Even so, I see in passing lots of interesting games undergoing crowdfunding, including more titles from game designers in Japan — whether due to the lack of Game Market conventions or just a desire to reach out to players around the world — so I thought I'd share some of what I've seen recently.
• JINGI, for example, is a project from first-time designer/publisher DegJP, this being a two-player competitive card game in which Chaos battles against Law to claim the sacred treasure named in the game's title in order to rebuild the world. (KS link) Here's a summary of the game:Quote:In the game, players place gods (cards) on a 3x3 field to try to complete a row. A battle of the gods is initiated when three cards are placed in a row. The player who initiated that battle moves the JINGI token one space towards their side, and the player who wins that battle also moves the JINGI token in the same way.DegJP said they wanted to release one hundred copies, and when that goal was met, they said, okay, one hundred more and that's it. Maybe this game will appear again, and maybe it won't. Maybe it's worth getting, and maybe it's not. As for me, I backed a copy, so we'll see.
If the JINGI token is closer to your side at the end of the game, you win. Alternatively, play three of your gods in a single row to win immediately.
十六夜小町 (Izayoi) from designer/publisher ななつむ (nanatsumu), which is a collective of six people. (KS link)
In this 3-5 player game, you want to collect wakomono (Japanese accessories in the publisher's words), but you also want to ensure that you don't collect more than your master or else you're booted from the game and cannot win.
Four wakomono tiles are in play at a time, and on a turn you place a recommendation card from your hand next to one of these tiles, with your card showing 1-3 symbols of one of the players in the game. When a recommendation row reaches five cards — or when one of the two STOP cards are played on it — you determine who wins the tile Raj-style. (The player with the most symbols wins the tile, but ties eliminate tied players.)
At the start of the game, your dealt a master card in secret, and you must have fewer points than this player in order to win. (If you're dealt your own master card, then you can't be booted, but no one will be feeding you points either.)
This Kickstarter project also allows you to pick up nanatsumu's 2019 release 四季折折 (Humble Tea Party), a 3-6 player game in which you play cards into the 3x3 grid for each player in order to build up the sweet collection of others because at the end of the game, whoever has the fewest points wins.
Steve Finn of Dr. Finn's Games, who is Kickstarting four titles at once, essentially saying here's what I'm doing in 2021, and you can get it all at once if you wish to save shipping, or you can sample what you like. (KS link) Titles being offered are:
—Biblios: Quill and Parchment, this being a roll-and-write version of Finn's best-known game, Biblios, which he originally self-published in 2007.
—Nanga Parbat, a two-player game in which as a member of the Sherpa community, you establish base camps for foreign explorers
—Mining Colony, a tile-laying game in which 1-4 players compete to excavate resources and use them to claim development tiles and build their personal colony.
—The Butterfly Garden, which is a new edition of the 2016 release of the same name, with players simultaneously laying out cards to collect butterflies — low numbers going first, but collecting fewer — in order to work toward fulfilling delivery cards.
To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, contact us at email@example.com.
01 Sep 2020
- [+] Dice rolls
Cogito ergo Meeple, which debuted with the 2020 release of Philosophia: Dare to be Wise, has announced details of its second title, which is once again from designers and company owners Joseph N Adams and Madeleine Adams. Here's an overview of Philosophia: Floating World, which will be Kickstarted in late 2020 for a planned release in 2021:Quote:Set in feudal Japan, Philosophia: Floating World is a fully simultaneous deck-builder in which you can build majestic pagodas and Shinto shrines, learn ancient eastern wisdom, explore the world, or fight ancient monsters — or all of the above. This is a sandbox-style game, and how you play is up to you!Ankama has announced a upcoming title for 2021 from designers Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert, who have previously worked together on Raids, Fairy Tile, and The Great City of Rome, among other creations.
In the game, you play as one of six unique characters from Edo Japan, each with a unique power and a mysterious secret. The game plays simultaneously over three phases that repeat until one player has gained a victory condition. All phases occur simultaneously, and they are:
—The Draw Phase: Draw six cards from your deck, then pass them to another player. They take these cards, discard one of their choice, then separate the remaining five cards into two piles, one containing two cards and one containing three. You do the same for another player, then take your two piles, discarding one of them and playing the other.
—The Collect Phase: Collect items and bonuses indicated on the cards in your hand. You may also pay time tokens to perform extra actions in the next phase.
—The Action Phase: Simultaneously take actions based on your cards in hand and those that you chose in the collect phase. Disputes caused by the simultaneous nature of these actions are resolved using the influence track, where the player at the top of the track chooses the outcome; choosing in your own interest, however, drops you to the bottom of the track.Prototype components
Rounds continue in this way until a player gains any of the seven victory conditions available, such as collecting all four ganbaru tokens or discovering another player's secret location and achieving any two of the ganbaru tokens.
Here's an overview of the 2-4 player game Nile Artifacts:Quote:Welcome, traveler, to the ancient waters of the Nile! As many new temples are built on the shores, you begin your spiritual journey to earn the favors of the Gods. Pick up precious artifacts while you sail up and down the Nile river, offer them to the monuments currently being built, and the Gods shall bless your travel!The one-trip-out-one-trip-back nature of the game seems similar to Reiner Knizia's Whale Riders that I previewed in July 2020. Curious to see how the details differ on these two titles — or maybe we can combine them for a Whale Artifacts game down the road.
Each turn in Nile Artifacts, you move your ship forward, stopping at one of the nine ports and picking up one of the artifact cards available there. You may also pick up gold, which can be used to obtain more artifacts or to turn your ship around and sail the Nile in the opposite direction. Once every ship has arrived at one end of the Nile, players can make their offerings to the monuments currently in construction, each of them requiring a different type or combination of artifacts. Whenever a monument is completed, players receive victory points depending on the amount of donations they have made towards this particular monument.
