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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

Archive for W. Eric Martin

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Spiel 2015 XV: Das Geheimnis der Zauberer, Among Nobles, Achaia, Billionaire Banshee, Karnivore Koala & PitRush

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• For the past couple of years, the German branch of Mattel has offered a few...more involved...game designs than you'd expect based on its publication history, including the 2013 Kinderspiel des Jahres-winning Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister!, but for 2015 it's gone with a more traditional children's design from Guido Hoffmann and Jens-Peter Schliemann titled Das Geheimnis der Zauberer, with players trying to manipulate the Hall of Mirrors so that they can discover things about their fellow magicians.





• Kickstarter has been spreading around the world, with Among Nobles originating from Danish publisher Among Meeples and making a public debut in Essen. Co-designer Troels Vastrup, one of five designers credited on the game, presents an overview of this release from Among Meeples.





• Krzysztof Wolicki's Achaia from REDIMP GAMES is set in a world similar to ancient Greece, and players try to use both historical forces and magic in order to seat themselves as ruler of Troy.

As an aside, I'm baffled about something related to the Polish name of the game, "Achaja". "Achaia" is the name of a region in Greece, and "Achaja" is both the Polish version of this name and the title of a fantasy trilogy from Andrzej Ziemiański published in the early 2000s. "Achaja" has a third meaning, however, as a search for images of that title — which I undertook to try to locate a flat cover of the game for use in the thumbnail image — leads to numerous shots of nude and clothed models. What's the Polish connection between the name and the models?





• U.S. publisher/game facilitator Ad Magic proved to be a rich source of material at Spiel 2015 when we ran ahead of schedule. They were located just over our back wall in Hall 7, and they hosted a lode of designers who could jump on camera with little notice to fill a few minutes and introduce their creation, as with designer Steven "Razlo" Bailey who here explains party game Billionaire Banshee.





• I know practically nothing about André Schillo's Karnivore Koala from Voodoo Games, but I can appreciate the beauty of the pun in this card and dice game being "set in a post-eucalyptic world" in which the koala kings (the players) must hunt for mutant animals.





• At the press room on Wednesday, I surveyed the landscape to take pics of as many games as possible and discover anything that I hadn't known about ahead of time, a category which included the disc-flicking game PitRush from Hungary manufacturer Cogitate Games.

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Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Enter the Colosseum Again, Prepare for The Dresden Files & Become a Particle Accelerator

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Tasty Minstrel Games has unveiled the cover of its "Emperor's Edition" of Colosseum from Wolfgang Kramer and Marcus Lübke, which is heading to Kickstarter for funding since, in the publisher's words, "This will be something like a collector's edition at a higher price and with higher quality components."

Mayfair Games has announced a U.S. street date of December 1, 2015 for Grand Austria Hotel and Hengist, both of which debuted at Spiel 2015 in early October.

• József Dorsonczky's Six MaKING, which I enthusiastically previewed in 2014, has been picked up by Blue Orange Games for release in 2016. At NY Toy Fair 2015, I had spoken with BOG's Thierry Denoual a bit about future plans, and he had mentioned that the success of Spot it! over the years would possibly allow him to introduce a line of abstract strategy games — something that tends to appeal to a smaller segment of the audience. NY Toy Fair 2016 is still a few months away, so I'll find out more at that time.

Evil Hat Productions, publisher of The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game, has announced that it plans to release The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game in 2016, with Eric B. Vogel designing this game based on the novel series from Jim Butcher. A short description:

Quote:
The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game allows you to play Harry Dresden and his friends as they take on the cases from the novels in the ultimate what-if scenario: What if Harry was on the scene with allies who weren't there in the original story? The core game includes Harry, Murphy, Susan, Michael, and the Alphas and plays through the first five novels.

The publisher mentions that expansions are a possibility (which isn't surprising given that fifteen novels have been released to this point), and the game will head to Kickstarter for funding in 2016.

