Kickstarter for a tabletop game project. Small world!
That cousin is Rebecca Horovitz, and her game is Annapurna, which is named after (from Wikipedia) "a massif in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes one peak over 8,000 metres (26,000 ft), thirteen peaks over 7,000 metres (23,000 ft), and sixteen more over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft)".
In this 1-4 player game, which is due out from publisher Fiat Lucre on March 26, 2021, you start with a deck of 18 mountain cards, laying out 15 of them face down in a pyramidal mountain and keeping the rest as your backpack. Each card has a yin or yang value of 1-4 on it as well as a special effect. To start the game, each player reveals a card in their bottom row, carries out the effect, then places their meeple on the card.
On a turn, you explore an adjacent card on a non-lower level by flipping it over, carrying out its effects, and placing your meeple on it; trade a card from your backpack with a card in your mountain, pacing the replaced card in a cache; or hide a card, which is the same as trade, but on another player's mountain. If your face-up mountain cards have a balance of yin and yang, you can remove them from play.
Once you reach the mountain's peak, you add your cache to your hand, then you can spend your turns doing nothing, dropping cards from your cache face up on the mountain to better balance your yin and yang, and throwing cache cards onto another player's mountain, who then flips up one of your remaining face-down cards.
You can play Annapurna competitively or co-operatively. In the competitive version, when everyone is at the peak, players score 3, 2, and 1 flags based on who is most balanced, with ties being broken in favor of whoever ascended their mountain first; play multiple rounds until someone collects nine flags and wins. In the co-operative version, you end the game after everyone has scaled their mountain, and you all win only if everyone has an even yin-yang balance.
Living Forest, the first game from designer Aske Christiansen and not the first game from publisher Ludonaute.
The 2-4 player game Living Forest is due out in October 2021, so we'll have time for a more detailed look at it in the future, but here's a summary for now:Quote:In Living Forest, you play as a nature spirit who will try to save the forest and its sacred tree from the flames of Onibi.• Continuing through the forest, we come to Meadow, a 1-4 player game from Klemens Kalicki and Rebel Studio. Here's an overview of this 2021 release which currently has only a Polish edition announced, but which is available for localization:
But you are not alone in your mission as the animal guardians have come together to lend a hand around the Circle of Spirits where you progress. Each turn, they bring you valuable elements, so try to combine your team of animal guardians as best as possible to carry out your actions, but be careful because some are lonely and do not like to be mixed with others...Quote:Meadow is an engaging set collection game with over two hundred unique cards containing hand-painted watercolor illustrations from Karolina Kijak.
In the game, players take the role of explorers competing for the title of the most skilled nature observer. To win, they collect cards with the most valuable species, landscapes, and discoveries. Their journey is led by passion, a curiosity of the world, an inquiring mind, and a desire to discover the mysteries of nature. The competition continues at the bonfire where the players race to fulfill the goals of their adventures.
In this medium-weight board game, you take turns placing path tokens on one of the two boards. Placing a token on the main board allows the player to get cards, but playing them requires meeting certain requirements. Playing a token on the bonfire board activates special actions (which helps to implement a chosen strategy) and gives the opportunity to achieve goals that provide additional points. Throughout the game, players collect cards in their meadow and surroundings area. At the end, the player with the most points on cards and on the bonfire board wins.
Meadow also includes envelopes with additional cards to open at specific moments...
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Reiner Knizia designs tend to have a long lifespan, either because the game itself becomes iconic (as with Lost Cities) or because the design is flexible enough to fit many different environments.
In 1996, for example, Austrian publisher Piatnik released Knizia's Grand National Derby, a game in which you were betting on which horses would complete a race, with you also influencing how those horses finished! I guess you were secretly working with the trainers to help or hobble horses as needed.
That design was then released on the U.S. market in 1997 by Avalon Hill as Titan: The Arena, with players now betting on which fantasy creatures would survive over time, with the creatures having various powers that you could use to affect the competition. Fantasy Flight Games re-released this design with the same setting, but a new look in 2007 as Colossal Arena.
Now in 2021, Plan B Games is bringing this design back to market, but with the setting not being creature combat in an arena, but instead more of an "arc of history" approach, with the creatures trying to land a spot in human memories.
Here's an overview of Equinox, which is due out in June 2021, with preorders shipping in April 2021:Quote:In Equinox, mysterious creatures gather in the forest in an effort to write themselves into the legendary storybook and for tales to be shared for countless generations. However, there is room for only four more stories — not every story will be recorded, so the creatures have to be cunning and clever to outwit their opponents and make the cut.
Equinox is a deeply satisfying betting game that gives players agency to influence the outcome of this competition. Each round, players place numbered power cards in front of the creatures, with the lowest-valued creature being eliminated from play. Players also place bets on which creatures they think will make it into the storybook, and you can use the special powers of these creatures to ideally turn things to your advantage.
Equinox contains fourteen unique creatures, two more than Colossus Arena, but only eight are used in a game, which means more than three thousand different combinations are possible.
What's more, to further cement the connection with the Century trilogy, Plan B Games plans to release a "golem edition" of Equinox toward the end of 2021 or start of 2022, with fourteen varieties of golem in the game! Now you can golem up all the golems you'd ever want to golem.
Note that the playmat shown in the image below is not included in the base game, but will instead be sold separately by Plan B Games, similar to what it's done for, yes, the Century line.
