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Face Betrayal in Dune, Become Number One in SPECTRE, and OBEY the Rules of UNO

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Dune: Betrayal
After years of a Dune shortage on the game table, the impending release of the new film adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel is bring a flood of related games.

Following news of Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy, with this being a relatively short game from the designers of the original Dune game and others, publisher Gale Force Nine has announced the October 2021 release of Dune: Betrayal from Don Eskridge, designer of The Resistance.

Here's an overview of this 4-8 player game:
Quote:
In the social deduction game Dune: Betrayal, players take on the identity of one of the iconic characters of Dune, each representing a distinct role within the factions vying for control amid the sands of Dune.

Your goal is to learn the identities of your foes while protecting your nobles, forming alliances, and utilizing tools to gain knowledge, and therefore power. Pay close attention to determine your allies and enemies, then defend your allies and attack your foes to secure victory.
Mattel has released the fourth title in its UNO: Artiste Series, with this one featuring art from Shepard Fairey.

Yes, you can now have the OBEY face staring at you from your game shelves — except that perhaps you can't since this limited-edition item went on sale on July 30, 2021 and is already listed as "sold out" on the Mattel website. Never mind then...

Board Game: UNO

• UK publisher Modiphius Entertainment has announced a Q2 2022 release for SPECTRE: The Board Game, a 2-4 player design that plays in 20-45 minutes from the team of (deep inhale) Antoine Bauza, Corentin Lebrat, Ludovic Maublanc, and Théo Rivière (a.k.a., Team Kaedama) and Javier Angeriz-Caburrasi, Juan Echernique, and Stefano Guerriero (Modiphius' in-house design team).

Here's an overview of the game:
Quote:
In SPECTRE: The Board Game, you take on the role of one of the many iconic villains from the James Bond film franchise, competing with one another to become Number One of the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, a.k.a., SPECTRE.

Board Game: SPECTRE: The Board Game

Are you simply in the game to acquire gold bullion, or are your aspirations more philosophical, safe in the knowledge that the world would be better off with you running it? Each villain has their own plot inspired by films such as Dr. No (1962) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971) driving them along the path to becoming SPECTRE's Number One. No matter how hard you try, though, 007 is always there, waiting to disrupt your plans and reveal your secrets.

SPECTRE: The Board Game features iconic weapons, locations, and characters from the James Bond films. You will be able to assemble devices, spy on your opponents, blackmail your rivals in order to build your own criminal empire, and strategically deploy your agents around the globe to infiltrate key installations. You need to work behind the scenes to develop your nefarious plots and become 007's biggest threat, so grab your Persian cat and call your favorite henchman as you prepare your newest monologue — it's time to get down to business and start building that moon base and world-destroying megalaser!
Did anyone have Blofeld as a board game cover model on their 2021 bingo card? I certainly didn't see that coming!

Board Game: SPECTRE: The Board Game
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Wed Aug 4, 2021 1:00 pm
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Be Horrified by American Monsters, and Return to Puerto Rico...Again

W. Eric Martin
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• In 2019, the U.S. branch of Ravensburger released the co-operative game Horrified from the Prospero Hall design team. In this game, which was well-received in both hobby and mainstream markets, 1-5 players face off against 2-4 classic film monsters, with each monster requiring you to do different, thematic things to defeat it before they kill too many people in town. For more details, you can head to my written and video overview from July 2019.

Board Game: Horrified: American Monsters

In October 2021, Ravensburger will release a standalone sequel from designer Michael Mulvihill that follows the same formula as the original game — Horrified: American Monsters, with players now confronting classic American nightmarish beasts: Bigfoot, Mothman, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabra, the Banshee of the Badlands, and the Ozark Howler. The more creatures in the game, the harder the challenge, with players needing to use their unique powers to figure out how to defeat each monster.

Horrified: American Monsters will debut in October 2021 at the U.S. retail chain Target with a US$35 MSRP, and whoever came up with the "Home of the Grave!" tagline should receive a bonus.

Board Game: Horrified: American Monsters

• In additional news from Ravensburger, the English-language editions of echoes: The Dancer and echoes: The Cocktail — two audio mystery games that I initially wrote about in mid-July 2021 — are scheduled for release in August 2021.

• Beyond that, in a July 2021 article in The Atlantic titled "The Board Games That Ask You to Reenact Colonialism", a Ravensburger rep notes that a "re-imagined version" of Andreas Seyfarth's Puerto Rico will be released in 2022, "created in partnership with a culturally diverse and representative team" and "set in post-independence Puerto Rico", which means "it won't include themes of colonialism".

