W. Eric MartinUnited States
• Grail Games has already released its own versions of Reiner Knizia's Medici and Medici: The Card Game, and now it's taking the next step that people so often joke about with the announcement of a 2020 release of Medici: The Dice Game. What's more, this design is a dice-drafting, roll-and-write game, so the segment of the audience irked by the prevalence of such things can feel irked alongside those bothered by "X: The Dice Game". A short take on how the game works:Quote:Medici: The Dice Game is a new design by Reiner Knizia that shares the setting and feel of his classic Medici board game, but using dice! Over the course of three rounds, 2-4 players fill their ships with the goods presented at the wharf. They earn money for having the most valued loads, as well as for collecting majorities of the different goods.If only zombies could be fit in somehow, or perhaps Munchkin and Fluxx.
Looney Labs has given a January 9, 2020 release date for Astronomy Fluxx, the next title in its line of science-based Fluxx titles following Math Fluxx, Chemistry Fluxx, and Anatomy Fluxx.
• To continue with game brand extensions, Dominion designer Donald X. Vaccarino announced on Reddit, "There will be an expansion next year [i.e., 2020], probably first quarter." He added that initial info about this release will likely emerge in early December 2019.
• As is its custom, at SPIEL '19 Lookout Games will have all the titles listed for it in our SPIEL '19 Preview, as well as lots of promo cards, including Expedition to Newdale: The Pfistries, a five-card item for Alexander Pfister's new Expedition to Newdale; seven new Agricola cards that bear a Newdale theme and nine new L-Deck cards; two new cards for Foothills; and "News from Lookout", which includes new Patchwork Doodle cards, a scenario for The Colonists, and more. So many BGG database listings waiting to be made...
• Finally, Upper Deck Entertainment has revealed its plan for expansions to Vs System 2PCG: The Marvel Battles in 2020:
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overview of the gameplay in No Return: Es gibt kein Zurück! — a game by Marco Teubner and moses. Verlag — in mid-September 2019 in this space, so let me quote that again before going a bit further:Quote:No Return: Es gibt kein Zurück! ("There's No Turning Back!") is played in two phases, with players collecting tiles in phase one, then scoring their tiles in phase two. People move into phase two at their own pace, and once you go in, you're there for the rest of the game — which might not be long!I've now played No Return eight times on a review copy from moses. Verlag (with one of those games being three-player and the remainder two-player), and the game has delivered pretty much what I thought it would: a seesaw feel in which you slowly add tiles to your collection, lamenting the randomness of the bag as you draw not quite the right tiles from it and wavering over exactly how much you want to build before tearing the whole thing apart.
The game includes 132 tiles, specifically two sets of tiles in six colors, with the tiles being numbered 1-11 in each color. Each player starts with eight tiles in hand, and you can discard and redraw once before the game begins. On a turn, you either (1) discard up to four tiles in your hand from the game, then draw that many tiles from the bag or (2) play one or more tiles from your hand to a color on your board, then draw that many tiles. You can play tiles of only one color, and all the tiles played must be equal to or less than any tiles of that color you already have in play. You place these tiles in descending order, and you can build at most six rows during the game, one of each color.
Whenever you want, you can switch to phase two. Once you do this, on a turn you either (1) discard up to four tiles in your hand from the game, then draw that many tiles from the bag or (2) clear tiles from your play area to score them. To do this, choose one or more tiles in your play area of only a single color, starting with the lowest valued tile (or tiles), then sum the tiles you want to score. You must then "pay" to score these tiles by discarding tiles of one color from your hand that sum to this same amount or higher. The tiles you discard from your hand don't have to be the same color as the color of the tiles you're scoring. Remove the tiles you paid from the game, and place the tiles you've cleared face down in a score pile. Refill your hand to eight tiles at the end of your turn.
As soon as someone draws the final tile from the bag, you complete the round so that everyone has had the same number of turns, then the game ends. A player's score equals the sum of the tiles that they've cleared minus the sum of the tiles they still have in play. (Tiles in a player's hand are discarded.) Whoever has the highest score wins!
In feel, No Return bears similarities to Lost Cities and Qwixx, two games in which you must take an action on your turn even though the urge to pass sometimes smothers your desire to do anything else. In all three of these games, you're often confronted with the option to commit in a color, knowing that doing so cuts off potential scoring in everything you're leaping over. Do you play the 4 or 5 in Lost Cities, risking a penalty should no other cards appear in that color, or do you throw it away, instead risking your opponent scooping it up for double or triple points and an eight-card bonus?
Opponents can't grab the tiles that you toss in No Return, but all too often you realize many turns later that you could have just played those tiles to your collection since you never drew any more tiles of that color anyway — yet you couldn't have known that would happen, so was it really a bad play? Maybe it was, but with only eight games experience, I feel like I'm still getting the rhythm of the game, something that will change with each player count since you'll have fewer of the tiles passing through your hands and more tiles visible in play to better let you weigh the odds of which action might be the right one to carry out.