When offerings are done, the ships go back on the Nile to travel in the other direction and pick up more artifacts. Once the monument deck is empty, the player with the most victory points wins!
IDW Games gave BGG an advanced look at Daniel Alves' Galaxy Hunters, a new version of the Portuguese-language release Caçadores da Galáxia from HISTERIA GAMES in Brazil in 2015. IDW initially planned to crowdfund that title for release in Q3 2018, but things changed, and the title has now hit Kickstarter in late August 2020 (link). Here's an overview of the setting and gameplay, followed by our overview video:Quote:In Galaxy Hunters, 2 to 4 players take on the role of mercenaries hired by the Megacorps to hunt and harvest the rampant mutations. Featuring an inventive pilot and mech combination system, pairing different pilots with different mechs unlocks new powers and special abilities. Using money earned for harvesting DNA from the creatures, players upgrade their mechs with new weapons and items. Galaxy Hunters seamlessly blends the excitement of crafting a unique character with the deep strategy of Eurogame-style worker placement.
- [+] Dice rolls
Neil BunkerUnited Kingdom
[Editor's note: This interview was first published on Diagonal Move. —WEM]
This week Cameron Art, founder of The Board Game Bulletin and designer of Vowl, joins Neil Bunker from Diagonal Move to discuss his board game career so far.
DM: Hi, Cameron, thank you for joining us today. Please can you tell us a little about yourself?
CA: Hi there! My name is Cameron Art. I am a full-time college student at New Mexico State University pursuing a bachelor's degree in accountancy. My wife, Jennifer, is also a full-time student, and we live in Las Cruces, New Mexico with our eight-month-old son. In my free time, I love playing, designing, and discussing all things board games. Some games I've been playing a lot of lately include Wingspan, Dead of Winter, and Root.
DM: Your first game, Vowl, was recently on Kickstarter. Please can you describe it for us?
CA: Vowl is my attempt to introduce a fresh take to the word game genre in which you are racing against both time and your opponents to recognize words that have had their vowels removed. While this may sound simple at first, with a few critical rules, you'll quickly realize it's trickier than it seems! The game includes more than four hundred unique cards, multiple game modes, and a unique, tiered scoring system.
DM: What was it about that combination of word puzzle and real-time mechanisms that inspired you?
CA: I've always been a fan of a wide variety of word games including Bananagrams, Codenames, and Quiddler to name a few. As Vowl continued to expand and change over the course of its three years of development, real-time play just felt like the most natural way to implement the game's base system. I wanted players to always be engaged, even when they weren't playing. Because of the game's real-time aspect, turns are not only short, but even when it isn't your turn, you can still feel the rush of racing against time as you try to solve cards that other players are working on.
DM: The scoring system is intriguing. Can you tell us more about how it was developed?
CA: I knew from the very beginning of Vowl that I wanted to create a word game that didn't feel like a traditional word game. My goal with the design was to try to bridge the gap between the classic word game genre and the more modern hobby. Part of the way I attempted to do this was through the use of a unique scoring system.
Whenever you achieve a success in Vowl, you get to choose how you score your points. You can either move your scoring token two spaces forward along the scoring track, or move it only one space while also lowering your victory condition and an opponent's victory condition by one. This is a critically important decision that you'll be forced to make each time you score because the scoring track is made up of increasingly difficult tiers that force you to draw extra and more difficult cards as you gain more points. If you charge full speed ahead, you have deal with more difficult cards. If you take it slow and lower your victory token, you'll be making future turns easier, but you're also helping an opponent.
DM: How do you overcome the challenge of replayability as presumably over time players will get to know the answers?
CA: What I discovered as we continued to record playtests of the game was that memorization doesn't play a large role in the game. As you play the game more and more, you will start to get better at the challenge of recognizing words. With more than four hundred unique cards, though, and a super tight time constraint each turn, memory doesn't factor in too much, and you will find yourself continually stumbling over and getting stuck on cards even if you've seen them many times before. I've been playing this game for three years, and I still trip over cards that I designed and have seen hundreds of times!
I will say that the slight advantage that comes from experience does have a built-in counter by means of the scoring track. Players who are further along in points have to deal with both a higher number of cards each turn and extra difficult cards each turn, which serves as a nice catch-up mechanism.
DM: What approach are you taking to the campaign? Are you learning as you go through a grassroots approach, or are you enlisting the help of experienced colleagues?
CA: I've done absolutely everything I can to prepare for the campaign ahead of time. Every single detail both on the financial side of it (I am an accounting major after all) and the design side of it has been carefully designed and thought out based upon reading dozens of blogs, books, and more about how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. However, reading can get you only so far, and I recognize that sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to learn how to do something.
So while I've done a lot to prepare, I would still say that I'm taking more of a grassroots approach to it. As problems come up and I make mistakes, I do my best to learn from them, remedy them, and try to make sure that they won't happen again. So far, I think the campaign is going great, and we haven't had any major issues that weren't fixable.
DM: In addition to being a game designer, you run an online gaming magazine, The Board Game Bulletin. Please tell us more about it?
CA: The Board Game Bulletin is a monthly, online magazine that I publish on my website. Each issue features interviews with game designers and content creators, recent game announcements, a look at upcoming Kickstarter projects, some sort of featured article written by myself, and a whole bunch of fun other stuff. The magazines also have absolutely gorgeous photography from Imagine All The Meeple (Todd Patriquin). I do all of the writing and design work for the magazine, and it's 100% free to read, download, and subscribe to.
DM: As if designing games and publishing magazines is not enough, you also run design competitions. How did you get involved with these, and what do you look for in an entry?
