• One of the familiar settings of modern games is outer space, with players typically focusing on fighting, finding things, or figuring out how to stay alive — and sometimes all of the above.
Cédric Lefebvre's Space Gate Odyssey, due out in Q1 2019 from French publisher Ludonaute, seems to fall into the category of fighting, albeit in a pacific "fighting for space in space" kind of way. Here's aa detailed overview of this 2-4 player game that bears a 90-minute playing time:
The future of humanity awaits you in Space Gate Odyssey. A system of viable exoplanets has been recently discovered and the Confederations are flocking into space to colonize it. In this 2 to 4-player development and flow-management board game, you play the leader of one of these Confederations and play your influence in the Odyssey command station to send as many of your settlers as you can on these exoplanets.
After decades of research and technological development, humanity is preparing to leave the Earth to colonize this discovered system. To get there, only one possible means of transport exists: space gates. For reasons related to physics and other quantum aspects, these gates can be built only in space. The Confederations have therefore embarked on the construction of their own station in orbit, equipped with space gates.
At the beginning of the colonizing era, these portals make it possible to go on one of the first three discovered planets. As soon as an entire contingent of settlers has joined the gate of a space station, it is teleported to the corresponding exoplanet. The landing conditions vary according to the planets and the choice of colonized spots quickly becomes strategic.
As soon as one of the three exoplanets is fully colonized, each Confederation gains influence according to its placement, then access to one of the two later discovered exoplanets becomes possible. At the end of the colonization of the five exoplanets, the stations are teleported to the Hawking planet and the influence of each Confederation is assessed. The leader of the most influential Confederation will be promoted to the rank of Governor of this new system.
One of the biggest challenges in Space Gate Odyssey is your ability to quickly develop and intelligently arrange your space station. The better you optimize the flow of your settlers to your station, then to the exoplanets, the more of them you can send to the favorable spots and thus gain influence.
The choice of the modules, their arrangement, and the distance between the airlocks and the gates are therefore essential elements — especially since, at the end of the game, the domains of the modules you used to build your station will bring you additional influence points if they are in line with the position of the domains on the Hawking planet Predominance.
Finally, you must be careful not to leave too many open corridors on the space void as this represents a real danger for your settlers and could therefore damage your reputation.
Your most amazing quest starts with Space Gate Odyssey. Will you be able to take over your opponents in order to take control of the new system, or will you stay at the dock?
A strange new galactic body has emerged within the Milky Way. The greatest minds of The United Earth Services find themselves bewildered by the sudden appearance of Shy Pluto. Get the crews to their stations — it's time to deploy your ships.
The Emergence of Shy Pluto is a "Saga Expansion", that is, a collection of story-based scenarios that introduce new content to the game via a narrative structure. Not only are new ships added, but new scenarios are included as well. Once the story is completed, it may be replayed or the contents may be added to the Space Base base set.
On Twitter, Clair noted that not all Space Base expansions will have a narrative structure, but "generally yes", they will.
• In July 2018, Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Gamestweeted about the "(not-officially-announced) 'Core Worlds: The Board Game'".
Five months later, we still don't have an official announcement, but Buonocore has confirmed that Core Worlds: Empires — "a standalone board game set in the very thematic, rich Core Worlds universe" — is being developed by designer Andrew Parks and his Quixotic Games development team. No release date has been set since the game is still under development, but here's the game overview for now:
Six empires have risen from the ashes of the Galactic Realm. Still cemented by the alliance that enabled their unprecedented conquest of the galaxy, the six independent kingdoms now seek to consolidate their power, each hoping to carve out the strongest dominion in the cosmos. Conflicts among the young realms are inevitable, but will the galaxy return to a state of civil war?
Core Worlds: Empires is a worker placement game for 2-6 players. Each world in the galaxy occupies a board space that ambassadors (workers) can visit during the game. The worlds that appear during each game are variable. Each player starts with a certain number of worlds under their control, and more worlds enter the game as play proceeds.
At the start of the game, each player controls one unique worker that represents their faction leader (Chancellor Augustus, Baron Viktor, Prince Aaron, Empress Elona, Simon the Fox, or Lord Banner), as well as three generic ambassadors. All players periodically receive new generic ambassadors, but each player always possesses the same number of "workers". Players may upgrade their generic ambassadors into unique heroes in order to increase the quality of their individual workers.
In Dawn of Mankind, the people of your clan move along paths, gather resources, have children, create art, discover new methods of doing things...and eventually grow old and die. As your clan goes through these ordeals, you need to pay attention to when your food is going to spoil and where other people might want to go because if they choose the same path you've already trodden, they may inadvertently help you along your way.
You earn points for a variety of things, and whoever has the most points in the end wins.
• CMON Limited has picked up Emiliano "Wentu" Venturini's Walls of York — which Cranio Creations debuted at SPIEL '18 — and plans to release this game in North America in Q1 2019. Here's a summary of the gameplay:
The city of York is being built. Many buildings have already been built, but without a protective outer wall to defend against the Viking raids, the city is bound for failure. The king has called together his best architects to design defensive walls for the city, but only one design will be used. That architect will be hailed as the greatest architect in all the land.
In Walls of York, players must use the plastic wall pieces to construct a defensive barrier around the buildings on their city map. Each turn, a player rolls the building die, which dictates which types of walls are to be used. Players must enclose their city, containing the required buildings from the King's decree — but players must beware for the Vikings will come and lay waste at the end of the first age, forcing players to build anew in the second age. The player with the most coins at the end of the second age wins.
• In early 2018, U.S. publisher Compass Games hired Uli Blennemann to lead a new "Eurogame division" within the company, and the first title to appear within this division is Krzysztof Matusik's Cargo Express, a 2-4 player game that plays in 45-75 minutes and that's due out in early 2019. An overview:
In Cargo Express, players take over the roles of train entrepreneurs that accept orders and transport goods.
Cargo Express is mechanically simple, but planning the best moves is complex. Moreover, each player has to cope with always changing conditions. Each game turn consists of a planning phase and three player turns in which one of three cards is played.
Let your fellow players watch sparks fly from under the wheels of your dashing train!
• For a title that's more typical of a Compass Games release, we can turn to Weimar: The Fight for Democracy, a game for precisely four players from Matthias Cramer that plays in 5-6 hours. In a YouTube announcement of this title (starting at 10:30), Compass Games's John Kranz notes that the game is '80% political and 20% military". An overview:
On the 9th of November, 1918, the cold autumn air in Berlin is full of tension. The workers are planning to strike and since the city is full of troops, they do not know if they will survive that day. Three hours later, the German monarchy does not exist anymore, and the first German democracy is born.
Weimar: The Fight for Democracy is a game about the major actors in the spectrum of the new Republic. The Social Democrats and the Conservatives are trying to defend the democracy. Communists and Nationalists are looking to overthrow the government and install their own regime. Will this infant Republic survive? Or will Germany — as in history — fall to the Nazis and become a lawless state? Or will there be a Union of Socialist German Republics?
