; it's a very bleak, downbeat thing. The game, then, would need to be bleak and downbeat. It would need to communicate the misery and suffering at the heart of the real-life experience. The problem is, once you gamify something – once you assign it a numerical value – players are incentivized to treat it numerically. And with a story like this, that would feel ghoulish.
Finally, there was the problem of probability. Historically, all twenty-eight men survived. Barely so, miraculously so. Which left me with the question of, how feasible should the historical result be? Which once again brings it back to the question of how the player's success should be measured. Which brought it back to the question of how much agency the player should have, and in what ways would they exercise it.
Tight, Messy Little Knots
As is often the case with games, these three problems fed into each other in such a way that I couldn't really solve any one of them in isolation. The solution for all three would have to arrive at once, or not at all. And so I spent a long time tugging in vain at this tight, messy little knot, hoping that if I managed to loosen it a little, I would catch a glimpse of the whole design, but that glimpse proved elusive. The knot seemed intractable.
It wasn't the only tight, messy little knot I was tugging at. It wasn't even the one I had been tugging at the longest, nor the one that seemed the most intractable.
Because for as long as I could remember, there was something wrong. I didn't have the words to describe it. When I had tried, no one ever seemed to relate to it. More than that, they didn't want to relate, didn't want to be around the weird, scared, desperately earnest kid who was hurting all the time for no reason.
And I tugged at that knot for a long time – tugged at it for my entire life. Until, quite suddenly – finally, miraculously – it came undone all at once.
Huh, Turns Out I'm a Girl
When I started hormone replacement therapy, I purposefully didn't work on Endurance and other "heavy" games. I figured, hey, I'm going through puberty a second time. I'm going to have the emotional regulation of a teenager, I don't need to soak myself in harrowing stories of suffering and survival, so I did weird cutesy things like Eyelet and Dinosaur Gauge and Watch Out! That's a Dracula! instead. Things that would give me the time and space to find a new wardrobe, figure out what I wanted, stop sleeping on my stomach (ouch), and learn how to avoid door jambs (ouch!).
Once I was a bit more together, I turned my attention back to Endurance — and I found to my surprise that not only had that knot finally come undone, but in a way, its solution was tied inextricably to that other knot.
It took me thirty-eight years to figure out my whole gender thing. Those years take a toll. The decades of dysphoria compounded over time and hollowed me out. There are so many others who were crushed by that pain – pain that was already and always too much to bear – before they could find themselves.
That was almost me. If my egg hadn't cracked when it did, I don't think I would have lasted much longer. Months, maybe. Weeks.
I was saved at the eleventh hour, and when I look back at the circumstances that led me to that moment, at the chains of coincidence that made Amabel possible – I am intensely aware of how it very nearly wasn't. How improbable it was.
And it became clear to me that the best way to honor the miracle at the heart of Shackleton's story was to lean into how improbable the historical result was. How very nearly it could have – by rights, should have – ended in disaster. I would observe the miracle not through recreation, but through its absence. This is how I addressed the problem of probability.
Because the historical result is astronomically unlikely, I couldn't very well set it as a victory condition. And as I intimated previously, I wouldn't be comfortable assigning point values to simulated human lives – particularly when each human life represents a real and specific person, who really suffered, so there would be no scoring. Indeed, no victory conditions at all. The game ends, possibly with the rescue of any survivors, and then you decide what that means.
This framework in turn informed my approach to the problem of agency. The player exists at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. Thus, you're given a handful of options at a time.
At the beginning of a round, you draw a hand of two cards. Each card has an Action and a Test. You choose one card for its Action and one for its Test. Actions involve rolling dice and counting up successes to earn a reward. For example, a hunt action can result in obtaining meat and blubber. Tests require the use of resources – for example, a food test might see you expend the meat you hunted.
Failing an Action or a Test incurs a Penalty, resulting in men becoming demoralized. Demoralized men are less capable of completing Actions, and if they suffer a second demoralization they are injured. Injured men who suffer demoralization perish.
This core works well enough, but it lacks texture. I needed to give the player a little more control over the proceedings. And so it is that each Action has ways to modify the number of dice rolled, usually through use of a resource. For example, it's a lot easier to hunt with a rifle.
Specific men can also be flipped to their demoralized side to convert failed rolls into successes or to automatically pass a Test without the required resources. For example, flipping one of the two surgeons will automatically pass a Medical Test. Flipping one of the six dog team leaders will convert failures to successes for a sled action.
In addition to enlarging the decision space, this adds a lot of texture to the game, making specific men stand out. This also comes through in the mix of demoralization Penalties; men who were historically more prone to depression or troublemaking are much more likely to become demoralized.
As the ordeal wore on, morale naturally began to worsen. I very much wanted to capture this with the game's general arc.
As I said, you start the game by drawing two cards, selecting an Action from one and a Test from the other — but soon you'll be drawing three cards. After choosing your Action and your Test, you'll have one card left over. For that card, you'll be forced to resolve one of the Penalties. Morale starts to crack a little.
Later in the game, you'll be drawing four cards – choose an Action, choose a Test, then resolve a Penalty for each of the remaining cards. It gets more difficult to maintain morale. At the end, you'll be drawing five, and you can probably guess what happens then. Of course, with more men demoralized, it's going to be harder to succeed at those Actions, incurring further Penalties. And it's likely that you'll have fewer resources with which to pass Tests.
As the game approaches its end, the situation mathematically bends towards hopelessness and instability. It's likely that certain types of actions will become impossible to perform – forcing failure if you choose them – and certain tests impossible to pass. (As a sort of cruel joke, the threshold for the heating test at the end of the game is literally impossible.) In a way, the game is ceasing to function the way you want it to.
This isn't really new territory for me. I make weird, experimental games that are often deliberately fragile, built to become unstable. Usually this is to make a point about broken and unsustainable systems. (See This Guilty Land or For-Ex.) Here, I hope it evokes, in some small way, a certain kind of despair and desperation.
Maybe not what the men of the Endurance felt. That I have no way of knowing — but I know what my own was like, when it felt like my life was falling apart, like it had always been falling apart, like it was designed to fall apart. Until, suddenly, it all came together.
I know what it's like to feel doomed, and I know what it's like, against all odds, to be rescued. The person I was six years ago only knew the first thing and could never have imagined the second.