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19 Jan 2021
Edition Spielwiese has passed along an overview of its 2021 game releases, with the first title due out being Space Dragons, a trick-taking-ish card game from Richi Haarhoff, whose first release was the 2020 title Memorinth, also from Edition Spielwiese. (Haarhoff won the 2018 "Spiel des Jahres" author stipend based on those two designs.)
Space Dragons is for 3-5 players and plays out in 15-20 minutes. At the start of the game, each player receives a spaceship card as well as a hand of nine crew cards, with these cards being numbered 1-80 and featuring 0-3 symbols. After drafting these cards — choose one, pass the rest to the left, choose one, pass, etc. — you then begin the game, which will last seven rounds.
At the start of a round, you reveal a space dragon, which will have a point value and 0-2 symbols. Each player in turn plays one card face up in front of themselves, and whoever plays the highest card claims the dragon. (Your played cards stay in front of you, which is why the draft matters.)
Lower-value cards come with strong effects to help you during the game, while high-value cards might contain harmful effects. When you play a card with a shield, for example, you take an unused crew card from the deck and tuck it under your spaceship with the shield symbol visible. If play a (typically high) card with damage on it, for each damage symbol you either remove a shield from your ship or tuck a crew card under your spaceship with the damage symbol visible. Each damage costs you 5 points at game's end, while each shield is worth 1 point. For each tool symbol you play, you remove one damage. For each crosshairs played, at the end of the round whoever played the highest card must remove one shield or take one damage.
After seven rounds, you score points based on how your collected symbols match up against the scoring cards for that game. Whoever has the most science symbols might collect 10 points, for example, while the player with the fewest science symbols scores 5 points. Players also score for mood and crime, trying to collect the former and avoid the latter. Crew cards might also have positive and negative points.
You can also play Space Dragons using Haarhoff's original rule from the 2018 SdJ event. To do this, you forgo the draft, instead playing a card from your hand during a round, then passing your hand to the left and playing a card from the hand you receive. Doing so makes the game more chaotic since you can't draft a hand to your tastes, but this might be ideal for your first games since you don't know what you're doing anyway.
Johannes Sich's MicroMacro: Crime City — which I cover in this BGG News post — has proved to be a big success, and Edition Spielwiese's Michael Schmitt tells me that Crime City: Season 2 is scheduled for release in July 2021, with this being a standalone item with "some more complex cases set in a different part of Crime City". What's more, this title will have links to the original design, and says Schmitt, "In the end, the city will consist of four districts that can be placed next to each other. At the same time, we are preparing, among other things, a standalone app as well as other themed worlds, including a children's game."
• Near the end of 2021, Edition Spielwiese will release Swindler (a.k.a. Beutelschneider) from designer Matthias Cramer, with this being a 2-4 player press-your-luck game in which you're trying to steal items from various bags to complete challenges presented to you by the Guild of Thieves. As you earn money by selling items to fences, you can hire accomplices with special powers. You can earn your turn when you wish, but if you draw a skull from a bag and cannot protect yourself from it, you must return all items you have of this color, even if you collected them on an earlier turn.
- [+] Dice rolls
18 Jan 2021
MicroMacro: Crime City by Johannes Sich is an ingeniously simple and engaging design, but before you even get to the experience of being a detective and "solving" criminal cases in this horrible location, you should take a few moments to appreciate the brilliant packaging by publisher Edition Spielwiese:
The first step toward selling a game is getting people to do more than just glance at the cover. I will confess that I've stalked the aisles at various Target retail stores, watching how people look over the games on display. A surprisingly small percentage of people who scan game covers pick up a game to look at it more closely, and of those who do, few of them turn the game over to look at the back cover and learn more about it.
To avoid this situation, Edition Spielwiese lays out everything about this design on the front cover, starting with this callout bubble that is likely the first thing you see after the central logo:
"Who murdered the burger vendor?" Conveniently, the burger vendor is located in the upper-left corner of the box, and that corner is probably the third thing you look at when "reading" the box (depending on your native language, of course):
And what do you notice when you spot the burger vendor? You see him again nearby! Wait, what?! Turns out you're not viewing a static image, but rather an image of the city displayed over time, and you can follow some of the inhabitants to see their story in action.
In fact, you might spot someone else keeping an eye on the burger vendor, too, someone who is following the vendor, perhaps on the suspicion that he's carrying the day's take to the bank...
Seeing where the vendor is headed, you can make assumptions about where he'll be next, so you follow the path and, yep, there he is again, still being followed — and now that creep has a weapon!
What's going to happen ne—
Well, we already knew that the burger vendor was murdered, and now we've seen the crime unfold. What's more, we know where the murderer is now and which direction he's heading, so let's go nab him!
Not all games can be explained this simply and intuitively, but the choices made here are great. Let me point out, though, that MicroMacro: Crime City is, strictly speaking, not a game. I added this title to the BGG database following its announcement by game publisher Edition Spielwiese, but you have no time limits when solving these cases and no points awarded for doing well or deducted for doing poorly.
Still, don't let that minor detail be a distraction from what this design offers, namely hours of entertainment, whether on your own or with others gathered close by peering at the thousands of tiny details hidden in this 43" x 29" 3D city map.
MicroMacro: Crime City includes sixteen cases that escalate in difficulty, with the first case (as shown in the video below) leading you through the details of how to "solve" a case: find this location, answer this question, which leads to another question, and so on. As the cases get more difficult, they cover more parts of the city, introduce new forms of transportation that are harder to follow, and feature characters who are less distinctive. I mean, you can hardly miss the mustache on that burger vendor, which makes it easy to track him, but when you get to the hardest cases, you might have to track someone from behind by the arrangement of bumps on their head.