Weimar includes two major "battlefields": In public opinion, the parties struggle to influence the important political issues like the economy, the media, or foreign affairs. Winning these issues scores points and allows them to take significant decisions. At the same time, the parties try to control the streets and position their followers in the major cities of Germany for demonstrations, street fights, and actions taken by the paramilitary organizations.
Weimar is a tense and exciting card-driven game (CDG) on a most interesting topic. Cards may be played for the event, for public opinion, or for actions in the street.
In each of the six game turns, the parties play one agenda that defines their strategy for the turn (e.g., modifying their twelve-card play deck, defining issues, getting advantages in the streets). The goals of the parties are asymmetrical and contradictory. While the democratic parties score for stabilizing the state and removing poverty, the non-democratic parties score for coups and unrest.
• Speaking of Cramer, waaay back in February 2016 I wrote about him working on a new version of Glen More that would have improved components and new mechanisms, a version that "won't be released before 2017".
Well, that's one promise kept as Glen More II: Chronicles won't appear until the second half of 2019, with the game coming from new German publisher Funtails, which plans to hold a Kickstarter campaign for the game in early 2019.
The "Chronicles" in the title — a set of eight expansions included in the box — are a major part of what's new, and each Chronicle adds a new gameplay element to the base game. The "Highland Boat Race" Chronicle, for example, tells the story of a boat race in which the winner needs to be the first to reach their home castle after navigating their boat along the river through all the other players' territories. The "Hammer of the Scots" Chronicle adds a neutral "Englishman" playing piece to the time track that players struggle to control to get an additional turn — if they can afford him, that is, as he is paid using the market mechanism. All Chronicles can be freely combined, but says Cramer, "you would have a monster game. We recommend using one Chronicle for a 75-90 minute game or two Chronicles for experienced players."
Here's a summary of the gameplay, along with a comparison of what differs from the original game:
In Glen More II: Chronicles, each player represents the leader of a Scottish clan from the early medieval ages until the 19th century, a leader looking to expand their territory and wealth. The success of your clan depends on your ability to make the right decision at the right time, be it by creating a new pasture for your livestock, growing barley for whisky production, selling your goods on the various markets, or gaining control of special landmarks such as lochs and castles.
The game lasts four rounds, represented by four stacks of tiles. After each round, a scoring phase takes place in which players compare their number of whisky casks, scotsmen in the home castle, landmark cards, and persons against the player with the fewest items in each category and receives victory points (VPs) based on the relative difference. After four rounds, additional VPs are awarded for gold coins and some landmarks while VP penalties are assessed based on territory size, comparing each player's territory to the smallest one in play.
The core mechanism of Glen More II: Chronicles and Glen More functions the same way: The last player in line takes a tile from a time track, advancing as far as they wish on this track. After paying the cost, they place this tile in their territory, with this tile activating itself and all neighboring tiles, triggering the production of resources, movement points, VPs, etc. Then the player who is last in line takes their turn.
Improvements over the original Glen More include bigger tiles, better materials, new artwork, the ability for each player to control the end of the game, and balancing adjustments to the tiles for a better suspense curve. The game is designed to consist of one-third known systems, one-third new mechanisms, and one-third improvements to Glen More.
Aside from the Chronicles, another major change to the game is the ability to invest in famous Scottish people of the time, who are represented through a new "person" tile type. Persons not only have their own scoring, they also trigger one-time or ongoing effects on the tactical clan board. This adds a new layer of decision making, especially since the ongoing effects allow players to focus on a personal strategy of winning through the use of the clan board.
Let's close out my PAX Unplugged 2018 coverage with a round-up of random pics from the show, which took place Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. Well, not truly random since I chose what to aim the camera at in the first place and I've deleted dozens of duplicate images and sat on embargoed pics and otherwise made authorial choices as to why I'd want to feature this over that, but sure, random.
Richard Garfield's Keyforge was the buzziest title at PAXU, with a line three deep at practically all hours in front of the Fantasy Flight Games booth, which was directly in front of one of the main entryways to the exhibitor space, which was in the sam hall as the "freeplay" area that included both the First Look tables and tables reserved for games taken out of the PAXU library.
James A. Wilson's Everdell was the second buzziest title based on my unscientific "crowd measurement" scale that consisted of me looking at crowds each time I passed a booth. Publisher Starling Games had several dozen copies of the collector's edition of Everdell for sale at PAXU, but all of the regular editions had been shipped to distributors by that point. All of them! Starling Games has no more copies in reserve, and a Starling representative at the show said it would be many months before the next printing of the game would be available.
While I've grown tired of the "Purr-ocessing" sign in the Exploding Kittens booth, I can appreciate how successful that booth is at every single convention where it's present. People love the mini-plays that ensue when someone approaches the wall to press buttons and order games or expansions, and these performances creates stories that others share, both in person and via social media, spreading awareness of the EK brand and making the effort involved in running this booth well worth it.
I wouldn't suggest that other publishers do the exact same thing, but they should consider that when they're selling games to players, they can sell more than just the game. Yes, the game will create its own experience that can be shared, but maybe that experience could begin before they even leave the booth...
Here's the hole in the exhibit floor where White Wolf Publishing was meant to be. In mid-November 2018, the company announced changes in which WWP would focus solely on brand management while parent company Paradox Initiative would, um, own White Wolf Publishing. It's not clear what Paradox will do since from now on White Wolf will "develop the guiding principles for its vision of the World of Darkness, and give licensees the tools they need to create new, excellent products in this story world. White Wolf will no longer develop and publish these products internally."
Jason Tagmire's Button Shy Games has a clear vision for the games it releases: Each release is a tiny game with a small price point that comes in a wallet-size package. The problem with this type of catalog, though, is how to market it to passersby when the games themselves as tiny and not likely to catch the eye.
Button Shy solved this problem by creating a booth that looked more like a clothing store than a game publisher's booth, with the games tucked into shirt pockets and the vital statistics of the games posted on boxes next to those shirts. Not blending in is a great way to get folks to give you a first look, and getting people to pause in their movement past your booth is a vital step toward introducing them to your games.
I realize that I'm focusing a lot on marketing in this round-up, but that's because I've already covered games played in my previous two round-ups from PAXU. I didn't play Ryan Courtney's Pipeline, for example, but this lit-up sign in the Capstone Games booth caught my eye and was unlike anything else I saw while walking the floor, so I stopped and looked. (I'm not the Capstone Games customer, though, so I moved on after checking out the sign for this game and others on display.)
Archon Games took something of the opposite approach to Button Shy and Capstone, with its booth being a colorless dimension that sucked you in due to it being weirdly and intriguingly monotone, more art gallery than sales stage.
A PAXU attendee shakes the final ten-or-so $50 mystery boxes, perhaps to see which one feels the heaviest. Not sure what other guideline you might have when spending money for a box that "may contain fun". I guess if the fun doesn't pan out, you'll at least have a greater quantity of kindling on hand.
Battlestations: Dirtside is a standalone game from Jeff Siadek of Gorilla Games, and whereas Battlestations: Second Edition focused on what's required to keep a spaceship running in space, Dirtside lands that ship on the ground and confronts you with unexpected happenings on multiple worlds.