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- Lookout Games Preps Nusfjord Big Box for 2023Lookout Games has passed along a list of titles you can expect to see in 2023, but without images and details for the moment. I've found a bit of information about these titles in various retail listings, so here's what I can tell you so far:
• Nusfjord Big Box collects the Nusfjord base game from Uwe Rosenberg, includes the Plaice and Salmon expansions released in 2018 and 2020, and adds two new expansions: Trout and Besokende, with the latter deck coming from Tony Boydell, who initially posted the deck for fun here, with revisions here.
Lookout says that Nusfjord Big Box is scheduled for release in Q2 2023, whereas distributor Asmodee North America lists it for Q3 2023, so expect it to land first in Germany, then swim the Atlantic to other shores.
Additionally, Nusfjord: Expansion Collection #1 will package the Plaice and Salmon decks together for those who missed them the first time, while Nusfjord: Expansion Collection #2 collects the Trout and Besokende expansion for those who already have all things Nusfjord and want only the new stuff.
• Tipperary, due out Q2 2023, is a tile-laying family game from Günter Burkhardt in which players are challenged to create their perfect vision of an Irish county by placing polyominoes and collecting sheep, castles and whiskey. After twelve rounds, one player will be named chief of Tipperary.
• Eppi is a point-and-click-style of game due out in Q2 2023 from book author Felicitas Pommerening in the style of Cantaloop, which will see Book 3 – Against All Odds from Friedemann Findeisen and Grzegorz Kobiela close out the trilogy in 2023.
As for Eppi, it's aimed at families and appropriate for players aged 8 and up, unlike Cantaloop's 16+ threshold. Here'e the pitch:Eppi is an interactive point-and-click style adventure book with a mission for parents and kids to play together.
In the game, you embody Eppi, a creature that haunts the family basement. Who or what is Eppi? Eppi would like to know that, too! In order to help Eppi, it takes the cumulative wit and ingenuity of the entire family, from baby Manni to Grandma Tara. You can also slip into other characters during the game and solve the tricky puzzles.
• Patterns, a Q2 2023 release, is subtitled "A Mandala Game", but I've also seen listings online for Mandala: Contemplation, with this being a spinoff title of 2019's Mandala from Trevor Benjamin and Brett J. Gilbert in which players use colored "stones" to craft and claim valuable groups. Perhaps the name has changed since the original solicitation? No worries — I'll forgo a BGG database listing for now.
That said, if you have not played Mandala, I will highly recommend doing so for its classic gameplay.
• Great Lakes, which Lookout lists as a Q3 2023 release with no other information provided. I'll gamely suggest, given the title above, that this is a standalone sequel to Great Lakes, which is from the same two designers, but actual information will come in due time.
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- Use The Mind to Become Soulmates, and Rescue Collectibles from Black HolesThe Mind? It's pretty good, I hear, and publisher Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag has announced the March 2023 release of a spinoff title from original designer Wolfgang Warsch and designer/developer Reinhard Staupe.
Here's an overview of The Mind Soulmates, which like the original game is for 2-4 players:The Mind Soulmates uses the same principles of The Mind, with players trying to co-operate without communication to master multiple levels of card play.
In this game, however, in addition to playing numbered cards correctly in ascending order, they must also play all cards face down, revealing them only after all cards have been played. To help them do this, one player takes the role of seer — and the seer knows more than everyone else!
Each round, a specific number of cards are dealt out to players, and the seer is allowed to look at some of these cards in advance of play in order to give the team clues about these numbers on a wipeable board.
After the players have placed all cards face down, the seer checks whether the cards are in the right order, thereby completing the level. If not, the team loses a life, and the seer distributes these same cards again. In addition, the seer gives another hint.
If the team masters all twelve levels, they have won and can now call themselves "soulmates".
Interestingly — and in line with my commentary from January 2023 — NSV has announced only this one title for release in the first half of 2023, whereas it normally publishes 2-4 titles every six months. Very curious...
Pegasus Spiele, on the other hand, has continued its usual practice of announcing a large number of titles for release, and in addition to German editions of Revive, Orichalcum, and My Lil' Everdell, it will release two original titles.
Black Hole Buccaneers is the debut title from designer Peter Langkjær Møller, and this 3-6 player card game, which is due out in the first half of 2023, works as follows:Great adventure, fame, and untold riches — all this is waiting for the Black Hole Buccaneers. In the game, the players' task is to collect ancient collectibles from the orbit of black holes, objects dumped there hundreds of years ago as mankind's chosen place for the final disposal of garbage. Among the 99 cards in the game are artifacts and relics that have powerful effects, as well as toys that are not particularly valuable in the year 2642, but that are in great demand by other species. In exchange, these species offer their help in escaping the black holes into which players will be drawn when the collected space debris exceeds their threshold for release. The player who best manages to master the dangers of outer space after three rounds of the drafting game and collects the most valuable items will win.
Black Hole Buccaneers is a fast-playing drafting game which not only offers new situations and a lot of interaction with other players, but also difficult decisions due to various card effects. In each round, everyone at the table plays one card and passes the remaining cards to their neighbor. Whoever can escape the black hole in the scoring phase of a round gets to score their collected items and thus comes a little closer to victory.
• The second original title from Pegasus Spiele is Memo Mission, a game from designers Christopher Garbe and Patrick Russell that's for 2-4 young players:Read more »With Memo Mission, gamers can once again immerse themselves in the magical world of the Wizardry to the Power of Three game series. In the course of the game, they experience various missions, which they must complete in the correct order to obtain valuable crystals. In order to uncover the motifs sought on the mission cards in the correct order, they must always remember where tiles lie in the 5x5 grid, even during the other players' turns. The player who finds all motifs of the current mission on their own turn can fulfill it. Potions help in tricky situations and allow special actions once per game such as secretly looking at two tiles.
Memo Mission is an adventurous fairy tale game with a memo mechanism that includes introductory rules as well as blank missions on which the adventurers can get creative themselves and create their own stories thanks to the enclosed sticker sheet.
- Build a Well-Rounded Mind Space, Enter the World of Couture, and Don't Let Your Dinos Get ChompedBoardGameTables.com has changed its name to Allplay, which is probably a good move given that its product line branched out from being solely board game tables many years ago.
