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Teasers from Gen Con 2022: Ark Nova: Aquarius, and a Stefan Feld Six-Pack

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Ark Nova
• Just ahead of the opening of Gen Con 2022, U.S. publisher Capstone Games revealed a surprise release for that show — Ark Nova: Zoo Map Pack 1, an expansion for Mathias Wigge's Ark Nova that consists of two double-sided maps, giving people more maps from which to choose when playing with the advanced individual maps.

This expansion will be available in U.S. retail outlets on October 12, 2022, and originating publisher Feuerland Spiele and other licensees will announce release plans separately.

Board Game: Ark Nova: Zoo Map Pack 1
Map #9: Geographical Zoo

Aside from this release, during a 100-person Ark Nova event at Gen Con 2022, Capstone Games revealed a few details about Ark Nova: Aquarius, the first expansion for Ark Nova, which Capstone Games expects to release in mid-2023. Here are a few details of what to expect:
Quote:
Ark Nova: Aquarius introduces multiple new elements to the game, such as sea animals that each have to be played in new special enclosures that must be built adjacent to water.

Roughly half the sea animals are reef dwellers, and whenever you add a reef dweller to your zoo, you trigger the ability of all reef dwellers in your zoo. To deal with the increased randomness of more cards being added to the deck, all sea cards feature a wave icon, and whenever you replenish the display, if the first card has a wave icon, you discard it, then replenish.

A fourth university — the breed registry — is available on the association board, and if you take it, you claim one of six special universities from the reserve that feature one research icon and one of six animal icons. When you take this registry, you reveal cards from the top of the deck and keep the first revealed card with an animal icon that matches your chosen university.

For each of the five action cards, four alternate versions with a little twist will be available. Players draft action cards at the start of play, replacing two of their standard action cards with these new ones, increasing the asymmetry in the game. The build action, for example, might allow you to spend 2 money once per action to build over a water or rock space, with the upgraded side of the card allowing you to do this for free. The animal action might allow you to ignore one condition on an animal card that you're playing when you have the chance to put two animals into play, but play only one.

New bonus tiles and final scoring cards will also be included.
• Teasers were also present in the Queen Games booth at Gen Con 2022, with production copies of three of the titles in the "Stefan Feld City Collection" being available for demo games — Hamburg, Amsterdam, and New York City — and a fourth title being available in a mock-up form: Marrakesh.

Board Game: Hamburg

Board Game: Amsterdam

Board Game: New York City

Board Game: Marrakesh

All four of these games spilled components across a pretty wide area. For those not in the know, Hamburg is a revamped version of 2013's Bruges and its expansions, Amsterdam is a revamped version of 2009's Macao, and New York City is a revamped version of 2013's Rialto, whereas Marrakesh is a new design.

Queen Games has noted that copies of these games will start being delivered to European backers of its crowdfunding projects "soon", with the games being available for purchase at SPIEL '22 in October.

Aside from these four titles, Queen Games has revealed a bit of info about the next two titles of the "Stefan Feld City Collection", with title #5 being Vienna, a re-imagining of 2014's La Isla in which players will search to discover spies hidden around the city. The publisher notes that Vienna "has the most changes to gameplay and aesthetics seen in the series so far".

Board Game: Vienna
Non-final front cover

Cuzco is a re-imagining of 2013's Bora Bora with no other details at this time.

Board Game: Cuzco
Non-final front cover

More generally, Queen Games notes that its developers have been meeting weekly for the past two years to work with Feld on his designs. As for how often you can expect to see these titles, "fans should expect 2-4 new titles in the series to be released every year for the next 3-4 years", with no set number at the moment as to how many games will comprise the full series. Current plans call for Vienna and Cuzco to be crowdfunded in Q4 2022 for a projected release in Q3 2023.
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Thu Aug 18, 2022 1:00 pm
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Discover What Happened in Flashback: Zombie Kidz, and Settle Jupiter's Moons in Galileo Project

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Hachette Boardgames
Board Game: Akropolis
Board Game: Turing Machine
Hachette Boardgames had a massive Gen Con 2022, moving lots of copies of Akropolis and Turing Machine ahead of their U.S. retail releases on, respectively, August 24, 2022 and November 2022.

Like Asmodee, Hachette distributes games from numerous French studios, many of which are owned by Hachette and some of which I believe are still independent companies. Aside from Akropolis, Gigamic was selling Critical: Foundation – Season 1 (covered here) and Boris Uzan's Movie Mind, which had the highest weight-to-size ratio of any game at the show given that the box is filled with eighty thick cards that are nearly the size of the box. Individually or in teams, players look at a cartoon image that references ten movies and need to answer five questions within the time limit to score points — or answer the lone, extremely difficult bonus question that's worth 5 points on its own.

Movie Mind hits the U.S. retail market on September 28, 2022.

Board Game: Movie Mind

Board Game: Olé Guacamolé
Board Game: Flashback: Zombie Kidz
I covered Olé Guacamolé — a real-time, word-chaining party game from Guillaume Sandance and Scorpion Masqué — in this April 2022 post, and that game hits retail outlets in the U.S. on October 12, 2022.

Another title coming from Scorpion Masqué, due out on November 23, 2022, is Flashback: Zombie Kidz from Baptiste Derrez and Marc-Antoine Doyon.

This co-operative game is set in the world of Zombie Kidz Evolution, but gameplay works very differently. In each scenario, you are presented with an illustrated card that features several numbered items on it. You can choose to draw the scenario card that matches that number, which allows you to zoom in on that aspect of the scene, or perhaps view a scene from the reverse perspective. In the words of the game description: "Put together all the points of view to discover clues, uncover and figure out mysteries, and answer the final questions. Explore the past to solve mysteries in the present, and change the future to save the world from horrible monsters!"

Board Game: Galileo Project

Galileo Project is a design by Adrien Hesling and Sorry We Are French set in the same world as 2018's Ganymede, with 2-4 players trying to settle four of Jupiter's moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Your efforts are divided between home bases on Earth and Mars, with you having a presence in only one location at a time. On a turn, you can build a robot, get a character, or build a technology. Robots have a cost in Earth influence or Mars influence, so you can buy a robot only from where you're currently located, then the robot is placed next to indicated moon on your player board, bumping your stats on that moon and giving you a bonus based on the number of robots you have of that type.