Gamewright has licensed the real-time reaction game Twin It! from designers Nathalie Saunier, Rémi Saunier, and Thomas Vuarchex and publisher Cocktail Games and debuted it at PAXU ahead of the game's "official" introduction to the market at NY Toy Fair in February 2019.
Asmodee demoed Black Mirror: NOSEDIVE, which debuted at the U.S. retail chain Target in late November 2018. I know some folks still protest the use of electronic devices in board and card games, but you might as well protest co-operative games. Given the number of titles hitting the market each year, you can be assured that (1) more designers will experiment with app-integration in their creations and (2) most designers and publishers will release app-free games, giving you more titles to explore than you can possibly absorb in a lifetime without other commitments.
In addition to selling the newly released Endeavor: Age of Sail, Burnt Island Games engaged in one of this era's most common convention activities: Showing off a game ahead of a crowdfunding project intended to bring said game to print. The practice makes sense, though, as I got a far better idea of how Jay Cormier and Graeme Jahns' In the Hall of the Mountain King works from three minutes of face-time than from fifteen minutes of reading and rewriting the description on the BGG game page.
The Stuff of Legend is a comic book series from Mike Raicht, Brian Smith, and Charles Paul Wilson III from Th3rd World Studios that started in 2009, and that series is now being transformed into a co-operative board game from designer Kevin Wilson. Here's an overview of the game:
As Allied forces fight the enemy on Europe's war-torn beaches, another battle begins in a child's bedroom in Brooklyn when the nightmarish Boogeyman snatches a boy and takes him to the realm of the Dark. The child's playthings, led by the toy soldier known as the Colonel, band together to stage a daring rescue. On their perilous mission, they will confront the boy's bitter and forgotten toys, as well as betrayal in their own ranks.
In The Stuff of Legend, each player takes on the role of one of the boy's loyal toys, each with their own unique abilities. Players work co-operatively, scouring the Dark in search of the Boy before the Boogeyman can escape with him. Players beware, through the course of the game your allegiance may change, and at any point one of your fellow players could be secretly working against you for the wicked Boogeyman.
The production of the game board is smart, with a double-layering of cardboard that allows you to place tokens in the holes, then press on the edge of a token to lift it up in order to grab it and flip it.
In the first half of the game, players take turns revealing patterns on cards, then placing stars in their color on the 7x7 board. Once the second half begins, you can start overlaying the pattern on spaces that are already filled, flipping up to three of the opponent's stars to your color while placing your own stars in empty spaces. When you fill a row or column with stars in your color, you score a point, then remove those stars from the board. Whoever scores five points first wins!
Deblockle is the first board game from Project Genius, a Texas-based publisher of brainteasers and logic puzzles. The company already has a presence in the Barnes & Noble U.S. retail chain, so its debut title will also have a presence there — which is a nice way to put your game in front of a bunch of potential customers.
In the short game, you flip a block to an adjacent space on your turn, then move the block based on the symbol now showing on its face. Move a block to the opponent's star space, and you remove it from the board. Remove three blocks first to win the game — or four blocks once you've moved past the introductory game.
Unfortunately, my to-do list was only in my head and not something that was driving me around the show floor to actually, you know, do, so I didn't see Quantified until late on Saturday night when it was too late to play. Thankfully my mistake turned out not to matter as the PAX representative overseeing that section of the First Look area said that Quantified is still very much in development for now. For background, here's the game overview in the BGG database:
Quantified is a co-operative board game set in a world in which everyone's behavior is constantly surveilled and analyzed. A player's behavior results in a social credit score, determining their position on the social ladder. Players start from different positions on the social ladder, as refugee, unemployed or employed, with unequal access to human rights. The goal of the game is to make all rights accessible to all players and to fight the implementation of totalitarian policies.
During a typical turn, players can move around the city, add non-player-characters to their network, attempt to solve so-called rally cards (initiatives that support human equality), attempt to prevent so-called threat cards (automatic, constantly approaching negative effects, such as invasive amendments, correction camps or totalitarian laws), or even simply work an official or illegal job. The trick is that not every action can be taken by every player. For example, those without the right to movement take longer to cross the city, while those without the right to free speech can't share their rally cards with others — and even the actions you can take must be taken with care as all actions leak personal data. If too much data is leaked, the players may have to face behavior analysis cards that negatively impact their collective game state!
Ultimately, by solving enough rally cards or working their way up the social ladder, every player should have access to all four human rights. Once this is done, the players win! But if three totalitarian laws come into effect before then or the threat deck runs out, the players collectively lose.
I love games that tackle subject matter not previously explored, whether silly or serious, and this design is taking on issues relevant to billions of people around the world. I have no idea whether the game works or not, but I'm curious to try it out once it clears development and is heading to market.
And with this post, my PAXU coverage is at an end. I actually finished posting about a show before the next one took place. Only in December!
Friedemann Friese's Power Grid turns fifteen in 2019. Fifteen years, and that guy still can't get the setting right on that knob — or maybe he just likes holding knobs.
With that anniversary on the horizon, Friese and publisher 2F-Spiele's Henning Kröpke have taken a look at all things Power Grid and have made small, but meaningful improvements for this evergreen title. Says Kröpke, "Over the years we have released several expansions, which added variations and new ideas to the game's central mechanisms. The releases of Power Grid deluxe and Power Grid: The Card Game gave us the chance to streamline the game play and to literally play with even more of the mechanisms, improving the game experience step by step. Ten months ago, we took Power Grid into the workshop. We put the game through its paces, updated and exchanged parts, polished and rewrote the rules, until we were sure we were offering you the best possible version of Power Grid."
Thus, in March 2019 the old Power Grid base game will be replaced by Power Grid (Recharged Version), which will bear a "Recharged Version" logo on the front of the box. The first print run with 2F-Spiele's partners will include versions in English, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Polish, and Portuguese (for Brazil), with more versions to follow in 2019 and 2020.
Kröpke notes that changes to the game's graphics are minimal, with rule improvements only to smooth gameplay, such as the updated player order with two rows (as in Power Grid deluxe) so that players can more easily identify who has already taken their turn.
He adds, "Step by step, we are also checking all expansions, as some of their rules and variations need updating, too. In January 2019, we will release an FAQ containing all necessary minor changes and updates for each of the twelve expansions, so owners of these 'classic' expansions can continue to play and enjoy them while playing with the new Recharged rules. Future print runs of the expansions will also show the 'Recharged Version' badge."
While we're waiting for that new edition, how many differences can you spot between the new cover at right and the earlier cover shown at left?
Editor's note: Game Market took place in Tokyo on November 24-25, 2018, and Saigo — who translates game rules between Japanese and English and who tweets about new JP games — has translated reports about this event (day one and day two) that were written by Takuya Ono, who runs the Table Games in the World blog. Mr. Ono has given permission to reprint the photos from his post. Many thanks to Saigo! —WEM
Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn took place at Tokyo Big Sight (West Halls 3 and 4) for two days starting on November 24, 2018. Here is my report on its first day.
Approximately three thousand people were queuing before the opening of the show at 10:00 a.m. (according to Rael-san's report). The total attendance over the two days is expected to be 22,000 by the Game Market Management Office and approximately 23,000 by Rael-san.
