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BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

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Crowdfunding Round-up: Delving into Pockets of Supporters for Nothing Now

W. Eric Martin
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• It's time to enter the dungeons once again in Delve from Richard Launius, Pete Shirey, and Indie Boards & Cards. Delve is a tile-laying, dungeon-building that prompts the question: "How do so many of these dungeons exist anyway?" (KS link)

• Want a mystery game from designer Jon Gilmour? Then you're in luck as even he doesn't know what he's making yet. Gilmour notes that he was inspired by Kickstarter's "Make 100" creative initiative and wanted to try to create a game that fit the spirit of the initiative. As Gilmour notes in the project: "Just to be clear, no matter how good this game is, I will never sell it to a publisher, or in otherwise reproduce it. Your copies will be unique and I will make sure they stay that way!" (KS link)

• On the opposite end of the spectrum from Gilmour is Game Salute's KS project for the fifth edition of Tory Niemann's Alien Frontiers, the third edition of Alien Frontiers: Factions, and the 2017 model of an Alien Frontiers promo pack. (KS link)

Nothing Now Games has a three-pack of new titles, with one of those titles being a three-pack on its own. Panic! is a bidding and bluffing system from James Ernest in which players are commodity brokers who must escape a market crash before everyone else in order to stay on top of the financial pack, and this system has been used for three designs: a bidding game, a drafting game, and a trick-taking game.

In Jonathan Dersch's Journey of the Emperor, players try to lay out fancy paths for the emperor so that he can enjoy looking at nice things during his walk. William Baldwin's Perspective of Mirrors — which is an intriguing title, although not one that conveys much about the subject — calls on intelligence directors to conduct espionage operations and score information. (KS link)

Railways of Nippon from designer Hisashi Hayashi is available both as a standalone game and an expansion for the Railways of the World game system from Eagle-Gryphon Games, a publisher which produces possibly the longest and most option-filled crowdfunding projects out there due to the 1,600 add-ons available. (KS link)

• The idea for designer Nicola Iannone's Medioevo Universalis — a grand-scale game of commerce, diplomacy, strategy and conquest for up to nine people set in the 13th century — originated nearly three decades ago, with details on the game's history and development in this BGG thread that Iannone started in 2008. (KS link, Giochistarter link)


Above: game board in 2016; below; 2008 version w/ playtesters for scale



Kiwetin from Thomas Filippi, Gary Paitre, and Flyos Games wins the prize for artsiest game of the week. The gameplay seems basic, with critters jumping from branch to branch based on die rolls and rune cards, but the presentation is spectacular. (KS link)

MegaCon Games, a.k.a. MERCS Miniatures, is back on Kickstarter to fund Myth: Dark Frontier, a co-op set in the world of Myth in which you must "fight back the oppressive forces of Darkness". You can purchase up to $180 of add-ons, but I think the Railways of Nippon KS still outdoes this, so better luck next time, MegaCon! (KS link)

CMON Limited is another returnee to KS, with The World of SMOG: Rise of Moloch racking up a half-million in support from those eager to pit the Nemesis and The Cult against the Gentlemen of the Unicorn Club. Alas, costumes are not included. A short description:

Quote:
In Rise of Moloch, archaeologists have discovered the means to reanimate dead bodies, quickly replacing mechanical inventions with cheap, undead labor, putting England in dire peril. The campaign consists of six different Chapters. Each one has a unique set of goals and losing conditions for both the Gentlemen and the Nemesis to accomplish. There are many different paths players can follow, and everything from Events, to Upgrades, to the results of different battles and encounters will shape the way players experience the game as they progress. No two campaigns are ever the same!

Armies of undead put to work as cheap labor! I expect someone to use that as a campaign platform in the future. (KS link)

• I thought we might get out of this c.f. round-up without a science fiction game in which players battle for control of different planets, specifically one in which a player wins by killing all of the opposing forces or creating a secret pattern with nine troops, but thankfully Hexpanse from Toldi Gábor and Korona Games has to come my attention, so now I can rest easy. (KS link)

• Joseph Butler's Mageling from Familiar Games is back on KS for a second go-round. In this game, player mages use dice to activate magic scrolls in their collection of items to do various magicky-type things. (KS link)

• Let's close with Sergio Roncucci's Orgasmo, first published by Cards & Co. in 2014 and now coming to market in a new edition from Vice Games. Orgasmo is a competitive card game about orgies in which you want to satisfy others and last longer than anyone else in order to become "Master of Sex". I assume a card will be included that you need to tweet a picture of, a là Harbour and Thief's Market. (KS link)

Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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New Game Round-up: Two for 2018 — Seventh Cross and Street Masters

W. Eric Martin
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• With Millennium Blades expansions produced and heading to the U.S., designer D. Brad Talton, Jr. of Level 99 Games has been revealing info on that company's next huge release: Seventh Cross, which will hit Kickstarter in late 2017 ahead of a release in 2018. Talton has posted a heavily illustrated game overview page here, while detailing the evolution of the design over its first seven iterations here. Here's where the game overview stands right now:

Quote:
The year is 1920. Beneath the surface of society, an ancient and enigmatic Church suppresses knowledge of the supernatural to protect the greater good of humanity and retain its grip on the world. Vast conspiracies with unknown ends move in the shadows — secret societies and ancient empires — and they seek to restore the lost, mystical power of ages past. Dark magic breeds monsters within the hearts of men, which break through to the surface and consume them. It falls to the hunters of the Church to destroy these monsters before they come to light.

