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New Game Round-up: Doctor Who and Dirk Gently Say Hello, Android: Netrunner Gets a Reboot, and 7 Wonders Celebrates Seven Years

W. Eric Martin
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Having worn my SPIEL '17 blinders for several weeks now, I'm not sure what's new to people and what isn't any more, so let me run through a handful of game announcements and you can make use of what's useful:

Doctor Who Fluxx will be the next standalone version of Andy Looney's Fluxx, with this item appearing in retail outlets on November 23, 2017, the 54th anniversary of the first episode being aired. Publisher Looney Labs hasn't officially announced the game yet, but the D&D Online website DDO Players somehow picked up the news early and a Looney Labs representative has confirmed the details for me.

• In other semi-BBC-related game news, six days after Doctor Who Fluxx appears — time not being relative for most of us — IDW Games will release Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: Everything Is Connected, based on the BBC series of the same name. (Mr. Pedantic below points out that the show will actually run on BBC America, not BBC itself. Good to know about this distinction!) Here's an overview of this 3-8 player design from Matt Fantastic and Arvind Ethan David:

Quote:
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: Everything is Connected is the first in a series of "Everything is Connected" storytelling games in which the mysteries are only as looney as the players.

In this game, a detective and a holistic detective put together the clues, accuse a person of interest, and tell their assistants the story of the crime. The assistants then process the two versions of the case and simultaneously select which version of the truth is more believable. To solve the case, you have to think on your feet and remember that "everything is connected".



Fantasy Flight Games has announced the impending release of a "revised core set" for Android: Netrunner, with this item containing cards from the original Core Set released in 2012 as well as cards from the Genesis Cycle and Spin Cycle series of Data Packs. For details on which card have been removed from the original Core Set and why, head to this BGG thread.

• With Conspiracy Theory, which hits Kickstarter on Sept. 13, 2017, Steve Jackson Games takes a crack at the black card/white card party game format originated by Cards Against Humanity and continued by everyone and their grandmother. At least SJG is staying true to its roots as in this Steve Jackson design, the judge presents a conspiracy-related question, then everyone else answers it in the way they think will best please the judge. (Hint: Every white card reads "It's the Illuminati".)

Portal Games has announced a new army pack by Michał Oracz for Neuroshima Hex!, with both the HQ and some units in the Iron Gang having a new "chain" ability that allows two chained tiles to target and hit any opponent that lies on the straight line that connects these two.

• To celebrate 7 Wonders' seventh anniversary, Antoine Bauza and Repos Production are releasing two small expansion packs to add more variety to the game: Leaders Anniversary Pack and Cities Anniversary Pack, with each containing fifteen new cards for use with the base game and the expansion included in its name.

Distributor Asmodee North America has listed a November 2017 release date for these two packs, which each carry a $9 MSRP.



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Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:31 pm
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A Brief Pause in the Action

W. Eric Martin
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I've been working on the SPIEL '17 Preview and little else the past few days, partly because I want to knock out as many titles as possible before sending out invitations to publishers to schedule demo time in the BGG booth during SPIEL '17 — something that will likely start later this week — and partly because we have guests in the house who are staying longer than expected since they were supposed to fly to Miami after visiting us. That flight was cancelled several days ago, so we're hosting them for several more days. I expect to return to regular posting soon, but in the meantime it's good to have a few more game players around the house...
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Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:50 pm
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SPIEL '17 Preview: The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game, or Yes, I Understand That The Original Game Has Dice, But This Is Different, Okay?

W. Eric Martin
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I need to start this preview of The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game with a confession. Despite my love for almost all games created by Stefan Feld, I've yet to play The Castles of Burgundy.

I know, right? How could that have happened? I love Roma, Macao, Notre Dame, and In the Year of the Dragon, and I even like Rum & Pirates far more than most people. As I recall, in early 2011 when CoB was released, my son was two and I was busy with dad things for months on end and I was still finding my way with BGG (for which I had just started working a few months earlier) and we were preparing to move, so I was boxing our life in my spare moments instead of playing. Then we moved, and I had new games to preview, so that was that. Boo hoo, poor me. New games to play instead of six-month-old games...

I did play Feld's Trajan, which was released in late 2011, then the magical quartet of Bora Bora, Bruges, Rialto, and Amerigo in 2013, then La Isla and Aquasphere in 2014, etc., but I somehow never made it back in time to Burgundy.

In any case, here we are in 2017 with The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game already available in Germany and with the game scheduled to debut in the U.S. at BGG.CON in November 2017 ahead of a January 1, 2018 retail release. This game, co-designed by Christoph Toussaint and published as usual under Ravensburger's alea brand, is labeled as a 1-5 player game, but I think that upper limit is listed solely due to the box containing only five pencils. In practice, any number of people could play this game simultaneously.

