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Game Overview: Juicy Fruits, or Spam Those Bananas!

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Juicy Fruits
Juicy Fruits from Christian Stöhr and Deep Print Games brings the spirit of the 15 sliding puzzle and Sokoban to the tabletop.

At the start of play, you have a personal island that looks something like this:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

On a turn, you (generally) move one of the fruit baskets to start, collecting as many fruit of the type moved as the number of spaces it moved. Then you can use any fruit you've collected to fulfill a boat order, scoring the points listed and removing that boat from your island to open that space for future basket movement; alternatively you can use the fruit to purchase business tiles to score points in some manner or get another thing that you can move at the start of turn, either an ice cream cart or an upgraded fruit basket.

You start slow, collecting only one or two fruits at a time, but by the end of the game, your island might look like this:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

This is an extreme case from one of the six games I've played on a review copy from Capstone Games, which is releasing the game in North America, but it's possible: All but one boat removed, and the island developed to the point of stagnation.

Juicy Fruits rewards efficiency and planning, with each player (mostly) doing their own thing on their own island to the best of their ability. You compete against others to acquire business tiles, but often the competition feels more like a buffet, with one tile being nearly as good as another, especially in the four-player game.

With two players, you have only ten (random) business tiles available, so you might have only a single ice cream cart, upgraded fruit basket, or 2x2 development, which means that if you miss out, you have to settle for something else; with four players and twenty business tiles on the board, you often have near duplicates available, creating less urgency to buy something, which means you probably spend more time clearing boats from your board to set up long empty rows in which to race those fruit baskets.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
My side of the table = unorganized fruit

The game's clock is determined by the number of business tiles purchased, so if people rush to buy early, you potentially have a Dominion-style cascade in which others worry about the game ending before they can transform their fruit into something grander, so they buy, too. Purchase too early, however, and the "provinces" might clog your "deck", making your engine sputter.

The game includes a "juice factory" expansion that's visible above the score track in the preceding image, with this factory adding a tad more interaction. After moving and spending fruits, you can choose to spend fruit — sometimes fruit of your choice, sometimes 1-2 specific fruits — to move 0-2 tokens across one arrow in the factory. This additional scoring option ups the challenge of being efficient because you have one more factor to consider with each basket movement: Can you grab or stockpile the fruit required to keep your tokens moving? (I have no clue what these tokens represent. Your ability to control the assembly line? A testament to your ability to squeeze fruit really, really hard? No matter...)

To see lots of examples of play, the various business tiles, an overview of the solo mode, and a close-up of those sweet wooden bits (complete with sound effect), check out this overview video:

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Mon Aug 2, 2021 1:20 pm
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Japanese Game Round-up: Predict the Future, Create Your Own Cards, and Discover a Kindly World

W. Eric Martin
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• Japanese creators continue to make in-roads on Kickstarter to introduce their creations to audiences far outside the limits of Game Market, as with KUJIRADAMA's first crowdfunded project on KS (link) for the 3-6 player game Milhouette from designer Emi Kuji. Here's how it works:
Quote:
Using three cards with silhouettes on them, players discuss their predictions and make conclusions.

Board Game: Milhouette (ミルエット)

In more detail, the fortune-seeking player tells everyone what they want to know, e.g., "What does my future hold?" or "Will I find a divine pet?" or "Who is my true love?", then draws and reveals one card, with the fortune-telling players drawing two cards each. The fortune tellers then use their two cards and the seeker's one card to make their divinations. The seeker then nominates the player whose fortune telling touched them the most, with that fortune teller scoring a point.
• KUJIRADAMA's previous release in 2021 was TrumPen from designer Nagisa Kujira, with this being more of a game system than a single game.

TrumPen consists of a deck of 54 dry-erase cards and six dry-erase marks, and it includes rules for versions of poker, blackjack, trick-taking, and a Dutch Blitz-style speed game. You can find English rules for all of the games here.

Board Game: TrumPen

In the poker game, for example, each of the 3-6 players writes a hand of five cards, with cards ranging in value from A-9 with six players and with four suits being in play, then you call out card hands from high value to low: straight flush, four-of-a-kind, full house, etc. If no one has created a hand, you move on to the next lower one; if someone has created such a hand, they reveal it. If another player has used one of the revealed cards in their own hand, then the player who revealed their hand is out. Players can eliminate one another if they both have, say, full houses and they each used one or more cards that the other player did. Eventually one player will win the round or everyone will be eliminated.

The better your winning hand, the more points you score, so you're encouraged to take chances, and the game ends when someone has scored 5 points or nine rounds have been completed.

