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BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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New Game Round-up: Nominating Cthulhu for King, Fighting Wizards with Rocks, and Exploring Key to the City

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IELLO has announced a new line of Monster Packs that will serve as mini-expansions for both King of Tokyo and King of New York with the first pack due out Q1 2017, and who else are you going to launch a monster-based line with other than Cthulhu? Here's an overview of what's inside King of Tokyo: Monster Pack – Cthulhu:

Quote:
King of Tokyo: Monster Pack – Cthulhu includes a new monster — Cthulhu, in case you couldn't guess — as well as eight evolution cards for use with King of Tokyo and eight evolution cards for King of New York. Fifteen cultist tokens are also included for card effects.

These packs will retail for $10-15 depending on their contents.


Yes, IELLO is aware of the typo on this promotional image


• Uwe Rosenberg's At the Gates of Loyang is returning to print, with Pegasus Spiele planning to have German-language copies on hand at SPIEL 2016 in October and with Tasty Minstrel Games bringing the English-language version to market at a later date.

WizKids has announced another D&D-related title in its board game line-up, but this design from Cappel, Lim and Cormier is a far different beast than its Temple of Elemental Evil Board Game. Here's a rundown of Dungeons & Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard, due out January 2017 but possibly showing up in time for advance sales at SPIEL 2016:

Quote:
In Dungeons & Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard, the dragon has been slain, leaving behind a treasure over which to fight, and the players are wizards who are fighting to claim the most gold from the dragon's pile.

The players have cards depicting various well-known D&D spells, and each card shows a Rock-Paper-Scissors gesture that the player must make to cast, while pointing at another player as the target of the spell. All players choose their spells simultaneously, and the spells can move the wizards closer or farther away from the treasure or affect the game state in other ways as well.

The first player to collect 25 gold wins.

• As is his custom, designer/publisher Richard Breese of R&D Games has created an explanatory Geeklist for the titles that he plans to debut at SPIEL, those titles being Key to the City – London (GL) and the Keyflower mini-expansion Keymelequin (GL). Complete rules for both items are linked to on their respective BGG game pages.

• I realize that BGG News posts have been sporadic of late, which is odd since this is the time of year in which I see more info on new games than any other. I've just been pouring all of that information onto BGG's SPIEL 2016 Preview — now up to four hundred listings! — and forgetting to post about them in this spot. I keep thinking about posting this or that, but then I see another five games and forget about the earlier ones. I'll try to keep y'all more up-to-date in the days and weeks ahead...
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Tue Aug 23, 2016 11:03 pm
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Gen Con 2016: Video Round-Up III — Rising Sun, Bloodborne: The Card Game, Mansions of Madness, Hit Z Road and Joking Hazard

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• The most talked about game at Gen Con 2016 wasn't even known publicly before the fair opened, this being Eric M. Lang's Rising Sun, which Cool Mini Or Not announced on Friday during the fair. I knew that CMON was announcing something by Lang as the publisher had asked whether they could reserve a spot in the BGG booth late on Friday, but beyond "something" I knew nothing. Now we know a little more thanks to Lang himself...





• One of the first day sellouts at Gen Con 2016 was Lang's Bloodborne: The Card Game, most likely because publisher Cool Mini Or Not had shipped in advance copies for the show to create buzz in advance of the game's September 2016 release date. Buzz buzz buzz!





• One of the biggest splashes of Gen Con 2016 took place a few days before the fair opened, when Fantasy Flight Games announced that the second edition of Mansions of Madness would debut both at the convention and at retail stores on August 4. Retailers complain about being shut out of titles that debut at Gen Con, or of having their customers poached by publishers for the aforementioned buzz, but at least in this one case they could buzz along just like everyone else.





• Gen Con 2016 a high percentage of Australian publishers in attendance, including honorary potential Australian designer Martin Wallace, who had traveled a long way to see two of his releases from Space Cowboys on sale during the show: Via Nebula and (the title shown here) Hit Z Road.





• The fastest turnaround time from knowing that someone would be available for a demo in the BGG booth to said demo taking place might belong to Noel and Rob from Cyanide & Happiness as Scott and I ran into them and Shari Spiro from Breaking Games in the aisle behind the B.G. booth, heard they were available, walked back to the BGG booth, then found out we were ahead on schedule, so *boom* your time on camera has arrived. Sometimes things just work out that way...

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Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:16 pm
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Gen Con 2016: Video Round-Up II — Captain Sonar, Covert, The Goonies, Eight Epics, Love Letter: Premium Edition & Thunderstone: Third Edition

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• Let's start another round-up of game overview videos from Gen Con 2016 with one title that might be the definition of "convention game", by which I mean a game that excels in a public environment because the crowd around you can pick up on the game immediately and follow along while you play.