To start, each player receives a two-dimensional duchy, with the pad of scoring sheets containing four different duchy designs colorfully labeled A, B, C and D. Every player needs the same duchy design so that you can imagine yourselves competing on alternate Earths to become the duckiest Duke or Duchess of all. Naturally, you value your worth in points, and for the most part you acquire these points by filling in empty spots in your ledger, just as the dukes of old, who charted their wealth on paper while the farmers and peasants did all the physical labor behind the scenes.

To start, each player Xs a green castle (for which 1 point is already recorded in the first round area), then circles the benefit of that castle (orange, in this case). Here's how you might start in Croissant, as I've named my duchy:




Each turn, one player rolls all five dice, then players use those dice to mark off something adjacent to anything already tagged as your turf. First, though, you mark one or two spaces in the round tracker depending on whether the hourglass die shows one or two hourglasses. Here's the first roll:




So what now? Pair one color die with one number die, then write the number in the appropriate space. To fill a blue space, you need a 5 or 6, so that's out — unless you want to spend the circled orange power that allows you to change (solely for yourself) the pip value of a die. Seems early to spend your one special ability, so why not fill the adjacent orange space with a 1 or 4?

Moving along to turn 4, and the dice show nothing you can use. Hmm.




If you don't mark something off, then you circle an orange bonus for use on a later turn, but you don't want to do that if you can help it. (TCOB:TDG life lesson #1: When someone is sad, give them an orange. It might not improve their disposition, but it will protect them from scurvy.)

Thankfully you didn't waste that orange bonus earlier, so now you can change a die to 5 or 6 to mark either adjacent blue space or you can change a die to 5 to mark the green castle. Note that you can mark a castle only when the die value matches the number in any adjacent space. (They're really big on adjacency in Burgundy. No one dared mess with the Bureau d'Adjonction in the 1400s as they ruled with a perfectly formed iron fist.)





Let's go with the castle plan. This gives us 1 point for completing the castle as well as a blue commodity that we might be able to sell at some future date. You might notice underneath the round tracker is a points legend for completed regions. The earlier you fill in the all the spaces of a region, the more points you receive for that region — except for single-space regions, of course, because how much of a challenge is it to fill in a single space anyway?

Moving on to turn 6:




Turn 6 lets you complete the gray region, presumably a mine or digging pit since the image vaguely looks like a cave, but let's go with "gray region" for simplicity's sake. Completing that region nets you 4 points and lets you circle the gray bonus. On a future turn, you can X that gray nugget to use two different dice combinations on the same turn.

Every completed region gives you a bonus this way. Orangeville (each space of which must be filled with a different value) gives you an orange bonus, which as previously noted lets you change the pip value of a die. The purple bonus lets you change a die's color. Each yellow bonus scores you the value of that region twice, points being their own reward. The blue bonus is the previously mentioned commodity that still sits unused.

Turn 7 introduces something new:




The double hourglass has you mark off two spaces in the round tracker. Ah, life is passing so quickly! Little Etionette is now large enough to join you at the window as you yell at the peasants to work harder. Her high-pitched squeak gives the commands a grating quality that you couldn't previously achieve on your own. Magnifique!

With all this time at hand, every player can sell all commodities they've circled, scoring two points for each while also gaining a gray nugget in the process. Blessed nugget, it's time to put one to use to mark off two spaces at once! After crossing out the nugget, you can use the blue with one 5, then the blue again with the other 5 to mark both spaces in the blue region, thereby gaining you another commodity in addition to 4 points for that region. Progress feels good, especially when others are sweating on your behalf. After all that work, here's how your duchy now stands:




Alas, you pushed everyone too hard, and turn 8 in the first round brought this result. Each space in a yellowtown needs to be filled with the same value, and thankfully for all of our mathematical efforts throughout history (but sadly for you now), 3s are neither a 1 nor a 5, so the final turn in this round hands you an orange in compensation along with a sum of 12 points.




Rounds 2 and 3 progress the same way. You don't have much in the way of special powers at hand — only one orange and one nugget — and you haven't even seen a purple die all game, so if one does show, you had best complete the one violet space to the east of the river (or nugget that dice roll, if possible, for either two-space purple region). Time and again, both in competitive games and when playing solo, I've found myself short of a plum bonus and unable to change the color of a die, which then leads to me getting another orange, which does you no good if you don't need the colors at hand. (TCOB:TDG life lesson #2: Colors are more important than numbers.)

Did I mention playing solo? I did, and the only rule change is that each round lasts precisely eight turns (instead of varying between five and ten depending on how many double hourglasses show up). What differs when playing competitively versus playing solo? Other than the varying number of turns, not much except that everyone so often someone will shout at the end of a turn, "I've completed all of the blue", and you'll curse them for doing this before you because they'll score the higher number of bonus points for this color (4), leaving you only 2 points to scrounge up — assuming someone else doesn't beat you to second place.

As you might gather, The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is very much a solitaire game. I'm marking things on my sheet, and you're marking things on yours, and sometimes I score a bonus first and sometimes you do and sometimes we both complete the same colored region on the same turn and we both score the higher number of bonus points. Huzzah! I've played six times on a press copy from Ravensburger — three solo and three three-player games — and the experience hasn't differed much. You might look at another player's sheet and see they've filled one orange space more than you and have as many nuggets as you, so you realize that you're unlikely to beat them to the bonus, so you fill in a purple space instead of an orange one this turn. At least you can call purple your own...