HIZURU is a game / art project on Kickstarter (link) that started as an event during Game Market Live in July 2021 during which the creators — working under the name "ボードゲームヒーローズ" (Board Game Heroes) — came up with the game idea and started developing it during a 48-hour interactive livestream, with the artists drawing pictures in response.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Draft cover art

The Kickstarter project page is almost entirely in Japanese, and Miss Merc (who writes a lot about JP games) notes that the KS project is also designed to help other creators learn how to run a Kickstarter, which means that the crowdfunding project is evolving along with the game itself. As of this writing, the project has another 28 days to go, so its timeline is longer than most, and ideally more details will come to light — especially since the project has opened a hundred English-language copies of the game. It would be good to know what you're getting unless you like the idea of diving into the unknown to see what ¥4,000 gets you!

• In May 2021, I wrote about すべてがちょっとずつ優しい世界 (A World Where Everything Is a Little Kinder), a press-your-luck card game from designer Taiki Shinzawa and publisher 双子のライオン堂 (Twins Lion Do). Through the end of August 2021, the publisher is Kickstarting a new printing of the game that will include rules in English.

Board Game: すべてがちょっとずつ優しい世界 (A World Where Everything Is a Little Kinder)
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Sun Aug 1, 2021 1:00 pm
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Grow Trees and Shed Seeds, Dominate a Garden, and Toss Veggies for a Greek Salad

W. Eric Martin
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• I receive press releases for many game announcements, but I miss far more than I see, which means it's perhaps understandable that I've discovered Thomas Franken's Forests of Pangaia only two weeks after the close of its Kickstarter campaign.

Board Game: Forests of Pangaia

This title from newcomer German publisher Pangaia Games looks gorgeous, almost as if Franken eyed Photosynthesis and said, "Cardboard trees are fine and all, but I think I can do better."

The description of this 2-4 player game is minimal, but you can check out the English rulebook here should you be curious about this early 2022 release:
Quote:
You are a young spirit of the forest, sent out by Gaia to bring the first life to the world. While you are growing your trees across the vast and barren lands of Pangaia, you must complete a series of rituals to honor Mother Nature. Those rituals unleash Gaia's energy of life and are the beginning of the endless cycle of growth and decay.

Board Game: Forests of Pangaia
Preview copy

In Forests of Pangaia, you grow your own forest and contend with other players for territory. Strategic choices are crucial along the way. Will you keep your forest calm and isolated or mingle with others to reap the benefits gained from diversity?
• Hearing of Power Plants from Canadian publisher Kids Table BG threw me as a game about industrial energy didn't seem to be in its wheelhouse, but the title was a ruse, a pun that will fit comfortably next to other titles in its line such as Bugs on Rugs and Creature Comforts.

So what is this Adam E. Daulton design for 1-5 players about? Plants that grant you power, as explained here:
Quote:
Every wizard in the neighborhood knows that the best spell components are grown fresh. Unfortunately, only one particular plot of fertile soil in the area is the best for growing magical plants. Everyone agrees to "share" the garden, but you have a plan: Your team of loyal sprites will use the powers of the plants to infiltrate the garden as it grows, so that when everything is in full bloom, the most potent patches will belong to you!

Board Game: Power Plants

In Power Plants, you are a wizard growing a shared garden of magical plants with your rivals. Each turn, you choose one of the patch tiles from your hand and add it to the growing garden. You can activate the added tile for its dynamic "plant" power or activate all the tiles it touches for their slightly weaker (but still very cool) "grow" powers. As the fields expand, you strategically deploy your sprites to gain control of more and more of the fantastic flora. Will your magical horticulture skills pay off?

Manipulate the garden's growth, gather magical gems, and deploy your team of loyal sprites to repel your competition and be in control of the most valuable fields when the garden is complete!
Board Game: Greek Salad
Board Game: Greek Salad
Original and new cover
• To continue with the greenery, in August 2021 German publisher HUCH! will release Greek Salad, a card game for 2-6 players from Dror Shomrat that first appeared from FoxMind Israel in the early 2010s.

How did this game make its way into the catalog of a German publisher a decade after its debut? I have no idea, but I'm always curious about such things, mostly because it provides evidence of how games are played and how they shift through the world from one culture to another.

In any case, here's how to play:
Quote:
Your goal in Greek Salad is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. Each player starts the game with six cards in hand, then you flip the top card of the deck until a vegetable card is revealed, reshuffling any revealed special cards back into the deck.

On a turn, you can play a vegetable card onto that discard pile as long as your card has at least one more ingredient of a type on the last card played. For example, if the most recently played card has 2 peppers, 4 tomatoes, and 1 piece of feta cheese, the next card played must contain at least 5 tomatoes, at least 3 peppers, or at least 2 pieces of feta cheese.

Board Game: Greek Salad

Alternatively, you can play a special card on a second discard stack. If you play salt, then the next player must play salt themselves or skip their turn and do nothing more than "mix the salad", that is, shuffle the played vegetable cards. If you play a mixing bowl, you flip the vegetable play requirement rule so that played veg cards must have fewer ingredients (but at least one) of a type on the most recently played card; another played mixing bowl cancels this rule. If you play a chef card, you can demand that everyone play vegetable cards that contain a certain ingredient (while following the current more-or-less rule) or you can prohibit an ingredient from being played; this rule lasts until the next special card is played.