Shortly after the opening, a greater number of booths than normal had many people queuing in front of them. This is likely due to an increase in the number of both participants and attendees. As a result, the aisles were congested here and there, requiring more time to move in the venue.
At the BakaFire Party booth, in addition to the people queuing to buy the games, fans crowded around the stage.
The Little Future booth also had many people queuing for the second edition of Tokyo Sidekick and its expansion. Different cosplay characters appeared there each day.
Antoine Bauza, who now visits Tokyo Game Market quite regularly, was seen visiting booths and actively trying out games. Furthermore, his autograph session took place to celebrate the release of the Japanese edition of Attack on Titan: The Last Stand. [Editor's note: Cocktail Games' Matthieu d'Epenoux is seen at right. —WEM]
Here are some games that attracted people's attention:
SINGULARITY is a tower defense and worker placement game from Head Quarter Simulation Game Club, whose previous game Improvement of POLIS released last autumn, is one of the finalists for the Game Market Award. It sold out quickly.
Duetti Pantiino (from UNiCORN) is a card game about placing one's ideal panties in line according to the player's fetish. It sold out quickly.
Mamey (from Hoy Games) is a card game about collecting cards from bean fields and selling them in sets to the market. There are three fields where cards accumulate if they are not selected. There is an upper limit to the number of cards you can keep in your hand, requiring tactical handling.
TOKYO✖CROSSING, released on trial from Hanayama, is a game about making your way through the busy pedestrian scramble of Shibuya, Tokyo. The character pieces move differently according to their types: ninja, otaku, and high school girl.
Jelly Jelly Games released the Japanese edition of Shifty Eyed Spies, in which you wink at the player indicated on the card and try to determine the location on the table where that player is casting their glance. Meanwhile, you can challenge other players if you catch them winking.
Nage×Nage Portside YOKOHAMA (from KenBill) is a game in which you take turns playing cards. As soon as the icons on the cards played meet the criteria, throw your record disc into the turntable box in the center of the table. You need to throw in your record disc quickly without missing the box.
Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town (from One Draw) is a game that involves taking notes to deduce the positions of the pawns moved behind the screen by the game master.
Masala Magic (from natriumlamp games) uses scents of various spices for the gameplay. Nice scents were wafting around their table.
Saashi & Saashi had arranged with the Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau to produce and release the Kyoto City Bus 90th Anniversary Edition of Let's Make a Bus Route. This edition has been sold at various stores in Kyoto, such as Yellow Submarine, Tokyu Hands, and Bricks, as well as at the Kyoto City Train and Bus Fan Fair.
I see more and more board game accessories at recent Game Markets. Here are some notable new items on display. They are reasonably priced and quite alluring.
Rasen Works brought a rich variety of dice trays of diverse sizes and patterns.
Colon Yuran's accessories and card cases included meeples lying in the field.
Nicobodo had a magnet label saying "Board Gamer in Car" and a 2019 calendar with beautiful photos of board games.
In this board game workbook from Dilettante, you can keep a log of the board games you have played.
Itayama Shoukai had a variety of wooden pieces.
BakaFire Party was not the only one to hold lively events in their block booth.
Sugorokuya invited guests to hold a participatory event to play pen-and-paper games and the giant-sized edition of Rhino Hero.
Masashi Kawaguchi of DEAR SPIELE, Azumi Date of Asobi Cafe, and Sho Shirasaka of Jelly Jelly Cafe speak during the board game café owner panel session hosted by Jelly Jelly Cafe.
Kengo Otsuka, Yoshihiko Koriyama, and Kazunari Yoshimitsu talk at the board game designer panel session hosted by Jelly Jelly Cafe.
I am looking forward to seeing many more events tomorrow.
Here is my report on the second day of Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn. The number of people queuing before the opening amounted to 1,700, almost half of that from yesterday (according to Rael-san's report), but the board game flea market, which opened one hour later, was much more crowded.
More than 1,300 items were brought to this flea market managed by the Asakusa Board Game Flea Market Management Office, and the congestion was handled by issuing numbered tickets to the visitors.
On the second day, I had to check only the new games not present on the previous day, so I had relatively more time to spare, which I spent visiting demo tables and chatting with people. Such time to spare reminds me of the earlier days of Game Market when it was held in Asakusa. As the booths grew in number, our time to spare decreased and that led to the demand to expand Tokyo Game Market to a two-day event. Among the people I met, there were people I met for the first time, friends of friends, friends to meet after a long time, friends from my local region... It is always fun to meet and chat with such people at the Game Market.
It is worth noting that at this Game Market, there were more block booths where they held panel sessions and mini-game events on both days. Along with this, I witnessed many people watching not only such events but also many demo tables without playing the games. Thus, starting from an event to buy games, Game Market has expanded to new dimensions, to an event to play games and further to an event also to watch games.
At the Jelly Jelly Cafe booth, rakugo storyteller Sanyutei Rakuten performed his TRPG-themed rakugo story titled "Innsmouth Nagaya" ("Innsmouth Tenement House") in front of an audience of more than one hundred people, who enjoyed the performance with laughter.
At 1:00 p.m., the ceremony for the Game Market Award took place for the designers of the five finalists (and winners of the Award of Excellence), namely Improvement of the POLIS, Instant Propose, Tenka Meidou, Tokyo Sidekick, and Tricks and the Phantom. The award ceremony was held in front of a large audience.
The designers of the five games that won the Award of Excellence stand in line
First, the Expert Game of the Year, which was won by The Founders of ENDE in 2017, was won this year by Improvement of the POLIS (from Head Quarter Simulation Game Club). Improvement of the POLIS is a gamer's game in which you develop the city-states of ancient Greece by utilizing the characteristics of each city-state. It is presently out of stock, but it has been announced that this game will be published and distributed widely.
Improvement of the POLIS (from Head Quarter Simulation Game Club)
After it was announced that there was no game to receive this year's Kids' Game of the Year, the Best Game of the Year was announced. With the sound of a drum roll, a decorated paper ball was broke in a traditional style to reveal the name of the winner, which was Tenka Meidou (from 77spiele). Tenka Meidou (which means "World Rumbling") is themed on the battles during the Sengoku period (the period of warring states). The chief juror Jun Kusaba commented that the game's flow to conquer small castles, then send reinforcement to larger castles reminded him of the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga, while the system to choose the areas to move one's troops by combining three dice rolls has a beauty like that of Reiner Knizia's games. There was also a comment mentioning that this third game from 77spiele is made with minimal components, such as the board being printed in black and white while the pieces were bought from 100-yen shops, demonstrating that the game's appeal can come through even without a fascinating appearance.
The game designer Shinichi Yogi, upon receiving the award, commented that he adores the works of Sid Sackson and Reiner Knizia and was very pleased that such designer's name was mentioned by the chief juror Jun Kusaba. He has not released any game after this third game, but I hope that receiving the award will prompt him to design more new games.