Board Game: Galileo Project

When you take a character, you gain its listed influence on your current Earth/Mars track, then you gain either an immediate bonus (from the top of the card) or endgame scoring (on the bottom) depending on whether you're on Earth or Mars. (Each character has a blue action on top and red action on the bottom, or vice versa.) Technologies cost resources in exchange for points and a bonus effect, and public objectives are worth more points when you grab them before other players can.

Galileo Project is due out in the U.S. on October 26, 2022.

Board Game: Linkto Food
Board Game: Linkto Travel
Linkto Food and Linkto Travel, co-operative trivia games from Joël Gagnon and Marie-Ève Lupien that I covered in April 2022, are due out in early December 2022.

Finally, in late November 2022, Serge Laget and GRRRE Games will release Nidavellir: Idavoll, a second expansion for Nidavellir (which I covered here) that introduces four new types of cards and increases the number of turns over the course of a game. Gods come with a one-shot power, giants let you capture a dwarf of the depicted type, mythical animals match one of the five dwarven colors but have their own powers, and valkyrie are worth more points as you meet the requirements listed on them.

Board Game: Nidavellir: Idavoll
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Wed Aug 17, 2022 1:00 pm
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AEG Wants You to Build Wormholes, Cities, Green Spaces, Travel Plans, and Waffles

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Board Game: Dead Reckoning: Letters of Marque
Board Game: Wormholes
Meeting with publishers at Gen Con 2022 was a mix of new-and-old for me, partly because I attended GAMA Expo 2022, which meant that some of what was being previewed was already familiar to me. That said, I will try not to be blasé about new releases before they're even listed on a publisher's website.

Alderac Entertainment Group had a media space at The Westin to demo several of its impending releases while teasing future titles well into 2023, with them being a mix of straight-to-retail games and crowdfunding projects, such as Dead Reckoning: Letters of Marque, a new saga expansion for John D. Clair's Dead Reckoning that is on Kickstarter until August 19, 2022.

On that date, Peter McPherson's Wormholes debuts. In this game for 1-5 players, you're trying to pick up and deliver passengers at locations across the galaxy, creating wormholes to shorten your trip and ideally pick up points from others who find your shortcut worth the cost.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Some eager players removed their tokens before I could take this shot at round's end

Ready Set Bet from John D. Clair debuts on September 30, 2022, and in this game 2-9 players bet in real-time as a moderator (or an app) rolls random numbers and advances horses across a track. Payouts are based on the odds of a horse finishing in first, second, or third place when a horse hits the finish line, but the odds are skewed somewhat as any horse other than 7 gets bonus movement if its number is rolled twice in a row. Additional bets are available for horse color, horse-vs.-horse direct comparison, and other special bets. Bonus cards give you additional betting tokens or special payout circumstances.

Board Game: That Old Wallpaper
Board Game: Smash Up: 10th Anniversary
In That Old Wallpaper, due out October 14, 2022 from Danielle Deley and Nathan Thornton, you draft cards to create matching wallpaper patterns as best as you can.

Smash Up: 10th Anniversary, due out October 28, 2022 from Paul Peterson, includes an art book, a goblin coin, new factions such as mermaids and skeletons, and unannounced surprises.

At some point in October 2022, AEG will crowdfund Shake That City from designers Mads Fløe and Kåre Torndahl Kjær, a city-building game in which the active player on a turn shakes the cube-handling device, then ejects nine cubes in a 3x3 grid.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

The active player chooses one color of cubes, then adds tiles to their board in the pattern of those cubes, while everyone else must choose a color other than what the active player chose. In the final three turns, everyone can pick any of the revealed colors as you race to complete scoring bonuses and maximize points for creating an ideal town.

Board Game: Verdant
Board Game: Point City
Board Game: Let's Go! To Japan
Verdant, the newest collaboration between Flatout Games and AEG, hits retail on November 18, 2022. In this design from Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Aaron Mesburne, Kevin Russ, and Shawn Stankewich, you draft plant cards, room cards, and item tokens over multiple rounds to build up a 5x3 grid of cards, ideally getting your plants the right amount of light and creating a choice room in which to plant yourself to look at all the greenery.

Flatout Games also plans to release Point City in 2023, with this design from Johnson, Melvin, and Stankewich mirroring the gameplay of 2019's Point Salad, but adding an engine-building element as you draft resources and building plan cards.

Let's Go! To Japan is a Q1 2023 crowdfunding project from designer Josh Wood, who was thwarted in his real-life effort to go to Japan due to Covid, after which he channeled his travel research into this design. Over thirteen rounds, you draw activity cards and add them to your weeklong agenda, with the final part of the game being your trip, in which you activate all of your cards and "live" the journey.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Mock-up components for Let's Go! To Japan

John D. Clair's Rolling Heights, which was crowdfunded in February 2022, will hit retail in the first half of 2023.

A crowdfunding project for Thunderstone Quest will take place in Q3 2023, keeping to the once-a-year model announced in May 2022, with titles being created solely for backers and not for retail.

Finally, sometime in 2023, you will see Waffle Time, a drafting game by Maxime Demeyere that's all about building your perfect waffle.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Probably nor the final packaging
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Tue Aug 16, 2022 4:00 pm
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Designer Diary: Sabika

Germán P. Millán
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Board Game: Sabika
Hello, everyone, I'm Germán P. Millán, designer of Bitoku. My new game, Sabika, will debut in October at SPIEL '22 from Ludonova, and I would like to share with the BoardGameGeek community some thoughts and ideas on its creation process. Hope you find them interesting.

The Beginning

I was born in Granada, and since I was a child, I have seen the Alhambra on many occasions while walking along the "Paseo de los Tristes", right at the foot of the Sabika hill. At the top of this hill, like a crown, is the Alhambra. ("Sabika" means "gold ingot".) It is impressive and overwhelming. No matter how many times I go, it always leaves me speechless.

From gallery of Bourne85

In 2019, on one of those days that I was walking around there, I saw it again like so many times, but that time a new thought crossed my mind: What if I design a game about the construction of the Alhambra? Well, most of my games or mechanical ideas just pop up like that, out of the blue.

I spent the next few weeks researching and reading up on the subject. I couldn't think of anything else. Soon, I accumulated a considerable amount of notes and ideas to start the basis for a game.