The play sheets differ in their arrangements of the land masses, but they feel the same during a game, the values and colors rolled on the dice being more important than the colored patterns on your sheet. I initially thought commodities were the way to go when choosing a starting castle, but in my most recent game the double hourglasses were constant, with the entire game lasting only 18 turns (with the full range being 15-30 turns) and therefore kiboshing my "long-term" strategy of parlaying commodities into nuggets into double turns. Super frustrating, but sometimes you just have to suffer the dice. (TCOB:TDG life lesson #3: Dice results are random.)

No matter — I have dozens of duchies still to be developed, and should I find a willing opponent, we can compete on opposite sides of the sheet at the same time, perhaps introducing a new form of head-to-head competition in the process, with me pushing my pencil through the paper to jab their hand as they attempt to write something down. En garde!



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Fri Sep 8, 2017 8:30 pm
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Gen Con 50 Museum: An Homage to the Rise of U.S. Gaming

Beth Heile
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In between filming game demonstration videos at the BGG booth during Gen Con, SPIEL, and other conventions, we occasionally get to roam free in the hall and film more unusual fare: notable displays, costumes, events, or exhibits. It was my pleasure to make the considerable walk over to Lucas Oil Stadium and view the Gen Con 50 Museum, which created in honor of Gen Con's 50th anniversary by Paul Stormberg and Jon Peterson.

While roaming, I was lucky enough to snag a couple of minutes with Mike Carr, the only known attendee of every, single Gen Con for all fifty years. He attended the first Gen Con at age 16 and has a long history within the gaming industry since then, notably as vice-president of game design at TSR and designer of Dawn Patrol.

Mike was kind enough to donate a few minutes to speak on camera, but I wanted to highlight a number of interesting facts that I gleaned from him, from the museum, and from other attendees:

• Gen Con is named for Lake Geneva, Wisconsin where the first event was held, and the event was originally called Lake Geneva Wargames Convention. The name is also a derivation of the Geneva Conventions, since the international agreement is a common theme in early war games.

• Gen Con was first held at the Horticulture Hall in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The Gen Con 50 museum mapped out a space on the field of Lucas Oil equal to the dimensions of the original building.




• While Gen Con has been hosted in a variety of locations, the three locations it is most known for are Horticulture Hall in Lake Geneva (1968-mid 1970s), Milwaukee's Convention Center (1985-2002), and its current home in Indianapolis (2003-present).

• A new major gaming influence has arisen roughly every ten years at Gen Con, with a matching rise in attendance: war games (mid 1960s - mid 1970s); D&D (mid 1970s - mid 1980s); indie RPGs (mid 1980s-mid 1990s); CCGs, as started by Magic: the Gathering (mid 1990s - mid 2000s); and Eurogames (mid 2000s-present).

• Although Gen Con LLC has not publicly posted the attendance numbers for 2017, casual estimates put the amount greater than the last high-water mark of ~61,000 in 2015. The past seven years have seen the same amount of attendance growth as seen in the previous 43 years combined. (Editor's note: In an August 21, 2017 press release, Gen Con reported "an approximate attendance of 60,000 unique attendees", while highlighting "its ninth consecutive year of record turnstile attendance, reaching 207,979, an approximate 4% increase over 2016". —WEM)

All in all, the museum was hosted with great love and genuine respect for all things gaming, and the influence this annual event has on the U.S. gaming market. I walked through twice on Sunday, and both times I was stopped by museum staff asking whether I had questions or wanted to know more about an item or display.

I'm personally fascinated by my family's history and genealogy, and I got the same feelings cruising through this museum. I started attending Gen Con in 2005, which was already well-settled into its space at Indy, and found my modern-day memories deepened by learning of Gen Con's history. (I originally wrote "Gen Con's origins", but that gets us confused with Origins, and that's another story!) I don't know whether the museum will return in future years, but I highly recommend the experience if it does. My new dream is for someone to get the same idea at SPIEL in Essen, Germany so that we can get a sense of the history of gaming events on both sides of the pond.


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Fri Sep 8, 2017 3:17 am
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SPIEL '17 Preview Update — 500 Listings and Counting

W. Eric Martin
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BoardGameGeek's SPIEL '17 Preview now contains more than five hundred listings, and I'm almost caught up on all the SPIEL '17-related email in my inbox. Only a few dozen more messages to go! (Sorry!) That said, many more messages are likely to arrive during the upcoming week, and the messages will undoubtedly continue to pour in for the next seven weeks until I head to Germany to see what this "SPIEL" nonsense is all about.