Tenka Meidou (from 77spiele) [Editor's note: This article's author, Takuya Ono, stands at right. —WEM]
The award ceremony venue was then transformed into an area to demo and try out the award winners: Improvement of the POLIS and Tenka Meidou. I noticed some staff members there teaching with remarkable skills how to play the games. I became curious and asked about them, and found out they were members of an organization called Analog Game Eventers, who were there by the request of the Game Market Management Office to teach how to play a number of board games as well as to work as game masters of some TRPG. In addition to their love for the games, they had studied in advance the rules of the games they were to teach in addition to making other efforts to prepare, such as devising short-game variants to demo long games. Game Market is being supported by such labor in the background.
Here are some board games I played and some that gathered attention on the second day:
A new edition of Tricks and the Phantom, which received the Game Market Award of Excellence, was published from Oink Games with renewed artwork for wide distribution.
5×5 City (from OKAZU Brand) is a tile-placement game to develop your city in accordance with the effects of building and blocks.
Candiabury (from Northgame) is a game to determine the whereabouts of the candy marbles dropped from the top of the board (which represents the night sky). Players choose one of the pockets to collect their marbles. Northgame has consistently released games with beautiful hand-made components in a small number of copies.
Noblesse Wallet (from ChagaChaga Games) is a game in which you draw coins from a bag and use them to shop, whereby you can increase usable special effects and the source of scoring. The players all share one bag, and this makes the game quite interactive and lively, prompting the players to shout things like, "Try to go for one more coin!" on another's turn.
No Hand (from 758 Board Game Circle) has the subtitle "trick-taker without cards in your hand". After partly sharing the available information about the trump, how to follow suit, and ranks, some cards are placed in line and the players bid for the card they wish to play. Later, the players' applied rules are disclosed, then they check which color has won the trick.
I Don't Wanna Leave Kotatsu (from Shime Shime Games) is a game about choosing whether or not to stay under the warm kotatsu-blanketed table on a cold day. The players secretly check their household chore cards and place orange tokens on the kotatsu table. Then they simultaneously choose to stay in the kotatsu or to move out of it to do their chore. Lastly, the oranges are divided among the people in the applicable groups according to the choices they made.
Donou no Kai, which specializes in two-player abstract strategy games, was joined by the president of the publisher nestorgames (as shown) from Spain. They sold 33 games at their booth. Ken Shoda, who usually accompanies some guests as their interpreter/guide at Game Market, was also at the Donou no Kai booth as one of nestorgames' game designers.
Game Market Management Office has started the questionnaire surveys on the show and newly-released games. Your responses will be appreciated.
The upcoming events are Osaka Game Market 2019, which will be held on March 10 (Sun) at Intex Osaka, Tokyo Game Market 2019 Spring in May 25 (Sat) and 26 (Sun) at Tokyo Big Sight (Aumi), and Tokyo Game Market 2019 Autumn in November 23 (Sat) and 24 (Sun) at Tokyo Big Sight (Aumi). The maximum capacity of the Tokyo Big Sight Aumi Hall is twice as large as the present West Halls 3 and 4, so it is expected to sufficiently accommodate the increasing number of participants.
Follow-up article: Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn: Attendance of 22,000 over Two Days (original post)
Game Market Management Office has announced that a total of 20,000 people attended Tokyo Game Market 2018 Autumn, Japan's largest analog game event, which was held on November 24 (Sat) and 25 (Sun) at Tokyo Big Sight. The attendance was 12,000 on the first day and 10,000 on the second day. In total, it was 2,000 people more and 10% larger than that of Tokyo Game Market 2018 Spring (May 2018).
Since Game Market expanded to a two-day event, the attendance has steadily increased from 18,500 to 20,000 to 22,000. Over the past three Game Markets, the number of exhibitors has changed from 730 to 692 to 779 and the number of newly-released games from Japan has changed from 495 to 301 to 564. Thus, both of them have reached the highest number at this Game Market.
The questionnaire survey on newly-released games, including original games, imported games, Japanese editions, TRPG and SLG, has started. An autocomplete widget, which displays the applicable game names after you enter the first few characters, has been newly adopted for higher ease of rating. If you have played any of these games, please submit your rating on them.
In late November 2018, I wrote about Jeffrey D. Allers' card game Rolnicy that's available only from Polish publisher Nasza Księgarnia. Well, here's two more "hidden" titles from that country, both from Instytut Pamięci Narodowej (IPN) — Poland's Institute of National Remembrance, which caught the public's attention in 2011 thanks to the release of Karol Madaj's Kolejka.
Since 2009, IPN's Public Education Office has been releasing board games about Polish history, and it released two new games in 2018, one for younger players and one for older. Jan Madejski's Niepodległa — "niepodległa" being the Polish word for "independent" — is the latter title, with this being a co-operative game for 2-4 players that plays in 30-90 minutes. An overview:
The First World War is coming to an end. It had a devastating impact on Habsburg Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire, which over 120 years earlier partitioned and wiped the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from the maps. But this global conflict that exhausted the partitioners of Poland gives the opportunity to restore Poland and regain independence. Now, go back to the time of the First World War and join the key statesmen of the era. Responsibility for the existence and the future shape of Poland lies on your shoulders. Only through cooperation may you revive your homeland and protect it from its enemies. Are you brave enough to undertake the mission?
Niepodległa is a board game published by Poland's Institute of National Remembrance to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the rebirth of Poland. The game illustrates the events that led to the restoration of Poland's sovereignty. This co-operative game has two variants: basic, mostly aimed at education (30 minutes) and advanced for intermediate or experienced players (90 minutes).
The scope of the gameplay are the events of the years 1910–1920 with an emphasis on the period between the outbreak of the First World War and the restoration of Poland's sovereignty in 1918. The board represents the former and — eventually — future territory of Poland. The players immerse themselves in the operations undertaken by the key characters of the battle for the independence; they try to spread the ideas of independence, seek a national consensus, and strengthen Poland's position in the world. If they fulfill certain conditions, Poland will regain sovereignty in the grand finale in 1918.
However, despite regaining independence, if the players fail to meet decisive challenges — the Peace Conference in Paris, the development of a new state administration, the struggle over Poland's borders as well as the uprisings in Greater Poland and Silesia and the Poland-Bolshevik war — Poland may well cease to exist.
Game board for the advanced variant
• The second title from IPN might ring a bell for anyone who's played Scythe — Miś Wojtek, a.k.a., Wojtek the Bear. This Karol Madaj design for 2-5 players aged 6 and up is based on an odd event from history: the enlistment of a bear in the armed services. This summary features as much background info as detail about the game:
Miś Wojtek is a family board game with a rich historical background, telling the story of Poland's "soldier bear" Wojtek (pronounced like "VOY-tek") who shared the complicated fate of Poles deported from Poland deep into Russia during World War II.
In September 1939, Poland was attacked by its neighbors: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Poland was conquered and divided between the invaders. Many Poles were expelled and sent to forced labor camps or sent to remote areas of the Soviet Union. Then, in a surprise move in 1941, the German army invaded the USSR. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the USSR, agreed to create an army from the Polish soldiers who had been held in Soviet camps. Following the deterioration of Polish-Soviet relations in March 1942, these Polish soldiers and civilians left the USSR under the command of General Anders to support British allies in the fight against Germany.