CA: When I started publishing the magazine in December 2019, I thought it would be fun to run micro game design contests and feature the winning design in each month's issue. When I first got it going, I had no idea whether it would be popular or not. Now, seven issues later, each contest tends to have anywhere from 5 to 15 fantastic entries!
Part of what I think makes it so popular is that I give constructive feedback on every single entry, regardless The three biggest things that I typically look for in the designs are how well you met the prompt, how well-integrated your game's theme is in the mechanisms, and how polished the gameplay and rules feel.
DM: What are your future plans, in terms of both the magazine and a career in game design?
CA: In terms of the magazine, I plan to continue producing and publishing it as long as I am able to! Right now, from both some small ad revenue and our generous Patreon backers, it does pay for itself. So long as I can keep it that way, I'd love to keep expanding it and providing it as a free resource for the community.
In terms of game design, my goal with Vowl — and the four other designs I have in serious development right now — is to create games that toe the line between accessibility and strategy. I want my games to feel unique and provide players with interesting decisions, while also being accessible enough that players who have only ever played Monopoly don't feel overwhelmed by the gameplay. I do plan to continue self-publishing through Cameron Art Games, and I am excited to keep sharing my designs with the hobby.
DM: What lessons have you learned from your time in the boardgame industry so far?
CA: This hobby of ours is so incredibly vast and supportive! Regardless of whether you are a designer or just a player, don't be afraid to ask for help. I never would have guessed how incredibly kind and giving the people in this industry are, and I wouldn't be where I am today without the support from so many different designers and gamers that I've met along the way.
- [+] Dice rolls
Brave Little Belgium by Hollandspiele, my co-designer, Dave Shaw, and I thought a lot about the sequel. Dave had several ideas, including the Romanian Campaign of 1916, the Italian invasion of France in 1940, and the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania in 1863. Initially, I worked on the Romanian Campaign, designing a map and developing an Order of Battle, but ran into difficulty due to the lack of research material. I thus set that aside and worked on other games hoping that maybe eventually something would strike me.
One of the possibilities that Dave and I discussed was the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. I really liked the idea, but Dave was a bit more hesitant, concerned that it would not make for a very interesting game. It seemed like a good match to Brave Little Belgium due to it also being a "David vs. Goliath" story and also involving the beginning of a war, this time World War II. The difficulty was with how to deal with the fact that there were now two encroaching armies, the Germans and the Soviets, surrounding Poland.
One solution, which has been employed in several games, was to focus only on the German invasion of Poland and to end the game prior to the Soviet invasion on September 17, 1939. The goal in this scenario would be for the Polish player to hold on to key cities while disrupting the German player's rapid invasion. While this may have been the easiest way to handle this problem, it felt like a bit of a cheat to me. I wanted the Polish player to have to deal with the invading Soviets and also wanted the German player to have to deal with the possibility of an Allied invasion, if only in an abstract way, on the Western Front.
There were some differences, however. The goal of the game was still for the German/Soviet player to do better than their historical counterparts, but victory was now determined by the control of six victory cities. Instead of six-sided dice for determining hits, I initially used ten-sided dice to help to differentiate between the strength of the units; additionally, special event counters had changed to now include events for the Luftwaffe, Blitzkrieg, and Armored Trains. Finally, I removed the atrocity track and included a new track to determine whether the Allies and/or Soviets would get involved in the game.
At this point, this track was very simple. If the German/Soviet player pulled one of the involvement counters, the track advanced towards Soviet involvement or away from Allied involvement. If the Polish player pulled the counter, the reverse would happen. If the Soviet involvement counter was in the red area by Sept. 13-15 or after, the Soviets would invade. If the Allied involvement counter was in the blue area by Sept. 7-9 or after, the Allies would attack the Germans on the Western Front, requiring the Germans to divert forces. In game terms, that translated to reductions to die rolls. "White Eagle Burning", as it was then called, was ready for its first test.
The initial playtests were promising, but it was clear that the game needed some work. First, I needed to add the line that would separate the German and Soviet portions of Poland as agreed to in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. If the Soviets entered the game, their forces would not be able to proceed beyond that line and the German forces would have to retreat to the west of that line. In addition, some of the event counters needed to be modified. The Luftwaffe event counter was modified either to be used to bomb rails and roads and thus decrease Polish movement, or to allow for attack back against the Polish forts. Also, a forced march event was added for the Soviet forces and a sabotage event was added for the Polish troops to decrease German movement by destroying bridges. It was time to test again.
White Eagle Defiant, which was perfect.
As for the game itself, many changes were needed. Historically, the Polish army retreated to Romania once the Soviets invaded. Some of the forces reformed in France and eventually in the United Kingdom. I thus added a retreat spot in Romania to which the Polish forces could retreat throughout the game. The more armies that made their way to Romania, the fewer victory points the German/Soviet player would receive. To offset this slightly and to allow for the Soviet forces to have more impact on the victory conditions, I added six additional victory cities.
In addition, I completely revised the Allied/Soviet involvement mechanism to make it much less random. Now, the track is adjusted based on the results of combat, particularly significant battles. If an army is destroyed, a victory city captured by the Germans or Soviets, or if the Polish player prevents the capture of a victory city, the involvement counters are moved closer to or further away from involvement. The thought behind this was simple. If the Allies see the Polish are doing well in the war, they would more likely get involved on the Western Front. Likewise, if the Soviets see that the Polish are easy to defeat, they also would be more likely to settle the conflicts on their borders and become involved in the campaign. Finally, since the game felt a bit too vanilla with just armies, I decided to add special Panzer Units with increased movement and slightly better attack capabilities. Playtesting continued.