Take on the role of a Church Hunter, a sworn defender of the world against the forces of darkness, in Seventh Cross and delve into the heart of evil as you explore your way through ever-changing castles filled with unique narrative. Meet mysterious and treacherous characters, do battle with terrible monsters, and confront the darkness in your own soul as you walk the narrow line between the pursuit of power and its ultimate cost.

Seventh Cross is a rogue-like exploration game for 2-6 players that combines elements of paragraph adventure games like Tales of the Arabian Nights and exploration elements like Betrayal at House on the Hill together to form a Castlevania/Bloodborne/Helsing sort of narrative adventure.




• Twin brothers Brady and Adam Sadler — both formerly full-time designers at Fantasy Flight Games where they worked on Descent: Second Edition, Mansions of Madness, and the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, among other titles — are the creators of Street Masters: Rise of the Kingdom, the first release from Austin, Texas-based Blacklist Games, with this game being due out in Q1 2018 following a Kickstarter in 2017. Here's the setting:

Quote:
Warriors from around the world, known for their legendary fighting abilities and skills, receive mysterious invitations to participate in a martial arts tournament like no other. Those who go have their own reasons or agendas, maybe as simple as the prize itself or maybe a vendetta against the organization and other contestants themselves.

During the tournament, the organization hosting the event reveals their identity — The Kingdom — and that their purpose is to recruit the fighters to join their militia and take over the world. Those who do will be rewarded with power, while those who don't will be enslaved and "turned" into a minion. Death, riots, and a battle ensue. While several of these warriors made it out in time, many were never heard from again.

Five years later, those who escaped receive an invitation, this time by a government organization created by the United Nations in order to prevent catastrophic events. Dubbed the Street Masters, they are informed that the The Kingdom has waged war against the world instrumentally caused the break out of several criminal organizations who have decided to divvy up each country for themselves, while under their umbrella. The warriors must work together to try to save what’s left of the world before The Kingdom launches their end game.

Street Masters: Rise of the Kingdom is a 1-5 player, miniatures board game that includes several chapters that lead you to different acts, depending on how victorious (or not) you are. Gameplay utilizes highly detailed miniatures, cards, dice, and dashboards that incorporate a modular design for extensive replay. Designed by Adam Sadler and Brady Sadler, the game offers both a Story Mode and a arcade-like Showdown Mode.


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Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:05 pm
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New Game Round-up: Rhino Hero Soars Anew, Yamataï Is Revealed, and More Escape Rooms Await

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• In an announcement that took Twitter by storm, HABA has said that 2017 will see the release of Rhino Hero: Super Battle, a new design by Rhino Hero's Scott Frisco and Steven Strumpf. Here's a rundown of the setting, followed by a pic of two German children enjoying this game before everyone else gets a chance to do so, with Germany releasing this title in the first half of 2017 and HABA USA releasing it in the second half of the year:

Quote:
Rhino Hero is back on the job — and this time not only does the wobbly skyscraper need to be climbed, but there will also be fierce battles between the four super-heroes Rhino Hero, Giraffe Boy, Big E. and Batguin. Who will win the battles and not let themselves be bothered by the mean, hanging spider monkeys?

Rhino Hero: Super Battle is a turbulent 3D stacking game.




• I've already published a preview of Yamataï, a Bruno Cathala and Marc Paquien design that I've played twice in prototype form, but now the game has been officially announced by publisher Days of Wonder for release in March 2017 in Europe (€54) and in May 2017 in the U.S. ($60).

For details on the gameplay of Yamataï, head to the aforementioned preview on BGG News. In the meantime, here's a shot of the game board after setting up. Note that the specialist tiles, fleet tiles, mountain tiles and culture tokens are randomized in each game.




• The wave of escape room tabletop games continues with the announcement of Deckscape: Test Time from Martino Chiacchiera, Silvano Sorrentino, and dV Giochi, with this title due out in Q2 2017. An overview from the publisher:

Quote:
Deckscape: Test Time is the first title in a series of cooperative games inspired by real escape rooms in which a group of people is "trapped" inside a room full of puzzles and odd items. The goal of the game is to solve puzzles, understand the plot of the story, and make intelligent use of the items provided in order to exit from the room as quickly as possible.