On their way from the Soviet Union to Iran, Polish soldiers bought a small, malnourished bear from a hungry Persian boy. They named the bear "Wojtek" and enlisted him in the army, complete with military papers and the rank of private.
Wojtek remained with the soldiers throughout their difficult journey from Iran, through Palestine, Egypt, and Italy to Scotland. He shared their ups and downs, their joys and sorrows, giving them many opportunities to smile and helping them when in need. He guarded the equipment, and during the battle of Monte Cassino, he even carried heavy ammunition boxes.
The players join Wojtek the bear and the Polish II Corps on their journey from the USSR to Edinburgh, Scotland. Along the way, they collect souvenirs related to the fate of General Anders' soldiers and their famous bear. The aim of the game is to collect the best set of memorabilia!
At the beginning of the game, players receive five travel cards and a bear pawn. Players take turns in clockwise order. On a turn, the active player plays a travel card with a truck and moves their pawn to the next (closest) empty space in the color of the card played. Then the player takes one bear card from the board, from the box with the same color as the color of the space to which their pawn moved. Finally, the player refills their travel card hand up to five cards, and ends their turn.
To move their pawn, the players may also play wild cards with a walking bear (which allows them to move to a space of any color as long as they don't pass another pawn) or play three travel cards in the same color in order to name any color and move to the next (closest) empty space in the chosen color.
At the moment when the first pawn reaches Edinburgh or any player has a complete set of bear cards (six different cards of the same type), the last round of the game begins.
After ending the last round, players score their bear cards. Players sort their cards into sets. Each set must have the same type of cards, with no repeated cards. The largest possible set is a complete set of six different cards in one color. The player with the largest set wins.
Wikipedia has more info on Wojtek, and stories like this one suggest that the universe of game settings is far vaster than what we've encountered to date. I'd only be too happy to never again have to write about needing to replace the recently deceased king...
• Don't expect the cover shown at right to survive to the published game as it represents the past and not the future. In Q4 2017, German publisher AMIGO Spiele ran a Kickstarter campaign for Richard Garfield's Carnival of Monsters, a drafting card game that had a marketing hook of reuniting Garfield with famed artists from Magic: The Gathering, such as Mark Tedin, Nene Thomas, and Jesper Myrfors. That hook did not work out, with the KS project reaching only one-fifth of its (unrealistically high) goal of $250K.
As of October 2018, AMIGO has reconfigured the project, with the game now featuring artists familiar to the German market — such as Franz Vohwinkel, Dennis Louhausen, and Michael Menzel — and with a new anticipated release date of Q4 2019.
• Uli Blennemann of Spielworxx has posted an overview of that publisher's release calendar for 2019:
...with a "heavily revamped" version of Schmiel's Lieber bairisch sterben having previously been announced as a 2020 Spielworxx release. Here's an overview of Yínzi, the only title for which we have details at the moment:
China experienced the greatest economic expansion in its history during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The silver trade between the Americas and Europe and onward to China had a profound effect on the world economy – it may be considered the beginning of a global economy.
In China, social mobility led to the growing of cities, especially in the lower Yangtze area, which was at that time responsible for the main production of wheat for the whole country. In addition to wheat and rice, other crops like tea, fruits, and sugarcane were grown on a large scale. Immigrating peasants changed their profession to become merchants and artisans. Many people from the countryside were employed in private or state run factories, producing commodities like paper, porcelain, refined sugar, or silk textiles.
Trade and commerce thrived in this liberalized economy and was aided by the construction of canals, roads, and bridges by the Ming government. Ming China saw the rise of several merchant clans, who owned large amounts of wealth.
In Yínzi: The Shining Ming Dynasty — "yínzi" meaning "silver" — the players represent merchant clans developing parts of China in the late Ming period in the early 17th century along the last 200 km of the Yangtze river before it reaches the China Sea.
The players plant crops, sell goods to the rural or urban markets, develop raw materials, build and upgrade factories, and sell their goods to ships already waiting in the port. In order to reach the port, the players need to improve their river transport capabilities along the Yangtze.
In Legend Raiders, each player represents an adventurer who wants to collect as many ancient coins (a.k.a., victory points or VPs) as possible, searching for legendary treasures and mythical places. In every round on the main board are four different missions, each composed of a discovery to be performed and two random tools (ropes, shovels, compasses and maps) supplied by the bureau. The explorer who gains the most points wins.
On their turn, a player chooses between two actions: (1) Take a discovery and place it on the personal board together with the two randomly related tools, or (2) Perform one or more discoveries with the tools already on the personal board.
To be discovered, each treasure requires a specific combination of tools. Places require more tools than artifacts, but will give more VPs in the following expeditions. When a player uses their favorite tool, they gain more VPs; the torch can be used as a joker by turning it off, but only if it's on!
Discovering new treasures gives the player VPs based on number of ancient coins visible on the personal board, uncovered by the ongoing missions. Solving one mission at a time allows the player to have more visible ancient coins and thus to score more VPs, but having more missions on the board and solving more of them in a single turn gives the player a benefit in terms of time. Each time one or more legendary treasures are discovered, the player also gains a expedition card from the four available at the bureau; expedition cards show goals that grant VPs at the end of the game if achieved.
After a few weeks discombobulated by multiple conventions — including our own BGG.CON 2018 in mid-November — Scott Alden, Steph Hodge, Lincoln Damerst and I have returned with a new episode of The BoardGameGeek Show, and given that I had just come back from PAX Unplugged 2018 and seen examples of marketing both good and bad on the floor of that convention, I thought it would be interesting to talk about that topic.
00:32 Introductions 01:20 BoardGameGeek 2019 Support Drive has begun 04:29 Support us as well through our BGG Store 04:00 What have you been playing? 04:08 Stonehenge and the Sun - Naotaka Shimamoto - itten 07:30 Underwater Cities - Vladimír Suchý - Delicious Games 09:48 Eye My Favorite Things - Daiki (Nilgiri) Aoyama & ぺぺR (Pepe_R) - するめデイズ (Surume Days) 11:25 PUSH - Prospero Hall (Forrest-Pruzan Creative) - Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH 13:26 Chronicles of Crime - David Cicurel - Lucky Duck Games 18:30 Metal Gear Solid: The Board Game coming from Emerson Matsuuchi and IDW Games in 2019 19:29 NSKN Games and Board&Dice have merged 20:38 Changing publisher needs and strategies with the onset of more mergers 25:09 Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood of Venice board game comes to Kickstarter 27:43 How (not) to market games at conventions (examples from PAX Unplugged and elsewhere)
Yesterday I covered a few games that appeared at PAX Unplugged with little to no advance notice from publishers, so now let's look at a few that were on my radar thanks to some degree of marketing push ahead of the show.
Such pushes are encouraged if you want people to know that your game exists or will exist at some point in the future, and I can already see that ahead of PAX Unplugged 2019, I need to lean hard on publishers for info more directly so that I can create a convention preview for that show. On Saturday, for example, designer Daryl Andrews told me that Renegade Game Studios was selling Ghostbusters: The Card Game, which he had co-designed with Erica Bouyouris and which he had not known would be available until he arrived at the booth and they gave him copies. Designers tend to shout about their releases to the world, so if publishers aren't even telling them about the games that will be on hand, it's going to be harder for those titles to find a footing in this flooded marketplace.