For more on the game, here's a video overview I recorded, which shows the size of the tiles and lets you see that the pink and red colors are too close to one another, a problem that has stymied many publishers in many games:
Update: Despite me describing the game correctly in the description above, when I played the game, I somehow transformed the "discard up to four tiles" rule into a "discard exactly four tiles" rule. Thus, I'm now describing an unintended game variant in the video below. I'll have to get this title back to the table post-SPIEL '19 for more games by the rules...
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Chi Wei LinTaiwan
Ocean Crisis went on Kickstarter with a funding total of 68k USD. While that result won't get us hyped on a crowdfunding list, in the end we achieved some amazing milestones and managed to create social impact with this game.
Hello, guys! My name is Chi Wei Lin, the founder and director of Shepherd Kit, Inc., a publisher of children and family games from Taiwan. Ocean Crisis is one of many thematic games I've developed with designers Jhao-Ru Chen and Hsien Pu Jan that focus on simulating real world issues. In brief, Ocean Crisis is a co-operative worker placement game that depicts the real-life marine ecosystem disaster caused by pollution. The game also includes six side missions and scenarios, mainly for saving ocean animals.
Ocean Crisis took us three years to develop, with 20+ re-makes. For this project, we also worked with over a dozen environmental organizations, government departments, and ecology experts. In the end, our efforts truly paid off as we developed a game that's not only fun, but has a social impact.
How We Started
In 2016, the Department of Environmental Protection in Taiwan asked us to develop a game that talks about ocean pollution for the public. It was a time when the topics of ocean waste and plastic pollution started to take part in the mass/social media and a time when the public started to be aware of such matters. Before this project, we had no idea of what the causes and effects of ocean pollution were, but after a half year of research and discussion with government experts, we decided to adopt these principles:
1. Co-op: The game has to be co-operative. Though countries and organizations sometimes compete on environmental stats, we don't want to encourage any local wins. Instead we wanted players to focus on how to win together because the responsibility belongs to everyone.
2. No Total Solution: As a fan of Pandemic, I am aware that a "total solution" is always satisfying. However, from our studies, there is no sign of anything close to solving garbage issues on land or in the ocean. We don't want to give a false impression that one day twenty or fifty years later there'll be a savior invention, so we can do whatever we want right now.
3. Irreversible Consequences: Some of the consequences are irreversible. For example, when garbage floods into the Pacific garbage patch, then it's just an impossible situation for the tech we have now.
This is what came out in 2017, named Ocean Guardians:
Further Development of Ocean Crisis
The previous version, Ocean Guardians, was a great success when we brought it into classrooms, with primary and middle-school kids being immersed in the game. They cheered as a team when winning and even cried when their final ocean animal died along with a game failure. We were surprised with the result, and we thought about going further.
However, a big problem for our previous game was that it lacked replay value and character development. In addition, it dealt only with garbage and polluted water issues, without much interaction with the ocean eco-system, which should be the core of environmental issues. It wasn't until we started talking with various NPO environmental groups that we started to see the issue from a different angle.
In reality, the flow of ocean debris is a dynamic process. What's more, the garbage amount is just HUGE. According to the official report released by United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP), each year there are more than eight million tons of plastic waste leaking into the ocean, equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic every minute.
This is also why we changed our title to Ocean Crisis.A random shot from the beach of Penghu Isles, Taiwan; ocean debris is driven by the Kuroshio Current for thousands of milesTo experience all this mess, I went on a coastal clean-up journey with one of our consulting groups where we (400 participants) picked up 1.6 TONS of garbage!
In Ocean Crisis, we added these new elements:
1. Ocean Current: When we talk about coastal clean-up, more than 90% of the garbage we pick up drifted from the ocean. In reality, the ocean current can bring garbage from Asia to the Midway Atoll, a distance that covers more than half the Pacific Ocean. In the game, it is likely that the garbage will drift away to the garbage patch, but by chance, garbage might drift back to the coast for another clean-up.Handmade ocean current diskActual ocean current disk.
2. Character Development: In Pandemic, characters with different traits are chosen at the beginning of a game. For Ocean Crisis, environmental protection methods are used as personal skills, and they can be learned within a game play. This will also remind the players, who in general includes kids, that they can take part of environmental acts just as their characters.
3. Skill Tree Puzzle: To demonstrate the various environmental methods that cope with garbage disposal, the main map is a tile-placement puzzle on which players can activate functions with global effects or develop personal skills.Sketch of the land mapDifferent locations have different effects
4. Missions & Scenarios: The basic game is about cleaning up garbage and preventing it from going into the ocean. With the same core mechanism, six missions and scenarios can be added with only a little addition to the rules. What's more important is that the missions and scenarios complete a full picture of ocean protection from an ecological point of view.