• Japon Brand representative Simon Lundström notes that Pegasus Spiele will release a new version of Yuichi Sakashita's card-drafting game Sheep & Thief. One can only hope that the puffball sheep will still be present...

• Can an educational game be fun? Typically the answer is no, but Nathan Morse and nestorgames are testing that theory with Particle Accelerator, a disc-flicking game that challenges you to create stable atoms — starting with hydrogen and working up to neon — one proton, neutron or electron at a time.

Wait! For lithium and beryllium you must add two particles at a time in order to keep the atom stable, which means that you must (accurately!) flick one particle with each hand in order not to become unstable, kick off nuclear fission, and lose. Good luck!

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Thu Oct 29, 2015 4:30 pm
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Spiel 2015 XIV: Codenames, Tash-Kalar: Nethervoid, Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization, Posthuman & The King Is Dead

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Czech Games Edition dropped a number of titles on visitors to Spiel 2015, with the most anticipated being the new edition of Vlaada Chvátil's Through the Ages, now subtitled "A New Story of Civilization". This video covers nothing about the gameplay, though, so you'll need to turn to Paul Grogan's walkthrough video if you're looking for something along those lines.





• Of course Through the Ages might have been the most anticipated CGE title simply because Chvátil's Codenames debuted at Gen Con 2015 and has already been played tens of thousands of times since then, with me contributing roughly twenty of those plays. Codenames has proved to be a great opener and closer both during game sessions, with new arrivals being welcomed into the game midplay or leaving on schedule late at night while others continue to puzzle over the names. (CGE noted on Oct. 28 that more copies of Codenames have arrived in the U.S. and EU, so copies should be available in stores soon.)





• Chvátil was also responsible for CGE's Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends – Nethervoid, a new faction deck for Tash-Kalar that adds a gateway to the playing area that becomes important for the new kids in town.





• Despite appearances, CGE does publish games from other designers, with Vladimír Suchý's The Prodigals Club being a spinoff game/expansion of his Last Will, with the player politicians now trying to lose status, possessions, and support from voters.





• Despite the Posthuman title, you are indeed a human in Gordon Calleja's design from Mr. B Games and Mighty Box, one of the last humans in a world of posthuman mutants, and surprisingly the game doesn't just have you sit in a corner and rock back-and-forth in terror. Okay, maybe not that surprisingly...





The King Is Dead is a new version of Peer Sylvester's König von Siam from Osprey Games, with the action now taking place in the un-United Kingdom following the death of King Arthur.

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Thu Oct 29, 2015 1:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 XIII: Pandemic Legacy, Castellion, Skyliners, Carcassonne: Over Hill and Dale, Carcassonne: Star Wars & Flick 'em Up! Stallion Canyon

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• A glance at the Pandemic Legacy page is jarring as the game sports a 9.02 rating after nearly seven hundred ratings. Could it really be that good?

Having played only through May so far (5-2!), I'd answer that question "yes" with no qualifications. Pandemic Legacy is intense and engaging, creating a world that's threatening and out of control, while simultaneously being something that you don't want to leave as you and your buddies develop a true camaraderie that you want to hold together just a little longer.

Designers Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau talk spoiler-free with our own Beth Heile, who was one of the original playtesters, about this amazing design.





Shadi Torbey's Oniverse titles seem like games that have been pulled from another dimension, yet when he talks about the origin of those games, it's clear that he's familiar with the larger world of games around him and isn't designing in a corner apart from everyone else. At Spiel 2015, Torbey visited the BGG booth to explain Castellion, title #3 in the Oniverse series from Z-Man Games.





Pretzel Games debuted Flick 'em Up! at the 2015 Origins Game Fair and sold its few dozen copies within minutes. The game launched on a larger scale at Gen Con 2015, and again sold out quickly. In fact, the game has barely seen time in retail shops due to the quick sellouts and the (undoubtedly longer than normal) production time required for the game — but that didn't stop Pretzel from debuting Flick 'em Up! Stallion Canyon at Spiel 2015, with this expansion from Gaëtan Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis adding horses, new towns and a canyon to the base game, along with many scenarios for their use.