You need to peek in windows and make guesses as to where someone might have gone or from where they might have started. You can play the cases on "advanced" mode by looking only at the initial situation — a man was found shot in the parking lot of the hardware store — then trying to unravel the case without looking at the question cards. Look for clues, retrace their possible steps, and only when you think you know what happened will you look at the other case cards, trying to answer all of them as you retell the story of the crime. This is a far more difficult way to play!
Once you finish those cases, the rulebook includes teaser sentences for three other cases — e.g., "At the café in the south, a man reports to the police that his handbag was stolen. Where is it?" — and four more cases are available on the publisher's website. Beyond that, you can just spend a long time poring over the map, amazed by the variety of (mostly negative) life exhibited there. What's more, publisher Edition Spielwiese, which sent me a review copy of MicroMacro: Crime City, has plans for additional titles in the line, and I'll write about them in a Jan. 19, 2021 BGG News post.
To see more of the city and follow the details of the introductory case, watch this video, which features lead detective Max Martin:
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dV Giochi — plans to purchase fellow Italian publisher Ghenos S.r.l., which operates under the brand "Ghenos Games".
To quote from the press release, "With this new combination, dV Giochi aims to strengthen its presence in the Italian and global board game market through an expansion of its offerings, an extension of its commercial network, and a merger of the two company's teams." The dV Giochi brand will be used globally for games aimed at families and casual players, while the Ghenos Games brand will go on "hard-core" games that are localized for the Italian market or original to the entire world.
More from the press release:Quote:"The acquisition of Ghenos Games is the result of an intense year of work on a joint project. Thanks to the commitment of the entire team, today we are now a unique market player, with strong know-how, a structured corporate organization, and a highly ambitious growth plan," commented Roberto Corbelli, dV Giochi's CEO. "Therefore, we give our warm welcome to our new colleagues."Asmodee Group purchased French online retailer Philibert, which also runs three stores in Strasbourg. Ludovox notes that Philibert employs 78 people with annual revenue of €16 million. A (Google translated) excerpt from the Ludovox article about the purchase:
Alfredo Genovese, from Ghenos S.r.l., declared: "We were absolutely convinced to join the dV Giochi group, aiming to build a leading company in the board game industry. We will offer our contributions to this project, imbued with our history, our style, and our expertise. Ghenos and dV Giochi are perfectly complementary, like two pieces of a puzzle: one is focused on importation and it's 'geek-oriented', while the other is fully committed to exportation and it's aimed towards families. We also share vision, values, and attitudes. We just created a company with great potential, made up of people with remarkable skills."Quote:By buying a large online sales site in this way, Asmodee can already save on a portion of its game sales by reintegrating the direct sales margin into the group. Given the depth of Asmodee's catalog and Philibert's turnover, we can bet that this is a very good operation for them. Publishers recently told us that when a game was launched, Philibert could represent up to 30% of French sales, or even up to 50% on expert games.February 2020 article from Nick Bentley about the direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales system used by his current employer Underdog Games, which released Trekking the World from company co-founder Charlie Bink in September 2020. DTC sales already take place for a number of small publishers, not to mention those who use Kickstarter and forgo distribution, but Bentley was interested in finding a publisher aiming for large sales to a mainstream market, which is how he ended up working for Underdog.
- [+] Dice rolls
15 Jan 2021
Cuba Libre (Volume II), designed by Jeff Grossman and Volko Ruhnke and published by GMT Games.
In anticipation of playing Cuba Libre, I set it up, ran the playbook, and learned the rules. I even watched The Cuba Libre Story documentary series on Netflix because I was so excited to be fully immersed in its history and theme. I was eager to play it, but could not seem to get it to the table. Months flew by, and I continued to try to play Cuba Libre, but it just never worked out, so I'd continue to think, "One day….one day."
Gandhi: The Decolonization of British India, 1917–1947 (Volume IX), designed by Bruce Mansfield...but then those plans got pushed to the back burner because of the global pandemic. Once again, I thought, "One day….one day."
A little over a year after I bought Cuba Libre, I FINALLY got to play it! Even better, I played it twice in back-to-back weeks with the same group of friends — but I played staring at my laptop on Tabletop Simulator. It was not how I envisioned my first COIN game going down, but nonetheless, it was a blast, especially having the opportunity to play it again with the same group. We all understood everything much better the second time and didn't need to refer to the rulebook nearly as often.My first game of Cuba Libre!
At this point, some of you may be wondering what a COIN game actually is. GMT describes the COIN series as follows:Quote:This series features Volko Ruhnke's game system presenting guerrilla warfare, asymmetric warfare, and COunterINsurgencies around the world — in both historical and contemporary conflicts.
Colonial Twilight (Volume VII), designed by Brian Train, which I spontaneously played with my friend Drew one random Saturday night when the two of us were looking to sneak one more game in for the day. I don't think it's typical to hear "spontaneously played" followed by any COIN game. That made it all the more memorable a night.
Colonial Twilight is the first two-player game in the COIN series, and historically it covers the French-Algerian War from 1954-62. Neither of us had played it or fully read the rules, but since we both had some COIN experience at this point and a whole lot of COINthusiasm, we were able to just set it up, skim through the rules and playbook, and start playing it in less than an hour.