In Deckscape: Test Time, you have been selected from Doctor Thyme's most brilliant students for a special project. He'll test your skills, and if you succeed, you'll get a unique chance to help him on his newest and greatest invention. While he's explaining his project, he distractedly pushes a button: an alarm cries loudly and heavy gratings shut all the windows and the exit door. The laboratory is locked! Doc Thyme falls through a trapdoor below his feet and the lights turn off. Will you be able to pass Doctor Thyme's exam and exit his laboratory? Using just sixty cards, you will take part in a hectic adventure, without leaving home.


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Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:10 pm
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Designer Preview: Jump Drive

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Jump Drive is a card game for 2-4 players that introduces players to the Race for the Galaxy universe.




Each round, players simultaneously place and then reveal cards to build their empires, discarding other cards to pay for them.

Cards placed score every round, producing victory points and card draws. For example, Deserted Alien Colony produces 4 VPs and two cards each round.

Players must balance building up their income versus gaining points. The game ends once any player has 50+ points. The player with the most points wins!

How Long To Warp Speed?

Cards are either developments or worlds.




Each round, a player may place either one development, one world, or one of each. If only a development is played, the player pays one fewer card. If only a world is played, the player draws an extra card. If both are played, the player pays the full amount and doesn't draw an extra card.

Early on, players must choose between building their empires either efficiently via these bonuses or quickly by placing two cards at once. Since cards score every round, VPs build up rapidly. Jump Drive is quite fast, typically lasting just six or seven rounds with experienced players. This increases the tension around how to build your empire.

Prepare The Drop Ships!

Non-military worlds and developments are placed by paying their listed cost in cards. Military worlds don't cost cards, but must be conquered by having as many or more +1 Military icons in your empire than the military world's listed defense.




A development's powers can affect a world placed with it (but not vice versa), so Drop Ships and the Imperium Blaster Factory could be played together for a total of six cards from hand (these two cards, plus four cards to pay for Drop Ships).

Consult The Archives

Players familiar with two previous games of mine, Race for the Galaxy and The City, will recognize Jump Drive as a cross between them. Jump Drive is not a "re-skin" of The City. While they share per turn scoring, paying for cards with other cards, and 50 VPs to win, that's it: Jump Drive has a different setting, a second card type, different placement rules, military conquest, and a totally different card mix. Many Jump Drive cards share art, titles, and game effects with Race for the Galaxy cards and have no corresponding cards in The City.

Compared to Race, Jump Drive is drastically simplified. I've eliminated goods entirely (along with Produce, Consume, and Trade) and combined Develop and Settle into a single build phase each round, while converting their bonuses into tempo considerations.




Aside from +1 Military, two other Race symbols — the chromosome and the Explore "eyeball" — can appear on the side of cards. These factor into various card powers.




A player who doesn't place any cards in a round explores instead, taking an Explore chip and drawing two cards, plus one card per "eyeball" symbol (including the three eyeballs on the top half of this chip). After mixing them with cards in hand, the player discards as many cards as their "eyeball" symbols for a net gain of two cards (before collecting VPs and income for that round).




One major different from Race is that players can place duplicates in their empires in Jump Drive. There are seven copies of Galactic Trendsetters in the 112 card deck; a player who has placed, say, three Galactic Trendsetters would score 18 points from them every round.

How Fast Are They Doing That Kessel Run?

One complaint about Race (and The City) is that they have "low" amounts of player interaction.

The amount of interaction present in a competitive strategy game isn't just about its form, but whether players can A) judge how well they are doing and B) if they are behind, adjust their play to have a real chance of passing the leader.

A game that provides direct player attacks which are often too little, too late doesn't have "high" player interaction; this interaction is just noise. By contrast, if attacks do often result in lead changes, then this interaction is real. It's not the form, it's the effect that matters.

The simplest interaction is "racing" interaction: judging whether an early leader will be able to maintain the pace and, if so, increasing your pace in response (accepting an increased risk that you get exhausted or stumble, etc.).

In Jump Drive, players have to balance efficiency versus speed. If another player gets off to a good start, then you may have to abandon your "perfect plan" and take some risks by spending more cards to accelerate your empire building and hoping that you draw useful cards.




This isn't the only player interaction in Jump Drive. Many high-cost developments enable players to score extra points based on one other player's empire (of your choice). If another player has two Alien worlds and you have just one Alien world, then placing Alien Technology Institute may still be worth it.




Trade Pact is a cheap way (unless you've already built some Military) to both get started and to implicitly make an offer to other players for mutual benefit. War Propaganda is risky: it's a 6-point net swing in VPs per turn if you lose it to another player, but it can gain you a lot of points if you can maintain the Military lead.