In a press release, company founder Chad DeShon wrote:We are fully committed to supporting and expanding all our product lines [tables, games, accessories, and shelves]. The word "tables" in our name was causing people to think that our non-table offerings were just side projects and that we weren't serious about them. Allplay better reflects what we are trying to do going forward.
We want families, friends, and even strangers to play games together. It is a fantastic way to start and grow relationships. Allplay can be there for every part of game night. We're going to continue to focus on games that are easy to teach, but still have layers of strategy.
Along those lines, the three titles that BoardGameTables.com crowdfunded in Q4 2022 — Pollen, Big Top, and Roll to the Top: Journeys — will be released with the Allplay logo. DeShon expects to fulfill the crowdfunding campaign in April 2023, after which the games will be available from Allplay directly or via Amazon, with retailers being able to purchase stock directly from the publisher. In 2024, these games will enter distribution via Asmodee.
• In addition, Allplay has four other titles planned for release in 2023, three of them being new editions of games that first appeared in Japan. Mind Space, for example, debuted in 2019 from designer Shimamuranao and publisher ハレルヤロックボーイ (Hallelujah Rockboy) as 四畳半ペーパー賽系 ("Four-and-a-half Tatami Mat Galaxy").
The gist of the game is that you're trying to balance various aspects of your life, and to do so, you imagine fitting everything in the floorspace of your room.
Given that tatami mats are not a planetary unit of measurement, Allplay will instead have players trying to fit various aspects of their life onto a "brain board" that just happens to be the size of four-and-a-half tatami mats.
In game terms, Mind Space is a roll-and-write game. You lay out five of seventeen "emotion" cards that depict a polyomino, then roll five colored dice and assign the numbers to the cards, with 6s always being assigned to a generic 1x2 shape. You choose a die, then draw the adjacent shape in the color of the die on your brain board. You then slide all the cards down the table, with the #5 card leaving play and a new card coming in at slot #1, then roll the dice again, playing twelve rounds in total.
You can draw the first polyomino anywhere, and each subsequent polyomino must touch a previous one, but two of the same color can touch only at the corners. Each color has different scoring goals, for example, a pink shape (love) wants to be adjacent to the same shape, which must be in a different color, but the shapes leave after a few rounds, so you need to find a match quickly. Orange (friendship) rewards you for quantity, and purple (activities) rewards you when purple touches orange since activities are more fun with friends.
The game also includes public goals, with the players who complete them first scoring more points.
I've played Mind Space once in a not-quite-final form and got wrecked so hard that I forgot to take pictures. As you collect green shapes or completely fill sections of your brain, you earn coins, which lets you fill in bonus spaces, add an available polyomino in the color of your choice, or draw an additional polyomino...and I failed to take advantage of most of this. What's more, I filled my brain poorly, giving me few options of where to play in later turns. I imagine that with experience you get better at deciding what should go where, but the shapes on offer keep changing, so you need to remain flexible.
Mind Space changes some of the scoring of the original game and includes a second arrangement of brain sections for more variety of play.
Sail is a two-player-only, co-operative trick-taking game from Akiyama Koryo and Korzu Yusei that debuted in 2021 as Hameln Cave.
In the Japanese game, you were pirates who had escaped a sinking ship — an event which took place in a previous game, Carta Marina — and took refuge in a cave that turned out to be cursed.
In Sail, you are once again pirates, but your ship is still sailing across the waters, and you need to navigate it through a narrow channel to reach safety. With each resolved trick, the ship advances, while also moving toward the winning player. In more detail:Before each round begins, players exchange cards, then play a series of tricks. Different game actions will be triggered depending on who wins each trick in combination with the unique character skills. However, the crashing sea water and a roaring Kraken make for a deafening situation, and players are unable to communicate about tactics and card information from the moment cards are dealt to the end of the action phase.
Players win the game as a team if they sail their ship into the final token before the Kraken reaches the Death tile or the Kraken deck is exhausted.
Couture is a new edition of 2022's Golden Animal from designer 佐藤 雄介 (Yusuke Sato) and publisher 新ボードゲーム党 (New Board Game Party).
In the former game, you attempted to win food cards and rabbits in three simultaneous auctions in order to attract animals. In Couture, you are instead trying to win fame as a fashion model:Players seek to win cards through auctions in New York, Paris, and Tokyo to build their career. New cards are available to draft in each city, allowing the winning player first pick of Iconic Poses, Signature Walks, a personal Glam Squad, and much more.
Once the seventh round has concluded, players determine their total score, with magazine cover awards bringing bonus points. The model with the highest score wins the game and with it all the fame of a global spotlight!
I recently saw someone ask whether a new edition of a game had ever removed animals from it instead of adding them in, and Couture is an example of such a change should one not have existed previously.
• The final title from Allplay is a new design: Chomp, a 2-4 player game from Clarence Simpson that warns you in the title what might go wrong for you during the game:Read more »The era of the dinosaurs is here! Your goal in Chomp is to form herds of dinos and make sure they are all fed. Herbivores and carnivores both need food sources, but if the carnies are not properly fed, they don't mind chomping an herbie to fill their bellies!
Gameplay involves dual rows of goal tiles and dino tiles, and each turn players select one tile to add to their personal arrangement. Goal tiles stay off to the side for endgame scoring, and dino tiles are arranged in front of each player. Dino tiles include three sizes each of herbivores and carnivores. Each tile must overlap previous ones, either on top of a quarter tile, half tile, or even a whole tile, ensuring that any covered cinos are completely hidden.
Adjacent dinos of the same species form herds, which will eat together if connected to a single food source — or die together if they are unfed, adjacent to a tar pit, or next to an otherwise unfed carnivore!
At the end of the game, each living and fed dino scores 1-3 points depending on its size, and the player with the highest score wins.
- How Well Can You Work with Others in 7 Wonders: Edifice?7 Wonders expansions released prior to a relaunching of the base game with a second edition in 2020, 2014's Babel had the lowest rating, and while the other three expansions — Leaders, Cities, and Armada — also had second editions to accompany the base game, Babel fell and was forgotten.