• In addition to publishing original material, Z-Man Games also has a publishing partnership with Hans im Glück, with one of the main releases at Spiel 2015 from that partnership being Gabriele Bubola's Skyliners, in which you and your fellow players try to create buildings in just the right way so that you can see more of them than anyone else. The advanced game takes this a step further by requiring you to predict what you'll see at the end of the game and rewarding you only for correct predictions.





Carcassonne: Over Hill and Dale is the latest standalone game in the Carcassonne world created by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, with players now being able to walk the paths that they create, picking up fruit along the way.





• Now you can go not just over hill and dale with Carcassonne, but to a galaxy far, far away. Yes, Carcassonne: Star Wars comes across as a weird amalgamation of the two creations, yet it kind of makes sense once you get past the Carcassonne name and just think of this as being a tile-laying game set in the Star Wars universe.

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Wed Oct 28, 2015 7:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 XII: They Came from Italy — Nippon, Signorie, Potion Explosion, Odyssey: Wrath of Poseidon & Quickpick: Island of Monster Masks

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• Given the reception that Panamax received in 2014, it's no surprise that people have been eager to see what designers Paulo Soledade and Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro have achieved in Nippon, which Italian publisher What's Your Game? debuted at Spiel 2015. In this demo in the BGG booth, the designers themselves present the game to you.





• What's Your Game? also had another release at Spiel 2015 from a familiar designing duo: Signorie from Andrea Chiarvesio and Pierluca Zizzi, who have previously worked together on Hyperborea and Arcanum. I might be reading the body language incorrectly, but the toaster on the cover looks like he wants to throw you into a pit and cover you with lye.





• BGG previewed Horrible Games' Potion Explosion at Gen Con 2015, but now the game has been published and you can see co-designer Lorenzo Silva show off the game in full Technicolor.





• Leo Colovini's Odyssey: Wrath of Poseidon from Ares Games is a one vs. many game in which the Poseidon player does their best to throw the navigators of Greek ships into the drink while they're naturally trying to avoid drinking the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.





Quickpick: Island of Monster Masks from designers Martino Chiacchiera and Benedetto Degli Innocenti is a far cry from what you normally expect from Ares Games, but if you've ever wanted to see Roberto Di Meglio make funny faces, you have come to the right place.

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Wed Oct 28, 2015 2:23 pm
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Spiel 2015 XI: Black Hat, Race to the North Pole, Tiny Robots, Perdition's Mouth: Abyssal Rift, Rome: Rise to Power, Prime Time & City Council: Deluxe Edition

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Black Hat from designers Thomas Klausner and Timo Multamäki and publisher Dragon Dawn Productions features a giant black hat on the cover, but ideally all of the circuitry also present clues people in to this not being a game about haberdashery — although those do exist — but about hackers, with player competing to win tricks and modify the game board.





• And since we're talking about Finnish publisher Dragon Dawn Productions, let's interject one of the videos that I recorded outside the BGG booth with able cameraperson John Knoerzer, this one featuring Timo Multamäki presenting an overview of Perdition's Mouth: Abyssal Rift, which he co-designed with Thomas Klausner and Kevin Wilson and which is heading to Kickstarter in November. (In general, if a game was not available for purchase at Spiel, we didn't feature it on the livestream but instead possibly recorded a demo at that publisher's booth.)





• Apparently if you are racing to one or the other poles on planet Earth, you must exhibit a bit of madness about your features, as was the case with 2012's Roll to the South Pole and now with 2015's Race to the North Pole from Jouni Jussila, Tomi Vainikka and Playmore Games. I suppose outward madness is better to depict than a bone-chilling slog through frozen wastes.





Pekka Koukkula's Tiny Robots from Doorway Games challenges players young and old to assemble good-looking and proper robots from the tiles scattered on the table before them.