While all of the playtesting done so far had been in person, Dave and I needed to speed it up. Time to create a Vassal module. While doing that, there were also some changes that need to be implemented into the Vassal module. First, I had to get rid of the ten-sided dice. While we initially thought that they were helpful to differentiate between the varying strength of the forces, they were starting to feel awkward and unnecessary. I thus spent time converting all the forces to six-sided dice, which worked much better. In addition, I added counters to represent the independent forces in Danzig, and the Polish Coast Defense group in Gdynia and Hel. Finally, to offset for the fact that we had removed the atrocity mechanism and it was not possible to end the turn without activating units, I allowed for the German/Soviet player to set aside one unit to be activated immediately at the start of the next turn.
Testing slowed down dramatically over the next six months. While we were still testing regularly with Vassal, we were not doing so as frequently as much of our testing at that time was done by sending moves through email. In addition, Brave Little Belgium had just been released and much of our focus at that time was on promoting that game.
Testing did begin to speed up once we started to run live Vassal playtests. By July of that year, that game had changed quite drastically. I shortened the game to ten turns by making each turn represent four days instead of three. I added more mobile units, including additional German armor and the famed Polish Cavalry. Each of these units had increased movement and special abilities. I enabled the player once per turn to flip a unit back to full strength. I revised the victory conditions and Soviet/Allied involvement tracks and tied them together. The concept of a significant battle was still there, but now they were employed to track victory and Soviet/Allied involvement. The German player received victory points for capturing a victory city while the Polish player received victory points for defending a victory city, liberating a victory city, or destroying a German fort. As the victory points increased for the Germans, the Soviets were more likely to invade and the allies were less likely to get involved. The reverse was true for the Polish player.
Finally, one of the major changes had to do with creation of the Blitzkrieg Breakdown track. In Brave Little Belgium, we resolved the issue of a turn ending without allowing the German player to activate all of their units by incorporating an Atrocity Track. The player could activate an unactivated unit at the end of the turn, but they risk causing atrocities. Five atrocities committed results in an instant loss for the German player. I certainly could have migrated this concept over to White Eagle Defiant, but frankly the atrocities committed in WWI were very different than the atrocities committed in WWII. We both felt uncomfortable incorporating this into the game. We brainstormed for other ways to handle the inherent problem and eventually came up with the Blitzkrieg Breakdown mechanism. As the concept of the Blitzkrieg was still mostly untried by the start of the Poland Campaign, what would happen if it didn't work? That's where the concept of the new track came from. Instead of an atrocity occurring if the troops are forced to activate at the end of the turn, in this case a breakdown in the Blitzkrieg concept can occur. The German player must roll a six-sided die for any unactivated unit. A roll of 4 or greater causes a Blitzkrieg Breakdown. The player can still activate the unit, but movement is reduced and there is a reduction in the combat roll. Five Blitzkrieg Breakdowns and the German player loses the game.
The Players' Aid and a demonstration for Tom Russell of Hollandspiele. Anybody else who stopped by and wanted to give the game a try would be a bonus.
All went very well at the WBC. Alex and Grant of The Players' Aid were both very impressed with the game, and Tom was there when we demoed the game for them. He was also very interested, but needed to get Mary's A-okay before agreeing to a deal. In the demonstration and playtesting we did at the WBC, we noticed some flaws in the victory track, the need to adjust the victory conditions, and the need to add supporting units in combat.
The penultimate version of the game involved many of those changes. I changed Warsaw to a 3 victory point city and adjusted the victory points to win to 9, with an automatic win at 12. To better simulate World War II combat, I allowed for the attacking player to overstack at a point through the use of supporting units. This allows for the attacker to bring more units to bear on one particular point. If the attacker wins the battle, their primary units may stay at the point, while the supporting unit retreats back to the spot from which it attacked. In addition, in order to simulate the start of the campaign, the German North Group activates automatically at the beginning of the first turn, thus beginning the invasion. Finally, I revised how victory points were determined, focusing simply on the capturing and liberating of victory cities and the destruction of German forts.
At this point, we wanted to send the game to Tom and Mary at Hollandspiele because we knew that they were very interested in the game, but unfortunately it still was not quite ready. It was close, but there still needed to be some final tweaks, so we pushed and pushed, testing frequently in hopes of getting to the final product. One thing that was not working well was the Polish troops fleeing to Romania. I wanted to keep this concept, but it was proving to be too gamey. The Polish player could move all of their forces to points surrounding Romania, wait until Warsaw fell, then move the forces into Romania, thus winning the game. The German player in turn could take every point but Warsaw, thus not allowing the Polish player to flee from Poland. As much as I wanted to keep it, it had to be removed for the game to work.
Tom and Mary loved the game and agreed to publish it as the follow-up to Brave Little Belgium. White Eagle Defiant is in final development now and will be available from Hollandspiele sometime in early September 2020.
- [+] Dice rolls
CMON Limited brought game designer Eric M. Lang on staff as Director of Game Design (BGG News post).
As of September 1, 2020, Lang will leave that position to return to being a freelance game designer once again. In an August 28, 2020 Facebook post, Lang writes:Quote:First things first: this is not sudden (has been in the works for awhile), and I leave CMON on the best possible terms. I will, in fact, still be making games for them (check out the announcement for some teasers) and you'll be seeing games that I worked on as Game Director for years to come. Our relationship continues actively in the long term as valued partners and friends.a press release from CMON about his change in status:
It's been an incredible last three years, and one Facebook post can't possibly summarize all the amazing things we've done together. I'm likely to just gush about these experiences piecemeal over the next few weeks as they come to me. I owe a debt of immense gratitude and friendship to the team at CMON, particularly my tireless developers; we've grown together tremendously, and y'all are on track to become absolute rock stars.