Or was it? Designer Antoine Bauza and publisher Repos Production have now unveiled something new for 7 Wonders that resurrects an aspect of that earlier expansion. Here's an overview of 7 Wonders: Edifice, which will debut on February 24, 2023:7 Wonders: Edifice gives players the opportunity to work together to construct communal buildings. If you do your part and the building comes to be, you'll be rewarded. You don't have to participate, but if you don't — and the building never comes to be — you'll suffer a penalty.
In more detail, this expansion contains fifteen edifice cards: five each in ages I, II, and III. To set up, choose one card from each age at random, then place it project side face up on the table and place 2-5 participation markers on each card, depending on the number of players. The project side lists both the potential reward and potential penalty.
Once during an age, when you construct a level of your wonder, you can pay the cost of the edifice card for the current age (in addition to the cost of that level) and gain a participation marker from that card.
As soon as the last participation marker is removed from a card, flip the card over to reveal its constructed side and immediately give each player the listed reward. If at the end of the age at least one participation marker remains on the card, each player without one of these markers suffers the penalty. (If a player cannot suffer the full penalty, e.g., paying 5 coins, they instead take a debt token worth -2, -3, or -5 points depending on the age.)
7 Wonders: Edifice contains two new double-sided wonders; one of them, Ur, can only be used with this expansion, while Carthage can be used in any game of 7 Wonders.
7 Wonders: Edifice can be used with any edition of 7 Wonders.
I got to experience 7 Wonders: Edifice in a mock-up form at BGG.CON 2022, and aside from me being extremely rusty at 7W and taking entirely too many resources due to no real planning, I found the expansion to be a neat, clean addition to the game.
The rewards give you an extra incentive to make sure you hit that wonder in the right age, but the cards won't necessarily co-operate. Other players might rush to build their wonder levels first, leaving you without the chance to join in — you pull extra markers from the box should more players participate in the same round than the number of available markers — or you might decide that the penalty isn't a big deal based on whatever else is available to you.
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- Ravensburger Preps The First Chapter for Disney LorcanaRavensburger announced the 2023 debut of Disney Lorcana, a trading card game (TCG) that features Disney characters in both original and reimagined art styles set in an all-new world created for the game.
After teasing with preview cards at various events, the publisher has now released details about what's being released and when. As for how the game plays, well, that information will undoubtedly be rolled out over the next several months in the lead-up to the game's debut at Gen Con 2023, which opens August 3.
Ravensburger plans to release four sets of Disney Lorcana material each year, with the first set being titled — wait for it! — Disney Lorcana: The First Chapter. Cards will be published in English, French, and German, with the sets being sold in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Following the game's Gen Con 2023 debut, Disney Lorcana: The First Chapter will debut at local game stores on August 18, 2023 "supported by a robust organized play program", followed by a mass retail market release on September 1, 2023.
Disney Lorcana: The First Chapter will consist of more than two hundred cards that will be sold in various ways. Three starter decks will be sold, each providing "a balanced and ready-to-play game deck" of sixty specific cards in two of the six "inks": Amber and Amethyst, Emerald and Ruby, or Steel and Sapphire. Each starter deck includes game tokens and one booster pack; a booster pack contains twelve randomized game cards, including one foil card and two cards with rarities of rare, super rare, or legendary, and booster packs will be sold separately as well.
They will also be sold two other ways: in a gift set that contains four boosters, game tokens, two foil game cards, and two collectible oversized foil cards — in the first such set those cards will be "Mulan – Imperial Soldier" and "Hades – King of Olympus", and in an "Illumineer's Trove" that consists of eight booster packs, two deck boxes, and a player's guide packaged in a themed storage box.
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- A Quartet of Axis & Allies Launches in May 2023earlier news of Renegade Game Studios' most recent licensing deal with Hasbro, Renegade has announced a May 2023 release date for four titles in the Axis & Allies game series:
• Axis & Allies: Europe 1940
• Axis & Allies: Pacific 1940
• Axis & Allies: 1941
• Axis & Allies: 1942
All of these designs are credited to Larry Harris, Jr., and Renegade notes that each game will feature an updated rulebook that incorporates errata and FAQs, in addition to having "a few small quality-of-life changes".
Furthermore, on February 3, 2023 during its Renegade Con Virtual event, the publisher will have additional Axis & Allies announcements, as well as a poll "to see what the next NEW entry in the Axis & Allies franchise will be".
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- Tales of Tricks Taken: The Green Fivura, 12 Chip Trick, Tall Tales, and Tortenschlacht
1. The event had only 35-40 attendees, which meant you had enough folks on hand for variety of who was at the table, yet not so many that you felt overwhelmed.
2. Event organizer James Nathan, who scouts for publishers CMYK and Allplay, has assembled an amazing library of trick-taking games that spans from the obscure to the treasured, from the glorious to the ludicrous. It's not just a greatest hits collection, but more of an actual library that's going for breadth in its contents.
3. The event had a focus, which meant that everyone on hand loved trick-taking games, so you didn't have to futz around too much to find something that everyone was willing to play. We were all in the mindset of playing short games that lasted multiple rounds, unlike at an event like BGG.CON, where I see lots of folks playing three-hour games.
• My most played game of the event was The Green Fivura from designer Taiki Shinzawa, who publishes under the brand 倦怠期 (Kentaiki). The hook of this game comes in two parts: First, every card has a green 5 on its back, and in various circumstances, you can play a card as a green 5 instead of as its front. Usually you're trying to dodge a trick or force someone else to eat one, but sometimes you're preemptively trying to short a suit or ditch a high number.
Why all the focus on not winning tricks? Because second, when you win a trick, you place the winning card on top of the trick, and if the sum of your winning cards is higher than 25, you score -1 points that round. The player with the sum closest to 25 scores 3 points (or 2 with only three players), as well as 1 point for each player who busts. Others who don't bust get a point or two, and whoever has the most points after four rounds wins.
Many trick-taking games, such as the excellent Cat in the Box, which I covered here, have you focus on the number of tricks won. In The Green Fivura, Shinzawa abstracts that concept to care about the sum of the power used to win those tricks. Sometimes two tricks is all you need to bust; sometimes you'll take five tricks and be okay.
With three players, the highest cards are 9, whereas with four players each suit goes to 13 — which ups the danger level, but simultaneously increases the outlets for such high cards. I've now played The Green Fivura five times with both three and four players, and almost every hand feels like a nightmare in the making. If you have lots of purple, the trump suit, you risk eating tricks; lots of high numbers, same; lots of high green, same due to the tendency of players to lead a green 5 in order to ditch high numbers.