If you can't play a card, you must draw a card. Keep taking turns around the table until someone plays their final card — which must be a vegetable card — and goes out, winning the game.
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Sat Jul 31, 2021 1:00 pm
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The Past Returns in Omega Virus: Prologue

W. Eric Martin
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U.S. publisher Restoration Games announced several upcoming releases during a press event in July 2021, but it had held back news of one additional forthcoming game, a game that will be preceded by a related but different, new design from Steve Aramini. Here's a quick take on Omega Virus: Prologue, a tiny two-player game due out in Q3 2021:
Quote:
Omega Virus: Prologue is a real-time, tableau-building card. Each player gets an identical deck featuring areas of the Battlesat as it is being ripped apart.

Board Game: Omega Virus: Prologue

Simultaneously, in real time, players reveal the top card of their deck and play it in front of them, creating a floor plan. Creating specific "rooms" allows a player to collect "keys", and these keys let a player play the "locked" cards from their deck into their floor plan. Each of these locked cards contains a piece of critical equipment. Locate all three pieces to win the round, earning points for being first and finishing round objectives. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins.
In case the title of this game wasn't a giveaway, yes, Restoration Games will release a new version of Michael Gray's The Omega Virus from 1992, something that at least one BGGer had speculated on starting in mid-2018 following the publisher's trademark application for the name.

Restoration Games will announce more details of this project at a future date, but ahead of that game's release, it's offering this design set in the same world of that earlier game.

Board Game: The Omega Virus
The original...
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Fri Jul 30, 2021 2:00 pm
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Control the Spice More Often, Trade Mysterious Artifacts, Rebuild Your Ancestral Village, and Survive on Plum Island

Candice Harris
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Microbadge: Great Western Trail fanMicrobadge: The Great Zimbabwe fanMicrobadge: Battlestar Galactica - I am a CylonMicrobadge: COIN fanMicrobadge: Twilight Imperium (fourth edition) fan
Board Game: Dune
Board Game: Dune
• In the past few months, Eric has mentioned a couple of exciting releases for Dune fans, including the upcoming co-operative, story-driven Portal Games release Dune: House of Secrets, as well as Rise of Ix, the first expansion for Dune: Imperium from Dire Wolf.

And if you're not completely Duned out yet, there's more! Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is a fast-paced, streamlined version of the classic Dune board game targeted for a September 2021 release from Gale Force Nine and the original Dune design team of Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, and Peter Olotka, along with Greg Olotka, and Jack Reda.

Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy is all about controlling the spice as you'd imagine, but this new version allows 2-4 players to get the flavor of the original Dune board game with some new surprises and a dramatically reduced playtime of 20-60 minutes. Here's a brief overview from the publisher of what you can expect gameplaywise:
Quote:
Take part in one of the most famous science-fiction stories of all time. Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy builds on forty years of development, refinement, and evolution from the original classic game. It has the same beloved DNA, flavor, tension, and themes, but with new game-board design, more spice, new streamlined rules, and a new market deck from which you can purchase game advantages. Also, the brand new two-player mode really opens up new gaming opportunities, all making the game more accessible for even the most casual gamer.

Board Game: Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy

In Dune, you will take control of one of the four great factions — House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Fremen, and the Imperium — all vying to control the most valuable resource in the universe: melange, the mysterious spice found only at great cost on the planet Dune. Ship your forces to Dune, harvest spice, seize control of strongholds, and destroy your enemies. Who will control Dune? You decide!

The game is played multiple phases, some of which don't have player-specific actions, such as the Spice phase, during which a Spice Blow card is drawn and spice is added to the board in two territories, or else a Sandworm attacks that last two territories where spice was placed. During the card phase, each player draws up to a hand of four Battle cards, then may purchase Market cards up to a hand of three for 2 spice each. On the Shipping and Movement Phase, players take turns adding forces to the board, then moving forces on the board.

The game plays 3-5 rounds. Starting on round 3, the game can end if a player occupies three strongholds at the end of the round. If no one occupies three strongholds at the end of round 5, then the player with the most spice wins (and each stronghold they occupy counts as 5 spice).
Board Game: Excavation Earth
Mighty Boards will be launching a Kickstarter campaign on August 3, 2021 for Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum, a new expansion from Dávid Turczi for the 2021 release Excavation Earth, which was designed by Turczi and Wai Yee, with Gordon Calleja.

If you're not familiar with the game, Excavation Earth is a science fiction-themed, market manipulation, pick-up-and-deliver, hand-management game with some area control and set collection in which 1-4 players take on the roles of different alien races competing to earn the most space bucks from digging up artifacts, then trading and selling them. Excavation Earth plays in 30-120 minutes and features vibrant, unique artwork from Philipp Kruse.