The first Sabika prototype was born as an easy and accessible Eurogame that could be played by children since the main goal was to serve as a teaching tool in schools. Let's say its difficulty was like that of CATAN.

I chose the rondel as the central mechanism for aesthetic reasons and thematic adaptation. I know what I'm saying may sound strange, but it makes sense. Geometry and symmetry are predominant in the Alhambra, and curiously enough, they are fundamental characteristics of a rondel. I liked to imagine the Granadan people of that time playing a game with a rondel; it seemed quite right to me. I guess sometimes there are some pretty curious design decisions.

From gallery of Bourne85

Thus, the game had a rondel with four simple actions that the players activated with pawns called "Alarifes" (master builders). Some actions gave resources, and others allowed those resources to be delivered to build areas of the Alhambra. The round counter included relevant historic dates that linked to historiographical and didactic paragraphs where players could learn a little about the history of the monument.

It was quite simple, and the strategic factor was focused on how to manage your movement around the circle and not be late for the actions as rivals increased the costs. That is, while playing, the players learned aspects such as the construction materials used, the different areas that make up the monument, the most important sultans, and other vicissitudes of that time.

From gallery of Bourne85

Ludonova Joins the Construction of the Alhambra

I contacted Ludonova to show what I had been working on as I thought that Sabika would be a good fit for their publishing line. Also, I had always wanted to work with them since I admire their productions and their way of making games.

The meeting was a great way to get to know them and test the prototype with them. Thanks to them, the game took the first important step: There was a good base, but it was not enough. We agreed to meet again after a few months in which I would work a little more on the prototype.

I spent some time testing and making tough decisions. The more complex the game became, the more it moved away from its initial educational spirit. Game design requires making difficult decisions, and many times the project takes a direction that you did not expect.

It was difficult for me to assimilate it, but as soon as I was convinced of it, it began to flow and grow. The educational component disappeared, but I worked really hard to get all the mechanisms to make thematic sense — and I think that has finally been achieved.

From gallery of Bourne85

José Miguel Puerta and the Poems

I would say that one of the most important moments of this trip was meeting José Miguel Puerta Vílchez, one of the world's leading experts on the Alhambra, who luckily is from Granada. My good friend MagoMigue, an internationally renowned magician, put me in contact with him. Thank you very much for doing your magic!

So, I had the honor of spending an evening with José Miguel, showing him the game, and enjoying his enormous knowledge of the Alhambra. What things were more important? What could we add thematically? I asked him a lot of questions to which he not only gave me the answers but also went further. I showed him the prototype and all the historical elements that I had already implemented.

And that's how my favorite part of Sabika — the poems — came about. José Miguel said that most of the elements in the game seemed pretty good to him, but he was struck by the total absence of what is most important to him: "The Alhambra is like an architectural collection of poems." I was surprised. Then he began to talk about the importance of the poems that are in the rooms, how they were a testimony of the time, the concerns of the sultans, poems dedicated to a single room...

He gave me a spectacular talk about all this. I found it so fascinating that it was very clear to me that it had to be implemented in the game. That was the jump in complexity the game needed. I vividly remember coming back home excited and with a head full of ideas. Board game design has some moments that are simply amazing.

I added a new pawn for the players: the craftsman, who would be in charge of carving the poems on the rooms and walls of the Alhambra. To differentiate it from the other pawns present in the rondel, I decided to place it on each player's personal board, outside the rondel.

From gallery of Bourne85

The poems are cards that "break" many rules of the game, so from the beginning, they were a headache for Sabika's balance, but I think that without a doubt they are one of the most fun elements of the game. In each gameplay, players will carve poems with different effects and perks. This does not just create asymmetry, but it invites players to replay in order to find other synergies the game brings up and surprise themselves with perks and effects they haven't tried before.

The Difficult Search for Another Mechanism

Board Game Publisher: Ludonova
After several months of testing to settle the mechanism of the poems into the game, I met with Ludonova again to show them the progress. The conclusions were very positive; the poems fit perfectly in the game, but we knew that they would give balance problems until the end (and they did). However, the editors thought that the game system was enough to make a bigger and more complex Eurogame.

I returned to Granada with the challenge of making the game grow even more. I found an interesting approach: We could reflect the economic situation of the Kingdom of Granada. It was a topic that I had read sideways many times. The Granadans of the time developed a great economic muscle with the export of all kinds of merchandise throughout the European continent, the Maghreb, and the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, this allowed them to assume the heavy tribute that the Christians demanded of them to maintain intermittent periods of peace since Christian conquest was the main threat to Granada.

It was not an easy task to integrate a completely new mechanism. At the design level, it is crazy since everything moves. A slight change in one part can have consequences elsewhere. That is why you have to do it very carefully, and it is vital to know your design down to the last corner. Luckily, I had long wanted to design a game with a map where players position themselves and get different advantages. I thought a map would fit perfectly to reflect the commercial life of the Kingdom of Granada mechanically and thematically. I was not lacking in motivation and enthusiasm, but without a doubt, this was the biggest obstacle I have faced in Sabika. I remember several weeks in which nothing worked. In those moments, discouragement is your worst enemy. That's why it's so important to take a break from time to time, let the game rest, and come back to it later with a fresh perspective.

From gallery of Bourne85

I spent weeks researching and reading about trade in the kingdom of Granada between the 10th and 15th centuries. The amount of information I found about cities, merchandise, merchant families... I had the answers I needed in front of me in those texts! When you have good documentation, ideas come more easily.

I got down to work as there were many things to design and test. In addition to creating a map with its cities and routes, the mechanisms of trade required a new pawn: the merchant. I also added a new "track" that constantly annoys players: the parias*. And, last but not least, a new resource with its own function: the goods.

The Triple Rondel

The mechanism of trade brought many questions to the table, but a key question also emerged: How to integrate this new mechanism? I needed to create new actions to get goods and to move around a map. In addition, they had to differ from the "construction" mechanisms in order to avoid a repetitive feeling between the actions of the builders and the merchants. In a way, it was like inserting a different game into what was already there.

I integrated the merchant's pawn into the builders' rondel and created some actions that only merchants could trigger, but the tests were not very satisfactory in terms of usability. There were too many icons and information in the rondel boxes, which gave the feeling that everything was a bit messy and overcomplicated. I decided to create a rondel of my own for the merchants. This is how the double rondel came about.