The green suit tends to run dry quickly due to such shenanigans, which means you're likely to win that trick, but better to win with a 5 than a high number — yet if everyone else is playing off-suit because green is empty, then you're letting them ditch high numbers!
Aside from dodging tricks or lowering your sum, another advantage to playing a green 5 is that you have information about a card that's now out of play. You might want to count all the cards in The Green Fivura, but you can't, so you need to go with your gut as to who's pitched what.
As the round progresses and you win tricks, the numbers in your hand start flashing red. Don't win with anything over 10! Now everything over 7 is bad! I still have no idea after five games whether I'm playing well, but the tension is still there every hand and I want to play more, so that's a win.
12 Chip Trick (12チップトリック) is a three-player-only trick-taking game self-published by root (ルート) in 2022, and it resembles The Green Fivura in that you're trying to collect just enough of something.
The game consists of only twelve wooden discs: six red ones numbered 4-9 and six black ones numbered 1-3 and 10-12. Shuffle the discs face down, then give each player two discs of each color. The round's start player plays a disc of their choice face up, then each other player in order does the same. Whoever played the highest disc collects one of the played discs and sets it aside face up out of play, then each other player in order collects a disc and adds it back to their hand face down; if any red disc is present in the trick, you must collect a red disc.
The winner of the trick leads to the next trick, and you keep playing until someone has four face-up discs in front of them. Everyone then sums the numbers on their four discs. If your sum is 20 or less, score that many points; if your sum is over 20, score half that sum rounded down. After three rounds, with each person leading once, whoever has the most points wins.
I played 12 Chip Trick twice, and it's a neat challenge, especially since you start with no information, then learn bit by bit who has which numbers in hand, which gives you more information to go on in terms of what to play. You don't even necessarily want to win tricks! You just want to have a sum of 20 in your hand, so you're playing the odds of who has what and which numbers they're gunning for in their quest for 20.
The sum of all the numbers in play is 78, so landing at 20 is rough. Alternatively, you can shoot for high numbers since the four largest numbers sum to 42, which when halved is 21. Fail to hit that total, however, and you've almost certainly helped one (or both) opponents to stay below the threshold, which means they might score better than you.
Korean publisher Mandoo Games has announced that it will release 12 Chip Trick in a new edition in Q2 2023.
Tall Tales is a trick-taking game for 3-4 players from New Mill Industries and designer Rand., who helps source games for the open play areas at PAX conventions. The idea behind the game is that you're all telling stories to one another, and as the rounds progress you take story elements from others and re-tell them, sometimes embellishing the stories to make them grander.
In game terms, you have a four-suited deck, and everyone starts with a hand of cards and one card in front of you in a "memory" area. Additional piles of cards in the four suits stand in the middle of the table. On a turn, a player leads, and everyone must follow suit if possible.
Whoever has played the largest card of the suit led takes a card from another player's memory and places it in their discard pile, then the player of the next highest card does the same, etc. If players play off suit, they draft cards based on the value of their played cards from high to low after all those who played on suit have drafted. Whoever played the worst card in the trick drafts a card from the top of one of the central piles — and the numbers on these cards escalate over time. Essentially, you told a terrible story, so you're like, "Oh, yeah, well wait until they get a load of this whopper!"
The final card in memory is discarded, then the played cards are moved into the memory slots, then the trick's winner leads to a new trick.
After all cards have been played, you take the cards in your discard pile as your new hand, then play another round. After the second round, you score points based on the value of cards in your discard pile. After the fourth round, you again score based on the value of your discard pile, then whoever has the most points wins.
I'll note that development on Tall Tales is still being finalized ahead of a crowdfunding campaign in 2023, so some details of gameplay might differ from what I have here, but the gist of the game will remain the same: Use your cards to get "better" cards, with better encompassing both high and low cards since sometimes you want to win a trick to claim a high card from someone else's memory and sometimes you want to draft a new card.
Cards enter and leave the game each round, so as in 12 Chip Trick, you can try to track who has what, but the hand sizes are larger and the values keep changing, which makes tracking here a far bigger challenge. I played only once, so maybe additional plays would help. We'll see!
Tortenschlacht, a self-published trick-taking game for 3-4 players from 1988 that has three registered owners on BGG, one of them being James Nathan.
"Tortenschlacht" means cake battle, and you are battling others with layer cake and sacks of flour. The cake cards have values that range from 2 to ⅛, and they come in two colors: red and yellow. The flour sacks are also red and yellow, and one of the sacks in each color is a joker that can also be played as 2 cakes.
Each player gets a hand of seven cards, with two cards being placed face up, then the dealer asks everyone in turn if they want to play the round on their own. If no one goes solo, then the dealer asks in turn for a partner. The solo player or the partner can pick up the face-up cards or remove them from play. Players can then make declarations like "The solo player will lose" or "The dealer will win", with these declarations adding to the points for whichever side wins the round.
You must follow the lead card, if possible. When a player leads cake, whoever flung the most cake of that color wins the trick. When a player leads flour, the last player to play flour of that color wins the trick. Whichever side collects four or more tricks wins the round and scores points: 1 for each trick, with bonus points for declarations.
We played Tortenschlacht only once with four players, possibly because I repeatedly got ridiculous hands, which made the game seem dumb. In the fourth round, for example, the player to my right dealt, and I had both joker flour sacks and both 2-cake cards — which meant that I could declare myself the solo player, set aside the face-up cards, declare that I was going to win, then win four tricks immediately. Boom!
I would be happy to give Tortenschlacht another go to see whether it turns out the same way, but that would entail first finding a copy among the used game vendors at SPIEL. Fat chance of that, I think!
I'll cover a few other games played — most of them being non-trick-taking titles — in a separate post later, but I'll close by noting that it was also fun to watch games being played, including a game that took place off site...
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- Designer Preview: Jump Drive: Terminal Velocity
by Tom LehmannTerminal Velocity expands Jump Drive to five players and adds new worlds and developments, optional goals and start worlds, and Eric Kaminsky's five solo campaigns.
Adding New Content
As Jump Drive's game cards form a web of interlocking references to each other, it's actually a tricky game to expand.