Invitations to schedule demo time in the BGG booth during SPIEL '17 will go out in mid-September, and I'm sending them only to publishers that have games listed in the preview. After all, if I don't know that a game is coming out at SPIEL '17, then why would I schedule time with that game's publisher? Thus, if you plan to demo or sell games at SPIEL '17, please send me info about the games, the prices, and your booth location to the email address in the BGG News header. I'll get to that message as quickly as I can.

One note about the new convention preview format: In years past, I typically listed promo items that were being released at the same show as the base game in the "Other Information" box on a game listing; I didn't want to add more listings because users couldn't hide them easily. Now since users can more easily hide listings than in the previous GeekList-related format (thanks to the new prioritization options) and since it's more difficult to include images in the current listings (due to our desire for speedy downloads), I'm listing all of the promo items individually. Mark what you don't want as "Not Interested" and they'll disappear from your search results along with the base game.

As for other requests related to the new convention format, I have nothing else to report at this time. I'm focusing on what I can do and will coordinate with Scott and others when possible on any potential changes.

In other news, I'm quietly pushing out the game overview videos that we recorded at Gen Con 50. In previous years, I'd tweet video links at all of the publishers and post all or some of the videos in BGG News to draw attention to our coverage of the most anticipated games, but this year I'm mostly publishing on YouTube and moving on so that I can make sure we're all prepared for SPIEL '17. Should you care to check out overviews of Fallout, Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition, Photosynthesis, and other new and upcoming games, head to our Gen Con 50 playlist on YouTube, which currently contains 98 videos. I'm not even through day two of the convention, mind you, so we'll easily top two hundred videos when I finally put a bow on it.

Now back to work...
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Tue Sep 5, 2017 4:04 am
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SPIEL '17 Preview: Manhattan Rises Again, Far More Colorfully Than Before

W. Eric Martin
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The hobby game industry has grown a lot since I got into it heavily in 2003, and each year new people come into the hobby only to discover that hundreds of fantastic games were released in years past and they're now no longer generally available.

And yet for the most part those games keep coming back. Ravensburger announced reprints of Notre Dame and In the Year of the Dragon in late 2016, for example, and people cheered since they would now be able to easily discover these "old" games for themselves (without paying more than MSRP for used copies). A fourth edition of Twilight Imperium debuted at Gen Con 50, and new versions of Endeavor and Fireball Island were announced at that show. Almost everything returns to print, and when these games return, they're new for a large percentage of the audience that has heard about them but not easily had access to them.

Andreas Seyfarth's Manhattan is one of those new-old titles for me. Manhattan won Spiel des Jahres, Germany's game of year award, in 1994, the year before Settlers of Catan set the gaming world on fire, and despite me knowing about the game I had never played it. Korean publisher Mandoo Games will release a new version of Manhattan in late 2017 with art by Jacqui Davis; the setting now seems to be a tropical island of some sort given the sand dunes and lush forests on the game board, but the gameplay remains the same as the original edition as far as I can tell.




I've now played three times on a press copy sent to me by Mandoo Games, once each with two, three and four players. Gameplay is simplicity itself. Each player has 24 buildings, with the buildings being 1-4 stories tall. At the start of a round, players choose four or six of these buildings (depending on the player count) and place them on their personal board.

On a turn, you play one of the four cards in your hand, then place a building from your personal board onto one of the six blocks in the position indicated on the card, then you draw a new card. Each block is a 3x3 grid, and all of the blocks are identical at the start of play. As the game develops, you start feeling possessive over this block or that, with you fighting against one person here and another person there; one block turns into skyscraper central, while another is more like the suburbs, with every space occupied with squat little buildings. For convenience's sake, though, let's refer to every constructed space as holding a skyscraper.




The only restriction on placement is that after placing a building, you must have at least as many stories as each other person who has built in that skyscraper. This is important since the player whose building is on top owns the skyscraper (just as in real life, right?), so this rule prevents you from sniping someone who's invested a lot in a skyscraper by capping it with a one-story building.

Once everyone has placed all their buildings for the round, the player who owns the single tallest skyscraper scores 3 points. In each block, whoever owns more skyscrapers than each other player in that block scores 2 points. Finally, each player scores 1 point for each skyscraper they own. You then take four or six more buildings from your reserve, rotate the start player marker clockwise, then continue. (In a two-player game, you control two colors of buildings, build either color on your turn, and sum points for both colors at game's end.)

After four or six rounds of play, whoever has scored the most points wins.




In most ways, Manhattan is a basic area majority game, something ideal for introducing those new to hobby games to what exists in the larger world of games. You can learn the game in a couple of minutes, then dive in and start fighting for space. You quickly start elbowing others out of your way since covering someone else can both cost them a point and earn a point for you — assuming everything stays that way at the end of the round, of course, which is rarely the case. You can't dominate every block, so you choose your battles, feign innocence when you start to compete in blocks held by others, and keep turn order in mind since the players going later in each round have final say over who will score for what.