• One company that had promoted the PAXU appearance of an upcoming release was Calliope Games, which had announced that Tom McMurchie's Tsuro: Phoenix Rising, the third title in its Tsuro game series, would be available for a sneak peek. I caught company president Ray Wehrs at the end of Friday for a sample two-player game — the title handles up to eight players, as with the other two Tsuro titles — and he was happy to play and is fine with me talking about the game, although he allowed only the (unfortunately) blurry image below of the prototype bits.
Gameplay in Tsuro: Phoenix Rising resembles that of Tsuro in that each player is moving their pawn over paths on the tiled gaming area and you want everyone else to have their paths cut short so that only you remain in play. If you're the only player with a piece on the board, you win. Where the game differs from earlier releases, though, is that the tiles are placed in troughs in a plastic game board and only the perimeter of the board is empty at the start of play. The center spaces each start with a double-sided tile on them, and instead of each tile having two connections along each edge, sometimes the tiles have looping connections that take you to the corner of a tile — perhaps even where no connection exists! Many of these center tiles have lanterns on them, and place a red, blue or yellow token on these lanterns at the start of play.
Each player begins with one life token, representing the ability of your phoenix to arise again and have a second life if travels off the board. On a turn, if your phoenix is off the board or facing a blank space, you place your tile in hand on an empty space of the playing area; if your phoenix is at a dead end in front of a tile already in play, you pick up that tile and reorient it so that you can move along the path just built. If you move completely through a lantern space on your turn, then you collect a star token, and you can pick up multiple stars on a turn. At the end of your turn, move all such lanterns to different tiles in play, ideally setting up scoring opportunities on future turns.
If a player manages to collect seven stars, their phoenix has gained immortality and they win the game immediately.
What's more, they were demoing the game in what was nearly an ideal manner for a convention. McPherson and other AEG folks were behind a table on the edge of their booth, greeting everyone who passed and inviting them to play, with the possible reward of a $100 Home Depot gift card being dangled as an incentive. I passed the table multiple times and nearly always saw people playing, with empty seats being filled within a minute. Instead of you needing to mess around with the game components, the seven different building combinations were printed on the tablecloth, which allowed onlookers to play along and kibitz about what the actual players were doing. (The length of the table was the only downside as it was difficult from one end of it to clearly see the other end.)
Everyone played on a sheet of paper that contained the details of the giveaway, space for you to build, room to write down your points (with these spaces indicating additional gameplay elements that would come packaged in the box), and space for your name and email. AEG needed this info to contact you about the prize, of course, but more importantly you were signing up to be on its mailing list, giving them a way to reach out in the future and let you know when this game (or other titles) hit the market.
Whatever you think of AEG's games, this set-up is a model for other publishers who want to tease a game ahead of its release: make it easy to jump into a game or watch, tease other elements in the box while keeping the current demo streamlined, and get contact info so that you can connect with the player later since they're unlikely to remember everything they've played.
So what is Tiny Towns anyway? You might think of it as a town-building take on the awesome Threes! puzzle app. During the game, players build cottages, taverns, farms, factories, and three other types of buildings on a personal 4x4 grid. Each game starts with players laying out one card for each of these types of buildings, with the card specifying which building blocks you need in which combination in order to create that building.
On a turn, the active player calls out one of the five types of building blocks, then each player takes one of these blocks and places it in an empty space in their 4x4 grid. The next player in clockwise order calls out a block, and so on. After placing a block, if a player has an arrangement of blocks that matches one of that game's building patterns, then they can remove those blocks from their grid and place the appropriate wooden building on one of the spaces previously occupied. You don't have to remove them, and sometimes you want to leave your options open to take advantage of what an opponent might call — or keep them from being able to call something that will hurt you. Eventually, though, you need to convert blocks to buildings as that clears space in your grid and gives you more room to build.
Once you can't place a block, you're done and can tally your points, with you no longer calling our block types since you'd solely be trying to mess up others instead of building something yourself. The last player with room in their grid can place whatever they want block by block. Each building scores in a different way, with some buildings not scoring at all and with you losing a point for each remaining block. Farms feed up to four cottages, for example, and if you don't feed cottages, then you don't score points for them. When you complete a factory, you choose a type of good, and whenever someone calls that good, you can place whatever block you want in your grid.
Tiny Towns is my style of game, but I played like a dimwit and quickly had nothing to do but block up my town and pretend that I was sleep deprived and not really this bad of a player. In addition to having different block set-ups for the seven building types, the game includes a deck of block cards; if you want to focus solely on building in a learning game — or you want to deny mean players the chance to block you — you can flip the block cards at random to determine what everyone has to place.
My terrible tiny town
• Japanese publisher itten appeared at PAXU for its first U.S. convention, and in addition to selling past releases such as HATSUDEN, Here Comes the Dog, and the new version of Tokyo Highway that Asmodee is distributing, designer Naotaka Shimamoto was demonstrating Stonehenge and the Sun, a 2-4 player dexterity game that hits Kickstarter in mid-December 2018.
Many dexterity games feel like one another, especially those in which you stack or build things, and while Stonehenge and the Sun has a building element, that's not the focus of the gameplay. You and your fellow (perhaps godlike) players are building Stonehenge one block at a time on a circular base, but each time you build, you must then represent the passing of time by swinging a heavy metal ball — the stand-in for the sun — through the building area. If you knock over any blocks, you take them as penalty points, and whoever knocks over the fewest blocks wins.
Shimamoto preps the sun for launching
In more detail, each player starts with a marker evenly spaced around the base. On a turn, you take a block from the reserve and add it to the perimeter of the base or stack it on another block, with stacks being at most two blocks tall. Alternatively, you can take a block that's already on the base and lay it across two pillars already in play to create a gate. If you add a block, you must move your marker to either side of this new block, and the area where your marker is located is the target through which you must swing the sun. If you create a gate, then you don't move your marker. You can't share an area with another player, and you might be forced to move depending on how others place blocks.
After you build, you then launch the sun — and the question that nearly every observer had about the game is "How do you set that up at home?" At PAXU, itten had build a wooden frame over the table and attached the ball via fishing wire to this frame. In the First Look area, they suspended the ball from a mic stand. They were soliciting advice from players as to what they should include in the final box: a suction cup? a carabiner? a screw hook? Stonehenge and the Sun might be the only game that requires you to screw something into your ceiling in order to play.
The game includes rules for a second game called "Orbit", with this being a real-time game. You place the blocks around the base evenly, and each player places two markers next the base and opposite one another. Someone launches the ball in orbit around the base, and once it's circled three times, everyone start building simultaneously, placing blocks only next to their markers. You can't touch the ball or string or else play stops and you lose a point. Whoever places ten blocks by their markers first wins the round and scores a point; whoever scores three points first wins.