On one hand, you want to add lots of new content, but if you add too many new cards without adding duplicates of existing cards, then this web of references falls apart. You must either add lots of duplicates of existing cards alongside new cards — which isn't very exciting — or add new content in other places.
My solution was to add new content in three separate areas: start worlds, goals, and new game cards.
New Game Cards
The 21 expansion game cards (of 55 total cards) have just two duplicates of existing cards among them.
They include references to icons, keywords, and various world colors as well as card names.
I also added a mechanical "sub-theme" around having different colors of worlds:
This provides a new strategy that connects disparate worlds, which helps combat the larger deck's increased sample variance.
A Fifth Player
Twenty-one game cards, plus a sheet of VP counters, allowed me to add a fifth Survey Team and a fifth player, along with another preset hand (E) in case all five players are new.
By making Start Worlds and Goals optional, players can add the game cards and a fifth player to the existing game and begin playing without having to learn any new rules.
Twelve start worlds — six military and six non-military — are provided. Each player is dealt one from each group, then after examining all their dealt cards, they choose their five initial hand cards (from seven) and then a start world that begins in play (returning the unused start world to the box).
My first attempt at start worlds involved New Sparta providing +2 Military and Gene Experimenters providing 1 income plus an additional 1 with a Genes world in tableau. This was far too powerful in a game where everything scores for all prior cards!
I then drastically toned down the start world powers.
These powers may seem minor, but starting with a card in play — especially when given a choice after seeing your initial cards — is surprisingly strong and adds an interesting new decision to the game.
Depending on the number of players, 3-7 of thirteen goal cards are available for players to claim during the game by being the first to meet a goal's condition:
For example, being first to have four chromosome icons; three Rare worlds (of any mix of military or non-military worlds); one world of each color; or a development of cost 6 or more in your tableau.
Generating interesting goal conditions was relatively easy. The design issue was what should the benefit of being first to satisfy a goal be?
In Race for the Galaxy, Roll for the Galaxy, and New Frontiers, goals vary in ways appropriate to each game.
In New Frontiers, a game where most information is known, choosing a goal for all players to score gives a player both selection and a bit of hidden information.
In Roll for the Galaxy, with its distinctive dice allocation, satisfying a goal gives that player 2-5 "one-shot" wild dice counters (worth 1 VP apiece if unused).
In Race for the Galaxy, where large VP gains often occur in the final rounds, we provided both "first" and "most" goals, where the latter can potentially lead to 10 VP swings if one player catches, then overtakes another in a most goal's condition.
In Jump Drive's mid-game, players often struggle to acquire enough military to conquer a high-defense world or to have enough income to place a costly development or non-military world. Could making this easier be an interesting goal benefit?
Being first to claim a goal gains those player(s) a goal marker which can be spent for +2 temporary military or a discount to place a card.
If unused at game end, each goal marker is worth 5 VPs but doesn't count for triggering the game end; they just add to a player's final score.
Goals increase the number of VPs in a game, so playing with them increases the game end trigger from 50 to 60 VP chips.
While claiming a goal is "friendly" when several players do so on the same round, it prevents other players from claiming it on later rounds. This adds some nice player tension and interaction to Jump Drive.
Goals add another factor to start world choice as a given start world can often give a player a boost towards a goal in play, such as how Alien Research Team accelerates you toward getting six explore icons.
Goals and start worlds are optional; players can use one, both, or neither of these play options.
Eric Kaminsky (BGG user Epyo) designed a popular solo variant for Jump Drive, which I admired. I invited him to help me add it to Terminal Velocity.
In Eric's variant, a solo player plays four successive games, each time needing to fulfill a different one of four win conditions.
In the first game, all four conditions are available. In each successive game, one fewer condition is available so that a player's options reduce with each successive win. If a game ends and the player can't satisfy any of the remaining conditions, then they lose the campaign.
Five different solo campaign cards are provided. A dedicated solo player can even attempt all five solo campaigns in order: twenty games to be won without ever losing! Good luck!
Eric's variant, of course, was designed with just the base game. For this expansion, we wanted it to work not only with the new game cards, but also with goals and start worlds.
With goals in the solo game, we faced the problem of no player competition for them, which meant that some goals became "gimmes". Eric's solution was to add solo round restrictions to three goals so that if the player doesn't claim that goal by the listed round, it ceases to be available.
For example, the VP chip goal must be claimed on or before round 3 and the 4+ developments goal must be claimed on or before round 5.
Since solo games always last seven rounds and have no player competition for goals, we also had to boost the listed VP thresholds for solo games with goals by +20, not +10, VPs.
While we were happy with start worlds possibly giving a player a boost towards certain goals (as going for a goal is not a guaranteed victory in a multi-player game), this felt "too easy" for certain solo win conditions. For the solo game, we added a restriction to a few win conditions that a start world could not count toward satisfying their non-VP conditions.
In an Influential Victory, a military start world will not count toward satisfying its five military worlds condition. (No start world is a Rebel world, so they have no effect on that path.) In a Distant Victory, a start world does not count towards having 12+ cards in your final empire.
Eric spent many hours testing the solo game with the expansion to make sure everything worked well. He was great to work with and provided valuable feedback and assistance on the entire project. Thanks, Eric!
Mirko Suzuki provided new graphics and did all the production work. Claus Stephan and Martin Hoffmann not only provided a striking cover illustration and cool logo, they also touched up some of their earlier Race for the Galaxy illustrations, often with an eye toward further increasing their diversity.
I've been working with this art team for over fifteen years, and they are a pleasure to work with. Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande Games, as always, was supportive and encouraging. Ken Hill helped secure the print dates and proof the rules. Thanks, guys!
Originally, I thought that Jump Drive's expansion was Race for the Galaxy. I've come to realize that Jump Drive has its own audience (with a sizable overlap) and that they would appreciate more variety.
I'm grateful that with Jump Drive: Terminal Velocity we were able to expand the player count in both directions, add interesting new game cards, and provide optional content with goals and start worlds for very little added complexity. Enjoy!
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- Thanks to HUCH!, In 2023 You Can Manipulate Crabs, Play Torres Faster, and Enter the MATRXHUCH! has released its 2023 catalog, which lists both its own releases and titles that it carries in Germany from other publishers.
• The biggest release, as least for my biased eyes, is MATRX from designer Kris Burm, due out in Q4 2023.