I will talk about my future stuff (including game projects and advocacy work) later. For now I'm focused on celebrating the last three years with so many amazing people. THANK YOU CMON! I MISS YOU ALL ALREADYQuote:"The last three years have been fantastic, both professionally and personally," commented Eric. "Over the past few months, we drafted a long-term release plan with some truly great titles, which will continue to bear fruit for many years to come. Now felt like the right time for me to return to my roots; focusing on game design and public advocacy for our amazing hobby."As for what some of those future projects might be, CMON said this: "Eric's upcoming CMON games include tabletop adaptations of Cyberpunk 2077, a Blood Rage sequel, a family game co-designed with Mike Elliot codenamed 'Barrrge', as well as more than a dozen other projects in different stages of development."
- [+] Dice rolls
Upcoming Lucky Duck Games Releases: Investigate 15th Century Crimes, Build Renown, and Draft Your Way to a Better Empire
28 Aug 2020
Lucky Duck Games has new retail releases coming our way that it's either published on its own or licensed from other publishers to make the games available outside of France.
Kickstarter campaign for David Cicurel and Wojciech Grajkowski's three new standalone Chronicles of Crime games, coined "The Millennium Series". Compared to Cicurel's original Chronicles of Crime released in 2018, the new Millennium series games utilize a similar app-assisted system but with new gameplay twists and new, refreshing settings that span an entire millennium from 1400 to 1900 to 2400. All three games are standalone but will offer connecting narrative threads for players to unravel.
While Chronicles of Crime: 1900 and 2400 are slated for a 2021 release, the first of the Millennium series, Chronicles of Crime: 1400, is targeted for a November 2020 retail release. Here's what you can expect in this 1-4 player co-operative, 15th century crime investigation game:Quote:"You are Abelard Lavel, a knight sworn to King Charles VI the Beloved. You live in the city of Paris in a family mansion not far from the famous Notre Dame cathedral. Since you were a child, you had strange, prophetic dreams in which you saw violent scenes of past crimes or even ones yet to be committed. Over time you learned that your unusual gift could be put to good use, and you started to solve cases that nobody else could crack. This earned you some reputation in the city and now people seek your help whenever a mysterious crime is committed."
The Chronicles of Crime: 1400 standalone game brings back well-known mechanisms of the original game while adding new twists. Now you can deduce not only from the evidence you find or the testimonies given by various characters, but also from the mysterious scenes depicted on new Vision Cards. These scenes can be from either the future or the past, and they usually involve characters and objects yet to be revealed.
During your investigation, you can also count on your family members to share their knowledge with you. You can ask your uncle, a monk who has a wealth of knowledge about written texts; your sister, a merchant who knows something about almost any object you'll find; or even your brother, a king's spy, who knows a story or two about many of the people you will meet. Finally, your faithful dog is always willing to trace a suspect for you, just bring him an item belonging to the person in question and he'll track them down!
The Court of Miracles, a bluffing, area control game for 2-5 players designed by Vincent Brugeas and Guilhem Gautrand that features beautiful illustrations from Ronan Toulhoat. The Court of Miracles plays in about 40 minutes and was originally released as La Cour des Miracles in 2019 from French publisher Lumberjacks Studios.
Here's a summary of the gameplay:Quote:In The Court of Miracles, lead a guild of beggars, plot, use trickery and opportunism to build your renown and take over the old 16th century Paris. Your goal is to establish your renown in Paris or to be the most influential when the Penniless King would have reached the end of his path...It's Wonderful World: Ascension and War or Peace, the two newest expansions for Frédéric Guérard's card-drafting, engine building hit, It's Wonderful World. Both of these expansions were originally offered as part of French publisher La Boite de Jeu's Kickstarter campaign in January 2020, but they will be available for retail release through Lucky Duck Games in November 2020.
On your turn, you may play a plot card, then you have to place one of your three rogue tokens face down (hiding the secret ability) on any available spot in a neighborhood and benefit from the effect of your spot (receive coins, draw plot cards or move the Penniless King forward along his path). You may then perform the action of the neighborhood.
When a neighborhood is fully occupied, settle a standoff revealing each player's rogue tokens to know which player takes control of the neighborhood. Controlling a neighborhood rewards you each time another player performs its action. You will be allowed to buy a fourth rogue or cards or move the Penniless King forward at the Renown Square.
The first player to place their sixth renown token wins, but if the Penniless King reaches the last space of his path, then the game ends and the player with the most renown tokens placed on the board wins.
The Ascension expansion adds a new empire and components to incorporate a sixth player, plus 48 new cards of four new types that will be mixed with the original development cards, introducing new ways to play and thus opening up new strategic options.
The War or Peace expansion, on the other hand, offers a campaign mode as described below:Quote:This expansion is a campaign that allows players to live an adventure scripted in five scenarios that bring, collectively during the game, players to make choices that will tip the story towards peace or world war.
At the start of a game, players open an envelope containing the story, the special rules of the scenario, and the extra cards for this scenario. Then, at the end of the game, each player receives different rewards depending on whether they won or lost and according to their own choices during the game (depending on the scenario). Thus, each one builds their heritage over the five scenarios. The winner of the campaign is the one who wins the last scenario.
The campaign offers six scenarios in all because a branch in scenario 4 depends on the choice of players.
During and after the campaign, the players will unlock cards that can come to enrich the basic game definitively. The heritage campaigns therefore offer players the chance to live a story and gradually unlock a mini-extension to the base game that offers a new mechanism, a bit like a legacy game, but in a replayable format since nothing is permanently altered.
The campaign is also playable solo.
- [+] Dice rolls
28 Aug 2020
Osprey Games has announced a pair of card game releases for May 2021, these being Imperium: Legends and Imperium: Classics from the design team of Nigel Buckle and Dávid Turczi — and boy, are we seeing a lot of that name recently!