From gallery of Bourne85

The truth is that it worked very well from the beginning, and I felt relieved. In addition, I connected both rondels through the new resource, the goods, which could now be obtained in the spaces of each of the two rondels, creating a very interesting degree of interaction and planning. I was finally solving the problem!

Soon, we concluded that the craftsman's pawn (which was on the personal board) needed to unify its operation within the double rondel as leaving the craftsman isolated on the personal board was a bit weird. We created three actions for the craftsman, and voilá, this is how the triple rondel that stars in the Sabika board was born. It's amazing how sometimes nothing works, and little by little, with dedication and perseverance, everything fits and flows so smoothly.

Ludonova's editors were very pleased with the result. We finally had the game! From then on, there were months of very intense testing sessions since although the game was complete, many details remained to be adjusted and polished.

From gallery of Bourne85

Final Development, Curiosities, and Farewell

The last stage of the development was based on gameplays, gameplays, and more gameplays. Ludonova's team was very active in this whole process, and thanks to that, many adjustments and finishing touches were made.

Balancing the poems lengthened the development of Sabika since there are many different combinations and situations in which the behavior of each poem had to be verified. (There are 64 different poems, plus others that were discarded.)

Unlike with Bitoku (many thanks to Dávid Turczi and his team), this time I was personally in charge of doing the solo mode. I never play in this modality, and for this reason, I set myself the challenge of making the simplest automa possible and with the least amount of management to be able to play it personally. I may have been a little selfish in this regard, but I think I managed to create a very entertaining challenge.

The advanced mode (event tiles) came in the final phase of development. The editors asked me to design a "promo" to give away with the launch of the game. The event system adds extra difficulty and integrates so well into the game that they ultimately decided to add it as part of the game. Personally, and as advised in the rulebook, I don't recommend playing in advanced mode for the first few games.

José Miguel Puerta Vílchez provided a large number of texts, data, and names of real characters that have been used for the illustrations, clothing, and other details that have helped give it that "educational" nuance that so obsessed me at the beginning of development. In addition, he has written several informative books on his studies, and some of them can be purchased in Alhambra's bookshops.

The illustrator, Lauron Bevon, had visited the Alhambra a year before Ludonova asked her to illustrate Sabika. She was very excited and has done an exceptional job.

Board Game: Sabika

If you've made it this far, thank you very much for your time and interest. I hope you play Sabika one day and enjoy building towers, gardens, and doors; carving majestic poems that last for centuries; and exporting goods throughout Europe and the Maghreb. If one day you travel to Granada, don't forget to visit the "Paseo de los Tristes" as surely you will feel the magic that I felt the day I decided to design Sabika.

Germán P. Millán

P.S.: Special thanks to the "bandít" of Jonatán (jonatanmartin87) for his time editing and translating this diary and for his valuable friendship.

* Translator's note: "Parias" is the name given to the specific tribute imposed on the Kingdom of Granada by the Christian kingdoms. For more information, check this link.
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Tue Aug 16, 2022 1:00 pm
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Reflections on Gen Con 2022

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
In addition to writing about what I saw at Gen Con 2022, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the show and industry at large as viewed through the happenings of that event.

I realize that I come across in this video as pessimistic, feeling that titles are hitting — and leaving — the market too quickly, barely having a chance for people to try them before they land in clearance bins within a year. This situation isn't necessarily new, but I've mostly been off the convention scene since early 2020, and this show had me feeling like the traveller in this video for Orbital's "The Box":


In retrospect, I did overlook that one title that did seem to carry buzz throughout the show: Cat in the Box: Deluxe Edition, which I did see multiple people playing and which had a line at the Bézier Games booth for most of the event as they moved hundreds of little boxes into bags that would be carried around the world.

Perhaps this is merely the sign of a mature market, similar to how no one expects to sample everything in the book or music industry. All you can do is keep your eyes open at a show, then see what happens in the weeks and months to come as Twilight Inscription review videos flood out. I'm doing my part as well in this coverage, while also trying to watch myself...

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Mon Aug 15, 2022 4:00 pm
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Candice's Gen Con 2022 Round-Up/Discoveries: Part 2

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Deal with the Devil
• At Gen Con 2022, I was especially pumped to join Eric for a meeting with Czech Games Edition to hear more about Deal with the Devil, an intriguing, 4-player heavy eurogame with asymmetrical hidden roles from Alchemists designer Matúš Kotry. Deal with the Devil is due out at SPIEL '22, although the U.S. availability date is TBD.

In Deal with the Devil, which can only be played with exactly 4 players, one player plays as the Devil, one player plays as a cultist, and the other two players are humans. While the game is played the same by all players, each player has their own goals. Both human players start the game with three pieces of their souls, the cultist has two pieces, and the Devil has no souls. Throughout the game, the Devil is trying to gain pieces of the human and cultist players' souls, and the human players will be tempted to sell pieces of their soul in exchange for money and resources needed for their own motivations and goals.

From gallery of candidrum
A sneak peek of the Deal with the Devil prototype

Deal with the Devil has a slew of different things going on with a unique blend of gameplay elements and mechanisms, which makes me very curious to play it. You use an app to inform players of their roles, and facilitate trades and other activities in the game to keep everyone's roles secret, while maintaining a layer of deduction throughout the game. This is all blended with familiar eurogame elements, such as constructing and using buildings, producing and managing your resources and money, all while dealing with debt as best as you can, considering you can take loans out whenever you want.

Each player in Deal with the Devil also has an elaborate screen with a removable top, so you can play building cards secretly prior to revealing them publicly. These screens will appear slightly familiar if you've played Alchemists and they are essential to the gameplay in Deal with the Devil.

In Deal with the Devil, there are also witch trials, secret rituals, and inquisitors which players have to deal with to avoid penalties. Again, this game seems very unique. I have no idea if I'll love it or not, but I'm fascinated by this ambitious design from what I've heard and seen so far.

From gallery of candidrum
Behind the player screen (prototype)

Board Game: Starship Captains
• For something a little lighter on deck from CGE, we also checked out a prototype of Starship Captains, an action selection, engine-building game designed by Peter B. Hoffgaard, which is coming out at SPIEL '22. Starship Captains is a competitive game where 2-4 players are in command of their first starship and hungry to prove themselves in a galaxy full of space pirates, grumpy old androids, ancient artifacts, and interplanetary adventure.