For such complexity, we have undergone 20 game remakes, and a solid 500+ game tests with 1000+ players participating. These test group members include all adult gamers, family members, classroom students with teachers, and children groups from primary schools to middle schools.
A brief intro of the final Ocean Crisis from our Kickstarter video:
Though our design process for Ocean Crisis was long and even a bit tedious, our efforts eventually paid off as we made quite a bit of social impact starting with Taiwan.
Half a year before our Kickstarter, the Chinese version of Ocean Crisis had already succeeded in a crowdfunding campaign in Taiwan with 75k USD. The game was published in January 2019, and at this point, Ocean Crisis has sold more than 3,000 sets locally. Interestingly enough, our orders include purchases from over 500 primary schools and middle schools, making Ocean Crisis a mainstream material for environmental education in schools of Taiwan. A reason for Ocean Crisis' hype throughout education facilities is that the game covers a wide range of ocean environment topics. Also, due to the starting number of meeples, a single game can be extended from five players to ten.We went on a tour for Ocean Crisis, with a total of eighty events
To further serve the needs of education facilities, we also developed a GIANT version of Ocean Crisis. Enlarging board games isn't anything new, but we managed to mass produce the GIANT Ocean Crisis and sold them to hundreds of schools in Taiwan. In this version, players are the meeples, placing themselves on the map, and the garbage tiles from the games turned out to be real garbage.
In August 2019, due to our long-term endeavor towards educational design such as Ocean Crisis, we were invited to have a conversation with Taiwan President Ms. Tsai Ing-wen on the topic of education through gaming.
In September 2019, we received a letter from the Greenpeace Turkish office. The Middle East region manager then visited us in Taipei, telling us that they are willing to collaborate with us on the public issue of "plastic reduction" by using Ocean Crisis. Should this deal be closed, our game will be seen at Turkish schools and facilities in the near future.
This month, we were invited to be one of the keynote speakers on a SPIEL '19 official panel, the topic of which is "How boardgames make the world a better place". The panel will be held on October 26, 16:00 in the Saal Berlin room. If you are attending SPIEL '19, please come and visit us. (More details on the SPIEL website.)
Frontline Defence: The Mini Version of Ocean Crisis
As an alternative to Ocean Crisis, in 2019 we also worked on a standalone mini-game called Frontline Defence. This new chapter of the design inherits the original's co-op game style, but with a lighter and quicker dice-driven game play for ages as young as 6+. Frontline Defence takes only five minutes to learn and 15-20 to play. The mini-game can be regarded as a prequel of the original one, and it can also serve as a children's version for younger ones to play before Ocean Crisis.
Thank you for reading such a long story from before and after our development of Ocean Crisis! The diary is actually longer than I expected as there was just too much happening over the years of development. Hope you enjoyed my diary!
If you will be at SPIEL '19, please come visit Shepherd Kit to check out Ocean Crisis and Frontline Defence in person at booth 5-E112!
Chi Wei Lin
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mentioned yesterday, we're getting into crunch time when it comes to preparing for SPIEL '19, by which I mean that my brain feels like it's getting crunched every time I think of how much I still want to do.
With that in mind, let me present an overview shot of the Minecraft: Builders & Biomes game in play:Game over
Then invite you to check out my overview video of this Ulrich Blum design that Ravensburger will debut at SPIEL '19, then release in North America in November 2019. I'll have time post-SPIEL '19 to write up something in more detail — but whether I will or not is an open question given that I'll also have another two dozen games to write about. For now, this is what I can offer!
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Sept. 26, 2019 BGG News post, I noted that two Iranian game publishers who were scheduled to be at SPIEL '19 — Reality Game and Dorehami Games — had both been unable to find a German company willing to accept a shipment of their games.
As a result, representatives from those companies had decided to take preorders for whatever people were willing to buy, then pay for extra luggage to get those games into the hands of those curious about their publications.
Turns out that was only the beginning of their troubles.
On Oct. 8, 2019, Sohrab Mostaghim from Reality Game tweeted the following:
For sure I will send a formal letter to the German embassy in Iran.— Sohrab Mostaghim (@Sohrabmostaghim) October 8, 2019
I even have a panel in 3rd day! https://t.co/Pw0e7Qou6X
"What do Iranians like to play, and what social role does the game scene play? By Sohrab Mostaghim @RealityGameme "
Still not enough reasons for my trip?!