From the very brief description below from the publisher, it sounds like Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum adds more variety and some new twists to the base game:
Quote:
It Belongs in a Museum, the second expansion for Excavation Earth, introduces two new alien races, mysterious artifacts, a deck of technology cards and a whole, new museum board. It Belongs in a Museum adds new ways of scoring that create new paths to playing and winning the game.
Board Game: Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum

Now or Never is a Q4 2021 release in the world of Arzium (Above and Below and Near and Far) from designer and artist Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Games, who brought us the ever-popular 2021 release, Sleeping Gods.

In Now or Never, 1-4 players compete to rebuild their villages and guide the rest of the villagers on their journey home, while fending off strange monsters. In more detail from the publisher:
Quote:
Far to the south of The Last Ruin lies a cliffside village called The Monument. For generations, it protected an ancient shrine until the day a crystal meteorite descended. The meteor's denizens slowly crept out into the world — bizarre monstrosities from nightmare, attacking all in their path. As they spread across the land, there was no intelligent malice nor grand invasion strategy; the creatures acted like a fungus — spreading into new territory sporadically.

After many fruitless attempts to expel the monsters, the people of The Monument fled as their village crumbled, exiled to distant lands, resigned to a nomadic existence.

Twenty years later, there are rumors that the bizarre monsters are growing weak. They're slower, less impervious to attack, some undergoing a gradual petrification until they crumble to dust. Is it the atmosphere? Are they dying of old age? Do they suffer from a strange disease? No one is certain, but as the news spreads, various factions set their eyes on the vacant, ruined village of The Monument. The original villagers, now refugees, are desperate to return and rebuild. But they must do it quickly, before someone else claims their home. This is their chance. It's now or never.


In this game, you and up to three friends compete to best rebuild your ancestral village and guide the rest of the villagers on their journey home. Although the creatures of the meteorite have lost much of their strength, many of them remain, and you must fight them off to protect traveling villagers. Now or Never is the third game in the Arzium storybook series that includes Above and Below and Near and Far.

Board Game: Now or Never

Now or Never is a competitive strategy game that allows you to:

—Choose one of four asymmetrical characters to play.
—Rebuild the village so that returning villagers have a place to live. You must carefully choose what and where to build to maintain an advantage, earning the biggest rewards for long-term planning.
— Interact with other players by hiring their specialists to perform special actions.
—Combat dangerous creatures to rescue villagers.
—Explore a fantasy landscape filled with bizarre places, technology, and peoples.

Now or Never includes two modes of play: standard and story. When playing in story mode, you read from a storybook when you explore, making choices and learning more about the characters and the world. Each character has their own set of stories, unique to the locations they explore and diverse in plot, perspective, and motive, allowing you to choose what direction your own story will take.

Journey to The Monument and help rebuild your ancient home!
The Plum Island Horror is a co-operative, survival game for 1-4 players from Dawn of the Zeds designer Hermann Luttmann and GMT Games. Currently available for P500 pre-order on GMT's web site, The Plum Island Horror plays in 120-150 minutes, and sounds like it'll be a fun, unique, and challenging experience based on the high-level game overview (way) below. That is, of course, if you're not too spooked and actually make it through the background story first:
Quote:
On October 24th of an unspecified year — which we are legally allowed to disclose as only "from the recent past" — "Super Storm Nancy” plowed into the East Coast of the United States. Thousands of miles of coastline were devastated, but for Plum Island, a large albeit vulnerable atoll smack dab in the middle of the storm’s path of destruction, it was a horrifying gray-green, apocalyptic nightmare.

Plum Island is a sprawling isle off the Carolina coast and is home to the vibrant seaside town of Greenport. While the heart of the island's daily hustle and bustle lies in its commerce and tourism, the predominant employer and revenue generator for the island was housed in a huge complex of nondescript buildings located on the north end of the island. This mega-corporation was known locally as "The Pearl", or more precisely, the Plum Island Research Laboratory (P.I.R.L.). It was an enormous facility run by scientists who conducted government-sponsored biological research and experimentation. All legal and ethical practices of course — or so we were told.

After the hurricane's catastrophic cascade of water and wind abated, the island was crippled. All power was lost, there was much structural damage throughout, and the path to the mainland via the Great South Bay suspension bridge was rendered impassable. Due to a perfect confluence of unpredictable factors, the lab's super-secret and highly experimental cylinders ruptured. The entire facility was inundated with a horrific lethal mixture of chemicals resulting in the deaths and disfigurement of hundreds of personnel who were taking shelter from the storm within the main containment facilities.

But the true horror was yet to come — these "deaths" were only temporary incapacitations. The poor souls who succumbed to the toxins were somehow revived by the bizarre mixture of chemicals, returning to "life" as monstrously altered mutations. In retrospect, we refer to these reanimated creatures as "Horrors" because — well, honestly, what else could we possibly call them? The Horrors almost instantaneously evolved into vicious killing abominations that overwhelmed the survivors located in and near the main P.I.R.L. complex. After "The Pearl" was subsumed, there was only one place left to go to sate the voracious appetites of these re-born killers — a "human buffet" known as Greenport.