• The final company in the Arctic Union, an association of Finnish publishers, to present a game in the BGG booth was Mindwarrior Games with Allies: Realm of Wonder from designers Mikko Punakallio and Max Wikström, with this design not being an expansion for Realm of Wonder, but a two-player battle-based card game set in that world.





• Following Rome: City of Marble the other day, we now have Rome: Rise to Power from Elad Goldsteen and Golden Egg Games. I don't believe that any other Rome: Three Word Subtitle games are in the can, but I could be wrong.





• Goldsteen and Golden Egg Games also presented Prime Time, which pits players as television executives who need to put together ideal programs so that they can win their time slots, thus earning points.





• Finally, Goldsteen presented an overview of City Council: Deluxe Edition, which consists of the base game and both expansions previously released on their own.

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Tue Oct 27, 2015 7:00 pm
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Game Preview: Four Gods, or Building Blocks of New Worlds

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Despite being at Spiel for five days each year and being surrounded by hundreds of games new and old, I play only a handful of games in Essen, and the games that I do play tend to be prototypes since I'm trying to stay ahead of the game release calendar in order to be of service to you, gentle reader.

Of the games that I did play, I actually played one of them twice on different days, with that game being a prototype of Four Gods, due out in 2016 from designer Christophe Boelinger and his company Ludically. Four Gods caught my ear at the Asmodee game night event that introduces forthcoming games to its distributors and large retail partners — with most of the games presented there being off-limits for public discussion right now — thanks to Boelinger's claim of this design being the only one in existence that takes less time to play when you have more people at the table. (I can think of two possible counter-examples, but my copies of them are in storage, so I can't check the label. Any suggestions?)

At game night, I watched people play (as depicted below), then had to try it out myself. Boelinger later brought the Four Gods prototype to the BGG booth, and we recorded an overview of the game from him as well as a full seventeen-minute playthrough and scoring. That's a first for us at a convention, but this game is far easier to absorb visually compared to what's possible in a description — at least I think so, but here I've laid out both description and videos and you can follow whichever path is preferable for you.

Quote:
Four Gods is a real-time tile-laying game in which players create a world — one tile at a time — before laying claim to one of the four gods of their world and attempting to win followers by sending prophets into that world.

In more detail, players sit outside of a cardboard frame that represents the limits of the world. Each player starts with two randomly-drawn tiles in hand, with each double-sided tile depicting 1-3 types of landscape out of the four types present in the world.




Quote:
When play begins, each player simultaneously starts laying tiles into the frame; each tile must be adjacent to two sides to be placed, so initially tiles can be placed only in the corners of the frames, with players building inward from there. Players can place tiles anywhere that they can legally be placed (two sides are adjacent to the frame or previously placed tiles and all landscapes match across tile borders.

Instead of placing a tile, a player can place it in their personal discard area, which can hold at most ten tiles. When a player has both hands free, they can draw two new tiles from the bag; alternatively, any player with a free hand can pick up any tile in any discard area and place it in the world.

At any point during the game, a player can claim one of four gods and that god's followers. Each god is associated with a particular type of landscape, e.g., the merfolk god. Once a player has followers, they can place a prophet on a tile they just placed to claim that section of landscape. Players can place any number of prophets in a landscape as long as they're placing each prophet on a tile they just added to the world.




Quote:
At any point in the game, if a player thinks that a section of the board cannot be filled with a tile — e.g., a space that's surrounded by four types of landscapes — that player can place a round city marker in that space. Anyone can then claim that city with a prophet. If a matching tile is found later, a player can "smash" and claim that city, replacing it with the tile.

Once the world is filled or players agree that no more tiles can be placed, the game ends. Each player scores five points for each city occupied or smashed. Each landscape with one or more prophets is worth a number of points to the player(s) with the most prophets in it equal to the number of tiles in that landscape minus the number of prophets in it. The landscape with the largest mass rewards its god with a large bonus, with the second and third largest masses rewarding their gods with smaller bonuses; similarly, the landscape that appears in the most distinct groups rewards its god with a large bonus, with the second and third largest groups again rewarding their gods with smaller bonuses.