He followed up on Oct. 9:
Just now I got a disaster breaking news— Sohrab Mostaghim (@Sohrabmostaghim) October 9, 2019
Not just me, whole Iranian exhibitors who had a booth in #Spiel19 could not get the visa. Just one person from eight persons can come and he is an American citizen. Thank you Germany embassy.@GermAmbTehran https://t.co/LuTcg99ymg
I don't yet know whether Dorehami Games is in this same situation, but Amir Salamati from Roomiz Games wrote to me on October 9 to cancel the interview that we had scheduled at SPIEL '19: "I just want to inform that my visa for Germany has been rejected. Apparently German embassy believes that I will leave my wife, my family, my house and my business here and try to stay in Germany after Spiel !!"
I love board games because they bring people to the table for a common purpose, whatever their backgrounds. I'm sorry this won't be possible at SPIEL '19 unless (as I understand it) Auswärtiges Amt, Germany's Foreign Federal Office, changes its mind in the next week...
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Trevor BenjaminUnited Kingdom
David and I have been incredibly happy with War Chest's reception since its debut in 2018. Following the reviews, the comments, and the discussions has been a real treat. One thing that came up again and again was how expandable people thought the game was. Of course we agreed — we had lots of different ideas rattling around in our heads — but we had to wait to see how well the game did. When AEG gave us the official thumbs, we couldn't have been happier. This diary explores the design and development of War Chest: Nobility, the game's first expansion.
Of course Nobility would add new units. That much was obvious. But we wanted it to include something else — some new element that would add additional choices and texture through its interactions with the existing content. Our starting point for this was the Royal Coin.
In War Chest, each player's bag starts with a slew of Unit Coins (Archers, Cavalry, etc.) and a single Royal Coin. Despite its flashy name, the Royal Coin is strictly inferior to the others. You can't place it onto the board, and you can't use it to maneuver your units. Like the Estates in Dominion, the Royal Coin's sole purpose is to encourage you to build your bag. The more coins in your bag, the less often you have to draw it. While this is an important function, it's not a particularly fun one. With Nobility, we set out to change this. We wanted players to be excited to draw the Royal Coin, and this would happen only if the Royal Coin created choices, rather than removing them. Enter the Royal Decrees...
Royal Decrees are a new type of card that introduce generic (non-unit specific) powers into the game. Three of them are dealt face up during set-up, and each player (or team) gets to use each one once during the game. To do this, you discard your Royal Coin face up, then place a Royal Seal onto the Decree. So three times during the game, your Royal Coin gets to do something cool. The king say-eth, the people do-eth!
The core mechanisms for the Decrees came quickly, but it took us quite some time to get the powers right. On the one hand, we wanted them to be as varied as possible, interacting with each other and with the units in interesting ways. On the other hand, we had to ensure that the Decrees weren't too powerful, either individually or in the aggregate. The Royal Coin still needed to promote bag building, and this simply wouldn't happen if the Decrees were too strong. Our solution was to create powers that were both situational and more powerful in the mid and late game than in the beginning.
The Royal Decrees achieved what we wanted. They made the Royal Coin interesting, while also giving us a mechanical and thematic hook for the expansion. The next step was to design some units to run with this.
Nobility includes four new units. The Earl and the Herald have abilities that interact directly with the Decrees. The Bishop and the Bannerman are thematically linked, but explore other types of abilities.
Along the way, we tried out lots of different ideas that just didn't make the cut. Inspired by the Royal Guard, for example, we tried out a variety of units that had Tactics powered by the Royal Coin ("Discard the Royal Coin to do X"). These "Royal Tactics" were a great fit thematically, but they caused some pretty severe issues. First, they competed directly with our new Decree Cards. If you were using your Royal Coin for a Royal Tactic, you weren't using it for a Decree (and vice versa). Second, there were power issues. The stronger the Royal Tactics, the less likely you were encouraged to build your bag. This was much worse than what we encountered with the Decree powers as Tactics can be used again and again. Speaking of which...
Confession time: While certainly not unbeatable, we felt that the Royal Guard as it appears in the base set is something of a problem. We knew it was a strong unit, but we didn't realize just how strong until after the game was released, and people started posting strategies and discussions of those strategies to various threads. The problem is that its Tactic — Discard the Royal Coin to move — is too versatile. Moving a unit is something you can always do, and something you pretty much always want to do. This makes "small bagging" with the Royal Guard extremely effective, particularly given the nature of its attribute (When attacked, you can remove a coin from the supply rather than the unit). In a small bag, a Royal Guard becomes a tank that can move quickly!
In turn, this reduces the variety of game play on offer when the Royal Guard is in the draft mix as its tactic dominates the game flow. We pride ourselves on how differently the game plays with different units and different army composition, and we felt it was important to get back to that feel.