Board Game: The Plum Island Horror
P500 Cover Sample

The Plum Island Horror is a 1-4 player game featuring co-operative play that combines tactical-level unit management with a tower-defense style survival mechanism. Each player controls one of six unique factions that represent the various groups that populate Plum Island. Each of these factions has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the system encourages you to optimize for the group's strengths and marginalize its weaknesses. Players must co-ordinate with one another, and the resulting synergy will hopefully be enough to successfully evacuate a city under siege and contain the horrific outbreak that threatens to spread beyond the island itself. If the players can succeed, they will win together, and the world will most likely be none the wiser to the averted crisis. If not, they will lose together and share the blame equally for failing humankind.
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Fri Jul 30, 2021 1:00 pm
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Unboxing Catan: 3D Edition

W. Eric Martin
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In May 2021, publishers KOSMOS and Catan Studio announced a special 3D edition of Klaus Teuber's CATAN, and the world collectively rejoiced and said, "Finally, a game that we can play outside the confines of Flatland! I never thought I'd see a game with depth, but at last that day has come."

Board Game: CATAN: 3D Edition

Of course that day hasn't come yet as CATAN: 3D Edition isn't due out until August 2021, but that day is impending — unless you are reading this post after the game has been released, in which case yes, that day has come.

Anyway, Catan Studio sent me an unsolicited copy of CATAN: 3D Edition, so I thought I'd throw it in front of the camera and share the look of the game with you, gentle reader, in case you were curious about it. I had intended to play it as well and take more than a single picture of the game, but family matters intervened, and that's just how life works sometimes.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Should you be attending BGG.CON 2021 in November, you will have a better chance to check out this item as I plan to bring this game to Dallas and add it to the BGG Library for use during the convention. For now, this game is being used as a literal doorstop to keep my three cats from pushing open a door with a faulty latch and intruding upon a fourth cat that is housing with me temporarily. If nothing else, the game does make a fine doorstop because the box weighs nearly nine pounds!

As for how it might look on your gaming table, well, there's this:

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Thu Jul 29, 2021 1:00 pm
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Hunt or Be Hunted in Cryptid: Urban Legends

W. Eric Martin
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Hal Duncan and Ruth Veevers' Cryptid from 2018 is a delightful deduction game in which each of the 3-5 players holds a piece of information as to where a legendary creature is located, and the challenge is to discover enough of the other players' info — without revealing too much of yours — to track down that creature first. (For more details on the game, you can read Veevers' designer diary or check out my written and video overview.)

Now Duncan and Veevers have created Cryptid: Urban Legends, a two-player, asymmetric competitive game of deductive reasoning that publisher Osprey Games will release in April 2022. Here's an overview of the game:
Quote:
There's something hiding among us, a creature hitherto undiscovered prowling our very streets. If you track it down, well, that'd be the discovery of the century!

Board Game: Cryptid: Urban Legends

Play as a determined scientist manipulating heat, movement, and sonic sensors to scan the city, identify your quarry's true location, and capture them — or take the role of a cryptid, snaking your way through shadows and back alleys of the metropolis that surrounds you, eliminating all evidence of your existence as you go, desperately avoiding capture. Emerging victorious in this high stakes cat-and-mouse chase, played out across a sprawling urban landscape, will require all your ingenuity and foresight.
In the publisher's game announcement, the designers are quoted as follows:
Quote:
We've often described the game as a hidden movement game, but where the movement isn't actually hidden! While that might sound a like a joke, we actually arrived at the design by attempting to physically represent the possibility space of where the secret player could be in a hidden movement game. As the players engage in the game's core puzzle, they get to experience the highs and lows of seeing the cryptid's possible hiding locations grow and shrink. With both players manipulating a shared set of sensors, which can each move only once each round, they will have to balance choosing the right ones to move against managing their limited hand of cards. We hope that each round will give players an interesting new puzzle.
The concept of shared sensors makes me think of Mr. Jack, a two-player cat-and-mouse design from Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc in which the killer and the investigator manipulate characters and street lamps to try to respectively keep as many suspects on the game board as possible or eliminate suspects before time runs out. That 2006 design is a classic, so I'm curious to learn more about Cryptid: Urban Legends...
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Wed Jul 28, 2021 1:23 pm
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Bask in Summertime, Become a Hero of Undermountain, and Solve Crimes in Detective Rummy

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince: Summertime
• Designers Omari Akil and Hamu Dennis run their own publishing studio, Board Game Brothas, but in addition to releasing their own titles, they also pitch designs to others, and in July 2021 U.S. publisher WizKids will release one of those designs — Summertime, a quick-playing card game based on the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince song from 1991.