The scoring system pulls you in multiple directions, challenging you to make the most of each placement. Can you both take a majority and deny someone else a point? Can you compete for the tallest building and make that space work toward a majority? The deck contains five copies of each card, and each player plays cards relative to their own position, so playing a card that would place a building in the upper-right corner from my perspective would allow my left-hand opponent to place in the lower-right corner from my perspective. I suppose you could attempt to track card plays by everyone to have a better sense of who could play in which spaces, but I find that a gut feel gets you 90% of the way towards what you could reason out, so I go with my gut and leave it at that. Yes, I made up that statistic, but I've found it holds up well for me over hundreds of different games played.




You want to encourage others to snipe amongst themselves and leave you alone, but that's not going to happen. Pick your battles, and ideally you'll have cards in hand that allow you to retaliate in blocks where others mess up your plans. Luck of the card draw will obviously have an impact on what you can do, but not allowing you to do everything you might want to is what pushes this game to be appropriate for newcomers as well as more experienced gamers. You can't do anything; you must decide from among these choices, then see what you can do next.

One possible difficulty with this new edition of Manhattan is that the yellow and orange pieces are distinct when they're on the table or stacked on other colors, yet somewhat hard to distinguish when they're stacked one on another. Aside from that, the only complications with building in Manhattan come from those others who want to trump your buildings with their own. Don't let that happen!


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Sun Sep 3, 2017 6:55 pm
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SPIEL '17 Preview: Amun-Re: The Card Game, or A New Kingdom for an Old Game

W. Eric Martin
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Reiner Knizia's Amun-Re holds a special place in my gaming heart as (I believe) it was the first game I played at Guy Stuff Gamers in Attleboro, Massachusetts in 2003. I had played a random assortment of modern games for years — Lost Cities being the biggest hit amongst those — but I wasn't following new game releases; I just ran across games in random locations and bought whatever looked interesting. But then someone saw me playing Lost Cities with a friend during a break between rounds at a Magic: The Gathering prerelease, put me in contact with GSG's Mark Edwards, and *boom* I was suddenly part of a great group of gamers, with the then brand new Amun-Re introducing me to a much wider range of games — well, that and Mark's jam-packed game library.

For many people, Amun-Re was the last great Knizia title. The following year he released Ingenious, a runaway hit that was likely denied the Spiel des Jahres only due to Ticket to Ride also hitting the market in 2004, and that game seemed to signal a turning point in Knizia's design career, with him moving away from "games for gamers" and towards designs aimed at a mainstream audience.

The mid-2000s also saw Knizia start to focus more on branding, with him releasing numerous titles that were spun off of existing designs. The Euphrates & Tigris card game was released in 2005, followed by Medici vs Strozzi and Blue Moon City in 2006 and multiple Einfach Genial (a.k.a. Ingenious) titles in 2007 and 2008. The biggest remakes of them all — Lost Cities: The Board Game and Keltis — appeared in 2008; that latter title won the 2008 Spiel des Jahres, which spurred multiple Keltis spin-offs, including Keltis: Das Kartenspiel, which led to people accusing Knizia of eating his own tail. A card game based on a board game that was derived from a card game? What nonsense!

The secret, of course, is that game design is not a Platonic activity. The kernel of an idea is merely that — the kernel, the essence of something that can be cultivated in many different ways — and while that kernel might itself qualify as something pure and unchanging, you can't bring that to the table and get someone to play it. Instead you take that central idea — being forced to play something, but only following a certain direction — and interpret it in many ways.

Amun-Re: The Card Game, which is scheduled to debut at SPIEL '17 in French and English from Super Meeple, is the latest example of Knizia reframing an earlier release. What's the essence of Amun-Re, the core that drives action in the game? The auction at the start of each round. Yes, you want to build pyramids and have fertile fields and fulfill the goals of powers cards, but all of those desires are funneled through the auctions. The provinces up for auction provide guidance on what people might want to do in the round — lots of caravans? everything on one side of the river? only one province with a decent number of power cards? — then the auction plays out and you carry on from there.

In more detail, Amun-Re features a multiunit auction. A number of provinces equal to the number of players is revealed, then players take turns bidding on these provinces; the bidding track for each province uses triangular numbers (0,1,3,6,10,15,21,...), and if you're outbid on a province, on your next turn you must make a legal bid on a different province. Eventually everyone will be a separate province card, at which point people pay for their bids, then start doing other things. After three rounds, you score points, then time passes, removing all the farmers from the fields and leaving only the pyramids behind. You then have three more rounds of auctions, with every province now being valued differently thanks to the pyramids and bricks that already lie in those spaces.

Sample gold and province cards
Amun-Re: The Card Game keeps that type of auction at its core, with those results driving everything else. The game lasts three rounds, with three auctions in each round, followed by other actions, then a scoring. Each player starts the game with money cards valued 0-8, and at the start of the game, everyone chooses money cards that sum to 14 (with the 0 being included) and lays those cards face up on the table. Province cards equal to the number of players are revealed, and players take turns bidding on provinces by placing exactly one money card next to one province, outbidding an opponent if someone else has already bid there; if you're outbid, you take back your money card, then bid again on your next turn. Eventually everyone will have bid on separate provinces, after which you discard the non-0 bids, then lay out new province cards and run through two more rounds of bidding.