I had already seen the The Battle of Algiers movie, which someone on BGG or Reddit had recommended, so I was loosely familiar with the history — which helped with diving into the game without reading the historical background details in the rulebook and playbook.My spontaneous game of Colonial Twilight
The gameplay for Colonial Twilight felt very tense, like Ruhnke's award-winning, two-player card-driven wargame Labyrinth: The War on Terror, but it also felt undeniably like a COIN game with its map, mechanisms, and event cards. I was impressed with how the eligibility system was revamped for two players in Colonial Twilight, so I was naturally curious when I read about GMT's latest COIN release: All Bridges Burning: Red Revolt and White Guard in Finland, 1917-18 (Volume X), the first three-player COIN game. I reached out to Gene at GMT, and they graciously hooked me up with a copy so that I could check it out.
All Bridges Burning is a COIN game for 1-3 players designed by VPJ Arponen that's focused on the Finnish Civil War of 1917-1918. The game allows players to recreate the military and political affairs leading up to and during this historical conflict, and it features gorgeous artwork from Chechu Nieto. Nieto has contributed art for several other games in the series, including Andean Abyss (Volume I), Cuba Libre (Volume II), A Distant Plain (Volume III), Fire in the Lake (Volume IV), Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar (Volume VI), Colonial Twilight (Volume VII) and Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain (Volume VIII), but the pastel textured box cover and beautiful, snowy-looking map in All Bridges Burning especially stand out to me.
Off the bat, I knew nothing about the Finnish Civil War, but GMT, as always, goes above and beyond to include a wealth of historical background details that set the tone and help create an enriching, deep gaming experience. In addition, design notes are sprinkled throughout the rulebook to further demonstrate how the game mechanisms are tightly interwoven with the theme/history. They also go the extra step to include detailed historic notes for every single event card, so there's no shortage of learning opportunities. It's fantastic!
In All Bridges Burning, three asymmetric factions — the Reds (red), Senate (white) and Moderates (blue) — compete to define the shape of Finland after the collapse of Russian Tsarist rule. The Reds represent the Finnish working class and their military support, the Red Guard militias, who are seeking to stage a successful revolt to establish socialist rule in the country. On the other side, the Senate White Guard, acquiring political support from the bourgeoisie and nobility, is trying to suppress the leftist revolt and establish bourgeoisie rule in the country. While the Reds and Senate duke it out, you also have the non-violent Moderates in the mix working to secure the political survival of parliamentary democracy and trying to keep national sentiment even keel enough for post-conflict settlement.
The factions are represented by (hexbox) cells of their corresponding color, and the Moderates and the Reds have discs representing networks and administrations, respectively. The cells are considered either active if star-side up or inactive when star-side down. In previous COIN games, it's usually bad when your cells are active because they're more susceptible to being attacked, but in All Bridges Burning active cells play a crucial role in gameplay in a different way. Depending on which faction you are, you usually want to have as many active cells as you can dispersed on the map.
You'll also have cubes representing non-player external powers — German troops (gray cubes) friendly to the Senate, and Russian troops (brown cubes) friendly to the Reds, seeking to further their geopolitical aims in Finland while providing some additional military muscle to their respective sides.
Core to all COIN games is the event deck. The event deck in All Bridges Burning is divided into two halves — 1917 event cards on the top half and 1918 event cards in the bottom half — and the entire deck is seeded with four propaganda cards to form a 40-card deck. The deck is prepared such that the first ten cards have a propaganda card seeded in the bottom five cards, stacked on top of another ten cards with another propaganda card shuffled into the bottom five cards, and so on.
When the event deck is good to go, you reveal the top card as the current event and reveal a second card on top of the deck as the upcoming event so that everyone knows which event is up next...with a slight caveat. After four rounds, when you're shifting the fifth event card to be the current event, there's a chance a propaganda card might be revealed. When that happens, you immediately pause "normal" gameplay and resolve a propaganda round, for which you're hopefully prepared.
The event deck not only brings some extra historical flavor and context to the table, but also adds an element of excitement to the game and gives players some enticing options when it comes to making decisions from turn to turn. I'll note that after you set up the event deck, there will be six unrevealed cards leftover (three each from 1917 and 1918) that won't be in the game, so if you ever get to a point that you're familiar with all of the events, this will add some mystery since you won't know which ones are out of play.
In a round of All Bridges Burning, players choose and take actions or pass in eligibility order, spending resources for commands, then eligibility is adjusted and a new event card is drawn. Play continues this way until a propaganda card is revealed, at which point a propaganda round is triggered in which victory conditions are checked, followed by a politics phase, with players gaining resources and support and resetting some things on the board.
All Bridges Burning is divided into two phases, starting with the pre-war build-up and shifting into the actual war. The shift to phase 2 can happen in two ways, either when Reds and Senate cells on the map total 27+ or after the second propaganda card is resolved.
Eligibility (turn) order is decided randomly during set-up, but after that it's based on what players choose. The first eligible faction gets the pick of the litter when choosing their move. They can execute a limited command, a command with special activity, trigger the event, or pass. Depending on which option they choose, the next eligible faction will have three choices, then the third eligible faction will have two choices. For example, if the first eligible faction decides to take the event, the next eligible can either execute a command (w/ special activity), a limited command, or pass. The only action that moves your marker to the ineligible box is when you take a command w/special activity. In four-player COIN games, the event cards themselves have faction icons in a certain order which dictates when you'll get to choose an action or pass, but when you take any action, you're ineligible for the next event. In All Bridges Burning, you could potentially take the event back-to-back turns, although I doubt your opponents would just let that happen.