Scan That World

Since Jump Drive is intended to introduce players to the Race for the Galaxy universe, we kept Race's icons, but drastically reduced their number to just military, explore, chromosome, development, and the four world colors.




Most Jump Drive cards are straight-forward, with simple discounts or bonuses. Five cards have more complex powers, such as Contact Specialist, described in text on the card.




We've taken advantage of this simplicity. Mirko Suzuki designed a card template using sideways bleed to show off the artwork from Martin Hoffmann and Claus Stephan. We also added "moons" to the colored worlds as an aid for color-blind players.

Adding It Up

In addition to cards, Jump Drive comes with Explore markers and 84 victory point chips. I experimented with score boards, cribbage-style scoring, score pads, etc. as different ways to keep score. Chips worked best for most people.

If players put their chips below the cards they play each round, they can add the new VPs they earn each round to the number of chips under the previous round's card, and collect this total. This avoids having to count up VPs every round.




The cards were designed to support this, with card names at both top and bottom so they can be easily overlapped. In the rules, we walk new players through an empire's early growth, illustrating how the VP chips are used.




Finally, we provide preset hands (A-D) for players' very first game. After that, just shuffle and deal seven cards to all players, who then choose five to form their initial hands.

Computer, What Is Your Analysis?

An inevitable question is which do I think is better, The City (which is out of print with no English edition) or Jump Drive? I think both are worth owning if you enjoy quick, tableau-building games with hand management, card combos, engine building, and different strategies to explore.




Jump Drive is more "combo-rific" due to the interplay between devs and worlds within turns as well as across turns. Jump Drive's ability to place two cards in a turn and a smaller hand limit (10 vs 12) makes for tougher hand management.

Tempo is important in both games, but saving one turn to place a big card in the next is more effective in The City. This, along with sizing your engine appropriately, is where skillful play can really shine. I still enjoy playing The City and hope to see it printed in English one day.

(From a BGG point of view, does Jump Drive "reimplement" The City? I don't think so. They share per-turn scoring, paying for cards with other cards, and 50 VPs to win, but that's it: Jump Drive has a different setting, a second card type, different placement rules, military conquest, and a totally different card mix.)

While both games are about building a VP engine, Jump Drive places a greater emphasis on card engines. While one can win The City with anything from 1 to 15+ income, it's hard to win Jump Drive without an income of at least four cards per turn.




Even if you go the Military route, you still need income to build +Military devs, find military worlds to settle, and to place a "capstone" development for a final burst of VPs.




I'm excited to see Jump Drive released, and I hope it exposes more gamers to the universe of Race for the Galaxy. Enjoy!
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Mon Jan 16, 2017 1:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Round-up: Hitting the Levers and Bumping the Machine to Get a High Score (of Dollars)

W. Eric Martin
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• You are a ball — a pinball, in fact, and naturally you want to score by bouncing off as many things as you can. How are you going to make that happen? That's the premise of Diane Sauer's Pinball Showdown from Shoot Again Games, with players needing to modify their speed while bidding for the right to hit certain bumpers or other playfield devices within the machine. Don't hit something quickly enough, and you won't score. (KS link)

L4 Studios and Mr. B Games are attempting to fund a fifth-player expansion for Glenn Drover's WarQuest so that more people can get beaten down in Myrathia. (KS link)

• Fighting of a different type takes place in Jonny Hinkle's Battle for the Universe, which is not actually a universal-scale battle but rather a two-player superhero fighting game, with the base game coming with four preconstructed decks. (KS link)

• Battle in Reiner Knizia's Khan of Khans from Chaosium takes the genteel form of cattle-rustling, with players digging into ten tiny decks of cards to nab the best steer and safely corral them for scoring later. (KS link)

• Quentin Forestier's Love Season, "a card game about little bunnies' love affairs" first released in 2014, is on Kickstarter for another printing. The game aims to recreate the spirit of an old Warner Brothers cartoon, with girl bunnies throwing themselves (via opponents) at you to keep you from doing all the important things that a boy bunny needs to do. (KS link)

• Similarly, Jeremy Galilee has resurrected Go With the Flow, first released in 2011, as Pirate Shipwreck, with players flipping tiles to search for treasure, as pirates are known to do. (KS link)

Dark Is The Night from Abbott, Boyer, Estill and APE Games is a two-player game of hunt or be hunted with something circling a campfire to nosh on the hunter trying to rest there. (KS link)

• Designer John Clowdus of Small Box Games is reprinting the Omega Edition of Omen: A Reign of War, his most successful title and one he's added to with bits and pieces since its debut in 2011. As far as I know, this gives you everything in one go, with metal coins to boot. (KS link)