Here's an overview of these two titles, each of which is a standalone game for 1-4 players:Quote:Formidable adversaries are arrayed against you. Your people stand ready. History beckons.
In your hands lies the destiny of one of history's great civilizations. Under constant threat of attack, you must conquer new lands, oversee dramatic scientific and cultural advances, and lead your people into the era of empire. Expand too rapidly, and unrest will bring your civilization to its knees; build up too slowly, however, and you might find yourself a mere footnote of history. As one of eight radically asymmetric civilizations, you will compete to become the most dominant empire the world has ever seen.
Imperium: Classics features the Carthaginian, Celt, Greek, Macedonian, Persian, Roman, Scythian, and Viking civilizations, while Imperium: Legends features the Arthurian, Atlantian, Egyptian, Mauryan, Minoan, Olmec, Qin, and Utopian civilizations.
Buckle might include the word "finally" in his quote because the game(s) has/have been in the works for a long time, with NSKN Games having attempted to Kickstart an earlier version of the design in late 2018 (link). Of Imperium, Osprey's Pete Ward said, "Due to the differences between what that game was offering and what Imperium: Classics and Imperium: Legends are offering, both I and the designers thought that two new pages for his game would be the best option."
Adds Turczi, "When I joined Nigel a few years ago to improve his civilisation deck-building game, little did I know we'd come out with 16 unique civilizations, each with their own solo bot, and more than 400 unique cards." The two titles each bear a May 20, 2021 release date.
- [+] Dice rolls
27 Aug 2020
Pharaon from designers Henri Pym and Sylas and French publisher Catch Up Games was one of my highlights of 2019, and I'm surprised the game has yet to pick up a U.S. license, although I know these things do take time. (If you're not familiar with this intricate Eurogame in which you're trying to secure your position in the afterlife, you can catch an overview in writing and video in this Oct. 2019 BGG News post.)
Catch Up has released other solid games as well, such as Fertility and a striking licensed edition of Paper Tales, so I look forward to each announcement from the company. (I still need to try Wild Space and CuBirds, both of which seem like my type of thing.)
With that preamble out of the way, let's look over Catch Up's next release: The LOOP from designers Maxime Rambourg (The Big Book of Madness) and Théo Rivière (Sea of Clouds). This 1-4 player co-operative game has you running through different eras of time to stop a villain who is actually many villains in one. Here's the setting:Quote:The LOOP is a quirky co-operative game in which you battle the evil Dr. Foo. Play a Temporal Agent in four different game modes, full of new challenges and replay value. Gather powerful artifacts, defy the Doctor's duplicates, and sabotage his maniacal machine. Make the most of your cards and master the LOOP to use them multiple times in impressive chains — but the Doctor isn't going to make this easy on you!Let's step back to get an overview of what we're doing in the game. The Agency has identified seven eras of time when Dr. Foo is causing trouble, and we need to ensure that we can sabotage his mission before time runs out, whether that means him completing the Omniscience 2000 project or vortexes ripping apart the fabric of time.
The evil Dr Foo has built a terrrrible time machine! With the help of the duplicates of himself that he is creating through the ages, he aims to carry out his Omniscience 2000 project to become master of the universe. But the rifts that he is opening in spacetime will probably destroy quantum space way sooner...
Join the Agency in the shoes of one of its most legendary agents, and co-operate to foil the fiendish schemes of Doctor Foo, using quirky but still powerful artifacts.
The game board depicts those seven eras, with a randomly drawn face-down sabotage mission on the perimeter of each era that players want to complete; two missions will be revealed at the start of play. That central purple device on the board is a cube tower of sorts, with the central slide indicating Dr. Foo's current location.
On a turn, Foo first uses the time machine to create duplicates of himself, with you drawing 1-3 duplicates from a bag and placing each token in the era indicated. You also place an artifact card from the deck in its indicated starting era.
You then reveal a Foo card to see where he goes in time, rotating the tower to match the era indicated on that revealed Foo card. The Foo deck contains seven cards, one for each era, and if you've cycled through this deck three times without defeating him, you lose. Once you relocate the tower, you drop two rift cubes down it, with duplicates in the current era causing you to drop more cubes; the slides on the tower give three possible exit locations for these cubes. If an era ever has four rift cubes, then its mission is destroyed by a vortex. Get two vortexes in the same era or four anywhere in time, and you lose.Agent cards
Each player has an agent card with a unique power and a unique deck of six starting artifact cards. On a turn, you can play any number of cards from your hand to remove rift cubes, place energy on the board, move agents or duplicates, or otherwise work toward the completion of missions. A mission might require you to place an energy in an era where energy already exists or remove all rifts and duplicates from an era or return a Foo duplicate to its original era, where it then ceases to exist. Each time you complete a mission, you mark it, and if you complete a mission enough times, you remove it from the board, revealing another so that you always have two missions in play. Complete four missions and you win.
You use energy to move your agents, take certain actions, and perform a LOOP, which is a special time-traveling action. Artifact cards are from one of four dimensions — spiral, star, stripe, and black hole — and if you pay one energy from your era (because energy is always somewhere in time and never on agents), you can choose a non-black hole dimension, untap all your exhausted artifacts from that dimension, then reuse them. If you can then pay two energy from your era, you can LOOP again, choosing either the same dimension or a different one. As long as you can pay the escalating energy costs, you can keep LOOPing.Sample artifact cards
At the end of your turn, you can take an artifact card from your current era and place it on top of your deck, ideally specializing in certain dimensions so that you can LOOP with more gusto. You then complete the sabotage mission in your era (if it has been triggered enough times), discard your hand of cards, then refill your hand to three cards. (Other players also refill their hands, if needed, as some artifacts enlist help from other agents.)