After all players have taken a turn or passed, eligibility is adjusted based on the letters on the actual boxes. This is what determines eligibility order for the next round.
With this eligibility system, challenging choices arise. If you're first up, maybe you pass because you really want dibs on the upcoming event card? But then that leaves the current event open for one of your opponents, which could be harmful to you. Sometimes you have to sacrifice what you wanted to do to protect yourself from something else. Or what if the current event is way too juicy for the next eligible player, so you decide to defensively take the limited command to make sure no one gets to trigger the current event this turn. Or what if you really need to take a full command with a special activity because you know the propaganda card is likely to appear soon, but doing so makes you ineligible for the next turn. There are so many interesting decisions that spawn from this innovative eligibility system. I think it's awesome how the COIN eligibility system was adapted for three players in All Bridges Burning; it feels balanced and flows seamlessly.
Only one player can choose the current event each round. Event cards will have one or two options you can leverage to change the state of the game without needing to spend resources. There is plenty of variety when it comes to the events in All Bridges Burning, and depending on which faction you are playing, certain events could be extremely beneficial to you, while others won't pertain to you at all. There are events that allow players to gain resources and capabilities, or take resources away from opponents, execute commands, update Opposition/Support, add or remove cells from the board, and so on. I find it to always be exciting when a new upcoming event is revealed so that you can weigh your options and plan accordingly, and of course, anticipate when the next propaganda card might be coming.Event card examples
When you're not jumping on an event card, most of your turns will be spent executing commands. Usually commands cost one resource per space and you use plastic pawns to mark which spaces you're "activating". When taking the standard command, you can optionally execute a special activity as well. Because of this and the fact that you can impact multiple spaces and potentially have a big turn, you will be ineligible on the next turn. Whereas if you take a limited command, you'll be able to perform a command in only one space with no special activity, so you will be eligible on the next turn. Again, this is all super clean and easy to keep track of in the Sequence of Play area of the game board.
To give you a little more insight on the commands, all factions have a Rally command which allows you to put more cells (dudes) on the map and build up your forces. The Reds and Senate have an Activism command which mainly allows them to either reduce Polarization (which is helpful for victory conditions) or activate/deactivate enemy and friendly cells, which will help execute other commands, prevent your opponents from executing certain commands, in addition to helping gain support during the propaganda rounds. During an Activism command, the Reds can also potentially Agitate to create more opposition in spaces they control with an Administration disc, which is helpful for their victory conditions.
The Reds and Senate have a Terror command which helps remove enemies in addition to increasing Polarization. You'll place terror markers of your faction's corresponding color on the space and this makes the Rally command more expensive for your opponents, but applies to the Reds and Senate only. The Moderates just don't have time to be bothered with the Reds and Senate's petty terror antics.
The Reds and Senate have Attack and March commands, but these cannot be used until the game hits phase 2, so there's a lot of build up in phase 1, then as soon as phase 2 hits, gloves are dropped and it's on. These two commands are pretty common in COIN games from what I've seen, and they function exactly as they sound. March lets you move cells into an adjacent space and Attack lets the Reds and Senate battle each other to remove enemies. When it comes to the Attack command, there's a whole procedure to follow to determine the attack strength and it will feel a bit tedious initially, but after you go through it a couple times and follow the handy player aid, it isn't very complicated at all — just lots of different modifiers to consider. I'll also note that German and Russian troops in the battle location will fight, too, and impact the attack strength.
When it comes to the Moderates, in addition to the Rally command, they have a Message command that allows them to move and hide their cells while optionally carrying either News or the Personality token. The News tokens represent important pieces of information and are placed on the board in phase 2 by German landings and when attacks send defenders to prison. The Moderates really want to grab news and take it to their personality to benefit their cause via the Personality special activity, which helps the Moderates resolve political issues and in turn, help meet their victory conditions.
Regardless of which faction you are, never underestimate the power of passing in a COIN game. Passing lets you gain a resource, which is helpful and sometimes absolutely necessary so that you can fund future commands, but more importantly (in most cases) it will give you an eligibility advantage for the next turn which can be powerful and critical at times based on an upcoming event or other happenings on the board.
Once you get into the 1918 event cards, the Germans begin taking actions when an event card has a "German Action Phase" banner. There's a straight-forward flowchart you use to determine what action the German troops will take; they'll either land on random Landing Sites on the board, attack, march, or do nothing. However, if the Senate player takes the Coordinate special activity, they get to place the Coordinate marker on the German eligibility cylinder and decide all the details for the German action phase.
I mentioned Polarization above a few times, and I feel it's important to hone in on the Polarization track since it's something unique to All Bridges Burning. The Polarization level represents the level of national unity between the factions, and all factions can manipulate the Polarization level when executing various commands and events throughout the game. This is something all players have a vested interest in considering since Polarization impacts events, commands, and special activities, in addition to each faction's victory conditions.
As with all COIN games, each faction in All Bridges Burning has its own unique victory conditions tied thematically to their historical motivations. The Reds need to build up enough opposition to the bourgeois rule, keep Polarization on the lower side, and make sure they're not over-leveraging the support of Russian troops. The Senate need to gain enough town populations back under Senate Control and similar to the Reds, they need to keep Polarization on the lower side in addition to keeping their German vassalage level down. Meanwhile, the Moderates need to gain an abundance of resources and accumulate political will by organizing into networks and resolving political issues, while also keeping Polarization at a moderate level.