Side note: The article by Luke Winkie generally covers the topic of colonialism-based games — and how they are falling out of favor — in a manner suitable for a mainstream audience, but he makes the kind of mistakes that irritate someone well-versed in the subject, such as stating that Puerto Rico's first edition was released by Rio Grande Games, not Ravensburger through its in-house brand alea or that the game has a creator apart from its publisher (other designers were referenced, but not Seyfarth) or that "Ravensburger acquired the English rights to Puerto Rico from Rio Grande" in 2020, when instead Rio Grande's license from Ravensburger ended.

Board Game: echoes: The Cocktail
Board Game: echoes: The Dancer
Board Game: Puerto Rico
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Tue Aug 3, 2021 5:00 pm
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Develop Boonlake from Alexander Pfister, Then Participate in Maracaibo: The Uprising

W. Eric Martin
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• U.S. publisher Capstone Games has announced two Alexander Pfister titles that will be hitting the market before the end of 2021, one already known and one previously unannounced, so let's start with the new news first:
Quote:
With a group of pioneers, you have left civilization behind to settle along the shores of Boonlake, a long-forgotten region inhabited by humans long ago. This unexplored area beckons you! Become part of a new community and commit yourself to the common good. Explore the landscapes, build houses and settlements, raise cattle, produce raw materials, and develop your infrastructure. Do your best to automate these processes. Seize the opportunity to make the best of your new life in Boonlake.

Board Game: Boonlake

Boonlake is an expert game in which you are finding yourself improving your life — and your group's life — in this new territory...but how you accomplish this is completely up to you! Introducing a novel action mechanism, each game progresses differently. Will you focus on expansion? Or maybe you'll contribute to creating an infrastructure? Or possibly pursue your own agenda? Carefully consider what you choose as each action benefits everybody else...
Boonlake originates from German publisher dlp games, which has served as the co-publisher of two prior Pfister titles: Maracaibo in 2019 and CloudAge in 2020. The game accommodates 1-4 players, has a playing time of 120 minutes, will retail for US$70, and is due out in October 2021.

The description above gives only a taste of what's in the box, so Capstone has also touted the game components to spur your imagination: 165 project cards, 150+ wooden pieces, innovative action board, and double-layer player boards.

Board Game: Boonlake

• The other title is Maracaibo: The Uprising, a large expansion for the aforementioned Maracaibo from originating publisher Game's Up that includes a new campaign and four new scenarios, new co-operative and solo modes (with you playing against Jacques or Jean in the latter), five new modules to introduce new concepts to the game, home ports that give players asymmetrical abilities, new project cards, and more.

Board Game: Maracaibo: The Uprising

One element of the expansion was highlighted in a July 2021 article in The Atlantic originally titled "Board Games Have a Colonialism Problem" and retitled "The Board Games That Ask You to Reenact Colonialism". Here's the relevant excerpt:
Quote:
This year, Maracaibo will receive an expansion called The Uprising. Players are cast as indigenous people under colonial bondage, who will work together to liberate the cities of their island from foreign rule. "In the cooperative scenario, they win when all locations are free," Pfister says.
The description from Capstone mentions that you can also play this "[push] the predominant nations out of the Caribbean" scenario competitively.

Maracaibo: The Uprising is due out in the U.S. in November 2021 and due out in Germany in October 2021 from Game's Up and dlp games.

Board Game: Mombasa
• As a side note on Pfister designs, that Atlantic article mentions that he is "giving Mombasa a to-the-studs renovation" in response to concerns over the roles that players take in the game and how the game presents its setting. Another article excerpt:
Quote:
When the game enters the market again in the indeterminate future, it will no longer carry art, terminology, or set dressing associated with 18th-century European expansion. Those days, he says, are over.

"Mombasa made gamers think about this awful history. But nowadays, I wouldn't use this theme anymore. That's the reason for a complete re-theme. It's good that the community, including me, became more sensible," he says. "We want our hobby to be inclusive."
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Tue Aug 3, 2021 2:02 pm
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Game Overview: Juicy Fruits, or Spam Those Bananas!

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

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

From gallery of W Eric Martin

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

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

From gallery of W Eric Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Milhouette (ミルエット)

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

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

Board Game: TrumPen

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

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

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

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Draft cover art

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Forests of Pangaia

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

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

Board Game: Forests of Pangaia
Preview copy

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

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

Board Game: Power Plants

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Greek Salad

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

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

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

Board Game: Omega Virus: Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Board Game: Now or Never

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Board Game: The Plum Island Horror
P500 Cover Sample

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

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

Board Game: CATAN: 3D Edition

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

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

From gallery of W Eric Martin

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

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

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

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

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

Board Game: Cryptid: Urban Legends

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