I've now taught Captain Sonar from Fraga and Lemonnier more times than I've played, yet I'm still not sure that I'm teaching the game optimally as each of four players on a team have individual roles that all need to be taught separately, yet everyone plays at the same time and the roles themselves are simple. Let's see whether Fabien from Matagot can give me any teaching advice...





• Let's transition on the color palette from blue to orange, this being for good or ill a fairly popular color combination. Kane Klenko's Covert was one of many titles debuting from Renegade Game Studios at Gen Con 2016.





• And we'll roll from blue and orange to orange and blue with The Goonies: Adventure Card Game from Riddle and Pinchback. I'm amused by how Erik Dahlman from Albino Dragon opens with "I guess I don't have to say anything about The Goonies..." while of course my knowledge of The Goonies begins and ends with it being a 1980s movie that features kids. I'm probably not missing anything, right?





• Designer Seiji Kanai was a guest of honor at the AEG booth at Gen Con 2016 as the publisher had multiple titles from him debuting or available for purchase, with one in the former category being Love Letter: Premium Edition. I'm continually stunned (in a good way) by how influential this game has been, and it makes me think about all of the other hundreds of tiny games that have appeared at places like Tokyo Game Market, then vanished from public view. What treasures have we missed amongst those titles?





• AEG also featured its version of Kanai's Eight Epics, which he originally self-published through his own Kanai Factory, then expanded, then licensed to another designer who wanted to create his own version. As with Love Letter, Eight Epics is a simple concept that can be reinterpreted in any number of settings and times.





• Todd Rowland of AEG also talked briefly about the third edition of Thunderstone that the publisher plans to bring to Kickstarter in late 2016. Rowland focused mostly on their plans to incorporate retailers into the KS rather than any changes to the game design itself, but this talk is a starting point for what's to come.

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Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:17 pm
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Gen Con 2016: Video Round-Up I — SeaFall, Vast: The Crystal Caverns, Clank!, Terraforming Mars, and Ice Cool

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We're ten days past Gen Con 2016, and by this point Aldie has processed most of the game overview videos that we recorded over the four days of the convention, and we've been posting them regularly on the BGG YouTube channel. (Brad and Dave at iOS News have long since posted everything they recorded off-site, making us look like pikers, but that's mostly my fault for working on nothing other than the SPIEL 2016 Preview last week.)

In any case, here are a few highlight videos of games demoed and sold at Gen Con 2016, starting with the fastest sellout of the convention: Rob Daviau's SeaFall from Plaid Hat Games. The line of VIP buyers on Thursday morning wrapped clear around the PHG booth, leaving copies available for only two "normal" people at the end of the line, so if you want to know what the price of a VIP ticket gets you, it gets you access to buy SeaFall. If you missed out on SeaFall — as most people did — you have the consolation of listening to Daviau sum up several years of design work in less than eight minutes.





• We didn't feature SeaFall in the BGG Hot Games room — partly because we didn't have a copy and mostly because it wouldn't make sense to have a legacy game in that environment — but we did have two copies of Vast: The Crystal Caverns from Leder Games, and those copies were in constant use, thanks in part to co-designer Patrick Leder pretty much always having someone on hand to teach the game to newcomers. Given the nature of the game — that is, five asymmetric roles — a teacher seems like a great thing to have on hand to get you started, and Leder takes on that role in this overview.





• Dungeon delve meets deck-builder in Paul Dennen's Clank!, which Renegade Game Studios plans to release in October 2016 and which snuck through our "no preview" filter that largely worked to keep us focused on games debuting at Gen Con 2016 or newly released prior to the show.




Stronghold Games donated one of everything new to Gen Con 2016 to the BGG Hot Games room, and while prepping Terraforming Mars on Wednesday night before the start of the con, I kept saying to myself, "Self, who's really going to dive into Terraforming Mars on their own from the rulebook? Stephen was a sweetheart to donate this along with his other titles, but maybe he just needed the tax write-off because no one's going to play this." So of course when I visited the Hot Games room on Thursday night practically the first game that I see on the table is four players in the midst of Terraforming Mars. Shows what I know about con behavior...





Ice Cool from Brain Games was one of the three games that I played at Gen Con 2016, mostly because I wanted to teach others in the Hot Games room. The overview video doesn't really capture the joy of flicking the penguins all over the place, with one person trying to catch the others before they can shoot through the doorways and grab their fish. I've played with kids as young as three — although it was "played" more than played — and it's been a blast each time.