• Tim Pinder's Sub Terra from Inside the Box Board Games throws 1-6 people in a series of caves, then asks them to explore the subterranean network to find a way out before the hazard deck runs out of cards and everyone dies. Multiple expansions exist to put new twists on the ways you can die. (KS link)

Tao Long: The Way of the Dragon from Dox Lucchin, Pedro Latro and ThunderGryph Games has blown up on Kickstarter in the surprising way that abstract strategy games (Tak, Santorini) sometimes do. In this game, each player manipulates stones on an action track to enable movement of their dragon on the board, ideally chomping on the opponent or blasting it with fire in order to remove its body parts and win the game. (KS link)

SPIN.a.4 is "a multi-player board game simulating real-life cricket play" from Ken Interactive (KS link) with the project bearing this description of the publisher and game:

Quote:
Ken is your new age, personalized learning partner leveraging digital media tools and game mechanics to create a dynamic educational environment. Ken incorporates innovative techniques and gamification for making learning easy and pace controlled with enhanced learning experience.

Ken is in the process of launching a statistically validated Board Game of Cricket, stimulating your cricket strategy with an element of fun. The game can rightly be defined as the "Chess of Cricket".

• Mitsuo Yamamoto and Logy Games are back on Kickstarter with another fancy ceramic abstract strategy game, this time GoRoGo, a two-player Go-like game played on a 5x5 board with each player having ten black (or white) pieces along with two black/white pieces. One black/white piece starts on the board, then players take turns placing a piece, trying to capture their opponents pieces, with the black/white pieces counting as black on that player's turn, then white on the other player's turn. (KS link)




Editor's note: Please don't post links to other Kickstarter projects in the comments section. Write to me via the email address in the header, and I'll consider them for inclusion in a future crowdfunding round-up. Thanks! —WEM
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Sun Jan 15, 2017 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Terraforming Other Parts of Mars, and Heading Back Underwater with Captain Sonar

W. Eric Martin
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• Word is out about Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium, the first of four expansions scheduled to be released for Terraforming Mars over the next two years. Publisher Stronghold Games tells me the U.S. street date is June 2017, while publisher Schwerkraft-Verlag expects to release this item in Germany in July 2017. Here's an overview of this expansion from Jacob Fryxelius, which consists solely of a double-sided game board that presents two new areas of Mars:

Quote:
• Elysium takes players almost to the opposite side of Mars' equator, with vast lowlands for oceans in the north and a dry, mineral-rich south. Place a tile on Olympus Mons, the highest peak in the solar system, to gain three free cards!

• Hellas, the southern wild, includes Mars' south pole and the enormous seven-hex Hellas crater that just begs to become a giant lake. Building around the pole gives you new placement bonuses in the form of heat and possibly even water.

Each of these maps consists of new sets of milestones and awards with relevance for that particular map. Place three tiles around the south pole to be a Polar Explorer, for example, or race to have the most estates beside water on Elysium!

• In a Facebook post about the new games of his that will be released in 2017, Roberto Fraga mentions two already in the BGG database, two more I've just added, and several for young players from French book publisher Auzou for which I can't find any details.

In the first category above, we have two titles from Blue Orange Games that fit the same model as his 2015 release Dr. Eureka. (Frantic Fraga?) In Dr. Microbe, you use tweezer to place colorful microbes in your petri dish, but you must first use logic to determine which microbes are missing from the challenge card so that you can grab the right ones — and the superbug must always differ in shape and color from the other three microbes in your dish.

Go Go Gelato!, a more direct cousin to Dr. Eureka, combines four scoops, three cones, two hands and one challenge card, with you passing scoops from cone to cone in order to match the order shown on the card.

More enticingly, we have what Fraga dubs "la première super méga extension" for Captain Sonar, a game co-designed with Yohan Lemonnier and published by Matagot. I don't know what's in Captain Sonar: Upgrade 1, as the Matagot rep has declined to share info for now, but I'll be at the game fair in Cannes in late Febuary 2017, so I'll surely learn something by then, I hope.




Finally, Fraga and Matagot will release Princess Jing, a game of bluffing for two players or two groups of players with artwork by Naïade.

In an interview on Tric Trac from November 2016, Fraga says, "Over the years, I have learned to be more and more obstinate and persevering. Playful creations are 50% originality and imagination and 50% perseverance." He gives this game as an example, mentioning that it originated in 1998 as "Akhenaton", was recommended in the 1999 Hippodice design contest, won the "Gobelet d'Or" in the junior category of the 2000 Boulogne-Billancourt design competition, and was consistently well-received during by the public during game festivals — yet was still not signed by any of the dozens of publishers to which it was presented.

Now thanks to Matagot, the game will finally see print eighteen years after its creation!