To address this, the Nobility expansion includes a new version of the Royal Guard card. The attribute is the same as before, but the Tactic now reads: Discard the Royal Coin to move the Royal Guard up to two spaces to a location that you control. So its effect is larger (you can move two spaces), but more limited (you have to move to a location you control). This resolves the issue with small bagging, while also making much more sense thematically. (The Royal Guard should be running around to guard your locations, not to cause general havoc and destruction!)
The Royal Coin and the Royal Guard aren't the only things that we've "upgraded" in Nobility. While overall people have been extremely happy with the production of the game (how couldn't they be!), there have been a lot of comments that the Control Markers were the same size as, and hence got covered up by, the Unit Coins. Some people forged their own DIY solutions (gotta love gamers!) but for those of you who didn't, we've included a set of hexagonal Control Markers. Hope this helps!
We're so excited about the Nobility expansion and the future of War Chest. One of the greatest things about the experience was getting the whole team back together to work on this project. Mark Wootton served as the lead developer for the project and always pushed us to make the expansion the best it could be. And we are thrilled that Bridgette Indelicato was able to bring Nobility to life with her graphic design and artistic skills. Now let's go play Nobility!
This diary first appeared on AEG's website. The rules and additional information can be found on AEG's War Chest product page.
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To tide you over until the next actual preview, here's the latest episode of The BoardGameGeek Show, which we release roughly every two weeks on BGG's YouTube channel, with the next show being a live broadcast from SPIEL '19 on Thursday, October 24 starting at 18:30 Essen time (UTC +2). On this episode, I give a peek at Antoine Bauza's Last Bastion from Repos Production (which I plan to cover more fully within the previously mention week or so), Scott talks about Marco Montanaro's Black Rose Wars from Ludus Magnus Studio, and Steph teases Orlando Sá's Porto from MEBO Games.
Aside from those three SPIEL '19 titles, Rodney covers Carlo A. Rossi's Arkham Horror: Final Hour from Fantasy Flight Games, and Lincoln talks about the Harry Potter Funkoverse game (which you can watch from beginning to end on GameNight!).
Ah, yes, I still need to create listings for the various standalone Funkoverse titles as those should be plugged into the SPIEL '19 Preview, along with whatever else is new to me in Merz Verlag's 2019 SPIEL-Guide (PDF). Should you run across a publisher in that guide that isn't already covered in our SPIEL '19 Preview, please Geekmail the publisher name or note it in a comment, and I'll do my best to drop that info in place. Thanks!
00:15 Opening and intros
01:13 BGG Announcements: Cardboard Caravan
05:17 BGG at Sea cruises 2020 and 2021
08:04 BGG at SPIEL '19 streaming live coverage on Twitch
10:11 What Have You Been Playing? — Steph - Porto - Orlando Sá - MEBO Games
12:28 Eric - Last Bastion - Antoine Bauza - Repos Production
18:02 Rodney - Arkham Horror: Final Hour - Carlo A. Rossi - Fantasy Flight Games
24:39 Lincoln - Funkoverse Strategy Game: Harry Potter - Prospero Hall - Funko Games
28:30 Scott - Black Rose Wars - Marco Montanaro - Ludus Magnus Studio
38:10 News and News Releases — Gloomhaven: [Subtitle] - Isaac Childres - Cephalofair Games
42:12 Minecraft: Builders & Biomes - Ulrich Blum - Ravensburger
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Broadway Toys released a new edition of 10 Days in the USA from designers Alan R. Moon and Aaron Weissblum, a game that I've covered in written and video form in this space.
Now Broadway Toys has come out with a new edition of 10 Days in Europe, which plays much the same as that earlier game, so for convenience's sake, I'll mostly copy my description from that earlier write-up so that I can focus more on why I love this type of game:Quote:10 Days in Europe has a simple concept: Create a row of ten tiles that are all legally connected to represent a trip in Europe. The game includes one tile for most countries in Europe (with six countries appearing twice) along with planes and ships. If you place country tiles adjacent to one another and those countries are adjacent in real life, then you've made a valid connection; if you connect two countries of the same color with a plane of that color, you've made a valid connection; and if you connect two countries with a ship for a body of water that touches both of those countries, you'd made a valid connection.This is the key sentence for me regarding the 10 Day game series: "Ideally you can make a few valid connections during this process, and the more that you play, the more you can see the possibilities for connections." I cover this topic at length in the overview video below, but I can also demonstrate this through a few examples, starting with a peek at one particular rack after I'd placed the first five tiles:I paused to take a pic before announcing victory...
To set up the game, you draw tiles one by one, placing each tile somewhere in your ten-day rack without being able to move them after placement. Ideally you can make a few valid connections during this process, and the more that you play, the more you can see the possibilities for connections. Once everyone has filled their rack, players take turns drawing a new tile from the deck or the top of one of the three discard piles, then either discarding the tile (if it's useless) or replacing one tile in their rack with the new one, discarding the older tile. As soon as someone completes a valid ten-day tour, they win!