From gallery of candidrum
Starship Captains main board (prototype)

Starship Captains features an innovative crew queue for action selection. There are different color upgradeable workers that allow you to take different actions. On the game board, there are different missions players can complete, and these missions refresh at different locations, so the game board evolves as the game plays out.

From gallery of candidrum
Crew queue & tech cards (prototype)

Board Game: The Red Burnoose: Algeria 1857
• Historical games are more rare at Gen Con, but I was on a mission to find a few new ones. This led me to stop at Hit 'Em With a Shoe's booth to check out The Red Burnoose: Algeria 1857, a co-operative wargame for 1-4 players with a fresh pro-feminism and anti-colonialism perspective on the Algerian War, from Creature Comforts designer Roberta Taylor and Matt Shoemaker.

In The Red Burnoose, players join Fadhma N'Soumer in her fight against the invading French armies in the Kabylie region of Algeria in 1857. With a mix of deck-building and area-control elements you and up to three other players work together to survive as the French advance on your villages.

From gallery of candidrum
The Red Burnoose: Algeria 1857

Board Game: Maple Valley
Board Game: Creature Comforts
• For more from Roberta Taylor, Eric and I played a few rounds of Maple Valley at the Burnt Island Games and Kids Table BG (KTBG) booth. Maple Valley is a follow-up to Creature Comforts which is targeted to launch on Kickstarter for crowdfunding in Q4 2022.

Maple Valley is a worker movement game set in the delightful world of Creature Comforts, where 1-5 players take on the roles of young forest animals who must play cards to travel a variety of paths to explore Maple Valley and collect resources needed to craft favors that are needed to contribute to the Spring jamboree festivities. Along the way, you can also pick up new friends (action cards) and earn patches which grant you special powers. As festivities are filled with player cubes, players gain points for area majority, which is one of the main ways you gain points in Maple Valley. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins, so there's plenty of competition from the different festivities. Between the number and variety of festivities and outposts included in the game, it seems like there's no shortage of replay value in Maple Valley.

From gallery of candidrum
Maple Valley Prototype

Board Game: Fall of the Mountain King
Board Game: In the Hall of the Mountain King
While I didn't get a chance to demo it, Fall of the Mountain King from designer Adam E. Daulton is another upcoming release from Burnt Island Games which made an appearance at Gen Con 2022. Fall of the Mountain King is a standalone prequel to Jay Cormier and Graeme Jahns' 2019 release In the Hall of The Mountain King, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter in June 2021 (KS link) and will be available in September 2022. In Fall of the Mountain King, 1-5 players are clans of trolls striving to best defend against an onslaught of gnomes.

From gallery of candidrum
Fall of the Mountain King

Board Game: Endeavor: Age of Sail
At the Burnt Island Games booth, we also got to briefly check out the prototype for Endeavor: Deep Sea, an exciting reimplementation of Endeavor: Age of Sail from designers Carl de Visser and Jarratt Gray. Similar to Endeavor: Age of Sail, Endeavor: Deep Sea is being co-published by Grand Gamers Guild, and it is targeted to launch on Gamefound for crowdfunding in Q1 2023.

In Endeavor: Deep Sea, 1–5 players compete as independent research institutes with the goal of developing sustainable projects and preserving the fragile balance of marine life. While most of the gameplay will be familiar if you've played Endeavor: Age of Sail, there are some modifications and improvements aside from the new theme -- the biggest one being the modular map in Endeavor: Deep Sea. With a modular map, players can get a feeling of exploring the deep sea, plus building the game board differently each time you play will give each game a unique feel.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any photos of the prototype (aside from the box cover), but I'm definitely looking forward to playing Endeavor: Deep Sea when it is available.

From gallery of candidrum
Prototype box

• I stopped for a quick chat with Omari Akil and team at the Colorway Game Labs booth (formerly Board Game Brothas) and took a peek at Critical Care: The Game and Hoop Godz which are both due out in Q4 2022.

Board Game: Critical Care: The Game
Board Game: Hoop Godz

From gallery of candidrum
Omari & Team lookin' fly in their scrubs...

In Omari Akil and Lakshman Swamy's Critical Care: The Game, 1-4 players work together as a team of intensive care unit (ICU) doctors trying to save their patients while dealing with a variety of crises and managing different specialists in a busy Emergency room setting. Swamy is an ICU doctor, so Critical Care is filled with realistic scenarios and challenges ICU doctors face on a day-to-day basis, not to mention a diverse set of patients, which is super cool.

From gallery of candidrum
Critical Care: The Game

For another unique theme, Hoop Godz is a 2-player, head-to-head street basketball game designed by Omari Akil and Hamu Dennis. In Hoop Godz, players draft three basketball players as their team for the game, then spend "juice" to move, pass, and play action cards. The first player to score 7 points wins.

From gallery of candidrum
Hoop Godz

Board Game: John Company: Second Edition
• On Friday evening of Gen Con, brothers Drew and Cole Wehrle of Wehrlegig Games held a low-key (high-excitement) event at the Omni Severin Hotel to show off their latest release John Company: Second Edition, which was hot off the press. Fans gathered in an intimate room to gaze at the beautiful, high-quality production along with the gorgeous Pax Pamir: Second Edition which was displayed on another table in the room. Drew and Cole were excited and proud, and were happy to answer any questions and/or simply chat with us. The vibes were good, and it felt like we were experiencing an exclusive Wehrlegig museum exhibit. I've been looking forward to playing the finished version of John Company: Second Edition since I posted about it in March 2021, and now I'm even more stoked.

From gallery of candidrum
John Company: Second Edition

Board Game: Cryptid Cafe
• Lennon and Chip Cole's Cryptid Cafe was available at Gen Con from 25th Century Games after a successfully funded on Kickstarter in February 2021 (KS link) by Squatchy Games. In Cryptid Cafe, 1–5 players compete as lead servers at a Sasquatch-owned restaurant gathering food, filling orders, and trying to satisfy customers to earn the most tips. Chip Cole's playful, nostalgic artwork grabbed my attention and was very fitting with Cryptid Cafe's unique restaurant theme.