Yes, thirty years old, but still popping! We'll get to the game in a sec, but first:


As for the game, which is for 2-4 players and due out in July 2021, here's how it works:
Quote:
It's summertime, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince have invited you to hang with them at the hottest spots in Philly. You will cruise, groove, and unwind across town, trying to vibe with them to prove you're the coolest in the crew. Do you have the energy to keep up with everyone else who has their eyes on the crown?

In the game, players have to outwit each other with a series of tricky decisions. First, reveal a "spot" card — something like a block party, car show, or family reunion — each with one of five different vibes. Players then pick an action card, an energy card, and potentially a boost card to play all at once. Actions can give you boosts and cancel your opponents'. Energy cards have a variety of values and give you boosts if they match the spot's vibe, but you can use each energy card only once!

Board Game: DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince: Summertime

Once players have taken their actions, and energy has been counted, whoever has the most wins the spot! Spots are worth points on their own, but are worth extra points if they are collected as a set, or match a player's personal vibe.
Board Game: Turbo Sleuth
• Another July 2021 release from WizKids is Turbo Sleuth from newcomer Daniel Lee Yingjie, a 2-8 player game that from this description resembles a combination of Spot it! and a logic puzzle, with players trying to decipher who committed the murder with which weapon:
Quote:
A murder most foul has been committed! Old Miser McGreedy’s body hasn’t even been laid to rest, and the murder suspects are already seeking to divide up his fortune. Was it his wastrel of a son? The nervous maid? The shady business partner? Or the oddly nonchalent butler? Can you nab the culprit before time runs out?

Turbo Sleuth is a puzzly speed-solving game in which players compete simultaneously to find the solution to the round's challenge. Choose one of five cases to solve, with dozens of possible solutions depending on which cards are drawn. Search quickly for the right clues, some of which might look right at first glance, but will lead you astray...

Board Game: Turbo Sleuth
Sample cards

Only the first few players may attempt to solve the case, but rush to a hasty wrong judgment, and the murderer will up the ante for the next round!
Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Scrawlers – Heroes of Undermountain
• In October 2021, WizKids will release a title from another pair of designers — Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Scrawlers – Heroes of Undermountain from Vangelis Bagiartakis and Konstantinos Karagiannis.

This 2-4 player game is a real-time racing game in which you want to kill and collect as much as possible. In more detail:
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In Dungeon Scrawlers: Heroes of Undermountain, you and other adventurers are drawn together to delve into Undermountain, an immense underground of dungeons created by the Mad Mage, Halaster Blackcloak. Use your markers to trace your path, defeating monsters, casting spells, connecting artifact fragments, and collecting shiny treasure on the way! The round ends when one player defeats that dungeon's mighty boss, so you have only a few minutes to collect as much loot as possible. The player with the most points after exploring three dungeons wins!

At the beginning of each game, players pick one of five characters, each with a thematic ability that helps them collect one type of points more easily as they draw their line through the maze. Normally monsters or treasure need to be entirely covered with marker to be collected, but rogues need only to touch treasure, while barbarians need only to fill in the monsters' heads to defeat them! While anyone can cast a spell by tracing an intricate pattern, a wizard needs only to draw a small circle!

Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Scrawlers – Heroes of Undermountain

Dungeon Scrawlers contains ten unique mazes of increasing complexity, introducing new challenges as you go. These include portals, locked doors, multiple bosses, time limits, and more! With multiple paths through each maze, and over one hundred different three-maze combinations, you'll never have to stop scrawling!
• We'll wrap this WizKids round-up with an introduction to a project that designer Mike Fitzgerald has been working on for years — years, I tell ya!

Fitzgerald is the designer of the Mystery Rummy series of card games based on infamous characters and mysterious stories, games that feature rummy-style gameplay with twists related to the story. He's been working on a campaign game in this line for a long time, and WizKids has now announced a November 2021 release date for Detective Rummy, which is co-designed with Ralph H. Anderson. Here's an overview
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Detective Rummy is a rummy-style card game with a storytelling element revealed in a series of seven different cases. Players take the roles of detectives vying to solve the cases and gain fame.

Board Game: Detective Rummy
Non-final box graphics

The story begins at the legendary Rummy Detective Agency, and each case takes you to various locations to solve a crime, including the diner with the best doughnuts in town, the cozy "Quarter to 3 Bar", a ritzy fashion emporium, the circus, the most elite jazz nightclub in town, and more.