Province cards show different numbers of pyramids, ankhs, and fields, with a caravan possibly being visible as well. Whoever has the most ankhs visible is Pharaoh, going first in each action with ties broken from the Pharaoh going clockwise.

After three rounds of auctions, players will have some amount of money (possibly only the 0) still in hand. Everyone simultaneously makes an offering of gold, and the sum of the offerings determines how much the Nile floods, which determines how much money players will earn from fields. If the sum is 10 or less, players with caravans receive 10 gold per caravan. Whoever offers the most gold receives three pyramids to place on their province cards, with others receiving two and one pyramids.

In player order, players determine their income level, then spend gold to build pyramids on their cards (distributing them as equally as possible), then they take money cards into their hand to account for any income not spent. They then score points for sets of pyramids, for having nine or more fields, and for having the most ankhs.

The second and third rounds of the game play out similarly, except that when you claim cards following the auction, you place these province cards on top of your previous province cards so that only the imprinted and acquired pyramids are visible. Everything else is buried in the sands. You score again at the end of each of these rounds, then the player with the most points wins.

Anyone who has played Amun-Re will recognize much of what's described above. The auctions lead off a round, and the result of those auctions — who gets which provinces? in a game with fewer than five players (and Amun-Re: The Card Game accommodates 2-5 players), which provinces are in play? how much money do people have in hand afterwards? — drives everything else. How this game plays out and differs from the original will become clear only once the game is released in October 2017...


Offering track and income track on the box bottom
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New Game Round-up: Alpacas in Altiplano, Castles in Minute Realms, and Artificial Intelligence in the Future

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Orléans designer Reiner Stockhausen of dlp games has announced his new release for SPIEL '17, and you can be sure that this llama alpaca on Altiplano will be popping up in people's hands throughout the fair. Complete rules are posted on the dlp games website in German and English, but to get you started, here's an overview of the game:

Quote:
Altiplano, a bag-building game along the lines of Orléans set in the South American highlands of the Andes — the Altiplano — is not a simple game, presenting players with new challenges time and again. There are various ways to reach the goal, so the game remains appealing to try out new options and strategies, but success or failure also depends on whether your opponents let you do as you like or thwart the strategy you are pursuing. The competition for the individual types of goods is considerable — as is the fun in snatching a coveted extension card from under another player's nose!

Aside from building up an effective production, you must deliver the right goods at the right time, develop the road in good time, and store your goods cleverly enough to fill the most valuable rows with them. Often, a good warehouseperson is more relevant in the end than the best producer.

At the start of the game, players have access only to certain resources and goods. This is due to the different role tiles that each player receives and that provide everybody with different starting materials. At the market, however, a player can acquire additional production sites that give new options. The numerous goods — such as fish, alpaca, cacao, silver, or corn — all have their own characteristics and places where they can be used. Whereas silver makes you rich, fish can be exchanged for other goods, and the alpaca gives you wool that you can then make into cloth.

Minute Realms from Stefano Castelli and dV Giochi is billed as "the most compact city-building game ever", and while Castelli has informed me that the first word in the title is pronouned "mi-nit", I love that pronouncing in "mi-noot" also works for this description of the game. In any case, here's an overview of this SPIEL '17 release:

Quote:
In a handful of rounds, you have to build up your realm and make it grow by spending your riches. Will you yield splendor to your lands with refined buildings, or will you defend them with imposing bastions to repel the upcoming fall of the invaders?

A king's life is not easy. Every decision is crucial to the fate of the realm — and every single move makes the difference between victory and defeat!

• Speaking of confused readings, Apotheca designer Andrew Federspiel has announced a new title from his own Knapsack Games line, with Masters of Mutanite due out in 2018 and with this game not being about people trying to master minutiae not matter how much I want to read it that way. (Tristram Shandy: The Board Game?) Here's a summary of what to expect:

Quote:
Save or terrorize the city as a hero or villain! Mutate your character to gain new abilities. Gain fame and new traits by thrashing your opponents or rescuing/knocking out civilians! Light the city on fire, freeze and poison your enemies, and throw cars and trees to your heart's content!

Build your character in Masters of Mutanite by creating unique synergies of powers each game — go from zero to superhero!

• Another recently announced 2018 release is Artificial Intelligence from the familiar team of Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro, Paulo Soledade, and Italian publisher What's Your Game?. Here's the brief right now:

Quote:
The year is 2090, and the world has witnessed the biggest — the last? — event in human history. Knowledge is the fuel that powers the engine of the new revolution.

Technological Singularity changed everything. Human labor became obsolete; automation and machine learning are the new reality. Machines, run by a flawless artificial intelligence, control production and research, self replicating the answers to problems civilization did not know existed. While prophets whisper the end of time throughout the streets, corporations thrive, pushing boundaries and ignoring old rules. The rush to control the new A.I. era has begun and there’s no time for ethics. Is there time shut down the A.I. Box. Was there ever one?

