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New Game Round-up: Work the Underground Railroad, Alspach Reinvents Suburbia & Time to Play Games on the Couch

W. Eric Martin
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• In an April 2012 BGG News item, designer Brian Mayer mentioned in passing that Academy Games had picked up his print-and-play game Conductor for release in Q1/Q2 2013. The game, which will be renamed and currently bears the title Freedom: The Underground Railroad, sounds like a tough design challenge. Here's a description:

Early in the history of the United States, slavery was an institution that seemed unmovable but with efforts of men and women across the country, it was toppled. In Freedom: The Underground Railroad, players are working to build up the strength of the Abolitionist movement through the use of notable figures and pivotal events. By raising support for the cause and moving slaves to freedom in Canada, the minds of Americans can be changed and the institution of slavery can be brought down.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a card-driven, cooperative game for two to four players in which the group is working for the abolitionist movement to help bring an end to slavery in the United States. The players use a combination of cards, which feature figures and events spanning from Early Independence until the Civil War, along with action tokens and the benefits of their role to impact the game.

Players need to strike the right balance between freeing slaves from plantations in the south and managing their income which is desperately needed to allow the group to continue their abolitionist activities as well as raise the strength of the cause.

Apart from the people and events that can have a negative impact on the group's progress, there are also slave catchers roaming the board, reacting to the movements of the slaves on the board and hoping to catch the runaway slaves and send them back to the plantations.

While announcing the publication deal, Mayer mentioned that the published game would include solo play (instead of being only for 2-4 players) and include several levels of difficulty to scale from family-friendly terrain to "no, this is impossible". Freedom: The Underground Railroad seems like a design that could pick up mainstream coverage due to its subject matter, somewhat along the lines of The Road to Canterbury. Mayer just needs to learn how to pick up publicity like Canterbury's Alf Seegert...

• Designer Ted Alspach has announced a Spiel 2012 release to be co-published by his own Bézier Games in English and Lookout Games in German, with Klemens Franz providing artwork. Here's a description of Suburbia, which has been playtested since early 2011 under the names "Metropolitan" or "Meeptropolis" and which Alspach modestly describes as "pretty freakin' awesome":

Plan, build, and develop a small town into a major metropolis. Use hex-shaped building tiles to add residential, commercial, civic, and industrial areas, as well as special points of interest that provide benefits and take advantage of the resources of nearby towns. Your goal is to have your borough thrive and end up with a greater population than any of your opponents.

Suburbia is a tile-laying game in which each player tries to build up an economic engine and infrastructure that will be initially self-sufficient, and eventually become both profitable and encourage population growth. As your town grows, you'll modify both your income and your reputation. As your income increases, you'll have more cash on hand to purchase better and more valuable buildings, such as an international airport or a high rise office building. As your reputation increases, you'll gain more and more population (and the winner at the end of the game is the player with the largest population).

During each game, players compete for several unique goals that offer an additional population boost – and with dozens of building tiles available in each game, you'll never play the same game twice!

Alspach notes, "Dale Yu has been brought on as a developer, as there are several Dominion-y aspects, such as a wide variety of tiles, a delicate economic engine that requires precision balance, etc. He's been working on the game with me since Essen of 2011. I'm pretty much sick of him at this point..." A Kickstarter campaign for Suburbia will be launched in the near future, according to Alspach.

• HUCH & friends! reports that the second printing of Trajan is available once again in Germany. No word yet on distribution to other lands...

• WizKids has pushed the release date of The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul back two weeks to May 30, 2012.

WizKids has also previewed one card from Quarriors! Quarmageddon, which is due out June 6, 2012.

In a related news update on all things Quarriors!, WizKids mentions that it "is offering stores a release day Promo card with each copy of Quarmageddon they purchase", with stores that buy a case of the expansion receiving additional cards, ideally for use as prize support for in-store play.

• Today's Kickstarter title is Chris James' Off Your Rocker, a party game in which players act out quirks that one player, in the role of a psychiatrist, is supposed to guess with both psychiatrist and some players receiving points if the quirk is named. The highest level of funding on KS includes the services of a real psychiatrist. From the KS project: "We will train the psychiatrist in how to play the game and arrange for him or her to visit you in the location of your choice (subject to approval) for a 2-hour session." Now that's the making of a real party! (KS link)
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