Whichever god has scored the most points wins!

And now in video format:



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Tue Oct 27, 2015 4:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 X: Pegasus Spiele — Mega Civilization, Pi mal Pflaumen, OctoDice, Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß, Mmm! & Expansions for Istanbul, Camel Up and Port Royal

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• The biggest game at Spiel 2015 by almost any measure that you can imagine was Mega Civilization from designers Flo de Haan and John Rodriguez and publisher 999 Games, with Pegasus Spiele providing distribution for the game in Essen and elsewhere. Here, de Haan talks a tiny bit about the game, which couldn't possibly all fit on camera...





Pi mal Pflaumen is the first pure card game from designer Matthias Cramer, and while the initial description of it from Pegasus Spiele references tricks, it isn't a trick-taking game as much as a bidding game in which each player lays out a single card, then they take turns claiming one of the cards based on the strength of what they played. All cards depict fruits; some cards have scoring contracts that you can fulfill by discarding sets of fruit, while other cards have special actions.

I played Pi mal Pflaumen once at a dinner event during Spiel 2015 and bought a copy immediately the next day. It has the feel of a trick-taking game in that you want to position yourself well in order to take what you need, while being a set-collection game at heart with the contracts driving your actions in later turns as those determine what you actually need!





• Christoph Toussaint's OctoDice from Pegasus uses the setting of Stefan Feld's AquaSphere in a dice game, challenging players to keep the octopods at bay while also expanding their lab to take special actions.





Mondo: Der rasante Legespaß is a small version of Michael Schacht's real-time tile-laying game Mondo that can be played on its own or combined with the original game.





• Rüdiger Dorn's Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh adds four new tiles to his 2014 Kenerspiel des Jahres-winning Istanbul, which greatly increases the variety allowed during set-up and play.





• The 2014 Spiel des Jahres winner, Steffen Bogen's Camel Up, also had an expansion available at Spiel 2015, with Camel Up: Supercup consisting of four modules that can be used individually or in combination, with up to ten players now being allowed to play at the same time.





• As with the previous expansion, Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch... adds four new modules to the base game — Alexander Pfister's Port Royal — while also including rules for solitaire and co-operative play.





Mmm! from Reiner Knizia and Pegasus is a quick-playing press-your-luck dice game for children and their parents. I've played this ten times, mostly with just my 6yo son, but also with his friends, and I need to record an overview video of my own to do this game justice — not that it needs my help necessarily seeing as it won Austria's Spiel der Spiele award in 2015.





• Pegasus Spiele purchased children's game publisher Selecta Spielzeug in January 2015, and it's now published new versions of four games, including two Kinderspiel des Jahres winners — Maskenball der Käfer and Viva Topo! — and two other titles — Hopp hopp Häschen and KidJ nominee Zoowaboo.

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Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:00 pm
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Spiel 2015 IX: Grand Austria Hotel, Hengist, SteamRollers, Otter Nonsense, Argo & Dojo Kun

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• Going in to Spiel 2015, gamers undoubtedly had high expectations for Grand Austria Hotel, the annual big box title from Lookout Games, given that the designers are Virginio Gigli — part of the Acchittocca group behind Egizia and Leonardo da Vinci — and Simone Luciani — co-designer of both Tzolk'in and The Voyages of Marco Polo. Here's an overview to show you some of the game in action:





• It would hardly be a year in Essen if Lookout Games didn't have a title from Uwe Rosenberg, and that title is the two-player game Hengist, which continues the Lookout 2p line that launched in 2012 with Rosenberg's Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small.





• In case you missed seeing two releases from Lookout that debuted at Gen Con 2015, here's the two-minute recap of Trambahn and Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King.





• Italian publisher Yemaia has released only a couple of titles — Al Rashid and Hyperborea (as a co-publication with Asterion) — but they've attracted attention with the look of both releases, and that attention continued at Spiel 2015 with Roberto Pestrin's Dojo Kun, which challenges players to compete in martial arts tournaments as the head of one of four dojo.