To make things more complicated (and difficult), you can try the different game modes that introduce "supa duplicate" tokens, perpetual energy cubes, centrifuge tokens, and "Ultramachina" cards.
The LOOP will debut in a French edition in October 2020, with 250 copies of the game being produced in English to try to attract distribution partners and licensees.
- [+] Dice rolls
26 Aug 2020
Leder Games, and that kid is Fort — a uniquely themed deck-building game for 2-4 players designed by Grant Rodiek and developed by Nick Brachmann that features Kyle Ferrin's signature artwork (Root, Vast, Oath) so perfectly tailored to the theme.
I originally shared my excitement for Fort in a March 2020 post after playing it at GAMA Expo. Now that I have a copy of the beautiful finished product, thanks to Leder Games, I wanted to share more details about Fort for anyone who might be curious about it.
In Fort, players are kids trying to grow their circle of friends, snag some toys and pizza, and build the best fort. Like most games, the goal is to have the most victory points, and in Fort, there are lots of different ways to score VPs, with those ways varying each game you play.
At the beginning of each game, each player starts with two "Best Friend" kid cards and eight regular kid cards that together form your initial circle of friends, a.k.a. your starter deck. Each player takes a turn consisting of five phases in clockwise order until the game end is triggered.
Each turn starts with a clean-up phase, then the leader (active player) plays a kid card from their hand to perform a public and/or private action, in most cases adding supporting cards matching the suit to modify their action(s). Looking at the example kid card to the left (Kitty), the public action at the top of the card allows you to add a toy to your stuff (i.e., the personal supply on your player board) for every glue icon played, and the private action at the bottom allows you can pay a toy to gain a victory point, again for every glue icon played.
While some actions simply allow you to collect resources, others allow you to put resources into your backpack (to provide more storage space), add cards to your lookout to be used as permanent modifiers, trash cards, score VPs, and perhaps most importantly allow you to build your fort.
To build your fort, you need to spend the specified resources to increase your fort level. Building your fort not only generates victory points at the end of the game, but is also a bit of a competitive race. The sooner you level up your fort, the more options you have when it comes to choosing cards that provide perks (special abilities) and made-up rules (secret endgame scoring objectives). Completing your fort is also one of the triggers for the end of the game.
After the leader decides on an action card, their rivals (opponents) have the opportunity to "follow" the leader's public action by discarding a card matching the suit, so yes, there's a bit of "follow the leader" as you might expect in a kids-themed game, coincidentally published by "Leder" Games. I see what they did there.
As the leader, you stingily try to play an action card that you're hoping your rivals can't follow so they don't reap any benefits on your turn. Sometimes having players follow is unavoidable, especially at higher player counts, but also because you have other things to consider when deciding which card to play for your action, but I'll get into that later.
With these options for adding cards to your deck, you have just enough flexibility for strategically shaping your deck and will hopefully be able to set up juicy combos for future turns. Even when your best option is grabbing a kid card blindly from the park deck, and you don't fish your wish, it's not the end of the world. Every card has its benefits since it can be used to take or follow an action, can be placed in your lookout as a permanent modifier, or can even be trashed if it's cluttering up your deck down the line.
Now's a good time to mention that several cards give you the option to trash cards from your hand or discard pile. I like to think of it as refining your circle of friends versus the sadder reality of permanently ditching the ones who aren't gelling well with others. Again, this gives you more flexibility for optimizing your deck. Some actions even allow you to gain resources for each card you trash, or on the defensive/"take that" side, some that let you discard cards from your rival's yard!
Whichever cards in your hand that you did not play for your action, with the exception of your Best Friend kid cards, now have to go into your yard to potentially be stolen by your rivals. I'm sure many games have heard of hate-drafting; well in Fort, be prepared for some "hate-recruiting". Your rivals may recruit one of your stronger cards from your yard just to prevent you from using it.
This is why I mentioned you have a few things to consider when picking your action card. Since kid cards not used for your action will be placed in your yard and can be stolen by rivals, you have to think carefully when deciding which action card to play. You want to consider what you want and need most personally, but then also what your opponents hopefully won't be able to follow, while also trying to avoid putting juicy cards in your yard to potentially be snatched by friend-hungry rivals.
When it's not your turn, following your opponents can help mitigate some of this potential loss. Not only can you get a resource or limited action when it's not your turn, but you can discard cards that you're not planning to use for your next action and avoid them going into your yard.
The game end is triggered when a player has at least 25 victory points on the victory track, any player reaches fort level 5, or the park deck is empty. You finish the round so that everyone gets the same number of turns, then proceed with endgame scoring. My games have been running about 45-60 minutes, but I think you could get it down to 20-30 minutes depending on how well players know the game and how quickly they make decisions.
After you've familiarized yourself with the rules and played a game or two, I strongly recommend the advanced set-up variant of drafting your starting kid cards. Not only does this reduce the randomness of your starting deck, but it also preloads your deck with potentially potent combos. If you have a deck focused on a couple of select suits, odds are you'll draw more hands that have more matching suits which will allow you to take more powerful actions — but if you don't vary it up enough, you run the risk of missing out on some sweet following opportunities. It's tricky to find the right balance, but this is part of the challenge and fun of playing Fort, in my opinion.
Fort is definitely not your average deck-builder; it's combotastic at its roots and features refreshing player interaction, significantly more so than most deck-builders I've played. Fort began as a reimplementation of Rodiek's 2018 hidden gem, SPQF, and has since been transformed into a streamlined, accessible, mainstream hit in-the-making as a result of Rodiek and Leder Games teaming up together. SPQF's ancient civilization-building theme never bothered me because the game mechanisms were fun and interesting, but the re-skin to Fort 100% clicks and seems like it was always meant to be.