• Let's close this post with our wrap-up video for day 1 of Gen Con 2016, which mostly consists of me being really tired, yet simultaneously energetic enough to talk over Stephanie as she tries to lead me to more fertile areas of conversation. Watching yourself on video can be quite educational!

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Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:01 pm
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New Game Round-up: Stealing from Giants, Escorting a Princess, and Carrying a Parasite Back to Earth

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• In February 2016, WizKids announced that Zev Shlasinger — formerly of Z-Man Games — would lead its "expanded Board Game operations", and the first titles chosen by Shlasinger have been announced, starting with Jonathan Leistiko's Blank White Dice, which will debut in October 2016 and which works as follows:

Quote:
In Blank White Dice, players roll the game dice to activate the icons on them and gain enough points to win the game!

But not everything is as straightforward as that! If a player rolls a blank face, they draw their own icons on the faces of their dice. Some icons give players points, others may cause opponents to lose points, force competitors to re-roll and more! The first player to reach 13 points at the end of a round wins.

Following in December 2016 is Burke's Gambit from Rob Yates, which takes a minimalist approach (in terms of components) to the "traitor in space" genre:

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Speeding through space, Burke's Gambit is a rugged company freighter on an extremely important mission, with its seasoned crew being tasked with finding powerful alien technology. What the crew finds instead is something they never expected: a dangerous parasitic organism has somehow made its way into the ship and inside the body of one of the crew members!

Just as the bio-organism contamination alarm goes off, one of the crew members seizes the chaotic moment and sabotages the freighter's engines. The ship, its crew, and the parasitic organism are all on a collision course with planet Earth, where further contamination of the world's population awaits.

Which of the crew are dedicated company personnel wanting the alien organism to reach Earth? Which are just crew wanting to identify the infected crew member? Most importantly, which member of the crew is infected?! Join the crew of Burke's Gambit on a wild space adventure with hidden affiliations and a hidden infected player.

In Burke's Gambit, players take on specific roles of Captain, Marine, Comms Officer and more as they take turns and roll a die. The possibilities of the die include damaging another player, healing themselves, looking at a crew affiliation card, or even scanning a player's diagnostic card. But if you roll an engine power up, you hasten the ship's arrival to Earth. When Burke's Gambit reaches Earth, a vote must be held to eject someone from the airlock (assuming anyone's left)!

WizKids has also picked up the Matagot title Dice Stars from Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc for release in the U.S. by the end of 2016.

Japon Brand has announced two dozen games that it will have available at SPIEL 2016 — and yes, I know that I still need to add them to BGG's SPIEL 2016 Preview — with one of those titles being Unicornus Knights, a 2-6 player co-op from Seiji Kanai and Kuro that bears this description:

Quote:
Unicornus Knights is a cooperative board game where the players are generals who must assist the Princess of a Kingdom to reach her capital. Chased away from the capital by a sudden attack from the Empire, the Princess is set on returning, and will stop at nothing. The players must pave way for the princess so that she does not run into enemy hands.

The game is played on a modular board, where each board contains an enemy general. When a player closes in upon an enemy general, random "fate" cards are drawn that will represent the connection between the enemy general and the player, adding to the narrative and available tactics.

Should you not be attending SPIEL 2016 (which is true of most of people in the world) you can take comfort perhaps in Alderac Entertainment Group stating that it will release the game in 2017.


AEG featured Unicornus Knights at its Big Game Night during Gen Con 2016


Renegade Game Studios has announced a November 2016 release for The Blood of an Englishman from Dan Cassar, designer of the masterful Arboretum. Here's the lowdown on this two-player game:

Quote:
"Fee Fi Fo Fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman!" roared the giant as he crashed through the vines. Jack, with one arm around his precious stolen harp and the other grasping the beanstalk, felt the rush of danger. Will he make it to the bottom in time to chop down the leafy ladder, or will the giant successfully catch the thieving beggar?

In The Blood of an Englishman, players take on the role of either Jack or the Giant. The Giant must maneuver the Fee Fi Fo and Fum cards while Jack tries to create three beanstalks to steal the bag of gold, the Golden Goose, and the Singing Harp. Each player has different available actions and must carefully arrange the cards to achieve their goal. Are you brave enough to face your fate?

And this cover deserves to shown at larger-than-thumbnail size, so here it is:


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Tue Aug 16, 2016 5:33 pm
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New Game Round-up: Deceiving in One Night Ultimate Alien, Drafting in Ethnos, and Drinking in Raise Your Goblets

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Wow, a week has passed since my last post! This is the longest I've gone without writing anything for BGG News, but this absence is not without reason. The final two weeks of preparation before Gen Con 2016 involved far more work than anticipated, what with publishers announcing titles up until the last minute before the show and the unexpected gift of the BGG Hot Games room (which worked out far better than I had anticipated).