From gallery of candidrum
Cryptid Cafe
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Mon Aug 15, 2022 1:00 pm
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Release Business Sharks Once Again, and Make Money from Expeditions and Fake Art

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: The Princes of Florence
In March 2022, I wrote about a new edition of The Princes of Florence hitting the market courtesy of Korea Boardgames. Turns out that's not the only older game seeing a comeback courtesy of KBG as SPIEL '22 will see the debut of both that Kramer/Ulrich design and a new edition of Henri Jean Vanaise's stock-trading game Shark, which debuted in 1987. Here's an overview of this 2-6 player game:
Quote:
Shark is a stock-trading game slightly reminiscent of Acquire in that abstract play on the game board determines the share values of the various companies. The similarities end there, though, as Shark is more free-wheeling than Acquire.

Board Game: Shark

At the start of your turn, you can buy shares (up to five) and sell shares (as many as they want), then you roll dice to determine which of the four company markers you place on the board and in which region. A company marker on its own doesn't contribute to the value of a company; only groups of at least two markers count, so groups of 5, 4, 1, and 1 markers would create a value of $9,000 for each of that company's shares. If you place a marker that combines those two lone markers, then you'd have groups of 5, 4, and 3, so the share price would shoot to $12,000. If you placed that marker on its own, the share price wouldn't change. When you place a marker, you gain money equal to that company's new share price, so you have an incentive to boost a company's size — but all players receive funds equal to the difference between the old share price and new for each share they hold, so are you enriching them more than yourself?

Of course, you can also place a marker to tank a company's share price. When a company's group expands to touch a smaller group, that smaller group is removed from the board, lowering the value of that company's shares (as long as the group had at least two markers) and costing everyone money equal to the loss in value. (Groups of equal size cannot touch, and you cannot place a marker to force a smaller group to touch a larger one.) To end your turn, you can again sell as many shares as you want and buy shares up to the per-turn limit of five.

Board Game: Shark
Board Game: Shark
Board Game: Shark
Earlier editions

Removed markers are banished from the game, not returned to the supply. Once all of a company's markers have been used, or a company's share price reaches $15,000, or all of the shares have been sold, the game ends, and players cash out all their shares to see who has the most money.
I'm pleased to see that sharks continue to dress with style as they attempt to dominate our financial institutions.

Board Game: Expedition
• Other SPIEL '22 releases from Korea Boardgames include two original games from Korean designers. Expedition by Jason Lee is a 1-6 player design in which you're digging for relics on an island, using your first finds to fund the hiring of others to work for you, moving them over a grid of tiles as you play cards. When an expedition member lands on a tile, you flip it for immediate rewards, a dig site that will require additional effort to uncover, or relics that will fuel you toward victory. By returning to base camp, you can buy new cards for your deck.

Fake Art Inc. is a 3-5 player game from designer Ikhwan Kwon that intrigues me due to its general air of messing with everyone else's stuff in order to put money in your pocket. That's not my thing in real life, but making it happen at the game table feels great:
Quote:
For some reason, several portraits from famous painters have poured out into the market. Most of them have to be fakes, but even the experts are having difficulty distinguishing them from the real thing. The price, of course, will vary greatly depending on whether it is assessed to be genuine or not.

Board Game: Fake Art Inc.

In Fake Art Inc., you are expert brokers who must collect fake masterpieces and distribute them in the market. After all, you need to make a profit. Increase the emotional value of all the art in your collection, and disrupt the market by dropping the appraisal value of other player's art. With the right timing, even an artwork of no value can be sold at a high price to another broker. See how easy it is to make money by selling art?

In more detail, players first decide the turn order by bidding. On their turn, players can either trade their hand with others or place it on a space between players to set up an auction. Cards are placed face down, and equivalent cards are placed down together. You can make money by selling your hand cards, and the price is determined by the number and location of "genuine" and "fake" cards that have been placed down. Players can change the selling price by replacing existing cards.
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Sat Aug 13, 2022 1:00 pm
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Avalon Hill on Display at Gen Con 2022

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game Publisher: Avalon Hill
Just ahead of Gen Con 2022, Avalon Hill surprised the gaming world with the announcement of HeroScape: Age of Annihilation, a new standalone "Master Set" for the beloved HeroScape game line that last saw new titles released in 2010.

At the show, I spoke with design lead Craig Van Ness, Tanya Thompson (Senior Director of Inventor Relations and Innovation for Hasbro Games), and Angus Walker (Head of IR & External Innovation) about plans for HeroScape: Age of Annihilation, and the information they could share was minimal:

—The miniatures will come unpainted, but they will be created in different colors to match the generals.
—The miniatures will be backwards compatible to everything released previously.
—No release date has been set, and no method of release has been announced.

Board Game: HeroScape: Age of Annihilation
HeroScape display at Gen Con 2022 with painted miniatures

Despite that last line, the sense I got was that you will find the project going live on Hasbro Pulse, the company's direct-to-customer sales platform, before too long. Everyone agreed that painted miniatures would be great, but one thing Van Ness pointed out is that the current tools for miniature creation allow for more detail than in earlier releases — and that level of detail makes painting more of a challenge, i.e., costly.

As for what's coming in the box, that's still to be announced. I imagine Hasbro execs have laid out a chart of possible figure counts and cross-referenced those numbers with what the resulting retail price would need to be in order to maximize what's possible without turning off potential buyers. We'll see where that dart lands.

Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons: The Yawning Portal
• Avalon Hill showed off several other titles as well, such as Dungeons & Dragons: The Yawning Portal, a 1-4 player game designed by Kristian Karlberg and Kenny Zetterberg that works as follows:
Quote:
The Yawning Portal is an iconic inn that attracts fascinating adventurers with two things in common: They're famished, and they have unique tastes in food.

As part of the tavern's staff, you need to feed them by matching up food tokens with the orders pictured on their hero card. You earn colored gems (and points) for every matching food token, and a bonus for completing an order. The colored gems that appear most frequently on the board receive the highest value, so strategize to tip the scoring scale in your favor — and don't be afraid to use potions to make patrons love your food! Collect more points if you're the first to achieve an objective challenge or earn an endgame bonus. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
From gallery of W Eric Martin

Dungeons & Dragons: The Yawning Portal is already listed on Hasbro Pulse with a March 2023 release date.