The cases in Detective Rummy can be played in two different ways: Campaign Mode and Case Mode. In Campaign Mode, you play all seven cases in order. In Case Mode, you can play cases 2 to 6 as standalone Detective Rummy games one at a time. Since new "Game Changer" cards are discovered in each case in different orders (if at all) each time you play, cases will never resolve the same way twice. You can play both the campaign mode or the individual cases as many times as you like.
Board Game: Detective Rummy

Board Game: Detective Rummy
Non-final components
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Tue Jul 27, 2021 1:00 pm
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Game Overview: Rocketmen, or Mars Ain't the Kind of Place to Raise Your Kids

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Rocketmen
Designer Martin Wallace has created several games that use a deck-bulding mechanism — that is, a system in which you start with a deck of cards and add more cards to the deck during the game to customize what you can do relative to other players — and those games have typically been embedded in an elaborate setting, whether real or fictional, with the deck-building being only part of the design. He's covered historical conflict in A Few Acres of Snow, Lovecraftian nightmares in A Study in Emerald, medieval fantasy in Mythotopia, and space opera in A Handful of Stars.

Now in Rocketmen, a 1-4 player game from Polish publisher PHALANX, Wallace challenges you to participate in the space race that started in the mid-20th century and that continues today, albeit mostly in private ventures.

You start with a deck of twelve mission cards, with the destinations for those missions being Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. Each mission details what you'll establish at the destination — a base, a hotel, an orbital station, etc. — along with the minimum number of engines you need to reach that destination and the reward you'll receive for doing this: rockets, money, research tools, and a larger hand size for cards. In addition, each card shows in the upper-left corner what the card provides to you when you play it: money, an engine, a computer chip, a flask, a DNA helix, and...nothing. Yes, one of the cards (the Base shown in the image below) is useless for resources, but it provides the most points for a Moon or Mars trip, so there's that.

On a turn, you can buy cards from the six on display, placing them in your discard pile for use the next time you cycle through your deck, but that's standard to most deck-building games. The unique hook in Rocketmen is the concept of establishing your mission, building the resources for that mission, then launching the rocket to see whether you succeed.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
I removed extra cards with one of the deck trimmers

In the image above, the Base is my mission. The cards to the left of my player board on my launch pad support that mission, with the Ion Drive providing four engines, and the other stuff providing tools for the specific destination or the launch itself. I have the flexibility to launch to the Moon or Mars — the two destinations shown on the card — and I need 10 engines before I can launch to the former and 15 before I can launch to the latter. If I lack those engines, I fail automatically. I also have one additional engine — as shown on the chit on my player board — thanks to an earlier completed mission.

The cost to start a mission is $10, which can be paid for by the mission itself (should it bear the $10 resource) or a separate card. Each additional card placed in your launch pad costs $10, and you can't add cards until the mission is established. You can't just pile up resources without some idea of what you're trying to do!

At the end of your turn, if you meet the engine threshold, you can attempt to launch. To do this, you count the number of icons in your launch pad that match your destination — computer chips for Earth orbit, flasks for the Moon, and helices for Mars — then advance the rocket token on the launch track this many spaces.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

You then shuffle the "mission success" deck, which consists of cards numbered 0-4, and you reveal — one by one — 3-5 cards depending on whether you're aiming for Earth orbit, the Moon, or Mars; after each revealed card, advance the rocket token on the launch track as many spaces as the number revealed. Cards in your launch area can modify or replace the cards revealed.

If the rocket token reaches space #8 (for Earth), #10 (Moon), or #13 (Mars) by the time you reveal the final card, your mission succeeds! You remove the mission card from the game (thereby thinning your deck), discard all cards in the launch pad, then claim the reward for that mission. If you fail to reach the target space by the final card, then your mission failed and you must still discard all cards in the launch pad. After all, you launched the rocket and those resources are now gone, despite the mission still being in place.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Sample engine card and asset cards from the top half of the deck

That said, after each card you reveal, you can choose to abort the launch. Effectively, you can imagine the mission success cards as being evidence that you've planned correctly enough for the mission to succeed. If you reveal 2-3 cards, and they're low numbers (and you can't modify them) and you don't want to rely on the longshot of flipping the lone 4 in the deck, you can abort the launch, discarding cards from the launch pad equal to the number of cards revealed minus one — which means that if you have enough engines, you can always try to launch and flip the first card without penalty.

Given all that, Rocketmen is an amalgam of deck-building, engine-building (via the bonuses you receive from successful missions), and press-your-luck mechanisms, and you're often driven in your choices — at least initially — by your two starting goal cards. These cards show one mission each in Earth orbit, on the Moon, and on Mars. At the end of the game, you choose one of these cards and score 1 point for goal completed, with bonus points if you completed enough of these goals before anyone else did.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Sample goal cards and crisis card

The first player to complete a mission scores 1 point more than anyone who comes afterward, and while a point here or there might not seem like much, the margin of victory in the four games that I've played on a review copy from PHALANX — two each with two and three players — have all been relatively tight. The first player to the Moon and to Mars pick up a 1 point bonus, and you can also "buy" crises cards in the market to solve them and earn 2 points for each at the cost of having them gum up your deck with their pointy uselessness.