Because of theme and the fact that it's fairly easy to learn, I think Fort will go over well with gamers and non-gamers alike. The theme also makes the game feel light and playful, but it's meaty enough for heavier gamers, too, since it offers plenty of interesting decisions when building and refining your deck. While there are a lot of icons to familiarize yourself with, the iconography is well done, and between the excellent, helpful player aids and player boards, you will rarely need to reference the rulebook once you've learned the game.
For me, Fort will probably most often be played as a filler game in between longer games, or as something on the lighter end of the spectrum for ending the night — but you never know as I could also see myself playing back-to-back games and turning it into a Fort-a-thon.
Whether you're a fan of deck-builders, curious to try one, or even just dig uniquely-themed games, Fort is worth checking out. I can only hope that if ever an expansion appears, we'll see the Fort deluxe edition packaged in a lunchbox...
- [+] Dice rolls
Rio Grande Games has a long history of publishing games based on classic science-fiction tropes, with its best-known titles being Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy and spin-off titles Roll for the Galaxy, Jump Drive, and New Frontiers. In addition to releasing licensed games like Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert, in 2018 Rio Grande published the original space colonization game Beta Colony.
Now Rio Grande Games plans to add a new title to this fleet of space games in mid-to-late October 2020, a giant design from newcomer Dennis K. Chan titled Beyond the Sun. Here's an overview of this 2-4 player design that plays in 60-120 minutes and is listed for ages 14 and up:Quote:Beyond the Sun is a space civilization game in which players collectively decide the technological progress of humankind at the dawn of the Spacefaring Era, while competing against each other to be the leading faction in economic development, science, and galactic influence.Let me expand a bit upon this last paragraph because while a player's turn is straightforward — take an action, produce or trade, possibly achieve — lots of details are hidden in what "take an action" might mean. Looking at the game layout below, you'll see the framework of the tech tree, with a list of basic spacefaring skills on the left that all players have available to them at the start of the game, along with four columns of tech levels. The level I cards for the scientific, economic, military, and commercial techs are laid out at random, then level II and III event cards are shuffled and laid out at random on those spaces of the tech tree, with the level II, III, and IIII tech cards placed above the game board.
The game is played over a variable number of rounds until a number of game-end achievements are collectively claimed by the players. The winner is the faction with the most victory points, which are obtained by researching technologies, improving their economy, controlling and colonizing systems, and completing various achievements and events throughout the game.
On a turn, a player moves their action pawn to an empty action space, then takes that action. They then conduct their production phase, either producing ore, growing their population, or trading one of those resources for another. Finally, they can claim up to one achievement, if possible.
As players take actions, they research new technologies that come in four levels. Each technology is one of four types (scientific, economic, military, commercial), and higher-level technologies must match one of the types of tech that lead into it. Thus, players create their own technology tree in each game, using these actions to increase their military strength, to jump to different habitable exoplanetary systems, to colonize those systems, to boost their resource production, to develop android tech that allows growth without population, and more.
When you research a level I tech, you place one of your population dice to the left of it to indicate that you have this skill and on subsequent turns you can use one of the actions on those cards, although some of them just give you an immediate bonus when you research them.
To research a level II or higher tech, you need to have researched the lower-level tech (or pairs of tech) that leads into it. You'll first resolve the event, which might have you opening a guild power and adding a new action to the game, making a decision for all players about some aspect of the game, or rewarding you with victory points for your exploratory efforts. After you do this, if two different types of tech lead to this space, you choose one of them. (If only one does, then the choice is already made for you.) You reveal cards from the appropriate tech level deck until two cards of the appropriate type have been revealed, then you choose one of them to put into play, returning all other cards to the bottom of the deck.
So you know ahead of time whether you're going to get a commercial or economic or whatever type of tech, yet you won't know exactly what it is. You make that choice, then you'll have first shot at using that tech since other players will need to research it first before they can use it. Additionally, players can earn private technologies that only they can use.
Your population gets locked into tech over the course of the game, so you'll need to grow your population to continue advancing or to gain spaceships that will allow you to leave Sol and travel to other systems. Population is only one side of the six-sided non-dice that start in five columns on your individual player board, and as you remove food tokens from your population track, you'll gain more of those non-dice as population when you take a growth action. Similarly, you want to unlock the ore production track so that you'll produce more ore — which is the currency of the game — whenever you choose that production option.
While tech will let you advance on these tracks to some degree, with the automation of these production lines giving you points at game's end, you'll find more opportunities to grow by creating spaceships, boosting the military power of those ships, then occupying different systems on the exploration board. If you're first into a system or place more military power there than another player, you gain an outpost there, using a population or ore token, which unlocks more production of that resource. If the system can be conquered by military power, then if you have an outpost on that system and enough power, you can remove that system from play, adding it to your holdings, placing another token on it, then populating the exploration board with another system at random.
In addition to gaining victory points for advancing in technology, encountering certain events, automating production, and colonizing systems, players can score in Beyond the Sun by meeting the goals of one of the four achievements in play. Two of the achievements will be the same each game — research your first level IIII tech, and colonize four systems — while the other two will be pulled at random from two different decks.
Some achievements can be completed by only one player, while others can be completed by multiple players, with the earlier achiever earning more points. When four achievement spots have been claimed, no matter by one player or more, players complete that round of play, then play one additional round before the game ends and everyone tallies their score.
Ken Hill at Rio Grande Games, who oversaw development of this game, says that French and Polish versions of Beyond the Sun are in the works, and additional language versions of the game might also be forthcoming. Hill also notes that he was delighted to work with famed game artist Franz Vohwinkel on this design, with Vohwinkel providing many helpful suggestions for the graphic design of the game based on his decades of experience. While Vohwinkel isn't known as a "space" artist, apparently that's only because few publishers ask him to work on science-fiction games!
- [+] Dice rolls