Artificial Intelligence is an action selection game in which each player plays the role of a big investor pulling the strings from various corporations in order to make money and increase the power of both investor and corp.


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Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:18 pm
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SPIEL '17 Preview: Lining Up for Michael Kiesling's Azul

W. Eric Martin
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As is often the case at Gen Con, I played almost no games during that convention, and of those games that I did play, one of the three was under embargo since it's a SPIEL release about which not much information had been released. Thus, on the Wednesday prior to the start of Gen Con 50, I tweeted this image:



Now the truth can be told...

The game is Azul, a Michael Kiesling design from Plan B Games that fits firmly in the publisher's Spiel des Jahres-friendly line of games with beautiful bits that work for both families and more experienced gamers, a niche that started with Century: Spice Road and continued with, um, Century: Golem Edition. Okay, I'm not sure that one game — even mirrored the way Century has been — can establish a line, but based on two plays I feel comfortable stating that Azul is in the same wheelhouse as Century. Let's see whether you agree once we get past the basic info that Plan B Games has already released:

Quote:
Introduced by the Moors, azulejos (originally white and blue ceramic tiles) were fully embraced by the Portuguese when their king Manuel I, on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Southern Spain, was mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the Moorish decorative tiles. The king, awestruck by the interior beauty of the Alhambra, immediately ordered that his own palace in Portugal be decorated with similar wall tiles. As a tile-laying artist, you have been challenged to embellish the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora.

In the game Azul, players take turns drafting colored tiles from suppliers to their player board. Later in the round, players score points based on how they've placed their tiles to decorate the palace. Extra points are scored for specific patterns and completing sets; wasted supplies harm the player's score. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.



Promotional table covering not included!


Azul is for 2-4 players, and at the start of each round, you fill up five, seven, or nine discs (depending on the number of players) with tiles drawn at random from a bag, then place a first player marker in the center of the table.

On a turn, you choose either a disc or the center of the table, then collect all the tiles of one color from this space. If you choose a disc, you push all the remaining tiles into the center of the table; if you're the first player to choose the center, you also take the first player marker. You then choose one of the five rows on your board — with those rows having 1-5 spaces in them — and fill as many spaces as possible with those tiles. Once you have a particular color in a row, you can place only more of that color in the row (until it is filled and emptied). If not all the tiles fit or you took the first player marker, place the excess tiles or the marker in a discard row on the bottom of your player board.

Players take turns until all the tiles have been claimed. Each player looks at the rows on their board, and from top to bottom they move one tile from each completed row into the grid on the right, placing all other tiles that helped you complete this row in the game box. In the basic game, the grid boxes have images on them, and you must place the tile in the matching space; in the advanced game, the grid boxes are blank, so you can place the tile in any empty space in the grid row next to the tiles — except that you cannot repeat a tile color in a row or column in the grid.



Ready to move three tiles into the grid in the basic game


Each time you place a tile in the grid, you score points for all the other tiles in the row and column of the grid that are connected to the tile just placed. Thus, in the image above, I'll place a blue tile in the second row, then score 3 points for the connected tiles in that row and 3 points for the connected tiles in that column. When I place the black tile in row #4, I'll score 4 points for the column, followed by another 5 points for the column when I place the red tile. After you score all of your just-placed tiles, you lose points for the first place marker and any discarded tiles. All incomplete rows stay as they are on your board!

You then draw more tiles from the bag to set up for the next round, adding discarded tiles to the bag when needed. The rounds continue until any one player has placed the fifth tile in a row in their grid; since you can place at most one tile in a grid row each round, the game must last at least five rounds. After scoring for this final round, players score bonus points for each completed row and column in their grid as well as for each set of five matching tiles. Whoever has the most points gets to watch all of the other players eat a tile as punishment. (Legacy game!)



Endgame bonuses shown at bottom right


I played the game twice with final tiles and non-final game boards and other pieces, both times with the same three opponents. The rules weren't clear when we started the first game, and we futzed around a bit, asking questions and clarifying how the flow of the game works. We finished and were like, okay, sure that was a game.

After we finished playing something else, I insisted upon playing Azul again because I like playing things multiple times. Playing a game once from a position of ignorance is fine for learning how a game works, but it's not great for learning how a game plays. In this second game, now with the advanced board, I was already playing smarter, paying attention to what others were collecting in which rows to have some idea of which tiles I could possibly float around the table, Magic-draft-style, to pick up on the next turn. I could better anticipate what others might do and plan accordingly.



The results of game #2


The problem is that everyone else was playing better as well. All of us scored higher in this game compared to the first one. Taking the first player marker wasn't seen as a drawback, due to the automatic -1 point, but instead as a valid option to take what you needed before too many tiles piled up that would cost you points. You could see opportunities for sticking people with tiles because when someone starts a round with multiple half-filled rows, they have room to take far fewer tiles, so you're happy to force them to swallow a half-dozen tiles at once, especially when doing so keeps those tiles away from someone else.