With all that going on, I had barely made progress on the SPIEL 2016 Preview, which I pushed live on the Monday following Gen Con and have been working on ever since. The preview now holds 230 listings, and I still have a mountain of information to sift through. That said, let's check out a few other games that may or may not be available at SPIEL 2016, starting with:

One Night Ultimate Alien is the next title from Bézier Games in its One Night Ultimate... series of hidden role games. Little has been announced about this Ted Alspach and Akihisa Okui title other than that the roles involve aliens, the game can be combined with other ONU titles, and a Kickstarter for this title launches on August 29, 2016. This teaser trailer includes teasers, as promised.

• To follow up on that, at Gen Con 2016 Bézier Games announced Ultimate Werewolf Legacy, a project designed by Alspach and (yes) Rob Daviau that sounds exactly like what you'd expect those words to mean:

Quote:
In Ultimate Werewolf Legacy, players and the village itself have attributes that are retained between games, with events taking place in the first games having effects that ripple through remaining games. Make a bad decision early on, and it can haunt the village for years to come! Players can earn titles, which provides them with special abilities in future games, regardless of their role.

The full campaign is divided into chapters of about three games each, with each chapter designed to be played in a single night with the same group of players. Each chapter is standalone so that different players can play different chapters, but since early chapters affect successive ones, it's an even richer experience to play through more than one chapter. Even better, the chapters are designed so that you can switch moderators between games.

Ultimate Werewolf Legacy uses the basic gameplay found in Ultimate Werewolf and adds a number of twists and Legacy-style mechanisms to give the game a richer, more immersive experience than werewolf players will find any other way.




• In addition to unveiling a new logo at Gen Con 2016, Cool Mini Or Not previewed at least a dozen upcoming titles, some in fairly extensive detail during press events and some with little more than a box in a display case.

One of the more detailed presentations was for Paolo Mori's Ethnos, which features artwork by John Howe and which is due out Q4 2016/Q1 2017. Here's an overview of gameplay:

Quote:
In Ethnos, players call upon the support of giants, merfolk, halfings, minotaurs, and other fantasy tribes to help them gain control of the land. After three ages of play, whoever has collected the most glory wins!

In more detail, the land of Ethnos contains twelve tribes of fantasy creatures, and in each game you choose six of them (five in a 2/3-player game), then create a deck with only the creatures in those tribes. The cards come in six colors, which match the six regions of Ethnos. Place three glory tokens in each region, arranging them from low to high.

Each player starts the game with one card in hand, then 4-12 cards are placed face up on the table. On a turn, a player either recruits an ally or plays a band of allies. In the former case, you take a face-up card (without replacing it from the deck) or the top card of the deck and add it to your hand. In the latter case, you choose a set of cards in your hand that match either in tribe or in color, play them in front of you on the table, then discard all other cards in hand. You then place one or more tokens in the region that matches the color of the top card just played, and you use the power of the tribe member on the top card just played.

At the end of the first age, whoever has the most tokens in a region scores the glory shown on the first token. After the second age, the players with the most and secondmost tokens score glory equal to the values shown on the first and second tokens. Players score again after the third age, then whoever has the most glory wins. (Games with two and three players last only two ages.)






• Another CMON title shown to the press — and one that we played, too — was Tim Page's Raise Your Goblets, a co-publication with Italian publisher Horrible Games. Let's start with a short description:

Quote:
Have you felt the thrill of the struggle between life and death, sitting at the same table with your worst enemy and an unreasonable amount of poison? Don’t forget to bring some antidote when playing Raise Your Goblets!

In Raise Your Goblets, players take the roles of nobles at a banquet, each one with their own agenda of personal vendetta. Each player has wine, poison and antidote tokens they can pour into the goblets, trying to poison their enemies while staying alive themselves! Each noble also has a special ability that allows them to bend or even break a rule.

Use all of your actions to become the most influent noble at the table!

I have not felt the thrill of the struggle between life and death, but I did enjoy the simulacrum of same presented in this design. In more detail, each character has a plastic goblet, and each goblet is primed in secret at the start of the round with either wine, poison or antidote. On a turn, you take two actions, with actions being to peek inside your goblet, rotate all goblets left or right, swap your goblet with someone else's, or secretly add one of your wine, poison or antidote tokens to any goblet. Once someone has "served" all of their wine, they can call a toast on their turn instead of doing anything else. Each player, including the toaster, takes one more action, then everyone drinks. If you have more poison than antidote, you die.