Something to do with Princess Jing

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Sat Jan 14, 2017 1:05 pm
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Party Like It's 1999: Stephenson's Rocket and Torres to Return in 2017

W. Eric Martin
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• In early January 2017, Grail Games announced King's Road, a reimplemented version of Reiner Knizia's Imperium from the Neue Spiele im alten Rom collection.

Now the Knizia/Grail connection continues with the announcement of a new version of Stephenson's Rocket, first released by Pegasus Spiele in 1999 and not reprinted since that time. (A spin-off title, The Great Chinese Railway Game, was announced in the late 2000s, but never published.) This new version, with art and graphic design by Ian O'Toole, is due out December 2017.

Stephenson's Rocket feels like Acquire meshed with an 18xx game. It's a luck-free, tile-laying-ish game set during the dawn of the rail age in England, with the rail baron players owning shares of seven railroad lines and trying to move them over the land to create and extend their rail networks, with share owners possibly being able to veto such moves at the cost of some of their shares.

Like other classic Knizia titles, you can take only two actions on a turn and you pretty much always want to take four or five to carry out your plans in full. The actions are to move a train, claim a goods token from a city, or place/move a station on the game board. Rail lines merge as the game progresses, and the game ends once all the tiles have been placed or shares in only one railroad remain available, then players score for first and second place in the categories of most shares in a railroad, most stations on a rail line, and most goods of each type.

In addition to the return of the original game, Grail Games notes that it "also plans to produce a previously un-released expansion map for Stephenson's Rocket that features the eastern United States". My thanks to Grail Games for including an apostrophe in the title of Stephenson's Rocket. Sometimes it's the little things that make us happy...


Cover sketch by Ian O'Toole


• German publisher HUCH! & friends plans to release a new version of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling's Spiel des Jahres-winning Torres in Q4 2017, with the game featuring new artwork by Michael Menzel.

In Torres, which is Spanish for "towers", players collectively build castles and occupy them with their knights. On a turn, you have five action points available, and you use them to add a knight to the board, add a castle piece to the board, move a knight, draw an action, or gain a point. Each player receives a certain number of castle pieces to place over the multiple rounds of the game, and while you can reserve some for later play, most of the time you need to use them or lose them. You mostly score points for placing your knights in castles, with the knights scoring the surface area of the castle multiplied by the level on which they're standing. You want to go high, but a castle can't have more levels than the surface area it occupies — and castles can't merge during the game, so you often use castle pieces to hamper the building by others.

The game includes multiple variants for how to use the action cards, with these cards allowing you to make special moves, such as moving a knight diagonally or jumping up multiple levels instead of only one. You can shuffle all of the cards together, which randomizes who gets which actions; you can create individual decks so that everyone has access to the same cards, but not all at once; or you can let everyone start with all cards in hand to reduce all randomness from play.

New version by HUCH! & friends
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Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:11 pm
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New Game Round-up: Tricks, Trades, Treasures, Traps, and Troy

W. Eric Martin
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Fireside Games is best known for the cooperative game Castle Panic and its multiple spin-offs (Dead Panic, Munchkin Panic, Star Trek Panic). Now it has another co-op ready for airdropping on May 31, 2017, the 1-4 player game Hotshots from Fireside's own Justin De Witt. Here's an overview:

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In the cooperative, press-your-luck game Hotshots, crews of 1 to 4 players take on the roles of wildfire fighters — crew boss, spotter, swamper, and sawyer — with special abilities, then roll dice on burning terrain tiles to match the combinations shown on those tiles. The more faces they roll, the better they fight the fire. Players can choose to cut firebreaks, which protect tiles from embers blown by wind gusts, or push their luck to reduce flames and possibly even generate reward tokens. If players bust and fail to match at least three of the six symbols on the tile, the fire grows. Another option is to maneuver vehicles — air tanker, helicopter, and brush rig — to save the forest.

Flame tokens are added at the end of each player's turn by the draw of a fire card, which can bring about light or strong wind gusts, increase the strength of the flames on certain tiles, and start fires. Too many flame tokens will cause a tile to scorch and be lost. Losing a terrain tile could also affect the game play. Some tiles are tied to crewmembers' special abilities, while others help the firefighters, and still others cause the fire to spread in unique ways. If eight tiles scorch or the fire camp scorches, the game is over and the forest is lost — but if the intrepid crew can extinguish the fire, the team wins together.

The press-your-luck mechanism with ratcheting rewards creates tension, and the variety of ways to fight the fire makes for interesting choices. The modular tile layout and fire cards bring high replayability to the game, and the acrylic flame tokens provide an enticing table presence.




• In March 2017, Paul Dennen, Renegade Game Studios, and Dire Wolf Digital will help you discover Clank! Sunken Treasures, an expansion for the 2016 deck-building game Clank! that brings two partially flooded maps to the game along with new dungeon deck cards, a new persistent monster to defeat, and new environmental challenges.