Timing is everything in COIN games. Each time a propaganda card is revealed and resolved, the first step is checking to see whether any faction meets its victory conditions, and if so, the game ends. If not, the game will definitely end after the fourth and final propaganda card is resolved. In either case, if a single faction has met its victory conditions, it wins. In a tie, the faction that reached the highest victory margin wins the game. There's even a chance that Russia and/or Germany will come out as the winners, so be careful! The fact that you have to set yourself up to be winning at the time a propaganda card reveals keeps every player engaged with what their opponents are up to. You'll often have to work together to hold someone back, and it creates a three-way tug-of-war at some moments in All Bridges Burning. You have to strategize smartly, keep your plans to yourself, and think a few steps ahead of your opponents.
If you're planning to play All Bridges Burning solo or with two players, you'll be happy to know the game includes slick non-player decks that are way more streamlined than the older, intimidating flowchart non-player system. I fumbled my way through a solo game after playing multiplayer only once and got crushed. Even with the added efficiency of having the non-player decks, it's still a complex game and you'll probably make mistakes like I did until you get familiar with the game and how each faction works. I will admit, I took the shortcut and bypassed the non-player examples of play in the Playbook, and that probably would've primed me better. Regardless, I would definitely revisit All Bridges Burning anytime if I'm looking for a heavy, thematic solo experience packed with tough decisions and plenty of complexity to stimulate my mind — but realistically, I'll probably mostly play with three players because I thoroughly enjoy the player interaction.Me getting whooped in my solo game as the Senate
I've played only a couple of games of All Bridges Burning, a couple of games of Cuba Libre, a game of Colonial Twilight, and a half game of Liberty or Death and I am by no means anywhere near an expert when it comes to understanding COIN games — but from what I have experienced so far, I think they're awesome!
I won't sugarcoat it; they definitely all require a decent amount of time and energy, as well as several plays to fully grasp, especially if you're new to the series/system. But I find the experience of learning and playing these games so fulfilling and fun, that the time and energy investment is 100% worth it. Of course, due to their complexity, they are a bit challenging to get to the table, especially during pandemic times, but All Bridges Burning is pretty accessible with its smaller scale map and the fact that you need to learn only three factions instead of four.
I think that gamers, especially heavy gamers who love or are curious about asymmetrical gameplay should give one of these games a whirl. Most of my friends who love COIN games don't come from a wargame background; they're eurogame game fans like me — and if you're into Root but haven't explored the COIN series yet, I suspect you'll dig it, especially if you enjoy historical board games. After all, Root was inspired by the COIN series.
In 2020, I dipped my toes into 18xx and the COIN series for the first time. Having played multiple games in each, I appreciate how much easier it is to get into other games in their respective series after you've played one. After I finally played Cuba Libre, for example, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to jump into Colonial Twilight.
From a design perspective, I'm fascinated by how the eligibility system, the event cards, and the asymmetric factions all work together, blended with mechanisms that are tied so well to the historical themes. I also love that all the COIN games share familiar elements, but no two games are the same. There's always some variety and twists on mechanisms, and of course each game has a completely different setting.
The COIN series is continuously evolving in terms of gameplay, but also in terms of themes, historical or otherwise. I'm stoked to check out the upcoming releases which I'm sure will continue to bring fresh edge to the series: People Power: Insurgency in the Philippines, 1983-1986 (volume XI and the second three-player COIN game), China's War: 1937-1941 (volume XII) from COIN guru Brian Train, and the highly anticipated, Red Dust Rebellion (volume XIII) which is the first futuristic-themed game in the series.
I mentioned how Joel Toppen's Comanchería came onto my radar and got me into historical board games in my Zenobia Award post from November 2020. Well, it is also the reason I initially discovered the COIN series. I told my friend Hector about Comanchería when I was learning it, and he asked me whether it was a COIN game. I had no clue what a "COIN" game was at the time, but I'm glad my curiosity led me to this series and I'm looking forward to exploring it further!My most recent Tabletop Simulator game of All Bridges Burning, where I won as the Moderates
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14 Jan 2021
Pandsaurus Games sent me the following cover image, noting that it was for a game that would be announced on January 13, 2021 — and while I was thankful for Loe sending me the image in addition to submitting a game listing in the BGG database ahead of time, I was bummed that I couldn't share the image right away. I mean, how bewitching is this?!
In any case, the BGG page for Umbra Via — the first published design from Connor Wake — is now live, and here I am sharing that cover with you.
As for what's happening in this 2-4 player design, which won the 2019 Cardboard Edison Award and which bears a March 17, 2021 street date, here's an overview:Quote:Just beyond the towering vines lies an ancient pathway into the unknown. Push back the thorn-riddled stocks to discover a clandestine garden, blooming with mysterious vigor. Vivid colors mark the way to intricate tiles zigging and zagging through the green. Within the flowers lies the key to greater meaning. An explanation for all things unknown...wrote about Scooby-Doo: The Board Game, a co-operative design for 1-5 players from Guilherme Goulart, Fred Perret, and CMON Limited that was due out "soon".
In Umbra Via, players compete to control and complete the most cunning paths. Reach into your bag to select wooden flowers, then place them on your secret board in the order of the paths you want most. But when players reveal their choices, things get delightfully tricky. Experience the magic of Umbra Via and find out why this award-winning design belongs on any table.