What's your goal in doing all of this? Well, at the start of a round you are given a target to kill, and everyone knows who is targeting whom. If at the end of a round, your target is dead, you score 1 point; if you're alive, you score 1 point; if both of these things are true, you score a bonus point (3 total). Also, whoever has the most wine in their cup scores 1 point. If someone has died, they receive a new noble card, and at the end of three rounds, whoever has scored the most points wins.

The noble cards provide all the twists that you can imagine, with players being able to peek into any goblet, or remove two tokens from a goblet then return one of them, or call for a vote on a final goblet rotation before drinking, and so on.

In the end, I tied with Brittanie Boe for the most points, so we had a drink-off to determine the winner, and I ended up with poison in my cup. All hail Queen Bebo!

The colored goblet rings are optional; remove them to increase the game's difficulty!
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Mon Aug 15, 2016 4:30 pm
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Say Hello to the SPIEL 2016 Preview

W. Eric Martin
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Gen Con 2016 has ended, so let's move on to what's next with the launching of the SPIEL 2016 Preview. Yes, already!

While I'm happy to kick off this preview, I regret to say that it contains barely more than one hundred titles at this point. Why the regrets? Because I wrote to dozens of publishers two weeks prior to Gen Con 2016 and I had anticipated being able to add all of the information that they sent me to the SPIEL 2016 Preview before it went live. Alas, info on Gen Con kept pouring in, too, so I focused on that (as well as regular BGG News posts) instead and filtered everything related to SPIEL into an increasingly jam-packed inbox folder.

Now I've switched gears, though, and other than a few Gen Con round-ups and the publication of individual game overview videos once Aldie edits the four days of livestream game demonstrations that we recorded in Indianapolis, I'll be kicking out SPIEL 2016 info right and left until I hit my final update deadline of Friday, October 7.

If you have info about new games being released or demoed at SPIEL — and yes, the convention's name is spelled in all caps, as confirmed by the event organizer — and that info isn't already on the SPIEL 2016 Preview, feel free to email me at the address in the BGG News header at the top of the page. We hit 774 listings in the SPIEL 2015 Preview, and I'm excited/terrified to see what the final tally will be this year.

With that said, dig in!
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Mon Aug 8, 2016 7:43 am
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Explore Arkham and Westeros Anew; Android, Too!

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In an effort to ensure that Gen Con 2016 attendees spend no time anywhere but its booth, Fantasy Flight Games has announced two more Q4 2016 releases in the past couple of days, including Arkham Horror: The Card Game, the existence of which was leaked in May 2016.

This cooperative design by Nate French and Matthew Newman is for 1-2 players — which continues the trend of games including solo play as an option — with players three and four being able to join the game should you have a second Core Set, and at the mention of the words "Core Set", you should recognize Arkham Horror: The Card Game as a Living Card Game, that is, a game for which regular mini-expansions will be released in the months and years ahead. Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay:

Quote:
Something evil stirs in Arkham, and only you can stop it. Blurring the traditional lines between roleplaying and card game experiences, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a Living Card Game of Lovecraftian mystery, monsters, and madness!

In the game, you and your friend become characters within the quiet New England town of Arkham. You have your talents, sure, but you also have your flaws. Perhaps you've dabbled a little too much in the writings of the Necronomicon, and its words continue to haunt you. Perhaps you feel compelled to cover up any signs of otherworldly evils, hampering your own investigations in order to protect the quiet confidence of the greater population. Perhaps you'll be scarred by your encounters with a ghoulish cult.

No matter what compels you, no matter what haunts you, you'll find both your strengths and weaknesses reflected in your custom deck of cards, and these cards will be your resources as you work with your friends to unravel the world's most terrifying mysteries.

Each of your adventures in Arkham Horror LCG carries you deeper into mystery. You'll find cultists and foul rituals. You'll find haunted houses and strange creatures. And you may find signs of the Ancient Ones straining against the barriers to our world...

The basic mode of play in Arkham LCG is not the adventure, but the campaign. You might be scarred by your adventures, your sanity may be strained, and you may alter Arkham's landscape, burning buildings to the ground. All your choices and actions have consequences that reach far beyond the immediate resolution of the scenario at hand — and your actions may earn you valuable experience with which you can better prepare yourself for the adventures that still lie before you.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game is available for demo games at Gen Con 2016.