Scott DeMers and Mr. B Games have a giant design coming in 2017 titled Hellenica: Story of Greece, with this 1-7 player game taking 150-210 minutes to relive life in ancient Greece:

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An explosion of creativity and violence erupted in the Aegean Basin in 800 B.C. that defined ancient Greece. This combination of science, mythology, development, and war was led by powerful city-states like Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Troy, Byzantium, Corcyra, and Thebes. These states vied for control over their rivals and dominated the lesser states around them. In time, some of them became so well known that they are remembered even today.

Hellenica: Story of Greece is a 3.5X civilization game in which you harness the powers of one of seven beginning city-states to dominate the world around you. Your goal is to become the preeminent symbol of Greece for all posterity by completing a combination of secret and public goals. Will you be remembered as a warmonger or a peaceful philosopher? Great priest or apostate? Will you develop a devotion to the gods or focus on the advancement of your people?

Can you guide your civilization during these turbulent times? Will your vision of Hellenic civilization be remembered for all time, or will you merely be a stepping stone for another…?

Level 99 Games steps outside its usual "fight game" approach to present two titles of a very different nature. Anansi and the Box of Stories is a special-power trick-taking game from Ken Maher due out February 2017. In more detail:

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A story, a story; let it come, let it go. Once, all the stories belonged to someone else, but now they belong to Anansi, the Trickster — which is a story unto itself! Everyone knows that the best stories happen when you play someone else for the fool. But sometimes, even the best of tricks can backfire, and who plays the fool then?

In Anansi and the Box of Stories, the players take on the roles of archetypal animals in a trick-taking game in which you can use your animal cunning and abilities to turn the tricks in your favor. Each round, every player plays the card they think will win the trick. But beware, as others will turn your tricks back on you and make you a fool, taking away your points! Only a player who can skillfully win tricks without being made a fool will prove their wisdom.

Asher Stuhlman's Tomb Trader, due March 2017, is channeling the spirit of Dragon's Gold from Bruno Faidutti, with players needing to divvy up goods quickly or risk going empty-handed:

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In Tomb Trader, you and your friends have joined an archaeological excavation — not for the sake of antiquity or history, but simply in the hopes of lining your pockets with the best treasures and smuggling them back to civilization. Each day, sneak back into the tomb to loot high-value items, but watch out because your ne'er-do-well friends all have the same idea! You have to be a swift and skilled negotiator in order to divvy up the loot before being caught, while making sure you get the best cuts for yourself!

The game consists of 6 or 7 rounds in which players select a section of the tomb to explore and have one minute to divide the treasure between everyone else in the same section. Not coming to an agreement means nobody gets anything!
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Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:00 pm
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New Game Round-up: Building Civilization on Scales Large and Small in Gentes and The Pillars of the Earth

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• German publisher KOSMOS has announced that in September 2017, it will release a new game based on the third novel in Ken Follett's "Kingsbridge" series, with that book being titled A Column of Fire in English and Das Fundament der Ewigkeit (The Foundation of Eternity) in German. Here's a brief overview of the setting of A Column of Fire, which right now has only a player count (2-4) and suggested age (12+) announced for it, not a designer:

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In A Column of Fire, set in Europe during the time of Elizabeth I, Catholics and Protestants compete for power and influence in England, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. In this politically unstable environment, resourceful operatives and courageous secret agents plot to secure power for their rulers. The balance of power shifts back and forth amidst foiled assassinations, successful rebellions, and futile invasions — and not infrequently, those who sympathize with the weak are expelled from the country.

The real enemies, then as now, are not the rival religions. The true battle pits those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else — no matter what the cost. Who will best exploit the changing power conditions in Europe to win the game?


Update, Jan. 12: On Spielen.de, Sebastian Wenzel notes that Pillars and World Without End designer Michael Rieneck is indeed the designer of A Column of Fire.

Thames & Kosmos, KOSMOS' North American branch, has stated that it will also release A Column of Fire in September 2017 in the U.S., with a reprint of The Pillars of the Earth — a game based on the first book in the "Kingsbridge" series — to follow in late 2017 or early 2018. No word yet on whether The Pillars of the Earth: Expansion Set or World Without End will also return to print.

Update, Jan. 12: Thames & Kosmos says that they currently haven't set plans to reprint the expansion, but will evaluate sales and reception of the Pillars base game reprint, then make a decision later.


Artwork not final on that third title, in case you couldn't tell


• Uli Blennemann of Spielworxx has shared details about the next title from that company: Stefan Risthaus' Gentes, a design first described in November 2015 as "belonging to the genre of civilization games and having some interesting twists in the field of time management". Now here's a more detailed description of Gentes, due out in June 2017:

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"Gentes" is the Latin plural word for greater groups of human beings (e.g., tribes, nations, people; singular: "gens"). In this game, players take the role of an ancient people who are attempting to develop by building monuments and colonizing or founding new cities in the Mediterranean sea.