Everything is set up so wonderfully here! Spain and Russia can be connected with one of the four Atlantic Ocean cards; Estonia, Poland, and Denmark provide four options (thanks to double Denmark) for the Baltic-blue plane connection; multiple pairs of blue and green cards would work to move from blue plane to green plane; and any green card could be plopped at the end of the line. So many possibilities! How did the rest of the set-up pan out?
Ah, well. Most of my hopes were dashed, but Germany does lie on the Baltic, so one additional connection came through. I can still hope to draw into Estonia, Poland, or Denmark to replace Germany, or I can build off Germany in a number of different ways.
The more you play any of the 10 Days titles — and I've played 10 Days in Europe 57 times at this point, 41 of those plays on a review copy of the Broadway Toys edition with my exchange student Lisa —the more you're able to visualize potential connections, both during set-up and in the actual playing of the game.
Here's the start of another game:
Yes, luck certainly plays a role in the game. I happened to draw four transportation cards in my first five cards, and I was able to set up the yellow-to-yellow-to-yellow hop that I can fill with almost anything during set-up since I can swap in almost any yellow cards for the first two slots later. (I say "almost any" because if the yellow country has a green one adjacent to it, I'd prefer to slot it into the yellow-to-green zone.) Latvia is the sole possible link between the green plane and the Baltic, so that's not ideal, but a connection is still possible.
Six transportation cards during set-up is too much of a good thing, but it does give you options during the game itself. I can still try to work with the yellow planes, or I can switch to the orange plane/Atlantic/green plane combo. The three cards at the end of the tour are connected, but they don't relate to anything else, so I'll need to start looking at a Atlantic-X-X-Sweden connection or ditch those latter cards. Depends on what comes available.
Once you play this many games, you start seeing things that fall on the rarer end of the tour spectrum, such as this "all walking" trip:
Or this color-blocked trip:
I find this image beautiful in its simplicity. This rack started to come together in these two colors, then I was like, I have to make this happen — and I did!
I've won approximately four-fifths of the games that I've played with Lisa, but I'm delighted that she keeps coming back for more. I think she thinks the game has a lot of luck in it — and it does! — so she keeps hoping it falls her way, but she hasn't yet figured out how to bend it in her favor the way that I've been doing. More thoughts on the game in this video:
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When Paolo Vallerga, owner of Scribabs and well-rounded artist (graphic designer, game designer, musician, actor, novelist and much more), asked me to design a game featuring the symphonic metal band Therion back in 2011, I almost fell from the chair. He started publishing games when I was just a player — I used to play Tempus Draconis during my university years — and he was asking me to design a game involving one of my favorite bands.
I also started my career as game designer with that game, 011. (I wrote a passionate designer diary about that experience in 2011 on BGG.) Since then, many of my games made it to the shelves: Super Fantasy, Voodoo, GodZ, Tales from the Junglebook, and many others. Almost one year ago, Paolo called me again to design Armata Strigoi, a co-operative action game featuring the band Powerwolf, a talented and famous German power metal band that, incidentally, I like very, very much.
So before we begin, I recommend you listen to the song that gave its name to the game: "Armata Strigoi".
Dark Ages Are Coming
"Before the morning can break, we retire
The searing heat of the sun we avoid
Await the dark, proud walachian fighters!
Powerwolf's lyrics are kind of perfect for a board game. They sing tales about werewolves, vampires, and demons set in a fictional, dark world reminiscent of a twisted Middle Ages. They fill songs with a bizarre, bloodthirsty version of religion, making their world look violent and hostile. They also use heavy make-up and depict themselves as werewolves on their album covers.
The background story of the game is simple: In a dark, cruel world, there are only two major vampires left alive, two Wallachian Strigoi: a Master and an Apprentice. They're hiding in their fortress in Tismana, protected by their minions; once the Strigoi have reached the fortress, they are at the apex of their strength and almost invulnerable. Every attempt to draw them out has failed, and the mercenaries who tried to attack Tismana were slaughtered without mercy. The world, already dark, is about to plunge into Darkness itself.
To be consistent with the imagery built by Powerwolf, the game takes place in a dark fantasy world filled with inhuman creatures like vampires, demons, and other unnatural creatures. There's no "classical magic" made of fireballs or disintegration spells; in their place you'll find tons of steel, rust, dust, and blood.
The first part of the design, while we were building the world and the plot, was in fact a "research" phase. Starting from songs and artwork from the band and reading mythology and history articles, we gathered information in order to build a consistent setting and to have a solid idea about the tone of the game.
Blood and Claws
"In the night came the killers with the cross
In the light of the moon when our lives are lost
In the dark when your blood is calling, in the dusk when the fever's crawling
In the night came the killers with the cross!"