Risk: Shadow Forces, a legacy game for 3-5 players, was released at the start of August 2022, and that game sprawls across a display case as fine as any other.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Betrayal at House on the Hill: 3rd Edition was another early August 2022 debut from Avalon Hill, and a small expansion that contains one new character, two new miniatures, and five new haunts is due out later in 2022. That expansion is Betrayal: The Werewolf's Journey – Blood on the Moon.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

• Finally, Avalon Hill announced a December 2022 release date for The Rogue Heir of Elethorn, a small expansion for HeroQuest that consists of two miniatures, a story card, and twelve game cards.

It's interesting to see Avalon Hill acting like a "regular" game publisher — announcing expansions of popular titles, using direct sales to bypass the retail market — but these moves make sense for a company that sees a market for which it can provide games on a scale that's below Hasbro's normal level of operations.
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Fri Aug 12, 2022 1:00 pm
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SPIEL '22 Preview: Sea Salt & Paper, and Look at the Stars

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Sea Salt & Paper
To follow up my preview of Splendor Duel, I'll now detail the other Bruno Cathala co-design that captivated me at Gen Con 2022: Sea Salt & Paper, co-designed with Théo Rivière and due out from French publisher Bombyx at SPIEL '22.

Sea Salt & Paper is a pure card game that might seem overwhelming at first glance and will likely take more time than it should to explain given the multiple card types in the deck.

To get started, let's examine my holdings at the end of a round:

Board Game: Sea Salt & Paper

Note the ColorADD player aid in the upper right, which indicates the number of cards of each color in the deck. (Bombyx's Yann Droumaguet told me that the company intends to use the ColorADD symbols as much as possible in the future to make its games more accessible.) Card types can come in a range of colors, and the colors matter for two purposes that I'll explain in a bit.

In the top row you see four pairs of cards: ships, crabs, fish, and the swimmer/shark duo. When you collect one of these pairs in your hand, you can play it in your holding area for 1 point and the special power of that pair, which from left to right are:

• Taking another turn.
• Picking the card of your choice from one of the two discard piles.
• Drawing a card from the deck.
• Stealing a random card from an opponent.

The four cards in the bottom row were in my hand until the end of the round. A mermaid is worth 1 point per card in your collection that's a color of your choice; if you have multiple mermaids, you must choose different colors. I chose yellow and dark blue, so that's worth 7 points on top of the 4 points for my pairs. (The other two cards are worthless, but if they had been yellow or dark blue, the mermaids would have counted them.) If you manage to collect all four mermaids in your hand, you win the game instantly!

Now let's consider a pic from a different round:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Other cards score points as sets, so I have 3 points of octopuses in hand and 0 points of shells. Alternatively you could collect penguins or sailors. Each card has a number at the lower-right indicating how many cards of that type are in the deck. Finally, some cards score points based on other card types: the lone lighthouse is worth 1 point per ship in your collection; the school 1 point per fish; the colony 2 points per penguin; and the captain 3 points per sailor.

Okay, with that background out of the way, how do you play the game? Shuffle the deck, then deal one card into each of the two discard piles. On a turn, take the top card of a discard pile into your hand or draw two cards from the deck, keep one, and discard the other. If you have a pair, you can choose to play it.

When you have at least 7 points — whether in hand, on the table, or in a combination of both places — you can choose to end the round immediately, at which point everyone reveals their hand and scores for all their stuff. Alternatively, if you have at least 7 points and think you have more than anyone else, you can reveal how many points you have and call "Last round", after which everyone else gets a final turn. If no one manages to have more points than you, then you score those points as well as a bonus for the color most present in your collection, whereas everyone else scores only for the color most present in their collection. If someone does top you, however, then you score only for your best color, while they scores their points and a bonus.

Play multiple rounds until someone hits the 40/35/30 point threshold depending upon whether you have two, three, or four players.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
"I always feel like somebody's watching me..."

Droumaguet ran me through an overview of the game, which seemed overloaded with too many card types and choices, then we played a sample round...then another and another and another and everything flowed smoothly and I stopped only because I had another appointment.

Yes, the game might have a lot going on, but that's okay because you're building up a hand only one card at a time. Not everything will show up in a round, so the value of any particular card is relative only to what you have and what's been discarded, which means you need to be flexible to piece together points.

The action of a turn is simple and takes only a few seconds, yet it generates all the uncertainty that good card games do: Are you making the right choice? Are you giving the opponent something they want? Are you covering the right pile, or leaving exposed something they want? Every little choice shapes the flow of the round, and the effect of those choices builds over time. With more players, more cards would be buried in the discard piles between turns, giving additional information of what's out of play.

The gamble available to you regarding the end of a round is a great touch. How confident are you? What does the opponent have on the table, and how many cards do they have in hand? Have you been tracking what they picked up? What's the most they could have? If you gamble correctly, you can get a huge leg up in the score since you add on a bonus, while others get only a bonus, swinging a round that might have ended 8-7 in your favor to something like 11-3.

Sea Salt & Paper doesn't feel innovative in terms of scoring choices or gameplay, yet the game was incredibly compelling, combining the double mystery of the card draw with the satisfying bump from a pair power and the thrill that comes from holding valuable cards that will snakebite the opponent should they call last round. The final package will be on the scale of an Oink Games release, perfect for every purse, backpack, overnight bag, and airplane tray on the way home from SPIEL '22.

•••

While at Gen Con 2022, I also tried Bombyx' other SPIEL '22 release, a flip-and-write game for 2-8 players from Romain Caterdjian titled Look at the Stars.

Each player gets a board with a couple of constellation-style images on it, a few ringed planets, and a grid of stars (dots), giving everyone a slightly different view of the night sky. (Imagine we're at different points on the meridian.) In each round, six cards are revealed, with a card showing a pattern of two lines or (rarely) a shooting star. When you see lines, you can choose to draw them on your board in that same arrangement or rotated, connecting two stars each time you draw a line. When you connect three or more lines, you have created a constellation, and ideally you'll make six constellations from size 3 to 8.

For a shooting star, you can draw a diagonal line 1-3 segments long that doesn't touch anything else on the board. Nothing else can be drawn later that touches this shooting star.