The game is played in six rounds, each consisting of three phases: preparation, actions, and tidying up. There are three epochs — rounds 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 — with new monument cards entering the game at the beginning of rounds 1, 3 and 5. Each player has a personal player map with a time track for action markers and sand timer markers. In the action phase of a round, the players take their turns in clockwise order, conducting one action per turn. Each action requires an action marker from the main board that is placed on the time track. Depending on the information on the action marker, you have to also pay some money or take sand timers that are placed on the time track. When you have no free spaces on your time track, you must pass for the remainder of the round. Therefore, the number of actions per player in a single round may vary significantly if, for example, you choose double sand timers instead of two single ones or take action markers that require more money but fewer sand timers. Single sand timers are dropped in the tidying up phase, while double sand timers are flipped to become single sand timer markers and stay for another round. The actions are:

• Buy new cards from the common display
• Build monuments (playing cards from your hand to your personal display for victory points and new options)
• Educate your people
• Build/found cities
• Take money

To play a card, you must meet the requirements printed on that card, such as having specific persons on your personal board (e.g., two priests and four soldiers). These requirements are why eduction — i.e., getting specific people — is important, but that is not that easy because there are six different types of people — three on the left and three on the right side of your personal player board — and you have only six spaces in total for the two types in the same line. If you have three merchants, for example, you move your marker for counting merchants three spaces toward the side of the soldiers and thus you have only three spaces left for soldiers. By educating a fourth soldier and moving your soldier marker forward to its fourth space, you automatically lose one merchant because that marker is pushed back to its second space.

It is crucial to generate additional actions by using the specific functions of monuments in your display and cities you have built. Cities are expensive, but they create benefits at the end of each round or provide new options for taking an action without acquiring an action marker, gaining only a sand timer marker instead.

Try to have a steady income to avoid wasting actions to take money. Pay attention to the display of common cards, which is new in every single game, because the monument cards are shuffled randomly within the decks of epochs I, II and III. Collect identical symbols on the cards to benefit from the increasing victory points for a series of symbols. Build cities to enlarge your options!


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Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:05 pm
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Plan B Games Debuts with Century: Spice Road, Owns Pretzel Games

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In July 2016, the Asmodee Group announced that it was discussing an acquisition of F2Z Entertainment, which at the time owned the publishing brands Z-Man Games, Filosofia Éditions, Pretzel Games, and Plaid Hat Games.

At SPIEL 2016, I heard from an informed source that an announcement of the completed deal would come in late October 2016, but instead business partners of F2Z Entertainment simply received letters noting that the company name was now Asmodée Canada, with nothing stated publicly about the acquisition.

Some details of that deal are now coming to light with the public debut of Plan B Games, led by CEO Sophie Gravel, who was formerly President of F2Z Entertainment. Pretzel Games was not sold with the remainder of the F2Z studios and is now a studio within Plan B Games, as confirmed by Lyne Bouthillette, also formerly of F2Z Entertainment and now Lead Communications officer with Plan B, so expect to see Flick 'em Up!: Dead of Winter from Pretzel Games as originally announced at Gen Con 2016.




The first title to debut from Plan B Games is Emerson Matsuuchi's Century: Spice Road, which bears this summary of gameplay:

Quote:
Century: Spice Road is the first in a series of games that explores the history of each century with spice-trading as the theme for the first installment. In Century: Spice Road, players are caravan leaders who travel the famed silk road to deliver spices to the far reaches of the continent for fame and glory. Each turn, players perform one of four actions:

• Establish a trade route (by taking a market card)
• Make a trade or harvest spices (by playing a card from hand)
• Fulfill a demand (by meeting a victory point card's requirements and claiming it)
• Rest (by taking back into your hand all of the cards you've played)

The last round is triggered once a player has claimed their fifth victory point card, then whoever has the most victory points wins.

If that description rings a bell, you might be thinking of Caravan, which Z-Man Games announced in early 2016 as an Emerson Matsuuchi design that would be released in two boxes with two settings, with the gameplay itself being identical in both cases. Bouthillette tells me that the concept of what Caravan used to be has changed a lot. "It's now a trilogy that we'll release one game per year. The games will all be related to one another theme-wise, and they can all be mixed together, but they're also playable as standalone games."





Plan B Games will debut Century: Spice Road at the 2017 Origins Game Fair on June 14, and the game carries a $40 MSRP with rules in English and French. Editions of the game will also be available from publishing partners in German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Dutch. Plan B Games, which will be distributed exclusively by GTS Distribution in the U.S., says that it will announce additional titles in its catalog in the "next few weeks", with Matt Leacock being one designer on its roster.


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Wed Jan 11, 2017 3:15 pm
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