We spoke about the villains, but who are the main characters of our story? If you are expecting a group of brave adventurers with shining armor, you are out of the way. In Armata Strigoi, you will impersonate the ultimate weapon of the True Faith cult: five legendary werewolves, three-meter-tall beasts who are half wolf, half man and as intelligent as they are fierce. It is rumored that the True Faith purposely breed supernatural creatures to fight heretics. Some say that Powerwolves are stray warriors serving God itself. What is certain is that no one dares to take them on face-to-face to seek explanations.
Since the band is really loyal to the concept of "pack", referring both to themselves and to their fans, Paolo and I decided to design a co-operative game with the five Powerwolves as protagonists. The battle between Strigoi and Powerwolf is about to begin...and you will be part of it.
"Rise, over the dead, bring us ahead, Incense and iron!
Fight all of the night, banners up high to the top of the land!"
As I said, the game is a co-operative adventure for 2-5 players. Each player acts as a Powerwolf, which will be controlled initially with six cards (which are in a player's hand at the beginning of the match). Four of these cards are the same for each player, while the last two are unique, giving each Powerwolf its own particular game style.
The number at the top of the card is the initiative: the lower the number, the sooner the werewolf takes action during every round. At the start of every turn, each player plays one card from their deck, secretly. (You can discuss a strategy to follow, but players are not allowed to speak about details on their cards.) Then everyone plays their turn according to the initiative order. I decided to use simultaneous actions because along with the prohibition of talk about card numbers, it prevents the "leader problem" (i.e., one player playing for everyone).
The footprint and the claw mark define the Powerwolf movement and its base combat value. Meanwhile, any icon under those two values represents special skills: dodge, leap, heal, stealth, and so on. The letter in the book below defines part of the Strigoi actions (they basically patrol the fort, attacking the pack on sight) in a way that may remind you of old rogue-like games on PCs (every time you act, enemies act).
At the end of each player's turn, the played card and a tile picked from a pile give players the necessary information to move vampires, while also determining the intensity of their attack.
As you may have guessed, action cards that form a player's hand are the true game core, and they have also been one of the most difficult aspects of this project because they keep running a huge part of the gameplay on their own. Almost everything is player-driven, and balancing everything took months of work, but I'm really proud of the result.
The fortress of Tismana was shaped using the layout of pieces in Tempus Draconis, a game by Paolo Vallerga, to which we added central platforms, circular and elevated, that can be rotated by players to reach points of interest or avoid undesired fights. While the Strigoi are protected and supported by their servants — monsters are represented by two different types of tokens — they are basically invulnerable, so before facing them, Powerwolves should avoid their attacks and kill as many servants as possible to collect tools, weapons, and above all, precious blood points. Once they collect enough blood points (which varies depending on the player count), players can begin to fight the Strigoi.
I always loved the Tempus Draconis map layout — hexes with square cases shaped like a wheel — and it was interesting to build a game using the same idea, but with the moving rooms twist and different gameplay.
The design of the map has taken a long time. We developed it along with the action cards, and we made an impressive series of iterations, changing details such as the position of monsters, the rules for Strigoi movement, and the effects of the crumbling of the Fortress itself.
"Wait, Marco, what crumbling?"
Well, when one of the two vampires dies, the game enters a third phase in which the remaining vampire becomes a Supreme Strigoi, even more fierce and dangerous, linking its essence and the Fortress. Because of this connection, every wound inflicted on the Strigoi is liable to bring down part of the stronghold, restricting the movement and causing injuries to characters in the room.
Each Powerwolf has three life points, and every injury suffered can lead to penalties (to attack and movement, but also limiting the use of abilities), so charging ahead can be extremely risky. If a Powerwolf is defeated, the whole pack will lose one of the blood points previously earned. Losing a number of blood points equal to the number of players (or three blood points in a two-player game) results in the immediate defeat of the pack.
Furthermore, beating monsters grants bonus tokens — disposable tokens that increase the value of the cards, or provide healing and other skills — and reward cards, powerful tools, and weapons that characters can use in two ways, either using and discarding them, or destroying them by hitting the enemy with all the werewolf's strength, shattering the object to obtain an exceptional offensive bonus or extremely powerful effect.
Moreover, killing monsters or making certain actions, e.g., "being the first who kills a Strigoi", or "causing the death of a fellow werewolf with your move", allows the players to gain special action cards, which will enrich their hands and the range of tactical and strategical possibilities of the Powerwolf. This hand-building system, of which I'm extremely satisfied, avoids the build-up of "experience points", but instead will encourage actions that have a direct consequence on the development of your character.