• With Hand of the King, FFG will add another title to its stable of games based on the works of George R. R. Martin, with this design having neither realistic fantasy art nor screenshot stills from the HBO television series, but rather Eurocomic-style caricatures of the Westeros characters. An overview:

Quote:
The king has called for a lavish feast and tourney, the likes of which have not been seen in the Seven Kingdoms since the days of Aegon the Conquerer. What's more, the king has declared that at this feast, he will choose his new Hand — and you have a chance of rising to this lofty position. Of course, you're not the only one with eyes set on becoming the power behind the Iron Throne. In Hand of the King, you need to scheme and backstab to outwit your opponents, and you need the help of Varys, the Master of Whispers, to do it.

Hand of the King is a fast-paced card game of conspiracies and sudden twists of fate for two to four players, challenging each of you to gain the most support among the twisted intrigues of the King's Landing court. Each turn, you send Varys to do your bidding, moving through the court and inciting iconic characters from A Song of Ice and Fire to support your cause. With the help of some companions and crafty alliances with other players, you just might rise to become the king's new Hand!

In more detail, this Bruno Cathala design has players moving Varys in orthogonal lines in a 6x6 grid, stopping it on a character token, then collecting that token and any other character from that House that you passed over. Possess as many characters from a House as someone else, and you claim the banner from that person. Collect the final character from a House, and you immediately use the power of one of six companions; since the game contains fourteen companions, the mix of powers will differ each game.

As with the title above, A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King is due out Q4 2016 and will be available for demo at Gen Con 2016.




Will this be the final title FFG announces prior to Gen Con 2016? What else could be left?!

Update, August 3, 11:30 a.m.: Well, here's what was left — the revelation of a 4-6 player, 120-240-minute game set in the Android universe by James Kniffen titled New Angeles, which will also be available for demo games at Gen Con 2016 ahead of its scheduled release in Q4 2016. Here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
The largest, richest, and most diverse city on Earth, New Angeles is home to the Space Elevator that rises along its buckyweave tether and connects us to Luna and its invaluable Helium-3 deposits. It is here, in New Angeles, that you'll find the global headquarters for the worlds' most powerful megacorps: Haas-Bioroid, Globalsec, Jinteki, Melange Mining, NBN, and the Weyland Consortium. And it is here, in this shining beacon of human achievement and advancement, that these powerful megacorps enjoy a uniquely fertile breeding ground for their projects and their rivalries.

In New Angeles, you gain control of one of these megacorporations, then you use your wealth and influence to create more wealth and more influence. To do this, you cut deals and forge temporary alliances. You leverage your credits and assets to gain financial superiority over your corporate rivals. All the while, you also need to keep an eye toward the masses, striking deals with the other corps as necessary in order to keep a lid on crime, disease, and unrest. If you want to maximize your profit, you need to keep New Angeles open for business!


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Wed Aug 3, 2016 4:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Terraforming Mars, or Life to Mars and Mars to Life!

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My first Spiel was 2011, the year that FryxGames was founded. We were five brothers there, of which four were in the company, and the fifth was just company. Our few handmade Wilderness sold out and my low-production Space Station didn't fare so badly either. Spiel was amazing, and we were greatly encouraged, deciding to go for it and start making high-quality games in decent (for us) print-runs.

Shortly after that first Spiel, I thought to myself one day: "I should make a game about terraforming Mars." The thought wasn't far-fetched since I LOVE Mars, science and epic scales — and so I did. Now I will show you how Terraforming Mars evolved.

My love for card games shines through all my designs. It is so easy to start prototyping a card game, and the format allows you to simulate almost anything! Beginning as usual with just pen and paper, I made the first prototype with pieces of paper torn from ordinary printer paper. (I get 16 from each sheet.) There are a number of aspects that need to be addressed when terraforming Mars, of which I deemed oxygen, temperature, and ocean coverage to be the most important, so I also had a sheet of paper for these scales.




Aside from being card-based and having scales for different things, other things started to become clear, too:

-----• That the players were corporations paid for terraforming, which was simulated by a terraform rating that provided both income and victory points.

-----• That I wanted unique cards that could simulate anything from importing water and building various industries to introducing life and hurling asteroids at the Martian surface to create heat.

-----• That I would need different resources to simulate these things.

-----• That many cards would continue to work over time, necessitating a production phase.

-----• That I wanted the cards to have thematic tags that could be used to create cool combos and enhance the thematic simulation of the project cards.

-----• That the scales should have bonus steps that could simulate different things, e.g., water being released when the permafrost begins to melt at 0º C, and an increasing greenhouse effect and rising temperature due to a thickening of the atmosphere.

-----• That the game would end when Mars was fully terraformed.