For a sample of what the game looks like in action, check out the video I tweeted from PAXU, a video that shows both success and failure:
OMG — Stonehenge and the Sun (@itten_games_en) is a dexterity game like no other. Place a block, move to one area you created, then swing the pendulum through your space. Don’t knock anything over! You can stack blocks, too. Coming to Kickstarter in Dec. 2018. —WEM pic.twitter.com/JnJXGPDaD4
Following BGG.CON 2018, I had thought that I was through with con coverage for the year, but then I asked Scott about attending PAX Unplugged, which took place in Philadelphia from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, and he said sure, so off I went.
I hadn't attended PAX Unplugged when it debuted in 2017 as it took place the same weekend as BGG.CON 2017, so this was new to me — and new to many other people as well based on the size of the crowd. The exhibitor space had roughly doubled in size from 2017, but the crowd seemingly hadn't — or at least that's what some publishers told me, with them estimating that the increased competition for attendee dollars hadn't been matched by a corresponding increase in attendees. Of course maybe the other exhibitors just had better things for sale. So many factors play into such things that it's hard to know for sure, and PAX has not released attendee figures as of this writing.
When can be said for sure is that publishers both announced new titles at the show and had upcoming games available for previewing, but they had done little in the way of marketing them ahead of the show — or perhaps I'm just no longer hep enough to track all of the social media platforms on which publishers do things these days. (Using the word "hep" is probably a good indicator of this.)
In any case, Godsforge is a 2-4 player game from Brendan Stern with hypnotic otherworldly art by Diego L. Rodriguez that would ideally be on a six-foot-tall banner in order to attracts the eyes of passersby. Each player starts with 20-30 life depending on the number of players, with everyone attacking left and defending right in order to be the last one still in the game.
On a turn, everyone simultaneously rolls four dice up to three times using standard Yahtzee rules, then each player lays one of their four cards face down in front of them. In any order you want, players reveal those cards, paying the cost of them via specific numbers on rolled dice, the sum of rolled dice, veilstones, or a combination of the above. On the dice, 1s can be any number you wish, while an unused 6 can be spent to acquire a veilstone. Spells provide one-shot effects, while creations go into play in front of you, with some of them providing one-shot "enter play" abilities in addition to possible attack and defense values and sacrifice abilities.
Once all the cards have been resolved, players assess damage comparing their attack value against their target's defense. You then ditch any cards you don't want, then refill your hand to four. Once a player is eliminated, everyone still in the game starts taking damage from them each round in order to hasten the endgame.
I played a shortened two-player game with an Atlas representative and enjoyed the back-and-forth of play, the call-and-response of cards as my opponent attempted to chain out multiple creations in order to take advantage of special abilities, while I tried to keep him in check, boosting my health through spells, then digging for veilstones in order to put out a powerful creation that required the sacrifice of veilstones or one of my creations each turn. This style of gameplay is familiar from other games, but the art and graphic design is not, and Atlas would do well to highlight this as much as possible.
The game includes 25 dice, and each of the 2-5 players in the game start with the same number of dice, which show a lion on one side, a blank on the opposite side, and a bear and a tiger twice each on the other four faces.
All players play simultaneously within a round, starting by rolling all of their dice on the table. Each player then chooses one of the three animals from among their rolled dice, with lions being worth four points each, tigers three points, and bears two. After choosing an animal, the player sets aside all of the matching dice, then decides whether to roll again. If they roll the right animal, they'll score more points, with non-matching animals being irrelevant; roll any blank sides, though, and those dice are returned to the box. As soon as all players stop rolling in a round, whether voluntarily or due to them having no more dice to roll, they score points for their chosen animal, then a new round begins.
As soon as a player loses their final die, they're finished, and once all players have lost all of their dice, the game ends, and whoever has scored the most points wins.
Earring dice not included in the box!
• Thames & Kosmos, the North American branch of KOSMOS, debuted Grzegorz Rejchtman's Ubongo! Fun-Size Edition, which is yet another take on the Ubongo family of games that debuted in 2003 and that has sold more than five million games according to the cover of this particular item.
As in Ubongo, players of Ubongo! Fun-Size Edition compete to solve individual puzzles as quickly as they can. Each player has a set of eight polyomino pieces, each a different color. Players decide before the game begins whether they'll use the A- or B-side of the puzzle cards, with the A-side puzzles requiring exactly three pieces to complete and the B-side puzzles requiring exactly four. Which pieces? Well, you have to figure that out for yourself, with each puzzle having at least three different solutions.
At the start of a round, each player receives a new puzzle card and must race to fill in the blank spaces as quickly as possible. As soon as one player has done this, they start counting down to zero and everyone else must complete their puzzle before time is up. Whoever completes their puzzle card in time keeps the card for a point; the player who started the countdown both keeps their card and earns a gemstone worth one point. After eight rounds, the player with the most points wins.
To even the playing field between adults and children in Ubongo! Fun-Size Edition, the adults can play without the yellow piece — a straight line that covers three spaces. All of the puzzles can be solved without this piece, but doing so will be more difficult than normal...
Wavelength is a party game in which you try to get your teammates to correctly guess where to place a dial along a spectrum, the endpoints of which are defined for the round by two bipolar concepts, such as "mysterious — expected", "round — square", or "useless emoji — useful emoji".
In more detail, the cluegiver looks at a card that shows two pairs of bipolar concepts, then chooses one of them and places the card in the device's holder. They close the window on the device, then spin the wheel to randomly determine where the target will be — all the way at one end of the spectrum, in the middle, or somewhere between the middle and an end. They close the window and give a clue to their teammates, who then move the red dial to where they hope the yellow bullseye target is located. The other team then guesses whether they think the first team is on target or to the left or right of the target.
Teams score points depending on how well they do, but as with many party games, the points are kind of beside the, um, point. Ideally everyone is giving clever and amusing clues, and the table gets to feel what it would be like to have hung out with Oscar Wilde.
We had only three players, so we fudged teams and did round-robin sessions of clue-giving, guessing, and counter-guessing. Overall the game delivers on what it's trying to do — assuming that the cluegivers can do their part, of course — but the turns in which the bullseye falls at the far end of a spectrum are disappointing because there's no mystery about them, nothing to discuss or puzzle out. If you have a spectrum of "evil — good" and the cluegiver says "Adolf Hitler", then you dunk for the round, shrug, and move on. The middle 80% of the spectrum is the interesting part because that gives everyone trickier challenges, and I'd prefer the device be reworked so that you can have a bullseye only in that range.
The game is still in prototype form at this point with a somewhat wonky device, so we'll see what it all looks like some months from now when it's actually coming to market. (By the by, bipolar concepts like "ugly — beautiful" are used in semantic differential questions to measure how individuals evaluate words and phrases. Psychologist Charles E. Osgood started this line of research in the 1950s, and people still use such studies today because they're sometimes viewed as less loaded or more meaningful than questions that pose more of a agree/disagree option. This latter style of question is the Likert scale, and you might see a statement such as "This game is challenging", then you're asked to fill in a circle: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree. By contrast, a semantic differential question might have a direction such as "Please rate this game", then confront you with something like "challenging ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ easy", giving you something to bounce off the word "challenging" rather than you considering it in a vacuum. More on Wikipedia...)