Like Century, Azul strikes that family/gamer balance in which you can play casually or thoughtfully, and the game will work equally well in either case. Just expect to get soaked until you can start smartly lining up your plays in advance...


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Wed Aug 30, 2017 7:11 pm
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Rosenberg Heads North, Riverboat Heads South, and Lookout Games Heads to SPIEL '17

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• Rumors of an Uwe Rosenberg game set in Norway have been around for a couple of years, and now Lookout Spiele has officially announced Nusfjord as a SPIEL '17 release in October, with Mayfair Games releasing the game in English at about the same time, according to Lookout (which is owned by Mayfair). Here's a rundown of the game's setting and how it works:

Quote:
Nusfjord is a tranquil fishing village in the Lofoten archipelago in northern Norway. Fifty years ago, business was blooming when the codfish would come for spawning. Today, Nusfjord is more of a museum than a village, with less than a hundred people living there. Imagine how beautiful this place must be given that you must pay a fee to even look at the houses. Cruise ships used to pass by this long and now mostly abandoned island world.

In the time period in which the game Nusfjord is set, things looked quite different. Sailing ships dominate the fjord. The rocks around Nusfjord are covered in trees. As the owner of a major fishing company in Nusfjord on the Lofoten archipelago, your goal is to develop the harbor and the surrounding landscape, and to succeed you must enlarge your fleet, clear the forest, erect new buildings, and satisfy the local elders. Others do this as well, of course, so the competition is steep.

As with Agricola and Ora et Labora, Nusfjord has a worker placement mechanism, with each player starting with three workers that they place on a central board to trigger certain actions. Whether a player wants to clear a forest on their own board, buy a new cutter, or construct a building, they must place a worker on the appropriate space — which is possible only if room is available for this worker. Money is scarce, and one of the quicker and easier ways to get it is to place shares of your own company on the market. This risky action could be worthwhile because if you succeed in buying these shares yourself, you have usually won money and not suffered any disadvantages; however, if an opponent acquires these shares, then you must allow them to benefit from your hard-earned catches at sea. The village elders might want their own share of your catch as well, especially if you've visited them to take certain actions in the village, so if you don't take care, your catch could end up entirely in the hands of others and your camp will be empty.




Nusfjord is just one of many new titles that Lookout will release at SPIEL '17. Alexander Pfister's Oh My Goods!: Escape to Canyon Brook is the second expansion for Oh My Goods! and it continues the storyline started in the first expansion, Longsdale in Revolt.

• The Agricola: Artifex Deck contains 120 cards for the revised edition of Agricola that debuted in 2016, with half the cards being occupations and half minor improvements. As for the deluxe, all-in-one-box anniversary edition of Agricola that has been mentioned in passing, Lookout's Hanno Girke says that item is still in the works, but:

Quote:
We absolutely underestimated the timeframe that Mr. Klemens Franz needs to create the amount of new artwork for all the new cards.

Agricola always has been and will remain a modular system. Depending on the players' needs they can add between nothing and everything.

The current specs for the Deluxe Revised edition list several 168 card decks plus major expansions like [Farmers of the Moor], plus several goodies that were available only as a promo or only in German so far.

Some of the decks probably will be released in upcoming years.

Plus some kind of sorting trays, deck holders and whatever we'll come up with. Be assured that we're reading all the BGG threads on the deluxe edition, and we might have a first mock-up to showcase at SPIEL 17.

No promises. We won't rush the project, and we won't rush Klemens.

• Another small box item coming from Lookout is Bummelbahn, a German edition of Seth Jaffee and Dan Keltner's Isle of Trains, which first appeared in 2014 from Dice Hate Me Games.

Isle of Skye: Journeyman expands the 2016 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner from Andreas Pelikan and Alexander Pfister with new player boards that track "your progress in terms of strength, prosperity and popularity", with new scoring tiles that reflect these traits and a journeyman pawn that travels the islands to activate tiles.

• Finally, Lookout will have a larger game from Michael Kiesling titled Riverboat that plays in about 90 minutes for 2-4 players. This description is rather high-level, but it gives you some idea of what's going on in the game:

Quote:
Riverboat posits each player as the owner of a 19th century farm on the bank of the Mississippi River. You need to organize your workers to ensure that the fields are ordered according to their type and harvested when ready so that the goods can be shipped to New Orleans.

In more detail, the game lasts four rounds, and at the start of each round players draft phase cards until they're all distributed. The phases then take place in numerical order, with the player who chose a phase being the first one to act. In the first phase, players place their workers in the fields, with each player having the same distribution of colored field tiles, but a different random placement for each player. In phase two, players organize their crops, trying to group like types together, with some fields requiring two or three workers. In phase three, players harvest crops and load riverboats, with a dock needing to be filled with all the goods of a single type before it can be loaded. In phase four, the boats are launched and players can take special actions, with additional victory points possibly coming in phase five.



Riverboat being demoed at Gen Con 50: two player boards and two central boards
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