-----• That I wanted to be able to raise temperature gradually, introducing the heat scale that feeds the temperature scale.

One of the most important aspects of terraforming Mars is plant life because it can turn carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into breathable oxygen via photosynthesis. It can also give food and useful materials, in addition to binding the dust. Thus, I had a plant scale on which players marked their accumulated plant resources and received extra oxygen increases and VPs accordingly. All of these aspects still remain in the final, printed game (plus more as you will see).

After a month or so, I made a simple Word version of the "cards" and "board" to get a clearer and more playable experience. Algae, for example, costs 1, is a plant bio project, produces 2 plant resources every round, requires there to be 5% ocean in play before you can play it, and gives you 1 immediate plant resource when you play it. This card gets you higher on the plant scale over time, causing oxygen to rise (and your terraform rating!), and is worth extra VPs at the game end.

After designing for a couple of months, I remembered that the Red Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson was about terraforming and began rereading it, discovering that most of "my" ideas in the game subconsciously came from my earlier reading of those marvelous books. I also found more stuff to put in the game, of course. Anyone familiar with the Red Mars trilogy will feel at home in this game! But inspiration has also come from NASA, ESA, Wikipedia and other web-articles, as well as Mars One, and the Mars Society president Robert Zubrin (who, by the way, really liked this game and came up with the slogan "Life to Mars, and Mars to life" that I used for this designer diary). Collecting all this information and inspiration on terraforming naturally got my own cogs turning, too, and I came up with a few terraforming ideas myself, being the nerdy science teacher I am.

The next step in the design process was to visualize the parameters on an appealing game board. You cannot do a theme like this justice without some cool graphics, and here is what I came up with:




The market is where you buy new cards for your hand. This was a feature we abandoned because with all the cards being unique and players buying cards from the market all the time, it was a real chore to constantly reevaluate the market. Instead, I decided that players should simply draw cards and choose the ones they want for their hand, paying for each of them and discarding the rest. This created an investment and a difficult choice: Buy more cards for your hand, or save the money to afford playing the ones you already have?

I realized that this layout wouldn't really visualize the terraforming process, so the next iteration had the surface divided into areas that you could claim and on which you could place cities, forests and ocean markers.




Maybe a cool idea, but markers would still not visualize the spreading of water and life on the surface, so another solution was needed.




By using hexagons, tiles could fill up the areas and create continuous oceans and forests. By this time, we'd also worked in standard projects to complement the cards, and milestones and awards for which you could compete. All these changes greatly increased player interaction and helped visualize the development of a living planet.

We also moved much of the resource management to a player board on which resources and production were marked. Gone were the days of filling up cards with common resources! The plant and heat scales were replaced by a simple conversion of resources, which felt much better. The production phase was also much simpler when all production was summarized on the player boards instead of on all the individual cards.




Speaking of the cards, they also got an overhaul by Jonathan:




The player board shown above features fancy icons that we used for a while, designed by Daniel. (Oh, the blessings of a big and creative family!) We went back to plainer icons in order to increase readability.

Just as the game board now illustrated the theme better, we needed the cards to do the same, but adding pictures to Jonathan's design was tricky because of the semi-transparent panels covering a big part of the picture area, so we needed a new card template with opaque panels and dedicated space for the illustration. I made a first design to illustrate the concept, and handed it over to Daniel — and you can see who the better artist is!




However, we felt that this game should have a positive, scientific look to it, not the usual dark dystopia we always see in sci-fi, so we eventually handed the graphics over to another brother, Isaac, who made the final graphical design for Terraforming Mars:






Needless to say, we are very happy with the result. Another development was that of the corporations. From being anonymous and equal, I invented twelve different ones for the game, each with a background and a specialty.




We still had three problems with the game, though, going into beta-testing.

The first problem was the feeling of being overwhelmed when new players tried to digest their starting cards and choose which cards to buy for their starting hand of ten drawn cards and two corporations. Having all these cards to choose from at the start of the game is important to get enough for a strategy. The solution was beginner corporations for new players that simply gave you the cards and have no extra functions for players to track. Instead of needing to evaluate which cards to buy before even knowing the game, new players could now focus on how to use the cards they received while the experienced players chose their starting hand and corporation. This created a much better learning experience.

The second problem was downtime. As the game progresses, you increase your economy and abilities, meaning there's more to do on your turn; the game bogged down considerably towards the end! A beta-tester suggested that players should alternate doing actions one at a time. This I knew wouldn't work because then the players could just wait until another player was ready to grab a bonus — such as a milestone or bonus step on a parameter — and simply grab it right before their nose without the other player being able to do anything about it. Then it hit me: Let the players choose to do one OR two actions at a time; then it would be much harder for the players to control each other completely, but still the turns would pass quickly. As a bonus, this change allowed players to play fast or slow in order to either race towards a bonus or try to wait out the other players. Worked like a charm...