Although in theory you could try to go anywhere on your first mission, you would need to acquire a ton of cards before succeeding with any Mars mission, so you effectively need to complete a mission or two in Earth orbit before heading to more distant locations, a nice replication of what has happened in reality with the probably not accidental result of players often competing to be first on identical Earth orbit missions, which means taking more risks.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Sample cards from the second half of the deck

We worried that the $20 bonus for completing a space hotel mission — money that you can spend each turn to purchase cards or pay for mission supplies — was too powerful, akin to a money strategy in most deck-building games, but that hasn't proved to be the case in practice. Again, part of the game is figuring out when to take risks, and if you build engines on the launch pad, you can take more launch attempts, and the more often you do that, the more chances you have of things clicking into place — as long as you have some number of icons to start with, mind you.

Or maybe not. In four games, no one tried to rely solely on the mission success deck to launch, and maybe we were overlooking that possibility to our detriment since it is possible to hit any of the targets solely with mission success cards. Hmm. I hadn't even considered that until writing this post, but that's possibly because I'm not one to swing wildly at long odds. That said, I won none of the four games I played, so perhaps I should get a clue and change my approach!

To find out more about how to play, see more of the cards you can add to your deck, and experience a few turns of play, check out this overview video:

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Mon Jul 26, 2021 1:00 pm
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Return to Mankind's Past to Place Dominos, Place Polyominoes, and Flip Tokens on Six Continents

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• Designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede has visited prehistoric times previously in Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, and now he's looking at the same period of time on a global scale in Fire & Stone, due out in October 2021 from Pegasus Spiele.

Board Game: Fire & Stone

Here's an overview of how to play this 2-4 player game:
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In Fire & Stone, players lead their tribe through the Stone Age. They scout new lands, harvest nuts and mushrooms, and finally build villages. The aim of the game is to have the most successful tribe by exploring new lands, building huts, and gathering resources. With the invention of new tools and techniques like ship building or pottery, the expansion of your tribe can even be accelerated.

Board Game: Fire & Stone

Each space the scouts can enter contains upside-down discover tokens. When a scout moves on one of those tokens for the first time, the token is revealed and triggers an effect. From now on these tokens can be used as a player action with a different effect. By the end of the game, the player who made the most victory points with villages and accomplishing tasks wins.
Board Game: Prehistories
• For another take on life in the Stone Age, we can turn to Prehistories, a polyomino-based game design with bidding and hand-management elements from Benoit Turpin (Welcome To...) and Alexandre Emerit that French publisher The Flying Games released in December 2020.

Here's an overview of this 2-5 player design that plays in 30 minutes:
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You are the leader of a prehistoric tribe, deciding which members of your tribe go hunting and what prey they want to catch. To guide you, the Elders have created challenges that you can complete by painting on the wall of your cave.

Each round in Prehistories, you and your fellow tribe leaders bid simultaneously (and secretly) to decide who hunts where. The more hunters you have, the bigger the game you can catch, but the slower you are. The fastest player — that is, the one with the smallest sum of hunters — goes first, but they have few hunters with which to hunt.

To hunt, you assign your hunters to one or more locations to catch the prey waiting there. Prey is represented by polyomino tiles, and the larger the tile, the higher the sum required. If you have just enough hunters to catch your prey, they might be wounded in the process, which means you'll draw fewer hunter cards at the end of the round to refill your hand. (They distrust your leadership when you get them injured!)

In the second phase of a round, you paint your cave with the animal tiles collected during the hunting phase. Your cave is represented by a 7x7 grid that starts with a few tiles already in place. The first tile you place goes in the left-hand column, and all subsequent tiles must touch tiles already placed, with all tiles being oriented so that the animals are viewed with their legs (or fins) down. (Cavemen have simple tastes and want everything to be representational.)

Board Game: Prehistories
Near game's end with three players

When you fulfill the wishes of the Elders by painting your cave in certain ways — such as completing a horizontal line or connecting opposing corners or surrounding a legendary animal on all sides — you place one or more totem tokens on that challenge. Whoever first discards their eight totem tokens wins.
Board Game: Kingdomino Origins
• And we'll stay in the past a bit longer to take a peek at Kingdomino: Origins, a standalone game for 2-4 players from Bruno Cathala and Blue Orange Games that plays similarly to 2016's Spiel des Jahres-winning Kingdomino, but with twists:
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Go back in time to the prehistoric era with Kingdomino Origins, which introduces new components for additional actions and new ways to score points. Regions in your territory will earn you points if they contain fire. Fire is either part of your terrains or earned by adding dominoes with volcanoes. There are three game modes to play:

—The first one introduces fire and volcanoes;
—The second mode uses wooden resources;
—And the third one features cavemen tokens.

Board Game: Kingdomino Origins

You earn points by collecting resources, with additional points when you have the majority of a type of resources. These resources allow you to bring cavemen to your territory, and each type of caveman has its own way to give you points based on their position.
Cathala presented an overview of this title (on a still in-progress version of the game) in French in February 2021:

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Sun Jul 25, 2021 1:00 pm
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