In more detail, at the start of each round four tiles are revealed from the deck, with each tile showing part of a path, e.g., a straight line, a curve, or a T. Players secretly draw three cubes from their bag and place them on spaces on their personal board corresponding to these tiles. They all reveal their choices, move their cubes to the chosen tiles, then secretly place three more cubes, then move those cubes to the tiles. Whichever tile ends up with the fewest cubes on it is placed in the 4x4 grid first, maintaining the same orientation, by the player who bid the most cubes on that tile. (Some cubes in your bag are worth two cubes during the bidding phase, but are then removed from the tile and returned to your bag prior to placement.) Then the next tile is placed on the grid, and so on.
When you place a tile, if all the "open" ends of that path are cut off — whether by the edge of the board or other tiles — you count how many cubes each player has on the path. The player with the most placed cubes retrieves "double-bidding" cubes from the reserve equal to the number of tiles in the path, adding these cubes and all other cubes to their bag. The player with the secondmost cubes on the path retrieves half this many "double-bidding" cubes, and so on. After removing and returning all the cubes on this path, remove the tiles from the grid, placing them in a discard pile.
As soon as a player has retrieved all of their "double-bidding" cubes from the reserve, they win!
As you might already know from your experience as both child and adult, "soon" is relative to many other things. In this case, "soon" means November 2021 as CMON Limited has launched a weeklong Kickstarter for what it's calling "The Animation Collection", a trio of games that includes the title above, as well as two games designed by Alexio Schneeberger that are related to one another: Looney Tunes Mayhem and Teen Titans GO! Mayhem. Here's an overview of these two games:Quote:Teams of toons and Titans square off in these two games, with each team racing to be the first to collect 5 victory points (VP).
The games are built around the "Mayhem System", a system for character vs. character team-based combat in which the most direct method for a team to gain VP is by KOing their opponents. Characters use items and powers to battle the enemy team, with battle damage changing each round based on the mayhem die. When a character is KOed, they are removed from the board and their opponent gains VPs, with the KOed character returning to play next round.
When you're not fighting in Looney Tunes Mayhem, you might be able to gain VPs from classic cartoon locations. The "Poker Stars" location, for example, allows a toon that moves onto it to try their luck; if you roll a star on the mayhem die, your team collects a VP immediately. The "Home Sweet Home" location gives your team a VP the first time both characters from your team arrive there. The "Desert Road" location gives out ACME deliveries, providing characters with additional effects to make their opponents go KABOOM!
When you're not fighting in Teen Titans GO! Mayhem, you use teamwork to complete missions from the special GO! deck for a chance to gain VPs — but you might prefer to fight given that all of the Titans have a power that directly attacks their opponents, either through an attack or through fire tokens. Fire tokens deal damage equal to the mayhem die, just like a regular attack, but deal their damage at the beginning of each round.
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posted about the founding of Unexpected Games, a new studio under the Asmodee umbrella "centered around innovative design and spearheaded by renowned game designer Corey Konieczka", with Konieczka having left his role as VP of Research & Design at Fantasy Flight Games in mid-2019 to start this new position.
The first title from Unexpected Games — initially due out in 2020, but now scheduled for release in Q2 2021 — is The Initiative, a 1-4 player co-operative game from Konieczka that seems unlike anything he's done previously. Here's an overview:Quote:The Initiative — a unique board game of story, strategy, and code-breaking — lets players take on the role of teenagers in 1994 who have found a mysterious board game called "The Key". Not only will they play The Key, but players will help the teens through a pivotal chapter of their lives by following a series of missions linked together via an interactive comic book.And an excerpt from a press release announcing this design:
The game's campaign is broken into a number of chapters, each taking 30-60 minutes to complete and each starting with you reading a page of the comic book. The story advances even if players fail a mission, but winning may provide a reward in the future. Each chapter builds on the knowledge and story from previous chapters, weaving narrative, code-breaking, and mystery into one thrilling game experience.Quote:"This game started as a passion project," Head of Unexpected Games, Corey Konieczka, explains. "I've been crafting this idea for years, and I can't wait for people to experience it for themselves."That's all the written info released so far about The Initiative, so for now I'll leave you with this image that will be used on the back of the box:
The Initiative marks the first release from Unexpected Games. Konieczka joined the team at Fantasy Flight Games in 2005 and is best-known for his work on such beloved games as Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, Star Wars: Rebellion, and Mansions of Madness: First Edition...
"Corey has continued to impress me with his innovative and immersive game design over the decade. We have worked together closely and what I have seen so far of his first game under Unexpected Games is exciting and will get a lot of attention," said Steve Horvath, Head of Publishing for Asmodee USA.
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FryxGames and Stronghold Games have released the barest of information about Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition — which is subtitled "The Terraforming Mars Card Game" on the Kickstarter preview — but given how many fans Terraforming Mars has, I thought it wise to share that smidgen of info about this 1-4 player design from Sydney Engelstein, Jacob Fryxelius, and Nick Little:Quote:Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition is an engine-building game in which players control interplanetary corporations with the goal of making Mars habitable (and profitable).• There's so little to say about the design above that I have a somewhat large chunk of space to fill to accompany the image at right, so let me offer the Wikipedia summary of Philip K. Dick's novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, sections of which take place on Mars:Quote:The novel takes place in a future 2016 where humankind has colonized every habitable planet and moon in the Solar System. To cope with the difficult life away from Earth, colonists rely on the illegal hallucinogen Can-D, secretly distributed by corporate head Leo Bulero. New tensions arise with the rumor that merchant explorer Palmer Eldritch has returned from an expedition in possession of a new alien hallucinogen to compete with Can-D.Lots of promo ideas to be found for Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition in PKD's work!