The description from HUCH! is somewhat vague: "MATRX features the basic elements of GIPF combined with the move options from DVONN, PÜNCT, ZÈRTZ, YINSH, and TAMSK, opening up completely new tactical options that need to be mastered. MATRX can also be used as an expansion for GIPF."
BGG user Michael Reitz notes that he spoke with Kris Burm at SPIEL '22, and MATRX is a new edition of the GIPF potentials — pieces that can be added to GIPF to provide special powers — while also being a standalone game with a new game board that uses all of the potentials as pieces. I'm bummed that I missed seeing Burm in Essen, but thankful for the info!
Torres Family, due out in Q3 2023, is a simplified version of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling's 2000 Spiel des Jahres-winning game Torres that contains two ways to play.
First, you can play Torres-lite, with players trying to impress the king by building tall towers and being in as many castles as possible. Second, you're once again constructing towers, but you're trying to be close to the King's envoys so that you receive twice as many points, but not every tower may be built on every field due to color restrictions on the game board.
• Rababia, another Q3 2023 release, is a family game from Florian Racky for 2-4 players that seems to have the Colovini flavor of Clans crossed with Downforce.
Each player secretly represents one of the five animal messengers who have been charged to deliver a message to the raven king, but not every animal can take each path across the country's lakes, swamps, cliffs, caves, and ravines. Some environments are the natural habitats for the messengers, while others are insurmountable obstacles. Can you reach the castle first? And can you figure out the animal role of other players to gain additional points?
• Marsch der Krabben is a two-player, co-operative game from Julien Prothière based on the comic series of the same name.
In the game, due out in Q3 2023, each player has a set of square crabs who are a bit of a curiosity of nature since they cannot turn, but walk in only one direction. One player's crabs move vertically across a grid of sand and sea, and the other horizontally. Together, despite being unable to speak to one another and on the constant lookout for enemies, they try to free their crab buddies who are stuck under tires, a guitar, or other flotsam. Can they make it in time to set all eight buddies free?
Marsch der Krabben includes eleven scenarios in which the two heroes' rescue mission become increasingly difficult.
Witchstone: Full Moon, an expansion now due out in Q2 2023 for Martino Chiacchiera and Reiner Knizia's 2021 game Witchstone.
Cesare Mainardi's Erobern!, a card-playing game of world domination, is also due out in Q2 2023, while Goblin Coaster from Ursula Hermens-Meyberg and Jan Meyberg, and Circles from Thomas Sing have moved to Q4 2023.
After The Crew and The Key, I'm curious to see what Sing presents in Circles, but the "Facebook ad" art direction of the cover leaves me conflicted.
• HUCH! is also bringing language-specific versions of several games to the German market, with Kites, Onirim, and Stellarion coming in Q2 2023; the Touch It series of games in which you identify items by feeling the raised elements on cards in Q3 2023; and SPIEL '22 attention getters Turing Machine and Tribes of the Wind, also in Q3 2023.
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- Hunt Down German Fleets, Deal with Turmoil in Europe Again, and Battle on the Great Lakes or in the Austro-Prussian WarSalt & Pepper Games announced The Hunt, an upcoming 2-player, asymmetric, card-driven, cat-and-mouse strategy game from designers Matthias Cramer (Watergate, Glen More II: Chronicles, Lancaster) and Engin Kunter, which plays in 25–45 minutes.
In The Hunt, one player plays as the British Royal Navy and is trying to hunt down German fleets in World War II, while the German Kriegsmarine player tries their best to stay hidden, as described in the publisher's high-level overview below.September 1939: the commander of the Admiral Graf Spee receives the order to sink as many British freight ships as possible in the South Atlantic. The objective is to intercept the ships crossing the Atlantic and prevent supplies from reaching the UK and other destinations.
The plan seems to work in the first months: within a few weeks, the Admiral Graf Spee sinks 9 freight ships and sends almost 50,000 gross register tons to the seabed. The gigantic loss put the army command in London Whitehall under pressure. In order to protect their freighters in the best possible way, the Admiralty had no choice but to reinforce the English fleet in the South Atlantic by sending three cruisers in what is known as The Battle of River Plate.
Goal of the game:
The Hunt is an asymmetrical duel where one player will assume the leadership of the British Royal Navy, while the other player will represent the German Kriegsmarine. Each player will have their own deck of cards. In order to win, the German side must stay hidden from the British while attempting to sink five cargo ships.
Instead, the player leading the British must hunt down and fight the Admiral Graf Spee in a final naval battle, in which case the side that ends up with lesser damage wins. Will the Royal Navy be able to take advantage of their numerical superiority or will the Kriegsmarine be the ones who, with their cunning and refined strategy, manage to overthrow their rival?
An exciting and determining battle begins that will define the fate of the Second World War.
Compass Games launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (KS link) for 1812!: War on the Great Lakes Frontier, a 2-player, card-driven, multi-scenario historical strategy game from designer Ken Repel.
Here's a bit of what you can expect from 1812! War on the Great Lakes Frontier as described by the publisher:1812! War on the Great Lakes Frontier is a card-driven strategic wargame that simulates the naval and land actions fought on and around the Great Lakes of North America during The War of 1812.
This is a two-player game with either player commanding the naval and land forces of the United States of America or the British Empire.
Players will alternate playing Strategy cards, spending Operation Points and causing historical events to occur. Operation Points are the currency used to move and fight battles with military units.
The scale of fighting units is regimental and single ship.
Each leader, regiment and naval vessel has been researched to determine its relative strength and weaknesses based on battle performance, unit size, and type. With armies rarely exceeding a few thousand men, the forces are manageable and the clashes are skirmishes in comparison to the battles fought in Europe.
Europe in Turmoil II: The Interbellum Years 1920-1939 , which is a re-implementation of Kris Van Beurden's 2-player, Twilight Struggle-inspired, political card-driven game Europe in Turmoil: Prelude to the Great War.Europe in Turmoil II follows in the footsteps of Europe in Turmoil I. Once again, two players take sides in this political CDG set in the Interbellum era between the two World Wars, this time one representing the Moderate Left (socialists and liberals), and the other player representing the Moderate Right of the time (conservatives and nationalists).