As you can see, we have a lot of thematic elements strongly bound to mechanisms. During the design and development process, I worked with a precise focus in my mind: Gameplay should be dense, dynamic, and as much as possible in a board game, in some way "spectacular". As you can imagine, a clash of semi-immortal and all-powerful night creatures was particularly ill-suited to the classic idea of dungeon crawlers or other games like that in which characters start "weak" and increase their strength waiting to fight the dragon or whatever else is waiting for them at the end of the tunnel, risking their lives every time they face a pissed kobold.
The approach was therefore quite different. Characters are already mighty, huge werewolves both fierce and clever; they might even be inferior in numbers, but they can crush their enemies with only their claws and brute strength; they can jump over long distances, dodge or deflect sword strokes, and partially regenerate their wounds.
On the other side, their enemies aren't mere mortals either. Monsters will try to weaken them and inflict serious injuries (to penalize the werewolves' strike and movement ability), and to help their masters retrieve energy, these monsters will unceasingly and furiously attack invaders. The playing system forgoes the classic "monsters phase", with fortress guards appearing during each gamer's hand depending on their actions and with vampires acting thanks to a mechanism integrated in the action cards at the end of every turn. This approach leads to dynamic rounds and reduced downtime — or at least to the elimination of that nagging feeling that heroes and monsters play "in turns", first one, then the other, politely asking permission to put up a fight.
The game is neither long nor complicated. If every player knows the rules, a match usually lasts 75-90 minutes, and it's made to build to a crescendo. You can approach each phase in different ways, but you always kill the small monsters first to gather items and weapons, and you'll always face an over-powered Strigoi in a final battle inside a crumbling fortress.
"And we'll meet where the wild wolves have gone
All we bleed in the Armageddon storm"
You don't need to be a fan of Powerwolf to enjoy the gameplay of Armata Strigoi. That said, fans of the band will enjoy Zsofia Dankova's images, the artistic photos of Tim Tronckoe, their favorite song titles, and a series of quotes and homages, as well as a game world based completely on the lyrics of the German
Working on this game has been an honor, and it has been awesome. The world told through Powerwolf songs looks like it was made for epic battles between night creatures, with bizarre weapons, monstrous and tormented beings, distorted religions, and legendary and extremely powerful werewolves. I define the game as a hybrid between an American and a European game; on the one hand, there is a hand-building system that allows for a remarkable amount of control, and on the other is a rich and extremely detailed setting.
Thanks to my partner Costanza and my son Gabriel for all the love and support, to Powerwolf, to the Scribabs team (especially Paolo Vallerga and Fortunato Cappelleri, but also all artists, testers and translators), to Silvia Mega for translating my articles, and to the official band group and all the gamers and associations who helped Armata Strigoi to become what it is now. I hope you'll like playing it as much as I liked designing it.
Armata Strigoi will debut on October 24 at SPIEL '19, and you will find it at Scribabs booth (5-M118). Head to the official game page for more information or a preorder option.
Marco ValtrianiPainted miniatures
- [+] Dice rolls
That history of relevance, however, is undoubtedly why UK publisher Big Potato licensed the name for use on its Rolling Stone party game, which will debut in 2020. Rolling Stone is for four or more players who compete in teams, and gameplay is akin to that in Blockbuster, a movie-based party game named after another touchstone in U.S. culture. Here's an overview:Quote:Rolling Stone is a rock & roll music game for anyone who has ever heard a song. You don't have to be a music buff to win this game; you just need to know the names of some very famous bands and have heard a famous song or two.The OP plans to release Codenames: The Simpsons, the latest iteration of Vlaada Chvátil fantastic party game Codenames.
To start, a player from each team competes in the Music Buzzer Battle. The winner of this round takes an advantage into Round 2: Triple Charades Jeopardy. Here, players try to get their team to guess the artist by describing them in one of three ways: quoting lyrics, humming or using one word. The first team to collect a disc from all eight genres wins.
As with earlier Codenames titles from The OP, such as Codenames: Marvel, Codenames: The Simpsons will feature "field agent" cards that have a word or name printed on one side and a matching image on the opposite side.
Cryptozoic Entertainment has already released several Rick and Morty games, with each of them being based (as far as I know) on a single episode from the 31 episodes of that show. Season 4 of Rick and Morty will debut on November 10, 2019, and Cryptozoic will release a roll-and-write dice game based on that very episode on November 11, 2019. Wow, fast work, y'all!
Cryptozoic's Dekan Wheeler writes, "The details of the game are still under embargo and will remain that way until after the episode airs. But we can reveal that it includes eight massive (1-inch) d6 dice and has an MSRP of $25." The game is for 2-4 players, ages 15+, with a 15-20 minute playing time. For ordering purposes, retailers have been given the title "Rick and Morty: 21CKM027Y53C237 Dice Game". Ask for it by name!
- [+] Dice rolls