Renegade Game Studios has released info on a giant game due out in Q4 2021 from designer T. C. Petty III, who has been working as a game developer with Renegade since January 2018. Here's an overview of My Father's Work, a 2-4 player game that plays in 120 minutes:Quote:The walls were lined with iron shelves, each metal slat overfilled with glass jars containing formaldehyde and grotesque curiosities within. Pristine brass tools and refined metals of a quality I had never before laid eyes upon were strewn across sturdy slabs of rock and wood, their edges sharp with use. However, my eyes were soon drawn to a sturdy writing desk, its mahogany eaves inlaid with thin strips of copper, the center of which contained a well-worn leather-bound book. My father's journal — passed down to me and representing years of knowledge and countless experiments. And inside that weathered tome, atop the pearly parchment oxidized yellow at its frayed edges, were the deliberate quill marks of a crazed genius outlining the ambitious project he could never complete in one lifetime — his masterwork.Love the integration of the story into the game's multiple rounds, similar to how only the pyramids survive in Reiner Knizia's Amun-Re in the transition from the Old Kingdom to the New Kingdom.
Without realizing it, my hands were shaking as I clutched the book to my chest. At once, I felt an ownership and anxiety for the scientific sketches scrawled so eloquently on those frayed sheets. It was at that moment that I began my obsession: I would restore this laboratory to its former brilliance and dedicate my life to completing my father's work!Cover artwork
In My Father's Work, players are competing mad scientists entrusted with a page from their father's journal and a large estate in which to perform their devious experiments. Players earn points by completing experiments, aiding the town in its endeavors, upgrading their macabre estates, and hopefully completing their father's masterwork.
But they have to balance study and active experimentation because at the end of each generation, all of their experiments and resources are lost to time until their child begins again with only the "Journaled Knowledge and Estate" they have willed to them — and since the game is played over the course of three generations, it is inevitable that the players will rouse the townsfolk to form angry mobs or spiral into insanity from the ethically dubious works they have created. The player with the most points at the end of three generations wins and becomes the most revered, feared, ingenious scientist the world has ever known!
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11 Jan 2021
posted about Dan Halstad's game Beez in January 2020, the game seemed to be complete, and publisher Next Move Games announced that it would debut at Origins 2020.
Then the world got sick, and Next Move said, okay, no rush now since Origins won't be happening, and it reworked some of the game's graphic elements. (You can see the early 2020 version of Beez in the demo video that BGG recorded at Spielwarenmesse 2020.) Now Beez is available on the market, having been released at the end of 2020, and I can talk about the game as a finished design.
Your goal in Beez to have more honey points than each other player. To score honey, you need to collect nectar in particular colors and patterns in your hive. In the image below, you can see that you score:
• 2 points for each of the five colors of nectar you collect
• 4 points for each "elbow" arrangement of three nectar of the same color (with you not being able to re-use a nectar in multiple elbows
• 7 or 12 points depending on whether you can fill the middle row of your hive with whatever nectar you run across or with one nectar of each color
In addition to the three public objectives (which are randomized each game), you receive three private objectives similar to the three types above, keeping only two of them before play begins. At game's end, you score for all five of these objectives, which can overlap in convenient ways.
Collecting nectar might seem like a straightforward task, but your bee brain is the size of a sesame seed, so your movement capabilities are limited to particular patterns honed by millions of years of instinct. Specifically, once you fly in a particular direction, you can't fly that way again next turn; instead you can move either 1 or 5 spaces (a biological term, to be sure) 60º from the direction you flew previously OR 2 or 4 spaces 120º from the direction you flew previously OR 3 spaces 180º from that direction. If you land on a leaf's water droplet, you can fly again immediately, turning once again as you do. Nature is weird, you know?
If you land adjacent to a small nectar cylinder — which the blue bee above can do by moving toward the white nectar in the front right — you can collect it and place it in your personal hive in the row matching the number of spaces you moved. If you moved 4 spaces, for example, the nectar goes only in the top or bottom row. Again, instinct.
If you land on the large nectar in the center of a flower on the perimeter of the playing area, you can collect both that nectar and an adjacent small nectar, if one is present. (In the image above, the blue bee could instead move five spaces to land on the large blue nectar in the upper left, collecting both that and an adjacent orange nectar of its choice.)
Thus, your movement each turn is connected to both which nectar you collect (if any) and where it goes in your hive, which feeds into your ability to complete objectives both public and private. I love the minimalist pointillist art created each game, and I might sometimes be driven by the need to create patterns beyond what will actually score me points.Nectar patterns in a three-player game, with my "butterfly wings" at left
When someone has collected twelve or more nectar, you finish the round so that all bees can fly an equal number of times (as in nature?), then you tally the points to see who wins.
I've played Beez six times on a review copy from Next Move Games, twice each with 2-4 players, and the games play out much faster than I think they will, even after six games of experience. Possibly we're just too grabby with the nectar in front of us as we often don't limit ourselves to collecting only the nectar that scores (based on color or position), and possibly we're not taking as much time as we should(?) to plan future turns.The start of a two-player game
That said, looking ahead more than one turn is tough given that you have (up to) five possible spaces to move on a turn, then five possible landing spaces from each of those spaces (with only minimal overlap between those secondary movements and with you imagining the future orientation of your bee), so we've mostly been winging it to this point. Maybe with more experience we'll be able to plan better — not to mention accounting for what the other players might do — but we're not there yet.
More thoughts on Beez and an introduction to the Fly, Butterfly! expansion in the video below:
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