The mechanics of the game are rather similar to those of Europe in Turmoil I, with the main changes being the replacement of the Naval Arms Race by seven concurrent Rearmament races (for each of the six scoring regions of the game plus the Soviet Union) and the removal of the stability and mobilization decks in lieu of a new extremist marker that facilitates support checks.
While players represent moderates, the cards they are using contain some of the more extreme people and factions of the period. It is possible to harness their large political prowess in order to make quick gains, but at the cost of becoming less and less moderate, which may eventually hamper your possibility to win the long game.
The map represents the political reality of Europe in the Interbellum, divided in six scoring regions (Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain and the Little Entente of Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia).
Play progresses over three periods: The Roaring Twenties, followed by the Great Depression and finally the Appeasement period.
Europe is in Turmoil again! Will you be the one to extinguish the forces of extremism, or will you fan the flames on your way to Domination?
By Iron and Blood is a unique 2-player wargame from Hermann Luttmann (Dawn of the Zeds, In Magnificent Style, At Any Cost: Metz 1870) and White Dog Games covering the Battle of Koniggratz, which was fought during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.
Whether you're interested in learning more about the Battle of Koniggratz, or you're just curious to see what Luttmann's cooked up for us now, keep an eye out for updates on By Iron and Blood. The publisher's description below nicely summarizes the historical setting of By Iron and Blood, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about the gameplay as well.Read more »“The position of Prussia in Germany will not be determined by its liberalism but by its power … Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided… but by iron and blood.”
– Otto von Bismarck, Sept. 30, 1862
By Iron and Blood is a two-player wargame depicting the final, decisive battle of the Austro-Prussian War. The Battle of Koniggratz (or Sadowa) occurred on July 3, 1866 and it was the largest European land engagement fought between the Battle of Leipzig (1813) and the mammoth battles of the First World War. Koniggratz involved over 450,000 men from multiple European nations and principalities. The battle would decide the destiny of Europe, determining whether Prussia or Austria would be the dominant force binding the various German states together to form a new potential super-power, born with a united Germany. The Prussians under General Helmuth von Moltke invaded Austria in late June of 1866 with three major armies, each following a separate axis of advance. Using divergent approaches was risking defeat in detail, but Moltke counted on superior Prussian maneuverability to outflank the Austrian North Army under Feldzugmeister Ludwig von Benedek. Battles were fought at Nachod, Tratenau, Skalitz, Soor and Gitschen with the Prussians prevailing in nearly all those encounters. The demoralized Austrians gathered their remaining strength in front of the fortress of Koniggratz, hoping that one last titanic defensive battle would win them the war. The Prussians rushed ahead with the 1st and Elbe Armies, engaging the Austrians in their prepared positions. Prussian commanders then looked to the north for the approaching 2nd Army, hoping it would arrive in time to deliver the killing blow. But where was that army and how long would it take to deploy effectively to the battlefield? The race was on – could the North Army defeat the outnumbered Prussians before 2nd Army closed the vise or would the war end under the walls of Koniggratz?
- 2023 Con Preview Now Live — And Smaller Than Ever!Spielwarenmesse/FIJ/GAMA 2023 Convention Preview has been live for a bit longer than that. The list launched with fewer than ten titles on it, and now it contains more than a hundred.
The idea behind the list is to highlight games that will be demoed at Spielwarenmesse 2023, a trade fair in Nürnberg, Germany being held in early February, and GAMA Expo 2023, a trade fair in Reno, Nevada, U.S. in late April, as well as games that will be demoed or sold at International Festival des Jeux in Cannes, France in late February. On top of that, I've included games from a few publishers that will be released at retail in the first half of 2023. I'll be adding to this preview until the end of February 2023, so expect it to grow over the coming weeks.
Normally I'd include games demoed at 2023 NY Toy Fair on this preview, but that show has moved to September, which means we'll likely see most games that would have debuted at that show at Origins, at Gen Con, or in SPIEL previews. (Most publishers who I've asked about the NY Toy Fair move are baffled by the changed show date. We'll see what actually happens when it takes place.)
The intent behind the preview is to highlight titles that will be announced or shown, but possibly not released until later in the year. You can get a sense of what's coming — or in some cases what isn't coming. Several publishers, such as AMIGO and Catch Up Games, have scaled back their release list, with AMIGO offering in the first half of 2023 only two new titles — both spin-offs of existing game lines — while Catch Up plans to release three titles in all of 2023 compared to nine titles in 2022.
On January 7, 2023, designer Nick Bentley from Underdog Games posted a Twitter thread that could shine a light on such decisions:
Rather than quote all the tweets, I'll copy them here:1) Pandemic rebound: folks bought a ton of games during the pandemic (true - our sales more than doubled starting in 2020), so now they're done for a while.
2) Publishers put off publishing games during the pandemic, and are now publishing them, so there's an extra surplus now.
3) The two factors above push supply up and demand down, which is driving low sales per game.
4) Inflation has pushed margins down.
5) Inflation has caused consumers to pull back on certain kinds of discretionary purchases, including board games.
6) The best products have gotten better. Because sales are governed by a power law where the best sellers soak up most of the sales, it's harder to move up the power law curve.
See this excellent essay about the power law.
7) Barriers to entry for publishing board games have dropped, raising the supply/demand ratio.
8) Inflation has eroded people's sense of value of what you get in the box.
9) There's a shift in purchasing toward older, evergreen games. I've heard multiple industry people say this, but don't know how to confirm. I'll note our most evergreen game has been least hit.
10) Shipping logistics have been difficult and expensive for some time.
11) The pandemic sales spike made publishers overconfident, and they took on more overhead than they should have, which is now a burden (guilty)
12) Asmodee throwing its consolidated weight around. I don't buy it, but I've heard it, so including it for completeness.
Possibly relevant: I've heard party games are generally selling well.
This is grapevine hearsay, so grain of salt, but if true, that might tell us something.
Lots of people have responded to Bentley's tweets with comments about where they fall among these reasons, so you might be curious to check them out. Feel free to comment here as well. I mean, sure, it's meaningful on a large scale to think that instead of, say, a thousand games on BGG's SPIEL '23 Preview we might have only eight hundred — but does that really change anything for you personally? Do you try to stay abreast of the market at large, or do you follow only a few designers or publishers and blank out everything else? Read more »
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