• At Spiel 2015, Belgian publisher Flatlined Games presented a prototype of Argo by Bruno Faidutti and Serge Laget to con attendees.

Flatlined had hoped to have Argo published in time for the convention, but plans didn't fall into place, which seems to be a common thing for this design as it was first entered in the BGG database in 2005 and still has yet to see print. Flatlined now plans to relaunch a Kickstarter funding project for Argo before the end of 2015.





• With Argo on the sidelines but little time left on the clock and the booth space already paid for in Essen, Flatlined decided to take a different approach for this fair and produced low-quantity, hand-assembled editions of two games, with one of those being Mark Gerrits' SteamRollers, a dice-drafting game in which you build a railroad network and deliver goods.





• The other title was Otter Nonsense from Flatlined Games' Eric Hanuise, with this design being a hand-management, screw-your-neighbor game in which you want to empty your hand to score points.

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Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Kung Fu Panda, Siege of the Citadel & OMG Royal Goods!

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• During Spiel 2015, Modiphius Entertainment announced two upcoming releases for 2016, and while I tweeted about them at the time — at least I think I did; it's hard to recall everything from Spiel! — it's easy to miss such announcements, so here they are again.

First, Modiphius has a licensing deal with Dreamworks Animation to create a board game based on Kung Fu Panda, and Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game will debut at Gen Con 2016 before hitting stores in September 2016. For now, Modiphius has released only a non-final cover image and this short description:

Quote:
In Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game, you play as either Po or one of the Furious Five (Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Crane and Viper), with everyone working together to defeat Tai Lung and other villains from the Kung Fu Panda films and animated series through intense dice-rolling action. By defeating villains, completing quests and helping others, players will gain karma to upgrade their character's abilities and secure the use of legendary artifacts from Master Shifu with which to face even deadlier perils.

Each of the heroes in Kung Fu Panda: The Board Game will be represented by a custom miniature.

• The other title coming from Modiphius is a reboot of the 1993 Pressman Games title Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel. In a press release, Chris Birch from Modiphius states that Eric M. Lang, Kevin Wilson, and the game's original developer Richard Borg are part of the design team working on the reboot, with Adrian Smith providing cover art while Prodos Games and Paolo Parente will be the sculpting team for the miniatures. Siege of the Citadel will debut at Spiel 2016, and here's an overview of how it relates to the original game:

Quote:
Siege of the Citadel is set in the Mutant Chronicles universe with each player controlling one of five corporations: Imperial, Cybertronic, Mishima, Capitol, or Bauhaus. Each player begins with two of their own unique Doomtroopers who both benefit from their Corporation's special ability. The players must prevent the Dark Legion and one of its vile leaders from conquering the solar system. Each successful mission brings news of monstrous foes and terrifying events as the heroes explore the modular Citadel. Promotion gives credits to access more powerful weaponry and abilities, while secret missions can cause chaos for the heroes!

The narrative-led design of Siege of the Citadel builds on the gameplay mechanisms of the original release, and new campaigns based on major events from the Mutant Chronicles universe will expand on the much loved game.

• The record for "fastest sellout at Spiel to reprint being available" might have been broken by Alexander Pfister's Royal Goods, which debuted at Spiel 2015 from Österreichisches Spiele Museum as part of its effort to promote Austrian game designers and artists and sold out almost immediately. (No surprise there given Pfister's previous success through ÖSM with Händler der Karibik, which was reprinted as Port Royal, not to mention Pfister's other recent successes: Broom Service, Mombasa and Isle of Skye.)

Lookout Games has already picked up the game, renamed it Oh My Goods!, and released it for sale through its webstore. Pfister notes that nothing has changed with the game other than the title (and the inclusion of English rules), and that's easy to believe given that practically no time has elapsed between first and second editions!
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Mon Oct 26, 2015 5:16 pm
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