Board Game: Look at the Stars

After the first round, you can no longer draw on the bottom two rows of your board. Imagine that the sun is starting to rise, making it harder to see stars at that level. After the second round, you can't draw in the bottom four rows, and after three rounds the game ends, and you score for the following:

• For a constellation of size 3-8, score 3-8 points, with no points scored for a second constellation of the same size.
• Score 1 point for each constellation that is orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to a planet.
• Score 1 point for each segment in a shooting star.
• Score the listed points each time you have created the shape revealed on a bonus card.

Bing, bang, boom — that's it! The game includes more than 18 cards, so you won't know which line patterns are being used in any particular game. As you can see from Yann's board on the right, constellation lines can cross, and you can make tightly nested patterns given the right cards and experience to see how to fit everything together.

Board Game: Look at the Stars
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Thu Aug 11, 2022 1:00 pm
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Gen Con 2022 Preview: Splendor Duel

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Splendor Duel
As often happens at conventions, most of the games I played at Gen Con 2022 will be released in the near future, thereby giving me a chance to preview them ahead of time.

The two games I enjoyed most (that I can talk about at this time) are Splendor Duel and Sea Salt & Paper. The former game is from Bruno Cathala, Marc André, and Space Cowboys, and the latter from Cathala, Théo Rivière, and Bombyx. Given that I'm also excited about Sobek: 2 Players, a Cathala and Sébastien Pauchon design that Pandasaurus Games had at the show, not to mention Cathala and Rivière's Oh My Brain, now out from 25th Century Games, this event was pretty much a "Cathala Con" for me. For this post, I'll focus solely on the former game.

Croc from Space Cowboys told me that Cathala had reached out to Splendor designer Marc André with an idea for a two-player-only version of the game — which might seem odd given that Splendor already plays fine with two players — but André, perhaps considering the success of 7 Wonders Duel, said sure, let's collaborate. Space Cowboys didn't even know about the project until the designers were mostly done, but I'm sure the publisher didn't object to being delivered a spinoff title to the best-selling game in its catalog.

As with most spinoffs, Splendor Duel maintains as much fidelity to Splendor as possible: Take one action of several on a turn; have at most ten tokens in your reserve at the end of your turn; collect cards from three strength levels; reserve a card by taking a gold. The three main differences, however, are what drive everything in gameplay and what make this design compelling.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Set up and ready to play

First, you collect tokens by drafting them from a grid, taking up to three adjacent, non-gold tokens in a row, column, or diagonal, then adding them to your reserve. The grid contains 25 tokens at the start of play: four of each of the five colors, three gold, and two pearls. Roughly half of the cards in the game require you to hand in a pearl, so you'll compete for them constantly. (Gold can be spent as a pearl or as any color.)

As players spend tokens to acquire cards, you place those tokens on the refill bag. When someone doesn't like the choices on the board — which can happen quickly since both empty spaces and gold break up adjacency — you can decide to refill the board before choosing tokens for your turn. When you do this, the opponent gets a privilege token, represented by a plastic scroll. You then shuffle all the tokens in the bag, take them in a stack in your hand, then refill the board by starting at the center and following the line outward, dropping one token in each empty space. After a refill, you typically have a tightly filled space with a few outlying tokens, but with far fewer tokens than 25 since you both have some in your reserve.

At the start of your turn, you can spend a privilege token to grab any non-gold token from the board, then you take your turn like normal. If your opponent collects two pearls or three tokens of the same color in a single turn, you receive a privilege token to compensate for the random token placement that fell their way.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
The board after a refill

Second, some cards have one-time special powers that you gain when playing them, so you value cards in more complex ways than Splendor cards that feature only a color and (possibly) points. These powers are:

• Gain a privilege token.
• Take another turn.
• Take a token matching the color of this card from the board.
• Take a non-gold token from the opponent.

I used this last power multiple times against Candice in our game, and it's a great two-fer power serving as both attack and resource-building toward your next card. If someone is clearly working toward a particular card — and you can't reserve it away due to a lack of gold on the board (as you must take a gold in order to reserve) — then swiping a token can be devastating. They might need to refill the board to get that last token again, which gives you a privilege token and knocks them out of rhythm.

Third, instead of mirroring Splendor's 15-point threshold for bringing about the end of the game, Splendor Duel gives you three victory conditions — 10 points in a single color, 20 points total, or 10 crowns — and as soon as you meet one of them, you win.

As with the addition of one-time effects, this change complicates how you value cards. In all likelihood, you'll value everything somewhat while keeping your options open and looking for opportunities, especially since crowns serve as a victory condition on their own, but they can also help you toward victory elsewhere. When you acquire your third crown, you take one of the nobles on display, and with six crowns you take a second noble. The game includes only four nobles, and they are worth 3 points or 2 points and a special power. These points aren't colored, so they help only toward the 20-point threshold, but the powers (stealing a token, taking a privilege, or taking another turn) are flexible.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
My holdings, which include 20 points of victory

In my game with Candice, I raced to six crowns relatively quickly — as in Splendor, the initial focus is all on token collection until you have enough cards to accelerate further card acquisition — then Candice reserved a two-crown card, and I was somewhat adrift given the lack of crowns in the card pool. At some point I reserved a colorless 6-point card that costs eight white, then managed to get another white card, that allowed me to get a black card that costs 4W3G, which got me a joker card I made white, and the 4 points from those three cards, along with the 6 from the closer, brought me to exactly 20 points, a total that had seemed quite distant just a few turns earlier.

As intended, Splendor Duel mirrors the feeling of the original game, such as the slow early game in which you are finding your footing and figuring out which of the high-level cards to target, or the desire to reserve a card an opponent is eyeing only to see something even better be revealed. The spatial puzzle of the token collection is a welcome addition, and it combines well with the color starvation you might try to practice on an opponent, with you holding off on spending tokens until after they refill the board to make it harder to get what they need.

The pearls add another wrinkle to gameplay. If your opponent lacks a pearl or gold, then you know which cards are currently inaccessible to them, which helps you better determine which cards they are targeting should you want to acquire or reserve them first.

Given the strength of both this game and 7 Wonders Duel, I'm sure that other designers would be eager to hear from Monsieur Cathala about any ideas he might have for duellifying their creations...
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Wed Aug 10, 2022 5:30 pm
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