The third problem was the game time. Even with the new turn structure and its nice flow, the game was long. That's okay for many players, but sometimes you just don't have that time. Shortening the game by adjusting the length of the parameters didn't feel right, so what could we do? Terraforming Mars ends when Mars is terraformed! There are cards that help you towards this goal and cards that increase your economy or victory points. Each action you do in the game takes a few seconds to perform, so shortening the game time would mean reducing the number of actions that players perform, which means taking out cards that don't help move the terraforming along (which turned out to be about a third of all cards).

A lot of fun and interesting cards were cut, so we decided to keep them in the box as a kind of expansion called "Corporate Era". We also decided that the basic game should have starting production to give the players a jump start. As a result of these alterations, the game time was reduced by a full hour!

Many people (and companies) have put work into this game to make it great – thank you so much! There is, of course, much more to say and many more design iterations that I haven't shown you here, but I'll stop now and hope this has been an interesting read for you.

Cheers!

Jacob Fryxelius
FryxGames
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Wed Aug 3, 2016 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Race to a New Galaxy with Jump Drive, Explore Alternate Realities for Temporum, and Briefly Relive the Cuban Missile Crisis

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• While preparing our broadcast schedule for Gen Con 2016, I heard from Rio Grande Games' Jay Tummelson, who asked about showing a few upcoming games on camera since he had presented all of the new RGG at Origins 2016. He didn't reveal what those titles are, but now we have info on two likely candidates, starting with Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy: Jump Drive, a Q4 2016 release that bears this description:

Quote:
With the invention of Jump Drive, the race for the galaxy begins! Develop new technologies and settle worlds to build a space empire. Find winning card combinations!

Race for the Galaxy: Jump Drive is a fast-paced card game that introduces players to the Race for the Galaxy universe. Can you build the most prosperous galactic civilization?

In a teaser post that contains a few card images from the game, Lehmann writes, "Jump Drive is a stand-alone game for 2-4 players, separate from Race for the Galaxy, intended to introduce players to some Race for the Galaxy concepts. While Jump Drive borrows a bit from my earlier game, The City, it is NOT a simple re-theme or 're-skin' of that game. Jump Drive has two card types, different actions and bonuses, military conquest, and some new player interactions. Unlike Race for the Galaxy, Jump Drive doesn't have goods, production, or consumption."

• The other RGG title, also likely to be released in Q4 2016, is Temporum: Alternate Realities, an expansion for Donald X. Vaccarino's Temporum that is more description than details at this point:

Quote:
What is time? Is it like a river? Or maybe an ocean? Is it like up, but sideways? Is it churning chaos, background noise, held together only briefly by our own awareness of it? You don't know. You just work the machinery; someone else built it. To you, time is a means to an end, a glorious end in which humanity's crowning achievement turns out to be your own benevolent rule. It's a simple process of weeding through the alternatives, snipping prudently — an ungrateful utopia here, a useless revolution there. In the end, from the Age of Atlantis to the Zombie Apocalypse, the eras will sing your praise.

Temporum: Alternate Realities, an expansion for Temporum, adds 48 more Zones and 60 more Player cards, plus chits and cards used by the new Zones.

• Asmodee has announced a new edition of Bruno Faidutti's Citadels from its Windrider Games studio for release Q4 2016, with this edition featuring the same gameplay as the original Citadels from 2000, but now with twenty-seven characters — eight from Citadels, ten from the Dark City expansion, and nine new ones — along with thirty unique building districts. The rulebook includes six preset lists of characters and districts beyond the starter list, and this new version of Citadels can be demoed at Gen Con 2016.

• Another Q4 2016 release that you can demo at Gen Con 2016 is 13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis, a sequel of sorts by Asger Sams Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen to their own 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis from Jolly Roger Games and Ultra Pro. Here's an overview:

Quote:
13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis is a card-driven microgame with tough decisions. Playing as either Kennedy or Khrushchev, your aim is to exit the Cuban Missile Crisis as the most powerful superpower. During the game you play only five strategy cards that you use to place Influence on battlegrounds to score majorities or manipulate battlegrounds. Each card you play turns into a new battleground, so the "world map" is ever-changing. Be careful because each decision is important and you may trigger global nuclear war!
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Tue Aug 2, 2016 5:32 pm
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